The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Gold In The Blue Ridge

By Kelly D. Webb © 1987

Issue: June, 1987

Gold, in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Yes, that is what I heard from a shoe salesman as I loitered around the country store, many years ago. Later, I was to hear the same story from my Uncle as he was describing the method he used to break the code that would reveal the location of the gold. Then all we had to do was go get the gold. It all seemed so easy and a sure way to wealth.

It seems that a group of men had elected a leader and traveled to the western states to seek their fortune. Evidently, the men were from Bedford County, Virginia because they were supposed to have hidden the treasure they acquired there. After hiding the treasure the men started on another expedition for more treasure and were supposedly slain by Indians while in the area of the Great Lakes. Before they left on this expedition the leader had left a code and other papers with a man in Lynchburg, Virginia with instructions to hold the papers within a certain period of time, he was to open the papers and using a key, that would be sent to him, locate the treasure and divide it between the families of the men in the party.

Time passed, and no one came for the papers, nor did he receive a key to the code. Other events caused the man holding the papers to open them in hope of finding names of the men in the party, so he could give the papers to some of their family.

My Uncle described the codes to me and told me how he broke them. It seems there were sixteen iron pots, eight on top of eight, in a vault roughly lined with stone. The key stone to the vault was blacker than the rest. He even described the treasure as gold bullion, silver bullion, and jewelry. Supposedly the men had been hauling the gold and silver back to Virginia in a wooden wagon or wagons when they broke down from the heavy load. They obtained other wagons and traded part of the gold and silver for jewelry to lighten the load. My uncle then described the appearance of the place surrounding the vault. He told me how the rocks would look and the location of the black rock. I was ready to go fetch the treasure and bring it home.

Several weeks were to pass before we found time to go look for the treasure location. Early one fall morning we were up before light and on our way to Bedford County. After driving all around the county he finally said, "We can not see it from the road and we will have to climb down the mountain to find it." The mountain was very steep and after going down the mountain about one thousand feet we came to a rock face that dropped straight down for over a hundred feet to a shelf, then down another fifty feet.

We worked our way down around the rock face, and when we came to the bottom and looked toward the top I could see the rock formation he had described to me. I asked him when he found this place and he said it was the first he had been there. When I asked him how he knew what it looked like, he said the code paper described it. He then told me that we would have to get up to the shelf to see the cave we were looking for.

I climbed up around the rock face opposite the side we came down, and I found a ledge that extended around the mountain and connected with the shelf we were trying to reach. My Uncle was unable to reach the ledge because the effort required too much for his ailing heart. He told me to look for the cave near the center of the shelf. At first I did not see anything that looked like a cave, but feeling with my foot I moved some leaves and noticed a small hole open up and leaves drop into it. I took my hand and removed all the leaves I could and found a hole about the size of my head. I was about to search for another location when I noticed the hole looked larger at the bottom, in fact, I was looking down into a cave large enough for me to crawl into. I moved some of the rocks and soon had a hole large enough for me to enter the cave.

I returned to the place where my Uncle rested and described the hole I had found. He told me how far back to go into the cave to locate the black rock. However, he cautioned me not to move the black rock. We searched ourselves for matches and found a book with about one half of the matches remaining.

I climbed back to the shelf and lowered myself into the cave. After my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I found I was in a large room about ten feet across and eight feet high. However, there was a slanting wall on the right and it appeared both walls had been pushed towards the center, at the top. As I moved back into the cave I found the walls were closer together and some of the rocks had fallen out of the walls.

I climbed over these rocks, and as I stepped over one something hit me on the leg; snake bit surely. No pain, so I felt down my leg and my hand hit metal. I struck one of my few matches and saw a metal shovel. I picked it up and there was another one under it. They were both quite heavy and seemed to have been hammered into shape. Then I noticed another piece of metal with an odd shape. I carried the shovels and the iron piece to the front of the cave. I realized the odd shaped piece of metal was part of a larger piece and curved as if it was part of an iron pot.

I returned to the depths of the cave and at the distance I had been told, I struck my last match. There was a large black rock; blacker than the rest. On the rock was a huge snake, in a coil. Rattler? I do not know. I dropped the match and with the same movement turned to leave the cave. As I turned, my arm scrubbed against the wall and some pieces of rock fell to the floor. When I reached the cave opening, I grabbed the shovels and the piece of iron, climbing out of the cave so fast I almost fell off the shelf rock.

When I reached the spot where my Uncle was resting I was in a cold sweat. I thrust the shovels and the iron piece at him and told him if he wanted the snake he would have to get it. I rubbed my arm, where it had scrubbed the wall, and realized my watch was missing. After I had calmed down and we had discussed the situation, we decided that I could not go back into the cave.

My Uncle seemed at ease and looked as if a problem had been solved. Finally, he said, "Lets go home, and do not tell anyone about this because they will not believe you." On our ride home he was so quiet and closed his eyes as if asleep. I worried about him and asked if he was all right. "Never better," he replied.

Yes, there is gold in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My watch case was stamped, "14 carat gold." Yet, I wonder how my Uncle knew how the place would look, and how he knew of the black rock; blacker than the rest.