By Donald Lewis Osborn


The story that Jacob Bluebaugh had gold was told and retold throughout the neighborhood. Apparently he wouldn't give up the secret as to where he had hidden it even to his second wife under her threats of death. Where he had obtained so much gold that he had to hide it? Probably Jacob brought considerable wealth with him when he came to southwest Virginia as he acquired several acres of land. Perhaps he had gold left after making his land purchases and buried it somewhere on his farm. Or perhaps the money was from the sale of some of his land.

    Some say he buried his gold in his first wife's grave. (1) Others say it was by a spring flowing east (2) but who could say which spring? Likely, Jacob owned many springs emitting their waters toward the sunrise. People even had ideas as to the size and nature of the gold - some said it was a peck pot of gold coins. (3)
    On his death bed, Jacob supposedly attempted to tell those around him his secret, but he was too weak and feeble in his last few minutes and couldn't make them understand where he had buried his gold. Some thought he mentioned something about a poplar tree. He tried to tell them but he slipped into death still holding his secret. (4) 
    Many have searched for the treasure. Probably "Old Granny Hettie" herself looked around for it when Jacob was away visiting the neighbors or had slipped off to get some lead ore to make some bullets. Hettie must have searched frantically after Jacob died for then she had no fear he would come home and find her digging. Holes were dug all around on the old Bluebaugh farm by many different people. There is a tradition (5) that one woman named Creech (from the nearby Johnson farm - formerly known as the Bailey farm) searched and thought about the Bluebaugh gold so much that she went crazy and her family would have to lock her in a closet under or behind the stairs when she got uncontrollably violent.
    Even within this quarter-century, this writer (Jacob's great-great-great-great-grandson) and some of his cousins searched for the legendary Bluebaugh treasure using an electronic metal detector. Near one stream was buried a pan lid, probably of relatively recent vintage. By a little dry ditch (like a spring in wet weather or was in Jacob's time) and by a tree (one too young to have been there when Jacob lived), the electronic apparatus registered a signal of something metallic. Excavation was immediately commenced but was somewhat hampered when solid rock was reached. Had a rock slide come down the steep bank sometime in the intervening decades and buried still farther down Jacob's secreted pot of yellow metal? Not to be deterred, a little help from explosives got them down a little ways more. Probably too much has already been revealed. Was something found? That's another secret!
    Besides being remembered for his pot of gold, Jacob Bluebaugh was well known for his art of molding bullets out of lead. Known to him and to no other human being was his source of lead ore. Years later, some Indian in Oklahoma is aid to have related how he saw "Bluebaugh" get the lead ore. Even the story of the Indian's telling this has gotten hazy with the passage of time and generations but he may have stated that Jacob got the ore at Pea Vine Knob on Wallen's Ridge. (6)
    Some Lee County residents of today recall that people have said in years past that Jacob himself was part American Indian (7) and that the old cemetery located six-tenths of a mile straight northeast of the town of Dryden and situated on the top of a knoll is an Indian cemetery. However, it seems that most refer to it as the old Bluebaugh cemetery.
    The Bluebaugh cemetery is (or was in 1962, at least) guarded by a lone old weathered lightning-splintered walnut tree. There are several native rock headstones and footstones there but no inscriptions can be found. Probably there never was anything more than hand-scrawled writing on them if even that. Probably Jacob and his two wives are buried there and likely his daughter, Mary (nee Bluebaugh) Flanary, and perhaps some of his and Esther's children.
    One can conclude from the existing records and the traditions and legends still told in Lee County that Jacob Bluebaugh was a most interesting and remarkable man even if he perhaps was domineered by "Old Granny Hettie." At least he knew how to keep secrets!

(1) Interview with Mrs. Charles Blair, 1961 

(2) Interview in 1961 by D. L. Osborn with Mrs. Clyde H. Bishop (See Sada Gilbert), Dryden, Virginia 

(3) Interview June 3, 1961 by D. L. Osborn with Ballard Parsons (born 1880, son of John Morgan Parsons), Dryden, Virginia 

(4) Interview with Ballard Parsons, June 3, 1961 

(5) Interview with Mrs. Charles Blair, 1961 

(6) Interview with Ballard Parsons, June 3, 1961 

(7) Interview with Mrs. Charles Blair, 1961.


