Mark Twain the Mysteries of Onteora and the Knights Templar. The Onteora Club.
By Bradbury Cort Lindahl 1/19/19
Authors note: I have been making connections between artist’s salons or guilds and some of these “mysteries” for a very long time now. Recently I decided to look into the story of the Cremona Document and found these very same connections. I was shocked (but not really) to find an artist’s colony named “The Onteora Club” adjacent to Hunter Mountain where some people claim tha Ralph de Sudely Knighst Templar had brought the Ark of the Covenant from Petra, Jordan all the way to Hunter Mountain, New York where it was given to the Hebrew Priesthood there all in the 12th century. Lol.
I was surprised to find so many connections between the Onteora Club and people I had already written of previously in connection with Oak Island, The Newport Tower, and Kensington Rune. The below information is just the tip of the iceberg that shows how all of these places were exaggerated as being Norse or Templar or as in the case of the Kensington Stone outright faked. It looks like Francis Bannerman VI was aware of the entire scheme and added it to it in his own way. This scheme does reference some of the people involved and their family connections to people who were part of the original Knights Templar. Beyond that there is absolutely no evidence any Knights Templar besides the modern ones had ever come to New York. Stay tuned for much more coming soon. It is also beginning to appear as if Newton Winchell was involved in all of this in some capacity. If you read this you should read the other two articles that show another perspective with regard to the Kensington Rune. Newton Winchell's family originated in Kensington, Connecticut. -Cort
It seems that many of the great mysteries of North America may involve a cadre of artists, writers, and architects that all contributed to the mythical quality of many stories such as the fabled Newport Tower, The Beale Treasure, Oak Island, The Bruton Vault and more. As this concept is applied in the New World a tradition set forth by people involved in these artistic pursuits over time stemming all the way back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia may be discerned.
Though these later figures may have interpreted these mysteries with a distinctly modern twist we may see that they were indeed contributing to the folklore and legendary mythology of the new land. Many times, their work did harken back to an earlier time and may have also included many hidden overtones meant to inspire the seeker into searching for their hidden meanings. In some cases, it even appears that legendary stories are even linked together via he same themes and family names involved.
One of the themes that has been maintained as part of this long range study is the influence of artist’s guilds and salons on what may be termed the Arcadian Mysteries. The phenomena of the Cremona Document is no different and may have had its origins at a much later date than the document itself suggests.
Our examination of some famous artists from the Hudson River School of painting along with famous author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) may go a long way towards explaining the recent phenomena of “The Scrolls of Onteora” in tandem with the strange manuscript known of by mystery lovers as “The Cremona Document.” Our examination here will show proof that an artist’s colony and literary salon held at the Onteora Club near Hunter Mountain, New York is likely the source of all of these historical shenanigans. Twain was of course a very intelligent man who had even written a book at this early date questioning the true authorship of the plays of Shakespeare. Of course Mark Twain was part of the famous Onteora Club which is adjacent to Hunter Mountain, New York.
There are a few individual artists in particular that were part of the Onteora Club that had actually visited important places in the story told by the Cremona Document in its version of events including Petra Jordan, Baalbek Lebanon, Athens, and Rome. In addition, three prominent members of the Bannerman family play direct roles in this entire story. Here we will see how both French, Scottish, English, and American families with a rich tradition that had crafted a history that suited their legacies. These people were among a well read and educated class that all collected and created great art.
Among the members of the Onteora Club are several individuals that had the background and historical knowledge who may have cooked up a historical story related to the region where their club was located that also linked to many of the famous places they had visited. What we may be seeing here is a gross exaggeration of these historical events or follies that was wholly misinterpreted by these later people who desperately wanted to prove historical oddities that included ancient Hebrews and Knights Templar in upstate New York long before Columbus had come to the West Indies. These ideas do sound as if they were crafted by a person that also wrote novels and adventure stories. It may also become obvious that along the way these storied people and families had tongue firmly planted in cheek as they developed these strange tales. Some of these individuals stock in trade was crafting fictional stories that were believable to the public at large.
The entire scheme of misinterpretation extends to this story in the same manner that may suggest the Newport Tower and Kensington Rune are of authentic Norse origins. What we may see here is the fact that these very same people from the Onteora Club had also influenced the public’s view of the concepts of both the Norse and Templars having come to North America at an early date prior to Columbus having “discovered” America by manufacturing a legendary history with regard to both places and more.
It may be that their influence near Hunter Mountain and Onteora Mountain was meant to tip off the informed seeker that they were indeed behind the entire phenomena as discussed here. Some of these artists and free thinkers may have even had a distant relation to people that did impact the Crusades and were members of the original Knights Templar. Beyond that there is nothing but a good story to entice the reader into believing any of this is in fact true at all. Part of what they were doing was to confound organizations such as the Catholic Church and those of the Mormon faith with lore that resembles their beliefs enough to draw their attention. In the end there elements of the story that suggest it was a complex prank that no one was expected to actually believe.
Mr. Don Ruh and the late Ms. Zena Halpern have both recently published books espousing the theory that an ancient Hebrew Priesthood existed atop Hunter Mountain, New York which is adjacent to Onteora Mountain nearby. The Onteora Club is located at Onteora Mountain which was formerly known of as Parker Mountain. A central character to Halpern and Ruh’s story is a man from the 12th century named Ralph de Sudeley. Both authors espouse the theory that de Sudeley was a member of the legendary Knights Templar who had travelled to Petra, Jordan to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant which was hidden there only to then travel all the way to what is today Hunter Mountain, New York to deliver this valuable Hebrew artifact to the priesthood there. There is no documented evidence that de Sudeley was a Knights Templar or that he had ever travelled to the Holy Land.
As part of their story they insist that the Knights Templar were part of a goddess worshiping cult dedicated to the Divine Feminine. All of this of course occurring long before there was any recorded voyage to North America by anyone but the Norse who settled at L’ Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland for a few years then left never to return. Those who attended the late nineteenth century gatherings of the Onteora Club did not yet know about the Viking site in Newfoundland as it had not been discovered yet.
