My father-in-law, Dick Soule, is a 90-year-old former Pelican with tall tales to tell. Although he can’t join us on Star Island for Pelican Reunion, Dick recently regaled us with his stories of the early days of the Star Island conference era.
Dick, a licensed contractor, was hired by architect William Roger Greeley to come to Star after World War 2 ended and help re-open the island. He and his crew cleared debris from the pier, repaired the hotel, and built Vaughn Cottage, and Parker and Newton Centre to join the Parsonage as the “Stone Village.” Dick’s crew also built the motel units – starting with Founders and Sprague, and then continuing with YPRU and Baker – to erect some additional housing to accommodate burgeoning conference attendance and to offset the loss of beds when the fourth floor of the hotel was deemed unsafe for conference use. (Interestingly, the original plan for the motel units was to add stone facing to their ends, to tie them in with the look of the stone village – but that additional cosmetic work was never completed. You can see the 10” overhang as you take the boardwalk past the end of Sprague.)
One of Dick’s most intriguing stories, however, was of guarding a suspected cache of buried treasure on Star, over sixty years ago. Dick recalls that he was visited in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s by Rev. Lyman Rutledge, who was then serving as Executive Director of the Star Island Corporation, informing him of the results of aerial surveillance of Star Island, which indicated – at least to a private treasure-hunter and newspaperman from New York City, Mr. Greenhagen – that there was buried treasure on Star. Greenhagen had come to agreement with the Star Island Corporation around the terms surrounding his search for the bounty, and he wanted to make sure that no one would get to the island before he did to claim the riches!
Soule took a crew of five out to the island, including Joe Pinchon, Bobby Wharem, and several others, and they huddled in Cottage D as fall set in, alongside Lawrence Sullivan, the year-round caretaker who lived in the Cottage with his wife and daughters. The men were equipped with food, cigarettes, and guns belonging to Judge Charlie Bolster (the Clerk of the SIC Board). They stayed out on the island for nearly two weeks, patrolling and keeping watch, while the Corporation waited for the treasure to be dug up. Three boats were hired, one for collecting the treasure, the others to act as decoys to divert possible modern-day pirates. The men guarding the treasure were ordered not to dig for the treasure themselves, although Lawrence Sullivan disclosed that he had once been asked to dig for treasure on Smuttynose, but had run into rocks and had to abandon the search.
Soule recalls, “We got into a rowboat with a case of beer and a case of dynamite, and found the place where Sullivan had been digging on Smuttynose. I tucked some dynamite into the area and blew it up. There were sea-washed stones and then we dug down six feet more, then there were more stones, so I blew those up. But then we ran out of beer and dynamite and a thunderstorm was brewing, so we gave up and went back to Star.
“On Star, we waited day after day and went to the dump and shot rats, ate, smoked, stood at the Pier with our guns, and toured the island. And after a number of days, we found out that Greenhagen had a similar project going in Canada. He had lost all his money on that one, and came out to Star and went to Betty Moody’s cave with Lyman, and then said that he couldn’t find treasure there. So we were ordered to go home. We packed up and went off. The treasure hunter paid the Corporation something each year to keep his claim open, and after four or five years, SIC got embarrassed taking his money and gave it up. But Greenhagen said the treasure was gold, silver, and some diamonds, and worth some millions of dollars, even back then. And he said that it was buried 11 feet down on Star Island…I think it’s got to be between where the sewage treatment plant and Star Loft. That’s the only place where you could dig 11 feet down, so it must be there.
“That treasure’s still there,” Dick Soule said. “It’s just waiting for someone to dig it up!”
Dick lives on Cape Cod at the Orleans Convalescent and Retirement Center, along with his wife, Phoebe, who just celebrated her 92nd birthday. They welcome visitors and letters: 60 Daley Terrace, Orleans, MA 02653; phone: 508-255-3657. And Dick has more tales to tell, so it’s well worth the visit!
- Debbie Weiner Soule