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Much fiction has been written concerning great sums of money and vast quantities of jewels buried by pirates some 200 years ago somewhere along the Atlantic coast. Our story has to do only with fact, as stated by the men now living and who had a hand in them, or as told to them by men now dead. It can be proven:

  1. That a shaft about 13 feet in diameter and 100 feet deep was sunk on Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, before the memory of any now living.
  2. That this shaft was connected by an underground tunnel with the open ocean, about 365 feet distant.
  3. That at the bottom of this shaft were placed large wooden boxes in which were precious metals and jewels.
  4. That many attempts have been made, without success, to obtain this treasure.
  5. That it is reasonably certain the treasure is large, because so great a trouble would never have been taken to conceal any small sum.
  6. That it is now entirely feasible to thoroughly explore this shaft and recover the treasure still located therein.


Oak Island is situated near the head of Mahone Hay, Nova Scotia. A narrow channel separates it from the main land, at that point known as the Western Shore, and four miles from the town of Chester. The Island is about a mile In length and half as broad. The formation is a very hard, tough clay. The eastern end was originally covered with oak timber, several groves of which still remain. There are over 300 islands in the bay.

About the close of the last century this part of the country was very sparsely populated and the Island in question was without an inhabitant. In 1795, three men -Smith, McGinnis and Vaughn,-visited the island, and while rambling over the eastern part of it, came to a spot, of which the unusual and strange conditions at once engaged their attention. (Mr. Vaughn himself, who was only a lad of 16 at this time, subsequently related these facts to Mr. Robert Creelman, who still lives at Upper Stewiacke, N. S., and who was afterwards the manager of a company formed to recover the treasure.) It had every appearance of having been cleared many years before. Red clover and other plants altogether foreign to the soil in its natural state were growing. Near the center stood a large oak tree with marks and figures on its trunk. One of the lower and larger branches of this, the outer end of which had been sawed off, projected directly over the centre of a deep circular depression in the land about 13 feet in diameter. These and other "signs" shortly after led the three men named to commence work.

After digging a few feet, they found that they were working in a well defined shaft, the walls of which were hard and solid; and it is said that in some places old pick marks were plainly to be seen, while within these walls the earth was so loose that picks were not required. On reaching a depth of 10 feet they came to a covering of oak plank. They kept on digging until a depth of 30 feet was reached, finding marks at each 10 feet. At this point the work proved to be too heavy for them. Superstitious beliefs were in full force in that part of the country at that time, and on this account they were unable to get any help to continue the work and were forced to abandon it.

After an interval of 6 or 7 years, accounts of the wonderful discoveries already mentioned had spread over the province, and Dr. Lynds, a young physician of Truro, Nova Scotia, visited the island and interviewed Messrs. Smith, Vaughn and McGinnis. On his return to Truro, a company was formed for the purpose of continuing the search. Several prominent men belonging to Halifax, Colchester and Pictou counties took an active interest in it, among whom were Col. Robert Archibald, Sheriff Harris and Capt. David Archibald. Work was at once resumed by this company and the shaft was excavated to a depth of 95 feet. Marks were found every 10 feet, as before, and an iron bar was frequently used in taking soundings. The 90 foot mark was a flat stone, about 3 feet long and 16 inches wide. On it marks or characters had been cut. Afterwards it was placed in the jamb of a fireplace that Mr. Smith was building in his house, and while there was viewed by thousands of people. Many years afterwards, it was taken out of the chimney and taken to Halifax to have, if possible, the characters deciphered. One expert gave his reading of the inscription as follows: ''Ten feet below are two million pounds buried." We give this statement for what it is worth, but by no means claim that this is the correct interpretation. Apart from this however, the fact still remains that the history and description of the stone as above given have never been disputed. Until the depth of 95 feet was reached no water had been encountered, neither had sand or gravel through which water could possibly percoloate been met. It was Saturday evening when the depth above named had been reached, and it was at this point that a wooden platform was struck, extending over the entire surface of the shaft, as revealed, by the soundings.

