Monday, 18 November 2013

They Found Gold pt1

I have been doing a little more research into Verrill’s life and work of late and a had a query about his searching for gold. That caused me to look at Verrill’s book, They Found Gold of 1936. This book contains some interesting stories, a few of them involving the author’s travels. Since the book is not freely available, I am in the process of adding it here in sections.

THEY FOUND GOLD
The Story of SUCCESSFUL TREASURE HUNTS
By A HYATT VERRILL
 Digitized by Doug Frizzle, November 2013 
Stillwoods.Blogspot.Com

 1936, BY G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, New York

TO The army of romantic and adventurous souls who follow the lure of treasure hunting, this volume is dedicated by their fellow treasure hunter—
THE AUTHOR

Treasure Hunter

I have hunted for galleons 'neath tropical seas,
I have dug and have delved under hoary old trees
For treasures that rumor declared had been hid
By Blackbeard or Morgan or bold Captain Kidd.

I have studied the cyphers of countless old tomes,
With the crosses and figures, the skulls and crossbones.
I have followed the rainbow o'er mountains and plains
With never a doubloon to pay for my pains.

I have searched amid ruins and burial mounds.
I have disinterred mummies, and hundreds I've found.
But no gems or jewels have yet been revealed,
Nor hoards of vast riches my labors unsealed.

I have read all the volumes, I know all the lore
Of gold that was hidden on every wild shore.
I have tramped through the jungles along the faint trail
Of the ancient Gold Road, but only to fail.

I have hunted for riches in tombs and in graves.
I've followed the lure through dark, dismal caves.
Though up to the present, no treasures I've won,
In my questing for gold I have had lots of fun.

Table of Contents

Introduction.
Chapter I.
THE BLOCKADE RUNNERS' TREASURE SAFE. 1
How a loss became a profit.

Chapter II.
BILLY BOWLEGS' BLOOD-STAINED TREASURE. 10
The story of the last of the pirates and the search for his hidden treasures.

Chapter III.
THE TREASURE-TROVE OF CASCO BAY. 22
The strange story of a Maine treasure.

Chapter IV.
THE GOLDEN BOOKS OF THE MAYAS. 31
An amazing tale and a treasure hunt in the Yucatan jungles.

Chapter V.
A TREASURE THAT WAS FOUND AND LOST. 64
How a treasure hunter found the Vera Cruz treasure only to lose it.

Chapter VI.
THE TREASURE OF THE HIDDEN CRATER. 70
The story of the Valverde treasure and how one man found the hidden crater.

Chapter VII.
HUNTING THE WORLD'S MOST MYSTERIOUS TREASURE. 86
The baffling treasure of Oak Island and the attempts made to secure it.

Chapter VIII.
THE WORLD'S MOST SOUGHT-FOR TREASURE. 106
The hidden treasures of Cocos Island, and those who have searched for them.

Chapter IX.
SALVAGING THE SPANISH GALLEON. 122
The author's visit to Silver Shoals and the finding of a sunken treasure galleon.

Chapter X.
OUR SECOND VOYAGE TO THE SILVER SHOALS. 138
The jinx shows its hand and tragedy follows.

Chapter XI.
DREDGING THE TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN HIND. 150
How the depression led to a fortune.

Chapter XII.
DIGGING TREASURES FROM ANCIENT GRAVES. 160
Millions from tombs. The author's royal mummy. The tale of a golden hoard.

Chapter XIII.
TRUTH THAT IS STRANGER THAN FICTION. 176
The treasure found through a dream. The treasure that bought a department store. The treasure of the old cannon. The hog's treasure trove.

Chapter XIV.
THE TREASURE SHIP THAT VANISHED. 186
The strange story of the SANTA MARGARITA. The salvaged treasure that was hijacked.

Chapter XV.
THE LOST MINE OF TISINGAL. 198
How the author was guided to the long sought lost mine.

Chapter XVI.
TREASURE HUNTS IN HOME WATERS. 210
The famous MERIDA. Treasure ships in the East River.

Chapter XVII.
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OF ALL TREASURE HUNTS. 217
The remarkable salvaging of the LAURENTIC. Searching for the LUSITANIA.

Chapter XVIII.
THE GREATEST OF ALL TREASURE HUNTS. 225
Preparing for the greatest treasure hunt. Where no man has ever trod. Broadcasting from the bottom of the sea.

Appendix.
HINTS FOR TREASURE HUNTERS. 233
Why so many treasure hunts fail. Misleading charts and faked maps. Incomplete data. Ignorance of conditions. Treasure hunting a gamble. Cost of treasure hunting. Inadequate funds. Laws and regulations. Concessions. Outfits required. A game for wealthy men. Salvaging sunken ships. Modem devices. A business proposition. The lure of treasure hunting.

