In 1874 a lone rider on horseback arrived in Galveston to visit his wealthy relatives. Not wishing to
sponge on these rich relatives, the young man boarded a room from a clerk at the customhouse, where
he met and befriended an old French Canadian man by the name of LaCassinier. In that instance the
young man entered the dawn of a new singular history, setting foot on a unique journey which was to
be pursued his entire life. The old gentleman spoke but little English, the young man having acted as
interpreter on several occasions, gained the old man’s confidence. LaCassinier had returned one last
time to the island to recover the treasure that he and four others had buried in 1819 mid way down the
island at the “Three Trees”, not his treasure, but the treasure cache buried through the instructions of
the communes leader, the pirate (or privateer) Jean Lafitte.
The young man returned to Galveston Island in 1881 with the earned title of Doctor Joseph Oysterman
Dyer, this after graduating in medicine from the Sheffield Scientific School, later known as Yale, to set up
residence and open up a medical practice. Shortly after arriving Dr. Dyer met the acquaintance of a man
he referred to as Nicholas “the Greek”, never providing a last name in the numerous articles published
in the Galveston Daily News. Nicholas confirmed LaCassiniers tale, as he was part of the small band and
the owner of the Felucca that sailed some 13 miles down the island in 1819. The small contingent of
select confidants with a Karankawa guide maneuvered into an inlet from the bay with 3 brass bound
kegs of silver “specie”, and buried these on a ridge near the location of three small oaks, the only
“marker trees” in the vicinity. Nicholas provided a charcoal sketched chart to Dr. Dyer in the early 1880’s
which was drawn in 1820 shortly after Lafitte and his trusted men sailed away from the island to escape
a planned mutiny, the story related by Nicholas.
Lafitte’s ships sailed for the Yucatan in May of 1820, where they remained until 1825, when Lafitte died
of yellow fever. Stranded on the Yucatan until 1842, LaCassinier and Nicholas the Greek returned with
Moore’s navy back to a Galveston which had little in common to the one departed in 1820. All but a few
in Lafitte’s commune and those who stayed on to serve under General Long were gone, the shorelines
of Galveston disturbed by the hurricanes of 1823 and 1837, the 1823 hurricane wiping out any trace of
the three young marker trees, therefore removing any hope of finding the buried cache.
In the early 1880’s, Dr. Dyer dug for the Lafitte cache uncovering his own undiscovered treasure, a
unique and handsome collection of pottery and other antiquities left behind by the Karankawa Indians,
which were donated to the Rosenberg Library in the 1920’s and later placed on prominent display,
where they remain until this day.
Dr. Dyer was very coy in his published writings in regards to the location of the buried cache, he wished
no harm to anyone or the environment, and ensured no specifics were ever intentionally published that
would guide the eager treasure seekers to the location. He wrote numerous articles about the early
history of Galveston including Lafitte and members of the commune, touching on the treasure at various
“instances” in which this writer captured and “cataloged” along with the entirety of his 290 published
news articles throughout his writing career.
The Treasure of Lafitte on Galveston Island
The veracity of any valued treasure story relies on the integrity of the source. Dr. Dyer was not only a
physician, but a life-long historian, surviving the great fire of 1885, the devastating hurricane of 1900,
and direct witness to the ravages of World War I and the toll it took on the local community. He wrote
prolifically in the early 1920’s to inspire his readers, capturing their attention through a wide variety of
articles, some included his prominent family members Isadore Dyer and Joseph Osterman. A plethora of
other articles covered almost every subject imaginable from the Civil War, health and disease, religion,
Galveston history, to how the Poinsettia was named. He was the islands local anthropologist and
archeologist, investigating, cataloging, and publishing articles on antiquities and relics found on the
Dr. Dyer believed that one should dress everyday like they were in a parade, and was a stickler for
details, spending months verifying and corroborating details, he perused diligently every review copy
sent by the Galveston Daily News which was typed from his handwritten articles, some of his original
handwritten copies are still on file with the Rosenberg Library GTHC.
Romanticizing some stories into a wonderful readers spellbinding tale, Dr. Dyer held the line on true
history, his integrity was unquestioned by all. He authorized a series on the Corrected and Epitomized
History of Texas, reconciling previous published errors. It has been said that one has truly made it when
they make front page news, Dr. Dyers 1925 front page photo and obituary covered pages, the funeral at
his home formed a line stretching around the block, and took hours for all to visit and view his open
casket. He often addressed his audience as “dear” reader, and he became in fact the same to them.
Months prior to his death, Dr. Dyer became ill, now convalescing in full retirement he began writing a
book on Lafitte which he reported would “raise the eyebrows” of the reader, he unfortunately never
finished this work. Passing away in 1925 at the age of 71, he left an indelible legacy immortalized in the
folds of a repository of newspapers, now to be brought forth again for a modern age of readers to enjoy
his ageless tales.
But for young and old, the story sought around the world in every language, is the true tale of a pirates
treasure, one that has the “veracity” hence corroborated basis that it actually exists and can be
recovered for all to witness.
This writer has endured a 15 year span of research and field investigations to rationalize Dr. Dyers
published articles of Lafitte content, including key historical chronologies, topographical effects from of
the history of hurricanes, the cataloguing, scaling and overlay of historical maps, in depth reviews of
published archeological investigations, the entirety of the Dyer holdings at the Rosenberg Galveston &
Texas History Center, collective reviews of the publishing’s of the Lafitte Society, the detailed related
aspects of Galveston history, and a myriad of other subjects and subject matter including the study of
Quercus Virginiana, the scientific name for Live Oak trees.
But there is an ultimate purpose, hence an ultimate end game for the thousands of hours expended.
Galveston Island has long been referred to romantically in lore and tale as “Treasure Island”.
The Treasure of Lafitte on Galveston Island
It is high time this became a reality.
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