Don Jacinto : the story as told by my grandfather, Edward Dunscomb
It was during my first trip to Puerto Rico, soon after graduation from Columbia College, that I became acquainted with Don Jacinto.
My father had sent me to the island in charge of a schooner loaded with merchandise consigned to his customers. It was my duty to purchase for him there, the sugar, rum, and molasses that would make up the cargo for the return voyage.
Naturally I felt my responsibility and approached all my father's correspondents with a determination to make a favorable impression.
Don Jacinto was at that time (perhaps the year 1830?) a venerable, dignified gentleman, some seventy years of age. His plantation, not far from the port of San Juan, seemed to me the most prosperous and the most beautiful on the island. His plantation, not far from the port of San Juan, seemed to me the most prosperous and the most beautiful on the island. His house spacious and substantially constructed of grey stone, overlooked a great garden of flowers. Noticeable among the trees in the park was a tremendous mahogany some fifty paces from the northern corner of his house.
Don Jacinto received me cordially and insisted that I make my home with him during my stay in Puerto Rico. This I was happy to do. My one day at the hotel had been long enough, and it seemed likely that a large part of my cargo might come from his plantation and his sugar mill.
This old gentleman was a widower with one son, a young man only a little older than I, who had been educated in France; as it soon appeared, a dissipated fellow who expected me to accompany him on his nightly revels. To my surprise he took a liking to me and after my first day or so at his father's house he spent the evenings with me, talking with me about the U.S., about my travels and particularly about the shipping business. My apparent influence over the young man delighted Don Jacinto. To gratify him I had to prolong my stay in Puerto Rico and promise that I would always be his guest on later visits to the island.
There were many such visits in ensuing years and always the old man was friendlier as he saw that my influence over his son was so useful. He gave me handsome presents. When I was living in Brooklyn he sent me a beautiful team of carriage horses which I often used to convey me to my place of business in New York. And on one of my later visits at his home he told me the story of his life.
He was born in one of the Bahama Islands, the son of a poor Spanish family. His father died while he was still a small boy and his devoted mother kept their tiny earth-floored cabin by her hard work. For him, school was impossible. As a boy he spent most of his time about the harbor, making friends of the fishermen and the sailors of ships that came to the port. There was one such vessel, a Spanish ship that came two or three times a year for supplies, whose rough sailors petted him and tried to persuade him to go to sea with them. This he refused to do. His mother needed him. He was gardener and fisherman for the family. But he always was with those sailors when their ship was in port and brought them fruit and vegetables. Then one day that ship came into port escorted by a British man or war. To his horror young Jacinto saw the officers and the crew hustled off to jail. They had been captured as pirates. Sadly the boy watched them, waved to them, called out to them. He even found a way to visit his pirate friends in prison and smuggled in fruit for them from his garden.
Days and weeks went by. His rough friends were tried in the local court, were convicted and sentenced. Jacinto pled with the judge for permission to visit them for the last time and on this occasion he received from the captain a folded paper which he should let no one see. Secretly he should study it in his home. It was a chart, showing where the pirates had buried their treasure on a tiny uninhabited island a few miles from the port.
Years passed, and Jacinto became an active fisherman. He eventually bought a small sailboat and all alone explored the waters about his home. He found the pirates' island; searched and found the great rock near which the treasure was buried; unearthed the money, gold, and jewels secreted there. Little by little he brought them all to his home, hiding his booty in a gunny sack under the fish he caught and burying it under the floor of his mother's kitchen.
At last the time came when he dared to make his escape. He bought a small schooner, hid his treasures on it and with one companion and his mother sailed away to Puerto Rico.
Now he was no longer the poor son of a washerwoman; he was a young Spaniard looking for a house and an estate. With some of the money he bought a farm near San Juan and became a planter in a small way. But by his diligence and with his secret resources he was able to expand his holdings and enlarge his house. He prospered. Before the turn of the century he had attained a high position in the community.