AUTHENTIC UNRECOVERED TREASURES IN AMERICA. 245
A list of known, historically authentic, lost, hidden and sunken treasures of America which up to the time of writing remain unfound.

LIST OF TREASURES ACTUALLY KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN RECOVERED OR SALVAGED
IN RECENT YEARS.

List of Illustrations

A Sketch Map of Treasures Found and Unfound Frontispiece
A Diver Examining an Old Treasure Wreck in the Bahamas Facing page 6
A Maya Temple in Yucatan facing page 34
Sketch Plan of Oak Island Showing Treasure Pit, Tunnels, etc. page 91
Sectional Plan of Oak Island Money Pit page 93
The Lima Cathedral. The Treasures of This Ancient Church Were Hidden on Cocos Island Facing page 112
Sketch Map of the Sunken Galleon, Showing Location of Reefs, and Objects Salvaged page 129
Salvaging a Sunken Galleon Facing page 132
The Golden Regalia of Inca's Mummy Facing page 170
A Peruvian Mummy Decked with Gold Facing page 170
Where the Spaniards Cached Their Salvaged Treasure Facing page 196
A Guardian of the Lost Mine Facing page 208
The Ogre-Like Suit To Be Used in the Greatest Treasure Hunt Facing page 228

Introduction

FROM time immemorial, and in all lands, men have been hunting for treasure. In fact it would scarcely be an exaggeration to state that somewhere, someone is engaged in treasure hunting every hour of every day in every year. And this being the case it is not at all surprising that now and again some hidden, lost or sunken treasure is found and recovered.
But unlike other successful exploits, successful treasure hunts are not as a rule blazoned to the world. For many and obvious reasons the lucky ones usually reveal little or nothing, and as a result, one hears far more of unsuccessful than of successful treasure hunts, which is perhaps the principal reason why the average person regards treasure hunters as visionary impractical beings, and treasure hunts as futile as searching for the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. But this viewpoint does not prevent them from being keenly interested in tales of treasure and treasure hunts. Perhaps there is no one subject in the line of literature which holds a greater lure and arouses a greater interest than that of treasure, and regardless of race, station, sex or age, human beings, or at least a large proportion of human beings, find a real thrill and fascination in stories of lost, buried or sunken treasures.
Just why this should be so is difficult to explain. The mention of a few millions in gold stored in a bank vault will cause no comment, no particular interest or reaction. But speak of a fraction of the amount buried in the sands of some lonely isle, or lying in the rotting hulk of some Spanish galleon at the bottom of the sea, and the keenest interest is at once aroused, although in all probability there is about as much chance of helping oneself to the one as to the other.
Even the most practical, hard-headed business and professional men often get a tremendous "kick" out of lost treasure and treasure hunting, and I have known a number of men who would never dream of investing a few hundred dollars in a business deal that was not certain to pay profits, but who would almost clamor to put thousands into a treasure hunt.
It is not always the lure of riches that attracts, for the multi-millionaire is as often bitten by the treasure hunt bug as is the poor man. Neither is it the hope of getting something for nothing, for treasure hunts cost money, and a lot of it, as even the rankest amateur realizes. Hence we can only assume that there is something about hidden or lost treasures that appeals to the streak of romance and adventure that most of us possess.
But quite irrespective of the whys and wherefores of the almost universal interest in treasures and treasure hunting, the fact remains that it is an ever fascinating theme, regardless of whether or not the treasures have been found. For that matter, the most thrilling, romantic and interesting tales often deal with the unsuccessful searches.
In this book I have not attempted to include all or even a small portion of known treasure hunts, successful or not. To do so would require not one but many volumes, and, moreover, the stories of treasure hunts of past centuries, and of past decades for that matter, have been told and retold and published in numerous books, until the treasure loving public is as familiar with the feats of Sir William Phipps and other famous treasure hunters as with the adventures of Robinson Crusoe or Christopher Columbus.
Neither have I included all of the more recent treasure hunts, either successful or otherwise, for many of these are wholly devoid of romance, adventure or story interest, and come more properly under the head of wrecking or salvaging jobs than treasure hunting.
But there have been many recent treasure hunts, in several of which I have taken an active part, which hold a deal of romance, much high adventure, abundant thrills and great human interest, as well as drama, tragedy and, not infrequently, humor also, and the stories of the more outstanding and noteworthy of these will be found herein.
Also, let me assure my readers that all of these tales are fact and none fiction, although for sundry and obvious reasons I have, as a rule, used fictional names for the persons mentioned, other than historical characters.
And I hereby wish to disclaim all responsibility for the statements of values of treasures found or unfound, unless verified by official, documentary or historical records. I have no desire to be blamed by some future treasure hunter who, after reading my book, discovers a treasure and finds only a mere million dollars' worth of gold where he had been led to believe several millions had been buried.
Finally, let me remind one and all that treasures are very much like fish in a way, for just as the biggest fish is always the one that escapes from the hook, so the biggest treasures are those which still remain undiscovered. Perhaps that was the reason why the Spaniards called the fabulously vast treasure of Chan Chan the "Peje grande" or Big Fish, for it never yet has been found.