This was on Saturday night. Monday, when the men returned, the shaft was found to be full of water within 25 or 30 feet from the top. Notwithstanding this set-back they went manfully to work to bail it out, and with characteristic Nova Scotian pluck continued it night and day until the task proved utterly hopeless. It was then decided to sink a new shaft a few feet to the east of the old pit, (marked No. 1 on map and which at that time was given the name of the "money pit," and has been known by that name ever since), to the depth of 110 feet and tunnel under the "money pit," below the location of the treasure, and take it out from below. Work was begun at once on this shaft, (marked No. 2 on map) and continued until the depth' above named was reached. Up to this time in the sinking of this new shaft no water had been met with, but while driving a tunnel in the direction of the "money pit," and before reaching the object sought, the water suddenly burst in on them, and the men engaged escaped with their lives and a fine drenching. This disaster practically ended the operations of this company.

oak island early accounts 1893

Until 1849 nothing was done in the direction of recovering the treasure, but In that year a new company was formed and operations were resumed at the ''old stand." At that time two of the "old diggers," namely, Dr. Lynda of Truro and Mr. Vaughn of Western Shore (before mentioned,) were still alive, and gave the managers much valuable Information regarding the old workings, and expressed their firm belief in the existence of the treasure. Mr. Vaughn quickly located the site of the "money pit," which in the mean time had been filled up. Digging was commenced, and went on without interruption until the depth of 86 feet had been reached, when the water again put in appearance and the men were driven out of the pit.

After an unsuccessful attempt to bail the water out, work was suspended and the men returned to their homes. Shortly after, men with boring apparatus of primitive description, used in prospecting for coal, were sent to the island. Mr. J. B. McCully of Truro, who is still living and tells these facts, was manager. A platform was rigged in the "money pit," 30 feet below the surface and just above the water. The boring started and we submit a verbatim statement of the manager: "The platform was struck at 98 ft., just as the old diggers, as before mentioned, found it when sounding with the iron bar. After going through this platform, which was five inches thick, and proved to be spruce, the augur dropped 12 inches and then went through 4 inches of oak; then It went through 22 inches of metal in pieces, but the augur failed to take any of it in except 3 links, resembling an ancient watch chain. It then went through 8 inches of oak, which was thought to be the bottom of the first box and top of the next; then 22 inches of metal, the same as before; then 4 inches of oak and 6 inches of spruce; then into clay 7 ft. without striking anything else. In next boring the platform was struck as before at 98 ft.; passing through this, the augur fell about 18 inches and came in contact with, as supposed, the side of a cask. The flat chisel revolving close to the side of the cask gave it a jerky and irregular motion. On withdrawing the augur several splinters of oak, such as might come from the side of an oak stave, and a small quantity of a brown fibrous substance, closely resembling the husk of a cocoanut, were brought up. The distance between the upper and lower platforms was found to be 6 feet."

