The Chimney of Buford’s Tavern and Location of the Beale Treasure

beale treasure location

Buford’s Chimney (2015)

The story of the lost treasure of Beale was revealed to the public in 1885 by way of a small pamphlet.  This booklet described events leading up to the burying of gold, silver, and jewels around the 1820’s, and included circumstances for why it remained undiscovered at the time of the story’s printing. (more details on this here: Lost Treasure and the Beale Ciphers)

Today, the Beale Treasure remains undiscovered.  Some believe the reason for this is because the story was all a hoax and there isn’t a treasure to find.  Others struggle with that call.  For if it was all a hoax, it is extremely sophisticated, and one which seems a bit too elaborate for it not to hold something of hidden value.

The tale cannot be proven to be either fully true or fully false; and so the prospect for unearthing a treasure, physical or other, endures.

James Ward published the work entitled; The Beale Papers, containing authentic statements regarding the treasure buried in 1819 and 1821, near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has never been recovered.  In the Beale Papers, Ward says he was acting as an agent for a person who had given up hope for finding the Beale treasure.  According to the story, this person, who wanted to stay anonymous, was given three coded papers to decipher.  He worked for years trying to understand the codes in order to find the treasure.

Even though this unidentified person did have one success, he was unable to realize a final result.  He was in hopes that by releasing all that he knew, by way of the pamphlet, someone else might further his quest and discover the treasure.

He shared how he decoded one the three encrypted Beale Papers by recognizing it as a ‘book code’.  He demonstrated how he used the Declaration of Independence as a key for Beale Paper 2. The Declaration’s words were numbered, and the first letter of the word, matching each of the numbers in the coded Beale Paper, provided roughly the following message: (shown without mistakes. This Paper details the contents of the hidden buried treasure).

Bedford county line

Bedford county line

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number “3” herewith; The first deposit consisted of one thousand and fourteen pounds of gold, and three thousand eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited November, 1819.  The second was made December, 1821, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty eight pounds of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at 13,000.  The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers.  The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others.  Paper number “1” describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.”

The above message states Beale Paper 1 would direct a searcher to the exact location of a vault once decoded.  Even though this Code has not been broken to date many searchers try to deduce the vault’s location by what small amount of information is gained in Beale Paper 2, letters, and story.

The decoded message of Paper 2 includes, ‘about 4 miles from Bufords’.  Many take ‘Bufords’ to be the old Tavern, now along route 460.  At the time, the Tavern was a popular meeting place and Beale could have referred to is as simply ‘Buford’s (since it was owned by Henry Buford).   The chimney is all that remains of Buford’s Tavern.  (Shown at top- 2015).  This offers a search area to begin from.

Without precise instructions, however, the exact location of the hidden Beale treasure is a mystery.

When we visited the spot, we traveled numerous narrow, winding roads within the 4 mile area and scouted out a few locations (more later on this).  But one thing that caught our attention was if we traveled from the ‘Chimney’(Buford’s) ‘about 4 miles’ on 460 (not exactly 4 miles) we were on the borderline of Bedford and Botetourt Counties, near a small church and graveyard. (picture of  border signs in front of church lot)

This was interesting.  It makes me wonder if the phrase ‘about 4 miles from Buford’s isn’t to be taken more generally and cryptically, as ‘borderline’.   This changes the focal search area.  For the decoded message could then be interpreted as,  “I have deposited in the county of Bedford, along the borderline, in an excavation or vault…….”

It might seem questionable.  But the message says the exact location will be given by solving Beale Paper 1, and so possibly Beale was being a bit cryptic when offering ‘4 miles from Bufords’ in Beale Paper 2.  The treasure could actually be deposited along the border of Bedford County further than 4 miles away.  A place like Hearkening Hill, Luna Mountain, or Thunder Hill.  This interpretation widens the area of chief search and could be why the Beale Treasure has not been found.  More soon!

Best of luck with whatever you seek!  Please feel free to friend/follow me on facebook for continuing thoughts on Beale and other treasures.


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29 Responses

  1. Iron Will says:

    Love that beautiful land in the last picture. Blue Ridge Mountains…My home 😛

    • Jenny Kile says:

      You are fortunate to be surrounded by such fantastic landscapes, Iron Will……it was beautiful. I can see where a treasure could be hidden there…lol…it’s a vast land.

  2. astree says:


    Did you get a chance to explore the decode of Locality Cipher 3, posted several days ago?


