Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Braddock's Gold: Unsolved Mystery

When I was growing up in Fairfax, my mother was an historian and art teacher. I was practically raised inside of the Fairfax Library. We used to walk to the library a few times a week where I would restlessly search the rows of books and learn about subjects I enjoyed (leading to my insatiable knowledge for things that catch my fancy), while my mother searched the books in the Virginia Room.

One summer, I recall, my mother was sitting in her chair in our living room, studying her paperwork as she unraveled the history of Aspen Grove. Bored enough to actually inquire about what she was doing, she gladly spouted a bunch of information about what she thought were fascinating battles fought locally and the use of the house as a hospital. I should have known better than to ask. To me, history was everywhere. It was mundane. I loved going to friend's suburban tract homes where things were modern and chrome and fresh and new. To me, history was dusty and moldy and creaky and (yawn) boring.

As I wandered off to look for some mischief, my mother called out.

“I did learn something new at the library the other day. It’s pretty exciting. It was about Braddock’s Gold.”

I turned and waited, but mother wasn’t great at prompting.

“So?” I asked.

“General Braddock buried gold that was to be the payroll. I found something in a soldier’s diary about it. He knew about the burial place. There was a set of matching books, maybe 20 of them, small ones. They were entries from diaries of soldiers. In one of those, I found a soldier’s account of the burial and where they buried it. Today, the gold would be worth a fortune.” She sighed.

The wheels in my young mind turned and a plot evolved. History still held some mysteries, apparently. Especially more intriguing ones than battles!

First, let me tell you from this online passage, the story behind Braddock’s gold:

“During the time of his expedition into the North Huntingdon area, General Edward Braddock camped one evening with his army near what is now known as Circleville. That evening, Braddock sent two scouts to locate the river which he knew was nearby. These scouts traveled down the valley along the Crawford run area and finally came to the Youghiogheny River; however, these men did not know its true name. After this discovery, the two scouts returned to the Three Springs encampment and told Braddock they had found the river. Braddock then called his troops together and told them the scouts had located the river. According to the map George Washington had drawn for him, they were not too far away from Fort Duquesne where they had planned to attack the French and Indians.

At this time, Braddock suggested they should have counsel among themselves in regard to the King's gold they were carrying for the payroll. Braddock requested that the men wait until after the battle to get paid because a number of them would be killed. Therefore, he reasoned there would be fewer to divide the gold. The men voted in favor of Braddock's plan. Braddock then suggested they hide the gold instead of taking it into battle, lest it fall into the hands of the French and Indians.

It was decided that the two guides, with General Braddock as witness, would retrace their trail to the river and cache the gold until after the battle. The three followed Crawford Run to the river, buried the gold under a walnut tree, and returned to the camp. On the twelfth day of the expedition, the army moved out towards what was known as Charlie Larimer's farm. There they turned south in the direction of the river, thinking it was the Monongahela, though it was the Youghiogheny. They followed the river banks to the forks of another river located at what is now called McKeesport. This second river was the Monongahela, but Braddock thought it to be the Allegheny River. They crossed the Monongahela into what is now Duquesne. When they started down the river valley, they saw the Turtle Creek Valley, located on General Washington's maps. Realizing the mistake, they re-crossed the river at a point now known as the city of Braddock.

The French and Indians were waiting in a narrow passage to ambush Braddock and his army. The result was a near massacre, with General Braddock mortally wounded. The remnant of the army hurriedly retreated up the valley of the Monongahela, eventually marching to Uniontown. There on top of the summit, Braddock's body was buried at a site near Fort Necessity.

But what about Braddock's gold? It still remains buried somewhere near the Youghiogheny River.”

So, I called one of my friends over and we trudged to the library and up to the claustrophobic Virginia Room where I studied the shelves I had seen my mother hovering over and found the matching set of small books. We eagerly began to take them down and study them at the table. I’m certain the librarian thought we were diligent students in the summertime to be studying in a dusty library. Well, I found the book! We studied the passages. He described 50 paces east from the tree.

Too eager to get on with the search, I put the book back up and we rushed home. I was certain it had to be on my property. I didn’t take the time to research more about the area where it supposedly occurred. We walked 50 paces east of every large tree in my yard and dug down. It took the entire summer, but we never found the gold. I did, however, on a few digs find some more relics for our shelves.

To this day, I always think some eager treasure seeker in Pennsylvania near the Crawford run area and Youghiogheny River; who doesn’t mind a trip to a library in Fairfax to find the set of books with the soldier’s diaries, might just be happily rewarded with a treasure worth a fortune.

Just another great mystery that remains a mystery to today.


