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Did Myrick hide a fortune
beneath the giant rock?

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By Charles W. Brewster

Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.

The Old Cellar--Rock Pasture--Myrick's Ropewalk--His departure--The buried gold.

ASSOCIATED with the early recollections of the men of threescore, is the Old Cellar, with its gradually declining green banks and pool of water. It was on the west side of Ann street, perhaps a hundred feet from the street, and the like distance south-west of the residence of the late William Shillaber. Near the north-west corner, fifty feet distant, was a boulder of several tons, setting high enough above the ground for a seat for the visitor, and extending far enough below the surface to cover,--the boys used to say money,--but the rock was too heavy for them ever to satisfy their curiosity by proving or disproving the fact.

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The Rock Pasture

In summer around it was the favorite play ground for the Rock pasture boys,--and when frost came, and the ice was formed, here was the skating school for the tyros before they entered upon that scene of active life, the great mill pond. The times have changed, and what was once a cow pasture, is now the site of the Sagamore Mill,--and McDonough, Penn and Lyme streets, with the houses that line them, fill that once attractive open space;--and the house of Daniel P. Drown sits now upon that centre of all attractions, the Old Cellar. We may look with joy upon the progress of improvement, but with some regret at being deprived of the open scenes which gladdened the youthful eye.

As the Old Cellar has been made the subject of a romance by one who can appreciate its early attractions, it would perhaps be interesting to give its traditionary history, which has enough of romance connected with it to make it attractive without a borrowed dress.

Before the Revolution, Rock street was the outskirt of the town,--so decidedly so, that when a map of Portsmouth was made in 1778, it extended only to Parker street in the westerly direction. At that time, and long after, there was no house on the north side of the street between Parker street and Martin's hill. On the site of the residence of Capt. Hussey, was a high rock, which gave to the whole neighborhood the name of Rock Pasture--and from it Rock street took its name. Behind the rock, commencing where Mr. Haselton's stable stands, was a ropewalk, extending west and terminating near Cornwall street.

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Myrick's Departure

The whole pasture, from Ann street to beyond the Sagamore factory, it has been said, was purchased by a Mr. Myrick, an Englishman, who was preparing to make a handsome park, and build a house in the vicinity of the river, which then, being unobstructed by a bridge, was deeper, clearer, and more beautiful than it has since usually been. Mr. Myrick had laid out his plans, and the cellar for his house was dug,--that Old Cellar,--between the west end of the ropewalk and the river. When he had made progress thus far, the times began to present a squally appearance. Desiring to visit England, he found it very difficult at the time to obtain passage either from this port or from Boston. He found a vessel bound to Jamaica, and knowing the frequent intercourse between that island and the mother country, he took passage. Nothing was ever heard of him after. It was supposed he was lost in some ship between Jamaica and England.

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Hidden Treasure?

Some years after, one afternoon, as John Redding and George Boyd (SEE Ramble #32 for more) closed work in the old ropewalk above described, Boyd threw off the hemp which had been wound around his body, exclaiming--"There--I will never spin another thread--I'll get my living in an easier way." This remark somewhat surprised the other workmen, as they knew of no means he had for a livelihood aside from his regular trade. He however soon went into business with a mysterious capital, and ever after spun the silken rather than the hempen yarns of life.

It was commonly supposed that when Myrick left for England, there being no safe depository for treasure in any American institution, and less safety in attempting to carry it away, he hid his gold beneath this boulder near the Old Cellar, which was a few rods north of the ropewalk,--and that the sudden riches of the ropemaker arose from his discovery of the treasure. This is the tradition of the Old Cellar. It may be true--it may not be in every respect, but such is the tradition. No one claiming the land, it was held by the original proprietors, and many deeds have been given since, in which those who have had a knowledge of the facts have granted a quit-claim in preference to a warrantee title.

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
Design Copyright © 2000

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