Virginia has been called the “Mother of Presidents,” having sent eight men to that office. Lead, zinc, copper, nickel, and cobalt occur in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. The Blue Ridge Plateau and northeastern Piedmont were the first gold mining areas in the eastern United States. A few glacial diamonds have been found in the state.
If you want to look for relics or treasures, Virginia has almost too many places to choose from. There are 1,280 miles of tidal shoreline, plus hundreds of miles of rivers, old English and Colonial forts, Indian village sites, ferries, old taverns, stockades, riverboat landings, and abandoned coal and timber camps.
There is an unlimited number of Civil War battle sites and skirmishes. And raids occurred where loot and money were lost or buried by the soldiers of both armies and the civilian population.
“After the battle, along the creek, we found barrels of Confederate money in a headquarters wagon, and the men scampered about tossing it in the air, offering great bundles of it to the prisoners.
All of the ground was covered with debris. As the VI Corps moved away from the road for two miles, the men found it so littered with discarded muskets that it was perilous to walk without stepping on them.”
This is from Bruce Catton’s book, “A Stillness at Appomattox.” There have to be hundreds of relics left in the area that could be found with a metal detector.
Somewhere on Snow Hill Farm, about one mile south of New Baltimore, in Farmington County, Virginia, there is believed to be over $50,000 in gold and silver coins buried. William Kirk, a known Virginia pirate in the 1760s, hid this.
Locals think that William Kirk, a Scotsman, was a pirate and lived at what is now Snow Hill Farm between trips in the 1760s and 1770s. After he died in 1779 or 1780, his widow, without children, sold the farm to Colonel William Edmonds, whose heirs still retain the property.
In the 1870s, a farm tenant plowed up a crock of coins. Upon their discovery, he sent a boy by horseback to bring the owner of the tract, a grandson of Colonel Edmonds, from his home in Warrenton, six miles away. When the owner came, the renter showed him the crock and a few silver coins, including Spanish pieces of eight and English coins. People there thought that these few coins were all that had been found, and the owner took a few as souvenirs.
However, several weeks later, the tenant, who had been living in very poor circumstances, suddenly purchased a large tract of land in the neighborhood, for which he paid $8,000 cash. He also bought extensive equipment for this new property, and reports estimated his total expenditure during this brief period to be about $10,000. Since his wealth, either then or later, didn’t seem to go above $10,000, it was thought that his whole treasure find was worth no more than this.
The will of William Kirk, made on May 31, 1779, and proven on November 27, 1780, is still on record in the Fauquier County Courthouse at Warrenton. It shows that the pirate left behind a large estate, including about $60,000 in cash, that his widow could not find. Considering the estimated $10,000 found by the tenant farmer, the balance is still lost at about $50,000 or more at present valuations.
As there were no banks available in this part of the country until some time after the Revolutionary War, and being a man who probably wouldn’t have trusted them anyway, it is believed that Kirk buried his wealth on his property.
While the story of a cache of approximately $58,000 in gold and silver coins and jewelry was written by another author several years ago, he did not have the letter (from one of the men involved in the robbery) of which I now have a copy. This letter was sent to the man who had been robbed over a year after the Civil War was over, and I quote:
“Kind Sir: I am in pain, and upon my deathbed, I feel I must divest my conscience of a burden that has kept constant company with my soul shortly after we fought over the salt works there. Your son, Eli, fearing he would be hanged, made a deal with my first sergeant, Jack Harrington, to share your fortune with him, an amount of some $46,000 in gold and silver coins, $12,000 in jewelry, and several gold watches. In return, your son would be helped to escape into Tennessee. Harrington murdered your son on the pretense that he was escaping. With my help, Harrington moved the cache and hid it in a saltpeter cave, about a quarter mile from the little town church. Harrington was killed in a blast while destroying the saltpeter caves before we left. I took a Minnie ball at the battle of Seven Mile Ford and have been unable to travel since. I had planned to return to Saltville and reveal the location of your money to you. But I am dying, and I want you to know that I took no part in the murder of your son. Respectfully, Corporal Allen E. Brooks, late of the Fortieth Mounted Infantry, Army of the United States, General Stoneman Commanding.”
This letter was written on September 11, 1866. The location of the cache is believed to be in or near a cave, locally called Harmon’s Cave, near Saltville, Virginia, in Smythe County. A preserving treasure hunter could discover this cache.
Haunted Woods is located in Matthews County, and there are two very good treasure locations.
About five miles from the town of Mathews Court House is a wooded area locally called “Haunted Woods” or “Old House Woods.” A large treasure of coins and jewelry is supposed to be hidden in this area. Before he gave up to the American Colonists at Yorktown, English Major General Charles Cornwallis took the treasure with him as he moved south.
The story goes that Cornwallis sent six soldiers with a wagon to bury this treasure before he was surrounded at Yorktown and Gloucester Point. The men buried the wagon load of contraband (estimated at over $1,000,000) in Haunted Woods. On their way back to Yorktown, they were ambushed and killed by members of the French Navy, who were fighting with the colonists. The location of the Cornwallis treasure was unknown, and the men who possessed it died.
Another treasure believed to be buried in the Haunted Woods is that of England’s King Charles II during the late 1600s. Charles knew that someone would try to take his throne, so he sent some trusted people to Virginia to bury a lot of money so that, if he had to, he could flee to the colonies and have money to live on. It is known that among King Charles’ treasure was a collection of ancient Roman coins that would be priceless today.
King Charles’ men were supposed to go to Jamestown, find a likely spot, bury the treasure, and return to England. Instead, they made a mistake in navigation, sailed up the Chesapeake Bay, and supposedly buried the treasure near the mouth of White Creek in the Haunted Woods. King Charles had them executed for their mistake when they returned to England. The secret of the treasure location was thus lost.
In March of 1863, General Edwin H. Stoughton of the Union army was captured by the Confederate guerrilla leader Josh S. Mosby, along with several other prisoners. The general had over $350,000 worth of gold plates, jewelry, silver tableware, and gold coins that his men had looted from Southern homes. Captain Mosby marched the general and his men to Culpepper, turning them over to Rebel General J. E. B. Stuart.
About halfway between Haymarket and New Baltimore, Mosby and a sergeant named James F. Ames buried the $350,000 in a bag between two pine trees. Ames was later caught and hanged at Front Royal by Union General George Custer. Mosby expected to return in a few days and retrieve his loot. The fortunes of war and the fact that Mosby and his men moved about so much made it impossible for them to return.
When the war ended, Mosby disbanded his men and went to Bristol, where he practiced law.
Shortly before he died in 1916, at 83, he told some of his close friends: “I’ve always meant to look for that cache we buried after capturing Stoughton. Some of the most precious heirlooms of old Virginia were in that sack. I guess one of these days, someone else will find it.”
No report of this cache ever being found had been made.
Cousins lived on a farm south of Hopewell during the 1920s. He was a well-to-do farmer and had saved a sizeable fortune in gold and silver coins by selling tobacco, hogs, and cattle. Immediately following the economic crisis of 1929, Cousins buried three half-gallon fruit jars full of coins near his home. He was accidentally killed and never told his family about the money’s hiding place.
Both factors widely indulged in the looting and caching of treasure during the Civil War. It was practiced by some of the regular army units and by freewheeling guerrillas. As a precaution against such looting by invading troops, many plantation owners in Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas buried millions of dollars worth of family jewelry and heirlooms.
One such hoard awaiting discovery consists of approximately three million dollars worth of gold and silver coins and jewelry contributed by patriotic Southerners to the Confederate treasure in Richmond. It was meant to be used to purchase arms and ammunition from England.
This treasure was safely transported to Richmond during February and March 1865. But on the night of April 1, 1865, two days before the city’s fall, a band of guerrillas led by a former Confederate sergeant, Jim Surry, murdered the four-person Treasury guard and fled with the entire amount.
