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The Curse of Oak Island- Season Finale: Amazing Discoveries

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 18: Amazing Discoveries


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of the Season 5 Finale of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Oak Island team, with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in attendance via Skype, meet in the War Room. There, Gary Drayton announces that he had the red jewel unearthed on Oak Island’s Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 16 analyzed by a gemologist- an expert in the study of gemstones. “The bad news is that it’s not a ruby,” Drayton says of the gemologist’s analysis, “but the good news is it’s a rhodolite garnet… It’s a four or five hundred year old stone.” After Jack Begley remarks that the jewel’s age corresponds with that of many other artifacts found on the island that season, the narrator informs us that rhodolite garnets are semi-precious gemstones used in jewelry “since the days of the ancient Pharaohs, who used them for both decorative and ceremonial purposes.” Following the narrator’s exposition, Drayton explains that, while the garnet itself is likely millions of years old, the gemologist he consulted determined that it had likely been fashioned in the 16th or 17th Century on account of the rough, old-

fashioned nature of its facets (i.e. its twelve flat, polished surfaces). “These were hand-cut,” he explains. “These weren’t machine-made, and these were done before the days when people thought about refraction and light going through the stones.” Drayton further discloses that the housing in which the gemstone was set is made of silver with a high percentage of copper- a hallmark of pre-modern silver jewelry- and that the gemologist was able to corroborate the trinket’s age by analyzing the patina formed by the copper’s oxidation. The treasure hunters agree that further analysis of the gemstone is in order before concluding the meeting.

The next day, the Oak Island team congregates at the Money Pit, where diver Mike Huntley is preparing for his upcoming dive down the DMT Shaft (first discussed in Season 5, Episode 15). The narrator reminds us that Huntley’s objective is to determine the nature of the 75-foot-deep obstruction which precluded further excavation of the shaft back in Season 5, Episode 13. He also informs us that the team has already poured flocculant (a chemical which causes water-borne particles to clump together) down the shaft in the hopes of improving visibility.

As soon as his preparations are complete, Mike Hunley is lowered down the DMT Shaft on a bosun’s chair. Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, Gary Drayton, and Craig Tester, the latter in attendance via Skype, watch Huntley’s descent on a screen at the surface, which displays the diver’s point of view.

Huntley reaches the shaft’s 75-foot depth without incident. Unfortunately, it appears that the flocculant which the team poured down the shaft not only failed to improve visibility (Huntley’s line of sight is severely impeded by clouds of sediment), but also transformed the bottom of the shaft into a spongy, impenetrable slurry. “This is definitely one of the weirder bottoms I’ve been on,” the diver remarks. “I can sink like no tomorrow, but as soon as I touch bottom, it pushes me right off.” Unable to properly investigate the obstruction, Huntley returns to the surface, packs sixty pounds of lead into his suit, and immediately heads back down the shaft.

Again, Huntley reaches the shaft’s bottom without mishap. This time, with the aid of the added weight, he is able to stand on the floor of the shaft, and proceeds to examine the obstruction. Suddenly, he asks the team to call Jack Begley over. When Begley arrives at the “command centre”, where much of the team is assembled, Huntley informs him via radio that the bottom is “kind of wide, like a [steel] plate,” to Begley’s obvious delight.

Craig Tester then asks Huntley to retrieve a sample of the obstruction. The diver proceeds to liberate some of the material with a knife before putting it in a bag and returning to the surface with it. Upon his ascension, Huntley learns that the samples he chipped from the shaft’s bottom failed to make into his bag. As Huntley has reached his daily “dive time safety limit”, backup diver Nick Perry, equipped with a hand-held metal detector, makes a trip to the bottom of DMT to retrieve the samples.

Upon reaching the bottom, Perry begins probing the shaft’s floor with his knife and strikes something hard. When he runs his metal detector over it, however, he discovers that the obstruction appears to be non-metallic. He then runs his bare hand over the material, and opines that it is probably hard granite. Nevertheless, he retrieves some of the samples Huntley left behind and returns to the surface with them. Indeed, the samples prove to be shards of granite. Dismayed, the Oak Island crew concedes that the mysterious obstruction which broke the steel teeth of their custom-made caisson is nothing more than a hard granite boulder.

The following day, the Oak Island crew bids farewell to the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. and ROC Equipment, whose services will no longer be required this season.

The next day, the Oak Island crew, with Craig Tester in attendance via Skype, meet in the War Room, where Charles Barkhouse has prepared a display featuring the various artifacts recovered on the island that summer. There, they discuss the implications of the discoveries and debate their next course of action.

First, Gary Drayton opines that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove is the “find of the season”, considering its close resemblance to a design carved on one of the walls of Domme prison by Templar knights. Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse agree that the lead cross is the artifact most worthy of further research.

Next, Charles Barkhouse suggests that the human bones brought up from H8 constitute another major find- a notion with which Craig Tester concurs. Marty summaries the discovery thus: “To the limits of science, we know that two people’s remains are in the Money Pit… Human bones, from 162 feet, below searcher depth.”

Next, Doug Crowell remarks upon the significance of the piece of parchment also brought up from H8 and its apparent correlation with the parchment fragment which William Chappel discovered in the Money Pit in 1897. Jack Begley claims that his discovery of the artifact solidified his belief that the contents of the Money Pit are “very valuable,” while Rick similarly suggests that the discovery verified his belief that the Oak Island treasure is “something that is far more valuable than temporal wealth.”

After that, Gary Drayton reminds the crew of the 17th Century British coins he unearthed on the island this season. Marty Lagina suggests that these coins constitute proof that people visited Oak Island a century or more before the discovery of the Money Pit- a notion echoed by Laird Niven.

Next, the treasure hunters discuss the implications of the rhodolite garnet discovered on Lot 8. “This is about what you picture when you open a treasure chest,” says Marty Lagina, as he holds the stone up to the light. After considering the gemstone in the context of the key lock covering discovered a short distance away in Season 5, Episode 15, he quips, “I know I’m playing junior archaeologist here, but I can’t help but draw the conclusion…”

Next, Rick Lagina asks Dan Blankenship’s opinion on the arrangement of artifacts on the table. “As far as I’m concerned,” the veteran treasure hunter replies, shrugging his shoulders, “everything we’ve got on the table doesn’t prove or disprove whether there’s treasure on Oak Island.” He remarks that the majority of the artifacts are surface discoveries which one might expect to find on any island in the Atlantic Northeast, and only prove that people spent time on Oak Island in the distant past. He further laments the fact that the manner in which such surface finds are made is, by nature, “time consuming and expensive.” When Marty Lagina asks the elder Blankenship whether they ought to continue the search, the old hand replies that the answer depends on how much money he and the crew are willing to spend. He then implies that the discoveries made thus far, in his opinion, are not significant enough to justify further investment in the treasure hunt.

Marty responds to Dan’s bleak assessment by disclosing that, although he “entered this… quest thinking that maybe nothing of any consequence really happened on this island prior to 1790,” the artifacts recovered this season changed his mind. Doug Crowell nods his consent, venturing that these artifacts constitute “some of the most convincing evidence in the last 120 years.” This sentiment is echoed by Craig Tester and Alex Lagina. Most members of the crew similarly express a strong desire to continue with the treasure hunt. Finally, Rick Lagina marries Dan Blankenship’s sobering advice with the rest of the crew’s enthusiasm by suggesting that they proceed with the treasure hunt in a manner accordant with the clues they have discovered. With that, the meeting is ended.


The Rhodolite Garnet Brooch

In this episode, it is revealed that the red jewel discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 16 is a rhodolite garnet, and that it- along with the copper-silver brooch in which it was set- was likely fashioned in the 16th or 17th Century A.D.

Taking his cue from Marty Lagina, the author of this article has decided to attempt a little junior archaeology of his own. Specifically, he will attempt to determine the nature of this rhodolite garnet brooch by considering its design and the substances of which it is composed.

One thing to consider when attempting to determine the nature of this artifact is its centrepiece, the rhodolite garnet. Garnets are semi-precious stones which have been employed in artwork for millennia. During the Bronze Age, Ancient Egyptians set red garnets in decorative and ceremonial objects, and certain pharaohs are known to have worn them in necklaces. In Classical Antiquity, these stones adorned Ancient Greek, Roman, and Carthaginian artifacts. Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote about them in his famous encyclopedia Naturalis Historia, as did Ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus in his notes on mineralogy, collectively entitled Peri Lithon.

By the 4th Century A.D., red garnets were the most common gemstones in the Roman Empire. Following the 5th Century collapse of the Western half of this regime, various migratory Germanic tribes inlaid golden jewelry and other valuable objects with strips these semi precious stones. For those tribes which adhered to Christianity, red garnets symbolized the Blood of Christ.

Well into the Middle Ages, nobles wore signet rings (which were used to impress personal crests into wax seals) made of red garnet- a practice first employed by the Ancient Romans. The word “garnet” has its origins in this time period, deriving from the Medieval Latin word “granatum“, which refers to the many garnet-like seeds of the pomegranate. Aristocratic Europeans continued to wear decorative red garnet rings throughout the Early Modern period.

Interestingly, rhodolite garnets- the specific type of garnet set into the brooch found on Oak Island’s Lot 8- are considered to have been first discovered (or, perhaps more accurately, “classified”) in the late 1890’s in North Carolina, USA, by a Rhode Island mineralogist named William Earl Hidden. These reddish-purple stones owe their name to the rhododendron, a purple flower native to North Carolina, which, in turn, owes its name to the Greek word “rhodon“, or “rose”. “Rhodolite” is not a scientific term, and does not denote a particular species of garnet, mineralogically speaking. Rather, it is a term used by jewelers to describe garnets of a particular reddish-purple hue. Today, rhodolite garnets are mined in the United States, Brazil, Greenland, Norway, India, Myanmar, and several countries in southeastern Africa. 

According to an unnamed gemologist who Gary Drayton claimed to have consulted in this episode, the rhodolite garnet found on Lot 8 was crafted in the 16th or 17th Century, judging from the condition of its 12 facets (flat faces)- two to four centuries before Hidden’s official aforementioned discovery. History supports the notion that the gemstone was probably not fashioned much earlier than this. Although Persian jewelers have been cutting facets on gemstones as early as the 11th Century A.D., gems were usually polished (rather than cut) up until the late 1300’s in Europe and the Near East (China, on the other hand, has a long history of jade-cutting stretching back to the days of the ancient Shang Dynasty). After French and German lapidaries (as gem workers are known) developed advanced facet-cutting techniques in the 1380’s, jewels like rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds were meticulously fractured along lines of cleavage (natural planes similar to wood grain). Faceted jewels were further refined in the 1400’s, when grinding wheels were developed and better rock-polishing techniques were invented. It should be mentioned that garnets do not have natural lines of cleavage, and form sharp, irregular facets when fractured under stress. Because of this, it is possible that a certain amount of bruting (“sanding” with another gemstone) was involved in the creation of the rhodolite garnet found on Lot 8.

