Sunday, January 6, 2019


            The town of Plymouth (Washington County) has had more than its share of legends of buried treasure. The following story appeared in Norfolk: The Marine Metropolis of Virginia and the Sound and River Cities of North Carolina by Geo. I. Nowitzky, published in 1888.

            “Black Beard, the notorious pirate who made Plymouth a frequent resort, it was generally presumed, buried a great deal of his quickly acquired wealth within the limits of the town to keep it from being as quickly lost; and about the time that everybody concluded it was buried beyond all hopes of being found the Civil War came, and with it not alone the army, but also more reports of secreted treasures.
            “Among the many stories of this nature, and the one most generally believed, is that a sutler (a person who followed an army and sold provisions to the soldiers) who sold the Federal army very few goods for a great deal of money, fearing that the soldiers would sometime raid his premises, concluded to secrete his gains in the quaint old grave-yard, and before he found use for it or thought it wise to recover it, he was taken sick, died and was also consigned to a grave-yard.
            “This led to one of the most stirring episodes connected with the history of this historic town. Two gentlemen, well known as able jurists and statesmen, concluded that they had discovered a clue to the whereabouts of the sutler's buried treasure, and naturally concluding that it was doing no good where it was, and brought to
light might be made useful, with the assistance of a mate of a steam-boat which made Plymouth one of its landings, organized themselves into an expedition for the special purpose of unearthing this treasure, which they had reason to believe was buried in a part of Grace church-yard which at that time was not used for cemetery purposes.
            “The night selected was dark and dismal, and as they walked down to this resting place of the dead and alleged safe of the sutler, the only way they could keep up their spirits was by reflecting what a vast amount of good the money, now useless, would do by relieving the wants of the poor and distressed, and educating worthy fatherless children; and, to their credit, be it said, that each made a firm resolve that half of the restored wealth should be used for these purposes.
            “No time was lost, for as soon as they reached the little cemetery the digging commenced. It must have been a weird scene; the light (all that could be forced from an ordinary stable lantern) had just sufficient illuminating power to shed a faint, ghastly glimmer on the time-honored tombstones and vaults; a fitting one, however, to act as an accompaniment to the dull but continued thuds of the pick. It is generally believed that the same dim substitute for the sun never had its rays forced back by the reflecting force of the sutler's hoarded gold.
            “But this appears to be the only effort in which this party has ever been unsuccessful; for one of these gentlemen has been Governor of the great North State, is loved by all her people, and to-day worthily represents the greatest nation on earth (ours) at an imperial court, vested with unlimited power, as the rank Minister Plenipotentiary signifies. The other is also well loved and trusted by the people, for having represented his District in Congress once, his constituents urged him to accept the position again, and his return by an overwhelming majority proved his popularity. As for the mate, the last time I heard of him he was still treading the deck of a steamer that displaces the waters of Chesapeake Bay, the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal and legendary Roanoke River.”

[Taken from  Norfolk: The Marine Metropolis of Virginia and the Sound and River Cities of North Carolina by Geo. I. Nowitzky: 1888.]

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