Lost and Buried Treasure in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is home to many stories of lost and buried treasure. From buried pirate treasure to lost war loot there are legends of lost treasure all over the state.

The following is a list of lost buried treasure in Massachusetts:

Byfield Treasure Mystery:

According to historian Edward R. Snow’s 1951 book Tales of Buried Treasure, a doctor named Griffin and his friend Stearns Compton stole the treasure of pirate Robert Hayman as he lay dying in his cabin on a ship bound for New York City in the late 1700s.

The two fled the ship during it’s first stop in Newburyport and they buried the treasure in nearby Byfield somewhere near a boulder along the Parker River.

To mark the spot, they carved an A into the boulder and made a plan to return in five years to reclaim the treasure. Legend says they never made it back.

The A is still visible today and after the story spread in the early 1800s, people began digging for the treasure but, as far as anyone knows, it has never been found.

Snow claims that a local well digger was working in the area of the rock in 1932 and found the treasure and took off with it, but not before spending some of the 18th century gold coins at a store in Salisbury, but that story has never been confirmed.

Dungeon Rock in Lynn:

Dungeon Rock is a historic cave formation in Lynn that features a cave where a pirate and his treasure were reportedly buried alive in 1658.

Legend says that a pirate, Thomas Veale, was hiding out in the cave to avoid the authorities when an earthquake struck, causing the cave to collapse which buried him alive along with his treasure, according to Alonzo Lewis’ 1829 book The History of Lynn.

Dungeon Rock, Lynn, Mass, illustration published in 1860
Dungeon Rock, Lynn, Mass, illustration published in 1860

In 1852, a spiritualist named Hiram Marble purchased the land that the cave is located on and began excavating the cave in search of the treasure. Marble claimed he was receiving his instructions for the excavation from the spirit of Veale and his associates.

Marble excavated the cave for over a decade but died in 1868 without ever finding the treasure. In 1881, the city purchased the land and turned it into a city park. The cave and the tunnel that Marble dug is now open to visitors a few hours a day Tuesday through Saturday.

Grey Court Castle Treasure:

Built in 1890, Grey Court Castle, also known as Tenney Castle, is a mansion in Methuen built for hat manufacturing tycoon Charles H. Tenney who used it as a summer home.

Legend states that two brothers, Nathaniel and Mark Gorrill, who lived on a nearby farm on Daddy Frye’s Hill secretly buried the money they earned from the farm on the Tenney Castle property.

In the 1930s, a local Methuen resident said he had a dream that buried treasure was hidden in the walls of the castle. He reportedly searched the place and found $20,000 in bonds in the basement of one of the castle’s towers.

The Tenney family sold the castle in the 1950s and it later served as a drug rehabilitation center before being abandoned and boarded up.

The castle was later destroyed in a series of arson fires in 1977 and 1978 and now the only thing that remains of the castle are the front archways, a small fountain and a gatehouse.

In 2001, the castle grounds became a 25-acre park, known as Greycourt State Park.

Hog’s Island Coin Cove:

In 1812, a wealthy English merchant named John Breed purchased Hog Island near Gloucester and built a grand mansion on the island.

Breed didn’t trust banks and converted all his money into silver and gold coins which he often hid in secret locations. After he moved to the island, he began searching for a new place to hide his money and discovered a cave on the island.

Breed reportedly buried his money in four wooden trunks in the cave and then hired a local Native American man named Gossum to guard the cave.

After Breed died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1846, his family sought out the cave to retrieve the money but were never able to find either Gossum or the cave. The hunt for the cave continued for 10 years until they finally gave up.

Blue Rock in Cape Cod:

The blue rock is a large boulder with a bluish tint at Cape Pogue on Chappaquiddick Island that reportedly marks the spot where some pirates buried their treasure in the early 19th century.

Legend says that in 1824, an elderly cattle farmer named James Roland Cooke discovered the location of a buried pirate chest at the blue rock.

Some versions of the story says that he himself watched the pirates come ashore and bury the treasure while other versions say that he simply overheard some men talking about burying treasure at the blue rock.

Cooke went to the blue rock himself at some point to find out what was buried there. He dug in various spots around the boulder for a few weeks but was never able to uncover the chest and eventually gave up and then died a few months later.

Money Bluff on Deer Island:

There have long been rumors of buried treasure on Deer Island in Boston Harbor.