  1. i bet there are a lot of treasures buried out there, never found :-) i hope you find one!!

  2. Great story. You have to love a child on the hunt for treasure.

  3. I'm a little confused about the wars here...was the diary entry from a Civil War soldier who was writing about gold buried during the French and Indian War? least you found some artifacts for your troubles!

  4. Hey Jeff;
    You're right. I always assumed Braddock was Civil War, but he was actually earlier. I probably should adjust my story to allow for that. Since my mother always talked about the Civil War all the time, I assumed that was the war she was talking about. You can probably tell, I only half listened to the woman if she had something interesting to say. Probably explains why a seance us kids attempted didn't get us anything when we kept asking for a Civil War General.

  5. Love the story, especially of you digging for the gold. Braddock and the Lost Dutchman's treasures would be a great thing to find but the mysteries behind them are even better.

  6. What a great story that was. Thanks for sharing it. I remember digging as a child...much to mom and dad's chagrin. They were trying to grow the grass, but I was totally focused on finding a treasure.

  7. Mary;
    I must admit, that remembrance made me think of other crazy exploits I had as a child and I thought I might work them into a post about creativity and freeing your inner child in your blog writing.

  8. Had I been your sister or neighbor, I would have had my butt beaten even more than I did in real life... which seemed constant.

    I once spent several weeks digging my own passage to China... if the garbage man had kept his mouth shut ...I might have made it.

  9. @eloh;
    Oh the mischief we would have gotten into! Half the parents in the neighborhood wouldn't let their kids play with me because of the haunted house, the other half knew we'd get into unlimited trouble with the free run of so much acreage and woods. I was a very naughty little girl--still am.

  10. That seems to be a little more than two hours from here. I'm planning a trip come spring. We went digging further down the creek yesterday and got nothing but litter(beer/soda cans and such).

  11. Great story. I live really close i went to the local highschool, and can't believe i have never herd of the legend before. This fall while deer hunting in the area i have had a few strange things happen and would like to know if you could answer a few questions via e-mail thanks

  12. if you take into consideration the change of the rivers flow and direction ,also the expansion or the shrinkage of the river by looking at older maps you will have a better chance at finding your dream.

  13. I am assuming you are talking about Fairfax County, VA when you mention growing up in Fairfax. Do you remember which library you visited? And do you remember what the collection of diaries was called?

    There is a legend of Braddock having buried gold in Centreville, VA. When I looked at a map of the area you describe in PA, I noticed a Centerville, PA, just north of State Route 981 a little east of the river. According to a map of Braddock's route (from 1755) it appears he passed very close to THAT Centerville. Perhaps the legends got crossed?

    In any case, I am from Fairfax County, Virginia and I would like to try to find those diaries. Any information you can provide would be appreciated. You can reach me at


  14. i live in western maryland, and we to have rumors of general Braddock's treasure buried here. our history states that he marched toward Pennsylvania where he got ambushed and killed in Braddock PA. He knew they were being followed so he waited until night fall and snuck off alone to bury the treasure. the when they crossed into PA he got attacked. Just goes to show you how much the story's get mixed up through history. we have the Braddock signs and trails runing all through our state. i even do most of my deer hunting on his trail..

  15. Another name that surfaces with this story is Tom Fawcett. My uncle spent years researching the potential burial sites, but no treasure.

  16. Stories that we heard actually had his guys blindfolded March in a circle then bury the treasure .so they would not remember where it was. some guys made it home an told the story . I have walked over that Mountain With a
    Metal detector looking

  17. I'm confused. The gold was reportedly buried in Western Pennsylvania. However, you mentioned that you looked for the gold when you were growing up in Fairfax VA. Did your family also own property in Western Pennsylvania?

  18. I am from Fayette County, Pennsylvania and live about 10 miles from Fort Neccessity. Local legend has it that Braddock was killed by Tom Fawcett a British soldier whose brother was severely disciplined by order of General Braddock a few days before Braddock's death. Fawcett then deserted his enlistment but remained in Fayette County area which at the time was part of Virginia as the Mason Dixon line had not yet been extended past Maryland. During construction of the National Road now US Rt 40 around 1800 a man identified as Fawcett showed the road workers the exact location of Braddock's grave which up until then was unknown. Subsequent excavations showed that the body interred there had gold buttons of a British Major General on his coat. Back to the buried gold. Again, local legend has it that the gold was buried by a Captain Dunbar and 3 other soldiers near the town of Dunbar in Fayette County PA not far from the Youghiogheny River. There is a newspaper report around 1877 in either Greensburg PA or Pittsburgh PA that the gold had been found.