In previous works I have discussed the involvement of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the promotion of the Newport Tower being of Norse origins. There is also later evidence that some of his close family was involved in the historical prank of the Kensington Rune. We may see here that even members of the Onteora Club were involved in both of those historical oddities just as the story told at Hunter Mountain is also a later fabrication. Longfellow also has the distinction of having produced poetry that even includes the locations and events mentioned in tandem with many of these treasure stories.
Is it possible that Mark Twain had anything to do with the development of this story? At this point it is obvious that nineteenth century arms and military surplus dealer Francis Bannerman VI was part of this entire scheme as well. Part of Halpern and Ruh’s story revolves around strange artifacts and clues that were recovered at Bannerman’s Scottish Castle on the Hudson River known as Bannerman’s Castle on Pollipel Island there. Research indicates that Mark Twain even spent time at the Onteora Club with the Campbell-Bannerman family who were directly related to Francis Bannerman IV. So there are some strange circumstantial historical facts that indicate the entire story may have been developed in the tradition of the literary and artist’s salons of Europe over a wide span of history.
All of this became obvious after searching for the word “Onteora” which in turn led to the connections between the Bannerman family, Twain, and a group of very exclusive artists and writers many of whom had deep roots in early American history among the first families of Hartford, Connecticut and Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Onteora Club was also inclusive of single women who had developed their own businesses and successful art careers. Here we will see yet another extension of the influence of early colonists from Hartford that extends all the way to Chico, California via its founder John Bidwell who was a member of this extended family group, many of whom seemed to have played a hand in the development of a uniquely American folklore and mythology. In this case the story included the influence or suggestion of the Knights Templar, The Temple Treasure of Jerusalem, and possibly Freemasons.
The era during which Mark Twain spent a summer at the Onteora Club was kind of a golden age of what may be termed the Arcadian Mysteries. He and his family spent the summer of 1890 at the Onteora Club compound near Hunter Mountain. It was during this decade that the modern version of the Rennes le Chateau story would be developed. The Kensington Rune would be discovered in 1899 and people had been speculating about the Norse Origins of the Newport Tower. Treasure hunting syndicates were still probing the depths of Oak Island to find treasure. Even at this later nineteenth century date people were still potholing the wilds of New England and New York in search of Captain Kidd’s lost treasure. One story even has his treasure sunk in a ship not far from Bannerman’s Island on the Hudson River.
It was during this era and well before extending back hundreds of years that treasure hunting was a very popular pastime to many people. Legendary tales involving the famous pirate Captain Kidd suggested he had left a treasure in one of several regions of the east coast at that time. Though this activity kept many people busy with their divining rods and shovels nothing of note was ever found. It seems that many of these legendary stories never really yielded any treasure and it is likely that the saga of Onteora is no different.
There are some aspects of the story being told about Hunter Mountain and Onteora that have overtones similar to the Mormon faith of today. Joseph Smith and his father were part of the treasure hunting craze of this era and are noted as such in many narratives that came from eye witnesses. Some of the elements of the story told by later authors Halpern and Ruh suggest that parchments and rock carvings that include Theban script are part of the clues that are left to guide one to a treasure that includes the Ark of the Covenant and other important biblical relics that had been brought to New York by Knights Templar Ralph de Sudeley.
During this mid to late nineteenth century time frame the Mormons had been continually harassed including the assassination of their Prophet Joseph Smith. They had retreated all the way to Utah to escape persecution. While Twain was at the Onteora Club Utah was still not even a state of the union. What is interesting in this examination is the association between J. Smith and what may be termed “Theban script.” So called Theban Script is included as part of the Cremona Document as well as the astrolabe like device that was said to have been found at Bannerman’s Island as part of the story.
When Joseph Smith was supposed to have found the Golden Tablets of the Book of Mormon he himself wrote down the characters that were used in their composition. He then took his notation to a linguist who identified the script as what is known of as Egyptian Hieratic script which is similar to the later Theban Script. “Theban Script” was not developed until the sixteenth century so that postdates the era of the Knights Templar that supposedly has de Sudeley coming to upstate New York in the thirteenth century. There is no historical documentation that suggests Ralph de Sudeley was even a Knights Templar or had ever travelled to the Levant as the tale told in the Cremona Document suggests.
What we may see later in this saga is how Ralph’s brother William de Tracy may have impacted this story even including Tracy family descendants being associated with this region of New York as well as associations with members of the Onteora Club. William de Tracy was said to have been one of the assassins of Walter Becket Archbishop of Canterbury. De Tracy and his cohorts were said to have made off with a treasure composed of votive items, silver plate, and documents from the Vatican at that time. In fact, de Tracy has many truths to his life story that more closely match the apparently bogus narrative of his brother Ralph de Sudeley.
Interestingly Joseph Smith actually owned real Egyptian papyri from the Roman period that also included very similar script to what is seen on some of the documents included in what is termed the Cremona Document. This is quite a coincidence considering the entire story of the C Document as it is known of takes place in a region of New York where Smith used to live and also includes some of his distant relatives from the founding of Hartford, Connecticut. Is it possible that relic collector Francis Bannerman or some of his wealthy art collecting cohorts had real ancient documents as Joseph Smith did? Bannerman was a known art and relic collector.
The entire inspiration for the part of the C document story that includes a Hebrew Priesthood was likely inspired by a group known of as “The New Israelites” from Vermont. This group was started by a man named Justus Winchell and included Joseph Smith Sr. the father of Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith. These people believed that they were descendant of original Hebrews and considered themselves to have a legacy that included a search for the Ark of the Covenant and other treasures. Much of their time was spent in the search for treasure in the tradition we know Joseph Smith partook in. Interestingly Justus Winchell was from the very same family as geologist Newton Winchell and his brother Horace Winchell.
