St. Kitts was considered the “Mother of the Antilles” in Colonial times. It was here the wealthiest sugar planters established plantations dedicated to the production of sugar, molasses and rum. One prominent family was that of Colonel Charles Caines who established a plantation at the north end of the island. He passed away on 1737 leaving his son Charles to take over. Charles’ sister, Christian, married Owen Lloyd, a dashing privateer, in 1746. The wedding was held at Norfolk, Virginia, and was attended by her brother Charles and Owen’s one legged brother, John. Owen was a popular captain in Hampton Roads and many of his fellow merchants attended as well.
During the war Owen and Christian suffered great hardship while living in Virginia. He lost his sloop to a Spanish privateer in 1747. His brother John was acting as captain and was put in prison in Havana, Cuba. Owen was forced to mortgage their mahogany furniture and his slaves to get money to ransom his brother out of the Havana dungeon. Then came a great hurricane in 1749 that flooded the streets of Hampton they ruined much of what he owned. After falling on hard times, he was arrested for petit larceny and confined to the Hampton jail. Fortunately, his former boss, a wealthy merchant and former mayor of Norfolk, John Hutchings, bailed him out. Once he regained his freedom, Christian decided to she wanted to return to the comforts of the family plantation at St. Kitts. Owen was distraught. He convinced his brother to go with him to St. Kitts so that he could make amends with his wife. On September 10, he sailed out of Hampton Roads in great anticipation of a new life.
Just prior to his departure, a hurricane swept a Spanish fleet up the east coast where some were wrecked. One galleon, the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, came to anchor near Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, a port the he traded in several years before. Lloyd’s sloop sprung a leak forcing them to the safety of the inlet.
Owen Lloyd was determined to get to St. Kitts to reunite with his wife but there were no vessels that would take him. Everyone’s attention was now on the richly laden galleon. Owen and John Lloyd realized that someone was going to steal the treasure and when Owen saw the treasure chests being offloaded onto two sloops, he saw an opportunity for himself.
At two pm on October 20, 1750, the two sloops weighed anchor with Owen and John Lloyd at the helm. The Spanish guards had been caught unawares while they were having lunch on board the galleon. John Lloyd’s sloop ran aground but Owen cleared the inlet and headed for St. Kitts, expecting a warm welcome from his wife with his new found fortune.
Lloyd realized that he couldn’t take all of the other eleven crew with him so he diverted to the Virgin Islands and divvied up the loot at Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. Lloyd soon realized that he needed protection so he called on the governor of St. Thomas, an island that was reputed to be a haven for pirates, thieves, and malcontents.
When Owen arrived at St. Kitts, his brother-in-law, Charles Caines said that he was a wanted man so he fled to nearby St. Eustatius where he was promptly arrested. With the help of the Caines family he bribed the guards and escaped, narrowly missing the hangman’s noose.
Lloyd and Christian fled to St. Thomas but by the end of 1752 he was dead apparently murdered over the treasure. Christian later returned to St. Kitts.
St. Kitts became the epicenter for the recovery of the treasure scattered around the Caribbean. Gilbert Fleming, Lieutenant General of the Leeward Islands resided on St. Kitts. He took it upon himself to round up the loot. Although most of what he recovered was returned to the Spanish captain, he made a generous reward to himself.
Newly minted pieces of eight bearing the date of 1750 were now circulating around St. Kitts thanks to Owen Lloyd. Lloyd would be remembered for decades. His brother-in-law, Charles Caines, lived until 1799.
In 1773, twenty-one year old Alan Stevenson arrived at St. Kitts to work for his uncle in the sugar business. The following year, he died from a mysterious fever surrounded by mysterious circumstances. Family legend says that he and his brother had been defrauded in a business deal. Alan left behind a wife and an only son named Robert. Robert was the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson.
When it came time to put the date of 1750 on the map of Treasure Island, it was not Robert Louis Stevenson who made that note, but his father Thomas, the son of Robert who had lost his father mysteriously at St. Kitts.