THEY FOUND GOLD

CHAPTER I
 The Blockade Runners' Treasure Safe

THERE have been many more treasures found than is generally supposed, for, as a rule, a person who finds a hoard of gold or silver, coins or jewels, seldom broadcasts the tidings to the world at large. There are many reasons why the lucky finder prefers to keep the matter quiet. In many countries the governments claim the lion's share of treasure-trove found within their boundaries or their territorial waters, and the person who has spent time and money in searching for a treasure, and who does all the work and takes all the risks, is naturally averse to handing the officials a large percentage of his find. Also, as treasures are usually found—if found at all—in wild or remote districts, there is always the danger of bandits, hijackers or other scoundrels helping themselves to treasures if it becomes noised about that they have been found. So if treasure hunters fail to report a successful end to their quest it must not be assumed that their hunt went unrewarded. Occasionally, however, some fortunate treasure hunter tells some friend of his luck, or some member of the party or expedition talks, and the truth leaks out. And sometimes, also, when returning treasure hunters suddenly and inexplicably adopt a mode of life not at all in keeping with their former financial status, one may put two and two together and make a fairly certain four, as one might say. It is rather strange, too, that in very many instances the really successful treasure hunter is the amateur at the game, some fellow who is by no means a treasure hunting addict but who, quite accidentally, gets wind of some hoard of riches and by merest chance or luck secures the treasure.
This was the case with the man who, about a year ago, won a small fortune on a treasure hunt of barely two weeks' duration, and thereby once again demonstrated the fact that truth is strainer than fiction, and also that "to him who hath shall be given," for Mr. Dudley, as we may call him, was already a very wealthy man. In fact if he had not been wealthy he never would have found the treasure. And by the same token, if he had not been aiding and abetting a violation of our laws the treasure would in all probability still be resting among the corals and the sea-fans on the bottom of the ocean in the Bahama Islands.
Like so many, in fact the majority of us in the pre-repeal days, Mr. Dudley had his bootlegger. And when, on one occasion, the purveyor of illicit wet goods asked his best customer for a loan of five thousand dollars with which to purchase a plane in which to run cargoes of liquor from Bimini and Grand Bahama to Florida, and eloquently described the immense profits of such a venture if discreetly conducted Mr. Dudley quite willingly advanced him the required sum.
To Dudley the investment was merely a "flyer," a gamble, and when a short time later, the man announced that the federal officers had seized the plane and cargo Dudley waved aside the loss of his five thousand as of little consequence.
"Hard luck!" he remarked. "But I took the risk so let's forget it."
"I'm not sure you couldn't get your money back with interest," declared the bootlegger. "When I was flying across the Bahama Bank I spotted an old wreck. It looked mighty good to me, and every one down there tells stories of blockade runners that were sunk with treasure during the Civil War. I've got a sort of a hunch that the wreck I saw is one of them. But I guess you wouldn't be interested enough to put up the cash to find out."
"Is that so!" the other exclaimed. "It strikes me it might be a lot of fun going down there to that old wreck. Do you know" he chuckled "ever since I was a kid I've been crazy over treasure hunting yarns. What would it set me back to have a try at it?"
