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Castleberry, and the Legend of gold in Shipp’s Pond, Conecuh County, Alabama

Legend states that during the year 1862 when the Civil War was being fought, many people buried their gold for safekeeping in Shipp’s Pond. 

Castleberry is an incorporated town in the southern edge of Conecuh County; equidistant from Montgomery and Mobile, and 12 miles south of Evergreen.


Conecuh countym, alabama mapConecuh County, Alabama

The Baggett family

This area was first settled in 1817 by the Baggett family. One member of the Baggett family in Conecuh County was Jesse Baggett who was born September 19, 1790 in North Carolina. He served in the Georgia Militia and moved to Jefferson County, Georgia then to Conecuh County, Alabama He died in Conecuh in 1867. He and his wife, Zilla Goodwin (b. 1788 SC d. 1847 in Castleberry, AL) had the first white child born in Conecuh County, Alabama.

Name changed from Wilson’s Field to Castleberry

The town of Castleberry had its beginning about 1830, and for some years was known as Wilson’s Field. In 1830, the Castleberry family came from Florida and settled there.

The old stage route from Pensacola to Montgomery passed through the settlement, using the Castleberry residence as a relay house. Thus the place came to be called “Castleberry’s.”

When the Mobile & Montgomery Railroad was built, the town was renamed Castleberry. The first residence on the present site of the town was built by Judge John Henderson. It later became known as the Downing home.

1930s scene in Castleberry (from Baggett history)1930s scene in Castleberry (from Historic Buildings Gallery Baggett history)

Early residents of Castleberry

Judge Henderson was the first merchant; J. B. Baird, the first postmaster; Dr. R. M. Murphy, the first physician; Prof. McNeal, the first teacher; R. B. L. Selman, Methodist, the first preacher. The first schoolhouse-church-town-hall was a log cabin. Among other early pioneer settlers were the Holland, Beard, Mathew and Garrett families.

The town is situated at the crossing of the highways from Brewton to Evergreen and from Repton to Brooklyn, and near Panther Creek on the north, Murder Creek on the east, and Burnt Corn Creek on the west.

Castleberry was known around 1900 for its modern county high school, said to be the finest in the State at the time, and it was the shipping point for large quantities of strawberries produced in the surrounding country. The Governor of Alabama declared Castleberry the Strawberry Capital of Alabama in 1987. Each year on the 3rd Saturday in April, the small community of 600 celebrates this honor by having a festival in downtown Castleberry. 2015 was the 29th year for the Castleberry Strawberry Festival.

Castleberry Strawberry festival Logo

Castleberry Strawberry Festival Logo (from Castleberry Parks and Recreation website)

Jay Villa and the legend of buried gold

Jay Villa Plantation was located on the Old Evergreen and Castleberry Highway about six miles south of Evergreen, Alabama. The area around Jay Villa was originally settled by the Warrens, believed to be the great-grandparents of the late President Warren G. Harding. William B. Travis, hero of the Alamo, also lived in the same area in the 1820s.

David Jay settled in Conecuh County about 1819 and operated a mill on Jay’s Mill Creek. He later became a private banker and a very wealthy landowner. He gave an original land grant and a lovely two-story home to his son, the Rev. Andrew Jay, upon his marriage to Caroline Ashley, daughter of Capt. Wilson Ashley. The home was burned years later during a political fight between the Populists and Democrats. It was located across the road from the old Jayville Commissary which stood in the eastern part of Jay Villa Plantation. Rev. Jay gave the name “Jayville” to the territory surrounding his home.

Front (western) and southern elevation of the Hinchea Warren House on the east side County Road 29, about a mile north of the junction with County Road 6 in Castleberry, Alabama (ADAH)Front (western) and southern elevation of the Hinchea Warren House on the east side County Road 29, about a mile north of the junction with County Road 6 in Castleberry, Alabama. 1986 – This house was originally built in 1840. It was named Jay Villa in the 20th century after the original “Jay Villa” burned nearby (photographer Robert Gamble – Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Rev. Jay held several county offices and represented Conecuh County in the legislature for two terms. After retiring from the political arena, he was ordained to the Baptist ministry and, following the death of Rev. Alexander Travis, he became pastor of Old Beulah Baptist Church.