  3. Spoon says:

    Jenny – I’ve enjoyed your write-ups on this mystery. When I read about it on your blog a few months ago I wondered whether the phrase “six feet below the surface of the ground” was, effectively, “six feet under” and the cache was buried in an old grave. It reminded me of the scene in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” where the treasure is buried in the unmarked grave. The fact that you came across a graveyard 4 miles from Buford’s is interesting. I wonder how old the headstones are?

  4. Jenny Kile says:

    @astree- not specifically. I’m not convinced of his solution, but all is possible. I would like to investigate his area more precisely, but this trip didn’t allow for it.

    @spoon- thanks. You hit on my next post on this. lol, We explored different graveyards as it does seem like a possibility. That specific church, I think (I will confirm when I write up the post) had readable stones from the 1850’s. There were other graveyards (quite a few really) we went to within the 4 mile radius.

    Up on Porter’s Mountain, about 4 miles away, are headstones…..unmarked……old. This place caught the attention of some others who actually dug years ago, without permission, and got in trouble.

    We don’t want any of that.

    We traveled around Taylor’s Mountain…again saw gated and small graveyards just off in the woods…with unreadable stones and newer ones.

    Two miles East there is a Church dated 1824. The oldest church we visited was from 1761…..this would be over 4 miles away….but still totally cool as the oldest part of the cemetery was stoned in, and again, some of the headstones were simple markers with nothing noticeably written anymore or ever. Peaceful and beautiful place.

    I will share these places, with some pictures we took of the stones, churches, and area soon.

    I like the ‘grave’ connection. It is a great thought for a clue.

    I like it also for a Freemasonry theory. That the story was written to encourage a search for treasure, like the Word in Freemasonry…. I feel the other two codes are layered, but can be broken with the right methods. It is possible some deeper understanding of Freemasonry might need learned to do so. (if wanting to follow that line of speculation). I wanted to look at the headstones for clues towards this…in addition to other reasons…..

    All in fun!

    Thanks for your thoughts….it’s great to bounce ideas back and forth….

    • Nikkoshia says:

      I was thinking that it could be buried 4 miles from Henry Bufords home or even his grave stone,inside a grave. Since it was said to be buried in stone. Worth looking into.

  5. astree says:

    Thanks, Jenny. I’m not sure what to make of the purported Locality Cipher 3, decipher. What made you not convinced?

    I was unable to find the source document / key for the claimed decipher. All that is reported at the link above, is the final decipher. Have you run across the key document (that is, similar to the the DOI being used for Cipher 2).

    If the key for Cipher 3 is shown to work with what is reported in the link posted above, then it looks extremely strong, to me. If there is no key shown / reported, then more likely a hoax by someone looking for some attention.

    Thanks for all your great article,

    • Iron Will says:

      Hey Astree, I don’t believe it’s properly decoded, because the decoded style of writing does not match his other or any of his letters. It seems too chopped up, and ambiguous to be the same person.

    • astree says:

      IW –

      The decode for the Locality Cipher produce readable plaintext. I’m not concerned if it’s properly decoded (I’m not sure what you mean by that). If it is at all somewhat, and actually, decoded, it is THE SOLUTION to the Beale mystery.

      For the (purported) decode to produce what is in that link, if it is real, there had to be a decryption method. That’s what I’m after. All we see are the ‘results’, not the method. Without the method, the probability that it is a hoaxed solution hangs over it. With a method, it is proven.

      Hope that makes sense, I need to be off the computer in a bout a minute.

      At this point, I’m putting the Beale treasure in the ‘dubious” category. I’m trying to do a broad brush survey of likely treasure targets.


      • Iron Will says:

        I believe the decode to be false and incorrect Astree, whether intentional or by accident and the following is the evidence to support that:

        In the Jan 4th and 5th letters Mr. Beale says:

        I was ready to return last Fall with an increased supply of metal, which came through safely and was deposited with the other. It was at this time I handed you the box,
        In such an event, you will please visit the place of deposit and secure its contents, which you will divide into thirty-one equal parts; one of these parts you are to retain as your own, freely given to you for your services. The other shares to be distributed to the parties named in the accompanying paper.
        You will find in one of the papers, written in cipher, the names of all my associates, who are each entitled to an equal part of our treasure, and opposite to the names of each one will be found the names and residences of the relatives and others, to whom they devise their respective portions.

        These are from the 2 letters in the box with the 3 ciphers. He wrote them after they had returned from their 2nd expedition out, and were beginning to head out on their 3rd. As you can see from reading those excerpts, they are all explicit instructions placed in the box given to him right after they deposited the second load with the first load. At no point does he say anyone took their shares…and up to this point (if you assume the entire story is real), he has been completely truthful and honest with Mr. Morris. So why on earth would the decode of cipher 3 say this….

