By Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock
A recent trip to the Truro Archives turned up a piece of possible evidence in our hunt for the Inscribed Stone, said to have been taken out of Oak Island's Money Pit from a depth of 80 or 90 feet. This stone is often referred to simply as the 90 Foot Stone. Some believe it existed, and others are skeptical. We have been busy trying to prove it either real, or an embellishment to the treasure legend. Our most recent visit to the archives produced a document we hadn't seen before.
It was a letter written to Mr. McCully in 1863, on August 30th to be exact, from a Captain W. Thompson. This Captain gave his address as Ship Consul, Marshall's Wharf, Halifax.
For those of you who have been following along with our search, or are familiar with the Oak Island Legend, the name of McCully will be instantly recognizable. Jotham McCully, or Truro Nova Scotia, was said to be involved with the Oak Island Treasure hunt from 1849 and onward. He died in 1899. It is McCully who gave the public their first published detailed information on the treasure hunt back in 1862, when he addressed unfavorable reports of the then current hunt, as reported in the local newspaper. As you read the transcript of the Thompson letter below, you will recognize another well known name tied to the early days of the treasure recovery attempts.
"Halifax Aug 30th/63
I have seen Mr. Creighton and he got the telegram all right. I was speaking to him about some shares and he said I should have applied to you. Can you let me have five shares, if so please make out the papers as soon as you can and I will be ready with the money. I will consider it as a favour if you will do this for me.
About the other affair, I suppose you have written to Boston. I was thinking if I had the address, I could write to her and send a piece of the stone and we could compare the answers received and if favourable, I could engage four laborers in Halifax, bring them down and meet you and the others that is Fraser & Ross at the place and go to work. Please write by return of Post and tell me what you think of it.
Cpt. W. Thompson
In this letter, Thompson mentions seeing Mr. Creighton. This was undoubtedly Augustus Oliver Creighton (known as A. O. Creighton), who owned the Bookbindery (along with his brother Herbert) in which the 90 Foot Stone was said to have been put on public display.
So here we have Jotham (J. B.) McCully, the man who gave us the earliest mention (1862)of the inscribed stone taken out of the Money Pit in 1803 or 1804, and A. O. Creighton, the man in whose window the stone was said to be displayed, mentioned in the same letter. Both these men were members of the company trying to recover the treasure on Oak Island at that period in time.
It is the second paragraph which grabs our attention. It is being suggested that "a piece of the stone" be sent to a lady in Boston. What stone? Why send a piece of it? Of course, the immediate conclusion to jump to is that it is the 90 Foot Stone. Both McCully and Creighton were involved in removing the stone from John Smith's fireplace in his former farmhouse on Oak Island. The answer as to why could easily be thought to be because the 90 Foot Stone was said to be a type of stone not native to Nova Scotia. Perhaps they wanted to consult a lady who was knowledgeable in stones, who might identify the place of origin of the stone itself. Maybe it was a larger piece of the 90 Foot Stone, with some of the symbols on it? Maybe they wanted to consult a linguistics expert? This doesn't seem like the prudent way to have someone assess the symbols carved on the stone though. Sending a photo or a tracing, or even an illustration of the symbols on the stone would be physically easier and more economical. Then we must consider the accepted timeline for the events surrounding the stone. The stone was mentioned in the three part article telling the history of the Oak Island Treasure Hunt, which was published in late 1863, with part three of the series printed in very early 1864. It stated, in part:
"...a flag stone about two feet long and one wide, with a number of rudely cut letters and figures upon it. They were in hopes the inscription would throw some valuable light on their search, but unfortunately they could not decipher it, as it was either too badly cut or did not appear to be in their own vernacular." - Source: 1864 January 2 - The Colonist, Tri-weekly Edition, Halifax N.S. (Newspaper)
On January 2nd of 1864, John Hunter-Duvar, secretary of the Historical Society of Nova Scotia, reads this article, and immediately writes to George Cooke, a member of the current treasure hunters on Oak Island, asking to learn who currently possesses the 90ft Stone.
