09 November 2016

Captain Kidd's Treasures

Dixons in the News

I've been having way too much fun with the Elizabeth Daily Journal digital collection from the Elizabeth (NJ) Public Library. Here's a series of stories featuring Alexander, Harvey, and William H. Dixon. Are they related to me? Possibly, though I've yet to find the connection. In any case they must have been known to my Dixons. Occupation [oystermen] and location [Elizabeth Port] all make it very likely.


Wednesday, 22 May 1872

Captain Kidd’s Treasures (1)


This morning the Port was alive with an excitement, the like of which has not so stirred it for many a day. For once the quiet locality is bristling with news and every one has something to say about the great event which has just taken place. Scarcely a question is asked except about the wonderful discovery yesterday, and the fishermen, oyster men, and owners of boats of any kind are almost wild over it.

A few days ago it will be remembered, a man named Jerry Van Pelt was dredging about the sound in the vicinity of the brickyard, when in hauling in his rakes he was surprised to find three Spanish dollars in them. His good luck was soon noised abroad and created quite a little excitement among the fishermen, and much speculation was indulged in as to how these coins came to be in that locality.

The old story of 
and of his buried treasure was the only one that in any way accounted for the strange discovery, and to this same generous Kidd, who seems to have strewn the coast from Maine to Florida with silver and gold, the most of which yet remains for lucky finders, was attributed the goodness of having placed those three Spanish dollars in the Sound.

But though Van Pelt was the first in luck he was not the greatest. His own efforts to secure more of the 
were not so successful as those of his fellow oystermen. Since the day he found the money, every oysterman has plied his vocation with special assiduity, and a particular liking for the oysters that grew just off the brick yard. Yesterday the perseverance was rewarded.

Alex. Dickson, Harvey Dickson and William H. Dickson, [Dixon] three brothers, determined in fraternal union to search for the buried treasure. Yesterday morning they got out their boat, pulled down to the docks at the brickyard, anchored out at a short distance from the shore and commenced dredging. They must have hit upon the
of Kidd’s or someone else’s treasures. For three hours they worked as men seldom worked before, and in that time they drew out
Alec was most fortunate. He secured sixty pieces, while Harvey and William got respectively thirteen and five. They then came away; there seeming to be no other luck in store for them.

is partly in good preservation, and the figures and inscriptions are quite plain to read. Most of it, however, is battered and beaten till the pieces are hardly recognizable as money. The largest pieces seem to be Spanish dollars. One of them is dated 1604, others have later dates upon them.

The query is, how did they get in the water? This cannot be answered but by the hypothesis already explained. The finding of the money has caused the greatest excitement, and all who own boats and can fish will probably be after the remainder of the silver.

of coins of the same or greater value is supposed to buried somewhere in the Sound and a thorough search will no doubt be instituted for it.
Thursday, 23 May 1872

The Captain Kidd Treasure. (2)


The excitement created by the finding of eighty pieces of silver in the sound, has become almost a mania among some of the oystermen. Yesterday the Dixon brothers had their wonderful luck supplemented by finding thirty one pieces more, and this morning the fortune seekers are more numerous than ever.

“There’s a kind of a hole," said one of the Dixon’s to our reporter this morning, “and right down in the bottom of this is the silver.”

“Do you think there’s more of it in that place?” he was asked.

“Do I think there’s more? I just do, and I’m going to get these tongs fixed if I can get any one to do it for me.”


He showed a fine pair of oyster-tongs, about 18 or 14 feet long and the jaws about four feet in length. They could have cost but little less than ten dollars.

“The hole,” he continued, “is only about three feet wide and my tongs are too big to go down in it. I’m going to have them cut off so that I can get them down.” And he dashed away down toward a blacksmith’s shop, as though he was going to have it done in a minute, and as though he feared some one with shorter tongs would get the silver before he did. It is altogether probable that he will haul up a whole chest when the tongs get fixed so that they can go deep enough into that hole. It might be worth while to dive first and see what its there. There is only eleven feet of water at dead low tide and if there is plenty of silver, then let the diver come up and dig for it with the tongs again.

But where, if this good luck continues to the Dixon brothers, is all this to end. Besides having got so may pieces of silver they pulled up a pair of 

minus only the glasses. This certainly looks as if there were many more articles in the water, and it is hardly to be wondered that they work day and night to secure these other yet hidden treasures. But the question comes back, If all the oystermen go to hunting for silver what will we do for oysters?

Friday, 24 May 1872

The Kidd Treasury (3)


At last the yellow metal has been found, the pure, solid, undoubted gold. and the Dixon brothers, on whom of late Fortune has not only smiled but “snickered right out," are again the lucky possessors of treasure trove. Yesterday they had their tongs fixed and re-commenced their search with renewed activity, zeal and vigor. Their success, how ever was hardly commensurate to their labor, unless this

should turn out to be of greater value than its weight in gold. 

