In 1937, Gilbert Hedden, who was on Oak Island in search of its elusive treasure, was shown the map on the inside pages of Harold T. Wilkins' book, Captain Kidd and his Skeleton Island. He was immediately struck by its apparent reference to features on Oak Island, particularly the Tree.
The tree in question was the first sign that there was anything special about Oak Island. In 1795, a young man exploring the island came upon a clearing with a large oak tree in the centre. He noticed a tackle-block suspended from a bough overhanging a shallow depression in the ground.
Hedden felt that the map so accurately matched the ground markers on Oak Island that its origins had to be investigated. He travelled to England and met with Wilkins. The result was a great disappointment. Wilkins first claimed that he could not remember where he obtained the instructions. Then he thought they may have come from one of the many charts he had seen in his researches. Finally, he claimed to have dreamed up the instructions, which could not possibly relate to Oak Island. He claimed that the second map, between the covers, was a late addition drafted from memory.
Wilkins had not dreamed up the instructions, but was unable to tell Hedden about how he obtained them. In fact, he may well have been regretting their publication.
The Wilkins-Kidd Charts
Harold Wilkins was first to report the manner in which the Palmer-Kidd charts were located and the presence of the two sets of instructions. Tucked away inside his book is a map of another island. The caption reads:
Kidd's 'Skeleton' or Pirate Treasure Island
Found hidden in a sea-chest he gave, in Newgate, 1701, to his bos'n, Ned Ward. This chest and chart were formerly owned by Miss Pamela Hardy, a direct descendant of Captain T.M. Hardy, RN (of HMS Victory).
Wilkins and Howlett disagree about which of the maps was contained in the Hardy chest. However, writers on Kidd who have seen all four Palmer-Kidd charts are emphatic that the map in Wilkins' book is drawn from none of them.
Figure 3.1: The Desert Island Map (1): Captain Kidd's treasure island from 'Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island' by Harold T. Wilkins. The map is sometimes referred to as the Mar Del Map.
The map is initialled W.K., dated 1669, and contains the following instructions:
18 W and by 7 E on Rock
30 SW. 14 N. Tree
7 By 8 By 4
The outline of the island differs considerably from that depicted on the Palmer-Kidd charts. There is a suggestion that the instructions are a fabrication or that the outline is his rendering of an existing island or one he dreamed up. He was later to claim that the instructions really did appear to him in a dream, in circumstances that will be discussed later.
A second map, recognisably of the same island, is printed inside the covers of the same book, front and back.
Figure 3.2: The Desert Island Map (2): Another version of Captain Kidd's treasure island, from the endpapers of 'Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island'.
The instructions on this map are of similar format to the other:
18 NE by 71 W: on Rock.
26 ENE: by 18 SW: Palm
7 feet by 7 feet by 8.
The last line is also similar to that of the Skull Chart; 3 feet by 3 feet by FOUR. It would be interesting to know where Wilkins obtained these instructions because, as I hope to show in a subsequent work, neither was dreamed up.
The story is linked to another Wilkins book, A Modern Treasure Hunter, which concerns certain exploits in the life of treasure hunter and prospector James Patrick Nolan. This book touches upon a treasure hunt in the vicinity of Oak Island.
Herman Westhaver worked as a pilot in St. Margaret's Bay. In 1912, he and another pilot, Amos Smith, found a box with charts in a cairn of stones on Cochran Island, or Redmond Island, in Shad Bay. Inside was a bundle of papers which included a chart drawn on thick paper. When seen some fifty years later it was very much worse for wear. This chart, which was later shown to be a map of Oak Island, contained the instructions that Wilkins put on the map inside his book. However, it seems that the remaining papers found in the box relate to a deposit somewhere other than Oak Island.
The instructions had actually been added to a chart of Gloucester Island (that is, Oak Island) taken from Des Barres' Atlantic Neptune, which is a likely source of John S's Rough Map in Wilkins' book
It is not clear whether more than one chart was found. Amos Smith, who was with Westhaver when the box was discovered, is reported to have had a chart referring to burial of gold on an island that he (Amos) identified as Oak Island. It seems odd that Smith identified the island but Westhaver did not.
These papers may have something to do with a mysterious stranger by the name of Captain Allen who appeared on the scene in the 1870's. He purchased a vessel and regularly performed a certain routine over two summers. He would take up a position off the coast (identified as 44 N 63 W) and set a course which took him into St. Margaret's Bay.
Captain Allen had an ancient chart, which may have been in a foreign language. He said he was looking for an island where a treasure had been buried but, as he was rich, he didn't need the money. Before leaving, Allen passed on certain instructions to a local man named Pickles. He was directed to Redmond Island (or Cochrane's Island), the very island upon which Westhaver found his box, where he located three piles of stones but not the well he was looking for.
Figure 3.3: Cochrane's Island in Shad Bay, Nova Scotia
Wilkins seems to have become involved in a number of different treasure hunts. These may have become entangled, either by Wilkins himself, by those with whom he was involved or by someone in the past who, perhaps unwittingly, assembled a collection of documents from a number of sources.
