By Doug Crowell- Blockhouse Investigations-Nova Scotia
I built a gay-roofed little house upon a sunny isle
Where Heaven is very close to Earth and all the world’s a-smile
It took my savings, every cent, although the cost was small
But, oh, the lovely things I bought and paid for not at all!
The crystal waters that below in sun and shadow lie,
The oaks that sprawl across the point and climb to meet the sky,
Stray winds that sing of other things than those our eyes may see,
Blue wisps of fog and raveling clouds that, fleeing, beckon me.
White suns of mad glad April, Octobers wine to quaff
On crystal Autumn mornings my hearth stones crackling laugh,
The silent stars that march at night so close above my head
The sound of rain-drops on the roof, when I am snug in bed
For joist and beam and shingles grey, I spent my savings small
But on the lovely things God gave, He put no price at all.
When financial burdens leading into World War II forced Hedden to give up financing his own hands-on quest to solve the mystery of Oak Island, he still retained ownership of the island. In an often contentious alliance with Frederick L. Blair, who owned the treasure trove license, he continued to seek out others to pursue the quest in his stead. Through those years, property taxes were often paid late, as he continued to struggle financially, until he finally sold the island to another treasure hunter named John Whitney Lewis on May 26, 1950. Hedden had this to say in correspondence to R.V. Harris, author of the 1958 book The Oak Island Mystery, after relating the above poem:
“I think really that that is what Oak meant and means to me. I am deeply sorry I ever lost it.”
In reviewing and copying papers from the R.V. Harris Collection, at the Nova Scotia Archives, we found correspondence written by Hedden to Harris, offering feedback and proofing for Harris’ book on the Oak Island mystery. Here at Blockhouse Investigations, we thought you may be interested in reading the reflections of a treasure hunter who spent 16 years trying to solve the riddles of the island, and the knowledge and insights he gained from those efforts.
Hedden on the Putty
“In putting down my shaft, adjacent to the Chappell shaft, we passed through a vein or layer of putty-like clay, my recollection is that it was at about 60 feet. A large quantity was removed. It could be worked with the hands exactly like a good putty and was somewhat oily in texture. We used some to putty the windows of the various shacks we erect and of my cabin and it worked very well. As I recall it the vein was about 20 inches deep, extended across the shaft and was about eight feet wide. It was solid and was not mixed with stones or debris.”
“I would use the resemblance to putty, only. Some of it was used to putty the windows of my shack. Cannot subscribe to talc or pumice as it had absolutely no resemblance to either substance.”
Hedden on the Parchment Fragment
“Chappell Sr. At an interview in 1937 I was very much impressed with his character. He stated to me at that time that he was in charge of the drill when the bit of parchment was recovered. He stated that he firmly believed that he saw traces of gold or yellow metal on the bit, though he had never made that statement public. He said that he had been induced to return in 1931, because of his earlier experiences and because of the enthusiasm of his son.”
Hedden on the Boatswain’s Whistle
“Miss Stewart has in her possession bone bosin’s whistle found at the shore on Oak. I have a photograph and it is quite ancient. I believe it was found in dirt excavated by Chappell at the center point above the Coffer Dam. According to local gossip, Talbot spent most of Miss Stewart’s money on local females and liquor.”
Hedden on the Efforts made by Treasure Hunters
“In the semi-circular tunnel my recollection is that some of the timber was oak. I would suggest that you indicate that that it entered my shaft on one end and went out at the far end to one side. It was collapsed in that the left side and bottom (looking North) had fallen away from the top and right side.”
“In our excavation of the Chappell pit and my own adjoining pit, we noted an inflow of water from the Smith’s cove side at 98 feet and from the other side at about 105 feet. There was no evidence of water inflow at any lower depth. If you are so informed I believe that your informer is mistaken. I was in the pits all the time and carefully examined and recorded the data. The inflow from the Smith’s Cove side was a bit the stronger.”
“There is no evidence that the original pit was 155 feet. Suggest you use 100 feet. Later collapse may have carried cache to 155 feet but early statements locate it at 100.”
Hedden on the Stone Triangle
“The Triangle was ten feet to the side with a pointer line directed to True North intersecting the base just off of center dividing the base line about 4” and 6#. There was also a curved line about three feet below the base connecting both base points and the pointer line went through the base line to end at the curved line. I have been told that this forms an ancient symbol for “life” or “eternity”. It is very significant that the pointer line was to True North rather than the magnetic North which at this point shows a wide and varying deviation. Whoever laid it out wanted it to remain unchanging. A triangle 7x8x4 fitted into the unclosed ends of the lay-out and the line 8 passed almost directly through the Treasure Pit location as near as we could determine.”
“The pointer line of the triangle is True North. True North can be determined but it is quite a job to do so though I am told any good navigator could do so. It is strange that the pointer line should actually be True North. I had hoped to find it just off North as I had hoped to determine its date of origin by tracing the probable declination at the time.”
