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.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Did the Notorious Captain Kidd Bury Treasure on an Island Off the Shores of Pelham?

Did infamous 17th century pirate William Kidd, known as Captain Kidd, bury treasure on an island off the shores of Pelham?  Since at least the 1870s, some have claimed that he did.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog will address the legend and provide clues to where Captain Kidd's treasure may be buried. . . . . . 

It should come as no surprise that there is yet another account of buried treasure reflected in the history of Pelham.  Pelham actually has a long and storied history of legends of buried treasure as well as actual discoveries of buried treasure.  For a few examples, see:

Tue., Nov. 24, 2015:  Another True Tale of Buried Gold Found in Pelham.

Wed., Sep. 23, 2015:  Yet Another Tale of Buried Treasure in the Town of Pelham.

Thu., Aug. 20, 2015:  Pre-Revolutionary War Pewter Plates Were Discovered in Pelham in 1938.

Mon., Jan. 26, 2015:  Hidden Treasure that Once Belonged to the Father of John Hunter of Hunter's Island in Pelham Found in a Discarded Chest in the 19th Century.

Thu., Feb. 19, 2015:  Another Account of Gold and Silver Treasure Found in a Pelham Manor Backyard in 1889.

Wed., Jun. 11, 2014:  Buried Treasure Off the Shores of Pelham: The Legend of Pirate's Treasure.

Wed., Oct. 14, 2009:  1879 News Account Provides Additional Basis for Some Facts Underlying Ghost Story of Old Stone House in Pelhamville (tells legend that Mrs. James Parish hid gold on the grounds of the home).

Mon., Apr. 06, 2009:  Paper Recounts Burial of the Bell of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester To Save it from the British During the Revolutionary War.

Mon., May 01, 2006:  The Legend of the Recovery of Pirate's Treasure on an Island Off Pelham.

Mon., May 16, 2005:  The Discovery of a Gold and Silver Treasure in the Backyard of a Pelham Home in 1889.

"William Kidd, Privateer, Pirate," an 18th
Century Portrait by Sir James Thornhill.
Source:  "William Kidd" in WIKIPEDIA --
The Free Encyclopedia (visited Jan. 16,
2016).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

William Kidd (1645 - 23 May 1701) was a Scottish sailor who sailed as a privateer and became infamous as "Captain Kidd," a notorious pirate.  According to one source:

"Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer.  Kidd's fame springs largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial."

Source:  "William Kidd" in WIKIPEDIA -- The Free Encyclopedia (visited Jan. 16, 2016).

As he neared the end of a lengthy career as a privateer, Kidd made his way back to the New York region.  According to one account:

"Prior to returning to New York City, Kidd learned that he was a wanted pirate, and that several English men-of-war were searching for him.  Realizing that Adventure Prize [a ship he was returning with as a captured prize] was a marked vessel, he cached it in the Caribbean Sea and continued toward New York aboard a sloop.  He deposited some of his treasure on Gardiners Island, hoping to use his knowledge of its location as a bargaining tool. . . . Kidd found himself in Oyster Bay, as a way of avoiding his mutinous crew who gathered in New York.  In order to avoid them, Kidd sailed 120 miles around the eastern tip of Long Island, and then doubled back 90 miles along the Sound to Oyster Bay.  He felt this was a safer passage than the highly trafficked Narrows between Staten Island and Brooklyn."  Source:  Id.  

His efforts were all to no avail.  He was arrested and imprisoned in solitary confinement in Stone Prison until authorities sent him to England for questioning by Parliament.  Thereafter, he was tried in the High Court of Admiralty in London on charges of murder and piracy on the high seas.  He was convicted and, on May 23, 1701, he was hanged at Execution Dock in London.  During the execution, the hangman's rope broke and Kidd had to be hanged a second time.  His body was gibbeted over the River Thames for three years as a warning to "would-be pirates."

The Gibetted Body of Captain Kidd Hanging
Over the River Thames from "The Pirates Own
Book" by Charles Ellms.  Source:   "William Kidd" in
WIKIPEDIA -- The Free Encyclopedia (visited Jan. 16,
2016).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

It is unquestionable that Captain Kidd sailed the waters of New York in the late 17th century.  According to local legend recounted at least since the mid 1870s, Captain Kidd used an island off the shores of Pelham known as Huckleberry Island as a "rendezvous" and may have buried some of his famous treasure on the island.  Even before the mid-1870s, treasure seekers had dug up virtually the entire island looking for Captain Kidd's treasure.  

"Captain Kidd in New York Harbor," A Painting Created
Ca. 1920 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.  Source:
"William Kidd" in WIKIPEDIA -- The Free Encyclopedia
(visited Jan. 16, 2016).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the text of an article published in 1876 in The Sun of New York City that references the legend of Captain Kidd's buried treasure on Huckleberry Island off the shores of Pelham.  The article is notable not only because it references the legend of Captain Kidd's treasure buried on Huckleberry Island, but also because it describes historic sites in the Town of Pelham along the route of the famous "Pelham Coach" (also known as the "Tally Ho") driven by Colonel Delancey Kane through Pelham during the 1870s.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.

Extending a Pleasant Drive to Historical Grounds.

Col. Delancey Kane mounted the box of his canary-colored coach at 7:30 yesterday mmorning, after every seat was filled with passengers, on the lawn in front of the Neptune House, New Rochelle, and started on the new route for his four in-hand to the Hotel Brunswick.  The time table now reads:  'On and after July 5 the New Rochelle and Pelham coach will make a single trip daily (Sundays excepted), between New York and New Rochelle, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:30 A.M., will arrive at the Hotel Brunswick at 9:30 A.M.; and leaving the Brunswick every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 4:45 P.M., will arrive at the Neptune House, New Rochelle, at 6:45 P.M.'

