For treasure hunters who think that, because it is one of the oldest settled areas in the United States, all the treasures in Massachusetts have been found, the following information will surprise those who visit the Pilgrim State.
The coastline, including tidal waters, is nearly 2000 miles long, with a large portion of it made up of sandy beaches, and should appeal to beachcombers and scuba divers.
In 1650, a small ship sailed into the mouth of the Saugus River on the coast of Massachusetts, a short distance north of Boston. A boat with four men rowing up the river was spotted in the late evening.
Somewhere further inland, they came ashore and disappeared into the Saugus Woods. When the word spread concerning the boat and the four men, local men investigated the matter, but upon reaching the mouth of the Saugus River, they found that the ship was gone. As they explored further upriver, they found no traces of the boat or the men.
Months passed, and the incident became a memory when the four men returned to Saugus. The four men, upon arriving, quickly disappeared into the Saugus Woods. In the woods, they found a hidden valley with very steep sides that were secluded. It was an ideal location, but the local people became very suspicious. They had decided that the men were pirates.
In their hidden valley, the pirates were slyly watched by the citizens, and surprisingly, the pirates began to show a sign of permanence. The men built a cabin, dug a well, and even planted a garden, the ruins of which were still in existence in 1844.
The pirates had done well on the high seas and decided to retire. It was learned that the leader of the group was Captain Thomas Veal.
The townspeople contacted the authorities, which in turn sent for the soldiers. In short order, a British vessel sailed into the Saugus River and anchored. The site of their landing is at today’s General Edward’s Bridge. Here a detachment of soldiers was sent into the Saugus Woods.
The soldiers found the pirate gang and made short work of them in a minor engagement, killing three pirates. Captain Veal escaped into the woods and hid out at Dungeon Rock. He was not captured and returned to his life of piracy, although he later settled at Dungeon Rock.
With the soldiers’ departure, the citizenry immediately went to work to locate the treasure the pirates had buried there. Much digging was done, but no treasure was ever found. The area became a local legend and became known as Pirate’s Glen, and as far as is known, the treasure is still there.
When General John Burgoyne marched south down the Hudson, paid Hessian soldiers led by General Friedrich von Riedesel were part of his invasion force. With the rout and surrender of Burgoyne’s army, many of the German Hessian soldiers escaped capture and disappeared into the heavily-wooded areas of New England.
One such body of Hessians headed north, intent on making the port at Boston and returning home by ship to Germany. Like others who escaped, this group was heavily loaded with stolen goods taken from the many farms they had looted. Among this loot were coins of gold and silver, along with other valuables made of precious metals.
The retreating soldiers crossed into Massachusetts, and much of the less valuable booty was cast aside as excess weight. The Hessians feared the Indians who were following them. They also feared the local farmers, who might attack them at any time if in enough numbers. This kept the Germans in the dense woods as much as possible.
Finally, the fear of an Indian attack made them realize that if they were to escape, they would have to leave everything behind and travel as lightly as possible for speed. In the woods near Dalton, Massachusetts, the men gathered together and concluded that they should make their way to Boston as fast as possible.
This would incur the necessity of burying all their gold and silver loot, which they chose to do. Deciding that they should disassemble their only field piece and stuff all of their treasure into the muzzle, they buried the cannon in the woods to return after the war and collect it. With this done, they hurriedly made for Boston and left the country.
Undoubtedly, the Hessian soldiers who buried their treasure cannon never returned to dig it up. If for no reason except that the means and money were probably not available to them. Residents never knew of any ex-Hessians arriving in their neighborhood, which would have been a hard fact to keep secret in that remote day and time, but they had learned of the buried cannon.
At the time of the burial, one lone Indian had seen the Hessians bury their cannon, and not caring for gold and silver and entirely possibly not understanding the reason for burying the cannon in the first place, he told the residents of Dalton that the Hessians had buried it near their village.
When the war ended, the buried cannon became well-known, and some people searched for it. In 1800, residents somehow concluded that they had found the correct spot and covered the area where they thought the cannon had been buried. But, despite much digging, they found no cannon. The buried cannon, stuffed with gold and silver, remains where the Hessians buried it.
Methuen, Massachusetts, the birthplace of Major Roger Robers, of French and Indian War fame, was also the home of two lesser-known gentlemen named Corrill. They lived in Essex County during the nineteenth century.
Nathaniel and Mark Corrill had a homestead on Daddy Frye’s Hill in Methuen. It was not far from Tenney Castle, also on the hill. The two brothers fell in love with the same girl, which put them at odds.
The triangle was not one invited by the young lady.
Neither brother was able to win her, and she married another suitor. However, the feud between the two brothers did not end with her marriage.
The brothers spent the remainder of their lives in their homestead, refusing to speak to each other. After the double rejection, even though they prospered and reputedly amassed a fortune, they avoided the company of others, and both became hermits.
When the brothers died, it was reported that they had hidden several caches of gold coins. As far as can be determined, none of these have been found. It is believed that part of their treasure was hidden around Tenney Castle and on their homestead.
It is very likely that at least two, if not more, caches were made as the brothers refused to speak to each other, and they are sure to have buried their respective fortunes in different sites.
On January 17, 1950, an 11-man gang robbed the main New England office of Brinks Incorporated of over $2,700,000 in cash, checks, and securities. The robbery occurred in Boston, and it took the FBI and other law enforcement agencies six years to break the case.
Then, when one robber turned state’s evidence, the other ten were tried, convicted, and sentenced to long prison terms. But no one revealed where the loot was hidden. The informer claimed not to know where the money was cached.
In 1956, almost $52,000 was recovered when two fences attempted to pass some bills. However, more than $1,000,000 in cash has never been accounted for. According to testimony, the loot was taken to a house in Roxbury, a Boston suburb, immediately after the robbery. It may still be buried or hidden somewhere nearby.
You will find a lot of information on the “Great Brinks Robbery” in newspaper files at your local library, but information on where the loot was hidden is not there. However, the information in the papers might give a clue that can break the puzzle and enable you to find the cash.
On the morning of November 28, 1682, a ship whose name was forgotten was shattered on what is now known as Winthrop Bar in Boston Harbor. The ship, which Captain Horton led, was going from the West Indies to Boston with a valuable load of silver bullion on board.
Captain Horton sailed into Massachusetts Bay during a severe blizzard, making it nearly impossible to navigate. Losing direction, the ship was known to have skirted past the Brewster Islands on late November 27. On the morning of November 28, near the present city of Winthrop, Captain Horton lost his ship at the bar.
Three of the 13 sailors were washed over the side and drowned. Ten of the men reached shore and began walking along Shirley Gut Plain. Half frozen, they began dropping one by one, and only six managed to reach the house of Dean Winter.
There they found food, warmth, and shelter and managed to survive.
Captain Horton had been lost with his silver cargo, and the mystery of the sunken silver ship had never been solved. The wreck is somewhere along Winthrop Bar. Attempts to find it have failed, and the ship and her silver fortune still await salvage.
One of the best books about the caves of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and New England in general, is by Clay Perry. It is Underground New England, published by Stephen Daye Press, Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1939.
Belcher’s Cave, near Great Barrington, has a history of people hiding silver there. Gilbert Belcher moved to Great Barrington from Hebron, Connecticut, with his wife and nine children. He used to be a silversmith, but it looks like he used his skills to make fake money, which was a crime that could get you killed in Colonial times.
He purchased rocky land northwest of town, where Knox Trail now connects with US Highway 7. About 100 yards up the boulder-strewn slope, on what was called Bung Hill, is a cave. Its main chamber is 30 feet long by 10 feet wide, with a 12-foot-high ceiling.
On October 30, 1772, militiamen surrounded the cave with muskets, pointing toward the entrance, and demanded that Belcher and his partner, “Ugly” Lovely, come out and surrender.
The two confederates quickly stashed all the silver and damning evidence that they could into a pre-arranged hiding place. The men were arrested and taken to Albany, where they were later hanged. It is entirely credible to suppose that the silver used in the counterfeiting operation may still be hidden nearby since none has ever been reported as having been found.
On the North Adams-Adams side of Greylock Mountain, the highest point in Massachusetts, another counterfeiter’s cave has yet to be found. This counterfeiter made Pine Shillings in his hideout near a ravine where Money Brook trickles nearby. The man, like Belcher, was hung, and the secret of the location of his operation died with him.
Greylock Mountain is reputed to hide another treasure, for which some still search. Uncle Billy Badger, a pioneer mineralogist, was supposed to have found a gold vein in the mountain. He died unexpectedly and took the knowledge of the gold mine to the grave. The Quaker Gold Mine Shaft is supposed to be in the Notch area of the mountains.
