Yarmouth Vanguard, February 7, 1989
In 1892, St. John’s, Newfoundland, sustained the greatest conflagration of its history, when, during the night of Friday to Saturday, July 8 to July 9, two thirds of the city was destroyed by fire. It followed a very “hot” day for the region, when the thermometer had climbed to an unprecedented height of 87 degrees. $20,000,000 worth of property had been lost, that which would amount today to at least ten times that figure. Nearly 11,000 people were left homeless. Some 2,000 houses and stores had disappeared. The insurance amounted only to $4,800,000. It did not take long for help to rush from everywhere, Canada, the United States, and Great Britain.
Captain Sylvain Muise must have been coasting at that time along the Middle Atlantic States. He was from Rocco Point, the son of Luc Muise. Still in his prime at the age of 58, he had sailed for many years the deep blue seas, having even been rewarded for his feats with a belt adorned with seven jewels. Being in one of those ports, he was hired to bring relief to the devastated people of Newfoundland. His vessel must have been loaded to full capacity. The most valuable item of his cargo was a five gallon keg stuffed with money. It was too precious to be stored with the rest of the merchandise; the safest place for it was the Captain’s cabin. According to the most accurate estimates there were about $6,000 in that keg, that which would be worth today what could be called a small fortune.
This was too much of a temptation for Captain Muise. Probably, in all his travels, he had always dreamt of finding a treasure somewhere; and now, here was his chance. After a few days at sea, when he got towards the Tusket Islands, not being too far from home, he scuttled his vessel, letting it drift on one of the Mud Islands. He managed to escape with the keg and get home safe and sound with the money. He hid it in his well, it is said.
The story goes on to say that the crew or some members of the crew, at least one of them, Jean Remi Hubbard by name, from Hubbard’s point, son of Chrysostome, happened to know what had happened. He would call now and then to get his share of the loot or maybe his share to “keep his mouth shut”. This certain day, he came back home empty handed; some say that it was because he had come too soon for his “pay”, on a day which was not assigned for that purpose; or it could be that Captain Sylvain felt too much harassed by this intruder and told him “to get lost”. Be what it may, Remi sought vengeance and went right straight to Yarmouth to tell the police the whole story.
There are different versions as to what happened afterwards. The one that I consider the most accurate, because it comes from one whose wife was indirectly involved in the matter, is that Sylvain left the house immediately before the police arrived.
He took an embarkation and landed on the shores of Morris Island. There he met a little girl; her name was Marguerite Moulaison, better known as Maggite, the daughter of Damase Moulaison of Morris Island; she was to marry John Dennis de Villers, son of Sylvain, called “Gribouille”. He asked the little girl where she lived. After being told, he went to her house and barricaded himself in a room behind the door with two pistols.
The constables, being notified of his hiding place, came to fetch him. But under Captain Sylvain’s threats, they did not dare enter the room in which he was. Finally, in favour of the night, Captain Sylvain managed to escape, got aboard a vessel ready to leave Sluice Point or vicinity for Labrador; it was Captain Urbain Burke’s of that place. This was in the spring, in the month of April; the year is not given. They stayed in Labrador until September, fishing no doubt, when on their return, Sylvain disembarked at Canso. from where he left for Chicago. It has been said that he took the name of “Green”.
After some time, some say two years, his wife left Rocco Point to join her husband. She was Genevieve Babin, of Sluice Point, the daughter of Gabriel Babin, called “Ceuille”. She got as far as Boston, where she took the train for Chicago. But after traveling three days she noticed that there was a man who was following her; some have said two men. So she turned around and came back to Yarmouth, where she took the coach for Tusket, always followed by the same man, who then went back to Yarmouth. As for herself, she went to her sister, Marie-Jeanne Babin, who lived in Amirault’s Hill, married to Jacques Amirault.
Without losing any time, Jacques Amirault took her across the river to Plymouth. As the Wedgeport coach passed by here, she did not have any trouble to get to Yarmouth. Here, she took the Boston boat without being noticed, and finally reached her husband in Chicago. And this is where ends the story to which the French people had given the name of the “Hush-Hush Money” story.
Of course it is not surprising that many other stories surrounding this incident have been told by the people, true or false, as, for example, that after the departure of Genevieve Babin, pieces of money, even of gold, were found in the well; even that the keg itself was found on the shore of Abram’s River, behind Sylvain’s house. According to another version, the keg would have made its way to Belleville, to Sylvain Jacquard’s house, son of Jacques, who had married Madeleine Muise, sister of Captain Sylvain; it was even said that afterwards the family always had “plenty”.
What is given here, I hold mostly with all its details from John Dennis Deviller, husband of Marguerite Moulaison mentioned above; he told me this story in 1957, two years before he died at the age of 97. It was corroborated by my good friend, Henri H. Babin of Belleville, ho died in Malden, Mass., in 1967, at the age of 95. Lawrence Meuse, of Rocco Point, published an article on the same subject last Summer in Le Courrier.