Newton Winchell is known as the first geologist to have examined the Kensington Rune Stone when it was discovered. He and his brother were also published antiquarians who had studied a great deal of ancient history. Newton had actually written a book about his own family’s genealogy and was well aware of who Justus Winchell was. Newton Winchell also has an interesting link to Onteora Club attendee Elizabeth (Bacon) Custer the wife of the famous General Custer who lost his life at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Winchell had actually spent a great deal of time with General Custer in an earlier expedition to explore the Black Hills of the Dakotas prior to Little Big Horn. Elizabeth Custer was a stated friend of Mark Twain’s and this is noted in Twain’s recollections of his time at the Onteora Club. Mrs. Custer was present at the Onteora Club during the summer Twain spent there.
Bacon family members tend to pop up in many of the stories in America involving lost treasures or hidden caches of documents. The Bannerman family also has some marriages between them and members of the original family of Sir Francis Bacon so that is notable as well. The entire story of the Bruton Vault in Williamsburg even includes three members of the original Bacon family that worked for President Jefferson.
In reality, the New Israelites did resemble a modern treasure hunting syndicate that kept their studies and searching for treasure a secret. The New Israelites also held many millennial beliefs that included the end of the world or the apocalypse. Some modern treasure hunting groups or syndicates do in fact operate in a similar fashion to organized crime or intelligence services to keep their secrets or to confound what they consider their competition. This dynamic of treasure hunting has led to many misunderstandings and manipulation of the facts in the minds of the public who are interested in such things. Many times these groups would leave behind false clues and narratives to confound others who were searching for the same treasure they were. This dynamic is often ignored by those looking into lost treasure or relic myths and legends. Again here we have a group of people that may have inspired the concept of a Hebrew Priesthood as part of the Cremona Document story of which their leader is directly related to one of the more prominent figures cited in not only in the Kensington Rune saga but also with regard to its authenticity. This is too much of a coincidence for there not to be more to it.
It may be telling that the Cremona Document tells of an exiled Hebrew Priesthood atop Hunter Mountain that closely resemble the actual description of the beliefs of the New Israelites. They believed that they in fact were a Hebrew Priesthood as described. So this is an interesting coincidence that even involves what may be considered regional history at the Onteora Club. It is possible that the existence of the New Israelites had inspired the entire part of the story involving a Hebrew Priesthood. It is very odd that Kensington Rune geologist Winchell has direct family ties to this group and then shows up again in association with the stone in Minnesota. Given what we are learning here it is even possible that the powerful members of the Onteora Club may have also had something to do with the bogus rune.
One incident even has the New Israelites persecuted by their fellow townspeople who were afraid that the organization would harm others in the process of their beliefs. Undoubtedly this group does have some similarities to later Mormon ideas such as ancient Hebrews having come to New York just as is stated in the story of the Cremona Document. The New Israelites were sometimes referred to as “Rodmen.”
This refers to the staffs of Aaron and Moses in biblical stories that suggests these staffs had magical occult powers such as displayed in the story of Aaron’s rod becoming a serpent in the story of Moses and the Pharaoh. The Rodmen or New Israelite interpretation of the staff of Aaron was its use as a divining rod in the finding of treasure. The Rod of Aaron is also one of the items that are supposed to have been inside the Ark of the Covenant. That is interesting given the later treasure hunt at Hunter Mountain that includes the imagery of a Hebrew Priesthood and the Ark of the Covenant.
In the end, it is notable that the story of the Scrolls of Onteora or the Cremona Document includes what appears to be Mormon imagery. Is it possible that the creative minds of the Onteora Club had indeed fashioned this entire tale so as to create a legend in the very area where their club was located? Had some of them such as Francis Bannerman been involved in this intentional crafting of a desired history or was it a prank? While those questions are difficult to answer it is clear that others in the past had been basically caught faking real history for their own reasons. There is no evidence that Francis Bannerman was a member of the Onteora Club but members of his family were known to attend gatherings there. One prominent member was married to George MacDonald a relative of Bannerman’s.
Discussed earlier is how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was likely involved in all of this and may have even been involved in the creation of the Onteora hoax as he had been involved in presenting the Newport Tower as having been Norse. In other ways it could be that others had later added to what Longfellow and Carl Christian Rafn had begun. It is clear that some of his family was even involved in the effort to build a scale copy of the Washington Monument at the discovery site of the Kensington Rune in Minnesota. This has all been documented in previous writings. Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” and “The Musician’s Tale” (Saga of King Olaf) also include Norse imagery very similar to that seen on the Kensington Stone itself. Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” may have also influenced the story of the Kensington stone.
The lives of Longfellow and Francis Bannerman VI do have some overlap and it is clear that Longfellow had a personal association with Bannerman’s direct kin Alexander and Lady Bannerman whom he entertained in Newport, Rhode Island. Alexander Bannerman was at times Governor of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. Alexander Bannerman was a Baronet of Nova Scotia as awarded to his family by William Alexander the original Baron of Nova Scotia. Mrs. Bannerman even notes that Longfellow was composing “The Song of Hiawatha” during their visit. This poem relates directly to Minnesota and what may be the Kensington Rune stone. It is possible that elements of the Onteora Club were extending the saga of the Norse in America that Longfellow had played a hand in and were now extending it to the Knights Templar also having come at a later date than the Vikings. It is as if a one two punch of false history was being perpetrated by these writers and artists.
If true this was not a new phenomenon as similar schemes have been noted earlier in history including the story of the Shepherds Monument at Shugborough Hall in England and even the famous Money Pit on Oak Island in Nova Scotia. Indeed the legend crafters of the Onteora Club had included allusions to these two earlier mysteries in what they had created. Brilliant. In fact, the granddaddy of all the treasure hunting myths included the Ark of the Covenant and the rest of the legendary Temple Treasure that had been sacked from the Temple Mount in 70 A.D. by Titus in the name of Emperor Vespasian. Later in this saga the Arch of Titus theme will be seen at the Onteora Club.