Additional Bluebaugh Information
    It is possible that the Jacob Bluebaugh having a land survey (150 acres on both sides of North Fork of Holston River) in Washington County, Virginia in February, 1786 (1) was the Jacob we know of later in lee County. However, unless the Lee County Jacob was born several years before 1776 (and we know his second wife was born circa 1786), he likely wasn't the Washington County Jacob who likely would have been at least 20 years old when he was having land surveyed in 1786. But they may have been one and the same person.
    There is a possibility that Jacob Bluebaugh of Washington County in 1786 was the father or an uncle of Jacob of Lee County. One might further speculate that some earlier records in Frederick County, Maryland, pertain to this Jacob of Washington County, Virginia, but of course it would be pure speculation.
    Frederick County, Maryland deed records show that on October 23, 1753, Conrad Hagmire conveyed some land by deed to Jacob Bromback (Deed book E, page 293). We might supposed this Jacob was aged 20 years or more when he obtained this land which would place his birth before 1734. On March 22, 1773, Jacob Blueback or Bluebaugh was petitioning for title to some land in Frederick County called "Weedings Choice" which he was "seized in fee of" (Deed Book P, page 680). Was this the same Jacob who was in Washington County, Virginia in 1786? Two deed records in Frederick County, Maryland are for a Rudey, Rudy, or Rudolph Bruback (possibly a corrupted spelling of Bluebaugh). On October 5, 1759, Edward Diggs and Ralph Taney conveyed land to Rudey and on March 20, 1765, Rudy or Rudolph conveyed land to Andrew Hull (Deed Book 5, page 836 and Deed Book J, page 1076, respectively). The 1790 Maryland census shows some of the family still there. Benjamin Blueback was a family head in Frederick County with himself aged 16 years and up (born prior to 1775), a free white male under 16 (born 1775- 1790), 2 free white females, and 1 slave.
    Now let's look at some of the relatively few existing records concerning Jacob Bluebaugh and his family. Spellings of the family name varied somewhat but were usually recognizable. He was Jacob Blewbough, white and above 16 years of age and owner of 9 horses, in the 1795 Lee County Personal Property and Land book now in the Virginia State Library in Richmond. A similar book for 1796 showed him as Jacob Blewbaugh. Other spellings in these tax books through 1829 include, Blubaugh, Blubock, Bluebeaugh, Bluebough, Bleubough, and Blubauh. These books show Jacob owned 100 acres during the years 1802 through 1805; 385 acres and 100 acres (total of 485) from 1806 through 1823; 385, 100 and 75 acres in 1824; 385, 100, and 35 acres from 1825 through 1827; and 222 acres in 1828 and 1829. His 385 and 100 acres are described as being on the south side of Poor Valley Ridge and the 222 acres were on the waters of Powell River. A tract of 120 acres owned by James Benham and Peter Little in 1814 is described as on the "Waters blueboughs spring."
    The 100 acres mentioned above is apparently the same as that found in the "Surveyors Records, Lee County, 1794-1814", at the Lee County Courthouse. On page 301 we find a sketch drawn of a 100-acre irregularly- shaped piece of land and the following words:

    Surveyed October 25th, 1798 for Jacob Bluebough one Hundred acres of land by Virtue of an Entry made November 20th 1783, by Thomas Campbell by him Transferred to James Fugate and by him to sd. Bluebough on a Treasury land warrant W8703 lying in Lee County on the waters of Powells River and bounded as followeth. Beginning a Chestnut and pine a corner to sd. Blueboughs land and the land of John Bennums S 85 W 140 po. To tree white Oaks on a spurr of the Poor Valley Ridge N 50 E 344 po. to pointers on sd. Ridge N 76 E 100 po. To a stake S 53 E 30 po. to an sd. Blueboughs line and with the same S 76 W 148 po. to a black Oak and S 30 W 202 poles to the Beginning -

Hiram Craig of Benjamin Sharp, S. L. C.

    Several other deeds in the Lee County records at Jonesville show Jacob conveying and receiving land. These records along with tax records indicate a slight possibility he may have owned at least 782 acres before he conveyed 297 acres to John Zion in 1812. This agrees with the statement of Mrs. Charles Blair of Lee County in 1961 that the Bluebough farm probably originally contained as much as 700 or 800 acres. She said it covered an area from the Powell River including what is presently known as the Jack Flanary (Silas Jackson Flanary, son of David Crockett Flanary) farm (same as where Silas Flanary - born 1812, died 1898 - lived), the Crit and Elbert Flanary farm (previously known as the Trav Flanary farm), the Hobbs farm, the Johnson (formerly Bailey) farm, the Gilbert farm, and the Parsons (John Morgan Parsons, father of Paris Ballard Parsons) farm.

    The land holdings of Jacob Bluebaugh can be at least partially reconstructed from these deed records:
(1) Possible acres owned before 1812 deed (however, 1806 through 1823 tax lists show 485 acres). Total known holdings: 782 acres. (2) September 22, 1812 - Jacob Blubaugh of Lee County to John Zion - 297 acres on S. side of the poor Valley Ridge on the waters of Coxes Spring; after that he owned 485 acres. (3) Holdings according to 1814 tax record - 485 acres. (4) July 28, 1823 - Robert Craig of Washington County, Virginia to Jacob Blubough of Lee County, Virginia - 75 acres, part of a survey made on a treasury warrant No. 9068 for 222 acres - Total known holdings 560 acres. (5) October 4, 1823 - Jacob Blubough to John T. Flint - 40 acres lying northwardly to the place where the said Jacob now lives 520 acres. (6) October 4, 1823 - Jacob Blubough gave a Deed of Trust for 223 acres to Daniel Razor and John Olinger. Jacob apparently retrained possession but if we deduct these 223 acres, there are left unaccounted for 297 acres.

