The Express and Telegraph Saturday, March 24, 1906
This article is titled: FINDING PIRATE GOLD. The Real Treasure Island.
This is the true story of the real "Treasure Island. "If Robert Louis Stevenson were alive to tell it you would find it fascinating because no boy -with a boy's natural, healthy love of adventure could afford to miss it.
The last of the great pirates who flourished between 1816 and 1820 was a discredited Spanish gentleman, known as Benito Bonito. This pirate (writes the "American Journal"), following the example of Morgan in the Caribbean, had amassed much treasure, which he had concealed somewhere in the West Indies, where he sailed around Cape Horn, captured the English slaver, the Lightning. He compelled all on board to walk the plank except a Frenchman named Chapelle and Thompson, an Englishman, then renamed the ship the Relampago, and, with a prize crew of cutthroats, commenced playing havoc along the Pacific shore of America as far north, as Acapulco, Mexico.
It was not long before the Relampago was so loaded with, treasure that a secure hiding place for this booty became a necessity. It was said to amount to not less than 11,000,000 dollars in our money. Bonito had already fixed his eyes on Cocos Island— a wild, rocky, uninhabited point of land rising out of the Pacific about 500 miles off Panama.
On Cocos Island the Relampago treasure was buried in three parts, but not till there had been a quarrel over the division, which strewed the beach with 15 dead bodies. The remainder of the crew went ashore at Valparaiso for a carouse. They were recognized as pirates, condemned and executed— all but Chapelle and Thompson, who were handed over to the British Government, and Bonito himself, who escaped, only to be hanged before he ever saw Cocos Island and his treasure again. So only two men still lived who knew the exact location of the pirate treasure. Chapelle, the Frenchman, went to Samoa, where he is supposed to have died; with Thompson it was a case of "Twenty Years After," for the year 1839 found him captain of the British brig Mary Dear, floating at anchor in the harbor of Lima, Peru.
Now, when the custodians of this immense treasure saw the British flag fluttering at the peak of the Mary Dear they decided that one of England's ships was a safer place for all this wealth, than a fortress which the revolutionists might capture any day. Captain Thompson agreed with them, and as speedily as possible the transfer was made. Then, as soon as it was dark, Thompson and his crew cut the throats of the guardians of the treasure, slipped their cable and put out to sea. The Mary Dear was a pirate flying the British Ensign instead of the "Jolly Roger." There were pursuers, but the Mary Dear showed them a clean pair of heels, sailing straight for Cocos Island. During the 20 years that had elapsed no detail of that little island coast had escaped Thompson's memory. Here he found himself again with a richer pirate cargo than Bonito had ever collected, and which must be similarly secreted, for otherwise, he knew that the war vessels of half a dozen countries would probably be buzzing about the Mary Dear. Part of the spoil in the hold was distributed among the crew. All the remainder was loaded into 11 of the ship's boats and landed upon the beach.
Thompson's last act on the island was to shoot dead the two besides himself who were the only witnesses of the burial of the treasure. Returning alone to the Mary Dear, he immediately raised anchor and set sail, but not soon enough to escape the Peruvian gunboat that had followed the Mary Dear from Callao. Thompson cunningly surrendered, doubtless feeling certain that no injury would come to the only person alive who knew the secret storage place of the Peruvian treasure. For this reason, both he and his mate were spared, everyone else aboard the Mary Dear being mercilessly shot or hanged. The Peruvian warship immediately put into Wafer Bay, where Thompson and his mate were landed under an armed escort and ordered to recover the treasure. But Thompson was a man of resource. He and the mate managed to elude the guard and hide in the undergrowth. Later they escaped into different caves when squads of sailors landed and poured volleys from their muskets into every thicket on the island. This proceeding lasted for four days. Then the warship drew away, leaving Thompson and the mate marooned. They escaped starvation by eating berries and the eggs of birds until rescued by a vessel that called at Cocos Island for water. They were supposed to be shipwrecked sailors and were carried to the mainland. The mate was soon to die in Costa Rica of yellow fever; but Thompson, sole possessor of the secret hiding-place of the great treasure, was to live many years yet, and his directions for finding the Cocos Island treasure, transmitted at his death, to be the cause of hundreds of thousands of dollars thrown away in vain searching.
