Missing! An investigative report into Oak Island's long-lost 90 Foot Stone (Part 1 in a special series)
By Doug Crowell and Thomas Kingston Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
For those who are not familiar with the Oak Island 90 Foot Stone, also referred to as The Inscribed Stone, we can tell you that it is one of the most intriguing purported artifacts found during the 221 year old hunt for treasure on Oak Island, in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, and it is missing! Yes, missing! Like so many other artifacts from the island, the stone has joined the ranks of the misplaced or lost.
Many may be new to the Oak Island Mystery, having discovered it through watching the History Channel’s Curse of Oak Island television show, while others have likely been following this mystery most of their lives. A few of you might even be researchers of this mystery involving a legendary treasure of uncertain origin, placed on an island by unknown persons. Regardless of how you've come to be reading this article, we think you will enjoy reviewing our compiled history of the stone, and hopefully be better informed about this captivating mystery-within- a mystery.
In June of 1795, John Smith, the son of a Loyalist settler, purchased Oak Island Lot No. 18 from Casper Wollenhaupt of Lunenburg. On this 4 acre plot of land he, and two other settlers, Daniel McGinnis and Anthony Vaughan, reportedly discovered a depression in the ground under an old oak tree. It is said that a block and tackle pulley hung from a transom set between a forked limb of the tree. According to legend, the three men became excited at the prospect of buried treasure, and set out to dig it up. About two feet down they encountered a layer of flagstones and set them aside. At ten feet down they came upon a layer of logs that formed a platform. They removed these logs, likely believing that they had reached the treasure they hoped for. Instead, they were greeted by more soil, which had settled somewhat. Not discouraged, the three men continued to dig, finding a second log platform set ten more feet below the first one. Certain that they had reached the treasure, the determined diggers removed the second layer of logs, and found more loosely packed soil. It's generally believed that they dug down about thirty to thirty-five feet before being overwhelmed by the effort. The story states that they approached the people of their community for help, but everyone was afraid by the idea of ghostly guardians of treasure and strange lights seen on the island. Unable to continue on their own, they set aside dreams of treasure, and they went back to earning money in the more traditional and mundane ways.
In 1803, it's said that Simeon Lynds of Onslow Nova Scotia, upon learning of the efforts of these three men, and their stalled attempt to dig up the treasure in that same year, formed a company of interested men and partnered with the three original discoverers. They reopened the pit and dug a shaft that would become known as the Money Pit.
What did the 90FT Stone look like?
No pictures, tracings, or illustrations of any kind have ever been found of the 90 Foot Stone, so we have no detailed idea of what the stone actually looked like. The same is true for the set of symbols that it is said to have carved upon one side. However, a set of symbols, forming a simple substitution cipher, was revealed in 1949, and said to represent the characters that were on the stone.
Reverend A. T. Kempton provided this cipher to treasure hunter and author, Edward Rowe Snow, for use in his 1951 book entitled, “True Tales of Buried Treasure”. Kempton had, in turn, received it from a retired school teacher from the Mahone Bay area. Kempton was born and raised in Nova Scotia's pastoral and picturesque Annapolis Valley. He was educated at Wolfville's Acadia University, and took up the ministry of a Baptist church in Massachusetts. He was also an avid historian and gave lectures and slideshow presentations in the New England states, mostly about his favorite topics, which were Acadians and the Mi’kmaq. In 1909 he asked a fellow clergyman from the Mahone Bay area to find someone to write up the story of Oak Island, with the intention of putting it into a book. This he never got around to doing, but we are fortunate that he provided this information to Snow many years later, as it is the source of all current depictions of the symbols on illustrations and replicas of the 90 Foot Stone today. You can read our article on Rev. Kempton and the cipher he revealed here.
The above illustration is an artist’s concept of what the 90 Foot Stone may have looked like. It's one of the most well-known depictions of the inscribed stone. It first appeared as part of an article entitled, “The Secrets of Oak Island” by Joe Nickell, published in a 2000 issue of The Skeptical Enquirer. It reflects the Kempton Cipher as interpreted by Edward Rowe Snow. This illustration of the stone was drawn in 1999.
There's some misunderstanding that this image accurately portrays the actual stone and can be used to read the symbols in a "plough" fashion or bi-directional manner. Having learned the origin of the image, we contacted the very busy Mr. Nickell, and he graciously gave us the following clarification:
Dear Doug Crowell,
The drawing of the stone you refer to is my artist’s concept, an original work, produced as part of the “treasure map” illustration I drew in 1999. Of course I did not invent the representation of the cipher (which I adapted from William S. Crooker’s 1993 Oak Island Gold, p. 23), but simply copied it as it might hypothetically have appeared on the stone, according to my imagination.
This should clear up any misconceptions that this image can be used to read the symbols in a bi-directional plough manner, or that the image can be taken as a factual depiction of the stone itself. In regards to the latter, it clearly isn't.
The best description of the 90 Foot Stone comes to us from Harry Marshall, son of Edward Marshall, of Creighton & Marshall Stationers, in Halifax. Harry recounted his memories of seeing the stone in his father's shop prior to 1919. You see, the 90 Foot Stone was reportedly rediscovered by Jotham McCully and his crew on Oak Island about seven years after the death of John Smith. It's said that John used the stone as part of the fireplace in a new farmhouse he built on the island. And there it sat, for all to see, for years, until McCully's crew supposedly removed it from the fireplace as they wrapped up operations on the island. From there they allegedly took it to Halifax where it was displayed in a shop window at A.O. Creighton's Bookbindery at 64 Upper Water Street, a location that has since given way to urban renewal. This was done to promote the sale of shares for a new attempt on the treasure. When A.O. Creighton passed away, his son merged the business with Edward Marshall and formed Creighton & Marshall Stationers (It's important to note that A.O. Creighton was also a shareholder in McCully's treasure venture).
When Creighton and Marshall's closed down in 1919, the stone was nowhere to be found. Extensive searches conducted by Fred Blair, R.V. Harris, and countless other researchers and treasure hunters over the decades since 1919 have so far failed to find the stone. Even the Laginas and other members of the Oak Island Tours Incorporated have invested time and energy in the hunt, at one point enlisting the aid of Blockhouse Investigations partner, Kel Hancock to assist with the search.
Below is our synopsis of the description Harry Marshall gave to Frederick L. Blair and R.V. Harris in 1935. (you can read the full statement here)
We ask the reader to take special note of the physical description of the stone as related by Marshall because in Part 2 of this report we'll take a closer look at all the known descriptions of the 90 Foot Stone, and compare Harry Marshall's memories to the other descriptions we've found. Some rather significant discrepancies exist and we'll tell you why these so important in the hunt for this missing stone. Through this series of installments you'll be able to follow along as we recount the details, and findings, of an in-depth investigation conducted by Blockhouse Investigations right here in Nova Scotia which uncovered clues and real historical evidence that may help solve the mystery of the missing 90 Foot Stone- or stones!
Thank you for joining us again and from the whole team, Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
From The Blockhouse
is published by Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca
in Nova Scotia, Canada
Editors and Chief Correspondents
Kelly W. Hancock, CD
John Wonnacott, P. Eng.
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