“Sir, An interesting sketch of the Oak Island enterprise appears in the “Colonist” newspaper of this morning, and of which I believe you are the author. You mention a flagstone bearing an inscription was found and as it was preserved in the family of Mr. Smith ‘it may be seen by the curious at the present day.’ May I beg, in the name of the society, to be favored with the name of the person in whose possession the stone is, as, if authentic, it cannot fail to be important as a historical object. I have the honor to be Sir, Your most obedient servant J. Hunter Duvar Corr. Sec." - Source: 1864 January 2 – Letter written by John Hunter Duvar to George Cooke
On January 27th of 1864, George Cooke replies to Hunter-Duvar's inquiry.
“On my return I found your letter of the 2nd instant, desiring information respecting the flag-stone bearing an inscription taken out of the Old Pit on Oak Island, awaiting me… The stone in question was saved by Mr. Smith, who owned the place. About 40 years ago, at a time when nothing was doing at the island & when the prospects of the treasure seekers appeared altogether hopeless. Mr. Smith built, what was then called, his new house. In building it, he found that this interesting stone would suit admirably a corner in the back part of his chimney, and as he began to consider it of no value to himself or to any one else, on account of the operations at the island having ceased, he unfortunately put it into the chimney, the flat side out. Fourteen years ago Mr. Smith pointed out the stone, then & I believe still in the chimney, and assured me that it was the identical stone taken out of the “Money Pit” on the Island, in his presence. Mr. Smith has since died & the property has passed into other hands. Mr. Graves now owns the property & building is occupied by the present Oak Island Association. I am not aware whether Mr. Graves knows anything about the stone being in the Chimney. On making inquiries since receipt of you letter, I find that the chimney has been boxed round by a wood partition, and that a flight of stairs goes up near where the stone is inserted. I was not aware of this before. This may prevent the stone from being got at without trouble, and perhaps, expense, but as it is very important for the interests of the “Oak Island Association” if for no other object that the inscription on the stone should be deciphered, its position in the chimney ought not to ___ be an insuperable barrier to the attempt to decipher it being made. At the time I saw the stone I noticed that there were some rudely cut letters, figures or characters upon it. I cannot recollect which, but they appear as if they had been scraped out by a blunt instrument, rather than cut with a sharp one. I have the honor to be sir, Your Most Obedient Servant George Cooke" - Source: 1864 January 27 – Letter written by George Cooke to John Hunter-Duvar
Cooke's letter contains two notable pieces of information. The first is that he states that he personally had seen the stone. This is the first eyewitness account found to date in which someone states that they saw the stone, as opposed to a retelling of the stone's story. The second notable piece of information found in this letter is the claim that the 90 Foot Stone was still in the fireplace of the farmhouse on Oak Island as of January 27th, 1864. If we take this as factual, then is the "stone" mentioned in Captain Thompson's letter ruled out as being the 90 Foot Stone? He wrote his letter on August 30th of 1863, almost four months before the stone was said to have been uncovered and removed from the fireplace. Maybe this was a different stone, considered important, or maybe the 90 Foot Stone had already been removed from the fireplace, but the treasure seekers were not ready to share the possible clues it contained with outside parties at that point in time. Perhaps they had hopes of figuring out the inscription in house, so made up a story as to why it was difficult to view the stone at present.
Whether or not the stone referenced by Thompson was the 90 Foot Stone, his letter leaves us with potential leads to follow. What more can we learn about Captain W. Thompson? Is there another Oak Island stone considered important enough to seek an opinion on by the unnamed person in Boston? Who was the lady in Boston who may have been considered an expert on stones or linguistics? If this stone was indeed the 90 Foot Stone, is this letter an indication that the treasure hunters of 1863 considered the stone an actual physical and true artifact from Oak Island? The questions and the mystery continue...
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock - Blockhouse Investigations, Nova Scotia, Canada
Oak Island Compendium is happy to be able to bring you the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Oak Island Hydrogeology, Hydrography and Nearshore Morphology July - August 1995 Field Observations Report, courtesy of author and engineer Les MacPhie.
This very informative 157 page report can be viewed on our Oak Island website in its entirety by following the link below.
Good night 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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