In 1824, a group of men, including Captain Tewksbury, Mr. Brown, Mr. Tuttle, Mr. Green, Mr. Boynton, Mr. Henry and Captain Crooker, as well as two boys who lived in Deer Island reportedly heard a rumor that treasure had been buried at a place called Money Bluff sometime before the American Revolution.

The group went to the bluff and began digging, while under strict orders by Crooker not to speak because he said if they did an evil spirit would prevent them from finding the treasure and would possibly kill them.

The group dug for several hours but were unable to find anything which Crooker blamed on the evil spirit, stating that they had disturbed it by speaking and by the little boys laughing.

Hessian Loot in Dalton:

Legend says that Hessian soldiers buried their stolen loot in Dalton during the American Revolution.

The Hessians were reportedly retreating from an invasion and had been looting farms along the way, collecting many valuables such as gold and silver coins.

18th century illustration of Hessian soldiers

The excess weight was slowing the soldiers down and they were concerned that Native Americans were following them so they agreed to stash the loot in a howitzer cannon and bury it in the woods.

The legend says that the soldiers never returned for the loot. People have been searching for the treasure since the 1800s but it has yet to be found.

Gallops Island:

Gallops Island is rumored to be the location of buried pirate treasure belonging to Captain Henry Every.

After plundering the Mughal treasure ship, the Ganj-i-sawai, of more than £325,000 worth of gold, silver, gemstones and coins in the Red Sea in 1695, some believe that Every then sailed directly to Ireland while others believe he instead sailed up to New England first before making his way to Europe.

Recent discoveries in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island of Arabian silver coins dating to the 1690s, which are believed to be from the Ganj-i-sawai, supports the theory that Every traveled to New England, according to an article in Live Science.

Local Legend states that Every buried his loot of diamonds and gold on two islands in Boston Harbor. It is rumored that he buried his gold at Point Shirley on Deer Island, where it is believed it was later dug up, and his diamonds on Gallops Island, and then sailed for Ireland, hoping to later return and collect his treasure.

Every never returned and died in Ireland, impoverished, in 1714. His loot from the Ganj-i-sawai, which is worth about £69 million or $95 million today, remains unaccounted for.

Alden Culver’s Box of Coins:

Alden Culver was a farmer in West Chesterfield during the early 19th century. He was a very successful at his trade and earned a small fortune in gold and silver coins over the years which he kept hidden in a locked box in the woods near his home.

Culver also earned a reputation of being a fierce fighter due to successfully repelling many Native American attacks against his home over the years.

Unfortunately, the chronic pain he suffered as a result of the many injuries he sustained took a toll on his mental health and, as he grew older, he was often found wandering around aimlessly mumbling about being pursued by Indians.

Culver told his Native American friend, Moosuk, that he had a premonition that he would be killed by Indians soon and asked him to bury him in the woods with his iron box full of coins when he died.

When Culver eventually died, Moosuk did what he was asked and reportedly buried him in the woods with the box. Later, when Culver’s daughter passed away, Moosuk buried her next to him and inscribed their names on some stones nearby.

The rumors of the buried treasure remained and the land was excavated many times but neither the iron box or the head stones have been found.

In 1976, a group of birdwatchers from Springfield were hiking in the area while conducting a census of the local avifuana in the area. When they finished the census they gave a box of their research materials filled with their census data and several journals to the library at Springfield.

In 1985, a researcher came across the box of materials and found an entry in one of the notebooks that mentioned the birdwatchers stopping for a short break near “two flat stones that bore inscriptions.” The names on the stones were Culver.

The journal didn’t indicate where exactly the stones were located but it did verify the fact that the markers still exist and, as a result, possibly the treasure too.

Devil’s Den in Wilmington:

Legend says that the children of Benjamin Harden, who lived in a house at what is now 67 High Street in Wilmington in the 1690s, reportedly spotted Captain Kidd and another man driving an ox cart, loaded down with something heavy, on the Andover Road heading north in the direction of a small cave in the neighborhood known as Devil’s Den.

The children later saw Kidd returning alone with an empty ox cart. Legend says that Kidd buried his treasure in the cave and then killed the other man and ordered his spirit to guard the treasure and move it if anyone came close.

