Thursday, May 2, 1935
Talking about lost men in these mountains, I would say that for wholesale disappearance the “Sandy Creek Voyage” holds the record. This was a demonstration in force against the Indian towns on the Ohio River. It was staged in cold weather to catch the Indians in winter quarters, before they were ready for their spring time raids.
The army traveled by way of the Big Sandy route. On the Tug Fork of Sandy, on the way out, a young buffalo was killed. The hide was hung in a tree to be taken on the return trip. The ones who did return that way were so hungry they cut the hide up in throngs – tugs – and ate it. Hence the name, Tug River.
The winter had been mild, east of the mountains, but when the army got well into the mountains there was one of those late snow storms with great cold which so often end up a mild winter. They talk about two feet of snow and twenty degrees below zero, and no doubt the Sandy Creek voyagers experienced that much and more. The army broke up into small parties to work their way back to the settlements east of the mountains. How many perished from cold exposure and starvation is not known. I have no doubt some of the parties attempted to return by way of the Greenbrier Valley – the most direct route home for those who were from the Jackson River, Cow Pasture and Shenandoah settlements.
There were two causes for the army breaking up.
One was that each rugged individualist composing the rugged army had a better way home than the one proposed by the leaders.
We have people in these mountains to this day who demonstrate such character.
The other reason was by breaking up in smaller parties, and spreading out over different routes, some would find game and get through, while if they stuck together, all might perish. It is not an unreasonable guess that the bones under the rock pile near Huntersville might possibly be the remains of a party returning from the ill-fated Sandy Creek Voyage.
Anyway, these mountains were full of freezing, starving men, trekking back home in the deep snow and fearful cold of a late winter storm. Some years ago a number of well preserved skeletons were found behind a wall under a rock cliff on the Greenbrier below the Buckley Place at the mouth of Swago. My wild guess was that these were Sandy Creek Voyagers. They were white men as they had long heads; in fact, my own head is more round than the skull I measured.
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About the tradition of buried silver treasure in these mountains, why, the versions differ, but the general run of the story is that a party of French men and Indians were traveling this way from the Mississippi country loaded down with silver, making for Fort Duquesne and Canada. At the mouth of a stream, where a run came into the smaller stream they found they were pursued.
Here they buried a pot or pots of silver and sought safety in flight and never returned.
I have heard tell the exact location is the mouth of Swago, Stony Creek, Douthards Creek, Clover Creek, Deer Creek, Forks of Deer Creek, mouth and Forks of Sitlington, Indian Draft, on Elk, down Tygarts, and most everywhere else. However, I hold there is little doubt this treasure is buried on the waters of Stony Creek.
Up on the family’s Jerico Farms, there are still holes in the ground which a treasure seeker dug seventy years ago. I would say he was forty rod off the exact spot.
Howsoever, I do not argue the matter, but listen with patience to all who know where this treasure is, even to those who are so far off their base as to say that French Creek in Upshur, or Jackson Mill in Lewis, or Peel Tree on Lost Creek, and Clarksburg on the West Fork in Harrison, have the exact location.