Jewel cutting improved throughout the Renaissance. By the Baroque period (approx. 1600-1750), and especially throughout the second half of the 17th Century, most jewelry revolved around the beautification of gemstones (as opposed to that of the precious metalwork in which they were housed) and the implementation of floral designs- two characteristics which support the notion that the 12-faceted Oak Island garnet, as well as the flower-shaped brooch in which it was set, was crafted sometime in the mid-late 1600’s.

The Discoveries of Season 5

In this episode, Marty Lagina, who has voiced some skepticism about the Oak Island legend in the past, stated that the discoveries made this season convinced him that something of significance is indeed buried on Oak Island. Doug Crowell similarly suggested that this season’s discoveries constitute “some of the most convincing evidence in the last 120 years,” comparing their importance to that of the fragment of sheepskin parchment, the Chappell Vault, the stone triangle, and the South Shore Flood Tunnel- discoveries made by the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897.

Although the author of this article neglected to mention it in the Plot Summary, Rick Lagina ventured in this episode that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove might be a clue as to the sort of people who buried treasure on Oak Island, while the leather scrap and piece of parchment brought up from H8 might be clues as to the nature of the Oak Island treasure. In the context of the show’s repeated attempts to connect the lead cross with the Knights Templar, the implication of Rick’s statement is Templar knights might have buried historically-significant documents on Oak Island.

Another potential conclusion one might arrive at upon considering the Season 5 discoveries as a whole is that Oak Island’s original underground workings were constructed sometime in the late 17th or early 18th Century- a timeline consistent with a number of Oak Island theories, including the William Phipps theory, the Captain Kidd theory, the Freemasonic theory, the theories involving George Anson and the Shugborough Monument, the Duc d’Anville theory, and the Spanish theory. The artifacts which seem to support this notion include:

  • The fragments of human bones brought up from H8 which, in Season 5, Episode 8, were carbon dated from 1682-1736, and 1678-1764, respectively.
  • The British coins discovered in Season 5, Episode 3, which bore the dates 1673 and 1694, respectively.
  • The rhodolite garnet brooch, which an unnamed gemologist believed was crafted sometime in the 16th or 17th Century.

The piece of leather, the scrap of parchment, and the lead cross are similarly consistent with this theory, although it is also very possible that they predate the suggested timeframe.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 17: A Family Album

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 17: A Family Album


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 17 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

After an introduction expounding the familial component of the Oak Island treasure hunt, Riley McGinnis and Kel Hancock- descendants of Money Pit co-discoverer “Daniel” McGinnis- recount the legend of the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit and the story of the Onslow Company.

Next, Diana Gregory- a descendant of co-discoverer Anthony Vaughan- with the help of author Randall Sullivan, relates an old family legend that Vaughan and his partners discovered a “decoy treasure” in the Money Pit, and that Vaughan’s father, Anthony Vaughan Sr., used his son’s share of this treasure to establish “a huge shipping empire in New Brunswick”. This tale was corroborated by “McGinnis Sisters” Jean, Joan, and Joyce McGinnis in Season 3, Episode 13.

After that, our attention is directed towards Samuel Ball, the black slaved-turned-Oak Island landowner who, according Nova Scotian historian Mather Myles DesBrisay’s 1870 book History of the County of Lunenburg, was one of the three co-discoverers of the Money Pit (instead of John Smith). Anthony and Ivan Boyd, Ball’s great great grandsons- along with Charles Barkhouse, Randall Sullivan, and Doug Crowell- describe how Samuel Ball escaped a life of slavery on a South Carolinian plantation by enlisting in the British militia during the American Revolutionary War. They recount how Ball came to Canada after the war, acquired land on Oak Island and, perhaps with treasure he unearthed while tilling his land, purchased more property on the island.

Next, Doug Crowell describes how a Halifax-based newspaper called The British Colonist published a three-part series on the Oak Island treasure hunt in January 1864. This series, according to Crowell, “gave a full history of the hunt up until that time on Oak Island. Up until that time, it was a very secretive operation.”

After that, Crowell, Sullivan, and Neena Chappell (the latter the granddaughter of Oak Island treasure hunter M.R. Chappell) describe the Chappell family’s involvement in the Oak Island treasure hunt, including William Chappell’s work as a drill operator under Oak Island landowner Frederick Blair, and his son Mel Chappell’s lifelong interest in the search.

Next, we are reminded of Captain Henry L. Bowdoin’s Oak Island treasure hunt in 1909. According to the narrator, Bowdoin believed that the Oak Island treasure consists of the ‘lost’ jewels of 18th Century French Queen Marie Antoinette– a belief shared by one of his investors, 27-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt- future President of the United States. David Roosevelt, Franklin’s grandson, then explains how FDR likely acquired his interest in Oak Island from his own grandfather, Warren Delano, a wealthy businessman who invested in the Truro Company (an early Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate) in 1849.

After that, Rick Restall, and Lee Lamb -along with Randall Sullivan, Charles Barkhouse, Doug Crowell- describe the Restall family and their unique treasure hunt in the 1960’s. They remind us of their family’s discoveries, including the 1704 stone and the vertical shaft, and of the tragic disaster of August 17, 1965, which took the lives of their father, Robert Restall; their brother, Bobby Restall; Karl Graeser; and 16-year-old Cyril Hiltz.

Next, Sharon Olson- the daughter of Oak Island treasure hunter Robert Dunfield- describes her father’s oft-maligned heavy duty excavation in the Money Pit area in the mid-late 1960’s. “Dad was continually exploring,” she explains. “Dad would take Mom and I out on exploring excursions anywhere where Dad thought that there might be something that he could find.” Charles Barkhouse then describes how Dunfield’s massive excavation “obliterated a lot of the landmarks in the Money Pit area. Now, had he found the treasure, he’d have been a hero, but that’s not the case.”

After that, Dan Blankenship and the late Fred Nolan (evidently in interviews filmed years earlier) independently describe their respective treasure hunts on Oak Island, touching on the bitter feud that characterized their relationship with one another. We are reminded of Dan Blankenship’s discovery of Borehole 10-X and Fred Nolan’s discovery of Nolan’s Cross.

Finally, Rick and Marty Lagina describe their lifelong interest in Oak Island, which ultimately culminated in the formation of Oak Island Tours Inc. and its ongoing treasure hunt, around which this History Channel TV series revolves.

After we are treated to footage from Season 3, Episode 7- in which the team buries a time capsule on the island to mark the 50th anniversary of writer David MacDonald’s influential 1965 Reader’s Digest article (Oak Island’s Mysterious Money Pit)- the various Oak Island “family members” of whose interviews this episode is comprised share their final statements on the effect that the island has had on them and their families, and on their relationships with fellow treasure hunters. Marty Lagina explains that Oak Island treasure hunters “start to feel like [they] are part of this series of families. An individual first becomes quite enamored with the island, and then, because they’re part of families, the family gets drawn in.” Anthony Boyd, in a separate interview, follows up on that idea, saying, “It’s just not the treasure, but it’s the families’ lives that have been evolved in this hunt.”  Diana Gregory adds to that statement, saying, “Oak Island becomes an obsession for families who are part of the island history.” Lee Lamb- who, in fact, wrote the book Oak Island Obsession on the Restall family’s Oak Island treasure hunt- adds that the island, in spite of the terrible toll it took on her family, managed to weasel “its way into [her] heart. Oak Island has a very strong pull.” Shanon Olson follows up on that statement, saying, “It’s almost like the island calls to you, and even after you leave it, you have this longing desire to go back.”  Finally, the episode concludes with Rick Lagina’s statement that the common goal shared by all Oak Island treasure hunters “makes it easy to feel like they’re a part of us, and we’re a part of them.”


Anthony Vaughan

Anthony Vaughan Jr. was the youngest of the three men said to have discovered the Money Pit in 1795. According to Oak Island historian D’Arcy O’Connor, Vaughan’s father, Anthony Vaughan Sr., arrived in the Chester area from Massachusetts in 1772 and began to farm a 200-acre piece of land on the mainland directly across from Oak Island, on what is now the town of Western Shore, Nova Scotia. A number of researchers, citing archival material, maintain that Anthony Vaughan Jr. was born in 1782, making him 13 years old at the time of the Money Pit’s discovery.

It should be noted that a handful of Oak Island researchers (including the late Paul Wroclawski, a retired engineer and Oak Island historian who, prior to his death on June 15, 2014, presented his spectacularly well-researched Oak Island theories on his website, claim that Vaughan was only 6 or 7 years old at the time of the discovery, which they maintain was actually in 1788 or 1789. If true, this piece of information calls the traditional Oak Island discovery legend into question, as it is doubtful that the elder McGinnis would have called upon a 6-7 year-old boy to assist with the physically demanding task of hand-digging a 30-foot-deep pit.

Whatever the case, Anthony Vaughan Jr. lived in Chester, Nova Scotia, until his death in 1860. In his later years, his account of the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit served as a primary source for the articles which gave rise to the famous discovery legend which has been perpetuated by various writers from the mid-19th Century until the present day.

The McGinnis Sisters

In the Season 3 finale of the History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island (Season 3, Episode 13: Secrets and Revelations), the Oak Island crew was visited by the three sisters- Joan, Jean, and Joyce McGinnis- who claimed to be direct descendants of Money Pit co-discoverer Daniel McGinnis. The three sisters presented Oak Island Tours Inc. with a small, hand-hammered gold cross- a McGinnis family heirloom- and regaled them with an old McGinnis family legend.