A few days later the Dudley yacht slipped quietly from the New York harbor bound ostensibly on a southern cruise. In addition to the owner and his bootlegger friend there were two deep sea divers aboard, and under the schooner's hatches was a complete diving equipment. It was not so simple a matter to locate the wreck as the treasure hunters had supposed, for viewing the banks from the air and searching the same area in a small boat are two very different matters. Moreover, the flying bootlegger had only a general idea as to the location of the wreck he had sighted. But he had noted the exact course he had followed, which reduced the search to a definite and restricted area, and back and forth the small boats cruised, their crews peering through "water glasses" at the coral reefs and sea-gardens with their strange multi-colored growths. Fishes of brilliant blue, green, scarlet, orange, as gorgeous as butterflies, swam lazily among the purple and golden sea-fans, the waving lavender sea-plumes, the crimson sea-feathers and giant cup sponges. Sea anemones two feet or more in diameter spread magenta and mauve tentacles from crevices between the orange, scarlet, green and yellow corals. Huge vermilion crabs and peacock-spotted crawfish scuttled from sight as the boats' shadows fell across the reefs. Giant maroon-colored starfish dotted the sandy areas between the reefs, immense queen conchs moved ponderously about upon the sea floor, and always there were the sharks, sinister monsters constantly cruising, like pirate craft, about the reefs. Twice the searchers felt sure they had found the wreck when rusty, coral-encrusted anchors and rotting timbers were sighted. But each time the boot-legger shook his head and declared they were not his wreck and that the latter was still clearly distinguishable as a ship's hull. And then one day a shout from one of the boats and the frantic waving of a red flag brought the others hurrying alongside. There, thirty feet below the surface, with its shattered bilges resting upon the jagged coral, was the remains of what once had been a small steam brigantine. The wreck had been located, every one was excited, and the divers immediately busied themselves with preparations to descend and explore the old hulk. Carefully the yacht was jockeyed into position and securely moored fore and aft as dose to the wreck as was safe. Diving gear was brought on deck, the air pump rigged and tested, tackle overhauled, and the divers' heavy ladder was lowered overside. Aided by his assistant, the master diver donned his suit and, as helpless as a baby in the stiff cumbersome costume, waited while the heavy bronze collar was fitted about his neck, the lead-soled shoes were buckled on his feet and the canvas over-alls were drawn over his legs. Then, clambering clumsily over the ship's rail, he descended the ladder until his head was on a level with the bulwarks. About his waist was strapped the belt with its lead weights, the life line was adjusted and secured under his arm-pits, and, thrusting a cake of chewing gum into his mouth, he bent to receive the grotesque helmet and adjusted the valves to his air hose as the pump began to clank. And here let me pause to explain that chewing gum is a very essential matter in deep sea diving, the movement of the jaws in mastication and the saliva produced preventing danger of injury to the ear drums. At last, with the helmet locked in place, with air hose and life line cleared and held by the tender, the assistant tapped upon the copper helmet to signal all was ready, the diver signaled all well, and releasing his hold upon the ladder sank slowly through the clear water with a silvery stream of bubbles rushing upward from the escape valve of his head piece. Reaching the bottom, he signaled for a crowbar to be lowered, and tense with excitement, Dudley and the others watched his every movement as he secured the bar and moved, like some strange sea monster in a "slow motion" picture, toward the wreck. What would he find? Was the old sunken hulk empty or was there a treasure chest, a store of golden and silver coins or other valuables hidden among the sea-fans, the sponge growths and the stag-horn coral? Slowly, exasperatingly, deliberately, the misshapen figure moved about the wreck, poking with his bar, prying loose a rotten plank, wrenching away a mass of sponge or coral, and raising a smoke-like cloud of sand and silt which almost concealed him from the watchers above.
Over and about the old wreck he climbed, until at last he dropped from sight among the skeleton-like timbers of the hull. Slowly the minutes passed, and then, once more the weird figure appeared and signaled for a rope and tackle to be sent down.
"He's found something!" exclaimed Dudley. "Something he wants to send up!"
The assistant diver spat over the rail. "Sure has," he agreed as he lowered the coil of rope and tackle to his mate below. "But that ain't sayin' it's treasure," he added. "Maybe just a old gun or a cask of rum or some-thin'."