Don Jacinto was a thrifty soul. He used only a portion of his treasure to get his start in life. Most of it he buried secretly in his garden. Not even to his son had he said a word about it, much less to any of his servants. Only I shared his secret, under the most solemn vows that I would betray it to no one.
He led me to the northern end of his veranda. Pointing to a great mahogany tree some fifty paces away, he said "Walk back from that tree toward this pillar thirty feet. There, five feet below the surface of the ground is a chest containing the jewels from that old pirate hoard. If my son is ever in serious distress, you may tell him the secret, and if he completely reforms and settles down to honest living, tell him my story and my secret."
Unhappily, the only son of Don Jacinto never mended his ways. He married and had one daughter; but squandered his property and left his daughter almost destitute.
About 1872 I heard of her living in poverty in New York. I visited her and told her the story of her grandfather's life and his buried treasure. She laughed at me, derided me as an old fool, and turned me out of her room.
I am confident that Don Jacinto's buried pirate hoard still lies deep in Puerto Rican soil, awaiting its discover.
This is one of the tales my grandfather, Edward Dunscomb told me that summer of 1886. When I was a student in Union Seminary, 1891-1894, I was visiting my cousin, Joe Darling, one evening when he brought up this story of Don Jacinto and showed me a little map or plan of the grounds where the treasure was buried- a plan drawn for him by grandfather. Half in jest, we discussed the possibility of an expedition to Puerto Rico to dig up the jewels. This, of course, was before the island became a possession of the United States. We decided against the scheme.
Grandfather's acquaintance with Don Jacinto must have been between 1828 and 1835 or so. I do not recall any mention of dates except the reference to his resident in Brooklyn and his visit to the impoverished granddaughter.
Joseph D. Ibbotson
Editor's note: In attempting to verify this story, I came upon a book titled "Sugar, slavery, and freedom in nineteenth-century Puerto Rico" by Luis Antonio Figueroa, published by La Editorial, Universidad de Puerto Rico, 2008. Quoting from page 59: Don Juan Vives de la Rosa, another Catalan, owned Hacienda Esperanza along with his wife, Dona Isabel Rivera y Texidor, who was half creole and half Catalan. This hacienda was the fourth most productive in 1872; significantly, it became known to Guayameses as Hacienda Vives after its owner at emancipation. Today, visitors to an industrialized Guayama can look at the ruins of the hacienda's sugar mill as well as the base of most of its old windmill, installed early in the nineteenth century by its original owner, Don Jacinto Texidor I..." From page 60: "Another indicator of the transformation of Guayama after 1815 is the number of sugar mills. In 1818, Don Jacinto Texidor I, the Catalan-immigrant mayor of Guayama and one of the top sugar haciendas of the boom period, reported to the colonial government in San Juan, that the district had twenty-seven sugar mills..." And page 223: "Hacienda Esperanza seems to have been the original plantation founded in the nineteenth century by Don jacinto Texidor I, a Catalan who migrated to Guayama in the last decade of the eighteenth century, and given to Isabel and Juan as dowry."
Note: I received the following correspondence via Facebook October 22, 2010, bearing upon the above:
"Fascinating story it seems that I may be a direct descendant of Don Jacinto since the root of my family are all from Guayama and a story close to this was relayed just once by my father long ago now deceased as of two months but supposedly our land stretched from the guayama coast line to the first set of mountains of the southern part of PR. This is very intriguing since my father's portrayal mentions that at sometime my great great grandmother was swindled by the Phillips Petroleum Corp. out of prime land she owned and later they surprisingly found oil and set up a foundry on my grandmother's plantation of sugar cane. How true is all this only reinforces me to wonder where my father's inheritance went to since we are the only members of our family without and property in PR which my father at one time had. This too was a mystery that died with my father since all his or rather my life he was very secretive about his upbringing and inheritances if any. My aunts have nothing to say except that of course they know nothing. But they have properties that their children will inherit without question. Hmmmmmm thanks so much for the info and i will treasure it. Narciso Texidor, Jr. Flores David Rodriguez"