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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 243

The clay bluffs at Pottery Beach, Brooklyn, were pierced with artificial caves where lawless men found shelter in the unsettled first years of the republic. A wreck lay rotting here for many years, and it was said to be the skeleton of a ship that these fellows had beached by false beacons. She had costly freight aboard, and on the morning after she went ashore crew and freight had vanished. It was believed that much of the plunder was buried in the clay near the water's edge. In the early colonial days, Grand Island, in Niagara River, was the home of a Frenchman, Clairieux, an exile or refugee who was attended by a negro servant. During one summer a sloop visited the island frequently, laden on each trip with chests that never were taken away in the sight of men, and that are now supposed to be buried near the site of the Frenchman's cabin. Report had it that these boxes were filled with money, but if well or ill procured none could say, unless it were the Frenchman, and he had no remarks to offer on the subject. In the fall, after these visits of the sloop, Clairieux disappeared, and when some hunters landed on the island they found that his cabin had been burned and that a large skeleton, evidently that of the negro, was chained to the earth in the centre of the place where the house had stood. The slave had been killed, it was surmised, that his spirit might watch the hoard and drive away intruders; but the Frenchman met his fate elsewhere, and his secret, like that of many another miser, perished with him. In 1888, when a northeast gale had blown back the water of the river, a farmer living on the island discovered, just under the surface, a stone foundation built in circular form, as if it had once supported a tower. In the mud within this circle he found a number of French gold and silver coins, one of them minted in 1537. Close by, other coins of later date were found, and a systematic examination of the whole channel has been proposed, as it was also said that two French frigates, scuttled to keep them out of the hands of the English, lie bedded in sand below the island, one of them with a naval paymaster's chest on board.

On the shore of Oneida Lake is an Indian's grave, where a ball of light is wont to swing and dance. A farmer named Belknap dreamed several times of a buried treasure at this point, and he was told, in his vision, that if he would dig there at midnight he could make it his own. He made the attempt, and his pick struck a crock that gave a chink, as of gold. He should, at that moment, have turned around three times, as his dream directed, but he was so excited that he forgot to. A flash of lightning rent the air and stretched him senseless on the grass. When he recovered the crock was gone, the hole filled in, and ever since then the light has hovered about the place. Some say that this is but the will-o'-the-wisp: the soul of a bad fellow who is doomed to wander in desolate regions because, after dying, Peter would not allow him to enter heaven, and the devil would not let him go into the other place, lest he should make the little devils unmanageable; but he is allowed to carry a light in his wanderings.


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