The bootlegger laughed. "Don't know but what that might be called treasure," he observed. "Liquor that's been down there ever since that ship was wrecked ought to be pretty well aged and high priced, I'd say."
Again the diver vanished in the wreck, to reappear presently and signal for those above to pull him up. "Don't know what I've made fast to," he said as his assistant removed the helmet and weighted belt, and the diver climbed aboard and shuffling across the deck seated himself on the hatch. "Maybe it's what you're after and then again maybe it's just a case of cargo," he continued. "Might as well haul her up and find out."
Slowly the slack came in, the rope tightened under the strain of the electric hoist, and up from the maze of rotten, shattered timbers and twisted iron work came a squarish object covered with weeds and sea growths.
Speculation ran high as it came nearer and nearer the surface, until at last it was lowered, dripping, upon the schooner's decks. As full of excitement as any boy, the owner of the yacht seized a hammer and commenced knocking off the accumulation of coral. "It's metal!" he fairly shouted, as a section of corroded rusty iron was revealed. Seizing hammers, hatchets and crowbars, the others attacked the covering of coral. "It's a chest all right," announced the diver.
"Or a safe," exclaimed Dudley.
"Pretty near rusted through," declared the bootlegger. "Let's knock a hole in it and see what's inside." As he spoke he struck the metal a resounding blow with the crowbar, a gaping jagged hole was torn in the corroded iron, and out from the rent poured a flood of dull-yellow coins.
"Gold!" shouted Dudley, dropping on his knees. "Gold sovereigns, as I live!"
Shouting, laughing, excited, the men crowded about, picking up the coins, examining them, clinking them together. Gold! Minted British sovereigns! Treasure!
"Here, bring a bucket, some one," cried Dudley. "We'll gather up this money before we lose some of it in all this muck. Then we'll rip the safe wide open; there must be a lot more inside."
With the coins safe in the bucket, the men fell to work, and with hammers and bars tore away a large section of the salvaged safe, to reveal a mass of gold and silver coins and the remnants of sodden, rotten, canvas bags.
"Holy mackerel!" exclaimed the diver. "I never seen such a heap of money in my life. Must be pretty near a million dollars in there."
"Million nothing," declared the bootlegger. "A million dollars in gold is close to a ton."
"Well, this old tin box wasn't no lightweight, judgin' by the strain on the hoist," commented one of the crew. "What do you say, Mr. Dudley?"
"Don't ask me. All I can say is it's a lot of money, and most of it British, dated in the sixties. Guess it's a blockade runner's safe all right."
"Hey, what's this?" demanded the bootlegger who had thrust his hand into the safe and was examining a sodden, pulpy, grayish mass he had extracted Then: "Damned if it isn't money, too!" he cried. "Paper money!"
There was no doubt of it, although the once crisp Bank of England notes were reduced to pulp and were utterly worthless.
With the first wild excitement over, the men fell to work, filling buckets with the coins until the safe was empty.
"Bet we're the only men who ever handled gold sovereigns by the bucketful," grinned the bootlegger as he mopped his forehead and gazed at the galvanized iron buckets filled with the minted coins.
Dudley chuckled. "It's going to be some job to count them," he remarked. "Come on, boys, let's get busy and find out how much treasure we've got." When at last the coins had been counted and their values added up there was a grand total of something over eighty-eight thousand dollars. Dudley slapped the bootlegger on the back. "Dan, old man, that five thousand I put into your plane was the best investment I ever made!" he declared. "Pretty near eighteen hundred per cent profit isn't bad!"
The bootlegger grinned. "Thank Uncle Sam, not me," he said. "If those prohibition guys over in the Glades hadn't grabbed my plane we wouldn't be here with near ninety grand right now."
Dudley chuckled. "You're dead right, Dan," he agreed. "And here's one time when I'm strong for enforcing the dry laws."
The assistant diver rubbed the stubble on his chin and spat into the sea. "Just the same," he observed reflectively, "it's a damn shame about all them wads of bills. Hell, I'll bet they was worth more'n all this hard money, and just nothin' but slops now. Why the blazes didn't them blockade runners have a watertight safe?"

