- 1 The Oldest Mystery
- 2 Basic Description
- 3 Shaft Locations
- 4 Discovery Accounts
The Oldest Mystery
The money pit is of course one of the most infamous parts of oak island. There are many different stories and theories associated with who, what, when, and why the money pit was constructed. There are also many different accounts of Initial Discovery how the money pit was first discovered, who first discovered it, and how it was constructed.
Why Money pit?
According to "The Story of Oak Island" when alternate shafts were being dug a map was created in which all the shafts could be labeled. It was on this map that the original pit was first named "Money Pit" and from then on it has carried that name.
Fanny Young Pit: Apparently named after a clairvoyant that frequented the area, the Money Pit was also referred to as the Fanny Young pit in 1861
Pirate Pit: There are some accounts that refer to the money pit as the pirate pit probably based on the belief that they were digging for a Kidd's pirate treasure.
While many of the details surrounding the Money pit depend on who's account you are reading, the following basic facts are consistent
- 12-15ft diameter depression in the ground found by three people (McGinnis, Smith, Vaughan and Maybe Ball)
- Tightly packed oak timbers every 10ft- most likely installed to protect the chamber at the bottom from collapse due to the weight of all the earth stacked on it. By placing timbers every 10ft, the weight was distributed to the walls of the pit minimizing the total weight felt by the bottom layer
- Large stone with some form of inscription found at 80 or 90ft.
- One or more tunnels direct water into the pit either as a booby trap, or other design feature that is currently unknown.
- Human eyes have not seen anything deeper than 95ft, although many different borings have been conducted proving something is located at a depth of 98ft, which may now be 114ft due to a collapse that occured in the 1850s.
- Water flows freely between this pit and virtually every other pit that has been dug either by connections made by searchers or some form of connection in the bottom of the pits.
The exact location of the money pit is one of the biggest mysteries of late. Although it was the location that started all the treasure hunting- 200 years of searching for treasure has destroyed many of the landmarks identifying it's exact location. Most disruptive was the end of the Dunfield operations when everything was bulldozed and filled back in. As a result, the exact location has been lost for quite some time and consequently has been the target of most of the recent drilling operations.
The Lagina group has been systematically drilling holes and sinking various sized caissons in the area of the money pit for the last few years in an attempt to determine it's precise location with respect to many other known searchers shafts. It is believed that the Lagina group now knows it's precise location, but has not revealed it to the public yet as it would ruin the suspense of the TV show.
Curse of Oak Island (TV Show)
The most popular story of discovery (as told by the Curse of Oak Island TV Show) is three boys (Daniel McGinnis, John Smith and Anthony Vaughn) who were living on the western shore of Nova Scotia paddled a small boat over to Oak Island to investigate strange lights seen in the trees. When they arrived on the island all they found was a circular depression on the ground under an oak tree with a tackle attached to the tree. The boys immediately began digging in this area and found flagstones a few feet down, followed by a row of logs every 10ft thereafter until a depth of 90ft. At the 90ft level, there was a stone inscribed with some form of code. When the stone was removed it triggered a booby trap of some form that caused the money pit to be filled with water, thwarting any further effort. The most obvious problem with this story is that it has been documented that McGinnis was actually in his thirties at this time, and lived on the island. The other two were likely in their twenties as well.
M.R. Chappell Account
Source: Sept 10, 1973 Manuscript of M.R. Chappel to Dan Blankenship. M.R. Chappell's Manuscript claims to be the "True Story" obtained by the late Frederick Blair based on the years of research conducted with as many of the Treasure Hunters as possible. Many books and publications would follow retelling versions of the same story all claiming to be authoritative, however M. R. Chappell is probably closer to the first hand accounts than most.
Due to the fact that there was a direct connection between the various groups who worked on Oak Island, individuals who were interested in one group also became interested in the following group hense Mr. Blair was able to secure recrods of the workings of several of the groups who did work on Oak Island, consequently his data is authentic and accurate.
What is in the Pit: His manuscript identifies many of the plausible items, but appears to lend favor to the gold hoard theory.
It is reasonable certain that the treasure is large not only from boring tests, but from the fact that so much troubls was taken and expense incurred to conceal it.
