LORDSHIP PIRATES AND PRIVATEERS

LORD MINTO

Who was the English Lords for whom Lordship at Stratford is named? Was it Richard Mills, merchant of Stratford, a Lord or was it Lord Minto, refugee under alias, original owner of Stratford Point and the Housatonic River sand-bar still bearing his name and upon which a slave was chained until drowning by the rising tide? Lordship in Stratford has been known as such since 1639 when it was in possession of Richard Mills, merchant, Indian trader and founder of the family in America. Old deeds term it Mills Lordship yet the names of Minto, also Lord in England and of Francis Nichols (close relation of Sir Richard Nicholl, first governor of New York) whose descendants owned the property for many years are interwoven. The name, the legends and the ruins of underground tunnels and huge storehouses on Stratford Point create another unsolved mystery. These added to the known facts of Captain Kidds piratical venture which was financed by Lord Bellamore of New York and by members of the Livingston family who during the revolution made their headquarters in Fairfield County, undoubtedly fostered the frantic search for Kidds gold at Lordship and at Pleasure Beach Island during the late 1850s. Legend has it that one Minto or Lord Minto lived near Stratford Point, that he owned many slaves and ships and with other merchants across the Housatonic at Milford, trafficked with England and the West Indies, bringing slaves and rum to these shores. In fear of seizure legend asserts, they build subterranean passages from the shores to the warehouses. One such filled with water was pumped out by gold seekers in 1855 according to Dr. Orcutt, the historian. He says the wooden pump of Captain Nichols then owner of the farm was used for that purpose. Another tunnel in Devon was uncovered in a State Police raid in 1915 upon a tavern in the old Goodsell mansion. Legend has is that a Minto slave was chained to the sand bar off Stratford light, bearing Mintos name on hydrographic charts and that the slave was drowned by incoming tide. Captain Kidd is known to have had dealings with Robert Livingston in 1699 the latter residing at Fairfield. Kidd anchored off Stratford Point that year and when captured in 1700 had told that he buried some of the treasure off the Connecticut shore. His confession did not become known until years after when it prompted the Stratford gold rush.

CAPTAIN KIDD

Kidd

1889 - CAPTAIN KIDD'S TREASURE: The Hartford (Ct.) Times says the incessant rains which have lately been falling, have washed away a large excavation on the south side of Long Beach, a short distance from the Lordship farm, in Stratford, and there is much excitement there among the older residents, owing to the fact that several English coins have been found in the trenches caused by running water. Mr. Thomas Fairchild, who is one of the most observing men in town and who has the history of all the old residents at ready command, says there is little doubt that Capt. Kidds gold is buried somewhere in the vicinity of the Lordship. He has always contended that the wealth stolen by the pirate vessels of Kidd was brought ashore on Long Beach, and the discovery of gold and silver coins, laid bare by the heavy rains, only strengthens his convictions. Many years ago the Spiritualists of Bridgeport, Huntington, and Stratford, gathered a hundred or more strong, and dug for thirty days in search of Capt. Kidd's gold. The excavation covered several acres in area, and is now to be seen near the Lordship. A medium of some note pointed out the locality as the true one, and great faith was placed in her ability to discover hidden treasures. The restriction was placed upon the company that, while they searched, no one should speak above a whisper. This stipulation was rigidly adhered to until the thirtieth day, when one of the party struck another accidentally on the foot with a shovel. The pain was so great that the injured man uttered a terrible oath and the spell was broken. Then all departed silently to their homes, firmly believing that they had been very near to the coveted money. The coins that have just been found are of gold and silver, and are very old, dating back some two hundred years. The Stratford Land Improvement Company have been for months digging a trench and throwing up a dike to keep the tide-water off the marsh in the rear of Long Beach, and when they continue excavations near the wash-out, careful search will be made not to overlook the millions (?) that are supposed to lie deeply buried in the sand.

August 14, 1889: DIGGING FOR CAPTAIN KIDDS TREASURE: Ever since Stratford was rescued from the swamps and cleared of everything but the mosquitoes, nothing has been heard of but Captain Kidds treasure. The first settler told the story to his children and it has been handed down from generation to generation from time immemorial. It is also believed that the fierce scourge of the sea buried his ill gotten gains somewhere within the limits of the sleepy, overgrown village and woe to the unbelieving stranger who sneers at their belief. Every spring within the memory of man, the ancient and moldy chestnut is dragged from its winter nap and aired. Just so often searching parties have been organized by those people who desire to gain riches without working for them. They fit out boats with shovels, rakes and picks; go to some portion of the beach where they think the hidden wealth is stored and for a few days toil industriously digging immense holes in the sand. Once in a while they are rewarded by finding an old piece of wreckage deep down in the sand, but no Spanish doubloons or priceless jewels greet their eyes.