CHAPTER II
Billy Bowlegs' Blood-Stained Treasure

OF all the pirates who, in the early part of the nineteenth century, infested the Gulf of Mexico and the neighboring seas, the most cruel, ruthless and probably the most successful, was Billy Bowlegs. Just who he was or whence he came, no one ever knew. But there was no doubt that he was English or at any rate British and when he first appeared in New Orleans, in 1810, he went under the name of William Rogers. Seemingly an honest and law-abiding man, he bought a small plantation about seventy-five miles from the city, married a Choctaw Indian woman and, in due course of time, became the father of four sons and two daughters.
Obviously, however, neither family ties nor a planter's life could satisfy Rogers' restless and adventurous spirit, and leaving the estate to be cared for by his dusky spouse and his half-breed offspring, off he went on his new career. Joining the Lafitte Brothers at Batavia, he became a member of that famous band of smugglers and outlaws and rose high in the estimation of the Lafittes. And when the quixotic Frenchmen enlisted their services on the American side during the Battle of New Orleans, and for so doing received pardons from the Federal Government, Rogers, or Billy Bowlegs as he was now called, distinguished himself for his reckless bravery. But his association with the Batavians had taught him a few things. There was more money to be made dishonestly than by honest means, he had discovered; human lives, he had learned, were a rather cheap commodity after all, and danger and battle had become an obsession. So with the breaking up of the Batavia colony, friend Rogers, instead of returning to his family and plantation, decided to turn smuggler on his own account. Gathering together a few of the Lafittes' henchmen, and acquiring three small vessels, he established himself on the shores of unfrequented Santa Rosa Sound. Here, in the maze of bayous, creeks, islands, swamps and hidden coves, with an abundance of fish and game, Rogers and his gang were safe from the long arm of the law and carried on a lucrative smuggling industry. But, before very long, it occurred to the resourceful Billy Bowlegs that there would be a far greater profit in smuggling contraband into the States if the cost of purchasing the goods were eliminated; and as the only means of thus reducing overhead was to take possession of what he required without regard to the rightful owners' consent, he decided to combine piracy with smuggling. To Rogers and his shipmates all vessels were fair prey regardless of their nationality, although Spanish ships were his specialty, owing to the fact that they carried richer cargoes than those of France, Holland, England or the United States. Even at that late day vast quantities of bullion and gold and silver currency were being shipped from Mexico, Panama and elsewhere in Spanish America to Spain, and incredibly rich pickings were to be had for the taking. To be sure, the taking was not such a safe or easy matter. The plate ships were always convoyed by powerful heavily-armed frigates, and the ordinary type of pirates who infested the Gulf and the Caribbean gave these convoys a wide berth. But this did not mean that Billy Bowlegs had the field all to himself. On the contrary, he had a very serious competitor in the self-styled King of the Pirates, the famous Gasparilla, the ex-nobleman of Spain, José Gaspar, who had established his headquarters at Charlotte Harbor.
On more than one occasion the King of the Pirates and Billy Bowlegs very nearly came to grips; but as there was a certain amount of honor among these thieves of the sea, and an unwritten law that dog did not eat dog, as one might say, the two scourges of the Gulf managed to ply their trade without flying at each other's throats, and, eventually, they became quite fast friends as pirates go, for each recognized in the other the one quality both admired and respected bravery. No one ever accused Gasparilla of being a coward, and whatever his short-comings may have been Billy Bowlegs did not know the meaning of the word fear. Also, both pirate chieftains were absolutely ruthless and cruel, and as utterly regardless of human life as ravening wolves. Both thoroughly believed in the axiom that dead men tell no tales, and while the Spaniard's Latin temperament and amorous and sentimental nature led him to spare female captives (whom he added to his harem) even though he murdered every man who did not join his forces, Billy Bowlegs spared none, and never permitted a man, woman or child who fell into his clutches to live to tell the tale.
For this reason no one can say with any degree of certainty how many ships or what cargoes were taken by this last of the Gulf pirates. But judging by the number of ships which vanished, and the fact that in a few short years he amassed an immense fortune, he must have been most successful in his nefarious career. But the heydey of piracy was nearing its end. Being no fool, Billy Bowlegs realized that the days of piracy were rapidly drawing to a close and that, with the United States Government bent on exterminating the pirates, and with British and American warships scouring the seas in search of the corsairs, it was about time he retired from business. In fact, he had held on long after his compeers had retired or had met with their just deserts. His erstwhile friend, Gasparilla, had ended his spectacular career by dramatically wrapping a piece of chain-cable about his body and leaping into the sea rather than be taken prisoner and hanged at the yard-arm of an American corvette that had him cornered. But Billy Bowlegs had no intention of committing suicide or being hanged. So, in 1838, the last of the Gulf pirates paid his men their promised shares, bade them farewell and God speed, and busied himself caching his blood-stained loot in secret hiding places. The bulk of his fortune he buried on the northern shore of a sandy island. Then, on the neighboring mainland, he cached his minted coins in two separate hoards. But as he did not wish to disturb these extemporized safe deposit vaults except in case of some unforeseen emergency, he retained a few hundred thousand dollars in specie aboard his ship, a trim and speedy little schooner ninety feet on the water line, twenty-two feet in beam, drawing six feet of water and armed with eighteen guns.
