Every good treasure mystery starts out with a legend. In the case of Oak Island it's the tale of the 1795 discovery of the "Money Pit' by a trio of colonials named McGinnis, Smith and Vaughan. And as legends tend to do, this story has evolved and changed through the re-telling and addition of embellishments, to a point where it's increasingly hard to separate the fact from fiction. In fact, today it is very difficult for researchers and enthusiasts to tell how much of what I call, "The Discovery Legend" is true because so many people have told the story differently over the past 220 years.
The Discovery Legend in it's most basic and elemental form, generally includes these main motifs:
Today we're going to talk about the real Daniel McGinnis, historically and biographically. But in order to do that we must first address one very important aspect of the Discovery Legend that effects the entire story as we know it today in its most popular form; the "three boys" motif.
The most common versions of the Oak island tale most always mention specifically that the trio were, boys, lads, or teenagers at the time of discovery. But historical and genealogical records tell us that this is just not true. Even today's hit TV show, The Curse of Oak Island, produced by The History Channel, continues to proliferate this popular romanticized version of the story. But, in fact, both Smith and McGinnis were grown men in 1795 and Vaughan was likely in his later teens. And, interestingly enough, they actually lived and worked on the island.
So now that we've addressed that issue let's talk about "McGinnis". The surname itself is one of many spelling variations of the Scots, MacInnes. And the given name, Daniel, seems to be an Anglicization of the Scots Gaelic name, Domhnall ; which is also Anglicized as, Donald.
"Daniel McGinnis" was actually a man named Donald MacInnes and from historical documents and family records we have learned that he was born in 1758/59 on the Isle of Skye. We also know that in 1773 he emigrated to North Carolina with his parents when he was around 14 years of age. That would make him 37 years old in 1795, at the time of discovery.
extract from a 1785 document attesting to Donald's service in the North Carolina Loyalist Forces during the American Revolution and revealing information about his age and place of origin
From primary source documents, such as the one pictured above, and family records we are able to piece together the story of a young man who picked a side during the American war for independence and in doing so, lost everything he had.
When the American's won their freedom, Donald arrived in Nova Scotia among the thousands of Loyalist refugees that came to make a new home here.
And that's where I'll sign off for today readers. I'll bring you more on Donald MacInnes in two more installments.
So drop by the Blockhouse tomorrow for Part 2 when we'll discuss Donald's arrival in Nova Scotia and, his life up to the time of the 1795 beginning of The Legend of Oak Island.
So until then friends, good afternoon 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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