        I know this final paper contradicts one prior, instructions are the entire amount in the vaults yours.
        All others have taken their shares,
        Everyones in harmony.

        I leave no keys to unlock the three papers, it will take hard work to find the treasure. I’ve tried to make it impossible.

        I don’t buy his decode not even for a second. The guy could’ve decoded it to say… Martians landed and made me give you this box and tell you to split it all when in fact we took it all with us on the 3rd trip and partied in Vegas till we were broke! …and it would have just as much credibility as what he claims is decoded.

        Anyway that’s my take on it.

      • astree says:

        IW –

        I’m leaning in the same direction as you, but keeping an open mind …. if the method / key are produced, it will take me a long way to becoming a believer.

        Based on the 116 address as cue, shown here the yesterday

        I looked at the letter corresponding to the “116” in the ‘decode’

        Going through the supposed decode summary sheets, the “116” shown to NOT correspond to the same letter (as it would using document / book cipher like the DOI used in Cipher 2), but in order, the 116 corresponds to


        Therefore, it is either another cipher technique, or a hoax.

        Also, look at the “77” … “e”, then “T”

        If someone shows details to prove the Locality Cipher, it would put it to rest. Beale is moving to mid-to-back burner for now.


    • Jenny Kile says:

      Hi astree…….that is just it….I don’t think he ever shared ‘HOW’ he decoded it…..he only offered the decode….and so that is why I am not convinced. The ‘how’ would be the supportive evidence needed, and if he truly decoded the cipher using a comprehensible method, he would have shared it.

      Even if the treasure is gone…or never existed…..decoding the ciphers is treasure enough and would be huge news…….if proven (and coherent), like Beale Paper 2’s decode.

      I enjoy working on the codes when I get time……my thoughts are that the DOI is used as a Key for 1 and 3 too, but they are layered and additional steps needed……..of course, this could be wrong…but one has to ‘try’ something…..and one never knows what they might find!!

  6. Mark J says:

    Great write up Jenny. I occasionally will sit down and attempt different solves, but none have worked out for me…..yet.

  7. Alan says:

    Ahhh the Peaks of Otter. Hiked there a few times. Nice writeup!

  8. Tony says:

    Over at Dal’s I read the solve by Iron Will, and since I do not post there any longer (do not like their selective moderation), I wanted to post my comments regarding that solve here.


    Iron Will,

    First off I want to say excellent story and very detailed solve attempt! Bravo, well thought out. That said, I do have some comments:

    1. When Joseph Meek and his brother were trapping along the banks of the Yellowstone River and were attacked by the indians, they fled to the WEST to Stinking Creek. The poem says “no place for the meek”, then wouldn’t that mean the opposite of WEST?

    2. I like your idea of heavy loads and water high, however if the blaze were made of tar lines used to fill the gaps in the road, they would be gone when the road is resurfaced. Also, if you look in GE, those lines were not there in 2013 which means they were not there when the chest was hidden.

    3. FF has stated that the chest is not within proximity of any human trail, and that tree is very close to 3 roads.

    4. The tree is less than 200 feet from a very popular road. Wouldn’t that mean that many, not just a few, searchers have been within 200 feet of the chest?

    Not trying to rain on your parade, as I said you did a great job! I am just curious how you will address the issues I put above.

  9. Keith says:

    Hi, I know I’m new to this but bare with me. In those days when he did his decipher, he obviously had a copy or something for the DOI. Wouldn’t it be easy for him to have had 2 other decipher pamphlets of different significance to do the others? What about the constitution, or the other version from the confederate side? Could any of this be significant? I’m wanting to learn more about this

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Keith, the Beale Papers are such an interesting mystery to ponder. Welcome to the FUN!

      Your first thoughts are spot on, and many have searched through other older and significant documents of such to try and decipher the other two numeric codes. Nothing has been conclusively found by doing so, however. Many have thought, too, that maybe the only Key is the DOI, but additional steps are needed in order to decipher the secret messages.

      It has also been suggested, since Ward was a Freemason at one time, that maybe some protected documents within Freemasonry Lodges were used as a Key for the remaining codes. These would be a bit more difficult to find and use to test the codes.

      The entire story is a mystery…BUT there is a pamphlet and the exact final goal of that written document remains unknown. ….There are so many paths a person can go on to research, that what one can learn while trying to solve the mystery is never a waste or boring!

      Best of luck with whatever you seek!

  10. Hal says:

    Has the treasure been found, I was deep into it in the late seventies, and am curious?

