Explore Oak Island Display  Chester Train Station, 20 Smith Road,
© Chester Municipal Heritage Society 2013
Articles and stories about the island and its treasure
Has the Treasure of Oak Island Been Found? By: Danny Hennigar    Back in the heyday of the Oak Island Tourism Society’s involvement with Oak Island (2001 - 2009) and their thwarted attempt at establishing a permanent tourism attraction, much new information came to light that had previously been hidden in people’s closets and or memories.  One of the goals of the OITS was to re - invigorate the interest in this enigmatic bit of Nova Scotia heritage and in no time flat the OITS was literally besieged with calls from newspapers, magazines, journalists and documentary film makers all wanting a crack at a good story.  One year, we even had a reporter from the Wall Street Journal cover our three day festival, Explore Oak Island Days, and he even got to sit down with famed treasure Dan Blankenship for an exclusive talk about theories and Oak Island treasure hunting.  Almost at the same time the OITS was starting a new Oak Island web site sprang up hosted and maintained by a delightful young lady from London England.  One day, a new person showed up on her once wildly popular discussion forum who identified himself with a nickname of “Nick”also from England.  He had a amazing and never before heard story to tell. It was such a new story that even “Nick” had only recently heard it himself from an elderly relative.  His father had been stationed in Halifax attached to the British military in some capacity in the 1960s and upon hearing the fascinating story of Oak Island, he took it upon himself to go to the island and do some exploring with a metal detector.  Apparently his dad was a bit of a treasure hunter and historical researcher. Unfortunately, there is not much more to tell as the family history of this find was very sketchy as it was and the relative, being in her 80s, was struggling for her memory of what she had been told.    Nick was kind enough to show actual photos of the coin and one brash member of the discussion forum declared it to be “a coin issued during the time of Charles the Bold, Duc of Burgundy (1467-77).” Not being one to take up a challenge on the proper identification of mediaeval coinage I left that debate in the hands of the pseudo experts and another day.    A story about another coin found on Oak Island was chronicled by well known and respected Nova Scotia writer, historian and lawyer Reginald Harris in his book, The Oak Island Mystery.  His story told us of the discovery of a coin also found in the 1960s by a group of students from Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts also with a metal detector.  This coin was reported to be a Spanish coin dated 1598.  As I was able to talk to the actual student who found it (many years later), this is a story I can personally vouch for.    Then there is the story I got from a gentleman in Florida who made it his business to make personal contact with me after he read an interview I gave to a popular American esoteric magazine in which I discussed the history of Oak Island. His story was not of artifacts or old treasure maps but maybe his story has solved one of Oak Island’s greatest mysteries, where is the elusive treasure?  His tale begins in Vietnam and the conflict that took so many young men and threw a country into a soul searching tailspin.  Young Americans and even some Canadians too were lured to this war by nationalism, a sense of adventure, pride or the draft and the ever lingering threat of advancing Communism. His involvement was that of an Air Force Colonel and later as an operative with the Central Intelligence Agency, the famous CIA.  I have no idea if his story is one of fabrication or over inflation with gross amounts of embellishment and to be honest, it didn’t much matter, it did not affect the outcome or the account, but he claims to have met up with a fellow officer who’s surname was McGinnis and who’s family once hailed from Nova Scotia and more importantly and exactly, Oak Island Nova Scotia.   McGinnis and the Colonel did not meet in Viet Nam, but later, back on home soil they became good friends and often talked of their experiences.  One thing that McGinnis shared with the Colonel was that he was from Nova Scotia and his connections with the famous island.  As the Colonel listened he grew more interested until a trip north was seriously discussed but later shelved especially after preliminary conversations with the Department of Natural Resources and their Treasure Trove policies, procedures, Island ownership and so on.  One of McGinnis’ peculiarities was that he always wore a sailor’s or captain’s hat, the one that has the shiny peak and white top adorned with a gold ship’ anchor.  Around his neck he wore a heavy gold chain and a cross, also of gold.   The two friends often talked of Oak Island, military life and the draw McGinnis felt to Nova Scotia, a place he traveled to and felt the family connection very strongly.  But the greatest confidentiality McGinnis withheld and then eventually shared with his friend was that the McGinnis, Vaughan and Smith families, the people credited with starting the treasure hunt had found the treasure back in 1795 and never breathed a word to anyone.  McGinnis’ cross and chain were in fact, bona fide Oak Island treasure.  Being the skeptic I am, I asked the Colonel what ever happened to McGinnis’ treasure and it was then I discovered he has surviving family who are also aware of the family story and upon the death of McGinnis, the chain and cross went to his sister.  The Colonel gave me the sister’s phone number and you can well imagine, I was quick to give her a call to follow up on this story.  The phone rang and while I awaited an answer, I wondered what this woman may think of a call from some random stranger in Nova Scotia asking about her brother.  Would I be intruding, would she think this was some sort of scam or I was a nut, was this all too personal or worse, was the Colonel leading me astray in some kind of cruel joke?  As soon as Ms. McGinnis answered the phone she was intrigued how I came to her virtual door and in no time we had a great, seamless conversation much of it about her brother and of course, the treasure. From the beginning, as much as I tried to remain neutral, the story became quite credible.      She tells me she now owns the cross and had it examined by appraisers who told her the cross was over 600 years old and was not poured or molded, but was hammered and hand formed, shaped, and is beautiful.     Ms. McGinnis informed through family legend that three boxes of treasure came out of the ground back in 1795 or thereabouts and that each family member, McGinnis (spelled several ways), Smith and Vaughan each took a box. The three discoverers reportedly were sworn to secrecy and eventually the story got buried very deeply, if you will excuse the pun.  The tale continues that the McGinnis’ were “swindled out of their rights” and eventually that part of the family, remnants of treasure in hand, ended up in America to pursue a life free of Oak Island and prying eyes.   Even today, Ms. McGinnis and her siblings are concerned of approach by government or “big business” and their possible reach out for McGinnis’ treasure or what precious little remains.  This part of the McGinnis family has visited Oak Island as far back as the 1970s and more recently in 2008 when a sister brazenly drove across the causeway and had a self guided tour of the island in defiance of my advise to the contrary, but sometimes, you just have to follow your heart and do what you think is right I guess.   Oak Island has many tales to tell, some are fraught with obvious embellishment and gross inaccuracies, some are food for thought, this last story falls in the latter category for me, what about you?