The Search for Truth Keeps Local Legends Alive

Mystery and Myth

(page 3 of 3)

During the Civil War, a local resident of St. Marks, known only as Mr. Smith, somehow came across a map of the treasure site. The spot was indicated by three large trees, into one of which an iron spike had been driven. Finding the tree with the spike in it, Mr. Smith began digging. Day after day went by as he unsuccessfully sought the hidden gold. Armed with only spades and shovels and being an elderly man, he was soon exhausted and discouraged. Finally, the Civil War came to an end and he was financially ruined, losing most of his slaves and property.

After the war, other citizens took up the quest. One of these was George Ladd, son of Daniel Ladd, one of the founders of the nearby ghost town of Magnolia. Unfortunately, he and his assistants could not agree on how the treasure should be divided once it had been found, and they eventually gave up the search. Today, the treasure slumbers unmolested, mocking the dreams of all who tried to find it. But hope remains eternal, and perhaps someday the marshes near St. Marks will be persuaded to give up their golden secret.


The Mystery of Orchard Pond

North Florida’s many lakes and ponds have long been a source of universal wonder and amazement. Many of them have the unsettling habit of periodically going dry, their waters vanishing into subterranean outlets. Others flood frequently, inundating nearby property and homes. A few even are formed when the roofs of underground caverns collapse and the resulting depression fills with water. These foundations are usually referred to as “sinks” or “sinkholes.”

Orchard Pond, in northern Leon County, is perhaps the most intriguing of such formations. According to local legend, the bottom of this pond was once a large peach orchard. One day in the early 1820s or 1830s, water began gushing from underground and kept rising until if had covered the entire orchard. Although no one was drowned in the flood, numerous farm buildings and several homes were submerged. At least until the 1930s, locals claimed that many of these structures could still be seen on the bottom. A calm, windless day was best, with the sun nearly directly overhead.

It is tempting to dismiss the Orchard Pond legend as historical nonsense, but one wonders. In 1829, the Key West Register noted that the surface of nearby Lake Jackson had recently dropped 10 feet. Astonishingly, Indian cabins and peach trees suddenly became visible on the lake bottom!

Today, the pond is privately owned and is not open to the public. Bass and bream, not historical relics, are most often brought up from its crystalline depths. Yet old-timers still smile knowingly at the mention of Orchard Pond, and allow that although history may tell some dubious tales, it tells some unbelievably true ones as well.

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