    In this the remaining 297 acre piece of land conveyed to John Zion in 1812? If so, the tax records of 1814 still showed Jacob owning a total acreage which would have included the 297 acres disposed of in 1812. Perhaps this is a clue that John Zion was of some relation to Jacob and it really didn't matter who paid the taxes. Perhaps John was Jacob's first wife's brother or father which would make Mary (nee Bluebaugh) Flanary's mother a Zion which could account for Mary's naming her youngest son Zion, usually not a given name.
    Let us look further at the 1823 Deed of Trust from Jacob Bluebaugh to Daniel Razor and John Olinger. The record states this 223 acres cornered on John Zion's land. Listed are the names of Jacob's wife, Esther M. Blubaugh, and Jacob and Esther's three under-age daughters: Esther Ann, Catharine, and Margaret. This instrument made Razor and Olinger trustees of the land - letting Jacob's wife have the use of the land and personal property until her death or remarriage (should she survive Jacob). At such time, the land was to be divided among the three daughters or the survivors if one or more should die before reaching the age of 18 or marriage.
    Perhaps one who is adept at studying deed records would interpret these instruments differently, but it appears that, for some reason, Jacob asked Daniel Razor and John Olinger to convey the 223 acres back to him for that was done on February 15, 1830. Perhaps Jacob was ill and decided to make arrangements for the disposition of his estate. One might wonder if his wife Esther influenced him - either directly to make things more favorable to her or indirectly with her dominant personality to the extent he decided to make them less favourable to her. Census records infer another daughter was born between 1820 and 1825 - perhaps after the 1823 Deed of Trust.
    One can reasonably assume that Jacob lived only a short time - not more than a few months - after the 1823 Deed of Trust was revoked by the February 15, 1830 document for we find not Jacob, but Esther Blubaugh as early as November 19, 1832 for land "adjoining land of the heirs or devisees of Jacob Blubough."
    What more do the Lee County census records reveal about the Bluebaugh family? IN 1820, Jacob Bluebaugh was head of the family and aged 45 up (born before 1776) and his wife was aged 26 and under 45 (born 1775-1794). The 3 children were 1 male 10 and under 16 (born 1804-1810) and 2 females under 10 (born 1810- 1820). Where was the third daughter? Apparently she was overlooked or was living with someone else at census time for she does appear in the 1830 census. The 1830 census with Esther Bluebaugh as the family head shows her aged 40 and under 50 (born 1780-1790) and 5 children living in the household. These 5 were 1 male 20 and under 30 (born 1800-1810), 1 female 15 and under 20 (born 1810-1815), 2 females 10 and under 15 (born 1815-1820), and 1 female 5 and under 10 (born 1820-1825). Incidentally, what happened to the male born between 1800 and 1810, who apparently was Jacob's son? Probably he died as a young man or he emigrated to another part of the country as no later records of Bluebaugh men have been located in Lee County, Virginia records.
    To stay in somewhat chronological order, let us look at the Lee County marriage records for 3 daughters of Jacob and Esther:

Hester Ann Boubaugh and Thomas Collingsworth on July 17, 1832.

Catharine Boubough and Washington Hobbs on October 3, 1833.

Margaret Blubaugh and Shelby Hobbs on October 21, 18.35

    Little research on the husbands of these 3 Bluebaugh girls has been done for this writing. However, Thomas and Esther A. Collinsworth were living 2 houses from Esther M. Blabough according to the 1860 census. Also, Shelby Hobbs was living only 1 house from Esther M. Blabough, but with a wife Lucinda (2). It would seem that this Shelby Hobbs was the one who married Margaret Bluebaugh and that Margaret had died and Shelby had remarried. This probability is strengthened by the recollections (3) in 1967 of Ballard Parsons (born 1880) of family traditions (he is not certain of their authenticity) that Shelby Hobbs' first wife got drowned in the river and that he married, secondly, Lucinda whose maiden name was probably France or Zion. Shelby and Lucinda had several children. Shelby had a third wife, Sue Rivers.
    According to the census taken on August 22, 1860, Esther M. Blabough was 74 years old (born circa 1786) with the occupation of "House Keeper" and birthplace of Augusta County, Virginia. Her assets shown are $50 personal estate and no real estate. Her neighbor Shelby Hobbs had $10,000 real estate and $1,500 personal estate. These figures would indicate that all of Jacob Bluebaugh's land had been disposed of and that his widow still had only the personal property.
    The only other person in the Blabough household in 1860 was John Colton, age 24, a "Farm Laborer" born in Lee County, Virginia. Probably Esther, Jacob's second wife, died prior to 1870 as she was not noticed in the Lee County, Virginia census for that year.

(1) "Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800), by Lewis Preston Summers, Abingdon, VA, 1929, page 1786. 

(2) Federal Census 1860 for Lee County, Virginia shows the Collinsworths on pages 243 and 244 (House No. 1569, Family No. 1608) and the Blabough and Hobbs households on page 244 (House No. 1571, Family No. 1610 and House No. 1572, Family No. 1611, respectively). 

(3) As told by Ballard Parsons to his daughter, Mrs. Axley Greene (nee Zora Parsons) and written by her in a letter to D. L. Osborn, November 25, 1967, Mr. Parsons (now deceased) resided near Dryden, Virginia.

    Pages 55 to 61

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