Shipp Pond is a natural lake located between Castleberry and Brooklyn, Alabama and the legend states that during the year 1862 when the Civil War was being fought, many people buried their gold for safekeeping.Shipps Pond, CastleberryDrawing from Dispatches from the LP-OP

According to the newspaper article written by Edley Franklin:

“Sheets of gray clouds sliding slowly beneath a quarter moon made slowly-moving ghostly shadows across the still waters of a large pond, surrounded by a sloping ridge of virgin pine.

Out of nowhere, a man driving a buggy appeared in an opening among the trees. Twisting and turning, he made his way between the pines down to the edge of the pond. Getting out of the buggy, he tied the horse. He then took a wooden box or small chest from under the laprobe in the front of the buggy. He placed it on a “billy” which was composed of four short logs dogged together and tied there at the water’s edge.

Untying the billy, the man picked up a long pole lying on top of it and began shoving the raft out in the pond, keeping it headed straight toward a tall dead pine that was skylighted on the other side.

Halfway across the pond, the man stopped. He stood there for several minutes, looking in all directions, first toward the dead pine, then the direction from which he came, then to the opposite sides of the pond. Then picking up the wooden box, he lowered it into the water beside the raft and dropped it.”

“Won’t no damn Yankees ever find that gold money!” the man said to himself. He got in the buggy and drove back the way he came.”i

The man was Henchie Warren, (see his home above) the son of Major Richard Warren and supposedly related to President Warren G. Harding, and the owner of the Warren Plantation in Conecuh County. He is buried on the old plantation, later known as the Jay Villa plantation.ii

 

i1950 edition of The Brewton Standard by Edley Franklin

iiRiley, Conecuh County (1881)

SOURCES

  1. 1950 edition of The Brewton Standard by Edley Franklin
  2. June 17, 1982 edition of The Evergreen Courant readers found the following historical news item titled “History of Jay Villa Plantation” by Hermie Dees
  3. Riley, Conecuh County (1881), passim; Berney, Handbook (1892), p. 283; Polk’s Alabama gazetteer, 1888-9, p. 254; Alabama Official and Statistical Register. 1915.

See historical books by Donna R. Causey

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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20 comments

  1. Jeanna Kervin

    Margaret Baggett is the coach’s family

  2. Dorie Jones

    Josh Baggett , what do you know about some gold lol

  3. Josh Baggett
    1. Kathryn Murphy Purnell

      Are you related to Gayle Weaver?

  4. Tammy Stover

    Brian Henderson we need to start digging….

  5. My father and uncles were very involved in the development of Castleberry. I can remember the railroad cars leaving Castleberry full of strawberries being shipped to the Northeast. It was a lively little town during those days.

  6. Hi,

    I passed through Castleberry and wanted to know its history. Would you mind sharing where you found the information about the stage route from Pensacola to Montgomery?

    Thank you

  7. This was a very good read. I grew up at LPond and had heard this story all my life. Still not sure if it is folklore or not but it sure gets your mind going and it is great to see all the historical facts around it. I enjoyed the read very much so.

  8. Julian Rogers

    David Jay was my ggg grandfather. When you find the gold, let me know. I’m pretty sure somebody in the family must have lost it!

  9. Stephanie Drummond

    Awesome, when are we going??

  10. Clayt James

    Patrick Neeley Anita N Sean Smith

  11. Ronny Shaddrix

    Damn Smith that was good.

  12. […] Castleberry, and the Legend of gold in Shipp’s Pond, Conecuh County, Alabama […]

  13. This story is amazing. I am from the nymphs area. I am a Walton. I love this history about a community and a place that’s 5 miles from my parents home. Please find more about this.

  14. If anyone hid gold 1862 in Shipps pond it wasn’t Maj. Richard Warren’s son Hinchea. He passed away several years before the necessity of hiding valuables from the damn yankees arose. A somewhat more likely suspect, and one by far more plausible within the rumored connection with Pres. Harding, is Hinchea’s brother Malachi Warren. See W E Bigglestone’s ‘They Stopped In Oberlin” pps. 215-220.

    1. Now I want to read more about this brother. Love all the stories that involve actual historical facts.

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