According to this McGinnis family legend, Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan unearthed three treasure chests in the Money Pit in 1795. Each of these three Money Pit co-discoverers, upon swearing each other to secrecy, kept a chest for himself and his family. One particular item from the chest Daniel McGinnis claimed- the small gold cross- was handed down from father to son throughout the generations. Joan, Jean, and Joyce’s late brother Jim was the last male of the McGinnis line to inherit it. Jim McGinnis wore the cross about his neck for most of his life, even taking it with him on his tour of duty during the Vietnam War, as well as on a series of mysterious New York City business trips. During his service overseas, Jim was exposed to Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide employed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, which resulted in his developing a terminal illness decades later on American soil. On January 30, 2006, the night before his death, Jim entrusted his sister and caretaker Joan with the artifact, saying, “… don’t ever lose sight of the cross. It is the key .” The McGinnis sisters presented this cross- which, according to Oak Island historian Danny Hennigar in a 2007 article, was estimated by appraisers to be over 600 years old- to the Oak Island crew during their recitation of their family’s discovery story.

The McGinnis family version of the story of the discovery of the Money Pit- which is elaborated upon in the 2016 book Oak Island Connection: Go Back Over 200 Years to the Mysterious Beginning – is slightly different than the popular version in which McGinnis, Smith, and Vaughan are three young adventurous farm boys exploring Oak Island on a whim. Like the version of the discovery story put forth by Blockhouse Investigations (, which is corroborated by Nova Scotia archival records, the Daniel McGinnis of the McGinnis family legend was a 37-year-old Scottish immigrant and veteran of the American Revolutionary War at the time of the discovery of the Money Pit. According to the McGinnis family legend, the first person to notice the depression in the soil on Oak Island’s Lot 18 was not Daniel McGinnis, nor John Smith, nor Anthony Vaughan, but rather Daniel’s newlywed wife (or perhaps fiancé) Maria. Maria and Daniel were lying together in a clearing in the woods on Lot 13 looking up at “the sunlight sparkling through the leaves” when Maria noticed the shape of an arrow carved into the bark of a nearby oak tree. The carving was so faded that it could only be perceived from that position. After investigating the surrounding area more thoroughly, Maria observed that the ground in the clearing was slightly concave, whereupon Daniel began to speculate that the clearing might be the site of a buried treasure. With the help of his friend John Smith and the young island resident Anthony Vaughan, McGinnis excavated the depression to a depth of 30 feet, finding a layer of flagstones just below the surface and platforms of oak logs at regular 10-foot intervals. Sometime before reaching the 30-foot level, the three men unearthed three small treasure chests, which they divided amongst themselves. Convinced that these chests comprised a decoy treasure, and that the true treasure lay far below, the three men remained more or less involved with the Oak Island treasure hunt until their deaths.

The author of this article must mention that, upon publishing an account of the the McGinnis Sisters’ visit to Oak Island in his 2016 book Oak Island, he was contacted by a well-respected Oak Island historian who presented him with evidence strongly indicating that the old family legend told by the McGinnis Sisters- specifically the part about the three decoy treasure chests- was more of a fictional tale than a historical account. In spite of this, Oak Island historian Doug Crowell, in a 2016 article, revealed several pieces of information which seem to lend credence to the claim. One such piece of information was given to them by Diana Young Gregory, a descendant of Anthony Vaughan who appears in this episode. While researching Oak Island, Gregory came across a newspaper article from September 9, 1991, written by a Nova Scotian journalist named Carl Mosher. The article states that a descendant of Anthony Vaughan was shown 25 canvas bags filled with gold by his grandmother Lucy in 1925. The man’s grandmother maintained that the treasure came from Oak Island. Unfortunately, the gold was later stolen by the man’s uncle, Edward Vaughan, who vanished shortly thereafter, leaving behind “his property, business, wife, and family.” Another piece of evidence the Blockhouse team brought to light was the fact that Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan, in the early 1980’s, claimed to have discovered three ancient, empty oak chests buried in the Oak Island swamp. Three final pieces of evidence which seem to support the notion that decoy treasure chests were unearthed on Oak Island are the mysterious key introduced in Season 5, Episode 12, which Fred Nolan found on Oak Island; the keyhole covering discovered on Oak Island Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 15; and the ruby brooch discovered the previous episode, also on Lot 8.

In Kerrin Margiano’s (Jean McGinnis’ daughter) 2016 book Oak Island Connection: Go Back Over 200 Years to the Mysterious Beginning, Joan, Jean, and Joyce McGinnis (it should be noted that Joyce McGinnis passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2016, just two and a half months before the book’s publication) elaborate on the McGinnis family stories regarding Oak Island. After reading reputable books on the history of the Oak Island treasure hunt, like D’Arcy O’Connor’s The Secret Treasure of Oak Island, or R.V. Harris’ The Oak Island Mystery, one gets the impression that the McGinnis, Smith, and Vaughan families’ interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt died with their Money Pit-discovering progenitors. On the contrary, the McGinnis sisters, in the book put together by Margiano, paint a fascinating picture of a family characterized by a two-century-long legacy of treasure hunting, suggesting that the McGinnis family never gave up on the Oak Island mystery. The McGinnis sisters recount how, in their childhood, their father and uncles would sometimes “sit around the kitchen table strategizing, drawing plans and studying maps” in an effort to solve the Oak Island riddle that had held their family in thrall for over two centuries. Joan, Jean, and Joyce recount some of the stories passed down to them by their grandfather George William “Bill” McGinnis, an Oak Island resident, and their uncles Wally, Roy, Albert, Roy, and George McGinnis. These stories include, among others:

  • An alternative Money Pit discovery story, as described above.
  • Daniel’s saving a badly-burned privateer who had been aboard the Young Teazer (a United States privateer schooner which, while being hounded in Mahone Bay by British Royal Navy warships during the War of 1812, was blown up by one of its crew members in the summer of 1813) a the time of its destruction.
  • Daniel’s witnessing the first so-called “Teazer Light” (the ghost of the Young Teazer, manifest as a silent burning ghost ship, said to appear in Mahone Bay at the site of the explosion near the anniversary of the ship’s destruction) in the summer of 1814.
  • The tale of the ghost of a red-coated British soldier said to haunt Oak Island.
  • The story of a curse put on the men of the McGinnis family by a Mi’kmaq shaman.
  • A secret underground hatch located a few inches below the surface in the vicinity of the ruins of the historic McGinnis family cabin.

The McGinnis sisters also tell of other family heirlooms and clues relevant to the Oak Island treasure hunt, including a gold nugget owned by their uncle Wally said to have come from Oak Island, and a copy of the mysterious document which has come to be known as La Formule.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 16: Seeing Red

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 16: Seeing Red


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 16 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

This episode begins in the War Room. There, members of the Oak Island team reaffirm their desire to send diver Mike Huntley to the bottom of the DMT Shaft in order to determine the nature of the obstruction there, which has prevented the treasure hunters from excavating the shaft beyond a depth of 77 feet. The phone up Huntley, inform him of their predicament, and secure his assistance.

While the crew members of Irving Equipment Ltd. go about disassembling their excavation equipment in order to prepare for Huntley’s upcoming dive, Rick and Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton head to Smith’s Cove. There, while the tide is still low, they use a backhoe to dig a hole at the spot where Rick and Gary discovered the lead cross in Season 5, Episode 10. Meanwhile, Gary uses a metal detector for search for anything of interest in the hole and its spoils.

After digging for some time, the crew uncovers what appears to be the remains of an old wooden structure which, the narrator suggests, is somewhat reminiscent of the suspected French drain found in the area in Season 4, Episode 15. As they haul up a large piece of wood, the treasure hunters ponder the possibility that they might have discovered remains of the “U-shaped structure” which Dan Blankenship and members of Triton Alliance discovered in 1971. Shortly after making the discovery, the treasure hunters are forced to abandon the dig site on account of the rising tide level. They agree that they ought to carbon date the piece of wood they managed to extract, and to conduct a more rigorous excavation at Smith’s Cove if the wood proves to pre-date the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit.

Later that day, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse pay a visit to Dan Blankenship. In Dan’s kitchen, Rick and Charles ask the elder treasure hunter about his discovery of the U-shaped structure in Smith’s Cove. Blankenship explains that the “structure” was not a wall, with one log piled atop another, but rather a chain of notched logs, and that he and the men of Triton Alliance left it where they had found it. Regarding his opinion on the structure’s nature, he says, “I never did come up with a definitive answer,” although maintains he did believe the structure constituted original workings when he and his fellow treasure hunters first discovered it.

Later, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse travel to Wolfville, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with Troy Coldwell, Kathleen Bishop, and Lynn Hiltz- all of them descendants of a man named Harold Bishop, who worked as a crane operator for Oak Island treasure hunter Robert Dunfield in the mid-late 1960’s. The relatives show the treasure hunters a piece of timber which Harold Bishop unearthed from the Money Pit area during Dunfield’s heavy duty excavation. The timber fragment bears a brass plaque which reads, “Found by Harold Bishop at Oak Island 1965.” Troy, Kathleen, and Lynn explain that Harold Bishop believed that the artifact “perhaps might have been part of a ship,” evoking Fred Nolan’s theory that a ship was buried in the swamp, as well as the log of a French ship which Doug Crowell introduced in Season 5, Episode 10. Dave Blankenship, observing that the piece bears two parallel, rectangular grooves, elaborates on that theory by suggesting that the piece might have been part of a ship’s rudder. The three relatives then point out two square nails embedded in the wood. When asked by the treasure hunters, the relatives agree to submit the artifact for testing.

Three days later, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room with geophysical engineer John Wonnacott, a veteran Oak Island researcher. The narrator explains that Wonnacott “conducted a previous investigation into the possible origins of the U-shaped structure” on behalf of Dan Blankenship. The four men initiate a video conference with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester, who inform them that the piece of timber unearthed on Smith’s Cove was carbon dated from 1684-1732, while the piece of wood discovered by Harold Bishop was carbon dated from 1646-1690. Marty remarks that these dates correspond closely with those of the human bones brought up from Drillhole H8. The treasure hunters agree that, in light of this new information, they ought to build a cofferdam around Smith’s Cove and conduct a more thorough excavation there in order to fully expose, and subsequently study, the U-shaped structure.

Later, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton go on a metal detecting excursion on Oak Island’s Lot 8. Drayton quickly uncovers an old military button. Shortly thereafter, he unearths a metal brooch which appears to be missing its centrepiece. Drayton suggests that he and Rick leave the hole from which they extracted the artifact unfilled so that they might later sift through the dirt beneath it and hopefully recover the missing piece. While waving his instrument over the hole one last time, Drayton’s metal detector gets a faint hint. Upon closer inspection, the treasure hunter discovers the source of the hit to be a red jewel ensconced in a metal ring- almost certainly the brooch’s missing centrepiece. “Yeah, that’s old,” says Drayton. “That’s 1700’s. And remember, Rick, back in the day, they did things properly.” The narrator follows up on Drayton’s implication that the gemstone might be a genuine ruby by remarking that the find is consistent with the Oak Island theory regarding Marie Antoinette’s jewels.