In mid-December 1941, five German U-boats left Biscay and headed across the Atlantic under secret orders for operations off the United States coast. Code-named “Operation Paukenschlag,” this was Admiral Karl Doenitz’s brainchild and would be Nazi Germany’s first direct attack on America.
The submarines arrived off the coast by the middle of January 1942. They commenced active warfare in their operational area, from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Canada.
In July 1941, the United States sent troops to occupy Iceland, extending the American “security zone” in the Atlantic.
Subsequently, the Adair, an armed merchantman, had been placed under military jurisdiction and was involved in transporting supplies and war materials from New York to Newfoundland and sometimes to Iceland.
In the last week of January 1942, the Adair sailed with spare aircraft parts, other military supplies, and $30,000 in gold bullion meant to finance American troops’ purchase of goods in Iceland. She sailed east to clear Long Island and then headed north for Newfoundland. Her captain and crew were unaware that a German submarine, the U-123, was waiting.
Meanwhile, Hardegen, captain of the U-123, brought his submarine to the surface off the coast of Massachusetts. The Adair was silhouetted against the lights dogging the coastline, and the Germans spotted her. Hardegen tracked the Adair for 30 minutes before he brought his sub to bear on her.
He fired a single torpedo that exploded directly beneath Adair’s hull, snapping her cleanly in half. Flames from the exploding ship lit the sky for miles, and the U-123 quickly submerged and retreated southward. Within minutes, the Adair sank, with all hands, into deep water off Cape Cod, taking the bullion down with her. It has remained unsalvaged to this day.
The treasure story of Hog Island dates back to Colonial times. Sometime during the 1700s, John Breed, an Englishman, came to Boston to forget his grief over the loss of his young bride. He settled on Hog Island, also known as Susanna Island, in Boston Bay, where he employed an Indian to guard an entrance to a cave. This action aroused suspicion that the cave was stocked with some wealth.
When Breed died in 1846, relatives searched the island and found $5000 in silver hidden in the cave. They failed to find what is believed to be the greater part of his fortune.
Maynard is located on the Assabet River, about 20 miles west of Boston. It was settled in 1638, and one of the earlier settlers was a man named Thomas Smith.
During a severe spring storm in about 1720, several strange men came to the Smith place and asked for shelter. They were put up in the barn and remained for several days after the storm had subsided. The men were friendly and liberal with their money, paying generously for everything they obtained from the Smith family.
The strangers have noted themselves amusingly by throwing pieces of eight at the swallows around the barn. Before leaving, they procured old clothing from the Smiths and made it into sacks. They also asked to borrow some digging tools.
Carrying the sacks, now observed to be loaded with something heavy, the men entered the woods in a northerly direction from the Smith house. When they returned, they were empty-handed. The men thanked Smith for his hospitality and left. They were never seen again.
Sometime after the departure of the strangers, who were now surmised to have been pirates, Smith received a letter from a man who stated that he had been one of the pirate’s bands that had visited the Smith place. He revealed that they had all been captured, convicted of piracy, and were now in jail waiting to be hanged.
He requested that Smith come to Boston to see them, promising to give him some valuable information. But Smith, having a deep distrust of criminals, ignored the request. The presumption was that the pirates had buried treasure in the woods near the Thomas Smith house, but the incident was soon forgotten by the Smiths, as they never searched for it.
One of the best places in Massachusetts to seek treasure is a ghost town in a large wooded area on Cape Anne, 40 miles north of Boston, called Dogtown, now a deserted settlement. Dogtown was once called the Commons. It is made up of over 60 cellars that are spread out in the woods between the famous fishing port of Gloucester and the town of Rockport.
Dogtown is located on public property; anyone can dig in the cellars for treasure and keep whatever he finds.
Some cellars can be reached by Jeep or on horseback. However, you will have to walk most of the time.
The Commons was first settled around 1719, and a village was soon formed. At its peak, over 100 families lived there. However, after the Revolutionary War, the population declined.
Many families moved away because the land was found unsuitable for farming. Also, many men had died in battle during the war or had been lost at sea while fishing and the women left the area.
Some of the widows of these men continued to live in the village, and some pretended to be witches and scared many of the superstitious citizens of Rockport and Gloucester into giving them food and supplies to live on.
Most of these widows kept dogs for protection against pirates and robbers, and thus the name “Dogtown” came about. By 1814, only seven houses were occupied in Dogtown.
The last inhabitant of the village was Black Neil, a big, powerful black man with protruding teeth. In his younger days, he had been an itinerant hog butcher. Later, he quit working and moved into a cellar in Dogtown, where a house had collapsed. He was convinced there was a large buried treasure in one of the cellars, but he died in 1830 without finding anything.
Treasure of all kinds can be found in Dogtown, including rare Colonial coins, china, pottery, brass belt buckles, gold rings, nails, knives, sundials, pewter spoons and forks, sewing thimbles, bottles, and Indian arrowheads.
There is always the chance, too, that you may discover the treasure cache Black Neil was looking for before his death. Or you might find a pirate treasure chest since the sea robbers raided many times ashore.
Up and down the New England coast, Vineyard Haven, on the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard, is known as a good port of refuge in a storm. The British were aware of this, and perhaps for this reason, the island fell victim to a raid in 1778 led by an officer named Tilton Gray.
The island had no fighting force, so it wasn’t unusual for the islanders to feel apprehension for life and property. Mentioned in the island’s history is the incident of an older woman who, living alone, hastened to gather up her valuables and money at first sight of the British men-o-war. She buried her valuables near her home.
The woman survived Gray’s raid and the entire Revolutionary War. Perhaps her age or the turmoil of the situation explains her inability to remember where she buried her money and valuables. She searched for them diligently, even enlisting the aid of her neighbors. But to her dismay, she had hidden the cache so well that she could never find it.
The fact that the woman lived near Beck’s Pond is written, although history does not supply us with her name. A map of the island today shows numerous ponds, but none of them is known as Beck’s Pond. It is common knowledge to the islanders that when the property changed hands if a pond existed on the land, it usually became known by the new owner’s name.
A map of Revolutionary War vintage could be the first step to locating the site once known as Beck’s Pond and possibly a cache now over two hundred years old buried nearby.
There is an old Indian tradition that sometime before the settlement of Nantucket Island by whites, a French ship had on board a large quantity of specie that came ashore on the east end of the island in a storm and was driven up into what was called the “Gulch,” a short distance to the west of Siasconset.
After getting the treasure ashore and burying it, the survivors had to cut their way through the heavily forested area to reach the Indian settlements. This story has been related by many old-timers in the region, and giving some substance to it is the fact that the beaches in the vicinity have been the scene of much digging in the past 100 years.
As far as is known, the ship’s survivors never returned to claim the treasure.
Many men have searched for the treasure of the famous pirate, Captain Kidd. At least one man, James M. Eddy, had a measure of success. Eddy finds a pirate treasure buried by someone else while he is looking for Captain Kidd’s treasure.
Eddy owned a farm adjoining Horseneck Beach near the summer resort of Westport, Massachusetts. In 1886, a parchment treasure map came into his possession. Though he would not say how he got the map, some of Eddy’s friends and neighbors speculated that his grandfather had either been pirates or involved with pirates.
They thought that Eddy’s grandfather gave the map to Eddy’s father and that Eddy got it from his father. Eddy denied that his grandfather or relatives were ever connected with pirates.
The map was made from a piece of parchment that had served as a drumhead. The lines on the map seemed to have been drawn with a sharp, pointed object. The map supposedly showed the locations of three separate caches of gold, silver, and other treasures buried by the pirates many years before. A large rock on Horseneck Point served as the starting point. At the time, this was an isolated area.
After obtaining the map, Eddy conducted his treasure hunting secretly. He began at the large rock in the summer of 1886. A full year later, he dug up a kettle filled with old Spanish silver coins. The coins were dated from 1781 to 1851, ruling out the possibility that they were part of Captain Kidd’s much-sought treasure. Kidd was hanged in London on May 24, 1701.
According to the map, one of the other caches contained gold coins, while another held diamonds and jewels. There are no records indicating whether Eddy ever found these caches. Searching old land titles would reveal the location of Eddy’s farm. If there is any pirate treasure left, it should be nearby.
It was a wet, dreary morning in 1851. Despite the cold winter rain drenching the French port of St. Malo, the wharves were alive with chaotic bustle. Moored to a pier was the trim twin-masted brigantine Fleur d’Or. Her decks glistened under the downpour, and the air smelled brine and wet timber.