For a few years thereafter, Billy Bowlegs, resuming the name of Rogers, led an honest enough life as far as any one knows. He made no more voyages to unnamed destinations, there were no lost ships whose disappearance could be charged to the account of the notorious Billy Bowlegs, and honest merchant skippers thanked God and the American navy for having driven the pirates from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But like so many others of his profession, Rogers could not resist the call of the sea. He pined for the excitement and din of battle and the thunder of guns. He lusted for blood and murder, mutilated fellow men and women, and regardless of the peril, or perhaps because of it, he decided to have one more fling at piracy. No one knows, no one but his crew ever knew, what took place on this last cruise or what ships he took and scuttled with all on board. But obviously he had lost none of his skill as a pirate, for in a few short weeks his ship's hold was laden to the hatches with sacks of hand-picked gold ore, chests of gold, and silver coins and bullion. He had not acquired his loot without a struggle. A number of his spars had been shot away, there were canvas-stopped holes in his schooner's hull, great jagged gaps showed in her bulwarks, her canvas was riddled and torn and she was leaking badly from round-shot wounds below her water line. But she was still afloat and seaworthy, and despite her crippled spars and patched rigging she could still show a clean pair of heels to any craft of her size in the Gulf of Mexico. Billy Bowlegs had satiated his desire for bloodshed and excitement and loot, and satisfied with the outcome of his last cruise, he headed for his lair on the western coast of Florida. But his luck, or the evil genius which had watched over him, had deserted him. A British sloop-of-war appeared upon the horizon, and knowing that a vessel in the condition of Rogers' had been in no honest venture, the British commander instantly gave chase.
It was no weather for a partially crippled ship to crowd on sail with safety; there was a gale of wind blowing; a heavy sea was running, and Billy Bowlegs realized that to attempt to outrun the warship under such conditions would be hopeless. But his intimate knowledge of the coast stood him in good stead. A few miles ahead he knew of a good harbor, a large bay protected by a bar which the warship could not cross, but with enough water to enable the light-draught schooner to enter.
Piling on every stitch of canvas which his spars could stand, the pirate drove off before the howling gale which was steadily increasing and piling up a tremendous sea which was breaking in a smother of foam upon the bar.
Although the schooner raced across, yet she struck bottom more than once as the breakers dropped her, and at each shock, rigging and top-hamper went by the board, while green seas washed her from bow to stern, carrying away deck-houses and fittings, and drowning several of the crew. But she still floated when at last she reached the calm surface of the lagoon inside the bar, and anchor was dropped beyond reach of the enemy's guns.
The British, however, were not to be cheated of their prey so easily, and, backing his yards, the corvette's commander lowered away boats filled with armed bluejackets and marines who pulled for the crippled schooner. Then, to prevent his vessel and her precious cargo from falling into the enemy's hands, Rogers hurriedly stripped her of what he could and scuttled her in four fathoms of water. Tossing a few supplies into the long-boat, the pirates made for the shore and took to the woods.
With the schooner at the bottom of the bay, and her crew concealed in the jungle, the British gave up and sailed away. When at last they had vanished beyond the horizon, Billy and the twenty-seven survivors of his crew came from their hiding places, built shacks on the beach, and busied themselves salvaging what they could from their scuttled vessel. With neither divers nor equipment it was impossible to recover the treasure, even had there been time to do so. But friend Bowlegs had no idea of abandoning his sunken loot, even if he did possess a fortune in treasure already. His plan was to build a good camp, leave two of his trusted officers in charge, and make his way to Louisiana where he would sell his plantation, secure the necessary equipment, and returning to the cove with his family, he would make his home there until he had salvaged the cargo of his schooner.
It may seem strange that a man who had salted down more riches than he could ever need did not charge off the schooner and her cargo to profit and loss, and return to civilization for good and all. But Billy Bowlegs Rogers was not only an exceedingly avaricious scoundrel but miserly, and it was not in his nature to leave a million or more resting in shoal water without making an effort to get it.
In due course of time his plans were accomplished, and in a small sloop Rogers and his family set sail for the bay. But only four men were there to greet him. One was Pedro, the Spanish mate, another was Jim Kelly, the bo's'n, and the other two were Spanish seamen. Of the other twenty-one, some had been killed by hostile Indians, some had deserted and some had died of fever. Thus short of men, all Bowlegs' efforts to recover his treasure proved fruitless, and when his wife died of fever he gave up, and moving to the other shore of the bay he built a log cabin and settled down. By 1865, Billy Bowlegs, still dwelling within sight of the spot where his schooner had gone down, was the sole survivor of the piratical crew. Pedro and the two other Spaniards had died years before, and Jim Kelly, who had married, raised a family and had become a respectable citizen, had also passed away. Rogers was by now an old man and his family had grown up. Over seventy and irascible, he flew into a fearful temper whenever his sons suggested making use of their father's hidden treasures and dwelling like civilized beings instead of remaining in the wilderness minus comforts and neighbors. To them such a life was intolerable, and they plotted to help themselves to what they needed. But by some means or another old Billy the pirate got wind of their plans, and cursing them with all the fervency and fluency of his piratical days, he drove his family away, swearing never to see or to speak to one of them as long as he lived a vow which he kept to the day of his death. But his anathema did not include a favorite nephew. To him Rogers promised a large share of his treasure when he died, and to make certain that the youth would get it, the old man showed his nephew where he had concealed one of his hoards. Moreover, after Billy Bowlegs' death (in 1888 at the ripe old age of 95) the favored nephew secured the treasure and lived comfortably for the rest of his life on his pirate-uncle's legacy, which fact proves beyond question that Billy Bowlegs' treasures were no imaginary or fictional hoards.