They made it as far as the James River, where they were caught between troops from Richmond to catch them and reinforcements from Petersburg to the north. Along the river, they buried the treasure just before Surry and his eleven followers were killed down to the last man.
On the old Indian trail that later became part of the Wilderness Road cut by Daniel Boone in the 1770s were a tavern and stockade built about 1770. This later became a favorite stopping place for pioneers heading west.
The owner is supposed to have worked a gold mine in the vicinity and become quite wealthy but was later killed by Indians. The story goes that he buried a sizeable amount of gold near the tavern. There could be some truth to this since it was a long, dangerous trip across the mountains to any bank. The nearest one was located at Alexandria or Richmond.
This tavern stood about two and one-half miles east of Cumberland Gap, near Ewing in Lee County, Virginia, on the north side of Route #58.
In September 1974, a friend of mine, Al Goodman from Hodgkins, Illinois, spent a week’s vacation on his sister’s farm near Clintwood, Virginia. A neighbor learned of his sister’s decision to sell his extensive collection of Indian artifacts while visiting there.
As Al looked over the collection, he noticed an unusually odd carved piece of what appeared to be artificial ceramic. Asking the older man where he had obtained this, he was told that it had been plowed up in a nearby cornfield some seventy years before.
Giving only two dollars for the relic, Goodman took it home. He later sent me a photograph of this unusual artifact, which I sent to Dr. Barry Fell of the Epigraphic Society at Arlington, Mass. Dr. Fell answered my letter almost immediately. I quote:
“The object is a token used as currency about the second century B.C. It resembles others of the same kind, made of ceramic. This example was made by pressing ancient bronze coins called ‘as,’ weighing 12 ounces and issued originally in Italy, into a piece of clay, which was then baked. Examples have been found of similar tokens made from ancient Portuguese coins and others made by carving stone discs. In ancient Spain, these tokens were called, in the Celtiberic language, ‘wheel money.’ Its attraction would be as an antique, and could no doubt be quite valuable.”
Dr. Fell could not understand how this 2200-year-old token got into western Virginia. Had the Celts, Spanish, or Italians come to America two hundred years before the birth of Christ? Did they leave other evidence of their visit somewhere where this relic was found? This is a very good location for a treasure hunter interested in the pre-Columbian history of America.
Chancellorsville remains one of the most intriguing of Virginia’s battlefields. Today, much of the main battlefield remains undisturbed. The route of Jackson’s flank march, the original breastworks, remains undisturbed. The route of Jackson’s flank march, the original breastworks around Chancellorsville, and the lines of Hooker’s retreat can still be studied in the natural terrain.
The Battle of Chancellorsville left the ground in that part of Spotsylvania County littered with war debris. Many larger pieces were picked up after the battle, but many accouterments were left on the ground, ultimately sinking into the soil. In recent years the metal detector has made possible the recovery of these artifacts.
John Crismo was a soldier of fortune. Unlike many soldiers of fortune, Crismo actually “captured” his fortune, which is still buried somewhere in Tazewell County in the southwestern part of Virginia.
Crismo was just old enough to volunteer for military service when war was declared with Mexico in 1846. Before leaving his home state of New York, he became engaged to a beautiful young girl. They planned to marry when he returned from the Mexican war. When his tour of duty ended, he returned to New York to find that his intended bride had died a few days before his arrival.
When the Civil War began, Crismo moved again. He traveled until he reached Pennsylvania. There he enlisted in a Union cavalry regiment being formed in Harrisburg. The cavalry regiment that Crismo joined was sent to Virginia.
Once, he was assigned to a raiding party that went into the mountains of southwestern Virginia in Tazewell County; they camped on a mountain that overlooked a valley approximately three miles long and one mile wide.
The entire valley belonged to an eccentric and rich bachelor. His name was James Grierson. Grierson was a very successful planter and stock raiser. He owned 30 enslaved people. It was known that Grierson had withdrawn his money from the banks at the beginning of the war. Like many during the crisis, he converted the money into gold coins.
