FOLK TALES PERSIST OF ACADIAN TREASURE (August 14/98)

“How often have I sat and listened as a boy to my relatives and friends telling of (Acadian) money found in different places in Kings and Annapolis Counties,” A. L. Morse wrote in a letter penned in 1935.

This is how Mr. Morse introduced his topic, Acadian treasure, in a letter to the Berwick Register. Mr. Morse went on to give an account of how his ancestors unearthed a pot containing coins or gold secreted by the Acadians during the Expulsion. As you will note when you see excerpts from this letter below, the Acadian treasure was found by Mr. Morse’s great-grandfather. In other words, the account he gives is supposed to be true.

Nova Scotia is rich in tales of buried treasure, by pirates, by visitors from foreign shores, by religious and semi-religious groups and, of course, by the Acadians. During the turmoil of the Expulsion say some of the local folk tales, the Acadians, expecting to return, buried prized possessions. Many of these possessions, which in some cases were small fortunes in coins, supposedly still lie buried in various parts of Kings and Hants County near Acadian homesteads. Another common folk tale tells of these secret hoards being discovered and bringing instant wealth. Mr. Morse’s tale of his great-grandfather’s find is in this vein.

Stories of Acadian treasure can be found in various areas of the Valley. I reviewed an unpublished history of Sheffield Mills in this column a while back, for example, and the writer mentioned an “Acadian treasure mound.” References to Acadian treasure are not uncommon in the stories and community histories that have been published over the years. It’s a given that if there was once an Acadian settlement in an area, there’s also a legend about buried treasure. Even though the Acadians were, for the most part, simple farm folk with few earthly possessions – and certainly no hoards of gold and jewels – people like to believe that they hid great treasures at the time of the Expulsion.

The possibility does exist, however, that a few Acadians were wealthy and it’s also possible that this wealth was hidden and never recovered. The fortune discovered by Mr. Morse’s great-grandfather may have been the savings of several Acadian families who pooled and hid the few coins they possessed.

How much of a fortune in Acadian coins did Mr. Morse’s ancestor discover? We are never told but Morse gives us plenty of details on the actual discovery. His great-grandfather is plowing one day, using a team of oxen that once belonged to the Acadians, and the plow struck something solid which at first was thought to be root. “It proved to be the bail of a huge iron pot which caught the point of the plow …. and brought the team up very suddenly,” Morse wrote.

Morse’s great-grandfather quickly discovered that he had found something of great value. According to Morse his ancestor sat on the pot to hide its contents and sent home the neighbor’s boy who was working with him. “My ancestors, young married people, as soon as possible unearthed the pot,” Morse continued, “the contents of which enabled them to erect a fine house.”

Morse added that when his great-grandparents died, which would most likely be late in the 18th or early in the 19th century, they left property valued at $12,000. This was a considerable sum for the time and gives credence to Mr. Morse’s tale about the discovery of Acadian treasure

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