BLACK HOLE TREASURE HUNTER (February 25/03)

Active Living Section, The Advertiser

Like many men born near the rugged Bay of Fundy in the 19th century, Josh Hazel (1875-1957) went to work while still a boy; he farmed, fished and by necessity was a jack-of-all-trades. “He grew up in tough times and probably was a hard person to get along with; but he was a good man who had many interests,” Lewis Hazel says of his father. “In his early days he was a carpenter; he made wagons, played the fiddle and organ and was a good singer. He didn’t have much schooling but was well educated from reading a lot.”

Born in the Arlington area of the North Mountain, Josh Hazel operated a farm and weir. Hazel owned about 500 acres of timberland at Black Hole, a tiny community immediately east of Baxter’s Harbour on the Bay of Fundy.

Farming the few acres of cleared land on his holdings, tending weir on the Bay and logging pulpwood on his timberland should have kept Hazel busy year around; but for 40 years Josh also ran a mail route in North Mountain communities near Canning. Then there was his other interest, an avocation that became a life-long passion. When he was a young man, the treasure-hunting bug bit Hazel; he spent decades searching the Fundy shore, becoming a legend of sorts in the folklore of the area.

“There was a lot of digging and searching going on and many stories circulating about buried treasure on the Bay of Fundy when he was growing up,” Lewis Hazel says, perhaps explaining why his father went treasure hunting. “Stories have been handed down from generation to generation; hearing them, Dad believed some of them must be true. He got caught up in all the speculating about buried treasure and joined in the hunt.”

Lewis Hazel said his father “spent a lot of his spare time looking for treasure and became expert at searching.” Lewis was a boy when his father took up the hunt in earnest. “Dad believed if anyone buried something of value, they’d have to leave clues to where it was so they could return and reclaim it later. He looked for unusual piles of stones or anything that might be pointers or markers.” After a while, Lewis said, his father narrowed his search to the beach and woods around Black Hole.

But why the Black Hole area? Why this barren, isolated coastline with its ancient basalt cliffs and hazardous tides?

It’s speculation but Josh Hazel may have concentrated on Black Hole because folklore indicated it was the best place to look. Black Hole, or Black Hole Harbour as it’s marked on old maps, is a deep cove folklore says was often used by smugglers and pirates. When people tell stories about buried treasure, Black Hole is always mentioned; over the years the place has become synonymous with pirates and hidden gold.

One of the folk tales about treasure and Black Hole is remembered by Arlan Steele, Long Beach Road: “I heard my mother say ‘way back that her father had this dream three nights in a row; he dreamed that there was money buried at Black Hole. But for some reason he never went to where this money was buried.

“That summer her relatives came home and went over there (Black Hole) on a picnic. They saw where someone had been digging and heard money had been found. The brook there parted and made a little island… and that’s where they dug the money up.”

Mabel Lockhart, 93, of Medford, heard a similar story when she was growing up near the Bay of Fundy. “They word was a man who used to drive the mail up here found some treasure. They thought he found it at Black Hole but maybe that was just a story.”

Tom Taylor, Nichols Road, grew up on the Bay of Fundy shore and heard many tales of pirates and buried treasure. “My mother had a childhood infatuation with tales about Captain Bluebeard who was said to frequent the Bay and perhaps pulled into a harbour during a storm.”

Taylor scoffs at the tales but he remembers one story circulating when he was a boy about a postal driver who suddenly seemed to have lots of money. Like Lockhart and Taylor, Arlan Steele remembers a similar story about a postal driver striking it rich. Another lifelong resident of this area, Roy (Junior) Lyons of Scots Bay, heard similar tales of treasure being discovered near Black Hole.

Recently, the website called Mysteries of Canada published a tale about Black Hole Harbour claiming that a large hoard of pirate treasure – perhaps the largest in the world – is buried there. About 200 years ago, the website article says, Norwegian pirates hid a huge amount of gold coins at Black Hole and it’s still there.

Some of the tales about buried treasure on the North Mountain and Bay of Fundy have a common theme: Someone of little means suddenly has money to burn, the tales go, and they spend it conspicuously. Everyone believes this person found buried treasure, usually it’s pirate gold, but he’s close-mouthed about his newfound wealth.

In the 1940s stories circulated that Josh Hazel’s long search for treasure was rewarded. Hazel is often identified in Kings County folklore as the mail driver who suddenly had lots of money from a mysterious source; his devotion to searching for buried treasure long the talk of the area, it was concluded he had finally struck it rich.

Until the day he died in his 82nd year in 1975, Josh Hazel never confirmed or denied that he’d found pirate treasure. “He simply refused to talk about it to anyone,” says one man who knew Hazel. “Anytime I asked him, he smiled.”

While cautious about what he says, Lewis Hazel isn’t as reticent as his father was in talking about buried treasure. Broached about the topic at his Bains Road resident recently, he confirmed that folklore had it right: Josh Hazel had found some of the gold long rumoured to be buried at Black Hole. In fact, Lewis said, Hazel had made more than one find.

“Dad and a partner found something of value under the falls at Black Hole in the early 1940s,” Hazel said, but he isn’t sure exactly what it was since his father was secretive about it.

Spurred on by the find, Hazel continued his search, recruiting Lewis who was in his teens at the time to help him. Moving away from the beach, Hazel narrowed the search to his property above the falls. “Dad’s persistence paid off,” Hazel said. “I don’t want to say what the markers were, but he found some that indicated where to dig inland well away from the beach. This was in 1947. I was with him when he unearthed coins, gold coins.”

Understandably, Lewis Hazel is reluctant to discuss the find. He identified the coins as Norwegian in origin, said some were dated late 17th and early 18th century, but isn’t sure how many his father found. “I never shared in any of Dad’s find,” he said.

According to Lewis, Josh Hazel sold the coins, a few in number, in the States, used the money to buy a couple of new cars – one a Cadillac that Josh drove for years delivering mail – and to finance further exploration for treasure. “Dad purchased a metal detector in the States and continued to search around Black Hole,” Lewis said. “In 1948 he found a few more gold coins, also Norwegian.”

Lewis Hazel hints that his father’s research led him to believe there are other caches of gold, or some kind of treasure, buried in Kings County. As well as inheriting his father’s Black Hole property (which he later sold) Lewis may also know the areas Josh was thinking about searching. On this topic Lewis Hazel is silent.

Note: Word is that spurred on by the centuries-old legends of pirate gold at Black Hole Harbour as recounted on the website, Mysteries of Canada, a Japanese film crew will visit the Bay of Fundy this summer to produce a documentary on buried treasure.

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