Copenhagen, Denmark

Rigsarkivet

The National Archives of Denmark contains valuable records which document the real story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Denmarks connection to the real Treasure Island is much like that of the U.S. Virgin Islands because these islands were owned by Denmark in 1750 the year that the Treasure Island story took place. Denmark today has its own unique role however. The National Archives of Denmark contains a large depository of records that relate specifically to St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. One of the most valuable documents found in the archives are the expense accounts a man named John Watson who was hired by Captain Juan Manuel Bonilla shortly after his treasure was stolen. Watson was a merchant from Suffolk, Virginia, who worked  for the insurance company of Bonilla. These documents found their way into the Danish archives because, in 1751, Christian Suhm, Governor of St. Thomas had siezed the remaing cargo from the Seaflower, the sloop that Owen Lloyd used to steal the Spanish treasure, and held an auction. Besides the cargo he auctioned the sloop as well. He refused to reimburse the Spanish captain and kept the money for himself. It took Bonilla thirteen years to recover the money from the King of Denmark, nearly four years after Captain Bonilla had died in Spain. Before the claim would be paid, Bonilla’s agents were required to resubmit all documentaion that surrounded the event in 1750. Because of these documents, a large doorway was opened into the true story of Treasure Island.

Expense account of Juan Manuel Bonilla

A page from the expenses kept by agents for Captain Juan Manuel Bonilla after his treasure was stolen at Ocracoke, North Carolina. It describes the taverns that were visited including the one owned by Mrs. Ann Hawkins. Courtesy of the National Archives of Denmark

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