Rick and Gary inform their fellow treasure hunters of their find via radio, and are soon joined by the rest of the team. The treasure hunters congratulate Drayton on his discovery and agree that they ought to submit the jewel to a jeweler for analysis.


U-Shaped Structure

In the summer of 1970, Triton Alliance built a 400-foot-long cofferdam around the perimeter of Smith’s Cove. Upon its construction, Dan Blankenship discovered a large U-shaped wooden structure below the low tide line. This structure was made of 30-65-foot logs which were notched at 4-foot intervals. Each notch was labelled with a Roman numeral, and it appeared as if each notch had been fitted with a wooden dowel. Most experts who analyzed the structure determined that it was likely an ancient wharf or the remnants of a cofferdam constructed by the original workers.

One alternative theory regarding the nature of this U-shaped structure was put forth by Canadian author Joy A. Steele in her 2015 book Oak Island Mystery Solved. Steele argued that Oak Island served not as a treasure depository, but rather as the headquarters of a British tar-manufacturing enterprise, and that the U-shaped structure constituted a brace designed to keep tar kilns in place.

According to geophysical engineer John Wonnacott, who appears in this episode,  in an article on, he, David Tobias (Dan Blankenship’s business partner), and Les MacPhie (a fellow engineer) unearthed a section of the U-shaped structure in the year 2000 and submitted a piece of it for analysis. Disappointingly, the wood was carbon dated to 1860, plus or minus thirty years- a date consistent with cofferdams built by the Truro Company in 1850, and by the Halifax Company in 1866.

In 2015, after observing the results of some of Oak Island Tours Inc.’s carbon dating analyses, Wonnacott had the piece of wood he dug up in 2000 examined by a dendrochronologist- an expert in tree-ring dating. In a follow-up article, he revealed that the dendrochronologist determined that the tree which yielded the wood sample sprouted and was felled, respectively, on two of six different dates: 1659 and 1695; 1711 and 1745; or 1822 and 1858. The first two possible date combinations correspond with a number of Oak Island theories, while the third vaguely suggests the 1866 Halifax Company cofferdam.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 15: Steel Trapped

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 15: Steel Trapped


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 15 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Gary Drayton meet with Mike Jardine and caisson operator Danny Smith at the Money Pit area, where the advance of the  DMT Shaft was halted at at a depth of 75 feet by a mysterious, impenetrable object back in Episode 13. On Smith’s suggestion, the team prepares to extract water from the shaft so that they can get a good look at the obstruction.

While the crew of Irving Equipment Ltd. go about their preparations, Rick and Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton welcome author Kathleen McGowan Coppens to the island. Coppens, who appeared on the show as ‘Kathleen McGowan’ in Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7, tells the treasure hunters that she has some information to share with them. Without further ado, the four head to the War Room, where they are joined by Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, Jack Begley, Alex Lagina, and Doug Crowell.


In the War Room, the Oak Island team shows Coppens the lead cross unearthed on Smith’s Cove in Season 5, Episode 10. After admiring the artifact, Coppens states, “There are a lot of representations of lead crosses that span a large time frame, and that can be anywhere from the early 3rd, 4th Century through the… 14th Century… So, there are a lot of different kinds of crosses. Nothing exactly like this, but there are some similar versions out there.”

After Alex Lagina remarks upon the similarity of the lead cross to the  crucifix carved into the walls of Domme prison, Coppens informs the team that she has relayed this observation on to Tobi Dobler, a leader of the Knights Templar of the New Order (a modern-day fraternity which claims descent from the medieval Knights Templar) who Marty and Alex Lagina met in the village of Rennes-le-Chateau, France, in Season 2, Episode 6. Dobler, Coppens explains, believes that the cross might be coated with lead, containing a centre of solid gold. According to Dobbler, the Knights Templar smuggled pieces of gold out of France during their suppression in 1307 by crafting them into little perforated rhomboids they called “pastilles” (although Coppens uses the word “rhomboid” to describe the shape of these artifacts, she also shows the Oak Island team a diagram depicting the pastilles as hexagonal).  The Templars covered these pastilles with lead in order to disguise their precious nature, threaded them onto cords, and wore them around their necks, often in combination with larger golden centre pieces similarly covered in lead. Dobbler suspects that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove might be a centre piece of one these Templar necklaces.

“So,” says Begley, “there’s a chance that there’s some of those gold rhomboids that are out in Smith’s Cove still.”

“I certainly think so,” replies Coppens. “I think it’s time for us to go back out there.” Instead of proceeding to the beach, however, Coppens informs the team that a town just north of Domme, France, is called ‘Sarlat-la-Caneda.’ She then implies that the similarity between the words “Caneda” and “Canada”, coupled with Sarlat’s proximity to Domme, bolsters the theory that the Knights Templar made a secret voyage to Nova Scotia sometime in the 14th Century. Specifically, she suggests that the country Canada, through some design of outlawed French Templars, might have been named after Sarlat-la-Caneda,  similar to how Nova Scotia (literally “New Scotland” in Latin) was named after Scotland. The narrator then explains that Coppens’ theory regarding the origin of the word ‘Canada’ stands in contrast with that espoused by most mainstream etymologists, namely that the word ‘Canada’ originates from the Iroquoian word kanata, meaning “village” or “settlement”.

Later that day, Rick and Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton take Coppens on a tour of Smith’s Cove. Drayton claims that he plans to scour the entire area with a metal detector, while Marty explains that if he and his fellow treasure hunters are to do a thorough excavation of Smith’s Cove, they will have to contend with Nova Scotian digging permits and the whims of the Atlantic Ocean. “There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s more here,” says Coppens. “That cross is so important… I think it’s the beginning, not the end.”

The next day, Jack Begley and Charles Barkhouse stand by as the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. begin extracting water and sludge from the DMT Shaft with an enormous crane-operated bucket.

Meanwhile, the Lagina brothers and Gary Drayton go on a metal detecting excursion on Oak Island’s Lot 8, owned by Tom Nolan, the son of Fred Nolan. In a later interview, Rick Lagina informs us of Fred Nolan’s belief that there are at least eleven sites on Oak Island at which shallow treasure was extracted in the past. After ignoring a few “scrappy iron” signals on his metal detector, Gary Drayton discovers what turns out to be an ornate keyhole plate, evoking Captain James Anderson’s sea chest, introduced in Season 5, Episode 2, and the mysterious skeleton key introduced in Season 5, Episode 12.

Two days later, Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Danny Smith stand by at the Money Pit area as crane operator Michel Oullette bails water and muck from the DMT shaft. After some time, the treasure hunters are informed that the shaft’s water level is so low that the obstruction at its bottom ought to be visible. Immediately, remote camera specialists Tony and Nick Paverill set about lowering a Spectrum 120HD camera down the shaft. On a screen at the surface, which displays the camera’s point of view, the treasure hunters get an excellent view of the shaft’s bottom. Strangely, thereappears to be nothing at the bottom of DMT aside from mud, clay, and several large rocks.

All of a sudden, water begins flooding into the caisson from the shaft’s bottom at a tremendous rate. Before the treasure hunters have time to react, the shaft fills with seawater up to the level of the water table. Disappointed with the setback, yet determined to carry on, the team proceeds to “probe” the bottom of the shaft with a chisel bit. When the probing operation is complete, Mike Jardine, despite a lack of visual evidence to support his theory, concludes that the impenetrable object at the bottom of the shaft is likely steel, reminiscent of the impenetrable iron object discovered time and time again by Oak Island treasure hunters in the Money Pit area. Danny Smith concurs with Jardine’s assessment.

Later that night, members of the Oak Island team, with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in attendance via Skype, meet in the War Room. After some deliberation, the crew decides to send professional diver Mike Huntley down to the bottom of DMT in order to determine the nature of the obstruction. This undertaking would not be Huntley’s first dive on Oak Island. Back in Season 4, Episodes 9 and 10, Huntley explored the bottom of Borehole C1- a performance which he repeated in Season 5, Episode 1. With that, the treasure hunters wrap up the meeting.


Kathleen McGowan Coppens

Kathleen McGowan Coppens (formerly Kathleen McGowan), who appears in this episode, as well as in Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7 of The Curse of Oak Island, is an American writer who has written a trilogy of “historical esoteric fiction” novels revolving around historical women and controversial subjects. These novels include The Expected One (2006), The Book of Love (2009), and The Poet Prince (2010). Coppens has revealed that she intends to write a fourth book for the series entitled The Boleyn Heresy.

In 2009, Coppens published her first and only non-fiction book, The Source of Miracles: Seven Steps to Transforming Your Life through the Lord’s Prayer, a New Age-Christian self-help book.

In 2012, Coppens published the ebook novella entitled The Ballad of Tam Lin. This ebook is the first of a new series called Legends of the Divine Feminine, a series which Coppens claims will be “a unique hybrid of fiction and non-fiction exploration into stories from around the world, featuring extraordinary female characters.”

In 2016, Coppens wrote the Forward for Nancy J. Myers’ book Entering the Light Fantastic: Discovering Life After Life Through Orbs, an autobiographical account of Myers’ investigations into the phenomenon of ‘spirit orbs’- small balls of light which some paranormal investigators believe embody the souls of the departed.


In this episode, writer Kathleen McGowan Coppens reveals that a village situated just north of the town of Domme, France (where a number of Templar knights were incarcerated in 1307) is called Sarlat-la-Caneda. Coppens suggests that Canada was named after this French town, and implies that the Knights Templar had something to do with it.

According to a number of online sources, Sarlat-la-Caneda was once two separate municipalities: Sarlat, a 14th Century town which revolves around a Dark Age Benedictine abbey; and the more mysterious La Caneda. In 1965, the two merged together to form Sarlat-la-Caneda.

Sarlat” is a French word derived from “Serralatum,” a Latin word which roughly translates to “wide ridge,” evoking the concept of a large hill which, in medieval times, isolated the town from one or more of its neighbours. The origin of the word “Canedat,” on the other hand, is a little more mysterious. Some etymologists believe the word might derive from “Chania,” a city on the Greek island of Crete, on account of alleged ties between a certain monastery in the French village and a particular Cretan religious order. Others believe that “Canedat” is an appellation evoking a quantity of cannis- Latin for “reeds”- which might have grown in abundance in the town’s vicinity at the time of its naming.

