Honolulu Man Knows Where Much Silver has been Buried

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Honolulu Man Knows Where Much Silver has been Buried


Describes in detail the story of the pirate ship Esperanza, wrecked on the reefs outside Palmyra in 1816, along with its survivors. Has a detailed map of Palmyra from the time and a basic history. Same article as posted in the archive at the link here, but with a different title and the map.


Captain F.D. Walker


Daily Pacific Commercial Advertiser




Public Domain





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By Captain F.D. Walker

In the year of 1816 the Spanish Ship Esperanza sailed from Peru with a valuable cargo of bullion and other merchandise. The value of the silver alone was above one million and a half pesos, with gold of about the same amount. The vessel was bound for the Spanish East Indies.
On the fourth day after leaving Peru, she was captured by an Independent cruise; the engagement was severe on both sides; so bad for the cruiser that she was abandoned; the captors boarding the Esperanza, and shaping her course for Macao.

The crew of the Esperanza joined their captors and were to have their share of the prize.

Treasure Vessel Sinks

On the forty-third day after leaving the South American coast, it was blowing fresh with constant rain. At two a.m. the vessel struck on sunken coral, the sudden stoppage of the ship causing the mainmast to break, thus rendering it helpless. At daybreak the ship was found to be in the center of a reef some three miles in diameter, with hillocks of land about one mile to the eastward. On clearing away the wreck it was found possible to haul her off, but the crew found it impracticable to continue the voyage owing to the several leaks which she had sprung. So after some four days of incessant toil she was warped close to the beach of one small Island and then dismantled.

Treasure is Divided

The Treasure was taken out and fairly divided; the silver was buried in a secure place, but the gold was apportioned to each man.
The men then built a small vessel from the wreck, and on the ninetieth day, they launched their craft. Their provisions had been scarcely touched, as fish on the island was so abundant and of good quality. The total number of men was ninety on the landing, (the losses during the engagement being very heavy). Of this number, eighty embarked, having provisioned their craft, and each man taking his share of gold with him. They sailed on the one hundred-twentieth day from the date of the wreck, leaving ten men behind to be eventually taken off when a suitable vessel ould be found to remove them and the buried silver.

They were never heard of afterwards

About one year from the date of the departure of the main body from the island, the remainder of the men, who had built themselves comfortable quarters from the wreck, became so tired of waiting that they resolved to build another small craft, which they did. It took them three months, and drawing lots as to who should go, having previously arranged that four should remain on the island they sailed away. On the thirteenth day after leaving, a storm arose and four were washed overboard, the mast was blown away, and they drifted, they knew not where. As their stock of provision were spoiled they became ill, but by the will of providence an American whaler picked them up, where after a few days from the time of their rescue, one died, the other lingered till the arrival of the ship at Mission City (now San Francisco) at which place he was given in charge of the Mission hospital. He died on the thirtieth day after his admittance.

Tells the Secret

Previous to his death, he confided to his attendant the particulars of the loss of the Esperanza, giving the latitude and longitude of the place, and a description of the spot where the silver was buried, imploring him to endeavor to rescue the men on the island.
He was an Englishman and well educated and had not been home for many years. The name give to the hospital on his admittance was Edwards.

Walker’s Part in it

In the year 1883 there lay in Boqueron, off Callao, Peru, an Italian man-of-war called Archimede. Being considered obsolete for modern warfare, she was sold out of the service and was purchased by Capt. F.D. Walker, who was engaged in collecting cargoes of iron for the Japanese market.

By the kindness of the captain of the Port and incidentally an occasional payment to him of one hundred silver soles the frigate was allowed to remain in the Boqueron instead of the merchant ship harbor.

This was most pleasant as that anchorage (for men-of-war only) is free from the nauseous fumes which periodically visit Callao, called localy the “Painter” owing to all the white paint being quickly tunred to a dirty slate color. Some months after the acquisition of the Archimede I purchased from teh United States government the store ship Onward.

The man with the Secret

On taking possession of the Onward I took over her caretaker, an old man named Conner, whom I transferred eventually to the Archimede. His age was uncertain; he said he was about seventy, but to form an opinion from his personal appearance, I should say he was close to eighty or ninety. Stil he was lively and his life must have been very adventuresome, he had been every thing you could imagine, though he never quitted the Pacific coast. He served the Peruvians, Chilenos, Bolivians, whenever there was war either as gunner in their navy or sergeant in the field, with equal fidelity. There was nothing he did not now from Magellan straits to Panama.