September 6, 1890 - A CAPTAIN KIDD STORY: Mysterious Strangers Carry off Treasures From a Connecticut Graveyard: Ever since the recent heavy rains worked deep gullies in the old road in the vicinity of Lordship farm in the township and a number of gold coins of ancient date went found, there has been great excitement over what is supposed to be a clue to Captain Kidd's buried treasure. Searching parties have been organized and all the old stories relative to the hiding place of the wealth of the bold buccaneer have been revived and have become the chief topic of conversation. The story that the old Johnson vault in the Episcopal burying ground near the village was made the receptacle of vast treasures on the return of Kidd from one of his expeditions seemed to be the most probable, and the strange performances which have taken place there for a few nights back strengthen the belief of the majority of the villagers that a search is being carried on, if really the treasure has not been found and carried away. A few nights ago a cab was seen to drive up to the gateway of the cemetery about midnight, and two men left it and went into the yard. They returned in about an hour and drove away. No importance was attached to this incident, but when the same thing was repeated the following night, and it became known, the town was all excitement. Rumors of body snatching and of the discovery of the treasure and its removal by night were flying thick and fast. The cemetery was carefully searched, the old vault being the thing of particular interest. Nothing was discovered to verify the suspicions, and it was determined to form a vigilance committee and lie in wait to solve the mystery. The next night found twenty-five men waiting for the mysterious cab and its occupants to appear. At about the same hour up it drove and two men entered the cemetery and were lost to view among the trees. Not a man among the twenty-five lying concealed in the bushes dared to move and in a short time the two men, possibly laden down with gold and jewels, emerged from the cemetery and entered the cab. The driver, who all this time had sat upon the box as motionless as the marble post at the entrance of the cemetery, whipped up his horse and disappeared in the darkness. The next night fresh recruits were added to the party, but the cab and its mysterious occupants did not put in an appearance. A search through the cemetery failed to show any signs of the visit. The rusty fastenings of the old Johnson vault were in the same position as they had been for over 200 years. There is a strong belief among the older inhabitants that the treasure has actually been found and carried away in the cab.

July 13, 1894 - MONUMENT TO CAPTAIN KIDD'S TREASURE: At Pleasant Beach, opposite Bridgeport, Conn., on July 1, was unveiled, with proper ceremonies, a monument, erected to Captain Kidd. The long, barren stretch of sand know as Long beach until recent years, when it has become a favorite spot for excursions, is the spot where the pirate Kidd in the year 1696, buried, according to accounts, his fabulous treasure. The story which has been handed down from generation to generation is as follows:
One night early in the spring of 1696 two citizens of Stratford went to the beach to take in some nets they had set. The night was dark and gloomy. The fishermen were successful and after the catch had been disposed of, they rested on the shore before starting for home. Soon they heard strains of music and over the waters came the words, sung in a voice not unmusical:

    My name was Captain Kidd
    When I sailed, when I sailed
    God's laws I did forbid.
    When I sailed, when I sailed
They listened and watched, and soon through the gloom they saw the outlines of a graceful ship with a vast cloud of canvas. Soon orders to drop anchor and furl sails were heard. Next boats were lowered and orders were given to load the chests and proceed to the beach and bury them deep in the sand. The fishermen, so the story goes, knew the ship could belong to none other than the pirate king, and they hurried home and gave the alarm, supposing that Kidd and his band would visit Stratford and plunder the town. No pirate appeared, and the next morning the graceful ship, with its black hull and clouds of canvas, had disappeared. The handsome monument of Captain Kidd stands twenty-five feet high, and is placed on that section of the beach where it is supposed the pirate and his followers landed and buried their treasures.

June 12, 1895 - CAPTAIN KIDD'S TREASURE: This Will-o'-the-wisp Said to Have Been at Last Unearthed by Two Clam Diggers: A big stir prevails in Bridgeport over the news of the finding of some of Captain Kidd's treasure by two Bridgeport men who a short time ago they hadn't a cent, but now they are blazing with diamonds and buying bonds and New York City real estate. Everybody in Bridgeport is talking about it from the kitchen maids to the wealthiest nabobs. Tradition has long maintained, that Point-No-Point, on Stratford harbor, was the spot where Captain Kidd put in one dark, stormy night, when he was being pursued, or fancied he was, and hid spoils and booty of immense value, depositing it there, incased in a big iron chest. It is a matter of history that in the year 1800, under authority and direction of the Town of Weston, whose treasury was then sadly in need of bonds, a big search for this alleged fabulous amount of treasure supposed to be hid in the sands of Point-No-Point was made by five able bodied freeholders, but they searched and searched to no avail. P. T. Barnum once made strenuous efforts to obtain possession of Point-No-Point by buying it from the town of Stratford, but was unsuccessful. He always thought some of the Kidd treasure was buried there. The town of Stratford in 1886 sold the point to Walter Nichols of Bridgeport, for $50,000, and he in turn sold it to the present owners, McMahon and Wren, the millionaire brewers, for $100,000. One day last October two well known Bridgeport men - Curt Dart and Bill Hodge - for many years locally famous as clam diggers, disappeared suddenly from their old haunts. Their disappearance was a nine days wonder. Last Saturday, however, great was the astonishment of their old acquaintances and the townspeople in general to see Curt and Bill back again and dressed like lords. Amazement grew when on the immaculate shirt front of each was seen a big blazing diamond and when they were seen each to have a massive gold watch and chain, while from their respective packets they hauled out big handfuls of shining gold coin of the realm, which they scattered about with lavish prodigality in treating the boys in the saloons they had long haunted. Bill and Curt kept mum for a time expecting to return and prospect some more for hidden treasure, but when mellowed today. They let the secret out. In reply to doubters and scoffers they fished out of their pockets old gold coins of foreign mintage, massive old gold medals bearing all sorts of legendary inscriptions and studded with diamonds and other precious stones. McMahon and Wren, the owners of the point have in vain tried to make the lucky Monte Cristos tell where they dug up the wealth, but even threats of prosecution have failed. Bill and Curt have sold and delivered their spoils to New York parties, and each has bought a house on West 32nd Street in New York and invested the balance of his wealth in government 3.5% per cent bonds and stocks of the Bridgeport Traction company.

Kidd1962

Kidd 1962 story

StfdPoint2009

Stratford Point

August 17, 1958: PIRATES PROWLED AT PLEASURE BEACH: Walter Nichols, a Bridgeporter, seemed to have been the first to discover the desirability of Long Beach as a shore resort. He searched the records of old Stratford and for a very moderate sum, secured a clear title through the heirs of a Mr. Boyes of New York, said to be the first owner of the island, to that portion now known as Pleasure Beach. The story has often been told and always considered a fable that the more or less "bloody pirate," Captain Kidd, buried most of his ill-gotten gains at some point along these shores. Spirit mediums told "exact spots" where to dig for Kidd's treasures away back in the 1850's. One likes to believe that there must be some foundation for the legend that on the night of Oct. 26, 1694, a ship crept slowly into what is now Bridgeport harbor possibly a black flag flying from the mast head of the ship, the crew of which comprised daring, desperate, English seafaring men and anchored in the shallow water off the Island. The boats, according to the tale, were lowered and the crew rowed toward the easterly portion of the peninsula known as Long Beach. The leader might have been the famous Captain Kidd, at any rate, he was a powerful man, and his subordinates bowed in submission to his slightest request. He bade them hasten as the time was limited, and the four stalwart seamen lifted a chest from the foremost dingy and carried it to the beach. Here the skipper opened it for the last time to make sure it was all right. Then, bidding the men dig a hole large enough to hold the treasure, he sat down on the sand and rudely designed on a worn fragment of linen the location of the treasure. Soon after midnight the task was completed, the crew returned to the ship, and anchor weighed, the pirate vessel left the harbor as it entered, clothed in the gloom of night. When the men left the island, they left no outward trace of even having landed and the relentless hand of time added in obliterating all traces of the treasure. But beneath the surface of the barren Isle was a fortune in gold, for which kings of mighty empires had they known of its existence and location, would lave dispatched armed messengers to bring back the precious metal to refill their depleted exchequers. Years passed. Many have hunted for the treasure, but Mr. Nichols believed he knew the story of the final discovery of the hidden loot. In 1898, according to Mr. Nichols, two Spaniards - ostensibly representatives of an English munitions factory visited Bridgeport and while here, lived In the Nichols' home on Courtland Street. Mr. Nichols became suspicious of the pair soon after their arrival and regretted having taken them into his home. Several times he heard them discussing matters pertaining to war and then soon after they unceremoniously disappeared from the city. The war broke out with Spain and his suspicions were circumstantially confirmed. Shortly after the close of the Spanish American War, Mr. Nichols intending to sell, visited Long Beach, which he supposed had been long unfrequented, to make a survey of his property. He walked leisurely along and stumbled into a large hole in the earth about 20 feet from the high-tide water mark. Scattered around the excavation were several gold coins of Spanish vintage. He pocketed the coins and filling in the then empty space out hiding place of the "treasure," continued his survey in deep thought. Many theories have been advanced down through the years as to the way the Spaniards came into possession of knowledge which led them to the treasure. Possibly the fragment of linen on which the pirate skipper had noted the location of the gold was found by some seaman who saw the map, and its meaning was sufficient to be worth spending time in learning more from its almost unintelligible scribbling.

October 15, 1892 - OYSTER PIRATES ARRESTED: Constable Stagg of Stratford and a posse made a clever capture of a number of oyster pirates today. This morning three sloops were seen in the vicinity of the beds of Horace Judson off Stratford. They were watched and later it was discovered that they were taking oysters from the private beds. Constable Stagg summoned a posse and by strategy succeeded in getting near the spot where the men were at work. The thieves made an effort to escape but were too late. The men captured are Julius Fisher, Frank Young and Frank Cary of the sloop Crystal Palace. Frank Horton of the sloop Alice and Ezra Tucker of the sloop Surprise. They were taken before Justice Peck and held in $500 bonds for a hearing next Monday. It is not known where the vessels hail from. The men captured were supposed to belong to the fleet working the private beds all along the Connecticut shore.

DECEMBER 7, 1892: OYSTER PIRATES BEWARE; AN ARMED CRUISER TO PROTECT THE BEDS OF LONG ISLAND SOUND: Apprehension lest Long Island Sound furnish a parallel to the oyster wars in Chesapeake Bay has induced all the owners of extensive beds in the Sound to take extraordinary precaution against the pirates and encroachments which have been gradually increasing the past few years. The latest attempt of the oyster bed owners is unique and promises to be effectual. The idea was conceived by H.J. Lewis of Stratford, an old oyster grower whose 2,000 acres of oyster farms on the bottom of Long Island Sound extend from Bridgeport to South Norwalk. Mr. Lewis has suffered from the depredations of the petty oyster pirates and has just procured an armed cruiser which he will man with a picked crew and scour the waters of the Sound for oyster thieves. The boat is a thirty-two foot steam craft with a twelve foot beam and a draught of four feet. She is sloop rigged and carries a ten horsepower engine. A new feature used in the construction of the boat is an electric searchlight with a range of vision of over three miles. The boat will be manned by three men and will also carry a sufficient armament to assume the offensive in case of any encounter between the owners of the oyster beds and the pirates.

June 20, 1925 - "Pirates" Blackjack Boatman - STRATFORD POINT NAMED AS SCENE: Man Badly Battered, Found in Drifting Vessel Tells Story of Attack. Victim Says Boat Was Stripped by "Sound Buccaneers" in Black Cruiser: Charles Brockett, of Providence, R. I., told the harbor police today that at 3 a. m., while off Stratford Point, in Long Island Sound, in a sail boat "The Faith," a motor boat came alongside and two men boarded his boat. He said he was blackjacked and made unconscious. He recovered some hours later to find himself in the cabin. The boat had been stripped of everything movable. The boat drifted into this harbor and made landing at the New Haven Yacht club. A doctor was sent for as Brockett was badly bruised. He remained at the yacht club this afternoon. The motor boat Brockett said was about, forty-feet long and painted black. He said he was sailing The Faith, to Edgartown, Mass., from City Island and that it belonged to R. T. Brown of Providence. The New Haven Police department stated last night that no story of a like nature had come to their notice through official channels. Two men who were passing in a canoe, near the scene of the alleged piracy" saw a black boat chasing up a sail boat, at about 4 o-'clock yesterday morning. The New Haven Yacht club authorities refused to give out any statement, except that there was at the club a man who was "battered" and was said to have been the alleged victim of the sound pirates. The keepers at Stratford light house were on the watch yesterday morning, but noted no small craft in the sound, they declared.