Her ample hold was filled with textiles and casks of wine, but her crew made no move to put out to sea. In his cabin, the captain awaited the arrival of a tardy special cargo as he impatiently jotted entries in the ship’s log.
At the mate’s call, the captain stalked to the afterdeck in time to see an ornate coach rumble down the quay and halt alongside the ship. Two men left the coach, boarded the ship, and joined the waiting skipper. All three quickly stepped into the cabin out of the relentless rain. The captain affixed his signature to documents of lading. The formalities were over, and they returned to the main deck.
The men watched as twelve husky sailors hefted two heavy iron chests from the coach and then struggled up the gangway with them. Once aboard, the chests were taken aft and stowed in the captain’s quarters. Unknown to most of the crew, each casket held 15 bricks of solid gold, each stamped with French weight and purity imprints. The caskets held a fortune worth $420,000 at that time.
With the gold safely aboard, the two envoys returned to their coach and waited as the ship’s crew prepared to get underway.
The Fleur d’Or nosed her way through the drizzle toward England. She cautiously skirted Brittany’s treacherous mist-wreathed coastline. Later, when her lagging pace carried her into the safety of the open sea, the crew unfurled more canvas, and she rapidly picked up speed. Then the captain headed the ship for America, the destination of the gold.
The precious golden freight and the Fleur d’Or belonged to a French shipping magnate named Count Alain Cossec. A shrewd businessman, Cossec knew speed was fast becoming the most important factor in the shipping industry, fostered by recent improvements in hull design.
The weather began to deteriorate as the Fleur d’Or approached the American seaboard, still out of sight over the horizon. The clear sky became massed with clouds, and Snow swirled through the air. Soon, the ship was entirely enveloped in a blinding white blizzard.
Without warning, the treasure-laden Fleur d’Or skipped sideways along a submerged shoal off Roaring Bulls in Boston Bay, tearing a 20-foot gash in her port side. As the icy water gushed into the hold, the captain and the entire crew scrambled into the waves, successfully making their way to one of the islets cluttering the bay. All were found several days later, suffering from frostbite and exposure.
What of the wrecked ship and her 30 bricks of gold? The hulk has yet to be located, and the treasure remains one of Boston Bay’s richest lures.
While dragging for anchors lost in storms near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1879, Captain Nicherson and his crew caught onto something very heavy. It took every man to get it to the top, where they could see that it was a chest made of copper or brass.
The chest weighed around 900 pounds and was, they guessed, full of gold or silver. However, it tore loose before they could get it aboard their boat and slipped back into the water. By the time a diver could be sent down to search for it, the ever-changing sands of Cape Cod had covered every trace of the heavy chest.
The buried treasure of Alden Culver in Massachusetts is little-known. I obtained my first information concerning it from an old newspaper. This is one treasure that is almost certain not to have been found.
When Indian fighting was still in Massachusetts, Alden Culver was in so many Indian battles that it began to affect his mind.
One day he dug his grave on his farm near West Chesterfield, Mass. He showed the grave to a friendly Indian chief and asked him to see that he was buried there with all his possessions, including an iron chest full of gold and silver coins. The Indian chief agreed to do this.
A few weeks later, Culver died beside a pioneer road west of town. He had killed several Indians, whose bodies were scattered around him before he was brought down. It was assumed that Culver had come upon a war party and, being half crazy, had attacked the Indians single-handedly.
The friendly chief did as Culver had requested. He buried him with all his possessions, including the chest of coins. Then he marked a large flat rock nearby with this inscription, “Allen Culver, age ILUMO of Chesterfield, Mass.”
Culver’s only daughter kept the key to the iron chest. When the daughter died several years later, the key was placed inside a golden locket and buried with her next to her father. Since the two graves were the only ones in a large wooded tract, their exact location was lost.
It wasn’t until 1936 that the two graves were mentioned again in any known records. During the summer of that year, when a school teacher at Chesterfield told a group of children the story of Culver, one of the small boys who had been listening to the story remembered seeing the name and numbers carved onto a rock on his father’s farm nearby.
The boy told his father, who went to the rock with six other people. But since no one knew how far from the inscribed stone the bodies were buried, nothing was ever found. The rock with Alden Culver’s name and age carved into it could still be seen a few years ago. With today’s modern electronic equipment, graves might be found.
To my knowledge, this story has not been told, and no search has recently been done for the graves. Remember that years ago, there were no metal detectors, and one only needs to recall only that and start searching.
