The story of the Chimney Island treasure is a well known north country legend that has long eluded residents and treasure hunters alike. And it is still alive and well as the subject of a recent novel by two north country residents.
The legend holds that during the French and Indian War – 1754 to 1763 – payrolls for the French troops stationed in the chain of forts extending from Quebec through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River had been brought as far as Fort Levis on Chimney Island, about three miles downriver from Ogdensburg, when British Lord Jeffrey Amherst began his advance from Oswego and stopped the shipment of gold during the Battle of the Thousand Islands.
The story goes that Captain Pierre Pouchot, who had been assigned to defend Fort Levis, secretly buried the gold on the island, at that time known as Isle Royale, before the British attacked. Many years later, a mysterious man claiming to be a descendent of Captain Pouchot came over from France and hired a boat in Ogdensburg on a stormy night to go to Chimney Island and, following a map left by his ancestor, find the treasure. According to the legend, he found part of the buried treasure and was returning across the St. Lawrence when the storm capsized his boat. He sank to the river bottom with his arms clutching the chest of gold, to be lost forever in the deep.
Chimney Island has been the scene of many treasure hunts but so far none have turned up the rest of the French treasure which some say still lies buried there. According to The Journal archives, the New York Power Authority found several relics from Fort Levis on Chimney Island in 1955, but mine detectors did not pick up any buried gold.
The popular legend inspired Cranberry Lake residents Matthew J. Glavin and Michael J. Dolans latest historical novel, Adirondack Treasure: Isle Royale.
While he has never searched for buried treasure himself, Mr. Glavin understands the Tom Sawyer spirit to dig deeply and dive to the depths in search of buried treasure.
Its intriguing, isnt it? he said. It is way of life for treasure seekers and kind of a secret passion of anybody.
It was Mr. Glavins fascination with treasure and history that led him to begin the Adirondack Treasure series. Isle Royale is the second book in the series. The first book, The Bonaparte Legacy, remains one of the top selling books in the north country three years after its release.
The story of Isle Royale begins when Joseph Benton and Jerry Doolin are contacted by Savannah Christian. Savannah believes her father, who worked on the St. Lawrence Seaway Project, has discovered some clues as to where the Chimney Island treasure is located and asks the two men to help her. The men in Mr. Glavins previous novel had already shown their experience at finding the Bonaparte treasure.
The story, set in modern times, also features Middle Eastern terrorists working with North Korea to release an electromagnetic pulse warhead from a freighter in the St. Lawrence River. While searching for the treasure, the main characters become entangled in the terrorists plot.
Mr. Dolan is retired from the state police, and was the inspiration for Jerry Doolins character and some of the more modern aspects of the book, Mr. Glavin said.
Research for the historical aspects of the book was done with the help of the Fort de La Presentation Association, Mr. Glavin said.
A lot of what we write about is true, he said. We try to use as much as reality as possible.
Mr. Glavin has been studying history and legends about treasure in the north country for several years.
The amount of history we have in the north country is fascinating, Mr. Glavin said. Take the fact that there is a battle that took place that involved over 12,000 people and determined the heart and soul of what was going to be a new nation - whether we were going to speaking English or French. Not many people know about a lot about it.
The book will be released March 20 at the Dobisky Visitors Center, 100 Riverside Avenue. The public is invited to the release party at 7 p.m. Mr. Dolan and Mr. Glavin will be signing books, with $10 from each book sale donated to the Fort la Presentation Association.