Treasure Legends

Rumors of buried Indian treasure have long been common in western Maine and northern New Hampshire since the early days of white settlement, with many of the stories centering on Molly Ockett. The truth of these stories is lost to time, but it is known that Molly Ockett and her kin-group did accumulate money and jewelry through the sale of furs, for medical services, and in trade. It is also likely that their nomadic life-style led them to cache possessions in secret spots, knowing that they could collect them upon their return. Versions of two of the most frequently told stories concerning Molly Ockett's buried treasure are presented here.

In the Shadow of White Cap
The following Molly Ockett "treasure legend" was recorded by Silvanus Poor of Andover, Maine, in a January 12, 1861, letter to Dr. Nathaniel T. True of Bethel. Dr. True later quoted the entire letter in his article "The Last of the Pequakets: Mollocket," published in the Oxford Democrat in 1863.

Tradition says that she formerly had quite a sum of money and that it was buried in a tea kettle on a small hill in the vicinity of White Cap [a high, granite-topped mountain in the northern part of Rumford], now called Farmer's Hill in this town, by the side of a large stone with a cross on it, and that there were guides to the large stone on smaller ones from a certain point in the Ellis River in the shape of an Indian arrow with barb and quiver. Much time was spent looking for it, but the trouble was to find the starting point. Several years ago, a Mr. F— discovered the picture of an Indian's arrow on a stone in the woods. He stated the fact to an old gentleman who remembered the tradition. Search was immediately made, and the large stone marked with a cross was found. On digging about it they discovered that excavations had been made there before. It was Saturday and night came on before the money was found, and the secret leaked out. The party who had made the discovery went on Monday morning and reached the spot just in season to see two men depart with something like a kettle hanging upon a pole, and borne on their shoulders, who had been digging on the Sabbath and found the prize.

A Story of Hemlock Island
During the last years of the 19th century, Bethel native Peter Smith Bean (1824-1911) wrote a series of recollections that were published in the Oxford County Advertiser of Norway, Maine, under the title "Upton, B, in the Twenties." Excerpts from the December 11, 1891, article in that series, entitled "Molly Lockett's Buried Treasure on Hemlock Island, Bethel, Maine," follow.

There is a tradition that a kettle of money was buried on Hemlock Island in the Androscoggin River in Bethel. It belonged to the tribe that Molly Lockett belonged to. . . . They put all of their money into an iron pot and buried it on the upper end of Hemlock Island. They selected a place where two hemlock trees grew near each other, the roots running past each tree and interlocking, leaving a space between the trees free from the roots. After carefully placing birch bark in the pot for lining, they put in the jewelry and money . . . The money was French and British gold. The silver was mostly Spanish coins . . . Tradition says that there was over a thousand dollars besides a large amount of valuable jewelry. . . .

Molly Lockett's story about the money: She says she was so young that she forgot about the burying of the pot of money; that the party who buried it . . . were soon engaged in war with another tribe . . . Those that escaped were attacked with diseases and kept dying until Molly's parents were all there was left of the original party. Molly's father was taken down with the small pox and died. . . . Before [the mother] died, she made Molly promise to return to the place of the buried treasure and dig it up. . . .

In due time Molly arrived at the island [and] began to search for the twin hemlocks, but none were to be found. Everything had changed during the many years that had passed since she left the island in her youthful days. . . . For years Molly made the island her headquarters, there being plenty of fish in all the streams in that vicinity. She was living there when grandfather Daniel Bean came to Bethel in 1782, so he said. . . . After a while the settlers noticed that Molly did a large amount of digging on the upper end of the island. When they questioned her . . . she said she was digging for roots to make medicine of. After a while she did not dig so much, but seemed to be in a deep study by spells and kind of down hearted.

One fall she came here. She was sick when she came [and] thought she would never recover. She called grandfather [Ithiel Smith, Jr.] to her bedside and said "Ithiel, I want to tell you something but you must keep it to yourself if I live, but if I die you can do as you please in the matter." After grandfather promised to do as she told him, Molly told him the story of the buried treasure on Hemlock Island . . . Molly got well again [and] told grandfather he might have one-half of it if he could find the pot. Grandfather spent some time digging . . . but never found it.

The last time I was at grandfather's in the year of 1835, [he] told me about the treasure . . . Molly Lockett had been dead for years and sleeping in her grave at Andover. . . . Time passed on until 1844. I had come into possession of an instrument that gold or silver would attract it so strong that a person might hide a fifty cent piece outside of the house . . . and I could find it in a few minutes. I started for Maine determined to explore Hemlock Island for all it was worth.

But I was too late [and] the treasure had been taken away by another person. That other person was born and raised in Newry but drifted as far as Cincinnati, Ohio. He found it by aid of the same kind of instrument as I had . . . This person who is supposed to have found the Hemlock Island pot of treasure was Prof. John Locke. A short time after, a man by the name of Eames went to the island out of curiosity and discovered there where someone had dug up the pot of treasure. . . . The ground had been dug over many times where it was buried, but no one went deep enough to find it. During the lapse of years, the floods had left deposits of soil on the island yearly which had added greatly to the depth of earth above the treasure. That is the reason that Molly Lockett could not find it.