Three changes of horses are made, in Mott Haven, Union Port, and Pelham Bridge.  The fare each way to $2, with a proportionately less amount to intermediate stations.  A pleasant feature will be in leaving New York on Saturday afternoon, remaining over Sunday in New Rochelle, and returning on Monday morning in time for business.

The extended route abounds in historical and local interest.  The Neptune House is on a wooded island facing New Rochelle Bay.  In the distance the white caps of Long Island Sound are seen as they dash on the shores of several islands that obstruct the passage way to the bay.  The house was built by Philip Rhinelander Underhill, a descendant of the Rhinelander who fled to this country with the Huguenots from La Rochelle, France, and landed on Davenport's neck in 1689.  The neck is across the bay to the left of the hotel.  Facing the hotel is Locust Island, a secluded spot, where Edgar A Poe spent some time when he lived in Fordham.  Further out in the sound is David's Island, a garrison post during the Civil War, and nearby is Huckleberry Island, which tradition gives as a rendezvous for Capt. Kidd.  The surface of the island has been dug over several times by the superstitious colored people of New Rochelle in search of the pirate's treasure.  It was last inhabited by a man who speculated in hogs for the garrison on David's Island.  At the close of the war he had a large drove of hogs, but no food for them.  They grew thin, and ran almost wild over the island.  One morning the hogs attacked the man, drove him into the house, battered down the door, and chased him to the roof.  The hogs surrounded the building and kept hi there for three days.  Their wildness and squealing attracted persons fro the main shore, and the speculator was rescued.

A hedged roadway leads from the rear of the Neptune House to a stone bridge connecting with the main land.  A short distance from the shore Col. Kane's route takes the road along the shore to Pelham Bridge.  On either side the roadway is lined with costly stone mansions, surrounded by large fields and beautiful lawns.  The word Pelham is of uncertain origin.  New Rochelle was formerly a part of Pelham Manor.  

The tract of land on the sound shore was originally included in the grant by the Indians in 1640 to the Dutch West India Company.  Sir Richard Nicolls, Governor of the province, granted it to Thomas Pell, gentleman, Oct. 6, 1666, and he, in 1669, granted it to John Pell, commonly called Lord Pell, the first Judge that sat in Weschester county.  The tract extended for six miles along the coast, and about eight miles into the interior.  The settlement of the Huguenots founded New Rochelle.  The remainder of the tract was sometimes called Pell Hamlet, but local historians say that Pelham is derived fro Pel (remote) and Ham (mansion).  It is one of the most beautiful suburbs of New York.  The roadway, after crossing the stone bridge, ascends a rocky ridge, and from there is a view across the Sound to Long Island.  Descending the hill, Sheffield Island, sometimes called Emmet's Island) is seen.  [HISTORIC PELHAM NOTE:  This is today's Travers Island in Pelham Manor.]  It is connected by a rustic bridge with the main land.  A small stone mansion, built in a grove of tall elm trees, is occupied by Mr. Wm. Hoyt, a New York merchant, whose wife  is a daughter of Chief Justice Chase, and was formerly tenanted by Wm. H. LeRoy (brother-in-law of Daniel Webster), who married the daughter of Thomas Addis Emmet.  On the west side of the road is a large mansion, the residence of the family of Judge Robert Emmet, and the scene of a daring raid by the masked burglars two years ago.  [HISTORIC PELHAM NOTE:  This is the home that still stands today at 145 Shore Road, partially in Pelham Manor and partially in New Rochelle.]  

A turn in the road brings the coach riders in sight of Col. Kane's first resting place, 'The Priory.'  It is an immense stone mansion; two large square turrets rise from either end, the roofs are quaint, and the outbuildings are old style.  This was the residence of the Rev. Robt. Bolton, an Episcopal minister.  It is on land that was granted to the Church of England.  The walls of the mansion are hung with family pictures by Etty, of the Royal Academy.  An original portrait of Bunyan is among them.  The library contains the original Italian edition of Piranesi, collected by Napoleon I., and bearing his initial, surmounted by the imperial crown.  There is also a copy of Macklin's Bible, printed in six royal quarto volumes, a copy of Elliot's Indian Testament, said to be the first work 'written and published in the present United States.'  There is a valuable cabinet of coins and autographs, the oldest of which is that of Henry VII, and Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and Oliver and Richard Cromwell.

'The Priory' is used as a young ladies' seminary, conducted by Miss N. Bolton.  A wide terrace surrounds the house, and the gardens are laid out in elaborate design.  The walks lead to several natural curiosities, among them a 'rocking stone,' of full twenty tons in weight, so nicely poised that 'a stripling's arm can sway a mass no host could move.'

Col. Kane's route then passes through a stretch of forest trees, and Hunter's Island seen in the distance, and the residence of Dr. R. L. Morris, grandson of Robert Morris, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  The last mansion on the Pelham Road before reaching Bartow's, is occupied by Mrs. Bartow in the midst of over 200 acres of fields and meadow lands.

At Bartow the road leads to Pelham Bridge, and at Arcularius Hotel the coach route extends over the same boulevard that Col. Kane has driven for the past few months."

Source:  COL. KANE'S COACH ROUTE -- Extending a Pleasant Drive to Historical Grounds, The Sun [NY, NY], Jul. 6, 1876, Vol. XLIII, No. 297, p. 1, col. 2.  

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