Earliest treasure-hunting families could hold key to mystery on The Curse of Oak Island

A very rare photo of Robert Creelman, a member of the Oak Island Treasure Company and the great-grandson of Onslow Company leader Robert Archibald, with his wife Susanna Archibald circa 1903

This week The Curse of Oak Island aired a very interesting “Family Album” episode which highlighted some of the very earliest families to be involved in the centuries-old treasure hunt. This included the McInnis, Vaughan and Ball families.

They also featured some of the more recent families who’ve dedicated so much of their time and effort to the mystery, including the Chappell, Dunfield, Restall, Blankenship and Lagina families.

Unfortunately the show skipped over almost a century of the families that made up the formative first century of the treasure hunt. This includes generations of families during the 19th century who kept the Oak Island mystery alive by passing information down from fathers to sons and between extended family members who continued to form subsequent treasure hunting companies on Oak Island for over 100 years.

My name is Scott Clarke and I have a particular interest in these families as I’m distantly related to quite a few of them. About 10-12 years ago I did extensive genealogical research into all of the early families who were connected to the Oak Island mystery. Many of these families came from the Onslow and Truro areas of Nova Scotia.

As most people know, after the original three young men (McGinnis, Vaughan and Smith or possibly Ball) discovered the so-called Money Pit in 1795 and could dig no deeper they were forced to cease their efforts until a larger company was formed around 1803/04.

This company became known as the Onslow Company. Early newspaper accounts and later books all mention the same four men as being members of this group. They are Colonel Robert Archibald, Captain David Archibald, Sheriff Thomas Harris and Simeon Lynds. In a later company prospectus we learn of a fifth member of this company, Mr. William Blair Jr.

What people usually don’t know is that all five of these men were fairly closely related to each other. Robert Archibald, who was the eldest of the group, is reported to have been the leader of the Onslow Company. David Archibald was Robert’s son.

William Blair Jr. was Robert’s brother-in-law, as Robert had married William’s sister Hannah Blair. Another Blair sister, Rebecca Blair was married to Thomas Lynds and they were the parents of Simeon Lynds, who is credited with forming the Onslow Company. Lastly, Thomas Harris was married to Jennet Savage, the daughter of Robert Archibald’s sister Margaret.

Workers on Oak Island in 1897
Some of the workers on Oak Island in 1897. It’s thought the photograph could include Robert Creelman, William Creelman, Adams A. Tupper and H.C. Tupper, all mentioned below
Workers on Oak Island in 1897
Another image of workers on Oak Island believed to have been taken in 1897
Operations on Oak Island in 1897
Operations on Oak Island the same year, with the team visible left of center

After the Onslow Company, the next group to hunt for treasure on Oak Island didn’t form until about 40 years later. This new company was called the Truro Company and it was largely made up of family members of the Onslow Company who had grown up hearing secretive and fascinating tales of the Money Pit from their relatives.

The Truro Company was led by Robert Archibald’s cousin Charles Dickson Archibald who was an experienced miner and manager of the Acadian Iron Works. Another Archibald cousin who joined this company and had a long association with Oak Island was Adams Archibald Tupper.

Adams was named after his uncle, Sir Adams George Archibald, who became one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation. John Gammell was another investor and member of the Truro Company and he was Adams A. Tupper’s Uncle. A younger brother of Simeon Lynds by the name of Dr. David Barnes Lynds also became a member of this company. David also married into the Blair family.

By the early 1860s a third company had formed which was called the Oak Island Association. This company again included Adams Archibald Tupper but also Isaac Blair, the Grandson of Onslow Company member William Blair Jr. and Robert Creelman who was the great-grandson of Onslow Company leader Robert Archibald.

The last treasure hunting company to dig on Oak Island during the 19th century was the Oak Island Treasure Company whose membership included Adams A. Tupper, Adams’ nephew H.C. (Henry Charles) Tupper, Robert Creelman and Robert’s son William Creelman. William would become the fifth generation of Oak Island treasure hunters from that same Archibald-Creelman family!

Another young man who joined the Oak Island Treasure Company around 1893 (who was shown briefly on the “Family Album” episode) was named Frederick Leander Blair. What the show didn’t mention is that Fred was a nephew of Isaac Blair and Great Grandson of Onslow Company member William Blair Jr. Frederick Blair would go on to spend the next 60 years of his life involved in excavations on Oak Island.

Frederick Blair
Frederick Blair pointing at the location of Oak Island on a map of Nova Scotia
A genealogy tree showing some of the key Oak Island family connections
A genealogy tree showing some of the key Oak Island family connections with the treasure-hunters highlighted by red rectangles. Click to enlarge

When brothers-in-law Robert Archibald and William Blair Jr. first set foot on Oak Island back in about 1803 they surely never could have imagined that the next four or five generations of their family would still be searching for the elusive treasure on a quest that would incredibly span 148 years within that family!

Unfortunately those earlier families did not find their hoped for “treasure” on Oak Island, but they did unearth many of the elements and clues that have created the history and mystery that are so famous today.

Without families like the Archibalds, Blairs, Lynds, Creelmans and Tuppers, Oak Island would have been forgotten long ago and the torch would never have been passed to the Restall, Blankenship, Tester and Lagina families.

Perhaps if there is a sixth season of The Curse of Oak Island as many viewers hope, the producers might consider delving more deeply into the history of these particular families and what information or artifacts their descendants may have inherited.

The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on History.

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