A TALE OF TOMBS AND TREASURE (July 4/03)

The tomb of a long-dead mariner uncovered accidentally near the Bay of Fundy shore; a copper scroll possibly from the 17th century with a map and arcane markings; a rough map in an old book indicating that somewhere along the shore in Kings County lies a shipwreck with a chest containing gold.

These are the elements of a tale told to me recently by Lewis Hazel, the son of a man who was a local legend, treasure hunter Josh Hazel. Hazel is one of a few men rumoured to have found buried treasure in this area. I wrote about Hazel in the February 25 issue of Regional Magazine. The story of Hazel’s long and eventually successful search was based on interviews with Lewis Hazel.

Like others in his time, Josh Hazel had been captivated by tales of buried treasure circulating around the Bay of Fundy. As I related in the article, Hazel eventually discovered a small cache gold coins in the Black Hole area. During an interview with Lewis Hazel after the Regional Magazine article appeared, I learned that his father had discovered a map in an old book indicating the Black Hole area was a good place to search.

After the Black Hole find, Josh Hazel concentrated his search for buried treasure on the Minas Basin shore. What turned him in this direction was the discovery by Lewis of a burial site on his Black Hole property. As Lewis tells it, he was clearing a logging road and in the process dynamited a large rock that was in the way. Beneath the rock, Lewis found a tomb or crypt of rectangular shape had been cut into a ledge. There was evidence, Lewis says, that someone had been buried there. “You could see an outline where the body had laid and a few pieces of clothing still remained,” he said.

At the grave site, Lewis discovered a stone cross and a large copper plate or plaque containing an inscription and a map. “The inscription was in a language we didn’t know,” Lewis said, “but my father, working with a partner, had it translated in the States.”

According to Lewis, the inscription on the plate told about a ship being pursued up the Bay of Fundy into the Minas Basin where it apparently went aground during a storm and was abandoned. The plaque contained two dates, 1651 and 1682; it also indicated that the ship’s captain was buried at the site and that the ship contained valuables. A rough map on the plaque showed what appeared to be the Cape Split and Minas Basin shoreline and there were indications that the ship had foundered on what Josh Hazel concluded was the Habitant River.

Lewis Hazel hopes one day to write a book, or have a book written, about his father’s lifelong career as a treasure hunter; the story of Josh Hazel’s two-year search of the Minas Basin shore for the Habitant River shipwreck will then be told in its entirety.

Lewis Hazel told me some of the story and its amazing conclusion, but research needs to be done before it can be put into print.

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