Wilkins provides maps of two other islands; Moose Island and Plum Island. Oddly, Moose Island contains an anchor within a circle of dots. This is not the only oddity about the interior detail, which features a triangle, a pyramid and a drain.
Figure 3.4: Wilkins' outline of Moose Island (left) and Plum Island
While the outline is clearly not that of Oak Island, the triangle may be that found on the South Shore, the pyramid one of three piles of rocks found on the island and the drain the sump hole fed by the 'Sponge' on the beach at Oak Island. The map has the following instructions:
The text '10 bye 4 bye 6' and '8 Bye 8 Mark 8' are of a form seen on the Palmer-Kidd and Wilkins-Kidd maps. They seem here to be almost an afterthought.
Plum Island, apparently in St. Margaret's Bay, features a Pyramid, a Bee Hive, a Well and an 'Olde Fyre Place' and provides the following instructions:
Note with these instructions, the similarity in style of the text '8 Bye Mark 8' on the Moose Island map.
The WEK of these maps is not the William Kidd who died in 1701 but a certain William Edward Keede.
Westhaver and his associates were a superstitious and suspicious bunch. It is doubtful that Wilkins is being altogether forthright with the information he provides. He may have been told that there must be no repetition after his faux pas in publishing the instructions from one of Westhaver's maps. The instructions on the Plum Island and Moose Island maps may have been disguised: for instance, 'Pine' for 'Tree'. The instructions are quite likely to have been taken from a number of different sheets.
Many claim that the internal detail of the island at the left of both the Skeleton Map and Coral Map is similar to what we know of Oak Island. The Skeleton Map has what appears to be a triangle on the shoreline. This may represent the triangle discovered in 1897 which was re-discovered some forty years later by Gilbert Hedden, as described above. George Edmunds rejects any association with Oak island and suggests that this triangular projection may be one way of showing an opening in a cliff
Another Wilkins Map
So great is the interest in Kidd's treasure that all treasures seem to become his, and all treasure maps become Kidd maps! Indeed, it is as if all traditions of buried treasure and maps have become associated with this one individual. This could be what has happened with the Palmer and Wilkins maps: they need not be Kidd maps at all. What is more, there may even be more of them.
With this in mind, I began a search through all known sources of Harold Wilkins' work, looking for other maps similar to those known. It took some twelve years to find what I was looking for: and it turned out not to be in a British publication. Wilkins had published yet another map in The American Weekly, in 1940.
The map accompanies a typically 'Wilkinsian' tale concerning a little-known pirate named Captain Flood. Indeed, apart from an old ballad with the sketchiest of details (mentioned by Wilkins) I have found no source on Flood earlier than Wilkins. The story appears in a number of publications after 1940, in which the authors correct an oversight perhaps expected of Wilkins - in his version nobody lives to tell the tale!
Wilkins also brings Hubert Palmer into the story. At least, I assume he is referring to Palmer in his introduction:
In an old Spanish house about ten miles from Saint Jago de la Vega, in Jamaica, B.W.I., my friend and companion of many treasure hunts, H.P., and I had heard there was a mysterious chest.
Now, if there's a chest in the offing, Hubert Palmer might be expected to sniff it out! The house was deserted, and said to be haunted, but our fearless duo found 'an old battered box in a downstairs room where it had lain undisturbed for over two hundred years.' I wonder if Wilkins expected anyone to believe this! H.P. struggled for an hour to open the box, while Wilkins just sat and watched. When the heavy lid was finally raised:
We peered in at a collection of papers and parchments ... in the bottom ... was a small silver casket [and] in it a stiff, brown parchment, mouldy and stinking - but legible.
This is the stuff dreams are made of, and Palmer must surely have had a sense of deja-vu:
Drawn in faded black and red ink was the map of an island. The directions written on it were curiously phonetic, the lettering quaint. The drawing was of a bay shaped like a crescent... on the bottom ... were the words:
Eyespanyoler, in ye yeere 1710. J.C. Qr.Mr.
Figure 3.5: The Flood Map, by Harold T. Wilkins, as it appeared in American Weekly
Wilkins never finds a pirate but who possesses red and black ink, draws crescent-shaped land masses and spells theatrically! The text continues:
Goe a score and & fyve yardes nor'west above hyghe Watter Marke, from ye marked Bolder on ye left syde of ye Horned Reefe of Corall as youe gow in Behind this reefe of Corall & Sand are places ware ye Tirtles lay thar egges.
Sand, coral and turtles! Sounds very much like the Palmer maps which, at that time, were unknown to the public. Despite the map having nothing to do with Captain Kidd, it contains instructions in a format similar to those of the Coral Map and Wilkins' other maps: they mention a tree and rocks, and conclude with the now familiar 'x by y by z'.
50 feet N. by 8 feet W. on ye second marked Bolder
20 feet NE on Coco-Palm
Fyve feet by Fower feet by Fyve.
