The Years of '04
I thought it would be fun to take a look at the significant years surrounding the mystery of Oak Island that end in ’04 – 1304, 1404, 1504, 1604, 1704, 1804, 1904, and 2004. Certainly, a lot of other years saw major work done and major history taking place, but these '04 years seem to hold at least some special significance.
We begin with the Knights Templar. The Templars had many enemies, and by 1304, false rumors began circulating throughout Europe. Enter King Philip IV. The allegations against the Templars included heresy, sodomy, unspeakable crimes against God, Christ, the Church and Europe, as well as witchcraft, treason, perversion, and many other such heinous offenses. King Philip, using his influence over Pope Clement V, issued a warrant for the arrest of the Templars, to be carried out on Friday, October 13, 1307. What happened to this enigmatic Order has been the subject of speculation ever since, and many have linked its demise to the beginning of the treasure hunt on Oak Island. Some even believe that the Templars made it to Oak Island, as depicted in the drawing below created by Larry Andrews.
A few things happened in 1404 of interest.
First, Joan Beaufort was born. She was the wife of King James I of Scotland. This couple continued the long line of kings named James, which created the “Jacobite” wars, leading to many Scots escaping to Nova Scotia, and also to the eventual birth of James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England and Ireland, essentially creating Great Britain.
Below is a painting of King James I of Scotland followed by a drawing of his wife Joan Beaufort, born in 1404.
King James I of Scotland met Joan during his time as a youthful prisoner in England. She is said to have been the inspiration for King James' famous long poem “The Kingis Quair,” written during his captivity, after he saw her from his window in the garden. The marriage was at least partially political, as their marriage was part of the agreement for his release from captivity. From an English perspective an alliance with the Beauforts was meant to establish his country's alliance with the English, rather than the French. Negotiations resulted in Joan's dowry of 10,000 merks being subtracted from James's substantial ransom.
So here was an early attempt to combine the kingdoms of Scotland and England, which eventually happened under Joan’s and James’ 3rd generation great grandson, James VI of Scotland, James I of England and Ireland, the very man who named Nova Scotia.
This James I of Great Britain helped devise the plan for Nova Scotia, or a New Scotland, along with Sir William Alexander. In fact, it was in the charter given to Alexander that Nova Scotia was first named this. He and Sir Francis Bacon were both on the Privy Council of this king, and both held high government positions. Bacon became the Council to King James I of Great Britain in 1604. More on that year soon. Both Alexander and Bacon were very fond of authoring books, poems, plays, etc. If there was ever a link of Sir Francis Bacon to Nova Scotia (and thus Oak Island), this is it.
Also in 1404, the King of England issued a decree that only Scottish ships should be seized, thus accenting the antagonism that existed between these lands. His decree read, in part:
“Nevertheless, it is our will that neither you nor any of our lieges, who set forth in company with you in the said barge, under Colour of Presents, in any way seize any ships, barges, or other vessels, or any merchandise, goods, or chattels, belonging to subjects of the kingdoms of France, Spain, Portugal, or of any other countries whatsoever, but those only which are of the kingdom of Scotland.”
This antagonism lasted until James VI became James I of Great Britain.
Below is a painting of James I of Great Britain (James VI of Scotland) who named Nova Scotia, and created the Baronets of Nova Scotia.
Patrick Hamilton was born 1504 into a rich family who were related to the king. At the age of about fourteen he went to university in Paris. While he was there he heard about the teachings of Martin Luther. Luther had been a priest but now he was teaching and writing about the corruption and what he perceived as the false teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
Luther was shocking everyone by declaring that men and women could only get to Heaven by putting their faith in Jesus Christ, and not by their good works. He said that people should be allowed to read the Bible for themselves to see if what he was saying was true. His writings became the foundation of the Lutheran Church.
It wasn't long before the Anglican Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland were formed. Patrick became the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation – the first person to die for his faith in the long battle between Catholic and Protestant forces.
It was this very battle that caused Nova Scotia to be the target of Great Britain. Years later, in 1620, the Mayflower Puritans complained of French Catholics living at Port Royal, Nova Scotia. James I asked Sir William Alexander to gather up some Scottish forces to expel the French.
Sir William Alexander refers to his first connection with the Nova Scotia scheme, writing: “Being much encouraged hereunto by Ferdinando (Frederick) Gorges and some utheris of the undertakers for New England, I shewed them that my countrymen would never adventure in such an enterprise, unless it were, as there was a New France, a New Spain, and a New England, that they might likewise have a New Scotland.”
This was the very moment that the idea of settling Nova Scotia as a New Scotland was conceived.