Like many other Atlantic coast states, Massachusetts had “beach pirates.” On the southeast corner of Cape Cod, near Chatham, is where, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Monomoy Island was the scene of numerous shipwrecks caused by “beach pirates.”
These men would put up false buoy lights and lure ships close to shore, where they would wreck, and then the pirates plunder the ships. This ten-mile sand bar should be an excellent place to search for coins and other items lost by these wreckers.
According to Andrea Doria’s papers, her safe deposit boxes held more than $750,000 in cash and jewels when she sank off Cape Cod in 1956. In the purser’s safe, there was $250,000 in American and Italian money. However, this is a small portion of the ship’s salvage value.
If the liner can ever be raised and salvaged, her worth is estimated at between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000. In 1970, it was announced that the Reynolds Metal Company was considering participating in an attempted salvage operation. Several attempts have been made, but so far, none have succeeded.
In 1831, a fisherman named Arthur Doane found a fortune in Spanish gold on Cape Cod. He kept his treasure secret for 49 years, then told a friend on his deathbed.
However, the friend did not recover all of the treasure. Most of it is still buried somewhere in the silvery sand of Cape Cod, not far from the old Chatham Light, where a few scattered gold coins have been found.
In 1831, Arthur Doane had seen pirates bury several treasure chests near Chatham. Digging the chests up, Doane reburied the money. He then made a deal to sell a few coins at a time to a friend. This transaction went on for 49 years.
When Doane became ill in 1880, he told his friend where the other chests were buried. But a storm, as fate would have it, came up that night, and his friend could not locate the remaining chests of money. Many have searched for this buried treasure, but its location has never been found.
This story is worth investigating because $1900 of the reported $500,000 has already been found. The first mention of treasure and Calf Island was in 1882.
In 1846, a man took a job as keeper of Bug Light in Boston Harbor. Although he lived quietly, the story revealed that he was an ex-pirate in hiding. After several years, the lighthouse keeper retired and moved to one of the outer harbor islands. He lived here and was called the King of Calf Island until he died in 1882.
Just after the turn of the last century, a Canadian searched for treasure on Greater Brewster Island, just off Boston. One Pegleg Nuskey passed this information on in 1937 to Edward Snow, a reporter in the Boston area. Before Snow could act on the information, he was suddenly actively involved in World War II.
Snow completed his hitch in 1944 and began to think again about the King of Calf Island.
Here is one version of what transpired after that:
“Somehow, Snow got the idea that the King must have left a chart showing the exact location of his treasure, which was supposed to be worth about $500,000. He didn’t find the chart, but he did get hold of an old book in Italian, which local tradition said had belonged to the King. Snow took the book to the Boston Public Library for appraisal.”
Now comes the part of the story that reads like fiction, but the facts were reported by the Boston papers and retold in Time Magazine on October 15, 1945. According to historical records, the old Italian book was given to Harriet Swift of the Boston Public Library.
She turned the leaves and noticed a pattern of pin-holes on page 101. The holes pierced letters, forming a simple coded message. Its exciting message: “The King of Calf Island had buried a treasure on Strong Island, off the shore of Cape Cod.”
“When this coded message was explained to him, Edward Snow and his brother Donald set out for Strong Island at once. The pinpricks evidently did not tell exactly where the stuff was buried, but Snow took along an electronic gadget similar to a mine detector used for locating metals.
The Snow brothers dug five holes in the sand each time they found metal, but it proved to be only iron from some old wreck. But in the sixth excavation, they hit the jackpot, according to time, when the mean unearthed a small, encrusted copper box.
It was full of tarnished old coins minted in Peru, Mexico, Portugal, France, and Spain. Time carried a picture of Edward Snow sitting in the sand with the box in front of him and both hands full of coins. The treasure amounted to only about $1900.”
While this was quite a treasure in 1945, the big question to a modern-day treasure hunter is, where is the remaining supposed $498,000 that the King of Calf Island is believed to have hidden? As far as can be learned, nothing else has been found.
The location of the vast fortune stolen by Samuel Bellamy and his pirates is unknown. But one of the theories about what happened to the money, valued today at $500,000, could be accurate.
Bellamy’s first seizure was the Widhaw, a 28-gun British ship that he used in his activities. There are three versions of what happened to the Widhaw’s treasure cargo. One theory suggests that it was buried near the Maine fort since Bellamy wanted to locate it there.
