Tuesday, February 20, 2018

If you found treasure

...this is what these men did

ABOUT twenty years ago, three youths from Pleasantville were hired by a building contractor to tear down a grand old house on a plot of land overlooking the Gulf of Paria in San Fernando.

The payment was small money, but these friends since secondary school were hustlers and willing to do just about anything to earn some hundred dollar bills in the lean times after the attempted coup of 1990.

With sledge hammers and crow bars, they went about taking apart the aged but still elegant four room wooden house perched on posts of drilling pipes and San Fernando Hill gravel.

According to them, while pounding through the walls of a corridor, out popped a wooden cigar box that fell to the floor and spilled its contents.

The men knew instantly they had found someone's treasure trove. How valuable? They were not sure. But they knew it was bigger money than they ever had.

The friends dismissed thoughts of contacting the owner of the land since, as far as they figured it, their job, sub-contracted by the building contractor, was to demolish and remove the house. And that is what they did, for $300 each.

So the men took the items home, did an inventory and divided it three ways.

One would sell off his windfall over the years.

The other two, Kevin Joseph and Kirk Pegus, chose to hold on to what they found.

“We were young. It was like God send this for us. So we decide to hold on to it, like an investment” said Joseph. Now 48-year-old father of three.

They buried it so deep in their village near San Fernando that “you would need an excavator” to get it out, laughed Pegus, 45, who has seven children.

That was until three months ago, when they decided to find out the origins of the hoard, and find out if any affluent collector of coins, stamps and old stuff would be interested in adding the pieces to their collections.

The friends, who are now small-time contractors, found the Express. We have been investigating for three months.

In coming forward, Joseph and Pegus opened a potential Pandora's Box to a story dating back more than a hundred years.


The beginning

In the last quarter of the 19th century, a Mr Adamos left the island of Anguilla up in the Lesser Antilles and travelled to Venezuela to strike it rich in the gold mines there.

He would marry and father three children. These children were all delivered in Trinidad, where his pregnant wife came to take advantage of the health care provided in Port of Spain at the Colonial Hospital.

Adamos would die in a mine collapse, ending his dream of riches.

One of his sons, Frederick A Adams, would return to Anguilla where a shipwright uncle still lived.

Frederick learnt to build sail ships that were the primary means of moving about the islands back then.

And at the turn of the 20th century, he too would follow his dream, setting course for the land of opportunity – America.

Adams became a jack-of-all-trades working for some big companies in New York, becoming a favourite to his employers, ending up vacationing in Connecticut, and seeing a good part of the US before he decided to return, in 1917, to the place of his birth – Trinidad — to make a life.

He got a job as a waterworks inspector in Port of Spain, and found himself a wife. They had a son and two daughters and acquired much land on the hillside overlooking the capital.

One of those daughters — Marjorie Louisa Adams — would move to San Fernando where she would meet and marry Edmund Mitchell, the son of a cocoa baron who lived in one of the historic southern mansions of the time, a 13-room, three-storey home at the top of St James Street, on what is now the location of the La Vega plant shop.

The Mitchells would have three children, Terrance, Murray and Ronald, before the marriage fell apart and they separated.

Mother and sons would move to a rented house at the corner of Mon Chagrin Street and North Road, a place with a view of the arc of Trinidad's west coast.

And it is here they would be raised, in their teenage years growing close to their hotfooted “Papa” Frederick Adams, who lived on the hillside and owned eight acres of land along the Lady Young Road near Morvant.

Papa in his later years would move in with his daughter and caregiver Marjorie. He was never without his pipe, tobacco and stories of an epic life.

Marjorie found administrative work at the bakery of businessman Joseph Stauble in San Fernando, earning enough money within ten years to buy that rented house and make it home. It cost her $4,000 for that house.

In 1963, son Terrance married the woman of his dreams, Bernadette Foon, the daughter of a Chinese shopkeeper. And Terrance would go on to become a senior banker with Barclay's (now Republic) and have his own family.

Brothers Murray and Ronald stayed with their Ma and Papa. And time tumbled on. All four have since died, Papa in 1966, Marjorie in 2006, Ronald in 2008, Murray a month later.

The only one left alive is Terrence Mitchell. And we found him. He is 77 years old.

What does he know about the treasure box? 

Next week: The banker meets the men who found the family treasures. And if you found hidden treasure, do you have the right to keep it? An attorney explains the laws in Trinidad and Tobago.