It was my invariable custom (it is now) to get up at night, go on deck, perhaps light a pipe, and feel the invigorating influence of the cool night air, and on those occasions I had many conversations with the old man who though loquacious was interesting.

Tells his Secret to Walker

When young he had served in nearly every service, whether in the regular navy or disguised pirating. One starlight night, after a slight conversation he told me of a secret which he possessed and said that if I would assist him we could both be rich. “Captain,” said he, “I can tell you where you can fill the gunroom with bar silver and gold.” He then related to me the foregoing account of the Esperanza, he having been Edward’s attendant. He had gone to Mission hospital with a broken arm and collar bone. He carefully wrote down Edward’s statement of the latitude and longitude of the place of ship wreck together with a map of the buried treasure. After remaining in the country till 1819 he joined the service of the Argentines, first in one ship under Corney and lastly under the famous Bouchard. He spoke so highly of the latter that I was convinced that if Nelson ever had a superior, his name was Bouchard.

Connor’s Death

I promised due secrecy as a matter of course and studied the diagram of the location, but alas! poor Conner went to his future home, without the treasure. Let us hope that a kindly Providence would not permit him to be burdened with the riches which we are informed the possessor of cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.

I was deeply grieved at Connor’s death. On hearing of his illness, I went to his house not far from Jibboom street, from whence I sent him to the hospital at Belle-a-vista where he died after a short illness. The doctor who at my request attended him, told me he died of old age accelerated by pneumonia.

He was a Chileno (Chillian), born in Derry, Ireland, a country from which the most prominent Chilenos come.

Walker’s Arrival in Honolulu

In the year 1889, I arrived in Honolulu after an unpleasant picnic of fourteen month duration. Shortly after my arrival I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of the late Hon. J.I. Dowsett, with whom I had many a long conversation about Hawaii, both ancient and modern, principally the former. I do not think that there are many who possessed such a fund of knowledge of old Hawaii, or who could tell about it, in such a perspicuous and interesting manner.

The King’s Financial Deals

Kamahameha’s financial transaction with the crew of the Santa Rosa was particularly amusing (full particulars of this pirate vessel are to be found in a neat volume published by Thrum & Co entitled “Early Northern Pacific Voyages” by Peter Corney).

It seems by a fortunate coincidence the king had a cargo of rum just arrived which he carefully bottled off. On the arrival of the pirate ship rum being evidently in demand, his price was one coin per bottle. As soon as their silver coin was expended, they produced five peso gold pieces and clearly explained that the gold piece was worth five times as much as one silver piece, and therefore demanded five bottles of rum. This the kind would not assent to; one coin one bottle, he said. They therefore thought they would submit but cut the gold piece in five. This the king would not accept, he replied that he could not cut his bottle in fiv e, so as there was no alternative, they had to give way. Soon there was nothing but doublooms-still one coin one bottle-then came the bar silver.

Is Treasure Still There?

During a visit to Victoria, B.C., I picked up an old London Magazine which contained the account of the visit to Hawaii of the Santa Rosa, and later the Argentina. I was so much interested in the account that at my request Mr. Thrum published the said volume; it called to mind Mr. Dowsett’s amusing tale of one coin one bottle of rum, and also old man Conner and his treasure secret, and I still wonder whether it would be considered insanity to go and see if the treasure is there.

The Esperanza was wrecked evidently on the Scarborough shoals now identified as Palmyra Island. See Findlay’s North Pacific Pilot. palmyra has been often visited and even people have resided there for various periods of time, but no one imagined that a vast wealth was buried there. Connor’s account of the place exactly tallies with the latest survey of the island; the time occupied in getting there, this direct track to Macao, all seem to give a certain amount of credence to his romantic tale. Even had it been known, it would have been useless to search without a key to the place of cachement.

Palmyra and its outlaying shoals resembles the pearl fishing grounds on the north coast of Australia, Thursday Island being the Entrepot for the pearl fishing fleet, which is practically or was in the hands of Japanese. There are a few cocoanut trees, but as for fish a deckload of the finest description can be caught in an hour. Here I think is fair chance for a private few to enter into an enterprise; should no treasure be found, by taking a good diver along, a most profitable business in other ways could be inaugurated.

Original Format



Captain F.D. Walker, “Honolulu Man Knows Where Much Silver has been Buried,” Palmyra Archive, accessed October 28, 2020, http://palmyraarchive.org/items/show/78.


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