All day yesterday the brothers Billy and Harvey toiled tediously at the oyster tongs, but their labors were rewarded only by six pieces of silver and the one of more precious metal. This last is said to be, by those who know, nothing else than pure gold. It is rather small in size, compared with the “cob” dollars among which it was found, being only about three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The date is illegible, but there are some other letters and figures which are quite plain. The piece is not exactly round but has a small stem protruding form the edge. On one side of the coin near the top are the Roman characters VIII., and just below this is the figure 8. On the reverse side the letters P and R are the only ones legible. The coin weighs about half an ounce. Yesterday the Dixons took a number of their coins to New York and sold them to good advantage.


Among those shrewd enough to secure some of the most ancient of these relics, found by the Dixon brothers, was Robert McCloud. One of the pieces in his possession for which he has refused $25, bears the name and insignia of Pope Pius I. on it’s face, and the date of his reign. This piece is silver and about the size of a dime of our money. On another, the size of a silver dollar, the letters of the word Hispania can be discerned with the aid of a magnifying glass. Besides these are a Hebrew and Belgian coins, both of very ancient date. A special reporter of the New York Herald visited Mr. McCloud last night in company with an expert numismatist, who clearly demonstrated that the coins were of the ancient date stated above and tried very hard to purchase one of them, but without success.


It is now beginning to be believed that some time or other there was plenty of money in the Port — that probably some of the streets were experimentally paved with it and in taking the pavement up again some of the coins were lost. The reason for this belief is found in the fact that on Friday last Mr. P.J. Dwyer, who lives o the corner of First street and Magnolia avenue found a copper coin, worth as much perhaps as one of the Dixon’s silver dollars. He was digging a post hole and came across the coin, and after a good deal of trouble succeeded in cleaning it so that the inscriptions could be read. The coin bears the date of 1786, two years prior to the election of George Washington to the Presidency of these United States. Above the date are the figures of a plow augmented by a horse’s head, and around the edge of the coin are the words “Nova Caester.” On the opposite side is a large shield inside a circle formed of the words “ E Pluribus Unum.” Mr. Dwyer values his copper coin far beyond the price of a half dozen ordinary “Cob” dollars.

Saturday, 25 May 1872

Captain Kidd’s Treasury. (4)

The excitement about the money found in the Sound is beginning to die away. Yesterday, with all their exertions and labors, the Dixons were able to find only two pieces, and these of no very great value.

The report that the oystermen were going to petition Congress not to make an appropriation for dredging the Sound, and that they had begged permission to dredge it themselves for no other compensation than what they might find is, we are  authorized to say, entirely unfounded.

Monday, 27 May 1872

About Town. (5)

Sunday was about as perfect day as they ever make them.

Police officer Cave has a pistol bearing date 1812 — Capt. Kidd’s, no doubt.

The silver divers were at work yesterday, but without success.

T.W. Sloan has a cent that was melted on the top of a safe in the Chicago fire.

The spotted fever and the measles have broken out at 105 and 107 Elizabeth avenue. [George J. Cave, policeman, h 105 Elizabeth av] [Isaac D. Howard, carpenter, h 107 Elizabeth av]


A few notes

That's all I've discovered about the Dixon brothers and their sunken treasure so far. Any updates will be added to this page, and noted as such.
The Sound referred to in the articles is the Long Island Sound.  

If you are related to this batch of Dixons, drop me a note or leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you. Are there any stories of sunken treasure and Spanish silver in your family lore?
(1) "Captain Kidd's Treasures." Elizabeth Daily Journal, Wednesday, 22 May 1872. Volume 2, Number 404.  Page 3, column 3. Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey. Digital image, Elizabeth (NJ) Public Library, http://www.digifind-it.com/elizabeth/newspapers.php . Downloaded 6 November 2016. 
(2) "The Captain Kidd Treasure." Elizabeth Daily Journal. Elizabeth, Union County, NJ. Thursday, May 23, 1872. Volume 2, Number 405. Page 3, column 3. Downloaded from the Elizabeth (NJ) Public Library website; http://www.digifind-it.com/elizabeth/newspapers.php ; 6 November 2016. 
(3) "The Kidd Treasury." Elizabeth Daily Journal. Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey. Friday, 24 May 1872; Volume 2, Number 406. Page 3, column 3. Downloaded from the Elizabeth (NJ) Public Library website; http://www.digifind-it.com/elizabeth/newspapers.php ; 6 November 2016. 
(4) "Captain Kidd's Treasury." Elizabeth Daily Journal. Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey. Saturday, 25 May 1872; Volume 2, Number 407. Page 3, column 5. Downloaded from the Elizabeth (NJ) Public Library website; http://www.digifind-it.com/elizabeth/newspapers.php ; 6 November 2016.
(5) "About Town." Elizabeth Daily Journal. Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey. Monday, 27 May 1872; Volume 2, Number 408. Page 3, column 6. Downloaded from the Elizabeth (NJ) Public Library website; http://www.digifind-it.com/elizabeth/newspapers.php ; 6 November 2016.

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