Later the Temple Treasure was displayed at the Temple of Peace of Rome that had been built by Vespasian. The architectural form of the Temple of Peace has also been repeated many times throughout history including stories that suggest lost relics or treasure are hidden in association. Even Jefferson’s Monticello was inspired by the octagonal Daphne Palace of Constantine and the Temple of Peace of Rome of Vespasian. The President had suggested allusions to the Temple Treasure in his architecture. The imagery of the Temple of Peace of Rome is also present at the International Peace Garden on the U.S. and Canadian Border in Manitoba and North Dakota.
In fact, Jefferson may be showing us real history if we study the influences of this architecture as well as his personal art collection. He would have fit right in at the Onteora Club as he was known to have attended literary and artists salon’s with his friends Louis Alexandre Rochefoucauld and the Marquis de Lafayette during his time in France. It may be that the early genesis of some of the ideas related to the Cremona Document came from these French salons. The Onteora Club in many ways was a salon very similar to those Jefferson had been part of. Jefferson had possibly been involved in two sagas known of as the Bruton Vault mystery and the Beale Treasure that have many things in common to what we see in upstate New York at the Onteora Club. All of these historical conundrums include direct references to literary works, paintings, and architecture that clue one in to the true nature of what is being told.
A close examination of what is going on with regard to the Onteora Club does indicate that members had chosen to build upon concepts that had been put forth earlier in the nineteenth century by people like Poe and Longfellow with a few more added twists that included the involvement of the legendary Knights Templar while at the same time alluding to concepts that seem to be related to the development of the Mormon faith. A study of the real history suggested by the Cremona Document does compel one to become conversant in the history of some of the families involved and as we may see this could be the entire point of this contrived document.
In the process, the Onteora Club was also more influenced by women than other similar artist’s colonies of the day. This may have contributed to the aspect of this history that refers to how the Templars supposedly worshipped a goddess as part of their beliefs. In reality, there is no documented proof the Templars had worshipped a female deity. Their views of Mary Magdalene and Mother Mary may have contributed to this misunderstanding by others or had been exaggerated by the female faction of the Onteora Club as a way to promote the ideas of sexual equality that were developing during the late nineteenth century.
While there are those who will point to what is being exposed here as supporting their undocumented theories about the Templars and Vikings in America it is clear that huge gulf of time and activity had occurred between the modern era and the time the Knights Templar had existed. The image of the Templars has subsequently been used to degrade the status of the Catholic Church and now the Mormon faith in America. It is as if a kind of weaponized folklore has been instilled in which the real facts will now be taken to support their outrageous theories. This faction will have us believe that a group of late nineteenth century artists, writers, businessmen and women, and architects were telling us hidden messages that were true yet not substantiated by any documented source. In short they are basing their beliefs on intentionally crafted fairytales.
Part II: Who were the members of the Onteora Club?
There are three members of the Bannerman family who are important in this story. It does appear as if Francis Bannerman VI the builder of Bannerman’s Castle on the Hudson was in a position with the correct associations with powerful people to have promoted his national and cultural identity as it applies to the United States. Francis even had access to a large cache of relics associated with American and European history and did associate with people like John Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan who in turn both had a great interest in art history and the American ideal as they interpreted it.
In short Bannerman was proud of the contributions of members of his extended family as well as other Scots Irish immigrants to the United States. He was likely aware of the hidden contributions of the Stewart family to the formation of America and his family’s background included people who had closely assisted the Stewart family over time such as the Alexander family of the Baron of Nova Scotia whom his Macdonald family had close ties to as well. Bannerman’s Castle even includes a foundation stone from a home that was involved in the Glen Coe Massacre that was in turn a result of his MacDonald family’s association with the Jacobite cause and King James II attempt to retake Scotland after he was exiled in France.
Francis Bannerman, Alexander Bannerman Governor of Newfoundland and Bermuda, and Henry Campbell Bannerman who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905-1908 all were associated with people in this story as well as the Onteora Club. Henry had adapted his wife Janet’s Bannerman name as he was a Campbell. Henry and Janet actually spent time with Mark Twain and other members of the Onteora Club at Onteora Mountain. As discussed Alexander Bannerman and his wife were personally associated with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and had even been spending time with him as he wrote his famous poem “The Song of Hiawatha.” Alexander and Francis Bannerman were associated with each other and lived during the same era as all the other major players in this story from the mid nineteenth century extending up until the time of World War I.
The Bannerman family appears throughout this entire saga at different places. Amazingly many members of the Bannerman family were early colonists in what is known of as the Red River Colony in Canada and Minnesota. The boundaries of the Red River Colony match those of the Hudson’s Bay Company with part of the land being defined as what is today Minnesota. The Kensington Rune Stone actually is located along this border between Red River/Hudson’s Bay Company holdings and what was French Louisiana.
Here we are being presented with a family including a documented history that may suggest their involvement in the placement of the Kensington Rune as part of the same saga being created at the Onteora Club. It is more than a coincidence that this stone is located along this particular political boundary. Two other “lost stone” legends are also located along this very same border. The International Peace Garden is also located within the historical boundaries of the Red River Colony.
The Bannerman family also includes people who were Baronets of Nova Scotia including Alexander Bannerman. It seems that their influence had extended to actual places where many of these mysteries occur. It may be more than a coincidence that Bannerman’s Castle on the Hudson is located exactly due west 270 degrees true north from the Newport Tower in Rhode Island.
If Bannerman had intentionally arranged his castle in this manner he would be taking part in the same tradition that the Newport Tower and octagonal Powder Magazine of Colonial Williamburg had been designed in. Again, coincidentally the octagonal Powder Magazine is oriented so a facet of its structure “points to” the Newport Tower. The spatial relationship of Bannerman’s Castle and the Newport Tower is even documented on one of the maps that are part of the Cremona Document. So this relation is much more than a coincidence and has to have had something to do with Mr. Bannerman and his role in the Cremona Document story.
