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