Whatever the origins of the name ‘Sarlat-la-Caneda’, most etymologists agree that the word “Canada” derives from the Iroquoian word “kanata,” which translates to “village” or “settlement”. This word first appears in print in a written account of French explorer Jacques Cartier’s second voyage to the St. Lawrence River area (1535-1536), published in 1545. Upon learning this word from Iroquois Indians with whom he made contact, Cartier named the valley of the St. Lawrence River “Le Pays des Canadas,” or the “Land of Villages.”

In 1791, the Province of Quebec was divided into two separate colonies, which were named Upper Canada and Lower Canada, respectively. In 1841, the colonies were united and dubbed the ‘Province of Canada’. In 1867, this province, along with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, united to form the Dominion of Canada, the embryonic constitutional monarchy which would grow to become the second largest country in the world.

An alternative theory regarding the origin of the word ‘Canada’ has it that Spanish or Portuguese explorers, having found neither gold nor silver on the coast of the Atlantic Northeast, labelled the region “Aqui Nada,” or “Nothing Here,” on various charts and maps. According to this theory, these Iberian sailors passed this name on to the Iroquois, who began using it as a word for “village”.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 14: The Templar Connection

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 14: The Templar Connection

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 14 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The episode begins with a flashback to Rick Lagina and Gary’s Drayton’s discovery of the lead cross in Season 5, Episode 10. The narrator reminds us of the cross’ resemblance to a Templar carving on one of the walls of Domme prison, and suggests that its presence on Oak Island “could bring into question the very history of North America.”

The narrator- with the help of Theology professor Amir Hussain, author Clive Prince, author Sanford Holst, author Kathleen McGowan Coppens (who appeared in Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7 of The Curse of Oak Island), author James Wasserman, curator Jonathan Young, researcher David Whitehead, writer Christopher Knight, author Jerry Glover (who appeared in Season 5, Episode 9), academic Evan Pritchard, author Lynn Picknett, and researcher Paul Troutman (who appeared in Season 2, Episode 2)- proceeds to lecture us on the history of the Knights Templar. After briefing us on the Order’s founding following the First Crusade, he reminds us of the theory that Templars secretly conducted excavations beneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque, their first permanent headquarters. Legend has it that beneath the mosque, the Templars discovered priceless religious artifacts from the First Temple of Solomon, including the Ark of the Covenant and the golden Menorah.

The narrator goes on to explain how the Templars grew and expanded their influence throughout the 12th and 13th Centuries by developing Europe’s first banks. He then describes how the Knights Templar were accused of heresy and disbanded in 1307, and how some of their number are rumoured to have escaped from France to Scotland with their most precious treasures during this time. He further explains how some theorists believe these outlawed Templar knights travelled from Scotland to the New World with the aid of Scottish-Orcadian nobleman Henry Sinclair and Italian mariners Nicolo and and Antonio Zeno and possibly buried their treasures on Oak Island.

We then see old footage from Season 4, Episode 12, in which Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell travelled to Roslyn, New York, to visit with researcher Zena Halpern and discuss her maps, first introduced in the premiere of Season 4. The narrator reminds us that Halpern believes that a 12th Century English Crusader named Ralph de Sudeley buried Templar treasure on Oak Island.

Next, the narrator reminds us that, prior to visiting Zena Halpern, Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell, along with Charles Barkhouse, met with researchers Alessandra Nadudvari and Tim Loncarich in New Ross, Nova Scotia in Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2. There, Nadudvari and Loncarich showed the treasure hunters a stone which they believed bore a faded cross pattee, a style of cross used by the Knights Templar.

We are then reminded of how researcher Terry Deveau introduced the Oak Island crew to the Overton Stone in Season 3, Episode 4, on which is carved what Marty Lagina suggested is a “Templar cross.” Deveau speculated that the carving might have served to commemorate a friendship treaty between a group of Europeans and a band of local Mi’kmaq Indians. Doug Crowell, in an interview, then expounds the theory that the Mi’kmaq cultural hero Glooscap is based on Henry Sinclair- a theory bolstered by researcher Mark Finnan’s claim that the flag of the Mi’kmaq Nation is the mirror image of one of the battle standards flown by the Knights Templar.

Next, the narrator raises the question of whether or not an outlawed band of Templar Knights could possibly have had the ability to create complex underground structures like the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove Flood Tunnel. He then reminds us of the coconut fibres which Dan Henskee, Jack Begley, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti unearthed on Smith’s Cove in Season 1, Episode 2. These fibres were carbon dated to between 1260 and 1400 A.D.- a period of time consistent with the Knights Templar theory.

After that, the narrator reminds us of the peculiar Domme Cross carved by incarcerated Templar Knights on one of the walls of Domme prison, which Jerry Glover suggested might have been inspired by the Kabbalistic Tree of Life- a symbol which researcher Petter Amundsen, back in Season 1, Episode 4, suggested was manifest in Nolan’s Cross.

Next, the narrator reminds us that, historically, an unusual number of Oak Island treasure hunters have been Freemasons. He then describes the theory that Freemasonic fraternities are descended from the aforementioned band of outlawed Templar knights, and reminds us of the Oak Island crew’s visit to Rosslyn Chapel- a building containing carvings which some believe indicate a connection between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar- in Season 2, Episode 7. The narrator then summarizes the theory, put forth by writer Alan Butler in the same episode, that the Money Pit bears resemblance to the Freemasonic legend of the Royal Arch of Enoch.




Coconut Fibre

Back in Season 1, Episode 2, while digging on Smith’s Cove, Dan Henskee, Jack Begley, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti unearthed what appeared to be coconut fibre. Testing affirmed that the substance was indeed coconut fibre, and that it was carbon dated to between 1260 and 1400 A.D. Oak Island Tours Inc. is one in a long line of treasure hunting syndicates to uncover coconut fibre on Oak Island. It was discovered in 1804 in the Money Pit by the Onslow Company, in 1850 in Smith’s Cove by the Truro Company, in 1866 by the Halifax Company, in 1936 by Gilbert Hedden, in the 1960’s by Robert and Bobby Restall and Robert Dunfield, and on several occasions throughout the past 40 years by Dan Blankenship, Dave Blankenship, and Dan Henskee of Triton Alliance. It is interesting to note that, at the time of the Money Pit’s discovery in 1795, the nearest coconut palms grew in the Caribbean islands 1,500 miles southeast of Oak Island, and that throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries, coconut fibre was commonly used as caulking on sailing ships.

The Smith’s Cove coconut fibre’s carbon date of 1260-1400 A.D. is particularly baffling. Botanists and Age of Discovery historians alike agree that coconut fibre is neither endemic to Nova Scotia nor to the New World. In fact, coconut is native to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean; today, all coconuts can trace their genetic origins to these two regions. Throughout the latter half of the 1400’s, the Portuguese transported coconuts from the Indian Ocean to their newly-established plantation colonies on the western coasts of Africa. Following Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 1492, Portuguese explorers introduced coconuts from their West African colonies to South America and the Caribbean, where they thrived.

If popular mainstream history is to be believed, coconuts (and, presumably, coconut components, including coconut fibres) were not introduced to the New World until the late 1490’s, at the very earliest. Assuming that the coconut fibre on Smith’s Cove was interred relatively shortly (i.e. less than 90+ years) after being harvested from the shell, its carbon dating of 1260-1400 A.D. apparently contradicts this notion, giving rise to a whole new realm of strange and intriguing possibilities. Perhaps early Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian explorers obtained large quantities of coconut fibre decades before Henry the Navigator’s (an administrator of the 15th Century Portuguese Empire who set in motion the Age of Discovery) discovery of the West African coast (the site of the earliest Portuguese coconut plantations) in the mid- 1400’s, and made some long-forgotten or undocumented voyage to the New World a century or more before Christopher Columbus’ 1492 discovery of the Americas. It is certainly possible that 13th, 14th, and 15th Century Europeans might have have obtained Indian or even Southeast Asian coconut fibre via the Silk Road, an ancient series of trade routes bridging Europe, Arabia, India, and China (although one wonders why 13th, 14th, or early 15th Century Europeans would use mass quantities of such an exotic commodity to construct a giant filter, as appears to be the case on Smith’s Cove). Alternatively, perhaps the Knights Templar, following their suppression in 1307, somehow managed to procure large quantities of Indian coconut fibre before shipping their fabled treasure across the Atlantic; after all, Palestine, once the heart of Templar territory, lies at an important Silk Road junction. Or, is it possible that another group of people with access to large quantities of 13 to early 15th Century coconut fibre, perhaps even a group not typically associated with Oak Island (ex. members of some medieval Indian or Southeast Asian dynasty), made a secret voyage to Oak Island during the Middle Ages?

The Royal Arch of Enoch

According to Masonic teachings, one of the most valuable treasures of the Temple of Solomon, and subsequently of the Knights Templar, is a golden triangle called the Delta of Enoch, on which is inscribed the ineffable Name of God.

According to the Book of Genesis, Enoch was a virtuous man beloved by God. The Old Testament asserts that he was the great-grandfather of Noah, the man who built the legendary Ark which housed Noah himself, his wife, his three sons, his three daughters-in-law, and mating pairs of all the world’s animals during the Great Flood.

According to Jewish and Masonic legend, Enoch had a dream in which God revealed His true Name to him on a mountaintop and forbade him to repeat it to anyone. Then, God transported him underground, through nine arches, to a subterranean vault where he found the Name of God engraved on a triangular plate of solid gold. When he awoke, Enoch interpreted his dream as a sign to construct the chambers he had seen. He immediately set about excavating the first eight subterranean chambers, which were meant for protection, underneath a mountain called Mount Moriah. In the ninth and final chamber, he built a pedestal and placed upon it a triangle of pure gold on which was written the unutterable Name of God (in his dream, Enoch had not only heard the Name of God but also seen it written in the clouds). When he had completed the chambers, Enoch marked the place where they were buried with a crude temple, which he built from unhewn stones.

Mount Moriah- the anglicized interpretation of the ancient Hebrew name Har HaBayit- was the holy mountain where, generations after Enoch and his son Noah, Abraham prepared an altar on which to sacrifice his son Isaac. According to the Book of Genesis, God, in order to test Abraham’s loyalty, commanded him to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham conceded to God’s demand and set about preparing an altar on Mount Moriah. When that was done, he led Isaac to the mountaintop, bound him to the altar, and prepared to slaughter him. However, his hand was stayed at the last moment by an angel, who informed him that the whole scenario was a test of loyalty. At that moment, Abraham spotted a ram which had caught its horns in some nearby bushes and, out of gratitude to God, sacrificed it on the altar instead of his son.

