Tale of Barbour County Buried Treasure
What does Mother’s Day, the first land battle of the Civil War, a spooky TV show character and a bunch of buried treasure have in common? The answer is Barbour County. Surprised? This county is located in the north central area of the Mountain State and has plenty of history and mystery. Mother’s Day was founded by county residents Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis and her daughter. Did you know that Ted Cassidy who played Lurch from the 1960s TV show, The Addams Family, hailed from this county? The very first land battle of the “War Between the States” took place in Philippi on June 3, 1861. And what about that buried treasure? I thought you’d never ask.
A very wealthy man by the name of Earl Booth owned a large farm in the county. He also operated a profitable sawmill and raised many cattle on his farm. In the late 1880s, he had accumulated a small fortune and was well known for his aversion to banks and due to this aversion, was known to bury his money in the ground. It would eventually be his downfall.
Two strangers appeared in town and while shopping at the local general store, heard of Booth and his buried stashes of cash. By the time they left the store, they had concocted an evil plan. That evening as Booth slept soundly, the two scallywags broke into his home and rudely awoke him with threats of death unless he did their bidding. The thieves threatened to take his life unless Booth gave up the locations of his buried treasures. After describing one spot to dig, one man held him at bay while the other left into the darkness with a shovel and a sack to get the buried goods. The thief was pleased when his digging exposed a small chest filled with silver and gold coins. He returned to Booth’s home and demanded to know more locations for the other treasure boxes. Booth refused as was his stubborn and defiant nature and the thieves turned vicious. They beat the old man until death gripped his body and as his last breath came forth he uttered a curse upon them. He vowed that his ghost would return to guard his earthly treasures.
The men left Booth’s body in the farmhouse and hurriedly left the next morning but promised themselves they would come back in time and search for the rest of the buried money. Fearing they would be caught and possibly lynched, they left the area and returned three years later. As they began to dig and search for the money, one man dug around under a large boulder, which looked promising as a good “hidey hole”. The large rock shifted and rolled upon him taking his life as it crushed him. The thief that was left standing decided that perhaps the curse Booth had thrown upon him was indeed true and tried to ride away on his horse. On the trail across Booth’s land, a neighbor recognized him as a suspicious sort and approached to question him. The killer eventually confessed to the murder. No trial was ever held as just two days later he was found stone cold dead in his jail cell, apparently killed by a massive heart attack. His face was frozen into the look of terror as if he had seen a ghost. Some speculated that he had seen the ghost of old man Booth.
The legend still survives and to this day, some say the buried treasure is still there on the old home place. They also say the ghost of old man Booth still guards it from his spirited home in the afterlife. As the old timers say, don’t go looking for what ain’t yours.
Sherri Brake is a paranormal researcher, author and Haunted Heartland Tour owner. You may email her at SherriBrake@gmail.com or visit her website at www.HauntedHistory.net