In the year 1795 three boys in their late teens living near Oak Island and knowing that a pond near the outer end of the island was frequented by game birds decided they would take a hunting trip. They landed on the shore opposite the pond. In making their way over the raised ground they discovered a small clearing with a slight depression by the side of which stood a large oak tree. They noticed that one of the large lower branches had been cut off and in scuffing around in the depression came across a rusted ships block. This immediately excited their curosity and having heard of pirates and buried treasure they after having secured a couple of ducks from the pond returned home.
They kept their discovery seret and later decided to investigate the spot. With picks and shovels they uncovered what appeared to be a shaft about twelve to thirteen feet in diamter. Pick marks wer clearly distingushed on the sides.
Description of Pit:
- 12-13ft in diameter
- 10ft down: layer of timber with ends embedded in the sides of the shaft
- 20ft: second layer of timber same as the first layer
- 30ft: third layer of timber
Recognizing that digging any deeper was too difficult without additional equipment, the boys called off the dig vowing to return later.
J.W. Andrews Account
What is in the Pit: "At one period of the boring a common pod auger was resorted to, and foreign articles were brought to the surface. The auger went through a depth of coins, as supposed from the nature of the borings, and the existence of a piece of gold with the auger.
Discovery Description: The story as told by Smith, Vaughan, and McGinnis of their discovery of the oak tree with block and tackle and chain in the crotch, and the circular cavity with grass grown over it differing from the surrounding growth, was known to be fact and firmly corroborated.
Description of Pit:
- Sinking of the pit to a depth of (as memory serves) about 90 to 110 feet when water to the depth of 30ft was found in this pit one morning when the workmen came to resume work.
- The efforts to bail out the water with barrels and windlass - proving ineffectual, work stopped. It was noted that the water rose and fell with the tide in the bay, but no suspicion of a tunnel was entertained or thought of.
- A covering of fiber over one of the plank platforms said to be coconut fiber - later said to be a vegetable growth from Japan or Mexico. I have a sample of it that I have had for many years, which I obtained directly at the works.
Frederick Blair Account
What is in the Pit: the question of the value of the treasure is often asked. This cannot, in the nature of things, be definitely answered. But, the fact is known that, in previous operations, a total of 66 inches of loose metal has been drilled through. It is known that the pit, when originally opened was 12 or 13ft in diameter. By computing the superficial area and multiplying this by 66 inches - five and one-half feet of metal - cubical contents can be determined which will indicate five million dollars as a very conservative appraisal. One of the most reasonable explanations of the treasure is that it is the royal and church plate and valuables, known to have been removed from England and hidden during the Protectorate of Cromwell, after the execution of Charles I. This treasure simply vanished from the face of the earth and has never been recovered. Very probably it now lies buried on Oak Island. If so, it's value will far exceed, for archeological and historical purposes, anything in the way of bullion or mere precious metal. such values as historical relics or objects d'art, are above computation as museum material.
Discovery Description: The story of discovery has been handed down from one generation to another. George Vaughan of Gold River, N.S. a grandson of Anthony Vaughan, one of the three discoverers, told F. L. Blair in 1922, that his grandfather had told him that a tree, on a limb of which was attached a ship's block, attracted their attention, and they dug under the block.
Description of Pit:
- The pit was circular in form and twelve feet in diameter.
- The digging was easy on the inside and very hard on the outside, it therefore being easy to tell when the wall of the pit was reached.
- At 25ft they came to a layer of charcoal, putty and beach stones, there was also a soft spot at this point to the west side
The discoverers abandoned work at thirty feet because it became to heavy for them. The matter rested for seven years until Simeon Lynds of Onslow, N.S. happened to call at the house of Mr. Vaughan, and there heard the story. At that time it was an easy matter to investigate and ascertain the facts, which doubtless was done, as Lynds organized a company, and financed it in and around Truro, N.S. and with the assistance of others in Halifax and Pictou counties. Mr Vaughan stated that he worked at the pit when the original boring was done. He was told by his father, that he was present when a man (doubtless Pitblado) took something from the borings, rubbed it on his pants leg, and after examination, put it in his pocket and left the island that night.
