Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Spanish Gold Mystery

This article is transcribed from Boston Globe article written by Willard Francis De Lue (1890-1989) historical writer and editor. Photo with story published December 1951
Salisbury Point----Most of the oldest of this prettiest of Merrimac river villages probably will have forgotten the stories they heard in childhood about the mystery of Spanish Gold. 
But some will remember Ezekiel True*--a great place for Trues in Salisbury town; and if Mr True were around today he could tell them about the Spanish Gold--and also tell them with a twinkle in his eye of how there came to be quite a flurry over it, back 50 years ago. 
Of course, Salisbury Point and neighboring Amesbury Ferry village where different sort of places in the days when the Spanish Gold was buried here. 
How far back that was I don't know; antiquarians would have to tell us that. But it was in the times when there still was a lot of shipping in the Merrimac and when two quiet villages of today were humming with industry. 
From Infant Boat Industry grew along the Merrimack

...Back in the 1800's the Ferry district had more children in its schools and paid more taxes than any other village in Amesbury. 
And about the same time Salisbury Point (annexed to Amesbury in 1836) was the thriving business center of historic old Salisbury town. 
There were shipyards and fish wharves and docks and boat building shops all along the river front. In 1810 42 vessels were built here and in others parts of Amesbury town; and though the building of large vessels fell after the Civil War, in the 1880's there were still seven boat builders at Salisbury Point who between them turned out annually around 2500 dories for the Grand Banks fishing fleets. 
Both the Ferry Village and Salisbury Point have boat shops and yards to this day. But the glorious old times are now only memories-things put down in books.
And though the Ferry does have its hat factory the two villages are mostly just nice residential places that have only taken on a serene contented look.  
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An old ironside drawbridge with its gates still hanging hopefully, though it is tight sealed by the unbroken topping on the road leads out from the Ferry village over the tide-swirled river mouth. 
At its easterly end the Point greets the traveler with both piety and patriotism---a white church giving its benediction from one side of the road and a historical monument bringing stirring memories in a little park on the other.
"Alliance Park" runs the inscription on a tablet set in a grassy place in the parks birchen grove. 
Alliance Park see more photos at Amesbury Dedicates Park To Hackett Shipyard July 22 1930

"Near this site in 1771-1778 one of the first frigates of the Confidential Congress, the Alliance was built by William and John Hackett." And it goes on to tell how the park was given to a memorial association by Augustus  N Parry and William E Biddle some 20 years ago. Biddle still lives in a big stuccoed house nearby. 


.....the Hacketts--skillful and conscientious workmen--and William especially was known as one of the smartest ship wrights along the New England coast. So here they fashioned the Alliance and saw it slide into the Merrimac--to become part of John Paul Jones' fleet in European waters, where it took several engagements and was for a time under Jones' command.  
In 1780 the famous Captain John Barry took command of her in Boston harbor, ad she was his ship until it practically sold from under his feet by a frugal Congress in 1785. Image of Captain John Barry An 1801 Gilbert Stuart portrait
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I rang the bell of a house just near the Alliance marker. 
"I am looking for some long time resident of the Point," I explained to the lady who answered.  "Someone who might know where the Blaisdells lived fifty years ago." 
"Now let me think," said she, after she had taken time to get fresh pies out of the oven. "I wonder if Mrs Merrow wouldn't know."
But, it so happened that Mrs Merrow did not. Mrs Merrow--Mrs Daniel B Merrow SR-- did not. And she was puzzled and provoked about it (and about not knowing of the Spanish Gold) because she was born at the Point ad freely confessed to remembering back a few years. Her house is one of the long arc of the white village homes that look out onto the river....
"I will find out about this Blaidell house," said Mrs Merrow. Ad find out, she did, with a little telephoning.  
It was down at the far ed of the Village; so I continued on, interested to look at it. The Blaisdell house was the house with the Spanish Gold. 
The story had its beginning sometime back in the days when shipping lay off in the stream ad seafarers roamed the village streets. Perhaps some local historian can supply all the details of it; for all I know is that a stranger once turned up at Mrs. Adam Wadleigh's sailors boarding house and some how departed again. 
But in after a few years the word got around that the mysterious stranger had hidden a bag of Spanish doubloons in Mrs Wadliegh's cellar.  A lot of digging was done for it but the gold was never uncovered. 
Eventually the house became the property of Captain Joathan Blaisdell, a Civil War veteran of the town. In 1901 it was occupied by his daughter Lavinia. 
Now comes Ezekiel True, called in by Miss Lavinia to make some repairs. And True remembering the gold story, saw a chace to have some fun. 
"See you're working down at Lavinia's," said a friend. 
True said he was, but was a bit more mysterious about it. 
"Just doing a little job there...diggin' around some..."
Later he dropped a few hints about the Spanish gold. 
So the story flew through town, "Lavinia Blasdell's having Zek True digging for gold in her cellar." 
There was so much fuss that it eve made the newspapers. 
Where the road forks to the east ed of town a couple of old square houses stand on the left of it, with a two story boat shop between them.
Lets see now! One of these was the former Wadleigh-Blaisdell House, But which? The gray house beyond the big red middle chimney?
Mrs Merrow had said, "the one before the boat shop. That would be No 4. 
But I'll let the Point people settle that matter to their own satisfaction. And then if the present owner of the treasure ever decides to have a gold-digging party, I'd appreciate an invitation to take a hand in it!
"Ames Wharf on Merrimac River - Salisbury Point". From ebay sale

Plank Road Salisbury, Massachusetts Built in 1866 to cross salt marshes leading to beach. Beach Road was laid over the early planks as remnants have been found during road work. A local legend maintains that a ship that was supposed to go to Newburyport pulled in to Salisbury and hid gold under the plank road. see Essex County Landscape Report


Merrimac Hat Company were Lavania Blaisdell worked.



Public Documents of Massachusetts, Volume 3


Hackett House o the Point from Legendary Locals of Amesbury book published by Margie Walker
*Ezekiel True (1840-1931) son of Samuel True and Mary Adams. He married Mary Currier (1840-1919)
Amesbury Daily News April 13 1931
Willard Francis deLue scrapbook, 1946-1967

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