December 8, 1883 - OLD CLOCKS, CANES WITH PEDIGREES AND SPIRITUALISTS WHO SOUGHT GOLD STOLEN FROM THE BANK OF ENGLAND: Stepping from the cars here this morning a TIMES reporter inquired if there were any new facts to be learned about the well-worn Rose Clark tragedy. The gentlemen who was approached looked like one of leisure and he proved so. He offered to conduct the reporter to the residence of Mr. Nathan B, McEwen, where, he said, an hour could be profitably passed and in five minutes The Times-s man was sitting in an easy chair of the old-fashioned breed that put to shame many of the contrivances of comfort of the present day. An old clock, two feet taller than most men, stood ticking away the half seconds. "Pretty old clock, isn't it?" queried the reporter. "Yes, one of the first ever made containing brass works," said Mr. McEwen. "It was stored away in a back room for 50 years. I took it out a little while ago and set it up, started it and found it ran just as well as over." "Guess it is a little fast though" and the newspaper man consulted his chronometer. Well, said the host," we keep it our own way. I haven't begun on the new-fangled standard time yet. I'll tell you how I get my standard. I went out into the garden the other night and set up a couple of poles, planting them to range with the North Star. The next day when the sun got on a line with the poles I set my clock. Guess that hit it pretty near right. We don't have to catch a train very often, and the same kind of time we used to have answers my purpose well enough. If you will take a walk for two miles up the Birmingham road you will find 50 or more houses and barns set square. When they were built one end or side, was set by compass. When the sun gets off or on the square end it's noon. The old farmers go home to dinner now by that mark. "Here's something I would like to show you-a regular descent of canes. I think a heap of them sticks," and Mr. McEwen produced a bundle of walking sticks of various lengths and sizes. "This one was made in Scotland and belonged to my great-great-grandfather Robert McEwen. Here's another, with a china head. My great-grandfather, John McEwen, used it many a time to chastise my grandfather with. John bought this place where, we are living in 1823. There is my grandfather Deacon Nathan McEwen's stick. He lived on the corner below here. Here is father's. The head is made of a whales tooth. Shel Curtis turned it in 1841. The cane I carry myself I guess dates back as far as any of them. Though not as a cane, for it is made from an old pump taken out of a Spanish privateer vessel brought here by Capt. Nichols in 1818. The big dike down on the Lordship was built by Nichols. What wood do you think it is made of? Looks to me like Spanish cedar; guess 'tis. I tell yon there is some history connected with this cane and the old pump that you won't find in the books. The pump was used to pump out what they call the old "Spiritual Hole" down on the beach by the light-house. Lorgence, what fun we used to have in those days. You see. the story was and the Spiritualists got hold of it, that the Bank of England was robbed and the wealth obtained taken aboard a pirate vessel. One of the sailors when on his dying bed confessed the whole business, and said the gold was buried in the Sand bank on Stratford Point, near the light-house. His confidant was a Spiritualist and after the poor fellow had kicked the bucket; his friend consulted the spirits, who told him the money was there yet. A quarter of an acre of land was bought and dug over to a depth of 30 feet. They didn't find the gold, but made an everlasting sight of sport for lookers-on. Every morning a string of Spiritualists from all this and surrounding towns would march in a procession to the shore and begin digging as if for dear life. Net a word was spoken: all directions were given by signs and a stranger would have taken then for a lot of dummies. They had a tent rigged up and hired a man to slay in it to keep watch for thieves, who they had an idea would steal a march on them and lug off their treasure. Ask William Nash, who is now Warden of the Episcopal Church here he will tell you more about It. They hired him and his team to dig for them. The old pump I spoke about was used to draw out the water which filtered in from the Sound. My sakes, how they used to sweat over the old wooden thing. Mother got a notion one day she wanted to see them, so I hitched up the old mare and drove her down. When we came near the Spiritual Hole and tied the mare to a fence post, and we walked to the edge of the bank where they were digging. They were holding a circle, or seance, or something. Mother just then heard a noise behind us and looking around there was the old mare going like Iikity-split for home: hadn't traveled so fast for 25 years, so we had to foot It home."

THE OLD PUMP: The old pump of the Cedar of Lebanon would furnish quite a history if it could reveal secrets. Captain Samuel C. Nicoll built the dyke at the Lordship farm about 1815. In 1818, the dwelling and barns were built. That year he brought from New York a red or Spanish cedar pump, some say a cedar of Lebanon taken from a Spanish vessel that was being repaired at that port; the pump being old and hence unfit for further service. He set it in his yard for watering his cattle at the Lordship farm. After standing there about forty-three years, it was taken out, somewhat rotten at the lower end, but was afterwards used by the Spiritualists to pump water from the hole at the gold diggings about a mile east from the Lordship farm, near the shore. The old pump was made of two pieces bound together with iron hoops. After a time is was brought to the village and became the property of Nathan McEwen for some work he did in pay. So the old pump, after being transported in active service over the great seas many years, did about sixty years service on land and then although much of the wood was filled with nails, yet Mr. McEwen secured quite a number of beautiful canes from and thus in parts the old cedar pump travels on.

Lordship's own privateer, Captain Samuel Nichols who built the oldest house in Lordship (see Lordship Manor section) story has been covered in Stratford and the Sea By Lewis G. Knapp.

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