Hedden on Captain Kidd
“My only conclusion is that Kidd in his wanderings, learned of a very valuable cache, but he was uncertain as to its exact location or description. To my mind the various charts are originals by Kidd or copies by some-one else. I thought the one with the triangle mentioned was the most authentic. I also believe Kidd and his followers searched for the island but failed to locate it.”
Hedden on the Coconut Fibre
“I disagree with Hamilton in that I found fibre at the depth of six feet at Smith’s cove in fair quantity and had it identified as cocoanut fibre. Hemlock’s bark under salt water will deteriorate rather quickly. Cocoanut fibre will remain intact almost indefinitely or at least for an established period of over 200 years. I am thoroughly convinced the original fibre used to construct the beach was cocoanut cut in pieces of about five inches. I was also convinced from my interview with Captain Vaughan who was present as a water-boy when the beach was excavated. He stated to me that there were tons of it removed at that time. His recollection was that it was in a layer about two feet thick over most of the area. He of course did not know just what the fibre was. There was no evidence of hemlock bark in any I recovered. It was all quite fibrous and I am familiar with cocoanut fibre having seen it numerous times when in Florida. I never found any evidence of the fibre in the main pits. I am just as familiar with hemlock outer bark and can see no resemblance, so add me in as disagreeing with Hamilton.”
Hedden on the Ring Bolt
“Unless you have actually seen it yourself I would be very dubious about its existence as I was very familiar with every foot of the island shore-line at high and low tide and I know of no such bolt.”
Hedden on the Original Works
“Cannot agree that your conclusion of piratical origin is correct. I believe there are manuscripts included in the cache and I cannot conceive of a pirate leaving that identity with his loot. Nor can I conceive of a pirate who would bury his loot beyond any chance of contemporary recovery or exert such engineering skill for an unselfish objective.”
“I believe and maintain that the original work could be duplicated in another part of the island today, using the same tools then available, and that it could be done with a force of 100 men in four months time, given favorable weather. Block and Fall, pail, tub, wheelbarrow, shovel, pick, rope, axe, hammer and saw were then in use, even as early as 1600, and there was no water interference until they made it. No cribbing would be needed, or very little.”
“I cannot agree that there is any evidence that the original work went to 175 feet. All real evidence points to 100 feet the other is pure conjecture and fantasy. The same applies to the thought that there was a permanent vault at the bottom or 175 feet. I know it is based on drilling reports and evidence of disturbed earth at those depths but still contend that it is pure conjecture or wishful thinking. If, as we have reason to believe, the original cache was in several containers, all filled with bullion or coin, it is obvious that the weight of those containers was somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or ten tons. Bear in mind that a ton of gold is only a 14 inch cube. When the bottom floor of the cache was undermined and the vault collapsed, the nine or ten tons had to go somewhere. With the ground underneath in a very soft and puddled state it could have sunk quite a distance over the years and in fact may still be sinking. Remember that the water in the pits in that area is not in a static condition but is constantly in motion induced by the tides. The tide motion plus the enormous suction caused by the various pumping efforts of many of the expeditions, including mine, have constantly stirred up the ground and have aided further settlement of the cache. With the countless tools lost, and drill pipes abandoned by various groups, it is not at all surprising that iron could be detected at almost any depth. In fact we found a ten foot section of drill pipe seven feet below the end of the Chappell shaft when we drove it down that far in 1936.”
“Believe the tunnels were purely for flooding purposes and that they were small. I also believe that the shore end at Smith’s Cove is still in place somewhere near the center of this beach.”
“Unfortunately I could not complete my solution either way, though I believe given two years time and sufficient funds I could have cracked it one way or the other. I was never convinced from my research that there was or ever had been any real treasure. I WAS convinced that at some time, for some purpose, somebody had done a highly complicated bit of engineering at the site and I wanted to find out why. In all of my association with the project I have been convinced of only three facts: 1. The truth of the story of the recovery of the parchment; 2. The truth of the story of the work found on the beach; 3. The Truth of the cocoanut fibre found in quantity at the beach. All the rest is legendary or speculation. However I am convinced that some-one did an enormous amount of work there at a very early date for some unknown purpose.”
In bringing today’s article to an end, we want to direct your attention to one final quote made by Gilbert Hedden in regards to his much-loved island that he simply referred to as “Oak”.
“I might set you right on my connection with the mystery. I think I was never governed by lust of treasure recovery myself. I was more interested in a solution to the mystery. Did it have some basis of fact; I thought it did. Or was it purely a figment of the imagination and a monstrous hoax? I did not and do not think so.”
If we hadn't told you that these were Hedden's sentiments regarding Oak Island, we think you could easily believe it a quote from Rick Lagina.
Gilbert Hedden passed away in September of 1974. We like to think he is up there, keenly following the current efforts on his beloved, Oak.
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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