State Treasures - North Carolina

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 40 of the January, 2011 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2011 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Mystery at Plum PointBEAUFORT COUNTY – It was Christmas day 1928 when two trappers were crossing Plum Point to check their traps in the nearby marsh. Both men suddenly stopped when they came upon a mysterious depression that revealed a freshly dug hole eight-feet deep that wasn’t there just days earlier. A brick vault was clearly visible at the bottom of the hole; the vault showed evidence of having been opened at the top and at one end. For a minute both men stood silently stunned; their thoughts drifted back to childhood stories of pirates and buried treasures. But one old legend they’d both heard as boys really rung true. The story goes… In 1716 the pirate Blackbeard is reported to have buried "a heavily-laden chest" full of freebooted treasure somewhere on Plum Point. The story has been around for centuries and Plum Point is one of the best-known treasure sites in the state. When the men finally broke silence and spoke, it appears that both had concluded the Blackbeard legend was true and thereby surmised that an unknown person(s) had discovered the treasure and hauled it off. The story of the trapper’s discovery was covered by the local newspaper, and Thomas P. Terry’s research done in the 1960’s provides us with a great description of the site, the vault, evidence found, and a map showing the site where the vault was found.Terry recorded the bricks used to build the vault as, "very old, large, and handmade, with rounded edges." He continued, "The top of the vault was curved in the shape of a roof and, at the bottom, which was still intact, a flat floor made of three layers of bricks. The sides were nearly intact." Terry noted at the time the trappers discovered the vault there were no other signs of digging in the immediate vicinity, and that just enough of the vault was broken to facilitate removal of the treasure chest. Both strong indicators that whoever recovered the treasure knew exactly where to dig and how to carefully remove the hoard. The trappers reported that the floor had been laid first, and then the treasure was lowered into the hole and set into place. Next, the walls and the top of the vault were built up around the chest. The bricks used to make the walls and top had been sloppily laid, causing the mortar between them to seep out around and over the chest, which resulted in creating a perfect impression of the chest as it dried. When measured, the chest was 3 feet long, 32 inches wide, and 30 inches tall.Evidence indicated the chest had been removed by three men based on three sets of footprints found at the site. The chest was removed from the 8-foot hole by attaching a block and tackle rig from a tripod. Once on the surface, the chest was placed on a wooden plank and dragged to the riverbank where it was loaded into a boat and spirited away.It was noted that the vault was located at the base of a "very old oak tree" and that the men who removed the chest had to cut through some of the tree’s roots in order to reach the vault. The contents of the chest like the identities of those who recovered it are unknown. Since this recovery was reported, there has been a general consensus that more treasure remains unearthed on Plum Point and, since the point was used by several pirates at different times, there may be some truth to it.Finally, the map that appears in Terry’s book, Doubloons & Other Buried Treasure, (1970), provides one interesting clue. According to every map I’ve reviewed as well as Google Earth, Plum Point is shown as being at the confluence of the Pamlico River and Bath Creek, on the southeast shore. Terry’s map, however, shows the recovery site as being on the southwest bank of Bath Creek at Archbell Point.  Abbott’s Creek TreasureDAVIDSON COUNTY – According to Bill Sharpe’s book, "A New Geography of North Carolina," there is a legend about a British military cache of gold and silver specie that was buried in 1781 in Davidson County by Lord Cornwallis. The same story also appeared in 1917 in another book entitled, History of Davidson County.The legend states the British crossed Abbott’s Creek just east of Lexington in 1781 carrying a large sum in gold and silver. Because the baggage train was already strained by supplies, General Cornwallis ordered the treasure to be secured in a large barrel and lowered into a hole in the creek, which he intended to recover later. But the British never returned to claim it.Research supports the legend. It was during the incident known as the "Race to the Dan" [River] February 10-14, 1781, when Lord Cornwallis and his army of 3,000 men marched through Abbott’s Creek pursuing Patriot Ranger Dan Morgan and Gen. Nathanael Greene’s soldiers. According to the 1917 book mentioned above, the author claims the crossing occurred at Crott’s Bridge, which is where the barrel is said to have been lowered into the water. The exact contents of the barrel and its value are unknown. Based on what we do know, the treasure is believed to be quite substantial. It was Cornwallis’ strategy to have his commissary officer pay loyalists and Tory families for everything taken or consumed by his troops. He insisted on carrying specie to compensate these people, hoping it would keep them loyal to the British cause. As far as the treasure goes, it was never recovered.Beaver Creek Weapons Cache ALAMANCE COUNTY – There is some confusion over the actual location of Clapp’s Mill. My research confirms the Clapp family owned several properties in Alamance County, including a mill on Beaver Creek, Big Alamance Creek, and Stinking Quarter Creek. This story occurred at Clapp’s Mill on Beaver Creek on March 2, 1781. The Battle of Clapp’s Mill occurred shortly after Major General Nathanael Greene and Lord Cornwallis’ "Race to the Dan." Under the command of Colonel Otho Holland Williams of Maryland, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry "Lighthouse Harry" Lee of Virginia, American militia supported by the Botetourt Riflemen engaged British light troops, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, near Clapp’s Mill on Beaver Creek. During heavy fighting, the Americans lost eight Militiamen and the British lost 17 Regulators. The American plan to lure Tarleton’s troops into an ambush on Alamance Creek, roughly one mile southeast of Clapp’s Mill, had failed.The Patriots retreated slowly back to Greene’s line holding at Boyd’s Mill. It was reported that several bronze cannons and munitions had been buried near Clapp’s Mill, before the retreat began, to prevent the British from seizing them.  Gander Hall Plantation Cache BRUNSWICK COUNTY - Founded around 1799 by Ronald McDugall, the plantation’s landing along the east bank of the Cape Fear River, south of Willington, was used as a transfer point for Confederate troops who were being disembarked from steamers. Legend states that during the Civil War, $30,000 in silver and gold specie was buried on the property for safekeeping. For unknown reasons, after the war the cache was never found. By 1896, the plantation house had vanished. The site today is part of the Carolina Beach resort community.  Brummel’s Inn TreasureGUILFORD COUNTY – Local research will be necessary to locate the old Brummel’s Inn site, which once operated as a roadhouse along the old stage road between Greensboro and High Point. The Brummel’s Inn was owned by a wealthy slave owner named Jacob Brummel, who, in the winter of 1854, took in a guest for the night named William D. Weatherford.Before Weatherford retired that evening, he mentioned to Jacob that he’d buried a satchel of gold in the nearby woods between two trees. This was pretty common during the 19th century when travelers did not want to entrust an innkeeper with their valuables, though few actually mentioned it. Regardless, a few hours later, Weatherford died of natural causes and was interred in the tiny graveyard in back of the inn. Jacob searched for the cache for some time, but eventually gave up; to this day it has yet to be found. Sources:Terry, Thomas P, Doubloons & Other Buried Treasure, 1970, La Crosse, WI, Specialty Publishing Company, p. 33-34Ellis, H.T., "Ghosts Guard Cornwallis’ Gold," October 1976, Lost Treasure, p. 23Marx, Robert F., Buried Treasures You Can Find, 1993, Dallas, TX, Ram Publishing Company, p. 276Let’s Go Digging, North Carolina, http://www.godiggin.com/northcarolina.html