I don’t know about you, but when I go looking for something I’ve lost, usually because I put it in a place that I would know where to find it, I always seem to find several other “treasures” I had forgotten I had. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me, even if I had been intently looking for the “treasure” that I finally find when I’m no longer looking for it. That happens to a lot of people, but it’s not likely that the “treasures” we find, are worth anywhere near the value of the treasure that was found by Eric Lawes, when on November 16, 1992, he set off for a field in Hoxne village, Suffolk. He wasn’t even heading out on a treasure hunt. He was searching for his lost hammer!!
At his recent retirement, Lawes had received a metal detector as a gift. So Lawes set off to find a hammer he had lost on the farmland. The detector picked up a strong signal in the earth, leading Lawes to start digging. Well…this was not his hammer. After bringing up only a few shovelfuls of silver spoons and gold coins, Lawes quickly retreated and called the police and the local archaeological society. The very next day, as quietly as possible, so as not to create a stir, the archaeologists excavated a chunk of earth with the treasure still contained within. They wanted to remove the objects under strict laboratory conditions, which would help determine the age and storage method of the cache. By the time everything had been removed from the dirt, the archaeologists had nearly 60 pounds of gold and silver objects, including 15,234 Roman coins, dozens of silver spoons, and 200 gold objects. The treasure, which later became labeled as the Hoxne Hoard, was an amazing discovery. Archaeologist Judith Plouviez was extremely excited about the discovery, saying that it was “an incredibly exciting and amazing find.” What’s more, another archaeologist, Rachel Wilkinson, told Smithsonian Magazine that this discovery was “the largest and latest ever found in Britain.”
Normal radiocarbon dating as a means of identifying the age of ancient relics didn’t work in this case. They just couldn’t locate any suitable material for radiocarbon dating from the haul. In the end, they determined the age by examining writing on the coins, as well as the ruler carved into them. It was estimated that the treasure was probably buried in either 408 or 409 AD. How it had remained hidden all those years is beyond me…especially on a farm, where the field might have been plowed at any time. All in all, the discovery was a real treasure for archaeologists. Lawes didn’t lose out on the deal either. According to Smithsonian Magazine, in recognition of his discovery and willingness to contact authorities, the British government rewarded him with over £1.7 million (2,249,100 in US Dollars), an amount which he shared with the farmer whose land was dug out in order to get the treasure. Oh, and by the way, Lawes also found his lost hammer…which now also resides in the British Museum too.
At one time or another, most of us dream of stumbling upon a buried or hidden treasure. Of course, most of those who dream about that, do so as kids, and usually after reading some story about buried treasure in a book, or watching a movie about such an event. One such buried treasure story that somehow endured for more than two centuries, is that of the Oak Island Treasure. Oak Island is located off Nova Scotia, Canada, and has been touted as the location of a money pit of buried treasure that was supposedly left there by the pirate, Captain William Kidd (1645-1701). The story seems credible enough to have led to numerous expeditions costing millions of dollars to travel to the island to search for the treasure. Unfortunately, these expeditions were to no avail, and the treasure has never been found. Perhaps it never existed, or maybe Captain Kidd or some other early treasure hunter came for it and took it away before the story even broke about its existence.
You might think that after more than 200 years, people would assume the whole thing was a hoax, give up, and move on with their lives. Well, you would be wrong. Between books and documentaries, the mystery of Oak Island’s hidden treasure is not likely to die out soon. It is even said that there must be seven deaths in search of the treasure, before the island will yield its hold of whatever might be hidden there. To date, there have been six deaths in the searches. I don’t think that would motivate me to head out and look for it.
Oak Island is a 140-acre privately owned island in Lunenburg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The tree-covered island is one of about 360 small islands in Mahone Bay and rises to a maximum of 36 feet above sea level. The island is located 660 feet from shore and connected to the mainland by a causeway and gate. The nearest community is the rural community of Western Shore which faces the island, while the nearest town is Chester.
