Captain Kidd’s Buried Treasure

Being at the Outer Banks makes me ponder pirates and buried treasure. So I did some research. One of the most interesting stories is that of the famous or infamous Captain William Kidd. In 1698, Captain Kidd, sailing his ship Adventure Galley, captured the Indian merchant ship Quedah Merchant with a cargo valued at 710,000 pounds. In the vessel’s hold was a cargo of gold, silks, jewels, muslins, sugar, iron, and guns. As the ship was flying under French colors, Kidd declared the ship his legal prize. But it turns out the ship belonged to Muklis Khan, an influential and highly placed member in one of the eastern kingdoms who demanded that the East India Company, the English trading company in the East Indies, make restitution. Not kewl for England or for Kidd.

Taking this ship lessened Kidd’s reputation as a stellar citizen—he was aiming for the more respectable privateer label—and added to his growing reputation as a pirate. So Kidd sailed for Mona Island located in the channel between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic) a no man’s land and safe hiding place. The cargo was sold on the spot, except for the gold, of course, and the Quedah Merchant burnt and sunk to the bottom of the River Higuey.

Realizing everyone was on his tail, Kidd decided to sail to New York where he had influential friends and petition Governor Bellomont for a pardon. Before heading north, he transferred gold bars, gold dust, silver plate, jewels and silks to the fleet sloop, Saint Antonio. Then Kidd and 21 pirates sailed to New York, where he buried some of his treasure on Gardiners Island. To someone who thinks finding even one gold dubloon is wealth beyond belief, this was a likely a major haul. Kidd continued on to Boston. After Governor Bellomont heard talk of buried treasure on Gardiners Island, he ordered John Gardiner to recover whatever goods he could find. Gardiner dug up 11 bags of gold and silver and delivered it to the governor in Boston.

Ever scheming, Captain Kidd attempted to negotiate his freedom by sending the governor’s wife a jewelry box filled with gemstones and gold bars in a silk pouch. But her husband wasn’t playing the pirate game and made her return the treasure. Being a spoilsport, he refused to meet Kidd privately. His plan awry, Kidd was arrested, imprisoned, and shipped to England to stand trial where he was hung on May 23, 1701. So much for trying to be a good pirate. However, he went to his death without revealing where he’d hidden the rest of his treasure. Which means it’s still out there, somewhere.

One of the many possibilities is Clarke’s Island which lies in the Connecticut River in Northfield, Massachusetts, just off the upper end of Pine Meadow. It seems Captain Kidd and his men ascended the Connecticut River in search of a secluded place to bury a treasure of gold, while still being somewhere they could go back and find it later. It’s said they buried the treasure then drew lots to see which of them would be killed so that his body could be left on top of the chest to protect it from all hunters. A real bummer for the unlucky winner of that draw.

Over time, a legend grew up around the treasure that the gold could be dug up only by three people at midnight when the moon was full and directly overhead. The trio must form a triangle around the exact spot and work in complete silence, as any words would break the charm. In the early 19th century, a man named Abner Field and two of his friends tried to find the treasure by following these directions. At the witching hour, under a full moon shining down on them, they fell too and dug in absolute silence, despite the miserable sweaty work and swarming mosquitoes. They couldn’t swat or swear for fear of breaking the charm. Finally, unbelievably, there came the echo of a crow-bar striking iron. But just when the men saw a corner of the chest emerge from the earth, their hard-won prize began to sink out of reach.

Maybe you’ll have better luck. Let me know.

6 responses to “Captain Kidd’s Buried Treasure

  1. Gwynlyn MacKenzie

    Great post, Beth! I'm sure we have all, at one time or another, dreamed of stumbling upon a Pirates forgotten treasure. Avast, me hardies–and all that good stuff. And knowing there still be a major hall right along the east coast? Well, it's fun to consider.


  2. Gwynlyn MacKenzie

    Make that a major haul. Duh. Need coffee.


  3. give me a shovel and aim me in the right direction. One of those metal detector thingee's too!


  4. I've been scheming and dreaming, that's for sure.
    Got engrossed researching this post and there are other pirate treasures on the East Coast not yet found, some even in Virginia, I think. Got to check on that one.


  5. Great blog, Beth. I enjoyed this.



  6. Thanks. Fascinating to research.


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