Source: 'History of the County of Lunenberg' which credits "lengthy papers published December 20th 1863, and personal accounts of a member of the Oak Island Association"
What is in the Pit: An old man died in what was then known as the British Colony of New England, who on his death-bed confessed to having been one of the crew of the famous Captain Kidd, and assured those who attended him in his last moments that he had many years previously assisted that noted pirate and his followers in burying over two millions of money beneath the soil of a secluded island east of Boston.
Discovery Description: McInnis discovered a spot that gave evidence of having been visited by someone a good many years earlier. There had been cuttings away of the forest, and oak stumps were visible. One of the original oaks was standing, with a large forked branch extending over the old clearing. To the forked part of this branch, by a means of a treenail connecting the fork in a small triangle was attached an old tackle block. McInnis made known to his neighbors. The next day, the three visited the place and on taking the block from the tree is fell to the ground and went to pieces. They found the remains of a road from the tree to the western shore of the island, and they concluded that if Kidd had buried money it was probably there.
Description of Pit:
- 7ft diameter pit, sides were hard clay filled with loose earth
- 0-2ft: Loose surface soil
- 2ft: Tier of flagstones (assumed to be from Gold river)
- 10ft: tier of oak logs tightly attached to the sides, and earth below the logs had settled about two feet log were very decayed on the outside
At this point the original team dug no further. It wasn't until about 15years later the digging resumed.
- 20ft: Second tier of oak logs like the first tier
- 30ft: layer of charcoal (no mention of logs at this level)
- 40ft: layer of putty (again no mention of logs at this level)
- Further down (depth not specified) a flagstone (commonly referred to as the 90ft stone, but this account does not clearly state it was at 90ft).
- The flagstone was 2ft long and 1ft wide with rudely cut letters and figures which they could not decipher. The engraved side was facing downwards.
- 90ft: The earth in the center became softened, and water began to show itself.
- 93ft: Water intrusion increased to the point that it took 1 tub of water for every 2 tubs of earth.
- 98ft: (by probing with a crowbar) they met a hard impenetrable substance bound to the sides of the pit.
Team stopped for the night at this point and was never able to dig any deeper. They attempted to use a pump, but before the water could reach the surface it burst. The following spring a new shaft was dug to 110ft before it was filled with water.
- 1848, the old pit was reopened and twelve days afterward the men were down eighty-six feet when this pit filled with water.
- 1861, a new shaft was made; but the men were driven out by coming in of water and mud.
- 1863, further work performed, but it was found impossible to keep the water out.
Laverne Johnson Account
In the summer of 1795 a young settler, Daniel McGinnis ^ (or McInnis) wandering around the eastern end of the Island came upon a large oak tree. Sometime long before, one big branch had been lopped off several feet from the trunk, and there was evidence that something had been suspended from that branch. Directly beneath the cutoff branch, there was a depression in the ground indicating that in the past the ground had been disturbed and through the years had settled somewhat. McGinnis must have heard many stories of the pirates who had and still did, operate along that coast, and he persuaded two friends, Anthony Vaughan and John Smith, to come to the island with him and examine the ground in the depression to learn if pirates had buried something there long ago. When the young settlers dug down a couple of feet they came upon a layer of flagstones that were not indigenous to the island, but probably came from Gold River, a couple of miles away. No doubt when the flagstones were placed they were approximately level with the surface of the ground, and a light covering of earth was placed over them. Through the many years that had elapsed between the time they were laid down and 1795 the disturbed ground had settled so the stones were well below the surface when the diggers found them. Somebody must have had a good reason for going to the trouble of laying those flagstones, and the only plausible reason would be to leave a mark or pattern on them to convey some kind of information to someone who would return to the island.
Description of Pit: Of course the enthusiastic diggers envisioned treasure just below the stones, and simply cast them aside and continued their search. The settlers continued to dig, and found nothing except clay until they were down about ten feet when they encountered a platform of heavy logs, the ends of which were set firmly into the sides of the excavation. It had become evident to the diggers that they were working in an old filled-in shaft. Early reports stated that the logs were well rotted on the outside, and it was agreed that they must have been there for many years.