Oak Island was, for the most part granted to the Monro, Lynch, Seacombe and Young families around the same time as the establishment of Chester on 1759. The first major group of settlers arrived in the Chester area from Massachusetts in 1761. The following year, Oak Island was officially surveyed and divided into 32 four-acre lots. Of course, if there was a treasure, it was already buried before the land was divided.
In 1965, a man named Robert Dunfield constructed a causeway from the western end of the island to Crandall’s Point on the mainland, making it more accessible to people. Oak Island Tours now owns 78% of the island, and 22% is owned by private parties. There are two permanent homes and two cottages occupied part-time on the island. Since the 1850s, there have been documented treasure hunts, investigations, and excavations on Oak Island, but to no avail. There are many theories about what might be buried there, if anything really is. Areas of interest on the island with regard to treasure hunters include a location known as the Money Pit, a formation of boulders called Nolan’s Cross, the beach at Smith’s Cove, and a triangle-shaped swamp. The Money Pit area has been repeatedly excavated. Skeptics argue that there is no treasure and that the Money Pit is a natural phenomenon, but then they are probably look upon as wanting to keep any treasure for themselves. Until something is found, the treasure remains a mystery and a myth.
Most kids have, at one point or another, imagined that they were hunting for lost treasure. Some people, however, continue to be treasure hunters well into adulthood. Such was the case with two Michigan-based treasure hunters in 2011. The men were hunting for gold in Lake Michigan. Of course, that doesn’t mean they were looking for gold nuggets, like the gold rush days of old. They were looking for gold in the many shipwrecks of the Great Lakes.
On this particular treasure hunting expedition, Kevin Dykstra and Frederick Monroe were searching for $2 million in gold that had, according to local legend, fallen from a ferry crossing Lake Michigan in the 1800s. While moving their sonar over the lake, it caught a mass below. Dykstra dove into the water to video the mass. “I didn’t go down there with the expectation of seeing a shipwreck–I can tell you that,” Dykstra told Live Science. Nevertheless, there beneath the cold waves of Lake Michigan was an aging shipwreck. Brown and gray zebra mussels, encrusted the wooden planks of the old ship. When Dykstra and Monroe reviewed the video, they realized that the ship might be the remnants of a 17th-century ship called the Griffin, or Le Griffon. French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle built the ship in 1679. It was lost in Lake Michigan the same year.
Some experts were not convinced that the men had indeed found the Griffin. The experts thought it might be the remnants of a tugboat that was scrapped after “steam engines became more economical to operate,” said Brendon Baillod, a Great Lakes historian, who has written scholarly papers on the Griffin. More evidence was needed to prove that this ship was the Griffin. State archaeologists reviewed the footage, and “They’ve been very diligent to say, ‘This is really interesting; these are some neat pictures,'” Dykstra said. “Can we call this the Griffin? Certainly not–not without a lot more information–but these are very compelling.”
La Salle apparently sailed the Griffin through the Great Lakes and crossed into Lake Michigan in an effort to reach the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to Baillod. Running out of money, he disembarked with the other expedition leaders, leaving the ship and its crew to pay off his debts with furs. “La Salle never saw the Griffin again. La Salle returned to the area in 1682, to try again to locate the Mississippi’s mouth. But members of the Potawatomi tribe brought pieces of the ship to the explorer, including some moldy beaver furs and a pair of sailor’s britches,” said Baillod, who translated La Salle’s journal from French to English.
The Native Americans told La Salle that the crew planned to sail toward the Straits of Mackinac in stormy weather. “The [American] Indians told the captain not to sail out, to wait the storm out, but he wouldn’t listen to them,” Baillod said. Of course, because of his haste to set sail, the captain lost control of the ship in the strong winds. The ship was blown away from shore, southward, toward some islands in the distance. “They lost the ship from sight,” Baillod said, “and that’s the last anybody has ever seen the Griffin.”
