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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two Tales of Treasure

This story of pirate gold at Moultrie Creek reminds me of a couple of stories of lost loot from my neck of the woods in Maine.

The first was related by an Abenaki healer named Mollyockett (or Molly Ockett, a corruption of the French Marie Agathe). She reported that in the mid 18th century, when the local Indians relocated to Canada, they buried some amount of gold beneath a tree in what is now West Paris. They marked the spot by hanging two traps in the tree. An iron chain was later found embedded in a tree at "Trap Corner," which lent credence to the story. My mother grew up at Trap Corner, and searched for the treasure when she was a kid. If she found it, she's kept it a secret from me.

The second story involves a man named Isaac Patch, who lived in my hometown of Greenwood. He was fairly well off and held mortgages on many of his neighbors' farms, which might explain the legend that emerged after his death in 1849. It was said that he stashed gold somewhere on his farm, and that on his deathbed he began to tell his wife where it was buried. "... the northeast corner..." he whispered. "The northeast corner of what?" his wife asked. "You're too damn curious," he replied.

For years afterward people searched his homestead for the hidden gold. My great-great-grandfather Lemuel Dunham wrote in 1896 that "the sensation in regard to finding buried treasure on Patch Mountain savors strongly of humbuggery." But still they searched—with everything from divining rods to electronic metal detectors.

The New York Journal picked up the story in 1900, branding Patch a professional gambler, and putting a value on his cache of $100,000. The article quoted his will as saying that "should anyone else save the legal heirs try to get the fortune he (Patch) would appear in the form of some animal and drive him away." I have read the will, but don't recall this bizarre provision. Still, I can confirm that some locals believed it.

Isaac Patch is buried on Patch Mountain, not far from where my great-grandmother, Mabel (Morgan) Dunham, lived as a girl. Mabel was older than her brothers, but she was given the worst job on their treasure-hunting expeditions. She was assigned the task of sitting on Isaac Patch's grave to make sure that he didn't rise from the dead and thwart her siblings' search. As far as I know, she was successful in her job.

[Image Credit: Clubhouse Tokens by Matt DeTurck]

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