A New Company is Formed
Records show that Pitbladdo and a man identified as Charles D. Archibald, on August 1, 1849, applied to the lieutenant governor of the province for a license to dig for treasure on Oak Island. They received the permission but it was limited to unoccupied and ungranted lands. They then tried to buy all the land on Oak Island owned by John Smith. That is, they tried to buy site of the Money Pit after Pitbladdo had found and hidden something that convinced him there was treasure hidden in the pit.
Pitbladdo never reported to the Truro shareholders what he had found that day. His sudden attempt to buy the land and dig for the treasure himself suggests that it was something that convinced him of the great wealth hidden in the pit. Pitbladdo is rumored to have died shortly after this. Or, it has been suggested that he left the area and went on to other jobs as a mining engineer. There is a reference to a James Pitblado who was supervisor of mining in Chester in 1875. Some Oak Island accounts refer to a James Pitblado. Pitbladdo disappeared from the Oak Island story shortly after his aborted attempt to buy the land and get to the treasure for himself. The prospect of great wealth often corrupts a great many people.
Still in control of the Money Pit and with all the proper licenses and fees in order, the Truro Company decided in 1850 to dig another shaft to the northwest of the original Money Pit. They hoped, again, to tunnel to the treasure, or failing that, to use the new shaft as a way of pumping the water from the Money Pit so that they could get to the treasure. As before, they dug down just over a hundred feet and then began to work their way toward the treasure. They reached a point that was nearly under the Money Pit, or that they believed was under it, when water burst through, sending the workers fleeing again. In a matter of minutes the new shaft was filled with water just as all the others had been.
As planned, they began pumping operations which succeeded in lowering the level of the water slightly. It was obvious huge volumes of water were entering the pit and that it had been designed that way. The two other shafts, dug through clay, had been dry until they workers began attempts to tunnel into the Money Pit. The water now in those shafts was coming directly from the Money Pit itself. The water was not a natural spring, but some sort of booby trap that the original three boys hadn’t tripped during their attempts to reach the treasure early on because they had not dug deep enough.
The Booby-traps are Discovered
Someone finally noticed that the level of the water in the Money Pit seemed to rise and fall with the tide in the bay. Someone else noticed that a small stream of salt water emptied into Smith's Cove at low tide. Searching, they found that the beach there was not natural, but an artificial creation. Digging through the sand, they found a layer of coconut fiber and eel grass that was protecting an area of loose fitting stone. This, they believed was filling the Money Pit with water. If they could block it, they could then pump out the water and reach the treasure. It seemed simple enough.
Their plan was to build a cofferdam out away from the beach. When that was completed, they tore up the whole beach and discovered a network of drains. These were sloping downward. They believed that all the drains emptied into a single shaft that let the water flow into the Money Pit. If they could find that shaft and block it, they would be able to stop the flow of water and to get at the treasure. They began to destroy the drains one by one but before they completed their work an Atlantic gale destroyed their cofferdam and much of their work.
The next plan was to block the unground channel that lead into the Money Pit. About a hundred feet from the beach of Smith's Cove, on a line with the Money Pit, they began to dig, but when they reached a level of about seventy-five feet, they decided they had miscalculated and missed the shaft. They moved twelve feet to the south and began another attempt. At thirty-five feet they hit a large boulder and as they tried to free it their new shaft was filled with water. They had found the path of the water to the Money Pit. Or so they thought.
To block this drain, they partially refilled their pit and drove wooden pilings through the bottom to create a makeshift dam. Satisfied that they had blocked the water flow, they returned to the pumps but still couldn't reduce the level of the water significantly. It meant they had either failed to completely block the drain from Smith's Cove, or there was another drain system hidden somewhere else that they had failed to find. With that, they tried another shaft, digging down to one hundred twelve feet before it flooded. Now they were out of time as the summer ended and the weather was beginning to turn cold. Winter was coming. More importantly, they were out of money.
In 1851 the Truro Group tried to raise more money to begin another assault on the Money Pit, but the investors refused to help. They'd already spent enough money, and though evidence had been found that there was a treasure at the bottom of the pit, or so they believed, they couldn't defeat the elaborate booby traps that had been set by those who buried it. They just wouldn’t invest any more money in what was really becoming a money pit.
Their efforts had not been a complete waste. They had learned a great deal about the Money Pit and its construction. The coconut husks and eel grass spread over the drainage system were designed to prevent silting. Coconut resisted the effects of the salt water, and had been used for hundreds of years as filtration in ships to prevent water damage to cargos. They had also learned that the wooden layers that had been broken were part of the booby trap. Had the boys and later diggers, paralleled the Money Pit shaft and then dug in from the side, they probably would have reached the treasure without tripping the booby traps. However, they unwittingly broke the seals, allowing the sea water to flood the pit. Notice that there was an easy way to retrieve the treasure if you happened to know the trick.
This suggested to them that whoever had built the Money Pit had a good engineering background. The booby trap was ingeniously designed and apparently worked flawlessly. The size of the operation, that is, creating the artificial beach, digging the drainage system, and sealing it with the wooden "corks", meant the treasure was extremely valuable. The labor that went into the creation of the Money Pit indicated it was designed to protect that treasure from those who hadn’t buried it.
Another Assault on the Money Pit
Nothing more happened during the next eleven years. Smith eventually sold his property on the island, including the Money Pit lot, to Anthony Graves. Apparently Graves found his treasure by allowing others to dig for it on his property for a fee and a percentage of any treasure recovered.
Next up was the Oak Island Association who entered the game on April 3, 1861 with an expressed purpose of excavating Oak Island to recover the hidden treasures. Some of those who had participated in the old Truro Company were now members of the new association proving that hope for some lasts forever.
They hired a large labor force and gave them a job of reopening the pit. In the decade since the last attempt to recover the treasure, the sides of the pit had collapsed. They bailed out the water and dug down to the eighty-eight foot level. There they ran into muddy clay and believing that it was blocking, or plugging the water trap, they left it in place.
They moved to the west about 18 feet and started to dig another shaft. When they reached down 118 feet, they began to tunnel toward the Money Pit. They created a tunnel four feet high and three feet wide. They hoped to dig into the vault where the treasure was hidden as it had been located by those earlier expeditions. To that point, they had avoided problems with water.
They entered the Money Pit below the platform at 105 feet that had been discovered by the boring operation eleven years earlier. Then, according to Jotham McCully, they "unwisely" dug through the Money Pit to the east. Water began to seep into the pit again. Before long the new shaft was filled with water and even more water was seeping into the Money Pit shaft. Three days of bailing failed to reduce the water level. They had tripped the booby trap they had worked so hard to avoid.
This time they were determined to beat the water. A new bailing operation was begun using dozens of men and horses and they succeeded in nearly draining all the water from the pit. When they finished, they discovered the tunnel leading from their new shaft to the Money Pit was choked with wet clay. Two men were sent down to clear it. They had removed about half of the obstructing debris when they heard a crash from inside the Money Pit. They had barely made it out of the new pit when another rush of soupy mud poured in.
Other debris was also found during this period. In the September 1861 Nova Scotian, one of the diggers, identified only as Patrick reported, "…while the water was hindered by this earth from coming through we took out part of the earth and wood. The wood was stained black with age; it was cut, hewn, chamfered, sawn and bored, according to the purpose for which it was needed. We also took out part of a keg." This material would later provide clues about the actual age of the Money Pit.
Once some of the mud between the west pit and the Money Pit had been cleared, both pits began to flood again so bailing operations were resumed. McCully reported:
...on clearing the tunnel again, another crash was heard in the Money Pit which [we] supposed to be the upper platform falling and immediately the bottom of the Money Pit to about 102 feet measuring from the level of the ground to the top. It had been cleared out previously down to 88 feet. Immediately after, the cribbing [walls] of the Money Pit commencing at the bottom, fell in plank after plank until there was only about 30 feet of the upper cribbing. On Monday the top fell in, leaving the old Money Pit a complete mass of ruins.
The platform that had held the two treasure boxes found by the boring operation had apparently fallen fourteen feet and now rested at the 119 foot level. The digging operation had apparently tripped another of the ingenious booby traps. It prevented the operation from recovering any of the treasure at that moment.
The First Recorded Death in the Money Pit
The Association raised an additional two thousand dollars to purchase a steam powered pump. Before they had made much progress, the boiler exploded, shutting down the operation for the year. During this accident, one man was apparently killed by the boiling water. None of the members of the Association mention the fact, but in an essay written some seven years later, E. H. Owen reported the death.
In 1862, the Association returned to Oak Island and began the work all over again. They dug another shaft near the Money Pit reaching down 107 feet. The Money Pit was then cleaned and the sides re-cribbed to 103 feet. Water began to seep in and at 103 feet it began to flow at a rate faster than the pump could handle it.
But the major problem was that the Association was now broke. They set out to raise additional capital, but had little luck. The additional amount of money raised was so small that it couldn't begin to pay to solve the problems that the Association faced.
To stop the flow of water from Smith's Cove, they wanted to build another cofferdam, but lacked the money to do the job right. Instead they attempted to plug the drains that had been found at low tide. This slowed the rate of water flowing into the pit, but the plugs soon washed away and the flow returned to its original rate.
Work again stopped as the Association attempted to raise more money. In August 1863, operations resumed with workmen digging additional tunnels. More pumps were brought in. In 1864, they found the source of the water on the eastern side of the Money Pit. Rocks, about twice the size of a human head were forced out into the pit. Having found that end of the booby trap, inside the Money Pit, the workers were unable to plug it. Water poured into the Money Pit and all the pumps they had were doing little to reduce the water level.
The Association was now completely out of money. To make matters worse, mining engineers, concerned about the erosion caused by the constant flow of sea water, declared the pit unsafe. That finished the Oak Island Association. Besides, winter was coming.