Wilkins does not link this map to Kidd but it is interesting to note that he seems to have an endless supply of treasure maps! I shall refer to this one as the Flood Map.
The mention of 'marked boulders' is reminiscent of the drilled rocks found on Oak Island, but the Flood Map was published after their discovery by Gilbert Hedden, and Wilkins was already aware of them.
There has been a suggestion that Wilkins discovered a real treasure map (of Oak Island) in some museum, presumably the British Museum. Rupert Furneaux writes of Wilkins' Desert Island Map (1):
On investigation it became apparent that the author [Wilkins] had superimposed on the map, which having been allowed to see he had drawn from memory, in place of the actual directions which he was not allowed to publish, directions from some other map he had seen while searching museum files. The other map must have been one of Oak Island but he could not recall where he had seen it, nor could it be again found.
Furneaux contacted the Map Library at the British Museum to ask if they had any idea where Wilkins saw the instructions. It is intriguing to think that Wilkins may have found a treasure map, but I think it unlikely. I believe that Furneaux misconstrued Wilkins observations. He did not find the instructions in the British Museum, he found the map of Juan Fernandez, and perhaps in the Department of Manuscripts, not of Maps.
However, Wilkins was fully aware that the outline of the island of his Desert Island Maps was not the same as that on Palmer's maps, and that the instructions differed, as demonstrated by a postcard found in his papers. The text of the postcard reads:
Confidential. (The Pamela Hardy Chart of Cap. Kidd)
This is one of 4 charts identical in shape but not in detail and topography.
Legend at base (but not as my chart).
Palmer and Wilkins between them provide eight maps (so far) with six sets of instructions, all seemingly related to deposits of pirate treasure. Other maps and sources are hinted at. The instructions on five of the maps, I believe, may be inter-related though, possibly, still part of a hoax. It must be wondered whether this proliferation of treasure maps, real or otherwise, pertains to the tradition of the Buccaneer or Pirate Communal Bank.
This suggestion derives from the story that certain leaders among the buccaneers agreed among themselves to bury their private hoards on a certain island. Each would be responsible for concealing his own treasure, but all would keep an eye open for intruders. This tale may have an element of truth but is widely discounted because of its impracticality and the high, and unlikely, level of trust needed to see it through.
Kidd and his Treasure
There is also a strong tradition that Kidd amassed a fortune from piracy and buried his treasure at various places from the West Indies to Nova Scotia. If he ever acquired such a hoard then it was surely in his early days, which leads one to wonder why he never bothered to collect it. This thought leads some to suppose that such may have been the intention of his final voyage.
By all accounts, Kidd went to England in 1695 seeking command of a King's ship, which could have resulted in his being sent anywhere in the world. He may have been prepared to await an opportunity to retrieve his treasure and may even have considered disobeying or re-interpreting his orders in order to pick up his personal fortune. Kidd may have appreciated that the Royal Navy was the best place to find a half-way honest crew that he might trust with a treasure in the hold. Anyway, Kidd was surely wealthy enough, and sufficiently well-positioned, to fit out a powerful vessel manned by a hard-core of those he could trust, particularly in view of the immense value of his return cargo.
Quite possibly, stories of Kidd's treasure and treasure-burying refer to some now-forgotten sea-faring rogue whose exploits have been transferred to Kidd. Kidd's contemporaries may themselves have been familiar with folk legend concerning a treasure deposit, or a number of deposits, somewhere along the Atlantic seaboard. Perhaps this was the legend of the Communal Bank. Was Kidd's undeserved reputation enough to attach his name to an existing legend? Are the maps genuine and part of this tradition, or fake and feeding on it?
Is it possible that Kidd actually obtained documentary evidence of such a concealment in the form of the maps, during his lifetime, without actually being able to use it? Or is it more likely that the maps were never in his possession and someone planted them in the chests for gain? But if this is true, did the hoaxers, perhaps, happen upon some genuine treasure maps without appreciating what they had found?
Note: The Palmer and Wilkins Kidd maps have been named on various criteria. I have attempted to provide names that reflect the content. However, this has become clumsy, and I feel that a reference number should be applied for consistency. I have assigned the following reference numbers to the descriptions already provided:
The Palmer-Kidd Maps:
|PAL1:||Sarah Kidd Map|
|PAL3:||The Coral Island Map||515 SE and by 50 N ...|
|PAL4:||The Skeleton Map||360 yards V.R. North ...|
The Wilkins-Kidd Maps:
|WIL1:||The Desert Island Map (1)||18 W and by 7 E on Rock ...|
|WIL2:||The Desert Island Map (2)||18 NE by 71 W on Rock ...|
|WIL3:||The Flood Map||50 Feet N. by 8 feet W ...|
|WIL4:||The Moose Island Map||30,000 li. buried ...|
|WIL5:||The Plum Island Map||8 Roddes FyrePlace N ...|
The instructions on the Plum Island Map may adhere to the same format but I have yet to discover the intent. The Moose Island instructions have also revealed nothing. The Ware Map seems not to be part of the same tradition.
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