“X” Marks the Spot

March 21, 2014

As we’ve written before, the North of Boston region has a colorful history full of literature, axes, sea monsters, music, circus folk, and an imperative need to keep deer informed.  The region also has an especially rich maritime history, so it may not come as a surprise to hear that pirate treasure may be buried here.  That’s what they say anyway…

The late 17th century was a bumpy one in the region.  30-some odd years before the witch hysteria hit Salem, Lynn had its own dash of widespread paranoia.  And within good reason for, in 1658, a large, dark ship loomed into Lynn Harbor.  It was not identified by any flags and word quickly spread around town that it was a pirate ship.  A small rowboat, carrying two women and two oarsmen, was lowered from the ship and landed somewhere near the Saugus Iron Works.  They made their camp near the Saugus river at a location now known as “Pirates Glen.”  Iron works workers found a note nailed to the door the next day politely asking if the “pirates” could purchase tools and supplies from them and sent to a secret location.  The workers obliged and, as they had done with the note, the “pirates” left some silver for them as payment.  No pillaging or swashbuckling: just a cordial purchase.

The people of Lynn, however, were still spooked by the mysterious ship and their interest piqued at the group’s request for tools – the group must be up to some nefarious pirate deed!  British soldiers (mind you, these were the days before the Revolution) were also interested in the “pirates” and did the logical thing and captured them.  The two women and one of the oarsmen were hanged but one man, Thomas Veal, managed to escape…with the group’s pirate treasure.  Our sources aren’t clear, but apparently (it was rumored)  the group had found some sort of treasure.  This could explain the soliders’ interest in the group.

Veal and his treasure sought refuge in a cave in Lynn Woods and, as time went by, became Lynn’s favorite cave-dweller.  We suppose the soldiers lost interest in their elusive captive as they never seemed to go after Veal (even though his location was well-known).  Or, perhaps, they did not believe the rumor about the treasure and left the poor guy alone.  Veal fixed shoes for the townspeople and seemed to generally enjoy being “cave guy.”

Safety warning: caves do not make the best homes.  An earthquake hit Lynn, causing rocks to tumble and block off the cave opening.  Veal was either crushed to death or died of starvation or asphyxiation. Townspeople, with their newly-mended shoes, probably shrugged and moved on with their lives.

Attempts were made in the 1830s to blow open the cave, now known as Dungeon Rock (we hope not as a nod to it being Veal’s “dungeon,” as that’s just cruel), but they were failures and ruined the cave opening.  Neither Veal nor his supposed treasure were found.  In 1852, a man named Hiram Marble was eager to explore Dungeon Rock.  A member of the Spiritualist Church (which held the belief that members could talk to the dead), Marble believed that the ghost of Veal told him that if he went to Dungeon Rock, he would find the treasure and be a rich man.  Marble purchased the area around the rock and started digging away.

After years of digging, Marble found nothing.  He died in 1868 and his son, Edwin, continued the quest until his death in 1880.  Nothing, in the way of pirate treasure, has ever been found.  However, the Marble family did find a sort of “treasure” of their own – they grew to love the beautiful piece of land they had purchased and envisioned it becoming a park for the people of Lynn to enjoy.  After Edwin’s death, the land was purchased by the citizens of Lynn to establish such a park, Lynn Woods.

Sources:  Dungeon Rock – Friends of Lynn Woods

Weird Massachusetts: Your Travel Guide to Massachusetts’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets