The horseshoe miraculously appeared again and again in Saltonstall family wills, beginning with Mary, and going through her second of three sons, Nathaniel Badger. Interestingly, Mary was a Loyalist during the American Revolution, her husband, Moses Badger, being a chaplain to the British Navy. The horseshoe was handed to both men and women, and crossed the Atlantic to England and back a few times. All five Willick grandchildren were surprised they were able to get so far in their search without having to go anywhere but their computers. However, they knew they would eventually have to trek out into the world. Francis Wainwright’s treasure, after all, wasn’t online.
Gradually, they had to move from old published genealogical records to public records listed on the websites of courthouses across the country. Sometimes the records were free, other times, they had to get out their credit cards to read what they needed to; they set up a rotation of taking turns on who paid for records when it was required to gain access. Eventually, they worked their way forward in time to the present… and the owner of the horseshoe.
Ellen Morris Milton, a 12x great-granddaughter of Francis Wainwright, living in Sacramento, California. According to the will of her late mother, she inherited the horseshoe about 15 years ago.
“Do we have to go all the way to California?” James asked, stroking his chin. “It’s all the way across the continent. About as far away as you can get from Boston and still be in the country.”
“Let’s try calling her first,” Christine suggested. “I can look up her number on WhitePages.com. Maybe she will send us a picture of the horseshoe. No one said we had to handle it in person to get the information we need from it. Besides, Ellen might know something about the significance of the horseshoe, or the treasure, or both.”
The others agreed, so Christine looked up the information and made the call. James, Adam, Grace, and Emily all gathered around her as she put the phone on speaker so they could all hear the conversation.
“Hello?” a female voice answered the phone. It was impossible to tell her age by it, as you can with some people. But, based on the age her mother was when she died, they all guessed she was probably in her 50’s or 60’s. Also, she sounded friendly, which was promising. Some people sounded grumpy and suspicious the moment they answered the phone, especially if it was coming from an unfamiliar number like theirs would be to her.
“Ellen Milton?” Christine asked.
“Yes,” Ellen replied, still sounding pleasant. “Who’s calling?”
“My name is Christine Nichols. I’m calling from Boston. My brother and cousins and I have been doing some genealogical research bequeathed to us by our late grandmother. Your name came up while searching something our grandmother wanted us to look into. I was hoping you could assist us?”
“I’ll certainly try,” Ellen said. “I’m a genealogist myself, so I always like to help out others when I’m able. What can I do for you?”
Christine explained about the horseshoe, their shared ancestors with Ellen (being Francis Wainwright and Philippa Sewell), and even the treasure, as she was certain many of Francis’s descendants had heard about it. She was right. Ellen knew all about the legend of the treasure, but thought it was just that… a legend. Discovering it might be real, and that generations of their family had put considerable effort into finding it was a surprise to her.
“I’ll be happy to send you a high-quality photo of the horseshoe,” Ellen said, eagerly. “I’ve always known how important that thing was to our family, and also knew it came from Francis and Philippa. I’ve read the inscription many times, and I can say, I don’t know if there is anything in it you could consider a clue, but with all the research you’ve done and the work of your ancestors you have at your disposal, maybe it will mean something to you. All I ask in return is that if you do find the treasure, please tell me what it is and where you found it, with a picture of it. I’m not making any claims on it. This is your search. I just want to know if the legend is real, and what the answer turns out to be, for my own family records.”
“You’ve got it,” Christine readily agreed. They exchanged phone numbers and emails, then hung up. A few minutes later, Christine checked her email inbox. A message from Ellen waited with an attachment.
“This is it,” Grace whispered excitedly.
With a click of her mouse, Christine opened the file. On her large, high definition monitor, a crystal-clear picture of a horseshoe appeared. It was slightly rusty in some places, but was otherwise clean and looked almost new. Some brown paper with fold marks in the background told them where it was kept most of the time, away from the elements and possible damage by children or natural disasters. The Saltonstall branch of the family obviously took good care of it over the centuries.
On the front of the horseshoe, in flowing, old-fashioned script, was the inscription, going from one end of the shoe, up over the curve, and down to the other end. A second photograph of the back of the shoe proved the inscription was only on the front. The back looked like any other horseshoe.
All five Willick grandchildren read the inscription, as Emily took it upon herself to also read it out loud to all of them.
“Philippa, our love is as eternal as our immortal souls, forever entwining us as one. If you ever search for my love, it is in the most precious jewel I keep in my chest. You know where to find it. Your loving husband, Francis.”
The Willick grandchildren glanced at each other, confused.
“Well, what does that mean?” Emily asked, echoing the sentiments of the group.
To be continued in Chapter 9.