About 30 various adventurers have claimed to have found the Griffin, but have never really been able to prove their claim. “They’re looking for something else, they find an old ship and they’ve heard of the Griffin, so they pronounce it the Griffin,” Baillod said. According to Baillod, none of these adventurers were looking near the Beaver Island area, which was most likely the area the ship went down. But the latest finding, made popular again by Wreck Diving Magazine in its latest issue, holds a number of clues about the ship’s past. “There was no rudder on the boat,” Dykstra said. “That was kind of telling to us that the ship probably weathered a storm; otherwise, there would probably be a rudder on it.” They also found a part of the ship that they said could be a mussel-covered griffin, the mythical beast carved onto the ship’s bow.
Dykstra was so intrigued that he went back to have another look. He took a magnet with him to help determine the metal composition of the ship. Purely by accident, a nail attached itself to the magnet. The treasure hunters discovered it later, once they were above water. “When we had it looked at, they [the archaeologists] could tell that the nail was very old,” Dykstra said. “It was a hand-forged nail, which helps date it back to that time period, we feel.” Of course, this accident could have landed the men in hot water with the state of Michigan, which has rules stipulating that artifacts found on state land, including the land at the bottom of the Great Lakes, are state property. “The two men did not bring up the nail on purpose, and they plan to return it to the state,” said Dean Anderson, the state archaeologist for Michigan.
About 1,500 shipwrecks have been found on the bottom of Lake Michigan, Anderson said, and it’s unclear whether this one is the Griffin. “It’s very difficult to access a wreck based on photo and film footage,” Anderson said. If the state underwater archaeologist were to look at the wreck, he would look for artifacts that could be dated, such as ceramics or glass. Baillod is “99 percent sure” that the wreck is not Le Griffon. The figurehead likely isn’t the remains of a griffin, but a “big encrustation of zebra mussels,” on burned wood. He noted that the wreck is near the western Michigan coast, not near Beaver Island, the area mentioned in La Salle’s journal. Nevertheless, Dykstra and Monroe said they’ll wait until they hear the final word. They’re not going back to the wreckage for a while, so they don’t make the site vulnerable to other treasure seekers. In the meantime, the duo plans to continue their hunt for the gold bullion. “It’s a mystery ship that got in our way,” Dykstra said, “and now, we’re going for the gold.”
So much is still unknown about the things that Adolf Hitler did, including an apparent “Ghost Train” that was filled with gold and other treasures. According to legend, as the Soviet forces approached in the final days of World War II, an armored train left the city of Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) in April 1945 and headed west toward Waldenburg (now Walbrzych). Somewhere along the 40 mile trip, the train and its cargo of gold and other treasures…many of them stolen by the Nazis from Jewish families…vanished into the Owl Mountains, never to be seen again, except in local legend. Stories of the Nazi “Ghost Train” date back some 70 years, although historians haven’t been able to conclusively prove the train ever existed. During the war, Hitler ordered the creation of a network of underground tunnels in the Owl Mountains, which at the time were under German control, as part of a project known as “Riese,” meaning “Giant.” The original rumor of a Nazi train hidden in the mountains came from a Polish miner, who claimed that just after the war, German miners told him they had seen the train being pushed into one of the tunnels.
In 2015, two anonymous men contacted officials in Walbrzych, a district in southwestern Poland, claiming to know the train’s location and demanding 10 percent of the value of its contents in exchange for leading authorities there. According to Marika Tokarska, an official in the southwestern Polish district of Walbrzych, a law firm representing two men…a Pole and a German, who prefer to remain anonymous…sent her office two letters, offering a description of the train and its contents and claiming to know its location. The documents received from the law firm claim the train is some 490 feet long and loaded with guns, precious metals and other valuables, including up to 300 tons of gold. In exchange for revealing the train’s location, the men are demanding 10 percent of the value of its contents. Although there is much skepticism expressed by historians as to the validity of the men’s claims, authorities in Walbrzych say they will pay the reward if the information turns out to be legitimate. I guess I would too. The men are asking 10% of the total, which could be a huge amount, but not nearly as much as the remaining 90%, so paying them would make sense. As Tokarska told the Associated Press: “We believe that a train has been found. We are taking this information seriously.” Though the men’s knowledge of the train’s contents and their retaining of a lawyer lend legitimacy to their claims, there is still plenty room for skepticism: The first letter from the men’s law firm included several references to local topography suggesting the men might not be as familiar with the area as they claim, and previous searches for the train in recent years have yielded nothing.
