Pirates and Privateers on Long Island Sound
Captain William Kidd, David Marteens
By Dan Shine
When the talk turns to pirates, Captain Kidd’s name is sure to be mentioned, for he is believed to have buried his treasures all up and down the Connecticut Coast. It is asserted that Kidd was originally a privateer, operating under the authority of England and permitted to attack the shipping of England’s enemies. However, one day he crossed the line by boarding and looting a Dutch ship and thus became a wanted pirate.
Finally Kidd was captured and brought back to England, where he was hanged for his crimes as a pirate. His body was wrapped in chains and left hanging on the London dock, as an example to others who might consider following this line of work. Kidd contended, right up until his last breath, that he was innocent, and that he could take his captors to those buried treasures in exchange for sparing his life. He claimed to have hidden over $100,000 in treasures on various islands.
And where might those treasures be? Records indicate that New York’s Gardiner’s Island (at one time part of Connecticut), Branford’s Thimble Islands, most especially Money Island, and Milford’s Charles Island are the most likely spots. And if any of Kidd’s treasures were ever discovered and retrieved, they were never reported. However, the island has been dug, and dug, and dug again over the many years.
The town of Milford holds an annual Captain Kidd celebration, remembering the famous corsair and all of his freebooting associates.
Incidentally, the tale of Captain Kidd’s treasure involves the ghost of a sailor and a young girl. As Kidd’s crew buried their booty on Clark’s Island, he had his men draw straws to see who would stay behind and guard the treasure. The man who drew the short straw was promptly shot by Kidd, and his body was buried alongside the treasure. Kidd gave the dead man’s ghost strict instructions to see where the gold remained where it was. Another version of the story involves a beautiful young Creole girl who was kidnapped and buried with the treasure, that it should be guarded by her innocent spirit. Here ends the tale.
But Captain Kidd was not the only one known to have buried his treasure along the Connecticut coast: David Marteens was a bloodthirsty privateer-pirate who buried a huge fortune in Connecticut. One fateful trip, Marteens and his crew anchored their ships off the coast of of Mexico, took the capital of Tabasco province by force and made their way back through the dense jungle carrying away all the valuables that they could manage. Next they sailed to Honduras, rowed one hundred miles upstream, and successfully raided another settlement.
Returning to their ships, they sailed to pirate-friendly Jamaica for some R&R. Eventually, they tired of this and set sail again. Soon, they spotted the Spanish galleon Neptune, took her by force, executed her officers and crew, and made off with a fortune of gold and jewels worth $300 million in today’s money.
Knowing that such a haul would be highly sought after, Marteens left the Caribbean and headed north. Upon entering Long Island Sound, he headed up the Connecticut River to Windsor, where he is said to have buried it. If it was ever discovered and retrieved, no one has ever owned up to it.
To Be Continued-