Incidentally Kensington Rune Stone advocate Scott Wolter suggests a spatial relationship between the Newport Tower and how it “points to” the Kensington Stone at a particular time of day on the solstices. If the Newport Tower is viewed as an octagon via its eight archways then a similar measurement is there every day of the year at any time of the day. The Newport Tower “points to” the Kensington Rune all day every day. All of this does add up to indicate that the same people who produced the Cremona Document in the nineteenth century had also been the ones to place the Kensington Stone specifically where it is. The Bannerman family is involved in all the places that are involved in the entire story.
As a bizarre coincidence, this same azimuth of the globe extending from the Newport Tower to the Kensington Rune crosses nearly directly over the Onteora Club at Onteora Mountian, New York. I’m sure this may be the real reason the club is located where it is as this entire scheme appears to have been arranged by people who were members of the club. This of course would make it logical to assume that the Kensington Rune was placed where it was to specifically achieve this association by people associated with the Onteora club and the earlier schemes that also presented the Newport Tower as being Norse in origin.
Other prominent members of the Onteora Club included many artist’s from the Hudson River School. This included J.W. Alexander, Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, and Asher Brown Durand among many others. These artists were even said to have used what would become the club’s property as a base of operation in their painting expeditions of the area. It is possible that this too had been arranged as many of these men were contemporaries and friends with Longfellow.
The Onteora Club had the distinct difference in its origins in including many famous women artists, writers, and interior designers among their membership. The club had in effect been started by designer Candace Thruber Wheeler who has many family connections to first families of the United States as do many of the people associated with the Onteora club including Elizabeth (Bacon) Custer the wife of the famous General. Mrs. Custer also has links to Michigan history and the influence of Bacon and Sinclair family members in the development of that great state.
It was Ms. Wheeler along with her brother and sister in law that had gone in search of the perfect location for their artist’s retreat settling on the site we know as Onteora Park today. The mountain on which the club is located was once known of as Parker Mountain and was later changed to Onteora Mountain in response to the presence of such a storied organization. Here we should note that is was Candace Wheeler who had also named the place Onteora. Onteora is a Delaware Indian name that translates to “Hills of the Sky.” This name was not applied to Onteora Mountain, Onteora Park, or the Onteora Club until after 1883 when Ms. Wheeler found and purchased the property with the intent of establishing an artist’s colony that would include both single and married women as part of their organization. This nod to the ladies was not common in other similar organizations of that era so this is notable.
At this point if someone believes the story in the Cremona Document they are going to have to prove Mrs. Wheeler already knew about the entire scheme and how she knew about it. Very difficult to do.
The above story of how the mountain and club got the name Onteora disputes the treasure story presented as it did not exist until centuries after the existence of the Knights Templar. The only source that exists for the use of this name in ancient times appears to be the Cremona Document itself. In this way the Cremona Document plays its role as a self-fulfilling prophecy as the only source that exists that is then used to confirm the events contained in the document. Very clever of its creators to have executed such a plan. The Cremona Document is in fact so full of historical holes that it is a wonder anyone believes it at all.
Their plan did seem to involve influencing people who did not have access to the same historical resources they had. Many members of the Onteora Club were highly educated and wealthy people who had travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Holy Land. Many of them had read extended histories of the places they had visited and may have longed for their homes in America to have such a storied and civilized origins that could be attributed to people they were even in some cases related to. As we will see many of these people’s families did descend from the elite and royal families of Europe and their intent was to weave a mythology that may convince people of their status in the new land of America where these tenets of the gentry order were not valued as much as they had been in the old world.
Thomas Cole in particular had even visited and produced paintings from his visit to Petra, Jordan where according to the story told by the Cremona Document Ralph de Sudeley had recovered the Ark of the Covenant to then travel all the way to Hunter Mountain in upstate New York to deliver it to the cloistered Hebrew Priesthood that existed there. This in many ways matches the values of the New Israelites and later themes present in the doctrine of Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith. Cole had also produced great art that depicted the ruins of Baalbek, Lebanon, Athens, and Rome.
The activities of Cole and other artists seem to echo some of the sensibilities of the Dillitante Society that the Anson’s of Shugborough Hall and Sir Francis Dashwood were members of earlier in the mid eighteenth century in England. Thomas Cole had even painted a rendering of the Arch of Titus in Rome which depicts the sacked Temple Treasure of Jerusalem being paraded through the streets of Rome. Thomas seems to have been telling us there was no way the Knights Templar were in possession of this artifact if the Romans and later Visigoths had possessed it. It is interesting that Cole painted the Arch of Titus and the Ark of the Covenant which is part of the Temple Treasure is involved in the mythology of Hunter Mountain. Why ae they looking at Hunter Mountain when Onteora Mountain is only a few miles away?
The Dillitante Society was a group of wealthy and influential aristocrats that actually visited the ancient ruins of Europe and the Levant. As part of their antiquary mania these men had produced accurate architectural drawings of many of the ruins they visited for the first time. As a result they then reproduced what they had learned in the form of architectural follies on their estates that mimicked what they had actually seen on their Grand Tours. Shugborough Hall of the Anson’s and Dashwood’s West Wycombe estates are prime examples of this value as they both include copies of the Tower of the Winds of Athens and other follies that are representative of classic forms.
It may be that the source of the “Roman Sword” found near Oak Island had come from a Grand Tour such as those undertaken by members of the Dillitante Society. It is also interesting that though a later antique the sword is suggestive of a cult of navigation.