Since Captain Kidd had only arrived in Boston on July 3, 1699, hoping to prove his innocence with local officials after being accused of piracy, but was then promptly arrested on July 6 and later hanged, it is believed that if the story is true it must have taken place sometime during those three days in July between when he arrived and when he was arrested.

Captain Kidd in New York Harbor, oil painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Captain Kidd in New York Harbor, oil painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Since then many people have searched Devil’s Den for the treasure using maps, metal detectors and shovels but it has never been found.

The story isn’t that hard to believe because it was true that Kidd often buried his treasure on islands or remote locations to keep it safe. Kidd had indeed buried a small stash of gold and other valuables, worth about £10,000, on Gardiner’s Island off the coast of Long Island, NY, while en route Boston.

The buried treasure on Gardiner’s Island was recovered by authorities after his arrest and sent to England to be used as evidence in Kidd’s trial.

The crew of a ship that Kidd had captured in 1698, the Quedagh Merchant, claimed that Kidd had stolen over £60,000 from them so there was clearly a lot of money still unaccounted for.

While in jail, Kidd even tried to win his freedom by promising to tell authorities where his treasure was hidden but they refused to strike a deal. This missing treasure has prompted the never-ending search by treasure hunters to find it.

Governor’s Island:

Another location believed to be the possible hiding spot of Kidd’s treasure is Governor’s Island in Boston Harbor.

According to Robert Kidd, a descendant of Captain Kidd, Kidd reportedly buried two chests containing around £20,000 in money, jewels and diamonds on Conant’s Island, which was later renamed Governor’s Island in the 18th century.

Kidd’s treasure is said to have been buried on the northwest corner of the island about four feet deep with a pile of stones nearby serving as a marker.

No treasure has ever been been found and the island was later leveled and joined with East Boston as part of the Logan Airport construction project in the early 20th century.

Sources:
Carson, Ron. “This Massachusetts Castle Has Been Designated as a State Treasure.” WSBS, 1 March. 2022, wsbs.com/this-massachusetts-castle-has-been-designated-as-a-state-treasure/
Jameson, W.C. Buried Treasures of New England. August House Publishers, 1998.
Marsh, Carole. Massachusetts Unsolved Mysteries (& Their Solutions.) Gallopade International, 1994.
Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People. The Riverside Press, 1937.
Gencarella, Stephen. Spooky Trails and Tall Tales Massachusetts. Falcon Guides, 2021.
National Treasure Society. 10 Treasure Legends! Massachusetts. Createspace Independent Publishing, 2014.
Kales, David. The Phantom Pirate: Tales of the Irish Mafia and the Boston Harbor Island. Arthur House, 2010
Metcalfe, Tom. “Silver coins unearthed in New England may be loot from one of the ‘greatest crimes in history.’” Live Science, 23 April. 2021, livescience.com/pirate-henry-every-treasure-coins-discovered.html
Captain William Kidd, Vicious Pirate or Enterprising Privateer?” New England Historical Society, newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/william-kidd-vicious-pirate-enterprising-privateer/
Neilson, Larz F. “Buried Treasure in Wilmington?” Wilmington Town Crier, 22 Dec. 2008. homenewshere.com/wilmington_town_crier/article_a807bfb2-2228-5cc0-b2de-647c2e04f97d.html
Gambon, Christopher. “Wilmington Memorial Library Throwback Thursday: The Devil’s Den.” Wilmington, Ma Patch, 31 Oct. 2013, patch.com/massachusetts/wilmington/wilmington-memorial-library-throwback-thursday-the-devils-den
Is There Rare Buried Treasure In This Berkshire County Town?” WNAW, 19 April. 2022, wnaw.com/is-there-rare-buried-treasure-in-this-berkshire-county-town/
Jones, Trevor. “Berkshire County Myths Debunked.” The Berkshire Eagle, 8 July. 2012, berkshireeagle.com/news/local/berkshire-county-myths-debunked/article_4f1bebe8-3dd2-5464-9c06-d225fec245f3.html
Wallcox, Hillary. “Buried Treasure.” Vineyard Gazette. 18 Aug. 2020, vineyardgazette.com/news/2020/08/18/buried-treasure
Cardin, Sabrina. “Is There a Buried Treasure in Byfield?” Newburyport Daily News, 27 Sept. 2007, newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/is-there-buried-treasure-in-byfield/article_c81524dc-ca8e-5a07-a88c-50f16682797c.html

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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