Not satisfied with the result of the boring just above described, another crew, of which the late Jas. Pitblado was foreman, was sent to make further investigations with practically (as far as the wood at the bottom of the shaft was concerned) the same result as before. The late John Gammell, of Upper Stewiacke, N. S., who was present at the boring and who was a large share holder, and whose veracity would not be questioned, stated that he saw Mr. Pitblado take something out of the augur, wash and examine it closely, then put it in his pocket. When asked by Mr. Gammell to show what it was, he declined, and said he would show it at the meeting of directors on their return, but Mr. Pitblado failed to appear at said meeting. It was subsequently reported that Mr. Pitblado had made some revelations to the then manager of the Acadia Iron Works at Londonderry, N. S., which revelations led that gentleman to make a determined, but unsuccessful, effort to get possession of that part of the island where the treasure is believed to be. But as the manager spoken of above was a few years later called to England, and Mr. Pitblado in the mean time had been accidentally killed in a gold mine, nothing further came of it. Nothing further was done until the following summer, 1850, when a new shaft (marked No. 3,) was sunk at the west side of the "money pit." and about 10 ft. from it. This shaft was 109 ft. deep and was through the hardest kind of red clay. Mr. A. A. Tupper, then of Upper Stewiacke, N. S., but now of South Framingham, Mass., who helped sink this shaft, gives the following account: "A tunnel was driven from the bottom in the direction of the "money pit." Just before reaching that point, the water burst in and the workmen fled for their lives and in twenty minutes there was 45 ft. of water in the new pit. The sole object in view in sinking this shaft was to increase the baiting facilities, for which purpose preparations had been made, and bailing was resumed in both the new and old pits, each being equipped with two two-horse gins. Work was carried on night and day for about a week, but all in vain, the only difference being that with the doubled appliances the water could be kept at a lower level than formerly. About this time, the discovery was made that the water was salt, and that it rose and fell in both shafts about 18 inches corresponding with the tides. It was considered extremely improbable that the flow of water came through a natural channel, and if not through a natural, it necessarily must be through an artificial one, having its inlet somewhere on the shore. In support of the theory that the water did not enter the "money pit" through a natural channel, it was argued that had it done so, the original diggers (supposed to be pirates) must have struck it, and if they did, it is certain that the workmen would have been driven from the pit by the great flow of water, and the shaft would necessarily have been abandoned. This evidently was not the case, as we have ample evidence from the fact that the wooden platforms were carefully placed in position at the bottom of the shaft, (see the amount of borings already given) as well as the fact that the shaft had been systematically filled up, with marks placed at every 10 ft., as previously stated. Acting on this theory a search was at once begun in order to find such inlet. Smith's Cove, on the extreme eastern end of the island and about 30 rods from the "money pit" was first examined by reason of its many natural advantages as a starting point for work of this kind, and from the fact that at about the centre of this cove it had always been noticed that at low tide, water was running out of the sand. Investigations were begun at· this point and the result of a few minutes' shoveling proved beyond a doubt that they had struck the place they were looking for. After removing the sand and gravel covering the beach, they came to a covering or bed of a brown, fibrous plant, the fibre very much resembling the husk of a cocoanut, and when compared with the plant that was bored out of the "money pit" already mentioned, no difference in the two could be detected. However it was subsequently proved to be a tropical plant, in former times used as "dunnage" in stowing ship's cargo. The surface covered by this plant extended 145 feet along the shore line, and from a little above low to high water mark, and about z inches in thickness. Underlying this and to the same extent was about 4 or so inches of decayed eel grass, and under this was a compact mass of beach rocks free from sand or gravel.

oak island early accounts 1893 sectional view

It was found impracticable to remove these rocks and make further investigation unless the tide was kept back. Accordingly a coffer dam was built around this part of the cove, including the boundaries just described. After removing the rocks nearest the low water, it was found that the clay (which with the sand and gravel originally formed the beach) had been dug out and re-moved and replaced by beach rocks. Resting on the bottom of this excavation were five well constructed drains (as shown on the plan) formed by laying parallel lines of rocks about 8 inches apart and covering the same with flat stones. These drains at the starting point were a considerable distance apart, but converged towards a common centre at the back of the excavation. With the exception of these drains the other rocks had evidently been thrown in promiscuously. Work went on until half of the rocks had been removed where the clay banks at the extreme sides showed a depth of 5 ft., at which depth a partially burned piece of oak wood was found. About this time an unusually high tide overflowed the top of the dam; and as it had not been constructed to resist pressure from the inside, when the tide receded it was carried away. To rebuild it would cost a lot of money 'and as there still remained a large amount of rocks to be removed and as there could be no reasonable doubt that the place we have 'tried to describe was the outwork of and starting point of a tunnel by which the water was conveyed to the bottom of the "money pit," it was decided to abandon the work on the shore and to sink a shaft a short distance inland from the starting point and directly over the tunnel, which it was expected, if found, would be less than 25 feet from the surface; and if so, the intention was to drive spites through and thereby stop the further passage of the water. A spot was selected and a shaft was put down, (marked No. 4) to a depth of 75 ft. Realizing the fact that they must have passed the tunnel, work was stopped on this pit. It is worthy to note that the clay formation passed through in sinking this shaft was exactly the same as encountered in the 3 other pits mentioned neither was water met with. Another and a more careful survey having been made, work was begun on another shaft about 12 ft. to the south of the one just abandoned (marked No. 5.) When a depth of 35 feet had been reached, a large boulder lying in the bottom of the shaft was pried up, and a rush of water immediately followed and in a few minutes the shaft was full to tide level. An effort was then made to carry out the original program of driving spites, but as the appliances at command were of the most crude description, the effort was a failure. But at the same time it must be admitted that striking salt water in this pit at the depth named: and also the other fact that in the other shaft only 12 ft. distant and 75 ft. deep, no water was found, proves beyond a doubt that the tunnel theory was correct."

