Towards the end of Season 5 of the Curse of Oak Island, Gary Drayton and Rick Lagina were shown metal detecting on Lot 8. After some time they uncovered what appeared to be a brooch setting and soon after they found a red gemstone that once accompanied it.
In the follow-up episode Gary was shown stating that they had the stone examined by a gemologist and it was found to be a rhodolite garnet.
Knowing that Lot 8 once belonged to long-time Freemason Jonathan Prescott prior to 1784, I was especially intrigued as to where the semi-precious garnet may have come from.
Prescott had first been initiated into Freemasonry in Boston but he joined the Chester Lodge, near Oak Island in 1784, the same evening as fellow Freemason and alleged pirate, Captain James Anderson.
As I thought more about this red garnet it occurred to me that it was actually the perfect color, size and general shape to be one of the stones from a Masonic Royal Arch High Priest breastplate.
I’d seen pictures of these Royal Arch breastplates online over the years. They were used in a specific Masonic ritual and were meant to mimic the “Breastplate of Judgement” worn by Biblical High Priests.
The High Priest is essentially the head of the Masonic Royal Arch chapter and according to the Bible the original High Priest was the only person permitted to see the Ark of the Covenant once each year on the Day of Atonement.
Although later Royal Arch breastplates could be purchased through a Masonic Supply company, earlier versions would have been handmade and would have had varying styles such as the one pictured below.
The gemstones could have come from anywhere and some could have already been quite old before being set into the breastplate. In the photo below I’ve superimposed the Oak Island garnet and setting over one of the breastplate stones and settings to show the similarity between them. Keep in mind that the Oak Island setting would look much better without all the corrosion.
The making of the original breastplate is described in the Book of Exodus in the Bible. On it were 12 precious and semi-precious stones, arranged in four rows of three, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
According to the King James translation of the Bible, one of these 12 stones was stated as being a carbuncle or deep red gemstone. Nowadays a carbuncle is most often associated with a red garnet, like the one found on Oak Island.
But what would a Masonic Royal Arch High Priest breastplate be doing on Oak Island? As it turns out, two of the men intimately connected to Oak Island in the early to mid-20th century were also both Royal Arch High Priests at the very highest level in Nova Scotia! They were both Grand High Priests in the Grand Chapter of Nova Scotia.
Reginald V. Harris was the Grand High Priest from 1926 to 1928. He was also the lawyer and friend of long-time Oak Island treasure hunters Fred Blair and Gilbert Hedden, who themselves were both Freemasons.
Harris was admitted to the bar in Nova Scotia in 1905 and became a Freemason in 1913. He likely learned about Oak Island from Fred Blair early on and by 1935 he was actually commissioned by Blair to write the first comprehensive book about Oak Island.
Melbourne (Mel) R. Chappell was the Royal Arch Grand High Priest from 1954 to 1956. Chappell was also a long-time Oak Island land owner and treasure trove license holder. Mel first became involved with Oak Island when he worked on the island with his Father William Chappell in 1931. By the end of 1950 Mel owned much of Oak Island (including Lot 8) and held the treasure trove license.
Both Harris and Chappell were also Grand Masters of another York Rite body called the Cryptic Rite. Within this body they were both Grand Masters of the Supreme Grand Council of Eastern Jurisdiction Royal and Select Masters of Canada. The Cryptic Rite rituals, like those of the Royal Arch, involve the retrieval of the Ark of the Covenant from a Secret Vault underground.
An even earlier Grand High Priest in Nova Scotia was Luther B. Archibald. He served as Grand High Priest from 1887 to 1888 and was a cousin of my great great grandfather, Archibald M. Huestis.
They were also both cousins of long-time Oak Island treasure hunter Adams Archibald Tupper. Adams A. Tupper belonged to three different treasure-hunting syndicates on Oak Island over a 55 year span from 1845 to 1900.
Royal Arch Freemasonry has existed in Nova Scotia since at least 1794 but the earliest Royal Arch Chapter known to exist in North America was in Jonathan Prescott’s hometown of Boston. It was called St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter and was established in 1756.
The first Master of St. Andrew’s lodge from 1756 to 1759 was a man named Isaac de Coster. De Coster is known to have become a Freemason in Annapolis Royal Lodge in Nova Scotia around 1738 and he was involved in the second siege of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia while he was Master of St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1758. He also affiliated with a Masonic Lodge in Halifax soon after the siege of Louisbourg.
We then know that connections to Royal Arch Freemasonry in Nova Scotia go back at least 250 years. We also know that at least two men who were intimately connected to Oak Island were also Royal Arch Grand High Priests who would have worn a breastplate with the 12 gemstones during their rituals. But would there have been any reason for them, or any earlier Royal Arch Masons to have potentially conducted Masonic rituals on Oak Island?
In the earliest days of Freemasonry the degree rituals were actually meant to be as realistic as possible. For example the 13th degree of the Scottish Rite is called the “Royal Arch of Enoch” or “Royal Arch of Solomon”.
In the opening of the actual ritual, recorded by Henry Francken in 1783, it states that “the place where this Royal Lodge or college is held, ought to be in a very secret place, and should be underground, vaulted, without either door or window, with a small trap door at top, big enough to let a brother through”.
The description of the vault is very similar to that described in the “Select Master” degree in the Cryptic Rite of the York Rite. In fact the description of this secret vault with its nine arches sounds almost identical to the early accounts of the Oak Island Money Pit with its alleged layers every 10 feet down to 90 feet.
Certainly Reginald V. Harris and Mel Chappell are both perfect candidates for who may have had a Masonic Royal Arch breastplate on Oak Island for the purpose of acting out a Masonic ritual. Both would have been on the island long before the causeway was built and the many trees would have offered significant seclusion.
The breastplates they would have had may also have been quite old, having been passed down within the lodges. Perhaps if one were to go digging through the Masonic Archives in Halifax they may come across an old Royal Arch High Priest breastplate that just happens to me missing its carbuncle or red garnet gemstone!
Of course there’s always the possibility that Jonathan Prescott, Captain James Anderson and the other members of Chester (Masonic) Lodge near Oak Island prior to 1795 made use of certain Masonic rituals to hide a real sacred treasure on the island.
Hopefully we’ll learn more in Season 6!
Anyone who wants to get in touch with Scott with any questions or for further information about his research can do so by emailing him at scottclarke416 (AT) gmail (DOT) com.