Dashwood’s mausoleum even resembles the hexagonal forecourt seen in the ruins of Baalbek for instance. This became a huge fad in this era of landscape design among the gentry of England and Europe extending back to the Elizabethan age and beyond. Places in America like Williamsburg, Virginia were arranged in this tradition which often included an octagonal tower in a representative nod to the importance of the Tower of the Winds of Athens, Greece. This is the role being played by the Newport Tower and Stafford Hill Memorial in the story of the Cremona Document. Other oddities like the much-examined street plan of Washington D.C. are the result of an appreciation of these tenets of art and architecture that may be used to infer hidden elements suggestive of the myths and legends that inspired them.
If one takes a broad view of all of this it may be discerned that some of these people had created legends and myths meant to promote a certain version of history that they couldn’t prove. Along the way fantastic elements were added to the common history in a kind of mystery school quest that in many ways resembles the movie “National Treasure.” When people “out of the loop” so to speak later got ahold of these mysteries a virtual tidal wave of misunderstanding began to pile on itself time after time leading to what in the end is told as a comic book story.
Different factions may have produced paths of learning that catered to groups like the Freemason’s, Odd Fellows, or Knights of Pythias. Those initiatory paths may have meant more to members of those groups. Other similar mysteries were seemingly to develop and enhance one’s appreciation of a family legacy that extended back through history. Elements of the Cryptic Rite of Freemasonry do seem to be a central element to many of these stories including Oak Island, The Bruton Vault, and Beale Treasure lost treasure stories.
Along the way many fakers and scam artists would present wealthy people with false information in order to gain their patronage or bilk them out of their money. Other’s that became aware of these historical treasure hunts would even craft other fake stories to leave a false bread crumb trail to fool others that may have become aware of such things. It is possible that the Cremona Document was created by members of the Onteora club then much later obtained by people who chose to use it as part of a treasure hunt or to con people out of large amounts of money by convincing them it was real.
One more time: These treasure hunters have recently exposed information in which they admit to faking historical artifacts and elements of the story to fool both the Vatican and alternative historian Dr. Barry Fell. Why should we trust them any further? Why would incredibly rich people leave a bogus trail of evidence that leads to biblical treasures or golden wealth?
It is clear that among those modern proponents as to the authenticity of the information in the Cremona Document that there are authors and researchers who have been fooled by this while other evidence even shows how a few of the people promoting these ideas had admitted to producing fake artifacts in order to fool others that were looking for the same treasure or relic they were. Here again we are drawn back to the existence of treasure hunting syndicates and even intelligence services that would also use this kind of information to fool their enemy. In the past historical figures such as Dr. John Dee, St. Germaine, Caliogstro, and Casanova had all used similar techniques to gain the trust of wealthy and royal interests in a manipulative manner.
Here in this writing we are being forced to contemplate whether Knights Templar came to Hunter Mountain to meet a Hebrew Priesthood in the 12th century versus the story of the artists and writers of the Onteora Club having produced this legend and document for their own reasons. Which one makes more sense and is easier to prove? There are several documented incidences of this actually noted in the past involving for example the lost lead claim markers of Sir Francis Drake in California that were first taken to be real then later proven to be bogus. A certain secret society was proven to have been behind that entire hoax.
Here we may be forced to consider that Francis Bannerman as well as members of the Hudson River School of Painting and Onteora Club had crafted a history using just enough facts to convince people that there may be some truth and treasure in the mix. Along the way the seeker is basically forced to learn a given part of real history in order to support the existence of a Hebrew Priesthood in New York prior to Columbus. The story of the Onteora Club, Mark Twain, and the Cremona Document is as good of an example of all of this that can be cited. Remember at this point much of what the public has been told about the Cremona Document is coming from people who have admitted to faking artifacts in order to fool the Catholic Church. What Bannerman may have actually wanted the seeker to find is the rich and storied history of his own family as associated with members of the Onteora Club. What had been produced more resembles the modern Forest Fenn treasure in which a wealthy patron has hidden valuables and supplies the public with clues as to its location. The Onteora Club or Bannerman may have simply been propagating a similar story.
The story as crafted includes elements of place that had already been used in a similar manner including the Money Pit at Oak Island and the Newport Tower. Now these places were being related to the Knights Templar by a group of talented writers and artists who truly did have the resources to craft such a story contrary to the claims of one recent popular author who claims that no one else on earth is even capable of understanding all of this but him. In order to understand the play one must actually become conversant in real history and this may be the point of the entire exercise.
This particular author by the way, believes the entire story as told hook(ed X) line and Sinkler. There is no other conclusion to come to but that this same group of people had also faked the Kensington Rune stone. Indeed the first men to have even mapped the Rune’s site of discovery have many family ties to the people who are members of the Onteora Club. They also have links to other strange treasure stories one of which even includes a full-scale reproduction of the Newport Tower known of as the Stafford Hill Memorial. One of them is also memorialized at the Grand Lodge of Montana in a mural depicting the first Masonic meeting to occur in what would become that great state.
Hidden away in these stories is the truth about what they were doing. They are not lying to you at all. If one studies the people and historical events involved it is clear that even they didn’t believe any Knights Templar, Hebrews, or Vikings had come to New England in antiquity. What is clear is that for nationalistic and cultural reasons they preferred to create schemes of history that inferred that all of this was indeed true. It is possible that they were frustrated because they saw strong indications in the Norse Sagas that people had come to North America but they had no clue where. As a result, fake stories and sites were produced to stimulate the minds of the public at large and convince them these things were true. See the story of the Norumbega Tower and Longfellow’s friend Eben Horsford for more on that.
Even Mark Twain had written “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” which included a man time travelling back to the medieval era to witness and take part in the fables surrounding the legendary King. Note also that the area where the Onteora Club is situated is also the setting for Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” which includes some of the same overtones Twain included in his King Arthur story.
Here in the personage of Twain was a man eminently capable of envisioning a false path of history that could then be foisted on the public as the truth. It is possible that any number of mine fields of false treasure legends and quests have been left like ticking time bombs in order to assure that people would appreciate a given point of view. Other authors and artists including Edgar Allan, Poe, Cooper, Morse, Longfellow, and Emerson may have all been involved in shaping a uniquely America ideal via their writing and art work. All of these authors held the correct lineage to have been members of the Society of the Cincinnati. There is direct evidence involving these men’s names at all of these places of mystery and intrigue. We may also consider that some of these authors had been inspired by these quest legends and were telling us about it in their writing.