Below the platform was a space caused by the settling of the fill, but there was no treasure, just more disturbed clay. The boys persisted for another ten feet, and then they struck another log platform with the same conditions below it. It was becoming much more laborious getting the excavated material up to the surface, and the superstitious local people were not inclined to have anything to do with this weird adventure on the uninhabited island. It was also becoming urgent that the diggers leave their treasure hunting and attend to the various tasks of getting in crops and gardens and preparing for the coming winter. After digging down a few more feet they called a halt, hoping it would be only a temporary postponement, and that they could resume their search the following spring. The young men were convinced that they were involved in a search which promised great rewards, but being early settlers in a harsh land they were never able to spend more time on the hunt except by working for others who came to seek the treasure. However John Smith did buy the lot on which the treasure site lay, and a few years later built his house and raised his family there.
The shaft stood abandoned for eight or more years, but reports suggest that the next attempt to excavate it was made in 1804. Mel Chappell, who owned the island for a good number of years told me that during the early years searchers at the site had to agree to refill any shafts they dug. This was to ensure that livestock or children would not accidentally fall in, and no doubt this explains why the searchers in 1804, sometimes known as the Onslow group, found the shaft pretty well filled in when they began their search. The Onslow group cleaned out the shaft down to ninety-three feet, encountering a log platform approximately every ten feet. The fill in the shaft was easily dug, but the walls were so hard that very old pick marks were said to be visible in the hard clay. Quite far down in the shaft, the diggers came upon a large stone which had a considerable number of marks of varying shapes on it (90ft Stone). The stone no doubt gave the original diggers of the shaft considerable labour freeing it from the very hard clay in which it was embedded, and by the time they got it free it must have acquired many scratches, gouges, etc., from bars picks and shovels. The stone was so heavy that it was easier to move it onto one of the partial platforms that supported the ladders than to hoist it all the way to the surface. The searchers, coming upon it, hoisted it up to the surface and left it there out of their way. It was of no interest to them, but that large stone was at least partially responsible for putting the whole treasure hunt off the track. The treasure hunters found the shaft dry nearly all the way down, but by the time they reached ninety-three feet a good deal of water was seeping in from below. Returning to work one morning the diggers found water standing in the shaft to within thirty-two feet of the top.
J.B. McCully Account
What is in the Pit: When the first settlers from the U.S. came to Chester they brought with them a story that an old sailor, while on his death bed, stated that he belonged to Captain Kidd's crew and that he helped to bury on an Island somewhere in that neighborhood about two million pound value of treasure but that he never dared to avail himself of the secret for fear of the law taking hold of him as a pirate.
Mr. McGinnis went to Oak Island to make a farm, where he discovered the spot in question from its being sunken and from the position of three oak trees, which stood in triangular form around the pit. The bark had letters cut into it with a knife on each tree facing the pit and one of the trees being so directly over the pit, that two large branches formed a crotch, were exactly perpendicular to the center and had a hole bored through, and an oak tree-nail driven in, on which hung a tacle(sic) block. He was induced from the appearance to be supposed that it might be the place referred to by the sailors. He then acquainted two men, Smith and Vaughn, of the circumstances and they commenced digging.
Description of Pit:
- 16ft diameter
- 10ft - layer of oak timber
- 20ft - layer of oak timber
- 30ft - layer of oak timber
By this time the work became too heavy for them to carry on alone and they tried to get the inhabitants to join them, but they refused from a kind of superstitious dread. About seven years afterward, Simeon Lynds of Onslow, when down to Chester and happening to stop with Mr. Vaughn, he was informed of what had taken place. He then agreed to set up a company, which he did, of about 25 or 30 men, and they commenced where the first left off and sank the pit 93ft, finding a mark every 10 feet. Some of them were charcoal. Some putty.
- 80ft - a stone cut square, two feet long and about a foot thick, with several characters on it (90ft_Stone)
All the way down they were confined to a diameter of 16ft by the softness of the ground within that limit. The pick marks could be distinctly seen all around the sides of the pit.
- 93ft, they forced a crowbar down and struck wood at five which appeared to be a platform from it's being level, making in all to the supposed platform 98 feet.
