September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day and in celebration we’ll look at pirate treasure in the Adirondacks.
Obviously, pirates in the region were few and far between. OK, we can’t even come up with a single one, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have stories of buried pirate treasure.
University of California at Davis Professor of History Alan Taylor has explored “Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830” and reports that:
A canvas of travelers’ accounts, town histories, and other antiquarian sources for the American Northeast documents over forty incidents where groups of rural folk employed occult techniques to seek buried treasure, generally in very unlikely inland locales, and usually during the fifty years between 1780 and 1830. Most episodes involved small parties, handfuls of men bound to share equally in any discoveries. Tradition held that a minimum of three (a particularly magical number that occurs repeatedly in treasure lore) seekers was essential for a successful dig.
According to Taylor, although the stories vary one element persists – the identity of the treasure buriers. “In New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York, and all of New England except Vermont tradition attributed the treasures to seventeenth-century pirates and especially to Captain Kidd. In Vermont this tradition overlapped with rumors that early Spanish explorers had opened, abandoned, and sealed mines filled with valuable ores and coins. The Yankee settlers in western New York and northern Pennsylvania could search for Captain Kidd’s treasures, Spanish mines and coin caches, robbers’ plunder, lost Revolutionary War payrolls, and the antediluvian hoards left behind by America’s presumed original, ancient inhabitants.”
It was Kidd’s treasure that drew Daniel Beech of Washington, DC to Hulett’s Landing on Lake George during the summer of 1915. “Armed with strange maps, claimed to have been drafted by Captain Kidd himself,
Beech has started a diligent but to date unsuccessful search for hidden wealth,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported. “Mr. Beech admits that any of the many islands [of Lake George] would mean a long haul for the pirate from his accustomed stamping grounds on the high seas, but the Washington man insists that he has inside information that the treasure is really at Hulett’s and that he will spring a decided surprise one of these days.”
Naturally a few of the locals took the opportunity to have a little fun with him by planting an old French twenty-franc piece, but Beech was steadfast. “He justifies his work,” the Sentinel reported, “by a historical work, which he claims shows that the buccaneer [Captain Kidd] when hard pressed at one time conveyed a large amount of booty to an Adirondack lake, with the intention of retiring from business when the pursuit waxed too hot.”
So there you have it – pirate booty at Lake George. Arrrgh….
And while we’re at it:
Alan Taylor is more famously known locally as the author of William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for American history – in addition to the Bancroft and Beveridge prizes.
His most recent book The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution “examines the making of a borderland shared by Canada and the United States from the American Revolution through the War of 1812, with a special emphasis on Upper Canada, New York, and the Iroquois Six Nations.”