February 4th 1904
By Aubrey Fullerton
There has always been, to most people, a fascination in tales of buried treasures. Some very interesting books have been written about them and have delighted countless readers, young and old. What boy of reading habits has not reveled, for instance, in Stevenson's "Treasure Island," or else has longed for the opportunity to do so? The Creator put treasures of stone and jewel in the mines of the earth, and men are still digging them out; but the comparatively few treasures that have been re-buried by men, sometimes from the most dishonest motives, have awakened an interest in some respects more remarkable.
Many of the stories of buried treasure are entirely fictitious, but some are founded on undoubted fact, and are as much a part of the country's history as the tales of war and early settlement. Aside from all the exaggerations that have grown around these incidents, there is enough of fact about them to make them worthy of notice.
Canada has had her share of buried treasurers. There have been reported finds all along the coasts of our larger waters, and in the older provinces hidden gold has been found in many ruined cellars and iron boxes. Perhaps no province has been so rich in this particular form of wealth as Nova Scotia. Its coasts were once the favorite resort of smugglers and occasionally of pirates, who were supposed to have hidden their booty in various coves and rocky strongholds. One of the most famous of these characters was Captain Kidd, of whose immense wealth and strange career many marvelous tales have been told. Kidd was a real pirate, not a myth, and there is very good reason to believe that a portion of his ill-gotten wealth was buried on Oak Island, on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. A company was formed some years-ago to recover these buried riches, but after persistent digging they were obliged to abandon the attempt as unsuccessful. They did, however, find some old coin and bits of broken iron, which convinced them that the treasurer had been buried there, or near at hand, and that it had been removed by some unknown persons perhaps years before.
When the French Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia, many of them hastily buried their family wealth in the cellars of their houses, hoping to return some day and repossess it. The Acadians, however, were never again to possess the fair Evangeline land, and their treasures remained long buried. But some years afterward the new owners began to find little stores of gold and coin, hidden in the old French cellars, in the wells, and sometimes in the fields. These finds have been going on at intervals almost to the present time. Some ten or twelve years ago two farmer boys in the Cornwallis Valley, a short distance from the famous Grand Pre, were one day ploughing in their father's field, and suddenly their plough it and unearthed a small iron chest, which, on being opened, was found to contain old French coins of many dollars value. Many similar discoveries have been made at different times, and some of the country people have suddenly become rich.
The story is told that near historic Annapolis stood, some seventy years ago, an old barn in which a treasure had been hidden. Just at nightfall one autumn evening, a stranger called at the farmhouse and asked permission to sleep that night in the barn, which was willingly granted him. In the morning the stranger was gone, but the farmer found that one of the oldtime beams in the upper frame of the barn had been cut, revealing a skillfully shaped cavity. A small iron box in which one or two gold coins had been left, perhaps as payment for the night's lodging, lay near by, and furnished a clue to the nature of the stranger's errand. Who he was, how he knew of the hidden treasure, or when the treasure was put there, remained a mystery, and the incident was soon forgotten except by the local historians.
Within the writer's remembrance, however, was the visit to a village only a few miles from the same spot, of a strange appearing man who said little to anybody, and apparently had no business. For a week he stayed about the village, and then he disappeared as suddenly as he came. In an old hillside orchard a hole was afterward found to have been dug at the roots of a gnarled apple tree, and the soft earth still retained the mould of an old-style iron pot, which had evidently been removed and carried away. As to what it contained there could only be conjecture, but the village people were convinced that it was some old treasure trove.
But there is more certainty about some recovered treasures of still more recent date. A fruitful source of these old treasures has been the wrecks of vessels long since sunken in treacherous waters. About seventy years ago a ship returning from a South American cruise was wrecked on the Bay of Fundy coast in Digby County. She was reported then to have had a large amount of money on board, the profits of three years' trading in southern waters. The wreck was searched, but probably not thoroughly, as nothing was found, and the rumor of its rich cargo was soon forgotten.
Years afterward the hulk was purchased by a local fisherman for a few dollars, for the sake of the copper nails and fastenings which could still be reached above the water. When he had secured these he supposed that he had exhausted the value of the old wreck, but only a few months ago he heard of the very successful operations of a diver in St. John, and the story of the treasure which this lost ship had carried came to his mind again. He resolved to make a test of it, and engaged the diver to examine the sunken hulk, now worn and watersoaked.
The results were a great surprise to the fortunate fisherman. Gold coin, mostly Spanish, to the value of $20,000 was recovered from the submerged hull, and although some of it was considerably the worse for being so long in the water, it was still gold. The diver brought up a fortune with him from the cabin of the old wreck, and the Digby fisherman, who had acquired the fortune at a very small outlay, was one of the few who have found the stories of hidden treasure to be happily true.
Another diver in Halifax last fall brought up from an old wreck a miniature caravel, or model of the style of ship used in the time of Columbus. It was of solid silver and gold, and a most unique piece of work, worth several thousand dollars. Its history or purpose there was no means of ascertaining.
Valuable as have been many of these finds of buried or hidden treasure they are all instances of prolonged idleness. So long as they were buried they were useless, and when they might have been serving a useful purpose in the world they were lost in the depths of the ocean or the darkness of the earth. They have a counterpart in us when we are so unwise as to leave our talents unused, buried in idleness.
The gold has this advantage, that when it is found again it is still good, and will pass at full market value; but with us it is very different. If we leave our talents in idleness they very soon lose their value and become useless. Every day use is the rightful purpose of money, and everyday use is the only way by which we can preserve our talents. A far better way to get money than by finding what others have put away, is working for it and earning it one's self, and so, too, we shall increase our worth in the world by doing our share of the world's work, rather than by idle dependence upon others industry.