Page 20 : Beale Ciphers Analyses
The Lynchburg fire of 1883 and The Beale Papers personalities genealogy
On Wednesday, May 30, 1883, a fierce fire in downtown Lynchburg ravaged several buildings. Five brave men perished in a valliant attempt to contain the inferno as walls collapsed upon them. The excerpts below from the Lynchburg News are witness to the devastating impact of this disaster on the community.
On March 26, 1884, James B. Ward applied for copyright protection for The Beale Papers, which was granted March 31, 1885. The pamphlet went on sale in April 1885.
This page proposes that these events are directly related.
My thanks go to a dedicated Beale researcher of some 25 years, a resident of Roanoke, Virginia, who wishes to remain anonymous. The material on this page is copyrighted by him and reproduced here with his permission. In his own words,
"... I have travelled tens of thousands of miles through many states. I have visited government repositories, universities, churches, cemeteries, historical societies and libraries of every description. I have read hundreds of old newspapers, conducted interviews, sent many letters requesting information, studied old maps, hiked much of the treasure area and engaged in three excavations... I confidently make the following statements: 'There is no treasure, there never was any treasure. The pamphlet is a fictional narrative...'"
The Beale Papers personalities
Understanding the intertwining relationships of the principal players in The Beale Papers is fundamental to shedding light on the mystery.
The following paper, their genealogy, is the result of many years of research. It is essential background information for what follows below.
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The fire of 1883
On May 31st, and for several days thereafter, the Lynchburg News published extensive and detailed reports of the fire and its aftermath. The following columns have been selected and transcribed to convey the sentiment that prevailed in the community, and how it reacted.
EXHUMING THE DEAD BODIES
The tedious work of exhuming the remains of the men who were caught and crushed under the falling walls was commenced without an instant's delay, and was watched with painful interest by the immense crowd of spectators. When the call was made for volunteers to assist in the work of removing the debris, hundreds of willing hearts responded, and citizens without regard to class, color or condition rushed in among the ruins, and joined in the search for the bodies. The remains of Mr. Charles Vaughan were first exhumed, and were found to have been crushed and burned almost beyond identification. They were immediately removed on a stretcher to Gladman's barber shop near by. The body of Clemins was next discovered and conveyed to the same place in very much the same state. Next the charred and crushed remains of poor brave Halsey Gouldman were taken from underneath the ruins, and as his body was conveyed along the street to the Norvell House, an audible wail went up from those who remembered his innumerable deeds of daring, and were familiar with his generous traits. Capt. Moore's body was next found; but darkness came on before the search for Felix Beldelvre was completed. Dr. Slaughter examined all of the bodies and expressed the opinion that all of the men except Capt. Moore were killed almost instantly, the latter died from suffocation.
The aggregate loss by the fire is variously estimated at from $250,000 to $300,000. Jones, Watts, Bros. & Co. are the heaviest losers, and their insurance is comparatively light. Members of the firm estimate their loss at from $75,000 to $100,000 above the insurance. Peters & Flood also suffered tremendous loss, but their insurance was also large. The loss by the Lynch estate was considerable and the minor losses foot up an emormous amount, and are severally indicated below in the statement of insurance.
The following is a detailed statement of the insurance as nearly could be ascertained:
With Peter J. Otey
Jones, Watts, Bros. & Co. on stock -L.&L. & Globe, $5,000; Royal, $5,000.
Jones, Watts, Bros. & