One morning in February, 1849, rather exciting word was brought into the Depot Village on the Boston and Albany railroad, that a singular and remarkable document or letter had been found by the side of "The Old Road," on the farm of one Samuel Shaw, by his son and his cousin, the son of a Dr. Gardiner Shaw, two young men, one about twenty, the other perhaps eighteen years old, who had been out the day before with their dog in pursuit of rabbits. Having run one under a shelving ledge of rocks, they sought to dislodge him by enlarging the aperture, so that the dog might enter, or if practicable, to draw him forth with the hand. Removing a loose stone, one of the young men thrusting in his arm, his hand came in contact with a small glass bottle, or rather, perhaps, a large vial. Drawing it forth, and seeing that it contained a roll of paper, they became very much excited and curious to learn what, if anything, was written thereon. The vial was hermetically sealed with a cork made of sheet lead, closely and tightly pressed in, with a cap of the same material over all, and wound tight around the neck by a small wire or cord, somewhat after the manner in which sea-faring persons prepare communications to be thrown overboard in time of distress, hoping the same may be washed upon some distant coast. Going to the house on the side, and nearest the highest part of the rocky mountain heretofore described, and not many rods from the place of their find, they uncorked the vial and attempted to withdraw the paper, but the scroll having loosened from its coil after its insertion through the small neck, filling it full, they found it impracticable to obtain the paper intact, and were necessitated to break the glass. There were two pieces of paper in the vial; the outer one bore merely a postscript, but upon the inner one there was written what follows:
"TO JOHN BAILEY, Esq., of New York:
Sir -- I fear we are in a bad situation, we are taken for pirates, and you must come to
Boston as soon as you get this; there is no one here I can depend on - the man who brings this to you cannot read it, he knows nothing what is in it - you must come as soon as you get it, or I may not see you before I am carried to England. It I do not see you I will tell you where the money is, for we have plenty of that if it will do any good. It is buried on Conant's Island, in Boston Harbor, on the northwest corner of the island in two chests, containing from fifteen to twenty thousand pounds sterling, in money, jewels and diamonds. They are buried about four feet deep with a flat stone on them, and a pile of stones near by. There is no one that knows where it is but me now living, as Dick Jones and I hid it when part of our men were in Boston and the rest were asleep one night - it is about sixty rods up the side hill. I want to see you before we are carried to Old England, if possible - if not, you must get all the witnesses in my favor, and the best of counsel to help you. I want you to see Col. Slaughter and John Nichols and James Bayard and Capt. Houson and Edward Teach, and all that can do me any good; say nothing to them about the money or that I have wrote to you. You know my old friends in New York, and who will help me. That Moore scrape is the worst part of my case. I think my interest with Lord Bellamont, and my two commissions and some French papers I have with me, and my men running away to the pirates to Culiford, and other things are in my favor. All may be safe yet; they think I have got money buried down at Plymouth or that way somewhere, they don't think it is so near Boston; but they shan't have my money and life too; don't fail to come to me as soon as you get this.
I enquired the best way by land to New York, and told him to go to Worcester and then to Quabog [Brookfield], an Indian town where Maj. Willard fought the Indians; there is a pond and a stream leading to Connecticut river, and down to Hartford by water to New York, and to give this to you himself. Say nothing to him about me or that you ever saw me - but come without fail, or if I am gone to England, be there as soon as as possible. Secure the money and diamonds before you come, as my money will do a great good for us - it will buy a great many great people and all the poor I want in my favor. Keep dark in New York, say nothing to any but my friends - don't fail to be in Boston before I am carried to England, as I can tell you more than I can write, and better what I want. I told the man that brings this to you, if he met with any trouble or was taken by the Indians, to hide his papers in some safe place where he can find them if he got away. I will put them in the glass, for if he should get them wet or anything should happen to him they will be safe. I can't think of anything more to write now, but will tell you all when you come. They keep me well and are kind to me here. This is from your friend
N.B. - Come soon, without fail, and I will tell you more and all about the money. It is on Conant's Island, about three miles down the Harbor of Boston - they don't think it is so near Boston; but you must keep dark here - say nothing to any one here about me till you see
Although the bitterest cold day of the winter, and snow more than two feet deep and much drifted across the hill, the writer availabe himself of an invitation and a seat in a well-robed sleigh and visited the highest mountain farm house in the town - the home of Mr. Samuel Shaw, a quiet, honest and every way respectable citizen. We arrived at the house about noon and found some twenty or more persons already there, having come mostly from the villages in the valleys from three to five miles distant to see the remarkable curiosity. All the circumstances relating to the finding were recounted by the two young men and repeated to every new visitor. That lonely farm house never before opened its door to so many visitors. Prominent citizens, born in the town, were there for the first time. There upon the table lay the broken glass - the cork and cap of sheet lead and the two sheets of long but rather narrow, unruled cap paper, the latter coarse and of a dingy white color, and bore the stamp of the English crown, plainly to be recognized when held up to the light. The writing was what would be called old English commercial style, "a fair round hand," like unto that of the commander of the Pinafore. No one who saw that letter doubted of its antiquity and genuineness, that it was found by the boys as described, and that it had lain in the silence of the cave of the mountain for 150 years. For weeks the house of Mr. Shaw was besieged by visitors, and until the family became so much embarrassed thereby that the document was finally sealed up and deposited in a bank for safe keeping.
The spring of 1849 was the period at which the California fever was at its height, and men were leaving the country towns no less than cities by the hundreds for the Golden Gate. Among the large number which left Palmer for that distant coast were the two young men who had found the Kidd letter. Thinking some question might possibly arise concerning it in their absence, or doubt be expressed touching the truth of their oft-repeated statements of the circumstances of the finding of that letter, they thought it important and prudent to leave behind them a more solemn statement of the facts, and to that end applied to the writer to draw up their respective formal affidavits, rehearsing and setting forth particularly and minutely every fact and circumstance connected therewith, which was accordingly done and which they subscribed and made solemn oath to before a magistrate, and, leaving the same with their respective fathers, departed for California.About the same time, but a little later in the spring or early summer, Mr. Samuel Shaw, the father, for the first time in his life, made a trip to Boston and visited the islands in the harbor, and especially the one anciently called Conant's, but now Governor's Island. He found, however, on inquiry and from local history, that there had been, even in recent years, muc change in the shores of most of those islands, and especially the one of particular interest to him from the allusions thereto in the lately found letter - that more than sixty rods of the northwest corner of the island indicated in the letter as the place where two chests of treaure had been buried had, in the long interval of 150 years, been washed away by the tide - in fact, he was told by a resident on the island that more than thirty rods had been swept away from the same cause within the then last thirty years - that the Government was then building a sea wall to protect that part of the island from further erosion by the tides.
There can be no doubt of the genuineness of the Kidd letter and that it was found near the ancient highway in the town of Palmer, Mass., as before related, for the absolute honesty and sincerity of the two young men is not to be questioned. Besides, there was not a person in the town, nor within a hundred miles of it, possessed of the specific colonial historical information of a hundred and fifty years previous who could or would undertake to perpetrate a fraud and imposition by the manufacture of such a document, nor a person living on earth who would select such a place for its concealment with any hope or expectation that at some indefinite time thereafter a rabbit and dog, supplemented by two young hunters, in a cold and cheerless winter's day, upon the side of a desolate and lonely mountain, would bring it forth to astonish and deceive an honest and intelligent community. But, though undisputed and undoubted at the time by hundreds of gentlemen who visited the place and examined and read the paper, let us notice some of its peculiarities and the internal evidences of the genuineness of the letter. First, its enclosure in glass and sealing is after the manner of a seaman; its peculiar date, 1700-1, indicating, though the month and day were omitted, that it was at the point of the annual period when under the "old style" it would be 1700 and under the "new style" 1701, and the character of the handwriting. The whole tenor of the communication - specific, peculiar, solicitous, anxious, just such a letter as such a character would be likely to write under like circumstances, and just such as the facts of history will show to have existed at the moment and prior and subsequent thereto. Then, again, the names of persons therein alluded to, some known to history, others not; likewise the names of Indian localities and battle grounds in the description of the ancient route from Boston to New York.
So far Mr. Wallace's paper. The sequel is soon told. It seems that a dispute arose between the two senior Shaws as to the custody and proprietorship of the letter in question. Samuel brought a suit at law against Gardner. Eminent legal talent was retaine on both sides. The plaintiff employed Hon.R. A. Chapman of Springfield, and the defendant was represented by Hon. Wm. G. Bates of Westfield. The case came to trial. The plaintiff took the witness stand and swore that the letter was a forgery. And so the affair ended.