Centuries later, a Jebusite (i.e. Canaanite tribesman) named Araunah built a threshing floor on Mount Moriah. A threshing floor is a stone floor on which grain is trampled underfoot in order to separate the stalks from the husks. King David, the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel, purchased this threshing floor from Araunah and converted it into an altar. Later, David’s son Solomon constructed his famous First Temple of Jerusalem on the site of the altar. While Solomon’s builders were constructing the Temple foundation, they discovered the Enochean chambers and the Delta of Enoch. When the Temple was completed, the Delta was placed in its treasury.

Legend has it that, eleven thousand years later, in the aftermath of the First Crusade, the Delta of Enoch was recovered by the Knights Templar. More than two hundred years after that, it was brought to Oak Island and buried in the Money Pit. The men who constructed the Money Pit build nine oak platforms within it, representing the nine levels of the Royal Arch of Enoch.



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Famous Black Canadians: 6/10: Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd

Early Life

Mary Ann Shadd was born to free black parents in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, on October 9, 1823. At that time, slavery was legal in the state of Delaware. Shadd’s parents were abolitionists who opposed slavery. For several years, their Delaware home served as a station on the Underground Railroad- a network by which escaped slaves could make their way to freedom in Canada.

Mary Ann Shadd was the first of thirteen siblings. When she was ten years old, her parents sent her to Pennsylvania. There, she studied at a Quaker-run boarding school along with her brothers and sisters.

After studying for six years, 16-year-old Mary Shadd returned to her hometown. There, she founded a school for black children and began working as a teacher. Her educational career took her all over the Northeastern United States, from New York City to Trenton, New Jersey, to Norristown, Pennsylvania. Wherever she went, Mary Ann Shadd taught at all-black schools.

Moving to Canada

In 1850, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. This nasty piece of legislation required free American citizens of all states to capture escaped slaves and return them to their masters. Those accused of being runaway slaves who could not provide irrefutable proof of citizenship were destined for the plantation. Afraid that they might be wrongfully accused, Mary Ann Shadd and her brother, Isaac, moved to Windsor, Ontario. There, Mary acquired a teaching position at an all-black school in Windsor’s rough Sandwich district. Her and Isaac’s family followed them into British territory shortly thereafter.

The Provincial Freeman

Like many of the courageous Canucks on our list of 10 Famous Black Canadians, Mary Ann Shadd was natural pioneer. Accordingly, she embodied a characteristic common to all great Canadian trailblazers: a belief in the virtue of self-reliance. Another core value which defined Mary Ann Shadd was her strong belief in racial integration. Unlike many of her black Canadian contemporaries, she opposed the idea of black separatism and ghettoization, and believed that it was in the interest of all Canadians for blacks and whites to live together as equals.

Mary Ann Shadd attempted to instill her values in her students, and opened her schoolhouse to both blacks and whites. When her benefactors eventually withdrew funding for her school on account of religious differences, she decided to share her ideas with a wider audience. In the spring of 1853, she established the Provincial Freeman, a newspaper written for a black audience. Therein, she expounded the virtues of self-reliance, put forth arguments in favour of integration, and encouraged black Americans to immigrate to Canada. In true pioneer fashion, her newspaper’s motto was: “Self-Reliance is the True Road to Independence.” In this way, Mary Ann Shadd became black female publisher in North America, and the first woman publisher in Canada.

In the spring of 1854, Shadd moved to Toronto, Ontario, where she could better run her newspaper. There, she met and married a barber named Thomas Cary. After the wedding, she moved with her new husband to Chatham, Ontario, where her chief editor lived. There, she and Thomas had two children, Sarah and Linton. Mary Shadd- now Mary Cary- spent the rest of the 1850’s raising her family and editing the Provincial Freeman.

The Civil War

In 1859, the Provincial Freeman went under, forcing Mary Cary to return to her former profession, education. She began teaching at an integrated school in Chatham. The following year, her husband, Thomas, passed away.

In 1861, Civil War broke out in the United States. Mary Cary and her family took a keen interest in this conflict, hopeful that it might bring an end to slavery in America once and for all. In fact, Mary’s brother, Issac, had played an important role in a pre-Civil War conflict known as the Raid on Harper’s Ferry, allowing his home in Windsor to be used as a sort of war room for militant American abolitionists who went on to raid a United States Armory in what is now West Virginia.

Eventually, Mary Cary, at the invitation of African-American abolitionist Martin Delany, moved to the United States to take part in the Civil War. In Indiana, she served as a recruiting officer, using the skills she had honed as a journalist to convince black men to enlist in the anti-slavery Union Army.

Later Life

After the end of the American Civil War, which saw the emancipation of slaves all across America, Mary Cary turned once again to teaching. She taught briefly in Detroit, Michigan, before taking her trade to Wilmington, Delaware. Eventually, took a teaching position in Washington, D.C. After teaching in the American capital for some time, she attended the newly-established Howard University Law School and graduated as a lawyer in 1883. In this way, 60-year-old Mary Cary became the second black female lawyer in the United States. She passed away in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 1893, at the age of 69.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 13: Unhinged

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 13: Unhinged


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 13 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Oak Island team stands by at the Money Pit area, where the excavation of the DMT Shaft is underway. So far, the shaft has yielded little aside from dirt and rocks, as anticipated; the purpose of DMT is to intercept the hypothetical Chappell Vault, which is believed to have been displaced during the construction of H8, and is not expected to pass through much of the original Money Pit. The going is smooth, and the team members expect to reach their target depth without much trouble.

Later, Rick Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Doug Crowell meet in the War Room, where they discuss the implications of the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove in Season 5, Episode 10. Rick asserts that the cross’ resemblance to a Templar graffito at Domme prison seems to bolster the Knights Templar theory, and phones up researcher Zena Halpern to see what she thinks of the notion. Halpern, who has had time to analyze images of the lead cross, proclaims, “There is absolutely no doubt that this is the goddess Tanit,” Tanit being one of the two chief deities of the ancient city of Carthage. “This is a very old representation of Tanit,” she continues, “because she has a straight body.” When Crowell asks Halpern when she thinks the cross was crafted, she states that it, “probably emerged from the Phoenicians from 1200 B.C.” After the narrator gives us a brief history lesson on the worship of Tanit, Halpern states that the Knights Templar “would have definitely revered” the ancient Punic goddess and, when told of the cross graffito at Domme, contends that the Templars carved it in the hope of attaining Tanit’s protection. Halpern congratulates the treasure hunters on their find and ends the conversation, whereupon Rick suggests that the team ought to have the cross analyzed by professionals in order to determine the veracity of her claim.

Later, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse head to the northern section of the Oak Island swamp, formerly owned by Fred Nolan. With the permission of Tom Nolan, Fred’s son, the treasure hunters begin draining that section of the swamp.

Meanwhile, Jack Begley, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton, with the assistance of Tom Nolan’s associate Jim Meagher, explore more of the old pottery dump introduced in the previous episode. After searching for some time, Drayton unearths a decorative hinge which he likens to treasure chest hinges he has extracted from Spanish shipwrecks. Not long afterwards, Barkhouse discovers another rusted hinge, which Drayton claims is also of the type normally found on chests or boxes.

The next day, Rick, Marty, and Alex Lagina and Gary Drayton put on coveralls and rubber boots and wade into the freshly-drained northern section of the swamp. Equipped with metal detectors, the treasure hunters search the area for anything out of the ordinary. Rick soon discovers a large, axe-sharpened wooden stake matching the description of the mysterious survey markers which Fred Nolan discovered in the swamp in 1969. In an interview, Rick states that, years earlier, Dan Blankenship and Fred Nolan once carbon dated one of these stakes to 1575 A.D., give or take 85 years.

The following day, the treasure hunters stand by as the crew of ROC Equipment and Irving Equipment Ltd. excavate more of the DMT Shaft. At a depth of 75 feet, the oscillator seizes up and begins leaking hydraulic fluid. The crew members trace the problem to a failed O-ring, a hydraulic seal which seems to have ruptured as a result of the caisson encountering some sort of impenetrable obstruction, which caisson operator Danny Smith believes is not a rock. After smashing the mysterious obstruction with a chisel bit, hammergrab operator Michel Oullette attempts to remove it, but is unable to get a good grip on it due to its shape and orientation.

While the crew members struggle with their predicament, Jack Begley and Gary Drayton make an ominous discovery. In the most recent spoils brought up by the hammergrab, they find more than ten of the caisson’s steel teeth, which evidently broke free when they ground against the obstruction. “What happens if you don’t have any more teeth?” Begley asks Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd. “You don’t go any further,” Jardine replies.

That evening, Rick and Marty Lagina, the latter in attendance via Skype, meet in the War Room with Danny Smith and Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd. The men discuss their dilemma and decide to send a camera to the bottom of the DMT shaft to get a better look at the obstruction.



The Sign of Tanit

In this episode, researcher Zena Halpern claims that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove in Season 5, Episode 10, is a 14,000-year-old representation of Tanit, a goddess worshipped by ancient Carthaginians.

Most modern-day historians believe that the ancient city of Carthage, located on the coast of northern Tunisia, was established sometime in the 9th Century B.C. Initially, the city was founded as a colony of Phoenicia, an ancient mariner society centered around the Lebanese city of Tyre. Gradually, as Phoenicia began to lose its grip on the Mediterranean due to increased trading competition with the Archaic Greeks and the Etruscans (ancient Italians), Carthage began to eclipse its Middle Eastern progenitor. By the 7th Century B.C., Carthage was one of the wealthiest and most powerful cities in the Mediterranean, remaining so until 146 B.C., when it fell to Rome.

As Carthage grew, it began to develop its own distinctive Punic culture (the word ‘Punic’ is synonymous with ‘Carthaginian’). Most notably, the citizens of Carthage adopted two chief deities for their city: the god Ba’al Hammon, and his wife, the goddess Tanit.

Although there is some controversy regarding her origin, most historians agree that Tanit was not exclusively a Punic goddess. She was initially worshipped in the Phoenician homeland, most often in connection with the Phoenicians’ own mother goddess, Astarte, the patron of fertility and war. By the time the citizens of Carthage adopted her as one of their city’s two chief deities, Tanit had taken on many of Astarte’s characteristics. In time, the two goddesses were indistinguishable from each other.  Tanit eventually evolved to become everything for the Carthaginians that Astarte was for the Phoenicians. However, she retained one particular characteristic with which Astarte was never attributed: she was associated with child mortality, either as a protective guardian of the souls of dead children or as an idol to which children were sacrificed.

