Oak Island is 140 acres of privately-owned land in Lunenburg County, on the south shore of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. A forested island, one of more than 350 small islands in Mahone Bay, it's not all that geographically significant. But the legends that Oak Island boasts are, well, legendary.
Fans of The Curse of Oak Island already know all of this, of course. After all, there have been some seven series’ and well over a hundred episodes of the hit reality TV show which follows Lagina brothers Rick and Marty as they dedicate their lives to uncovering the secrets, buried treasure, myths and hexes of the supposedly cursed place.
One of the show’s most memorable episodes was The Mystery of Samuel Ball (series 4, episode 8). In it, the Michigan-born siblings and their team discover some compelling evidence which links a freed black slave to the enigma that is Oak Island.
Who was Samuel Ball?
Our story begins way back in 1765, in South Carolina. Born to parents that were kept as slaves on a plantation and raised in dreadful conditions with limited food rations, young Samuel’s future looked bleak. And it was. Until he was offered a unique - although dangerous - way out.
As the American War of Independence began to reach its final stages, the British grew desperate for more men. They turned to the young black men toiling in the fields down south. Favourable deals were struck, often the promise of land after the war as payment.
Ball accepted the deal and headed to New York (technically) a free man. Despite the colonists' defeat, he survived the war and his new employers were good to their word. Samuel was paid in land and set up a cabbage farm in Shelburne, Nova Scotia and then one in nearby Chester.
What was Ball’s connection to Oak Island?
Some 23-odd years after taking control of his first farm, Samuel Ball had amassed a sizable plot of land in Mahone Bay. He decided to branch out and bought a small plot on Oak Island. Slowly he acquired more and more land until he eventually owned hundreds of acres. 36 of them were on Oak Island alone.
Here’s the strange part, though - Ball’s initial investment of 8 pounds Sterling for a few acres on Oak Island may sound like nothing now, but at the time? He could have bought more than 20 times that land for that amount of money on mainland Nova Scotia.
But Samuel Ball was adamant about purchasing Lot 24 on Oak Island.
How did he go from owning a small holding to hundreds of acres?
Now you’re starting to ask the real questions… Samuel Ball was, when he died in 1846, a really rather wealthy man indeed. The - understandable - assumption being that he made his modest fortune growing and selling cabbages. Some folk, however, believe there’s another explanation altogether.
Why was Samuel so keen to buy on Oak Island? Especially when the land was so expensive. Well, it seems as though he’d heard the rumours of treasure being buried on the island. There’s some suggestion that he may well have been the very first person to ever go treasure hunting on the island. And, judging by the future land purchases and wealth at his death, he could very well have found some.
So what was the deal with this hard-working and successful loyalist former slave and cabbage farmer? Was he merely a shrewd businessman and a grafter? Or was there something more to the man? Did he strike it rich in the ground?
The answer is, well… we just don’t know. That’s why the mystery of Samuel Ball is a mystery, you see.