Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Legend of the Recovery of Pirate's Treasure on an Island Off Pelham

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings

Surely there cannot be a community along Long Island Sound that has not, at one time or another, laid claim to be the site where the notorious Captain Kidd once hid his buried treasure of fabulous wealth. Buried treasure has fascinated many a young school boy and school girl. One legend involving buried pirate's treasure relates to an island off the shores of Pelham and New Rochelle -- Glen Island.

The legend, it seems, was concocted by 19th century showman John H. Starin who built a surprisingly successful amusement park on Glen Island, formerly known as Locust Island. In 1887, Starin's concerns printed a tiny booklet entitled "A Trip to Glen Island and the Tale of the Wonderful Treasure Chest that was Found There".

Anne Elliott Roberts researched the legend in 1954 for The Pelham Sun. Edgar H. Browne later prepared a brief typewritten manuscript describing the legend. In that manusript, the original of which is contained in the collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham, Browne wrote, in part, as follows:

"Briefly, the story was that one stormy night December 1886, a tugboat captain, Bill Denny, called on Starin's superintendent in New York and reported seeing a suspicious-looking shop anchored off the shore of Glen Island.

Call in Pinkertons

The next morning the superintendent when on the steamer "Blackbird" to the amusement park, and on the narrow strip called 'New Venice' saw evidence of excavations. In the hole he found a rusty iron band which looked like it had been part of a pirate's chest, and a single [gold] coin, a Spanish ounce many years old. Here was a mystery!

A search of the area clearly showed that some large object had been taken from the excavation.

The Pinkerton agency in true 'private eye' style inserted advertisements in personal columns of New York newspapers, offering a reward for clues to the mystery. There were hundreds of replies.

Finally, came a break in the case. Capt. Henry Thomas, a sea captain came forth with some interesting information. He said, he had been the excavator, and had removed from the hole on Glen Island, an old sea chest containing bags of gold and silver, silver plate, Spanish, French and Mexican weapons, and two diamond and pearl-studded swords. Since he could not dispose of the loot without incriminating himself, he gave it up, telling an interesting story.

'I knew about the treasure,' he said, 'through a map given me in Yucatan by a [dying] Englishman.' His father, second officer of the British bark Coriolanus, had received it from a shipwrecked sailor named Goodsell, who had made it after burying the treasure on one of four islands off the coast of New York.

'Goodsell had been one of the murderous crew of a French pirate ship, who killed their skipper, and then buried the treasure on the island. All but Goodsell died in [a] shipwreck, and the sole survivor kept the secret until he was befriended by my father!'

The chest is believed to have been buried almost 100 years ago. The end of the story is as strange as the story itself. Starin, the amusement park owner, paid Thomas the full reward and made a search for descendants of the shipowners. He resisted all attempts to display the treasure, much to the disappointment of thrill-seekers, and it is said that his agents found many of the heirs of those who had lost their treasures to the pirates. Even the chest, which was said to have been taken to Starin's country home in upper New York, was never displayed to the public.

True or not, the Buried Treasure at Glen Island had a fruitful payoff for Starin's amusement park. Visitors by the thousands came there to see the 'buried treasure' excavation."

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings


Post a Comment

<< Home