Having lost his first wife, Elizabeth, Abraham Kuykendall had quickly remarried a young, attractive woman named Bathseba.
As a veteran of the Revolutionary War, he was given a grant of land of six hundred acres by the State of North Carolina in an area that was primarily virgin timber. In time, he came to own over one thousand acres, including all of the Flat Rock community. There he established a tavern to accommodate travelers along the Old State Road used for driving herds of cattle, horses, and mules from Kentucky and Tennessee to the markets in lower South Carolina and Georgia.
Between 1800 and 1804 Abraham established a tavern known for good lodgings. The tavern provided holding pens for livestock and was unusually large, providing accommodations better than the average pioneer inn offered in those days. The tavern made Abraham a rich man.
Family tradition also makes much of his beautiful young wife Bathseba who bore him four sons and helped entertain travelers. He had a reputation for serving good food and drinks of strong, raw whiskey made at his own still.
Abraham insisted that travelers pay in gold or silver coins and only accepted gold when selling parts of his huge tract of land. Soon the old soldier/pioneer/innkeeper had accumulated quite a fortune and began to fear for its safety.
There were no banks in this remote area or anywhere in the state of North Carolina, so valuables were kept in strong boxes, large trunks made of thick white oak, held together with strips of iron and locked with large padlocks.
These precautions did not satisfy the aging Abraham, particularly since his young wife had a habit of spending her husband’s treasure on frivolous goods. Family tradition maintains that Bathseba liked fine clothes and jewelry that she purchased from itinerant peddlers who served as traveling department stores, bringing all kinds of goods to frontier women in isolated areas. They quickly learned that Bathseba was a good customer.
One dark night, old Abraham secretly transferred his gold and silver coins from his strong box to a large iron wash pot, an item common to pioneer households. He then awoke two of his servants to help him. He blindfolded them and ordered them to carry the pot down the road and into the forest with only a pine knot torch lighting the way. He guided them through the dense forest where he removed their blindfolds and had them dig a hole under a bent white oak tree near a clear sparkling branch. When it was deep enough to satisfy him, Abraham buried the pot, covering the spot with leaves and brush. He then blindfolded the young men and led them back to the inn.
On pain of death he warned his servants never to tell a soul a single word of what they had done for him that night. Some time after, when Abraham was 104 years old, he set out alone to get some of his treasure for a business deal. Taking a shovel, he left the inn, never again to be seen alive. When he failed to return, a search party found him dead, lying face down in a mountain stream that flowed through the forest. Those who found him concluded that he had stumbled or tripped while trying to cross the branch, probably hitting his head. Either badly dazed or unconscious, he had rolled into the stream and drowned.
Only then did it become common knowledge that Abraham had buried his wealth in a large iron pot. The two frightened servants told the family what they could of that strange night, but all they could tell was that the money was beneath a large bent white oak near a mountain stream.
Thus began frantic searches along the banks of Pheasant Branch where Abraham was found, and some still search today.
Soon after the old man’s death, stories began to be told at campfires and hearths around Flat Rock. People traveling at night during the full moon told of seeing the figure of a bent old man frantically digging first in one place and then another. Those brave enough to go after the phantom recalled how it disappeared before their very eyes.
Stories persisted and grew. One terrified traveler on horseback told of crossing Pheasant Branch just as he heard the rattling of a wagon just ahead and then saw a solitary figure of an old man in a one-horse wagon, beside which sat a large black wash pot. As the traveler drew along side, the wagon, horse, man, and wash pot suddenly vanished.
Soon, only the most foolhardy traveled after dark near the vicinity of Pheasant Branch, and family traditions kept the story of the gold and the ghost alive. Many have searched in vain for the treasure, including descendants of Abraham's two servants, but it has never been found.
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