Nov 03, 2005, 12:39 PM
The most fascinating account is that of Abraham, whose life spans the colonial, revolutionary, and frontier eras of the United States. Even more intriguing are the mystery of a pot of buried gold and tales of Abraham's ghost still said to haunt a creek called Pheasant Branch near Flat Rock, North Carolina. Born in Deerpark and baptized on October 18, 1719, Abraham moved to the Minisink area with his parents, then south into Pennsylvania, then down into western North Carolina through the famous Cumberland Gap. He married his first wife, Elizabeth, about 1743 and fathered eleven children between 1755 and 1792.
Abraham's story begins with the Revolutionary War, during which he mostly served in civil rather than military roles. Listed as a member of the North Carolina Militia in 1770, he was also a member of the Safety Committee for Tryon County, North Carolina, from July 26, 1775. Historical records of Tryon County list Abraham as Captain Kuykendall on and after July 1776. Very little of the war was fought in North Carolina and records suggest Abraham served in procuring supplies in North Carolina and sending them to Washington's army farther north. Shortly after the war began, he was also appointed Commissioner of Tryon County, responsible for building a courthouse, prison, and stocks, and for establishing a boundary line between Tryon and Mecklenburg Counties. He also became Justice of the Peace of Tryon County in December of 1778, and continued in these roles when Rutherford County was formed during or after the Revolutionary War. These appointments show Abraham to be a man held in high regard by his fellow citizens.
He stayed in this area east of what is now Asheville until about 1800 when, for unknown reasons, he moved further west to sparsely populated Henderson County, closer to Asheville. By this time he was over eighty and having lost his first wife Elizabeth, he had quickly remarried a young, attractive woman named Bathseba. As a veteran of the Revolutionary War, he was given a grant of land of six hundred acres by the State of North Carolina in an area that was primarily virgin timber. In time, he came to own over one thousand acres, including all of the Flat Rock community. There he established a tavern to accommodate travelers along the Old State Road used by people driving herds of cattle, horses, and mules from Kentucky and Tennessee to the markets in lower South Carolina and Georgia. It was a busy road because it was one of the few that linked the mountain areas of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee to towns further east.
Abraham built the tavern and holding pens for livestock; we are told the inn was unusually large and its accommodations better than the average pioneer inn offered in those days. Family tradition also makes much of his beautiful young wife Bathseba who bore him four sons and helped entertain travelers. He had a reputation for serving good food and drinks of strong, raw whiskey made at his own still. The tavern was established sometime between 1800 and 1804, and its reputation for good lodgings made Abraham a rich man. He insisted travelers pay in gold or silver coins and only accepted gold when selling parts of his huge tract of land. Soon the old soldier-pioneer innkeeper had accumulated quite a fortune and began to fear for its safety. There were no banks in this remote area or anywhere in the state of North Carolina, so valuables were kept in strong boxes, large trunks made of thick white oak, held together with strips of iron and locked with large padlocks. These precautions did not satisfy the aging Abraham, especially since his young wife had a habit of spending her husband's treasure on frivolous goods brought in by pack peddlers. Family tradition maintains that Bathseba liked to dress in bright colors and wear lots of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. The peddlers served as traveling department stores, bringing all kinds of goods to frontier women in isolated areas, and they must have realized what a good customer Abraham's young wife was, with all her husband's wealth at her disposal.
One dark night, old Abraham secretly transferred his gold and silver coins from his strong box to a large iron wash pot, an item common to pioneer households. He then awoke two of his slaves who were very strong and young. He blindfolded them and ordered them to carry the pot down the road and into the forest with only a pine knot torch lighting the way. He guided them through the dense forest where he removed their blindfolds and told them to dig a hole under a bent white oak tree near a clear sparkling branch. When it was deep enough to satisfy him, Abraham had the two slaves bury the pot, covering the spot with leaves and brush to hide it. Again he blindfolded the young men and led them back to the inn. On pain of death he warned them never to tell a soul a single word of what they had done for him that night.
Some time after, when Abraham was 104 years old, he set out alone to get some of his treasure for a business deal. Taking a shovel, he left the inn, never again to be seen alive. When he failed to return, a search begun and he was found dead, lying face down in a mountain stream that flowed through the forest. Those who found him concluded that he had stumbled or tripped while trying to cross the branch, probably hitting his head. Either badly dazed or unconscious, he had rolled into the stream and drowned. Only then did it become common knowledge that Abraham had buried his wealth in a large iron pot. The two frightened slaves told the family what they could of that strange night, but all they could tell was that the money was beneath a large white oak near a mountain stream. Thus began frantic searches along the banks of Pheasant Branch where Abraham was found, and some still search today.
Soon after the old man's death, stories began to be told at campfires and hearths around Flat Rock. People traveling at night during the full moon told of seeing the figure of a bent old man frantically digging first in one place and then another. Those brave enough to go after the phantom recalled how it disappeared before their very eyes. Stories persisted and grew. One terrified traveler on horseback told of crossing Pheasant Branch just as he heard the rattling of a wagon just ahead and then saw a solitary figure of an old man in a one horse wagon, beside which sat a large black wash pot. As the traveler drew along side, the wagon, horse, man and wash pot suddenly vanished.
Soon only the most foolhardy traveled after dark near the vicinity of Pheasant Branch, and family traditions kept the story of the gold and the ghost alive. Many have searched in vain for the treasure, including descendants of the two slaves Abraham blindfolded and led through the woods to bury the pot, but none of it has ever been found.
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