Dana Brown was an uncle by marriage of Mildred George Kemp, the wife of Elton “Dude” Kemp, the squire of Water Street, in the days prior to World War II. Dana’s wife had died just before the time that he built the cottage on the riverbank that provided a comfortable place for him to live in his widower hood. He and Lou Hanson, the teamster for the Contoocook Mill were neighbors there in the midst of the Mill’s domain until the 1936 flood.Dana was a jack-of-all-trades, as most of those old Yankees were, so he was never without work even during the height of the Great Depression. I think he preferred carpentry, and as a result he would often be found replacing a sill here or patching a roof there.
He had also mastered the ancient craft of dowsing, so he would often be seen trudging off with his witch hazel rod to some country spot where the owner was hoping to dig a well. There were few wells dug in those days until the proposed site had been certified by such a dowsing genie. But Dana was no ordinary genie, for it was reputed that he could locate all manner of buried objects with his dowsing rod. People would frequently hire him to walk their property with his magic stick in the hope that he would detect some object of great value. Well, as everyone knew the sea captain’s fortune that was believed to be hidden at Ocean-Born Mary’s House in Henniker was the largest treasure in the vicinity.
At the time, in the early 1930s, a gentleman named Mr. Roy and his mother lived there, and with money as scarce as it was, he felt a constant hankering to finally find the old captain’s treasure. Of course, there was always the compelling inhibiting fear that probing too deeply into the hidden nooks and crannies of the old place might arouse the ghost of the captain or his daughter, Ocean-Born Mary. Never the less, over a period of time he had thoroughly examined the interior of the building in every logical hiding place, but to no avail. In the summer seasons he would examine the exterior grounds, making test holes here and there, hoping by luck to hit the jackpot. He soon realized that the task was far too daunting to explore the entire property in this hit or miss fashion.
It happened that this Mr. Roy possessed another interest, about which he was considered an expert. He was a photographer-artist, an occupation in which he worked only with a pin-hole camera. He had produced numerous photographs of a large size, which apparently required a very large camera. His subject was frequently his mother, who had the ability to remain motionless for extended periods until he was able to obtain the correct exposures. The results were nearly perfect images of her face and especially her hands. On one occasion he ventured into Hillsborough on a sales effort hoping to interest the poorest people in the world in these outstanding works of art. He imparted the secrets of his craft for the benefit of the young members of the household, but left with his portfolio intact.
However, while in the neighborhood he learned about Dana Brown, the amazing wizard of the dowsing rod, and quickly recognized the potential for simplifying his search for the captain’s guineas. He was introduced to Dana and they soon struck a deal, under the terms of which Dana would walk the property with his magic wand. I am not aware of his compensation, but I hope that Dana was astute enough to demand a fair percentage of any discoveries.
The Water Street neighborhood was all astir in anticipation of the news that the treasure had finally been discovered. The suspense lasted for several days while Dana performed his witchery. With each passing day hopes dimmed until finally he completed his work and reported to the neighborhood that he had found absolutely no trace of a single farthing of the captain’s treasure. One might hope that this sterling treasure hunt would have ended the dream that the Captain ever had a treasure to bury, but it is my understanding that in more recent times a new owner has sought the hidden fortune with modern technological witching rods, with the same negative results.
Perhaps it would be more productive to direct any future searches at the end of the rainbow and leave the mystical dowsing to the discovery of the elusive underground springs.
written by Phil Harvey
January 20, 2012