Friday, October 3, 2008

Buried Treasure?

photo from the top of Branch Mountain, from

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

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?


Matthew Burns said...

I've heard this story many times and many think it is just a legend. Tract Mountain is a pretty big place, and there are many caves buried on it. Tract Mountain even stretches into Pendleton County. If I were to believe in the legend, I'd check the caves on Tract Mountain that are closer to Greenawalt Gap, the only natural Gap through the mountains in that area. It was through Greenawalt that all roads came through at that time, so it stands to reason in my mind that any treasure would have been stashed before passing through the heavily guarded Gap.

Akin to this story is a story of my one grandfather, who while in the Confederate Service in the latter days of the War, seen the writing on the wall and knew the South had lsot. So he robbed a bank in Richmond and made off with a couple of saddlebags of Confederate paper money. He thoguht with this money, he'd be able to buy food and stock to make his farm once again prosperous. To his dismay, by the time he managed to get home from Richmond (remember there were still many armies out and about), the War was over and Confederate money was worthless. However, the money was stashed away in the attic of his home, and over the years it was used for trunk linings, and wallpaper, until only 5 bills were known to exist. These are still in the possession of family members. His farm was located on top of Wardensville Mountain in Hardy County. Corridor H goes right through the middle of it.

I also know of a legend of buried treasure on the ridge about Riverton in Pendleton County, I'll try and the old newspaper article about it. Also, I wrote a blog post about the Yankee Gold that is suppoedly buried on the old Burns homeplace. My family still looks for it on ocassion.

Buried treasure abound in the mountains back home. Oddly enough, none was ever found.

Granny Sue said...

Thanks, Matthew! I didn't realize there were so many stories about buried treasure over there. I've never heard any such tales here, but then people were a long way from money over here in those days. I wonder though if any of the old oil and gas barons hid anything...

Matthew Burns said...

I doubt that any of the oil or gas barons buried anything in WV...they were far to busy raping, pillaging and plundering the land, people and natural resouces which abounded. And the loot they derived was "legally" obtained so they'd have no reason to hide it, instead they flaunted it and built great mansions, universities, museums, etc. in the larger cities of America, and became known as upstanding men of substance. Harrumph!!! Legal thieves and robber barons, all of them!

But, I'm not bitter,lol.....


George said...


I don't think it would have been the same side of the family as they all were from the Jordan Run area, but could have been some relatives perhaps.

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