Many members of this group of artists and the Onteora Club did hold pedigrees that linked them to a group known of as the Society of the Cincinnati. This organization was comprised of former Revolutionary War officers and their male lineal descendants. The Society of the Cincinnati is as close to a Knighthood that the United States has. If one considers that Francis Bannerman and other members of the Onteora Club had crafted the entire story told in the Cremona Document to suggest a certain ideal involving American history and their heritage then Knights Templar and Hebrews atop Hunter Mountain may have in their minds filled this bill. If viewed from any point of view except the mindset of the average nineteenth century American then the entire story begins to read like a Jules Verne or Mark Twain novel.
Part III connections to the original Knights Templar and other fabled treasure stories.
To be fair here we will examine any possible real connections that exist between this group of people at the Onteora Club and the real original Knights Templar. It is only natural that out of such an elite group that many connections to royalty or other powerful people would exist. It is only natural that those who possess such legacies would be proud of them and also wish to connect them in turn to the history of the United States.
One documented member of the Onteora Club was named H. de Blois Gibson. The H. stands for Hervey. There is a genealogical record of one Anna Elizabeth de Blois marring first Hervey Gibson then upon his death marrying a MacDonald i.e. also a member of the Bannerman family.
Ms. de Blois came from the famous French Huguenot family that first took refuge in Oxford, England after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris in 1572. Eventually elements of this family came to Newport Rhode Island, Boston Massachusetts, Charleston South Carolina, and Halifax Nova Scotia. This distribution of family along major sea ports in the colonies is a tenet of many successful and powerful first families. Mrs. de Blois-Gibson’s subsequent marriage to another member of the MacDonald family supplies us with yet another link between the Bannerman family who were from the MacDonald family and the Onteora Club.
Note that the de Blois family is present in three storied places that all may be related together and that they are related to the Bannerman family as well. In fact the legacy of the de Blois family reaches all the way back to the very origins of the Knights Templar and even has other later family members actually controlling the region of Greece known of as Arcadia that was in part occupied by the Knights Templar! Other members of the family did live in Virginia home of the Powder Magazine in Williamsburg and Newport Rhode Island home to the Newport Tower.
It should be taken for granted that Mrs. de Blois-Gibson was aware of this family legacy and may have even been involved in perpetrating the entire Cremona Document hoax along with her kin the Bannerman’s. It should also be noted that by the time of the American Revolution that most of the de Blois family were staunch British loyalists who either retreated to Halifax, Nova Scotia or England during that era. It is at this point that members of the family had become aware of or had even taken part in the propagation of the mythology surrounding Oak Island for their own reasons. After the war some of them returned to America.
It is a well known point of history that Hugh de Blois Count de Champagne was involved in the creation of the Knights Templar along with Bernard of Clairvaux. He was said to have become a Knights Templar at a time when there were only twelve members of the order making him the thirteenth member of the order. Hugh held a legacy that related him to many powerful people in history including King Stephen of England and others. So here we do have a real and tangible link to the original Knights Templar but are left with no physical evidence that any of the story in the Cremona Document is true at all. It is likely that Mrs. de Blois-Gibson was aware of all of the history of her family related to the Knights Templar. The same could likely be said of all of her American Colonial forebears.
In the course of this extended examination of art and architecture one structure in Halifax, Nova Scotia stands out in its representative meaning. The Halifax Round Church was created by Prince Edward in 1800 there just past the time the story of the three young men discovering the Money Pit in 1795 was occurring. Amazingly memorials to two people who were likely descendant of original members of the Knights Templar are present in this Church. The design of the Church is in effect a Palladian copy of the Temple Church built by the Knights Templar located in the City of London in England.
So not only are there two descendants of Knights Templar rememberedl there but they are also blood related to each other. It is even possible that these two men knew each other as they lived during the same time frame. Des Barres is also a famous cartographer who had produced a very accurate pilots guide for all East Coast ports entitled “Atlantic Neptune.” Des Barres had helped to create the street plans of Lunenburg and Sydney, Nova Scotia as well. Still a third Knights Templar descendant Charles Montigu is entombed in the St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Halifax. Montigu was cousin to Lord Halifax the namesake of the city. Lord Halifax also has a strange link to Ethiopia where according to lore the Ark of the Covenant is located. This connection comes via his friend James Bruce who had actually traveled to and spent an extended time in Ethiopia.
Is it possible that these three men are somehow related to the mysterious Money Pit on Oak Island or had their family’s legacy contributed to later stories that attempt to link the Templars to Oak Island? It is interesting that most of the theories attempting to involve the Templars in the Oak Island story involve the supposed and hard to believe theories of Henry Sinclair having come to Nova Scotia. There is no record of any member of the Sinclair family ever having been a Knights Templar yet we have two French descendants of real Knights Templar memorialized in a copy of the Temple Church of London in Halifax, Nova Scotia and no one bats an eye at this information in favor of patently false information. It appears the de Blois family had played a role at many of the significant sites mentioned not only in the saga of the Cremona Document but places that had also gained a legendary status of their own prior to the discovery of said document. Amazing. Abracadabra.
Lately the French family of Rochefoucauld has become associated with a possible solution or reason for the legend of the Oak Island Money Pit. In 1746 Jean Baptiste de La Rochefoucauld duc d’Anville came to Nova Scotia as part of the famous d’Anville Expedition. Curse of Oak Island television show researcher Doug Crowell has recently uncovered documentation of the d’Anville Expedition being involved in creating an underground construct on an unnamed island in the same region where Oak Island is located. In fact the name “Rochefoucauld” is penned on what may be a fake map that is included as part of the Cremona Document papers.