A second version says the treasure was on the Widhaw when it sank, and in support of this theory, more than 500 coins of the period have been found near Eastham, or near the Well-Fleet Light Station, on the beaches. Still, another theory suggests that the treasure was divided, with some left at Machias and others on board the vessel when it sank.
At the end of Cape Cod, nine miles north-northeast of Provincetown is the steamer Portland’s wreck site, which sank during the blizzard of 1898 with all hands. She still has $18,000 worth of jewelry and cash in her safe. The wreck has been located and partially salvaged, but efforts to get into the hull have failed. Divers who have visited the site state that she is badly broken up and clogged with sand at a depth of about 60 feet.
There is a chest containing $7000 in gold and specie between Haydenville and Florence, Massachusetts. Since all of the coins are pre-1874, they are probably worth many, many times their face value.
The floor of the very narrow valley is certain to contain this chest and at least a half-dozen other family-sized boxes, the full contents of which will remain unknown unless they are found. There are silver coins, jewelry, household tools, and other metal objects in the same area, some just a few inches below the ground.
No myth or legend is connected with the valuables and collectibles found in the peaceful Mill River valley between tiny Williamsburg and Northampton in the Bay State. They are the result of America’s first major dam failure, which took the lives of 143 and caused damage estimated at over $1,000,000 by 1874 standards.
On May 16, 1874, the dam broke, flooding the valley from three miles above Williamsburg to Florence, Massachusetts, and further downstream. None of the villages that were washed away could ever return to their former greatness, and much of the land is now heavily forested.
The Williamsburg Historical Society has excellent photographs of the district as well as many of the artifacts that have been found there. Haydenville was one of the hardest-hit towns, with the safe from the bank being lost along with merchandise and money from many other businesses along the line of the flood.
Mill River Valley presents more of a challenge to an intelligent, systematic treasure hunter than any of the more widely publicized treasures. None of the Mill River stories are based on local legend, gossip, or barroom scuttlebutt. It is all true, or if anything, a trifle underestimated.
A Pirate Treasure in New England
By Lewis A. Taft
There is a good chance that gold dust, pearls, precious stones, and Spanish pieces of eight are buried on the South Shore of Massachusetts, just a few miles from Boston. Long-forgotten records in the state colonial archives of that state point to such a conclusion.
The story of the treasure and its journey, which ended in New England, is as interesting as any pirate, treasure ship, or Main Spanish melodrama was ever written.
It began in 1653, when a Dutch ship, a privateer from Amsterdam with the curious name of De Heylige Gheest (Holy Ghost), was harassing Spanish shipping along the coast of Central America. She was caught by a stronger Spanish force, taken to a nearby port for repairs, and then killed. The few Dutch pirates who survived the battle were summarily executed.
With a strong Dutch ship, the Spaniards devised a plan to trick Dutch pirates, who often stopped treasure ships headed for Spain’s ports. First, the Holy Ghost was loaded with general cargo.
Then in great secrecy, several iron-bound chests and kegs were carried on board and chained to the floor of the captain’s cabin. When the ship set sail for Spain, she was flying the flag of the Netherlands, and her Dutch name was visible on the stern.
But ill luck pursued the Holy Ghost. She encountered one violent storm after another, which blew her far off course. Her seams opened under the pounding waves. All hands were constantly laboring at the pumps to keep her afloat. In time, drinking water became foul, and daily rations were covered with mildew and slime.
The ship’s Spanish captain, Emanuel Rodriguez, thought it was best for the ship’s safety to stop at the West Indian island of Barbados to get fresh water and food and to fix damage caused by the rough seas. As England was at peace with Spain then, Rodriguez hoisted the Spanish flag and sailed into the harbor of Bridgetown, Barbados.
Governor Searles of Barbados welcomed the Spaniards. Their ship was anchored under the protection of the guns of the fort. Every assistance was given to them in securing fresh water and provisions.
But a cargo of gold dust and precious stones is a difficult secret to hide from sailors. Presumably, only Captain Rodriguez and the pilot of the Holy Ghost knew of the chests and kegs locked in the captain’s cabin.
Yet, in a short time, it seemed as if everyone on the island knew of the fortune. Some sailors, bond servants, and adventurers out of work started meeting in grog shops and hidden places to discuss the possibility of stealing the huge treasure.