Andreas Richter, a German, and Piotr Koper, a Pole, moved in with heavy equipment and dug deep at a site near rail tracks in Walbrzych, following comments by residents who said they had knowledge of the train’s existence. Richter and Koper said that their own tests using earth-penetrating radar confirmed a train was at the site. Nevertheless, after an initial dig, the crew turned up no sign of the “Ghost Train.” Still, they have not given up just yet. There are plans in place to dig again in the very near future. The two men are determined to prove that they have found the real “Ghost Train,” and to claim the 10% share they were promised, it they find it.
Since 1995, Bob and I have loved hiking. At times we could not do much hiking, because we had important responsibilities elsewhere, but as much as we have been able, we have hiked. I have a treasure trove of pictures from our various hikes. They are all beautiful, and I wouldn’t trade a single one of them. They are the memories of those amazing times that we have been able to spend together. The peacefulness of those hikes cannot be copied in any indoor setting…nor would I want to. The fresh air, the birds and animals, the quiet, and the push on our bodies, all add to the feeling we get from our hikes.
Many of the pictures I have taken over the years, while wonderful, were not of the quality I had wanted. They were taken with my phone, and while they were great shots, I still could not get that elusive shot of landscape or wildlife. I knew I would need a better camera, but I hesitated because of both cost and bulkiness. Nevertheless, that elusive shot was always in the back of my mind, especially when it came to wildlife. I wanted to be able to get a shot of an animal or bird that looked like I was standing right there, next to it, and that was impossible with my phone…even though it is an iPhone and has a great camera…along with the dozens of apps I had tried, in search of just such a camera.
This year I decided that the time had arrived to get the camera that would do what I wanted it to do. It’s not the most expensive camera, but it has a couple of good lenses, and it takes good, high resolution pictures. I had played with it a little bit at home, but this vacation was going to really put it to the test. My hope was to finally get the kind of pictures that would be award winning…whether I ever entered them in a contest or not. With each hike we have taken my appreciation of this new camera has grown.
I have three more days of hiking and picture taking ahead of me before we head for home, and the possibilities are endless. I could potentially take some amazing pictures, and any one of them could be better than any I have ever taken. Still, I have to think that while the pictures I took of the Red Winged Blackbird were…less than amazing, the picture of the Downy Woodpecker, which was the first of those elusive shots, has more than made up for it. Yes, the pictures of us on the trails are great, and the bridge on the trail is very quaint, but it is the Downy Woodpecker that finally got me that elusive shot.
Sometimes in life, you find yourself receiving a treasure so priceless that it overwhelms you. I have been so blessed several times, and yet, each new blessing finds me as overwhelmed as the last one, or even the first one. I’m sure that you are wondering what I would have that is priceless. You might find yourself surprised, but it is old photographs…lots of them. I have received old photographs from my mom’s family, my dad’s family, and from both of Bob’s parents families. The latest priceless treasure came in the form of old photographs in my Grandma Spencer’s photo album.
While visiting my cousin, Shirley this past week, she brought out an album for us to see. I had no idea the album existed. We had not seen my cousin for a number of years, and the album had been given to her mother upon her grandmother’s death. Then it was given to Shirley upon her mother’s death. It had been in her possession since 1992, and now, 21 years later, during our visit, we were able to look through its contents together, and we were all very excited by what we found.
I suppose many people would think I was a little crazy, because old photographs get me very excited, but for me…they are treasures. They are the people of my past, my family, and many times they are faces I have never seen before. We found pictures this time that we believe to be the only ones in existence of our great grandparents…my dad’s grandparents on his mother’s side. We knew their names, but we didn’t know there were pictures of them…anywhere!! It was a priceless treasure!!
Shirley quickly scanned the pages of the album and we loaded them onto my flash drive. Now, I am in the process of separating the pictures out and digitally refocusing them, so that they are much clearer. Soon we will be able to see their faces much better. To me, that is amazing…especially since prior to this time, we didn’t even know they excited…not even Shirley, until we all looked at them very closely. We all felt so close to them. Suddenly, the names had faces. It was an incredible find. It is beyond my ability to fully tell you what that means to me. I will always fell blessed by the priceless treasure of Grandma’s photo album.
Right before Christmas, we were at Walmart doing some shopping. There was a couple and their little girl there, and the little girl had noticed a doll house. As we walked by them, the little girl was busily trying to talk her parents into buying the doll house for her. They kept telling her that she already had a doll house at home and she never played with it. She insisted that she did, and that she would play with both of them if they would just “please buy it” for her. Of course, her parents knew what the end result of their daughter’s promise would be, and as they kept walking away, the little girl followed along behind them, doing her very best to convince them that she would keep her promise.
That little conversation took me back a number of years to when my girls were little, and we got them a doll house for Christmas. I had never had a doll house, and in my mind, it would be a treasured item for any little girl, and I’m sure they played with it for a while, but it never really became the treasure that I had expected. That isn’t really surprising, in that, a doll house can get boring after a while, because the dolls don’t do anything. Like kids today, dolls that do nothing get pretty boring after a very short time…I mean, there is only so much you can do with the imagination, and then you move on to toys with a little more action to them.
As we walked on, I was smiling to myself, because I could see how that little girl’s parents were thinking that they would just have to point out to their darling daughter, in the very near future, that she still wasn’t playing with the original doll house much, so she definitely wouldn’t have been playing with the new one, had they purchased it for her. And if she gave it some thought, I’m quite sure that she would have to agree with her parents, that while she loved her doll house, in her head, it probably wasn’t her favorite toy. The truth is that she just wanted them to buy her something, and for lack of a better choice, she opted for the first thing she saw.
Some people have such a wonderful way with children that they seem ageless. That is the way Bob’s great grandma was. When we went to visit her in Yakima, Washington, when Corrie was just 15 months old, and Amy was 4 months old. Corrie and her great great grandma had such a connection. It didn’t matter that there was an 88 year difference in their ages. Grandma understood Corrie, and Corrie loved her very much. The chair she gave to Corrie was part of that connection they had. Grandma saw that Corrie would cherish the little chair, and her instincts were correct. It has been a treasure to Corrie.
Grandma truly was a timeless person. So many people who are in their 80’s and 90’s, have little tolerance for the silliness of children, but Grandma was no ordinary person. She loved life, and the people in it…especially her little great great grandchildren. And she was so full of life. She was one of those people whose age is hard to guess, because they are so much younger than their years. Grandma lived alone for the 8 years after Grandpa passed away, and prior to that, they had lived together in their own home, with Grandpa doing the maintenance on the house. They were both amazing people. Grandpa was 93 years young, and Grandma was 96 years young when the left us, but they weren’t feeble and weak. They lived their lives fully right up until the end.
When Grandma was 93, her son Frank and his wife Helen brought her out for a second visit since the birth of her first great great granddaughter, Corrie was born. Even though they had not seen each other. 4 years, and it is hard too say just how much Corrie remembers of that visit, but the connection between her and her great great grandmother is very obvious. Grandma and her little great great grandchildren were all having a wonderful time together.
It would be a short 4 years later when Grandma went home to be with the Lord on February 10, 1984, but the influence she left behind for all of her family was huge. She was a woman who took an interest in life, both past and future. It was Grandma that gave me a good start on Bob’s side of the family history, and not just it’s people, but the history of things too. Sometimes it is the history of things that brings home the history of people. Those were the stories that Grandma told me on that visit, and looking back now, I can see that what she was doing, was passing along our heritage…just like she did for her grandchildren, to the best of her ability, even if they don’t remember much of it. We do, and we will keep it and her alive, to pass on to those little ones, now grown.