Again, this is information that would have been available from the same source where Mr. Crowell had found it and may have also been found by members of the Onteora Club of the de Blois family of Nova Scotia. We have noted prior the associations of the Rochefoucauld family with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as part of a literary salon very similar to the Onteora Club. Alternately the de Blois family of Halifax simply knew what had actually happened during the d’Anville expedition but they didn’t live there until about twenty years later.
It is clear that the de Blois, Rochefoucauld’s, de La Tour family, and Stewart family of the exiled Jacobite monarchy are all blood related to each other. It should then come as no surprise that the de Blois family is also directly blood related to the des Barres, Alexander, de La Tour, MacDonald, Bannerman, and Stewart families. Each one of these families does have a real relation to the fabled Knights Templar. In fact the de Blois-Gibson family of the Onteora Club is also related to at least three other members of the club including Lillie Hamilton France.
Given this there is absolutely no recorded or documented evidence that any member of the Knights Templar ever came to North America much less interfaced with a cloistered sect of Hebrew Priesthood atop Hunter Mountain in New York beyond what is being said in the Cremona Document and more importantly the people who obtained said document. What is a document point of history is the exisitence of the New Israelite’s in the same region who were led by the forebear of the geologist Newton Winchell who was one of the first to espouse the authenticity of the Kensington Rune. Crazy.
Most of the story as told has been told to other authors and public by men who openly admit to having created false trails of evidence including artifacts in order to fool others who were looking for the same treasure they were. The gentle reader is forced to accept this information at face value and believe it or not with very little hard evidence to back it up except bogus artifacts like the Kensington Rune and Newport Tower to support these bizarre notions. We are now supposed to believe people that have taken part in the cut throat nature of what may be termed a treasure hunting syndicate.
The waters have been mightily clouded by the activities of a treasure hunting syndicate that seems to operate as a kind of mafia organization. Part of the play of the people who first found the Cremona Document even includes them suggesting that the ominous “Spartan Agency” is involved in the entire mystery. This is a construct of them alone as of course this is not mentioned in the document itself. It appears that the best thing to do when considering the C Document is to toss out all of the assumptions that have come via these men and the two well-known authors that seem to have become ensnared in their scam. Only the older original parts of the document should be considered and none of the subsequent speculation.
The only way to get to the bottom of whatever the truth of the Cremona Document is would be now to examine it as if it was an intentionally crafted story developed by members of the Onteora Club in tandem with the de Blois and Bannermans as kind of an elite joke they could use to suggest that their ancestors had come to America long before the days of Christopher Columbus. If per chance elements of the original document are true then this will be obvious via a detailed examination of the history suggested in the document and not from the “Spartan Agency.” At this point it is lunacy to actually believe that there was once a Hebrew Priesthood atop Hunter Mountain, New York beyond the obvious assumption that the New Israelites of Justus Winchell are what is being referred to in reality. Note also that Justus Winchell had at one point been accused of counterfeiting.
Could they possibly have believed this was true yet didn’t have any evidence to support it as in the case of Longfellow promoting the Newport Tower as Norse prior to the discovery of L’ Anse Aux Meadows Viking site in Newfoundland? Perhaps they had some hints that there was some truth beyond the bogus voyages of Henry Sinclair to support this notion and simply set about creating a story that would support this idea with no real proof. What is true and clearly seen in early American history is that many of the family names mentioned in this story played important roles in the establishment of the United States of America. Beyond that we are being asked to believe information that is not reliable or is able to be verified independently. At this point given the way the mystery at Onteora has unfolded it would even be difficult to believe any artifacts that were found in conjunctions with a group of treasure hunters that have openly admitted to creating false artifacts and narratives to fool other seekers.
Another alternative is that their story had been made to actually hide items that they had been in possession of that meant more to their family associations than to anyone else. Many of the overtones of Oak Island and the Bruton Vault in Williamsburg suggest that any hidden items have more to do with American history than anything prior. The papers of Sir Francis Bacon are mentioned as having been hidden in the same manner of the legends of the Temple Treasure whose story goes back literally thousands of years. Had they simply used the template of the many Temple Treasure and “Man in the Mountain” myths of Charlemagne and Constantine to project their own values onto the history of the relatively young United States?
Had Templars used templates to create temples and templum to measure the temporal fabric to hide treasures? Who knows?
Who better than relic and antique dealer Francis Bannerman VI to have been involved in such a plot? Bannerman did in fact own many items associated with American history that would be priceless today. He owned two of George Washington’s pistols which are now on display at the museum at West Point Military Academy not far from Bannerman’s Castle on the Hudson. He also owned an original cannon used at the battle of Yorktown as well as several other cannons used in the Revolutionary War.
Pictures of Bannerman’s store from the nineteenth century do show medieval armor on display and for sale. It may be that in addition to his collecting mania that Bannerman was also involved with a powerful and wealthy group of art collectors that would include J.P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, and William Randolph Hearst. These men as well as members of groups like the Onteora Club possessed an in depth and detailed knowledge of the items they collected as well as the history surrounding them. Their inside knowledge would have been supplemented by the many art historians they employed to help them find and verify the items they would purchase. Yet some people claim that no one is capable having created a detailed hoax document like the Cremona Document.
It is likely that art collectors of this caliber were often presented with both fake pieces of art and documents so they were used to this type of scam. Even today the Rockefeller Foundation has an interest in Bannerman’s Castle and earlier in the twentieth century had contributed greatly to the restoration of Williamsburg and Mt. Vernon, Virginia. The Rockefellers built the Cloisters Art Museum and the Hearst’s in addition to Heart Castle also rebuilt two medieval Cistercian structures they had shipped piece by piece from Spain one in Florida the other in California. These people actually moved entire medieval structures across oceans but would not have been capable of understanding the history behind the Cremona Document to the point they could have created it themselves? Please.
Onteora Club members: