John Singer was the brother of famous Isaac Singer, who
invented the Singer Sewing Machine and had made a fortune for himself doing so.
John Singer was interested in making a fortune for himself as well but, he was
more interested in exploring the Texas coastline.
The year of 1847 found John Singer travelling
through Port Isabel in the Gulf of Mexico with his wife, four sons, and another
boy that he had hired to help along the way. They left the harbour at Port
Isabel on a schooner that was named Alice Sadell. They soon found themselves in
a storm but John was certain that the storm would soon pass. He had been in that
same region before and was familiar with how the storms worked and what to do
when found in one. It didn’t take long for the storm to get very worse and John,
fearing for the safety of everyone on the boat, decided that it was time to seek
shelter of some kind. It wasn’t long after this decision that the storm helped
him out by throwing him, his ship, and his passengers onto a deserted island.
The family waited out the weather in the safety of
the ship’s cabin and in the morning, the storm had passed. Singer took his hired
help and together they went to explore the island. After they had investigated
and talked between themselves, they thought that they were on Padre Island, and
they were right about that.
This seemed to be a popular island to land for
shipwrecks. Many Spanish ships had also been shipwrecked near this same island
by the same type of violent storms. These ships had been travelling back and
forth from Mexico and had carried loads of gold and silver. These ships would
often be sunk well below the surface of the water and the heavy waves would wash
up whatever wreckage there was from the ship onto the shore of the island.
Pirates also used Padre Island as a burial ground for the valuables that they
would often steal along their travels.
All of this was unbeknownst to the Singer family.
Yet, they still decided that they really enjoyed being on Padre Island and
decided to make it their home. They built furniture and the frame of a house
with pieces of wood from what was left of the ship. Mrs. Singer made it a true
home by finding seeds and planting a garden for her family. John fashioned a
small boat and used this to travel to the mainland to find things such as cattle
to be delivered to their island home. They also used the Gulf as a main source
of food by fishing and finding other wonderful treats in the water. They loved
life on the island but had no idea what the island held for them until the
children happened upon some Spanish coins one day while playing in the sand.
This small find sparked the Singer’s curiosity and
they all went out in search of what else the island held for them. They came
across more coins, jewellery, and a wooden chest that contained $80,000. John
became very successful in the cattle business and together the Singer’s kept
looking for, and finding, treasure on the island. John found a large sand dune
and decided that’s where he would hide his found treasure. He called the sand
dune “money hill.” Whenever he needed funds for something, he would simply go to
money hill and get it. There were two small oak trees on either sides of the
hill that helped him find the hill whenever he needed to.
Yankee gunboats appeared on Padre Island at the beginning of the Civil War and
the Singer family was forced to quickly move his family to the mainland. It
wasn’t until four years later, after the war had ended, that he returned to the
island to collect his money. What he found was disastrous. The Yankees had torn
down his home to use the wood to build their fires. Violent storms and winds
over the years had also drastically changed the landscape. John could not find
his money hill and the oaks that marked the spot were completely gone as well.
John Singer died in 1877 and his treasure was never
found. The story goes on that he died a very poor man, with no earthly riches at
all. To this day, treasure hunters still comb Padre Island, looking for Singer’s