They quit the work until morning, when on commencing again they found the pit filled with water, as high as the tide level (although they didn't recognize it was connected to the tide at this time). They tried bailing and afterward tried pumping, which was all to no purpose. After which they sank a new pit in order to tunnel under the treasure which was unsuccessful.
In 1795 at age 16, Daniel McGinnis made his way across to Oak Island on a fishing expedition. Once on the island, he found himself stood in a clearing in front of an old oak tree bearing the marks of unnatural scarring. This, he supposed to be caused by a rope and tackle system used to lower material down into a shaft below, indicated by a depression beneath the tree, about 4.8 meters in diameter. This completed the scene as one Daniel immediately recognized from childhood tales of swashbuckling pirates.
The very next day, Daniel McGinnis returned to Oak Island accompanied by two friends, Anthony Vaughan and John Smith. Equipped with picks and shovels they began the task of recover the treasure – but it was to take significantly more digging equipment than first anticipated.
As the three boys began to dig, they found the earth still bore pick marks on its smooth, clay sides. Their excitement rose when at a depth of 1.2 meters they hit a layer of flagstones. These were removed only to reveal packed logs at 3 meter, 6 meter and 9 meter intervals.
On removing these layers of logs, the boys were quickly realized that they were going to need more substantial tools if they were going to recover the treasure of Oak Island. They reluctantly returned to the mainland, making a pledge to return and recover the treasure.
Although nine years were to pass until Daniel, Anthony and John were to return to Oak Island, they found the treasure digging site just as they had left it. Returning with Simeon Lynds, a local businessman, the project now had financial backing and significant support from the local labor force. The treasure excavation had now begun in earnest, with everyone in the syndicate working in return for a share of the gold if and when they found it.
Description of Pit:
- As the treasure seekers dug deeper, more oak platforms were recovered at depths of 12 meters, 15.2 meters and at 18.2 meters, with the addition of coconut fiber and putty. At 21.3 meters, they hit a platform of plain oak, followed by more oak but sealed with putty at 24.4 meters.
- Much to the syndicate’s excitement, at 27.4 meters, a stone (90ft Stone), not native to Nova Scotia was recovered bearing an inscription. They believed they were about to recover a hoard of pirate’s treasure.
- Sadly, the significance of the illegible cipher on this stone was lost on Smith and the other treasure hunters as Smith, who owned the island at that time fitted the stone in his fireplace. The inscription was translated to read: Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds Are Buried Believing the pirate treasure to lie beneath the mysterious stone, it was hastily removed from the pit to uncover another layer of wood, rather than the bounty of treasure the prospectors believed would surely lie beneath.
- As nightfall descended, the party disbanded due to poor visibility and water becoming an increasing problem, the deeper they dug. All digging was aborted until daylight as it was thought the pirate riches could wait one more night in the ground, having been buried for any number of years already. They must have left the island with the thoughts of pirates and vast treasure filling their minds.
- Sunday, being the next day, no work took place on the pit due to religious commitments. The group returned to Oak Island on Monday eager to recover treasure only to find the shaft flooded with seawater, all but 10 meters from the surface.
- All excavation attempts to pump and bail out the water failed, resulting in the pit containing water at a constant level of 10 meters from the top. Digging became impossible in this situation and the project was abandoned for one year. All workers returned to their farms and looked forward to continuing the search in the springtime.
- It was decided that a separate treasure shaft be dug next to the original in order to allow the flood water to pass into this new chamber. At a depth of 33.5 meters, the original shaft was tunneled into but to no avail. The diggers were lucky to escape with their lives as the walls of the new shaft caved in, leaving the original shaft flooded up to a level of 10m below the surface again.
- Smith began to despair in the syndicate’s misfortunes, believing they had been beaten by nature. He gave up, accepting the treasure to be out of their grasp, a feeling many were to experience in the future, even with the use of metal detectors and radar.
John Wonnacott and Les MacPhie
- https://oakislandwiki.com/images/3/30/1895OakIslandStory.pdf pg 11
- DesBrisay, Mather Byles. History of the county of Lunenburg. Toronto: W. Briggs. p. 302. LCCN 01022095. OCLC 04067460. https://archive.org/stream/historycountylu00desbgoog#page/n323/mode/1up