  11. Gretchen says:

    Some believe the reason for this is because the story was all a hoax and there isn’t a treasure to find. Others struggle with that call. For if it was all a hoax, it is extremely sophisticated, and one which seems a bit too elaborate for it not to hold something of hidden value.

    One would think there would be something to find but there are other reasons for an elaborate hoax.

  12. DanS says:

    I wanted to add some background info that might help someone. I’ve been trying like crazy to find the correct ciphertext. I’ve resolved the strategy may have to be changed to a statistical analysis (guesswork) of the cipher. I’ve gone through so many ciphertexts and still haven’t found anything.

    Also, I am making some guesses here and making up a story. Thomas Beale (if he existed) was probably well-educated, and in the papers he was described as “originating from the western part of this state (Virginia)”. America was not an educational elitist nation; finding higher education was limited to the wealthy who could send their children (in Virginia at least) to William and Mary or hire tutors. Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia did not yet exist for another couple decades when Beale would have been educated (guessing the first decade of the 1800’s) and Beale’s nation and loyalty would have been to Virginia.

    His enchantment with the west is almost certainly due to the Lewis and Clark expedition, one of the only major successful expeditions of the Jefferson administration. The other expeditions were foiled by the Spanish due to one of America’s most notorious traitors, general James Wilkinson, a silk-tongued snake who “never won a battle, and never lost a court-martial”. Every expedition by Jefferson was leaked to the Spanish by Wilkinson, but Lewis and Clark were too far north for the Spanish to capture them. Which is interesting because Forrest Fenn said in one of his stories a ranch hand found Spanish armor and muskets in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming; perhaps they were pursuing Lewis and Clark?

    At any rate, Beale and his entourage may have been caught by the Spanish army; one or more of their group may have betrayed them to the Spanish in a fit of greed. A Mexican/Spanish citizen in Santa Fe might also have “ratted” on them or one of the Virginians spewed out the entire secret while drunk on tequila in a Santa Fe bar….we may never know except perhaps in a forgotten military record in some arcane library shelf, sitting in Mexico City as I type. This entire region was part of the Spanish Empire at the time, before the Mexican War changed the political borders. Beale’s party may have been arrested by the army, tied up, lined up, and put in front of a firing squad as thieves of the Spanish Empire…they were not a formal expedition of the United States so they would have no diplomatic protections. The Spanish general might also have kept the entire thing a secret, so no papers would have leaked what really happened and he kept the gold for himself (the possible “third shipment”; bribery wasn’t just kept to Mr Wilkinson in the states.

    This is all just one big story but I thought it would be helpful and creative. One more thing; the “iron pots” described in cipher 2 are probably dutch ovens, which are valuable in their own right (wooden barrels probably cracked under the weight of the gold and silver). George Washington’s mother put dutch ovens in her will, left to some of her grandchildren I believe. I’d be happy just to have one or two colonial dutch ovens; they are very versatile pieces of cookery.

  13. Tina says:

    Has anyone considered using a King James Bible of that era, seeing as that was a common book to get or carry around, in addition to copies of the DOI or the constitution?

  14. 5-leaf blaze says:

    Worked on the Beale cipher off and on awhile. An interesting one for sure.

  15. Tom Buford says:

    Look for a vault / cave in the area with metal detectors. My guess is, if it existed- it is now gone;however, due to the size of it, there may be some pieces remaining. Good luck. Tom Buford, KY

  16. Albert Atwell says:

    I have worked off and on this Beale Treasure for over 50 years. Got about five volumes of research. Still do not know if the story is real or fiction? The old Buford’s Tavern still stands. The photo of the chimney is only the kitchen out back. The tavern is used as an antique storage. It is still there. More than I can say for the treasure.

  17. Alex says:

    It is right in front of you and you don’t see the answer . If it was a snake it would bite you . Number 1
    He told use more info in note 1 then anyone is seeing . If I had a better maplace. It be ezer . He says this . It is covered by rock and is in a rock bank .

  18. Adam says:

    They should put the power of IBM’s Watson to trying to decipher the code.

  1. May 19, 2015

    […] 116 corresponds to F,S,T,T Therefore, it is either another cipher technique, or a hoax." The Chimney of Buford Free is the best deal! "The Scarlet Cloud Approaches" "Time is of ten a one-way […]

  2. May 23, 2015

    […] (which I always presumed had long been bulldozed by the passage of time), and found that Buford’s original chimney was still standing. (Though it’s probably not a good idea to breathe in too deeply in the page’s comments […]

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