The symbol which the people of Carthage used to represent Tanit consisted of an isosceles triangle topped by a horizontal arm (which was sometimes crooked upwards at the elbows) which, in turn, was topped with a circle. Oftentimes, the circle was crowned with a downward-facing crescent. In some early depictions of the symbol, Tanit’s body was a trapezoid instead of a triangle. Despite Zena Halpern’s assertion, however, it was never, to the best of this author’s knowledge, a vertical line. Incidentally, there are two symbols which really do correspond with what Halpern contends is an early version of the sign of Tanit, namely the ankh (an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for ‘life’), and an early form of the Coptic Cross.

Another potential mistake Halpern made in this episode is her assertion that shape of the cross at Smith’s Cove is a 13th Century B.C. representation of this Carthaginian symbol. Most historians agree that the sign of Tanit first began to appear in Carthage in the 6th Century B.C. However, at least one academic contends that the oldest version of it graces an 11th Century B.C. building in the ancient city of Tel Megiddo (a city in northern Israel associated with the biblical Armageddon). If the cross at Smith’s Cove truly constitutes a 13th Century B.C. representation of Tanit, it is the oldest of its kind by at least 2,000 years.

Although the potential connection between the lead cross found at Smith’s Cove and the goddess Tanit is unlikely, it is consistent with the theory, held by fringe historian J. Hutton Pulitzer, that many of the petroglyphs carved by the indigenous Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia show signs of Punic/Phoenician influence, suggesting that the Phoenicians or the Carthaginians made voyages across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. For example, Pulitzer claimed in Season 2, Episode 2 of The Curse of Oak Island that the so-called “Eight-Pointed Star” of the Bedford Barrens, a Mi’kmaq petroglyph located a short distance from Oak Island, is a symbol of Astarte. In a similar way, one might argue that certain petroglyphs at Kejimkujik Lake, Nova Scotia, traditionally believed to depict 18th Century Mi’kmaq hunters, bear vague resemblance to the sign of Tanit.

The Obstruction

In this episode, the advancement of the DMT Shaft is halted by some sort of mysterious obstruction, which oscillator operator Danny Smith believes is not a rock. This is not the first time the completion of a shaft or drillhole has been precluded by some sort of underground obstruction. Similar incidents occurred:

  • In Season 5, Episode 3, when one of the Geotech Grid drillholes encountered an impenetrable steel object at a depth of 162 feet in the Money Pit.
  • In Season 4, Episode 14, when the T1 caisson encountered an impenetrable object at a depth of 156 feet which was later revealed to be bedrock.
  • In the summer of 1897, when the two of the Oak Island Treasure Company’s exploration drills encountered impenetrable iron objects at depths of 126 and 171 feet, respectively.


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Famous Black Canadians: 5/10: John Ware

John Ware

In 1874, the North West Mounted Police marched from Manitoba to a lawless frontier- a land which would one day become Southern Alberta. With tact and diplomacy, they quickly brought law and order to Canada’s Wild West. By the late 1870’s, the buffalo which once dominated the Canadian prairies were reduced to a scattering of tiny herds, making way for another bovine breed which would come to serve as a symbol of the province: cattle. Similarly, by the 1880’s, the whisky traders, wolfers, and prospectors who once made made up the region’s non-aboriginal population were supplanted by another breed of frontiersman: the cowboy. Of all of Southern Alberta’s early cowpokes, perhaps the most beloved was a friendly black wrangler named John Ware.


John Ware was born into a life of slavery on a South Carolinian plantation sometime in 1845. Little is known about his early life, although his lowly status, coupled with his actions as a freeman, suggest that it was anything but pleasant. In 1863, at the end of the American Civil War, US President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. As a result, John Ware, along with 3 million fellow American slaves, went free.


As soon as he was able, the eighteen-year-old freeman left the Black Belt for the West, never to return. First, he traveled to Texas, where the ranching industry was in full bloom. There, the former slave decided to try his hand as a cowpoke.

Said historian Grant McEwan of Ware’s early career in the saddle: “John Ware was not a good cattleman. He’d never chased a steer in his life. But he had some ambition.” This ambition ultimately drove him to Fort Worth in Northeastern Texas. In that old frontier town, he secured a position as a steer herder.

Even at eighteen, John Ware was an enormous man. Tall, muscular, and strong as an ox, his physical ability, in the eyes of his employers, made up for his complete lack of experience. He was a fast learner and, once given the opportunity, quickly honed his skills as a horseman. Soon, he found himself driving cattle northwest across the Great Plains, bound for Montana.


By all accounts, John Ware was a kind, friendly, good-natured man who was always quick to lend a helping hand. His amiable demeanor endeared him to many of his fellow cowpokes on the journey to Montana. One of the men with whom he became fast friends was a cowboy named Bill Moodie.

After many days in the saddle, the company finally arrived in Montana. Shortly after delivering their long-horned cargo, they were approached by a seasoned cattle driver named Tom Lynch. Lynch had been hired by a Canadian rancher named Fred Stimson to drive a herd of 3,000 cattle north across the border. He needed extra cowhands to help him with the task, and invited Bill Moodie to join his team. Moodie agreed, on the condition that Lynch also hire John Ware. Tom Lynch accepted Moodie’s condition, and in no time, John Ware was riding for Canada.

The Journey North

Somewhere along the trail to the Great White North, John Ware asked Lynch for a more spirited horse. The veteran cowboy obliged, bringing the greenhorn a wild mustang which he was certain he would be unable to break. While his fellow cowhands stood by in anticipation, Ware vaulted up onto the animal’s back. Immediately, the bronco began to buck wildly, furiously struggling to rid itself of the unwanted rider. Ware held on for dear life, desperately gripping the horse’s ribs with his powerful legs. Due to either his incredible size or sheer nerve, or perhaps some combination thereof, Ware retained his mount. Eventually, he forced the bronco into submission. When his horse finally calmed down, his fellow cowboys told him that his performance was the best bronc riding they had ever seen.

On September 1882, John Ware rode into what would become Southern Alberta. It is said that when he got his first glimpse of the Albertan foothills and the Rocky Mountains beyond, he remarked, “If old Adam saw this, he’d want to sell the Garden of Eden.” Although he did not know it at the time, Ware was probably the third black person to set foot in the region. He was preceded by a whisky trader named William Bond, and by a household servant who had made the journey west with the family of former NWMP Commissioner James Macleod.

Eventually, John Ware and Lynch’s team arrived at their destination: Fred Stimson’s property on the Highwood River, the Bar U Ranch.

The Bar U Ranch

On Lynch’s recommendation, Fred Stimson hired John Ware to work at the Bar U Ranch. The South Carolinian greenhorn, he maintained, had proved himself to be an extremely competent cowhand and an enjoyable companion on the journey from Montana. Fred Stimson soon found that he was soon equally pleased with Ware’s abilities and pleasant nature.

John Ware’s first winter in Canada was a brutal shock. After the first snowfall of the year, Stimson sent him out to round up some scattered cattle. The big cowboy had spent all his life in the hot and humid climes of the Deep South. As such, he was ill prepared for the dry, bitter cold of an Albertan winter. Too cold to dismount, he spent four long days and three sleepless nights freezing in the saddle as he carried out his task. On the fourth day, he returned to the ranch house, chilled to the bone. Despite his condition, he remained, as Tom Lynch put it, as “cheerful as a woman with a new hat.”

Quorn Ranch

During his next few years working at the Bar U Ranch, John Ware acquired a reputation as a fine friend and an excellent cattleman. He earned the most respect, however, for his skills as a sportsman. On Sunday afternoons, he and his fellow ranchhands would get together and engage in calf roping, steer wrestling, bronc riding, and other rodeo sports. During these friendly competitions, John Ware proved himself to be one of the best rodeo cowboys on the Canadian plains.

Although he enjoyed his work at the Bar U immensely, John Ware eventually began to consider the notion of working for himself. In 1884, he decided to take the plunge. He bid farewell to his fellow cowboys and rode north to the town of Calgary, Alberta. There, he filed a homestead on Sheep Creek, a waterway situated about a third of the way from the Bar U to Calgary, near present-day Turner Valley.

After purchasing supplies, John Ware set to building a cabin on his new property. When he failed to complete the cabin before winter, he turned to ranch work once again. Instead of returning to the Bar U, he found employment at the nearby Quorn Ranch. This establishment sat on Sheep Creek not far from his homestead. The aristocratic Quorn Hunt Club of Leicestershire, England established it not long before to raise choice Irish horses for British gentry. John J. Barter, the ex-Hudson’s Bay Company man who managed the Quorn Ranch, tasked John Ware with managing the ranch’s horse herd.

North-West Rebellion

That spring, John Ware signed on with a local militia which Fred Stimson established in order to defend the Calgary area from a potential military attack. At that time, the Canadian government was at war with Louis Riel’s Metis and Cree revolutionaries. Militiamen and Mounties alike fought to quell the North-West Rebellion in what would become Central Saskatchewan. Residents of the Rocky Mountain foothills feared that the local Blackfoot might join Riel’s cause and thought it best to prepare for potential hostilities. They need not have worried; the Blackfoot refused to take up arms against Canadian government forces, and the North-West Rebellion was quickly suppressed.

When life returned to normal, John Ware resumed his work at the Quorn Ranch. There, he ingratiated himself with both his fellow cowboys and his blue-blooded employers. According to an article in the June 23, 1885 issue of Fort Macleod‘s Macleod Gazette, “John is not only one of the best-natured and most obliging fellows in the country, but he is one of the shrewdest cow men, and the man is considered pretty lucky who has him to look after his interest. The horse is not running on the prairie which John cannot ride.”


By the summer of 1885, John Ware divided much of his time between the Quorn Ranch and his own homestead on Sheep Creek. Earlier that spring, he registered a brand for his own cattle. The symbol he chose for his brand was ‘9999’, perhaps due to the fact that he could afford nine head of cattle at that time. Years later, Ware reduced his brand to ‘999’ out of concern that a four-digit brand was excessively painful for the cattle to which it was applied.

The winter of 1886 was disastrous for the ranchers of what would become Southern Alberta. Cattle starved to death on account of heavy snowfall which precluded access to their food. That winter, John Ware lost half his herd.


In 1891, John Barter introduced John Ware to the Lewis family, a black family recently arrived in Calgary from Ontario. Ware immediately took a fancy to the Lewis’ eldest daughter, Mildred. That Christmas, Ware asked Mildred to be his wife. The young lady accepted the proposal, and the two were married on February 29, 1892, in Calgary’s First Baptist Church. An article in the Calgary Tribune claimed that “probably no man in the district has a greater number of warm personal friends than the groom.”

The following year, on March 9, 1893, Mildred gave birth to their first child, Amanda “Nettie” Janet. She was the first of five children John and Mildred had together.

Red Deer River

For nine happy years, John and Mildred raised their family on their ranch on Sheep Creek. The Ware family was well-liked by local ranchers, Mildred being a gracious hostess and John always willing to lend a helping hand to a neighbour in need.

Ever since the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, settlers from Europe and Eastern Canada began streaming into the Canadian prairies, hoping to secure for themselves and their families a piece of the so-called “Last Best West.” These newcomers often found themselves competing for land with old-time ranchers. In order to avoid such competition, John Ware decided to rebuild his ranch on a more remote piece of real estate. In 1902, he relocated his family to a stretch of land along the Red Deer River near what is now Duchess, a village situated just north of Brooks, Alberta.


1902 was a year of tragedy for John Ware and his family. Not long after moving to their new home on the Red Deer River, Mildred gave birth to twin boys. Sadly, one of them passed away shortly thereafter. Mildred was severely weakened by the affair, and would never fully recover her health.

Shortly after the birth, the Red Deer River flooded and washed away the Ware’s home. John and his family packed their belongings and relocated alongside a tributary of the river which would come to be known as Ware Creek. That winter, Mildred came down with typhus and pneumonia. Although John rode for seven hours through a raging blizzard in order to get medicine for his sick wife, his efforts were in vain. Mildred passed away on March 30, 1905.

In the wake of his wife’s passing, a bereaved John Ware sent his youngest children to live with Mildred’s mother in the town of Blairmore in the Crowsnest Pass. Five months later, while out riding with his eldest son, his horse stepped in a badger hole and fell on top of him, killing him instantly. His subsequent funeral in Calgary was the largest the town had ever seen. The cowboy’s eulogy went thus:

“John Ware was a man with a beautiful skin. Every human’s skin is as beautiful as the character of the person who wears it. To know John Ware was to know a gentleman, one of God’s gentleman. Never again will a see a coloured skin as anything but lovely.”


Faces of History– John Ware: The Good Neighbour, Great North Productions Inc., 1995


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Famous Black Canadians: 3/10: Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy

If you live in Canada, America, or the United Kingdom, chances are you’ve heard somebody refer to something as “the Real McCoy.” This strange idiom, synonymous with “the real deal,” is used to describe things that are original and genuine. For example, if your friend questions the authenticity of your Ray-Ban sunglasses, an appropriate response is, “nope, they’re the Real McCoy.” Etymologists all over the English-speaking world have puzzled over the origin of this phrase for years. According to one popular (albeit hotly contested) theory, “the Real McCoy” was first used to distinguish replica knock-offs from automatic steam engine lubricators invented by a black Canadian-American engineer named Elijah McCoy.

Early Life

Elijah McCoy was born in the community of Colchester, Ontario, on May 2, 1844. His parents were former plantation slaves who escaped a life of servitude in Kentucky in 1837. Both of them fled to Canada via the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes through the United States to British territory.

Before he was born, Elijah’s father, George, earned 160 acres of farmland by serving in the British Militia. In 1837, he fought for the British Crown in the Upper Canada Rebellion. This conflict was a revolt against the provincial government of Upper Canada (present-day Southern Ontario) led by Scottish-Canadian politician William Lyon Mackenzie. After the rebellion, George and his wife, Mildred, settled on their newly-earned land. In addition to crops, George and Mildred raised twelve children, one of them Elijah McCoy.

When he was fifteen years old, Elijah’s family moved south to Ypsilanti, Michigan. Elijah, however, who was bright and mechanically inclined, was shipped off to Edinburgh, Scotland. There, he studied engineering. Eventually, he became a certified mechanical engineer.

Early Career

When he completed his education, Elijah McCoy traveled to the United States to rejoin his family. In spite of his credentials, he was unable to find a job as a mechanical engineer. The American Civil had just ended, and McCoy had to compete with thousands of unemployed soldiers for work. Eventually, he secured a position as a fireman and oilman with the Michigan Central Railroad.

Elijah McCoy’s job was to tend to the engines of steam locomotives. Specifically, he had to shovel coal into the engines’ furnaces while the train was moving. Also, every once in a while, the train would stop, and McCoy had to squirt oil onto its engine’s cylinders and bearings. McCoy realized that applying oil manually was a very inefficient way to lubricate a train’s engine. To solve this problem, he decided to invent an automatic lubricator.

First, Elijah McCoy studied the designs of automatic lubricators that were already on the market. Then, he designed an automatic lubricator of his own. In 1872, he patented the “lubricating cup,” which allowed oil to drip continuously onto an engine’s moving parts while it ran.

The “Real McCoy”

According to legend, McCoy’s design became so popular that other engineers started copying it. The imitation automatic lubricators did not work as well as the original, however. Soon, the owners of steam engines all over the world found themselves asking for the “Real McCoy” when shopping for automatic lubricators.

Many historians refute this legend, maintaining that McCoy’s design was never as popular as the story would have us believe. Many claim that the real origin of the phrase “the Real McCoy” has nothing to do with Elijah McCoy’s invention. For example, some say the phrase originally referred to Charles “Kid” McCoy, an American world champion boxer. Others maintain that it derives from the phrase “a drappie o’ the real MacKay,” an advertising slogan used by 19th Century scotch distiller G. MacKay & Co.

Whatever the case, Elijah McCoy went on to file 56 more patents in Canada and the United States, 50 of them associated with steam engine lubrication. In 1920, he founded the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company, which produced a graphite lubricator that McCoy had invented.

In 1929, Elijah McCoy passed away in a hospital in Detroit, Michigan. The engineer succumbed to injuries he sustained in a car crash in 1922 with his wife, Mary. Although the great Canadian-American inventor is now long dead, the legend of the “Real McCoy” lives on.


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Famous Black Canadians: 2/10: Portia White

Portia White

Most Canadians today have heard of Sarah McLachlan, the Nova Scotia-born songstress whose emotional ballads paved the way for a new style of feminine pop music in the 1990’s. Many have heard of Anne Murray, another Nova Scotian singer whose international success in the 1970’s and 80’s laid the foundations for Canadian divas like Celine Dion and Shania Twain. Relatively few, however, have heard of Portia White, a 1940’s sensation who was the very first Nova Scotian vocalist to reach the international stage.

Early Life

Portia White was born in the town of Truro, Nova Scotia, on June 24, 1911. Her father, a Baptist minister, was the son of ex plantation slaves from Virginia. Her mother, on the other hand, was a descendant of Black Loyalists– black Canadians who fought for the British during the American Revolutionary War.

When she was still a little girl, Portia, along with her mother and twelve siblings, moved to Halifax. There, her father secured a position as pastor of Cornwallis Street Baptist Church. When she was six years old, Portia began singing in the church choir under her mother’s direction. She grew up learning both soulful gospel music and sacred liturgical hymns- musical styles which would influence her own personal style tremendously.

The young Nova Scotian quickly learned she loved to sing. More than that, she had a beautiful voice and a natural talent for music. Her aptitude, appetite, and ambitious nature prompted her to ask her parents to provide her with more formal training. To her delight, her parents obliged. They enrolled her in music lessons, and soon, Portia was happily walking ten miles a week for tutelage. By the time she was eight years old, Portia White had honed her vocalist skills so finely that she was asked to sing Italian opera on Canadian radio broadcasts.

Teaching Career

In 1929, after graduating from high school, eighteen-year-old Portia White went to university. She studied pedagogy at at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Upon attaining her degree, she taught primary school in various black Nova Scotian communities. One of the most colourful of these was Africville, a shoreside suburb of Halifax. In the early 1930’s, this community, with its little two-room schoolhouse, was populated almost entirely by black Nova Scotians. Most of the ancestors of Portia’s students there had fled slavery in the Colonial United States. Another town in which White taught was Lucasville, another Halifax suburb. This community was founded by black refugees who fled to Canada during the War of 1812.

While she worked as a teacher, Portia White continued her musical education. Throughout the 1930’s, she trained as a mezzo-soprano vocalist at the Halifax Conservatory of Music. Nearly every year, she showcased her talent at the Halifax Music Festival. On at least four occasions, she won the Helen Campbell Kennedy Cup, the highest honour that the music festival awarded. Portia White won this silver trophy so many times that the music festival’s sponsors eventually allowed her to keep it. “The gave me a boost,” said Portia of the incident in a later reminiscence.

In 1939, the Halifax Ladies’ Musical Club granted Portia a scholarship. This money enabled her to study under celebrated Canadian vocal instructor Ernesto Vinci at the Halifax Conservatory of Music. Vinci quickly observed that Portia was not making full use of her voice as a mezzo-soprano. Accordingly, he instructed her to sing contralto, allowing her to exploit a deeper register to which her voice was better suited. Under Vinci’s guidance, Portia White began to truly flourish as a vocalist.

Musical Career

Throughout 1940, Portia White performed a number of recitals at both Acadia and Mount Allison University. The following year, she sang for a much larger audience at the Eaton Auditorium in Toronto, Ontario. Critics praised her performance in Toronto’s Globe and Mail and the Toronto Evening Telegram, and almost overnight Portia White became a national celebrity.

After several additional performances in Toronto, White made her American debut at New York City’s Town Hall in 1944. Her program included both European opera and Negro spirituals, and was extremely well-received. After performing twice more at the same venue, she signed with Columbia Concerts Inc. and went on tour. Throughout the latter half of the 1940’s, Portia White sang in cities across North America, from Canada to the United States to Latin America.

In time, life on the road proved to be too much for Portia. In 1952, the 41-year-old diva retired from the stage and returned to her former profession, teaching. Instead of teaching elementary school in historic black communities, however, Portia White began teaching voice in Toronto.

White continued to teach music for the rest of her life, returning to the stage on at least two different occasions. On October 6, 1964, she sang for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in Charlottetown, PEI, in the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Her final performance took place at Ottawa’s 1967 World Baptist Federation. The following year, Portia White passed away, succumbing to cancer.


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