photo from the top of Branch Mountain, from http://www.ashtonwoods.com/
While browsing through a volume of the West Virginia Encyclopedia published by Jim Comstock back in 1976 or so, I came upon the following story:Apparently there has been a rumor in the eastern side of West Virginia ever since the Civil War that there is a treasure (supposedly $40,000 in gold) buried in a cave located somewhere on Branch Mountain, which is in the Moorefield/Petersburg vicinity. According to the story, three Confederate soldiers robbed a bank in either Richmond, VA or Fredericksburg, VA. One of the robbers may have been killed at the scene of the robbery. The other two hightailed it for the hills.
The story goes on to say that they arrived at the farm of the Cook family. (Which perked my ears since one of my daughter-in-laws who lives in that area told me her mother was a Cook.) The solders stayed at the Cook farm for some time, and buried their gold in a small natural cave "under one of three cliffs on the northwestern side of Branch Mountain," according to Comstock.
photo from www.ashtonwoods.com
The cave was in a direct line with the sun from a large flat rock located on the side of the mountain.
Now we all know that the sun does not follow the same path year-round. It's arch if higher in summer and begins at a different place on the horizon from day to day, as the days grow shorter and longer. So being in direct line with the sun isn't much help unless you know exactly what time of year the treasure was hidden in the cave.
After a time, the two robbers were arrested and sent to prison. One died there. The surviving soldier drew a map of the location of the money, and according to him the cave was visible "from the chimney of Joe Cook's house." The cave opening was very small, but a man could crawl in and stand up inside. the gold was placed in a cavity in the cave and concealed with "rock paper"-- Comstock notes he has no idea what rock paper is, and neither do I.
So if you feel like buying property on Branch Mountain (unfortunately it seems the mountain is under development), camping on Branch Mountain, or taking a hike through beautiful fall woods on the Branch MountainTrail and seeking a fortune while you're at it, maybe you'll be the one to find the lost treasure.
My bet, however, is that some enterprising farmer found it long ago and spent it slowly and thriftily without telling a soul!
Matthew, since this is in your neck of the woods, perhaps you can add some details to this story?
And George, would this have been the same Cook family?