We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Beale Treasure – The Myth of Millions in Bedford
Perhaps the best known tale of treasure in the state is the legend of Beale’s Treasure. As the story goes, Thomas Jefferson Beale and a team of 30 men unexpectedly discovered a mother lode of gold and silver in Colorado. Sometime between 1819 and 1821, Beale buried the treasure in Bedford County at what is now the site of Johnson’s Orchard and Peaks of Otter Winery. After burying the treasure, estimated to be worth millions, Beale and his party set out on another expedition. Knowing their trip would be dangerous, Beale left three coded messages in a locked box with Robert Morriss of Lynchburg.
Beale promised to mail Morriss a key that he could use to decipher the codes should 10 years pass with no word from Beale or his men. The first code contained the treasure’s exact location, a second code described the contents and the third named the members of Beale’s 30-man party along with their next of kin. 10 years came and went and neither Beale nor the key ever arrived. To date, only the second cipher has been broken and the treasure’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
2. Real-life Pirate Treasure in Fauquier County
William Kirk was a Scottish immigrant believed to have been a pirate before settling near New Baltimore in Fauquier County in the late 1700s. He led a secluded life on his farm, now known as Snow Hill Farm. However, before his death in 1780, he is said to have buried a stash of nearly $60,000 in gold and silver coins somewhere on the farm’s 386-acres. He went to his grave telling no one, not even his wife, of the treasure’s location.
About a hundred years after his death, a tenant farmer on the land found a crock of English guineas and Spanish pieces of eight and a few weeks later, bought his own farm for $8,000 in cash, despite claiming that there had only been a few coins in the crock. The remainder of the treasure remains hidden to this day.
3. Mosby’s Treasure, Fairfax County
Known as the “Gray Ghost” for his lightning quick attacks and rapid disappearances, Colonel John S. Mosby led a troop of Confederate guerrilla fighters known as “Mosby’s Raiders” during the Civil War. On March 8, 1863, he led his men to Fairfax Courthouse where they captured Union General Edwin H. Stoughton. The raiders collected horses, about 60 prisoners and a speculated $350,000 in gold, silver, and family heirlooms that Union troops had taken from Southern homes.
Unable to safely transport both the treasure and the prisoners, he stopped between the towns of Culpeper and Norman, close to present day Route 522, and buried the treasure between 2 pine trees marked with an X. He later sent 7 trusted men, including Sgt. James F. Ames who had helped him bury the treasure, to recover the valuables, only to have the men captured and hung by Union troops. Mosby himself never returned for the treasure, so by all accounts, he took its whereabouts with him to the grave.
4. The Abraham Smith Treasure, Poor Valley
If variety is the spice of life, then irony is the next best seasoning. Somewhere in Virginia’s Poor Valley, $60,000 in gold coins is said to be buried in an old salt mine. During the Civil War, wealthy plantation owner, Abraham Smith, could see the writing on the wall. Rather than have his fortune seized by Union troops, he is said to have buried his fortune in an old saltpeter mine somewhere between Allison’s Gap and Saltville. No reports of its recovery ever surfaced.
5. The McIntosh Farm Treasure, Forest
During the Civil War, just off of the present day Route 11 near Lynchburg, a Confederate General is said to have buried more than $4 million in gold coins and bullion with the help of slaves at the site of the McIntosh Farm.
Two stories have circulated about the treasure. One claims that the treasure was thrown into a well. The other story asserts that the fortune lies near a barn, buried beneath the bodies of the slaves who were killed in order to keep the treasure's location a secret.
6. Richmond Treasure on the James
Again, during the Civil War, it is said that over $3 million in gold, silver plate, jewelry and other valuable articles, were stolen from the Confederate Treasury in Richmond. The thieves fled with the valuables, but only made it as far as the banks of the James River where they are believed to have buried the loot. Confederate troops followed the thieves, and all 12 were killed in pursuit before revealing the location of the buried treasure.
7. The “Talking Tree” at Danville National Cemetery
For more than 150 years now, rumors of the "Lost Confederate Gold” have circulated through both academic and public circles. Countless historians and treasure hunters have dug through records looking for clues as to where the South’s lost treasure of gold and silver coins might be buried.