When the War of the Spanish Succession (also called Queen Anne's War) widened to include England in 1702, it spawned conflict between the colonies of England and France in North America. Joseph Dudley, the governor of the English Province of Massachusetts Bay (which then included present-day Maine), sought in June 1703 to ensure the neutrality of the Abenakis tribe which occupied the frontier between Massachusetts and New France (including Quebec, Nova Scotia and beyond). In this he was unsuccessful, because New France's governor, knowing he would have to rely on Indian support for defense against the more numerous English, had already encouraged the Indians to take up arms. Following the Wabanaki Confederacy of Acadia military campaign against the New England frontier during the summer of 1703, the English colonists embarked on largely unsuccessful retaliatory raids against Abenaki villages. This prompted the Abenakis to participate in a raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts under French leadership in February 1704. The severity of this raid (more than 50 villagers killed and more than 100 captured) prompted calls for revenge, and the veteran Indian fighter Benjamin Church offered his services for an expedition against the French colony of Acadia (roughly present-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and eastern Maine).
Benjamin Church focused, for the most part, on attacking the leeward side of Nova Scotia, particularly the settlements in the Bay of Fundy. However, he may have made it to Mahone Bay, or those escaping his wrath may have made it to Mahone Bay. One or the other may have actually been responsible for the 1704 stone.
Fast forward to 1959. A 59-year-old steelworker, Robert Restall, quit his $150-a-week job in 1959 and moved to Oak Island with his wife, Mildred, and their sons, Bobbie and Rickey, then 24 and 14. The Restalls lived there, in a two-room cabin beside the Money Pit.
In 1965, Robert Restall’s six-year hunt for the Oak Island treasure came to a tragic halt when, while checking on an eight-metre shaft, he was overcome by fumes and toppled to the water-filled bottom. His son, Bobbie, along with helpers Carl Graeser and Cyril Hiltz, dashed into the pit to help, but all three men also lost consciousness and drowned. Probable cause of death: carbon monoxide from the gasoline water pumps, or methane gases escaping from below.
Restall calculated that his quest for Oak Island’s elusive hoard cost almost $100,000. Yet all he had to show for it was an olive-colored stone chiseled with the date “1704,” which he found in one of the holes he had dug. Some have said that the stone was planted there by the crew of Edmond Hamilton, a New York University civil engineering professor.
As one Oak Island treasure hunter put it - “Even Dan Blankenship will tell you the Restall 1704 stone is a plant and he claims to be able to give you the man's name who planted it as a simple joke, a prank. Mind you, as with many other pieces of Oak Island evidence, there is reason to seriously question this claim. There is not a piece of evidence in existence (or lost) with which a gifted crafter cannot find fault with. In the end, one can always default to the position that every bit of it is planted or fake because none of the discoveries were subject to scientific discovery/rigor. As you well know, I am not in that camp, I have thought about every bit of it, but in the end, after the results of my investigation and careful consideration, I am willing to accept a great deal of it, but not all of it. I learn more new material all the time which changes my opinions one way or another.”
This is the same thing that plagues all Oak Island researchers – How much do we accept as fact, and how much as fiction?
Above is a photo of the 1704 stone provided by Doug Crowell, and below is a photo of the Restalls in front of one of their digs, holding the 1704 stone.
The money Pit was said to be found in 1795, However, the first organized, large scale dig did not begin until 1804. The Onslow Syndicate began excavations in the Money Pit in that year. They find notches in the sides every ten feet down, where oak platforms were originally embedded. At 30 feet, charcoal is encountered, likely used in a ventilation furnace. At 40 feet, a lot of putty is encountered, likely used for sealing an air vent or to plug water leaks. At 50 feet, beach stones are encountered, likely used for backfilling the flood tunnel. At 60 feet, much coconut fibre is found, perhaps used for rope, or caulking with putty.
At the 90 foot level, a large stone slab weighing 175-500 pounds measuring 24-36 inches by 12-16 inches is found, possibly with an encoded inscription facing down. Also at 90 feet, water is slowly seeping through the clay. At the 93 foot level, the ground is probed with an iron bar. At 98 feet, it strikes a another wood platform, the first not at 10 foot spacing. The extent of the wood is bounded by the sides of the pit. Digging is halted for the day. (A university professor later supposedly deciphers the rock message as "forty feet below two million pounds lie buried". The stone disappears in the 1930s.
In July of 1904, Frederick Blair's agent Harry F. Black of Amherst applies for and is granted a 40-year lease under the Nova Scotia Mines Act on an area 450 by 500 feet on Oak Island to mine gold and silver, with exclusive right to deal with land owner. This begins the inclusion of modern-day drilling and digging machines, which allow searchers to reach deep levels, but which also allows for enough drilling and bulldozing at the Money Pit site to eventually obscure the true location of the Pit.
On January 22, 2004, “Rolling Stone Magazine” publishes an article "The Curse of Oak Island". This name later becomes the title of cable TVs “Curse of Oak Island,” which has, on and off, held the record for cable TV viewership.
In 2004, Garnette Blankenship snaps the following photo of the Money Pit lying peacefully beneath the winter snow. Over the next few years, wheels are set in motion for Rick and Marty Lagina, and Craig Tester to join with Dan Blankenship to renew the efforts to solve the Oak Island mystery.