Early accounts (1790s–1856)
In 1802 (est.), a group known as the Onslow Company sailed from central Nova Scotia to Oak Island to recover what they believed to be hidden treasure.[ They continued the excavation down to about 90 feet (27 m), with layers of logs (or “marks”) found about every ten feet (3.0 m), and also discovered layers of charcoal, putty and coconut fiber. According to an 1862 account, at 80–90 feet (24–27 m) they recovered a large stone inscribed with symbols. The diggers then faced a dilemma when the pit flooded with 60 feet (18 m) of water for unknown reasons. The excavation was eventually abandoned after workers attempted to recover the treasure from below by digging a tunnel from a second shaft that also flooded. Another company called The Truro Company was formed in 1849 by investors who re-excavated the shaft back down to the 86-foot (26 m) level, but the pit then flooded again. It was then decided to drill five bore holes using a pod-auger into the original shaft. According to a nineteenth-century account, the auger passed through a spruce platform at 98 feet (30 m). After this platform, the auger hit layers of oak, something described as “metal in pieces”, another spruce layer, and clay for 7 feet (2.1 m). This platform was hit twice each time metal was brought to the surface along with various other items such as wood and coconut fiber.
Another shaft was then dug 109 feet deep northwest of the original shaft, a tunnel was again branched off in an attempt to intersect the treasure. Once again though seawater flooded this new shaft, workers then assumed that the water was connected to the sea as the now flooded new pit rose and fell with each tide cycle. The Truro Company shifted its resources to excavating a nearby cove known as “Smith’s Cove” where they found a flood tunnel system. When efforts failed to shut off the flood system, one final shaft was dug 118 feet deep with the branched off tunnel going under the original shaft. Sometime during the excavation of this new shaft, the bottom of the original shaft collapsed. It was later speculated that the treasure had fallen through the new shaft into a deep void causing the new shaft to flood as well. The Truro Company then ran out of funds and was dissolved sometime in 1851.
The initial McGinnis excavation first appeared in the Liverpool Transcript in October 1856. The first published account, which mentioned a group digging for Captain Kidd’s treasure on Oak Island, was published the following year. A more complete account, by a justice of the peace in Chester, Nova Scotia then followed in the Liverpool Transcript. The account based on the Liverpool Transcript articles also ran in the Novascotian, the British Colonist, and is mentioned in an 1895 book called A History Of Lunenburg County. In early 2000, investigator Joe Nickell reviewed the original accounts and interviews with descendants of McGinnis and the original Oak Island landowners. While later sources state that the treasure had been discovered by three young boys, Nickell reported that the story was about three adult lot owners who discovered the depression on the island and began digging.[
Early excavations (1861–1898)
The next major excavation attempt was carried out in 1861 by a company called “The Oak Island Association”. The original pit was re-excavated to a depth of 88 feet, and two more shafts were dug. The first one missed its intended target of an alleged flood tunnel, while the other intersected the original shaft via a branched off tunnel at around 105 feet deep. Both of these shafts were filled with water when an alleged flood tunnel was again breached. At one point one of the platforms placed in the original shaft at 98 feet collapsed, and dropped to a lower level. The effect caused the next two platforms to drop as well with the treasure now resting some 119 feet below ground along with an estimated 10,000 feet of lumber. The first of six accidental deaths during excavations occurred during the fall of 1861 when a pump engine boiler burst. The explosion was first mentioned in an 1863 novel titled Rambles Among the Blue-noses, while mention of a death came five years later. Another shaft was dug in the spring of 1862, which was 107 feet deep. This new shaft was parallel and connected to the original shaft as it was used to pump water out of the original shaft to a depth of 103 feet. Although the pumps could not keep up with the floodwater, tools that were used by the Onslow and Truro companies were recovered.[ The Oak Island Association also did some work at Smith’s Cove by drilling a few shafts in an attempt to shut off and seal the alleged flood tunnels. All of these attempts were failures in the end due to the tide which eventually broke through barriers that were put in place. One final attempt was made in 1864 to intersect the money pit which resulted in an alleged flood tunnel again being breached. By this time saltwater was undermining the walls of the original shaft which some workers refused to enter. The original shaft was inspected by mining engineers who declared it unsafe, and the company abandoned their efforts when their money ran out.
Read more in Part 3 of The Mystery of Oak Island.
(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)