Aside from his nephew, the old pirate chieftain had another and even more intimate friend, a man whom he had met while killing cattle in 1878 and who was his constant companion during the last twelve years of his life. Sullen, secretive, avoiding his fellow men, yet the hoary old scoundrel took this man into his confidence and to him related the story of his past and even discussed plans for salvaging the schooner and digging up his buried treasures. Death, however, put an abrupt end to Billy's schemes, and his friend, thinking the old man had been romancing or was a bit "off," and also being without funds or means to make an investigation or search, never attempted to recover any of the sunken or buried treasures. The man, however, is still living and so, also, is a grandson of Billy Bowlegs, and through them the story came to the ears of romantically-inclined treasure hunters who, a short time ago, set out on an expedition to locate and recover the old pirate's cached riches and to salvage the treasure-laden schooner.
Just why the old pirate never made any use of the fortune he had won by fire and sword and at cost of countless lives, is a puzzle. But he was a miserly rascal, acquisitiveness had become a mania with him, and, moreover, he had no use for wealth, being a rough old scoundrel content to live in semi-savage style in the jungle. At all events, he certainly never dug up the bulk of his treasure, although from time to time he would visit the spots where he had cached it, in order to satisfy himself that the hoards had not been molested and that the landmarks were still in evidence. Unquestionably, as the years passed and gales and storms altered the sandy shores where the old pirate had secreted his riches, the landmarks changed and such changes were duly noted by Billy who, familiar with the exact locations of his caches, was not misled by drifting sands, by growing brush or by vanishing trees. And as he had no intention of digging up the treasures himself he doubtless chuckled as he noticed how Nature was aiding him in protecting the gold-filled casks and chests from others' hands. No doubt, he thought, even his most intimate friend in whom he had confided could never locate the caches owing to the changes that had taken place. And in this surmise he was right, for when, a year or so ago, the white-bearded old fellow, who alone of all the world held the secret of Billy Bowlegs' treasure-trove, led an expedition to the spot he found himself totally at a loss to identify a single landmark old Rogers had described. Trees, marks—everything had vanished, and over the spot where, so he declared, the treasures must have been buried, many feet of sand had been piled and drifted by the winds of nearly a century.
Hand digging would be hopeless; but the treasure hunters had faith in the old man's tale. Billy Bowlegs' grandson bore him out, the old records substantiated the story, and convinced that the pirate's vast treasure lay under its covering of sand they prepared to return with a steam shovel.
Provided with the means of handling tons of sand, the treasure hunters proceeded to dig where the old comrade of the pirate and the latter's grandson declared the treasures had been buried. Hopes ran high as the great steel bucket bit into the sand, and lifting high dumped its load far to one side. Ton after ton was removed, and when, buried beneath the accumulated sand, the dead trunk of a peculiarly gnarled and twisted oak tree was disclosed, every one felt that Billy Bowings' treasure was as good as found, for one of the markers mentioned particularly by the pirate was a gnarled and twisted oak tree, the only tree of its kind in the vicinity. Here was proof that they were at the right spot. At any instant the big shovel might reveal a chest of golden coins or a store of bullion. With a rattle and roar the great steel bucket dropped; like some ravenous beast it bit savagely into the sand, and snorting rose with its load. Wild with excitement the treasure hunters crowded about. Exposed by the last scoopful of sand removed, were the ends of old planks forming a rectangle, one of the old pirate's caches, exactly as he had described them to his friend. Seizing shovels the men hurled aside the mass of sand that filled the boarded space, certain that at last their efforts had been rewarded, that Billy Bowlegs' treasure was theirs. But an instant later their hopes were shattered. The cache was empty!
But only for a moment were they disheartened. Billy Bowlegs' nephew, they remembered, had secured some of his uncle's treasure. And no doubt this empty cache was one from which he had taken the contents years before.
So once again the steam shovel puffed and snorted and performed the work of fifty men, and as the sand was removed, another and another cache was uncovered. But, like the first, all had been rifled. At last the treasure seekers gave up in despair. They had found Billy Bowlegs' secret hiding place, but some one had been there before them. Whether they had had the ill luck to stumble on the hoards that the nephew had taken, or whether some one else had discovered the hidden treasures and had made away with them, no one could say. Still only one of the pirate's caches had been found and the old rascal had concealed his loot in three places. But the funds of the expedition were exhausted. They could not search farther, and their treasure hunt came to an end. But they have not abandoned all hope of recovering Billy Bowlegs' treasure. By means of delicate detectors they hope to locate the stores of hidden gold and silver, and are even now planning to return to the spots where the last of the Gulf pirates hid his blood-stained riches.
Neither has any one found the rotting timbers of Billy Bowlegs' sunken ship with her precious cargo, yet beyond a doubt it still rests among the weeds and water plants on the bottom of the bay where the pirates scuttled her so many years ago. 

Link to Part 2 -chapters 3 and 4 - http://stillwoods.blogspot.ca/2013/11/they-found-gold-ch-3-and-4.html

No comments:

Blog Archive

Countries we have visited

About Me

My photo

As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.