A short time after another shaft (marked No. 6,) was sunk on the south side of the "money pit," and to a depth of 118 ft. this made the 4th one (including the "money pit") that had been put down at this place, and in such close proximity to each other that a circle 50 ft. in diameter would include the whole. The conditions found in sinking this 4th shaft were precisely the same as in the other shafts. As already stated, this new shaft was 118 ft. deep, a greater depth by 8 ft. than had previously been reached. A tunnel was driven towards, and reached a point directly under, a part at least of the bottom of the "money pit." It was now the dinner hour, and the workmen had just come out for that meal. Before they had finished dinner, a great crash was heard in the direction of the works. Rushing back to the pit, they found that the bottom of the "money pit" had fallen into the tunnel that they had a short time before vacated and that the new shaft was fast filling with water. Subsequently it was found that 12 ft. of mud had been driven by the force of water from the old to the new shaft.

The funds of this company in the meantime having been exhausted nothing was practically done that we are aware of until 1863. In that year another effort was made to overcome the water and secure the long' searched for treasure. On this occasion a powerful engine and pump were brought on the ground. The engine was placed in position with the pump in the 118 ft. shaft, and the work of clearing out the water and the 12 ft. of mud at the bottom of the shaft commenced. The object in view was to clear out the pit and the tunnel between it and the "money pit" where the treasure was supposed to have fallen when the cave-in above stated took place. The undertaking proved to be very difficult, as the flow of water was heavy; and on account of this and other obstacles little progress was made, but as the water on its way from the "money pit" to the pump had to pass through many feet of loose earth, it was possible to keep the water in the shaft below the 100 ft. level. But the most remarkable thing in connection with this company (and to which your particular attention is invited) is the fact that while the pumping was being continued the water in the pit down by the shore, (No. 5,) in which the tunnel had been struck, was kept at a much lower level than before or after, thus proving the existence of a subterranean water course.

About this time the men engaged in the underground work, one of whom was Mr. A. A. Tupper before mentioned, got the idea that the shaft was in danger of caving in and some of them refused to go into it. An expert examination was made of the shaft, and it was found to be in a very unsafe condition and was forthwith condemned. The pump was withdrawn and the shaft abandoned and work was suspended. The management were at their wits end and did not know which way to turn or what course to take to surmount the overwhelming difficulty. However, it appears that a syndicate of Halifax capitalists had in the meantime been organized, and in a few days after the events above mentioned they entered into an agreement with the old company to clean out the old "money pit," and recover the treasure for a share of the amount so received. This syndicate spent a large amount of money in sinking a new shaft, (marked No. 7) and made heroic efforts to overcome the flow of water, but were forced to abandon it. The pump and engine were taken back to Halifax and from that day to this no efforts worthy of note have been made to re-cover the treasure.

Various experiments, not mentioned above have also been made which conclusively prove that the various pits are directly connected with the ocean by means of this underground tunnel.

About sixteen years ago the present owner of the island was plowing with oxen near these pits, and when about eighty feet from the pit over the tunnel toward the "money pit," both of his oxen suddenly went down into a hole some six or eight feet in diameter and ten or fifteen feet deep. It is supposed that this washout had something to do with the tunnel itself, as it was apparently directly over it. But no further investigations of the cause of this collapse of the earth's surface have ever been made.

Only a very short time ago, a young man found on the island a copper coin, weighing an ounce and a half, dated 1317, on which, were various strange devices. Some years ago, a boatswain's stone whistle was also found on the island of a very ancient pattern, but it was accidentally broken by the finder and was thrown away.


Firmly believing this treasure can be recovered, a company has been organized, with $60,000 capital, in shares of $5 each of which $30,000 has been used in preliminary work by the promoters and for a three years' lease of that part of the island on which It is expected to make explorations and the absolute right to all that may be recovered by such exploration. The remaining stock, $30,000, has been set aside as a fund from which to raise funds for continuing the work, and will be sold from time to time; but no more will be sold than is needed to complete the work, and what remains unsold will be divided pro rata among all stockholders.

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