Cavalryman John Crismo learned of Grierson’s wealth. Since Grierson was a rebel, he considered the fair money game and decided to capture the gold. Crismo befriended one of the enslaved people owned by Grierson. He persuaded the enslaved person to show him where the money was buried.
The enslaved person promised his freedom for doing so, took Crismo to the plantation one night, and quietly led him to the hiding place. The money was buried behind the barn at about two feet. They dug it up without being detected. It was all in gold coins, packed in small bags.
Crismo and the enslaved person loaded the gold on two horses and led them back to the mountaintop where the Yankee cavalry was camped. When they were within a few yards of the camp, John Crismo sent the enslaved person off alone while he cached the money.
The next day the cavalry unit left Tazewell County. John Crismo did not serve in the military until the Civil War ended. For unknown reasons, he became disabled and was discharged from his Pennsylvania cavalry unit. After being released, his mental health, like his physical health, was adversely affected. He wandered around the Midwest and West, taking odd jobs and barely earning enough to survive.
After his death, a diary was found among his possessions. In the diary, he had recorded his account of the capture of Frierson’s gold. It also contained the map he had sketched showing where the gold was buried near the cavalry camp.
Crismo, in his diary, estimated that he had captured about $180,000 in gold coins from Grierson. No record of this treasure has ever been made public.
The area of Hampton and the lower Chesapeake Bay was infested with pirates during the early 1700s. The pirate most intimately associated with Hampton was Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard.” Little is known of Teach’s early life. He was probably born in Bristol, England, and he first went to sea as a deckhand on a privateer. In 1716, the pirate chief, Benjamin Hornigold, gave him command of a sloop, and Teach was launched on his two-year career of crime.
British Lieutenant Robert Maynard fought a battle with Blackbeard and his crew on November 21, 1718, near the North Carolina coast. During the fight, Maynard killed Blackbeard and cut off his head, which was brought to Hampton and put on exhibit.
Legends followed Blackbeard’s death. He is supposed to have buried treasure in several places along Virginia Beach and the coast south of Hampton. These legends are probably true, considering the number of ships he plundered and sank. No report can be learned of any of these treasures having been found.
The early records (many of which can be read today) and legends were almost certainly true concerning gold and silver in Virginia.
One historian has stated, “The chief object of Virginia’s first settlement was to find ‘treasures’ that England needed to build ships and pay armies. The Virginia Charter of 1606 specified that a fifth of the gold and silver found should belong to the king, with the rest going to the company and founders. Gold fever seduced the early settlers’ minds that Jamestown nearly died for lack of food.”
After hearing about how the Spanish took over South and Central America and stole millions of dollars worth of gold from Indian nations, the first English colonists sent a load of pyrite, also known as “fool’s gold,” to England in 1608, thinking it was gold.
The gold-bearing areas of Virginia are east of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a belt (running southwest and northeast) 15 to 25 miles wide and approximately 200 miles long, most of which are in Fauquier, Fluvanna, Goochland, Orange, and Spotsylvania Counties. However, gold has been found in several other areas of the state. In Virginia, gold has been found and mined in the following places: Moss, Monroe, Wilderness, Van Cluse, Melville, Partridge, Liberty, Little Elliott, Randolph, Kirk, and Franklin.
Before the California gold rush in 1849, the best place to mine for gold in the country was near Dillwyn in Buckingham County. The Morrow Mine, opened before 1835, was one of the earliest gold mines in which underground mining was used. It worked at a profit for several years and then finally shut down. There are many other now unworked mines nearby.
In the 1880s, gold was found in small quantities in several streams throughout Chesterfield County.
Near Locust Grove, in Orange County, is the Grasty Tract, a five-acre gold field that began operations in 1831 and has been working sporadically since then. In the early years, the gold assayed from $6 to $32 a ton.
During the early part of this century, gold was discovered near Great Falls, on the Potomac, in Fairfax County. Located in the corner of boundaries that include the states of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D. C., this site yielded $10,000 in gold nuggets to one man alone, who picked them from a small stream.
This small stream empties into the Potomac River just downstream from Great Falls and along the old C&O Canal, which was built to transport boats around the impassable areas of the falls on the Potomac.
Evidence of gold mining could still be seen as late as 1931 along Bull Neck Run Creek in Fairfax County. A check of the old tunnels and shafts might reveal something.
Gold was found around the small town of Mineral in Louisa County, and ore was shipped by railroad at once.
Northeast of Laurel Grove Church, 800 feet up in Suck Mountain, there is supposed to be a surface vein of quartz containing gold, silver, copper, and lead. Old timers living around Peakville can probably give more information on this.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Waller gold mine was worked in Louisa County.
Gold has been found on the north bank of the Rappahannock River in Richmond County, about four miles below the falls. Thomas Jefferson mentions this in his writings on the minerals of Virginia during 1782. I quote: “I know of an instance of gold found in this state. It was interspersed in specks through a lump of ore of about four pounds weight, which yielded seventeen pennyweights of gold of extraordinary ductility.”
Somewhere near Courtelon Lake, near Rayo in Spotsylvania County, there is a stash of gold bars hidden in the 1840s, when Virginia had a lot of gold mines. Local research could pay off on this one.
This listing does not include all the locations where gold has been found and caches made in Virginia, but it will help interested persons. The State Geology Department in Richmond, Virginia, can probably give information on these areas. Using modern equipment could be worthwhile to investigate any of these sites.
There would be no way to determine how much gold has been found in Virginia since 1607, but it has been estimated that from 1839 to 1860 alone, $1,500,000 was produced in some manner.
Most earlier records mention silver mines more than gold, but they were usually associated with copper or gold. The following are authentic instances of silver mines and caches in Virginia.
A lost silver mine is supposed to be located in the area of Passage Creek Gap near Strasburg. Indians are believed to have worked this mine before 1600. Several mentions of this mine are made in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.
Admiral Newport, an Englishman, made a trip up the James River in 1608 in search of gold and copper mines that the Indians told him existed and that the Spanish had worked years before the English came. The mines were supposed to be located ten miles above and west of the falls of the James River. Because of the hostility of the Powhatan Indians, Newport could not locate them.
Governor Sir John Harvey was also a supporter of gold and silver mines. In 1638, he sent an expedition west of Jamestown in search of them, but because of Indians, they were not found.
The Indians informed Sir William Berkley, Governor of Jamestown, in 1648 that ‘within five days’ journey to the westward and by south, there is a great high mountain, and at the foot thereof, great rivers that run into a great sea; and that there are men that come here in ships (but not the same as ours are), who wear strange apparel, have reed caps on their heads, and ride on beasts like our horses, but have much longer ears, and other circumferences.
These rivers doubtless were those now known as the Kanawha, Kentucky, Cumberland, and Tennessee, whose waters flowed from the western slopes of the Alleghany Mountains to the Ohio and Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico long before Spaniards frequented them. The Indians wore arm banks and other ornaments of silver and said there was plenty of the “metal” across the mountain.
Governor Alexander Spottswood tells in his journal, written in 1716, of finding silver on a small stream south of the Rapidan River. He called the stream Mine River. This would be near Locust Grove today. It could pay to check Spottswood’s map of his route. This map can be found in the Orange County Courthouse.
The following is a letter from the Duke of Newcastle, Holles Newcastle, to the Lords of Trade in London, dated July 21, 1732.
“My Lords, I send your Lordships herewith the memorial of Anne Jones, who is come hither to discover a Silver mine that she says has been found in Virginia. I am to ask you if there appears to be a foundation for what she reports so that I might give proper directions on it. I am your most humble servant, Holles Newcastle, My Lords.”
The letter, sent by the Duke of Newcastle, was from Anne Jones to her Majesty, the Queen, relating silver and copper mines in Virginia, and is as follows:
“Dread Sovereign – I have lived in Virginia for many years. Last January 6, while riding in company with Captain John Elloitt, he asked me if the copper mine of Major Fitzhugh was as valuable as reported. I told him that I had been credibly informed the mine was so good that two of the biggest ships might be loaded with the ore that lay upon the surface of the ground in Stafford and Prince William counties. I have been told of six more mines in these two counties and the deluges of the Potomac River. If men were sent here in search of Gold and Silver, this is as rich a country as is in the world. This but two nights ago that a doctor stayed at my house who is in possession of a Silver mine. He came to the knowledge of an old Dutchman on his deathbed; he (the Dutchman) discovered to the Doctor this immense treasure and mine. The Doctor and the ingenious chemist could not buy the land so it was taken upon by two gentlemen of very great Estates. They all agreed to go quietly in the night, then made trial of the mine, finding it rich beyond expectation, they returned well pleased. I stayed in the neighborhood at Colonel Smiths till February 2. They intend to open the mine this summer and say it is lead. I beg your Royal Majesty to pardon my style of writing. I am with the strictest obedience and duty that a poor mortal is capable of. Your Majesty’s most devoted faithful servant and loyal subject – Anne Jones – All I have written I attest to upon my oath and if Your Majesty commands me I am willing to expose my life to make good what I have reported to any persons Your Majesty thinks fit to send me.”
This letter was read to the Board of Trades in London on December 25, 1732. The location is lost today, but a check of old land grants and Stafford and Prince William Counties estates from 1730 to 1740 might prove profitable.
In March of 1735, Colonel William Byrd of Westover, in Massachusetts Colony, stated: “I believe the French will try to control all the land west of the Alleghany Mountains. We should employ someone to reconnoiter the mountains and learn what silver mines the French possess and their richness of them.”
In his very fine book, In the Country of the Walking Dead, Walter Omera tells of beaten native silver used by different Indian tribes in Virginia as ornaments in the 1770s.
In the journal of Nicholas Cresswell, written in 1774-1775, he tells of looking at a silver mine near Leesburg, Virginia, in 1775. Also, the four captured Shawnee Indian chiefs from the west had earrings and armbands of beaten silver, but it was not learned where they had obtained the silver.
In 1778, Patrick Henry made a speech at the convention in Richmond, Virginia, against accepting the Constitution, saying the taxes would be too outstanding for the colonies. Adam Stephen took the floor and shouted, “I know of several rich gold and silver mines in the western country (Kentucky, Tennessee, and the western part of Virginia) that will pay the federal taxes Patrick Henry is so worried about.” Adam Stephen had filed a claim to lands in Kentucky as early as 1774.
In a letter to Colonel William Preston (Continental Army), June 25, 1780, J. Breckenridge wrote that news of a Troy uprising had been sent to the men at the lead and silver mines on New River, in Virginia, in the hope of getting recruits for the Continental Army.
In the 1780s, Reverend James B. Finley worked as a missionary among the Wyandotte and Shawnee Indians throughout the western part of Virginia. In his autobiography, he tells of the Indians obtaining silver ore and pounding it into trinkets for trade and personal ornaments. They would never disclose the mine’s location to him.
Isaac Zane, an early pioneer, told of silver being found by Indians near Fort Henry (now Wheeling, West Virginia), but in the 1780s, all of the territories were Virginia.
Governor Gilmer states in his work, The Georgians, that early in the 19th century, he saw on a visit to his uncle at Lethe, on the Shenandoah River, extensive workings on Peaked Mountain, made by the German inhabitants who lived near its base, and who were seeking silver mines supposed to exist there.
The writer (Governor Gilmer) was born and reared within two and a half miles of the base of Peaked Mountain and frequently heard in his youth from the old inhabitants of that locality that silver mines existed there and that the Indians had visited them after the coming of the whites.
During the 1930s, a vein of silver was found on the Flannery Farm in Lee County. Due to disputes over the mineral rights, the vein never worked. Check with the county court clerk for the location of this farm.
Early in the 18th century, a large fortune of silver coins was supposedly buried by Edwin Powell under a large rock that had a horseshoe carved into it in Powell’s Fort. This was a natural fortress in the Fort Mountains on the north edge of Shenandoah Valley, near Waterlick. Powell was a wealthy miner and counterfeiter.
He first found manganese, and while mining this, he located a vein of silver, which he then started counterfeiting. After a few years, Powell became wealthy by mining and illegally minting coins. Tradition relates that the night before he was to leave for England, he and several of his friends threw a wild party at the frontier village of Front Royal. He may have been killed during the celebration and his body hidden.
What happened that night is not known, but it is known that Powell was never seen in Virginia again.
Powell is supposed to have sent his sister in England detailed directions to where he buried his money. The sister offered this information to anyone who could learn what had happened to her brother, but she had no takers. Due to the expense and distance, the sister never visited Virginia, and the cache and silver mine are still there.
A local legend says that $10,000,000 in gold on loan to the south from the British Government is buried near Hopewell. This supposedly happened during the last months of the war, when so many defeats and confusion existed for the Rebels. Jefferson Davis is supposed to have had this buried in the hope that the south could retrieve it later and continue the war after the Confederate capital was moved from Richmond. The loan was in gold and silver bars that the south intended to mint into coins.
For one hundred twenty-nine years now, rugged Murray Castle has stood outside Casanova, Virginia, a little over forty miles southwest of Washington, D. C. For almost as long, the estate’s grounds have held the secret of a lost Civil War treasure. Its worth is valued at over $5,000,000, and the fortune is believed to include a cache of U. S. Gold “Dollar” coins minted in the early 1850s. This hoard was accumulated by politicians in the south just before 1861.
The value of this stash was figured out, and it was decided that it would be used as collateral in the Confederate economy instead of being traded directly for goods or services. Since the treasure itself wasn’t to be spent, it had to be stored. For this, the military appropriated the fort-like Murray Castle. The entire fortune was packed in a stout iron trunk and kept under armed guard in an empty chamber on the second floor. The Virginian castle had begun its service as a military treasure vault.
Meanwhile, the new Confederate Government under Jefferson Davis demanded the surrender of Federally-held property in Southern territory, particularly the Union forts in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Lincoln refused this demand.
In the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, poorly trained Union soldiers moved toward Richmond. This was the first major battle of the war. Even though poorly trained Confederate troops stopped and pushed them back, this was just the beginning of a long and hard battle.
Even with the first battle, the need for fresh troops was acute. Every available Confederate soldier was rushed to one of the many battlefronts, leaving few men to consolidate the rear positions. Only three men remained to guard Murray Castle and its incredible treasure.
There was chaos throughout the countryside, and the battle lines were often fluid and hard to tell. Brief skirmishes had been fought all that day along the estate’s perimeter, and small Union scouting parties were still crisscrossing throughout the forests. One of these groups, made up of five men led by Lieutenant James Eastland, finally broke into the estate grounds and went toward the castle. After hearing the scattered shooting, the three Confederate guards fled.
Once the castle had been properly secured, the Union soldiers took a more careful and appraising look at their shelter, marveling at the rugged and unfamiliar medieval architecture and the fine furnishings. In one bed-chamber, they found the chained and locked trunk. Removing the chains and forcing the locks, they were astounded when they lifted the heavy lid.
The chest was full of bags of gold and silver coins, jewelry, and other valuables that had been found earlier. Along with the treasure, Officer Eastland found accounting tables carefully listing the entire contents. A cursory scanning of the documents told the soldiers of the fortune they had found. No other troops had arrived at the castle, so Eastland quickly outlined a plan to hide the treasure so they could keep it all for themselves.
Throughout the night, additional Union troops converged on the area. Eastland and his men moved the big chest quietly out of the castle and into the woods, where they hid it temporarily behind some bushes. They did this because they thought the estate was now safely in Union hands. The next morning a Colonel arrived with his staff to set up a headquarters in the castle itself.