In the year 1844 a brig sailing from England home to St. John's, Newfoundland, carried a single passenger, a handsome, middle-aged man with an air of deep mystery about him. During the voyage, the stranger sought the companionship of a young sailor named Keating who, finding; that the other wished to avoid public places, took him to his own home in St. John's upon their arrival. The stranger paid well for his accommodations and never went out except after dark. One day he called Keating into his room and said to him.
"Dead Men Tell No Tales."
"Keating. I have something to tell you which will astonish you, though it is quite true. If you can get one of the St. John's merchants to fit out a vessel for us I know where you and I can find more gold and silver treasure than would buy Newfoundland."
Keating found a merchant who agreed to send a vessel commanded by a captain named Bogue, who would be his representative, according to the directions of the stranger, who, with Keating, would-be passengers and fellow treasure-seekers. One evening when the party was seated in Keating's cottage planning the details of the voyage the stranger received warning that he was about to be arrested.
He was terror-stricken. Turning to the wondering sailor he said:— "Keating, my life is nearly over, and as you have been true to me you shall become the richest man in the world. My real name is Thompson. Many years ago I hid gold and silver treasure on Cocos Island in the Pacific, and with this clue you can find it. "He then drew from the lining of his coat an old map on parchment, a chart of Cocos Island, in fact—laid it on the table in front of the sailor, and using a splinter of wood as a pointer, showed where the treasure was to be found.
The merchant's vessel sailed as planned, and eventually anchored in Wafer Bay. Captain Bogue and Keating, alone in one of the ship's boats, landed, followed the dead pirate's directions, and found the treasure exactly as he had indicated. Tying up a few coins in their handkerchiefs, they went back to the ship to arrange for taking aboard the whole treasure. The sight of the old coins made the crew mad with greed. They mutinied and went ashore without Bogue or Keating, who refused to act as guides. Returning disappointed, they drank themselves into a stupor, which gave Bogue and Keating a chance to provision one of the boats and go ashore. Although it was night, they found the treasure cave again, hastily loaded themselves with as much gold coin as they could carry, and hurried back to their boat. Now fate again interposed to make one man the sole possessor of the secret of the treasure cave.
Keating got into the boat without mishap, but Bogue in pushing the craft through the line of surf, lost his hold and was dragged down and drowned by the weight of gold he carried. Keating was rescued by a Spanish vessel and returned to St. John's
For 20 years nothing more was heard of Keating. Then an old man, nearly dead from want and exposure in a shed on the Newfoundland coast, whither he had crawled from a wrecked ship, was found and cared for by Nicholas Fitzgerald, the youthful owner of a fishing smack. Through gratitude, he revealed himself as Keating and made a contract sharing his secret with his young preserver. But Fitzgerald, suspecting that Captain Bogue had been murdered by Keating instead of accidentally drowned, postponed making any use of this information. Keating died in 1882, and still, Fitzgerald either neglected or was unable to profit by his secret. In 1896 Captain Shrapnel, of the Royal English Navy, commanding H.H.S. Haughty in Pacific waters, landed 300 sailors and marines on Cocos Island. For two days this force tunneled and blasted the cliffs where they supposed the treasure was hidden, but with no further result than to destroy every landmark thereabout. Yes, there was one other result—the wide publicity given to this exploit brought to Captain Shrapnel from Nicholas Fitzgerald the foregoing account of the transmission to him of the Cocos Island secret from Pirate Thompson, through Keating, and the efforts made to profit by it. Captain Shrapnel was unable to complete preparations for another expedition, but some of his friends to whom he confided all this information formed a syndicate, whose members, three years ago, sailed to Cocos Island. They found the creek described in the chart, and, with a pocket compass in hand, measured 70 paces west by south." But the ravages of time and the dynamite methods of other searchers had robbed Thompson's directions of all their value. They spent some hours in vain digging. Among some debris in the creek, they found part of an old silver cross —that is all.