According to a report by the
Danville News Advance
, two men, Albert Atwell, of Ridgeway, and Ed “Bubba” Powers, from Louisburg, N.C., claim that a large tree in the Danville National Cemetery is, in fact, a “talking tree,” one of dozens of trees around the south that contains seemingly indecipherable numbers and lettering carved by Confederate soldiers. The marks are believed to be clues pointing to more than 58 maps that would reveal the sites where gold and silver, valued in the millions today, are buried.
8. Treasure on Mount Rogers
Mount Rogers, on the Smyth-Grayson County line, is well known as the highest mountain in the state. With that claim to fame, it seems like it might be as good a hiding place as any for treasure. Legends claim that during the Mexican War, a large cache of Spanish gold and silver was sent to America and subsequently buried atop Mount Rogers. Legends aren’t always true, of course, but there’s no doubt that they will make you wonder...
9. A Secret Crypt in Williamsburg
Rumors have long persisted that Sir Francis Bacon, a British Elizabethan philosopher, scholar and patron of the arts, assembled a secret vault containing nothing short of the blueprints for a new world order and a few other “minor” odds and ends, such as several of Shakespeare’s original manuscripts (which Bacon followers claim were written by Bacon himself), an original translation of the King James Bible and a map of Rosicrucian vaults buried throughout Europe.
Bacon’s followers claim that Nathaniel Bacon, the colonial revolutionary and leader of Bacon’s Rebellion, buried the vault in 1676 near Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg. Despite beliefs that the two were related, genealogical records do not support the claim. Many believed that the whereabouts of this mysterious treasure were marked by secret messages, anagrams and codes found in Sir Francis Bacon’s writings. But despite active searching in 1938 and additional research by “Baconists” as recently as 2006, nothing has been uncovered. For now, the secrets of Bacon’s Crypt seem fated to fall into the abyss of historical myth and legend.
10. Zebulon Miller’s Millions in Lynchburg
Some people just like to be right. In 1885, Zebulon Miller of Lynchburg made his point that you CAN take it with you. Five years before he died, Miller built a concrete mausoleum with 3-foot-thick walls. He then hired a Swiss agent to make sure that his fortune of $2.3 million in gold and silver coins were safely installed along with his body. A $1 million trust was also left to ensure upkeep – and armed guards – for the tomb. The guards were dismissed when a high-tech security system was installed – and so, the treasure remains intact to this day. If, in fact, it even exists.
11. Boswell’s Tavern Treasure in Gordonsville
Built in the mid-18th century, Boswell’s Tavern was a popular meeting place for many significant Virginians such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Patrick Henry during the Revolutionary War. In 1781, the site was briefly home to French encampment under the Marquis de Lafayette, as well as the site where a handful of colonial soldiers were captured by British troops attempting to abduct Jefferson and end meetings on the Virginia legislature.
It is said that during this tumultuous time, treasure was buried somewhere on the property. While no evidence - or treasure - has been found to support this claim, a place with such an illustrious history seems perfectly suited to tales of intrigue and buried treasure. Today, the Tavern is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a private residence. So no treasure hunting here, folks! You’ll just have to let the mystery lie.
12. Carter’s Grove Plantation, James City County
Carter’s Grove Plantation was built in 1755 and today, the historic home serves as one of the best examples of Georgian architecture left in the nation. The manor home is set on a tract of land that had been settled by colonists in 1620 and was known as Martin’s Hundred. In the 1970s, Carter's Grove was the site of archaeological digs that led to the discovery of Wolstenholme Towne, a small settlement near Jamestown whose residents were murdered during the Indian Massacre of 1622.
Over the years, rumors have swirled around the property, asserting that during the Civil War, treasure was buried on the property. Given the plantation’s setting and the significance of the historical events that surround it, it’s easy to wonder if maybe the rumors are true.
Now, of course, legends are a messy mix-up of fact and fiction. They build on events or ideas that may be real, then they grow into a life of their own. So, tell us what you think. Have you heard of any of these fantic fortunes? Do you know of any others that should be added to the list? Please let us know in the comments below!