Kel Hancock- Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
The other day someone asked me about the legends that say people associated with Oak Island in the late 18th and early 19th century were reportedly seen spending Spanish coins. The best known of these tales says that Oak Island resident Anthony Graves was seen spending Spanish coins in the nearby township of Chester. We're not sure of the origin of this story, but it's oft been repeated by many writers and researchers as some sort of clue or evidence that implies he must have found some treasure on the island- presumably Spanish treasure. So tonight, we'd like to share some information with you that takes some of the 'mystique' and significance out of these legends.
First of all, it's very likely that Anthony Graves did spend Spanish coin in Chester. In fact it is highly probable that all the residents of Oak Island did likewise. History actually tells us that we should be very surprised if they didn't! What is being overlooked is the historical fact that Spanish dollars were a very common form of currency in colonial Nova Scotia and there are a couple reasons why.
In Nova Scotia during the latter part of the 18th century the primary English coin in circulation was the Guinea. That was great for the Halifax Merchants and the rich, but in places like Falmouth, Liverpool, Lunenburg, and Chester the Guinea was far too large of a denomination of currency for practical use among the settlers. Many of the settlers didn't deal in minted currency for the most part anyway. But when they did, the Spanish dollar was the coinage of choice. It was legal tender, completely acceptable, and it was very common.
'Until the middle of the nineteenth century, each British colony in North America regulated the use of currency in its own jurisdiction. Although pounds, shillings, and pence (the currency system used in Great Britain) were used for bookkeeping (i.e., as the unit of account), each colony decided for itself the value, or “rating,” of a wide variety of coins used in transactions or to settle debts.These included not only English and French coins, but also coins from Portugal, Spain, and the Spanish colonies in Latin America—notably Mexico, Peru, and Colombia. Once rated, coins became legal tender.Ratings were based on the amount of gold or silver contained in the coins and varied widely from colony to colony but were always higher than the rating used in Great Britain. For example, in the mid-eighteenth century, a Spanish silver dollar, “the principal measure of exchange and the basis of pecuniary contracts” in North America, was appraised at 4 shillings and 6 pence in London, 5 shillings in Halifax, 6 shillings in New England...'- The Bank of Canada
Another reason why Spanish currency was in abundance was because ships from our coastal communities carried on a brisk and regular trade with the West Indies. In addition to coming home laden with traded goods from those islands (even perhaps coconut fibre), they came home with chests and purses full of Spanish coin. So, if Anthony Graves was seen buying things in Chester with Spanish 'pieces of eight", guess what? No big deal.
Somehow legend-spinners made it into something mysterious and curious.
But once again, the facts tell us that this just isn't true.
We hope you had a great weekend and 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.
All material and images published herein, unless otherwise credited, are copyright of Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca and may be reproduced by permission only.
Views expressed in these blog posts are our own. The views of those that comment are their own.