Eastland and his men were also getting ready to hide their treasure better and for good. Posting himself and one other man in the open, high tower, Eastland sighted through the trees to a spot deep in the woods. One of his men paced off the distance on the ground and sighted back to Eastland in the tower. Here he stuck a bayonet in the ground, marking the chosen.
On the pretense of burying the slain, Eastland arranged for a work detail of other troops to dig a pit six feet on each side and six feet deep. Eastland then dismissed his conscripts. As soon as they were alone, the Lieutenant and his men carried the trunk from the bushes and dropped it into the center of the pit, refilling the square trench themselves.
Their joy over the treasure was short-lived. That same night a massed Confederate regiment launched a concerted attack, successfully driving the Union soldiers from the castle, the estate, and the immediate region. Still, the five men were secured in the knowledge that even as they had concealed the treasure from their Union comrades, it was also hidden from the Confederate soldiers. Eastland remained convinced they could retrieve their fortune later.
The war raged uninterrupted, and Eastland fought in Tennessee for a short while. Eastland was sent to the north at the war’s end, and he later got sick, so he never returned to Virginia to get the Confederate treasure. He told a few close friends and family members about what he did during the war, but no one has been able to find or get back the money.
Here the original party was killed in Georgia, and the fourth was blinded. Though its historical face value didn’t exceed six thousand dollars at the time, conservative estimates value the gold and silver coins at well over $5,000,000.
In August of 1908, over $1,000,000 of nearly pure gold was loaded aboard the Dutch schooner, Edewijk, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This consignment belonged to several European businessmen who had joined in financing gold mining in southeastern Brazil. Their gamble had paid off.
The Dutch schooner set sail for the United States to put the gold into escrow until a settlement of sharing could be reached by investors. Not familiar with the American coastline, the schooner stood well out to sea but kept the landmarks in sight.
As the Edewijk went around North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras, it ran into the first rain squalls of a storm front. The captain pulled closer to the shore and sent an S. O. S. for help. The storm hit with near-gale winds and the schooner sand. It was several days before any searching for the ship was done. No survivors or traces of the Edewijk could be found. No attempt was ever made to salvage the ship.
Somewhere between False Cape and Cape Henry lies $1,000,000 in gold beneath twenty-three fathoms of water.
When news of the American War for Independence reached Europe, Marquis de Lafayette declared his support of America despite opposition from the French Government and left his own country to fight for the colonists.
American forces badly needed funds, assorted import goods, and war materials. Through his political influence, Lafayette kept pressuring the reluctant French bureaucracy to render the much-needed aid.
Finally, in the summer of 1778, certain entrepreneurs took the risk.
Along with other freight for the colonists, they loaded almost $50,000 in gold coins and bullion aboard a privately-owned schooner and sailed to the French West Indies. There the precious cargo was transferred to the frigate Dupre, owned and operated by Jean-Pierre Clement, a close friend and business associate of Lafayette.
The English king had ordered a naval blockade of the colonies, and British men-o’-war, bristling with cannons, were always on the alert.
Either by luck or skilled seamanship, the Dupre eluded the English ships and neared Smith Island, slightly east of Cape Charles, at Chesapeake Bay’s mouth. British intelligence, however, had reported the French ship’s position and mission.
Six English war sloops lay ambushed among the scattered islets along the coast. As the Dupre sailed within view of the waiting Americans, the fast sloops charged out of hiding and swept down upon her. Firing volley after volley, they splintered her hull.
The luckless Dupre sank beneath the waves, and her fortune in gold was now useless to the cause of freedom. There is no known record of the gold’s recovery.
In 1790, Baron Francois Pierre de Tubeuf, a French exile, moved to St. Paul in Washington County. In 1794, the Baron, his wife, and all the servants were killed by several outlaws. The house was stripped of all valuables and then burned. When the bandits were caught in the area a short time later, they had already concealed the loot.
They were lodged in the Abingdon jail, where they were later hanged, never telling where they had cached the valuables. The Baron’s money and other valuables were never reported found. Near this old house site lies a small fortune waiting for a lucky treasure hunter.