State Treasure - Rhode Island

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 50 of the September, 2010 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2010 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


The Tew Treasure
WASHINGTON COUNTY - In the late 1600’s, Captain Thomas Tew, noted privateer turned pirate, retired in Newport, Rhode Island. During his years at sea, Tew had amassed a fortune, which he hid from prying eyes.
According to author and treasure hunter Thomas Penfield in his book, Directory of Buried or Sunken Treasures and Lost Mines of the United States, at that time Tew’s fortune was worth roughly $100,000.
At today’s prices his treasure would be worth that amount several times over.
With enough money to enjoy the remainder of his life in style, Tew appears to have gotten greedy.
At the behest of some old shipmates, Tew opted out of retirement to return to the high seas and life onboard a pirate ship for one last voyage.
Once at sea, however, Tew turned his back on the shoreline and faced the ocean, unaware that he’d never see his native Rhode Island again. To this day, his vast fortune remains missing.
Born in Rhode Island to a respected family, Tew went to sea at a young age. As an adult, Tew was a respected sea captain who possessed a Letter of Marque as a legitimate privateer, but he had tasted the forbidden fruit, and as a pirate he was successful and respected by his men.
In October 1694, Tew visited an Governor Benjamin Fletcher of New York, to request a Letter of Marque; one month later Tew had it. Returning to Newport, Tew outfitted his ship, the Amity, for his last voyage. Tew and his crew set sail in November 1694.
Two other ships made up Tew’s fleet, one brigantine commanded by Captain Want, and a smaller ship under the command of a Captain Wake.
Few details are known about Tew’s last venture, but in June 1695, he and his small fleet arrived at the mouth of the Red Sea. There Tew ordered his fleet to attack a ship of the Great Mogul. It is believed that Tew engaged the Fateh Muhamme. During a fierce battle he was disemboweled by cannon shot. As he fell, his men became instantly struck with fear and surrendered.
Tew left nothing behind to indicate where he’d buried his treasure. From over 20 years of experience, I’ve learned most people hide their wealth in places with easy access, usually close to their homes. Often within sight of the front of rear door. My guess is Tew hid his hoard near his Newport home.
Since there are no reports that any of the pirate’s treasure has been found, local research will be necessary. If plot maps are available from the period, the location of Tew’s house /property should be easily found.
Also, Howard M. Duffy wrote an excellent article on the Tew treasure in 1976. You can obtain a copy of that story from the Lost Treasure archives at http://www.losttreasure.com/content/archives/missing-rhode-island-treasure

King Phillip’s Lost
Swamp Treasure
WASHINGTON COUNTY – About 1.5 miles south of West Kingston, and just west of Highway 110, you will find the Great Swamp. It was there on December 19, 1675, that militia from the Confederation of the United Colonies of New England laid siege to the swamp fort of the Narragansett Indians.
According to legend, more than one Indian cache consisting of ransom money paid to the Narragansett in British sterling specie remains buried there, along with battle and tribal relics.
King Phillip’s War (1675-1676) was an armed conflict between Native Americans of southern New England and English colonists and their Native American allies. The war takes its name from the leader of the Native American side, Metacom, or Metacomet, whom the English nicknamed “King Phillip.”
Conflicts between the Natives and the Colonies were minor at first, but as the colonies grew the Indians found themselves forced off their homelands and competing with the colonists for valuable resources. After Metacom’s brother, Wamsutta, died under mysterious circumstances while visiting colonial authorities at Plymouth, Metacom, or King Phillip, initiated war against the English.
The war created a serious threat to the future of the colonies. Indian warriors had attacked over half of New England’s 90 towns. The kidnapping of mostly white women and children was a problem, especially when the ransom money was used to purchase powder and shot from Mohawk Indians, which was used to attack the colonists.
The colonies did not fair well in the war, but that changed with the assault on the Narragansett Fort of the Great Swamp. The fort was situated on a five-acre island at the center of the swamp. Built by the Narragansett Sachem, Canonchet, as a place of refuge, the island was home to roughly 1,000 Indians. Access to the fort was two fallen logs that formed natural bridges; a blockhouse protected the primary one.
The English attack came in winter and was fought on the frozen swamp during blizzard conditions that produced heavy losses on both sides. The fort was burned; inside was the accumulated wealth of the Narragansett Nation.
Many Indians, including women and children, burned to death, while others escaped into a frozen, foodless tundra. The effect the assault had was to break the Narragansett Nation and cripple its fighting forces. The swamp island fort was abandoned.
It wasn’t until 1938 that the Civilian Conservation Corps was able to access the swamp and cut away enough underbrush to reach the island. Perhaps a lucky treasure hunter will one day recover one or more of the lost caches of silver hidden or lost in the fight.

The Providence Bell
PROVIDENCE COUNTY – The Providence Bell arrived in Providence, Rhode Island from Amsterdam in 1664. It hung from a church steeple for years until taken down to be transported to an English convent. But the bell vanished.
It was recovered on a British ship seized by American forces during the War of 1812 and was returned to Providence where it was re-hung.
It remained there until 1891, when it was stolen from the church’s steeple and never recovered. The bell was created by Amsterdam silversmith Peter Seest from several hundred pounds of nearly pure silver. Because of the high silver content, the bell produced a tone that is impossible to duplicate today.
Perhaps one day the bell will be recovered. If found, it would be priceless.

Prescott Farm Treasure
NEWPORT COUNTY – At 2009 West Main Road, in Middleton, Rhode Island, is the historic Prescott Farm. During the Revolution, this farm was owned by one of the wealthiest families in Rhode Island, the Overing family. The farm, however, takes its name from British General Richard Prescott, who occupied it in 1777.
Prescott is said to have buried a substantial amount of gold there during the war. On July 9, 1777, Militia Lt. Col. William Barton and 40 men captured Prescott and his aide-de-camp.
He became a prisoner-of-war and never returned for the gold. To date there has been no reported recovery of this treasure.

Sources:
Duffy, Howard M, “Missing Rhode Island Treasure,” September 1976, Lost Treasure magazine, p. 13
Lost Gold U.S. Website, Rhode Island – Swamp Fight, http://www.lostgold.us/html/rhode_island1.htm
Belli, Anthony M, The Providence Bell – Missing!, 2004, All Treasure Tales USA, Rhode Island file, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alltreasuret
alesusa/files/RHODE%20ISLAND/
Marx, Richard F, Buried Treasure You Can Find, 1993, Dallas, Texas, Ram Publishing Company, p. 303.