It was the year 1704. French-Canadians and New Englanders had long been engaged in fierce border skirmishes. One such encounter was an attack by Major Church on the tiny wilderness outpost of Castine in what is now the state of Maine.
The daughter of Jean Vincent de lAbadie, Baron de St. Castine, owner of the settlement, escaped from the crude stockade with a considerable amount of treasure and buried it near the town of Penobscot.
The value of this cache was in excess of several thousands of dollars.
Approximately 2,000 coins were recovered in 1850 by Capt. Stephen Grindle and his son, Samuel. The remainder of the trove is still waiting to be recovered.
Baron Castine (sometimes spelled Castin or St. Castin) was a French nobleman who was sent to the New World by his aristocratic parents because of his propensity for trou-ble. Even though he was only 15-years-old, Castine's family managed to secure a lieutenant's commission for him in a Canadian regiment guarding the frontier. Young
Castine readily adapted himself to the rugged life. Rather than remaining in the barracks shining his boots and brass, the boy preferred the company of Indians and woodsmen. Loving the strenuous outdoor life, it did not take the young aristocrat long to learn the ways of the wilderness and its Indian tribes.
Shortly after his arrival in Quebec, Castine decided to inspect some land near the mouth of the Penobscot River in Maine. This was land held through royal grant by his family. He set off in a canoe with three young Indian friends and arrived at the village of Pentagoet after a journey of several days.
Pentagoet had a rather stormy history from the time of its founding by Plymouth Pilgrims in 1629. Shortly thereafter the trading post was captured by a band of French-men. Miles Standish led an expedition to recapture it, but without success. However, British forces were able to again take it in 1670. But within a short period, the French recaptured the settlement for the second time. It was at this time that Castine arrived on the scene.
When his regiment was later disbanded, Castine decided to make Pentagoet his permanent home, and the settlement was renamed in his honor. His friendship with the Indians continued to increase to the point where they made him a chief. Castine had more influence over them and better control than any other French leader. In fact, the Indians loved and respected him almost to the point of idolatry. So strong was this association that Governor Meneval of Montreal strongly rebuked the young baron for failure to conduct himself as a gentleman.
The Governor's admonition had little effect, for Castine shortly thereafter married the daughter of Madockawando, a powerful chief of the Penobscots. Actually, this marriage was important to the French authorities, for it assured them of the unwavering support of a vast network of tribal connections.
Following his marriage, Baron Castine became a highly sucessful fur trader and eventually accumulated a fortune of 300,000 gold crowns. He conducted most of his business out of Pentagoet, even though he was forced to spend more time than he wished in defending the settiment. This interfered, to a degree, with his trading activities.
On one occasion, Castine returned to Pentagoet from a wilderness expedition to find that Flemish pirates had captured his settlement. He quickly called upon his Indian relatives for assistance, and the invaders were driven off in confusion. Most of the time, however, attacks on the village came from the British or New Englanders. Castine hated the latter, but not enough to refuse their business between attacks over a period of 20 years.
On another occasion, Sir Edmund Andros, Governor General of Massachusetts, executed a raid on Pentagoet. Castine had to flee to the woods, and Andros carried away a considerable amount of plunder to the village of Pemaquid.
The baron was furious at this impertinence. Raising a strong force of Abenakis a year later, he destroyed the Pemaquid settlement, then burned Falmouth, now Portland. These acts caused Castines name to be mentioned in the same breath with that of the devil along the Maine coast. Indeed, he had become the Mad Baron.
Conditions were so unsettled in the area that Castine built a palisade of logs and mounted 12 guns on its walls. In the center was his trading post - a strange-looking building, long, low and irregular, constructed partly of stone and partly of logs. However, this fortress was not strong enough to hold off Major Church'
s British forces when he attacked it in 1704.
At that time Baron Castine was in France on business concerning his inheritance. By some means, either before or during the attack, Castine's daughter was able to escape from the fort with the baron's fortune and bury it beside a large rock some six miles away on the shore of the Narrows. British troops captured her a short time later and she was never able to return and retrieve her fortune. Neither did Baron Castine, for he died in France.
For nearly a century and a half nothing concrete was heard of the Castine hoard. Then in 1849, two men, Capt. Stephen Grindle and his son, Samuel, were engaged in hauling logs down the bank of the Bagaduce River to the shore of the Second Narrows, or Johnson's Narrows. About ten yards from the shore Samuel happened to glance down at a rut gouged out by one of the heavy logs, and there was a coin - a French crown.
The father and son were elated by their discovery. They gave up their arduous job of hauling logs for that day and, before darkness fell, they recovered 20 more coins. It was late November and that night a heavy blanket of snow fell, putting an end to further treasure hunting for the winter.
The following April, the Grindles returned with picks and shovels for a concentrated search. Their efforts were amply rewarded, for they were fortunate enough to recover nearly 2,000 coins minted in England, France, Portugal, Holland, Mexico, New England, Bogota and Lima. Some of these coins are still on display at the Maine Historical Soc-ietv in Portland.
Did the Grindles recover all of Baron Castine's hoard? Several historians are of the opinion that a considerable portion of this fortune still lies buried near the Narrows. To find it is certainly a challenge to test the expert treasure hunter, but it is not an impossible task.