Some old records show as the Civil War was winding down, a small shipment of gold was sent from Richmond, Virginia to Greensboro, North Carolina. The gold was placed in wooden barrels and iron pots with heavy lids. Then the gold was loaded on two wagons and carried east to pay the rag-tag Confederate Army, under Gen. Johnson’s command, which was camped around Fayetteville.
The slow-moving wagons of gold were to be heavily guarded by uniformed and non-uniformed Confederate soldiers. Hoping to get the gold to its destination and not be detected by Union Cavalry units or deserters, the wagons split up and traveled different routes. One took the eastern-most route through Raleigh, hoping to meet up with Johnson’s retreating army somewhere around Smithfield or Goldsboro. The second wagon took the southern route carrying it through northern Richmond County and hopefully on toward Fayetteville. This will be the wagon load of gold that our story is about.
The story goes that this second wagon slowly made its way through the red mud of the Piedmont area of our state without much problem. As the heavy-laden wagon reached the Sandhill area of Richmond County, the horses had to really pull harder — especially through the black mud of our Sandhill swamps. Even today, road builders know that these swamps and creeks can be a black, bottomless pit, and over all, a boggy mess.
The wagon somehow made it across the ford on Drowning Creek and made its way to the east of what is now the little community of Windblow. Just a few miles ahead lay another creek by the name of Naked Creek. Not being as big as Drowning Creek, the waggoneers probably thought this crossing would be a simple task. Not so! For as the wagon descended in the creek, all four wagon wheels sank deep into the black mire. Seems the more the horses pulled, the deeper the wagon began to sink. The soldiers quickly dismounted and hooked their horses to the wagon but the wagon continued to sink out of sight, deep into the Sandhill swamp. While grabbing as much gold as they could and unhitching the horses from the wagon, the soldiers were unaware that they were being watched by a young black boy. The boy had been checking his rabbit gums along the edge of the creek and saw everything that had transpired.
Fortunately, the soldiers managed to recover all the gold except for one large lead pot loaded with gold coins. The reason for not taking this last pot was because the soldiers’ saddle bags were full and the horses were loaded to the max. To hide this last bit of gold, the soldiers buried the pot of gold in a long leaf pine thicket next to the creek. As the soldiers mounted their horses, they saw this young boy crunched down behind a bush just yards away. Immediately, the young boy was apprehended and told if’en he told anyone about what he had seen that day, the soldiers would return and kill him and his whole family.
The Confederate soldiers let the boy go and he took off like a scared rabbit. The soldiers tried to make out a map of where the pot had been buried, but it so happened that every one of these brave soldiers and the map were lost at the Battle of Bentonville.
Many years passed and the boy was too scared to tell anyone about the wagonload of gold and the pot of gold that had been hurriedly buried in a pine thicket not far from his house.
It so happened around the turn of the century, this same boy had grown old and was on his death bed. Knowing that he could now tell the story of the Confederate gold, he began telling his wife and family what he had seen back in the year of ‘65. Thinking he was just talking out of his head, a lot of the facts the old man told his family about the lost gold was taken with a grain of salt.
Several days went by and the old man died taking the exact location of the lost gold with him. His family mourned the old man’s death but just couldn’t get the thoughts of that pot of gold out of their minds.
Finally, two male members of the old man’s family couldn’t stand it any longer — they had to at least look for the gold.
Not telling anyone, the two searched out the spot on Naked Creek they thought the old man had described. Well, you know over the years landscapes change. The long leaf pines had grown into large trees and pine straw had fallen from the trees and was well over six inches deep. Why, nothing they saw would even cause them to start digging. After several days of looking, they gave up the search.
Time went on and the timber around the creek was cut leaving only stumps, but the story of the hidden gold had made its rounds within the Windblow community. Several folks looked for the gold but came back empty-handed.
Along about the 1930s, the Great Depression was coming down extra hard on the little farming community of Windblow. Folks were trying anything to make some hard cash. Seems some folks in the community heard about a feller down in Robeson County who had a machine that could detect precious metal such as gold.
Won’t long, the feller with the metal detector was contacted. He agreed to come under the deal his gas was paid for, his room and board was taken care of and he got 25 percent of what he found.
The next week, the man arrived in Windblow with his new-fangled machine. Several of the locals showed the man where they thought the old ford of the creek might have been. After getting his machine set up, the man began scouring the ground around the creek. Back and forth he searched, day after day, until most of the once-excited community folks lost interest and stayed at home to work their farms.
After a week, the man said he would spend just one more day looking for the gold. Only a few of the locals went with him. But as luck would have it, late that evening, the man got a large hit on his machine. The needle went crazy around a large lightered stump close to the creek. The man said he felt sure that this was the spot where the gold had been hidden.
A couple of the men ran back to their trucks and brought some axes and shovels. The men dug frantically around the stump but were unable to unlodge the stump from the ground. Wasn’t long before dark overtook them and it was agreed to let this thing be and come back the next morning. One of the locals said he would bring his pair of mules to pull the stump out the next morning. Little did the other men know that this man with the mules was hatching a plan in his head to remove the stump that very night.
Seems sometime after everyone had left on that moonlight night, the greedy farmer returned with his two mules and several of his boys. Together they managed to dig the stump up.
As the sun was rising the next morning, several local men and the man with the machine arrived at the stump site. To their utter amazement there lay the stump on top of the ground and a large empty hole. The farmer with the mules said that he thought he would save the others from a lot of digging. That he and his boys had dug up the pine stump that night and found nothing.
Seems a week or so later, the family of the greedy farmer who had dug up the stump pulled up stakes and moved. They had sold their Sandhill farm and bought a large apple farm in the mountains of N.C.
According to some local folks, the greedy farmer had found the lost Confederate gold on that moonlight night and taken it all for himself. What do you think happen to the gold ?
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson Coomty Writers’ Club, Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies and co-author of the new book, “Just Passing Time Together.”