It would be a hazardous undertaking, but the Spaniards were alert. Although much of the crew went ashore daily, they always returned to the ship before dark. And at night, the glow from watch lanterns indicated that guards were on duty.
One sultry afternoon, several desperate adventurers disguised as native fishermen approached the Spanish treasure ship. They were paddling native dugout canoes. Eight Spaniards were on board, but only two were on watch. The others were working below.
The watchmen were not as wary as they might have been. Suddenly, six Englishmen armed with cutlasses and pistols climbed over the gunwale and ran toward the watch. The two frightened Spaniards dropped their weapons and leaped overboard.
The other crew members were captured without resistance. After being reinforced by several comrades, the pirates slipped anchor and sailed the Holy Ghost out under the fort’s guns.
The treasure ship was next sighted one hundred and fifty miles off the coast of Cape Cod by the brig Juno of London. The pirate crew was in great distress. They were without food and water. Many were sick with scurvy.
Their captain, a well-mannered rogue named Robert Harding, asked for assistance. Captain Gilbert Crane of the Juno gave them some supplies and offered to escort their ship to Boston, but Captain Harding refused. However, he allowed Juno to escort his ship to Nantasket Bay.
When the brig reached Boston, Captain Crain immediately notified the authorities of the strange ship in Nantasket Bay and urged them to seize the vessel and arrest the crew. He stated that, in his judgment, the Holy Ghost was manned by buccaneers.
The Council of the Bay Colony sent a force of soldiers to Nantasket and arrested Captain Harding and four of his seamen whom they found on the shore. Harding showed the authorities in Boston a “Letter of Marque” from Amsterdam that said he and his crew were allowed to take an enemy ship. England was at war with The Netherlands at that time. However, he did not mention that the Holy Ghost was in Spanish possession when she was taken.
After a few days of interrogation, the council, finding no evidence to the contrary, allowed the pirates to return to their ship. Before releasing him, the officials informed Harding that his ship was free to come and go in any port under their jurisdiction, but they advised him to sail his ship to Salem.
The pirate captain must have realized that the authorities were suspicious of him and his crew. But because there were sick people on board and not enough food, he had no choice but to follow the veiled order.
Two days later, the Holy Ghost sailed into Salem harbor. In the meantime, the official attitude had changed. A ship had arrived from Barbados in the West Indies with details of the piratical act at Barbados and the further alluring news of the vast treasure carried by the pirate ship.
Again Captain Harding and his crew were arrested. The Holy Ghost was impounded. Harding was again questioned concerning the missing Spanish seamen who had been aboard the ship when she was captured.
The ship was unloaded and searched from stem to stern, but no trace of the Spaniards or treasure was found. Of course, the captured crew members could have been killed, and their bodies tossed overboard. But where was the missing treasure?
Careful questioning of the crew elicited the information that the Holy Ghost had made but one landfall after leaving Barbados. The ship had anchored at Pemaquid, Maine, just long enough to fill the water caskets. This left Nantasket as the best place where the treasure could have been removed from the pirate ship.
Was there a treasure on the Holy Ghost when the pirates captured her? According to an affidavit signed by Matthew Hill, a seaman of Bridgetown, the Spanish pilot had informed him that the ship contained a treasure trove consisting of a chest six feet long, filled with gold dust, another chest of jewels and pearls, and seven hogsheads of pieces-of-eight, besides all other cargo.
In a letter to the officials in Boston, Governor Searles of Barbados mentioned the very considerable estate that the Holy Ghost carried.
While the pirates were in jail in Salem, the magistrates of Boston received a letter from Governor Searles informing them of the act of piracy at Bridgetown and requesting them to send the prisoners back to Barbados for trial.
However, the Massachusetts Council and the House of Deputies disagreed on the disposition of the case. The pirates were probably threatened and given promises when they tried to find out where the treasure was. Finally, Captain Harding and two of his lieutenants were held on one thousand pounds bail each, while the rest of the pirates were sent back to Barbados to face swift justice.
In October 1654, the Council gave the last three prisoners their freedom, but they had to leave the colony immediately. It is recorded that they embarked on a ship bound for England.
The odds are against the possibility that the three surviving pirates will return to dig up the treasure, but it is a possibility.
If they didn’t, a vast fortune might be buried somewhere in the area encompassing Nantasket—perhaps on one of the bay islands. Like other pirate treasures, it may be guarded by the skeletons of murdered witnesses-the missing Spanish seamen. And someday, someone may locate it.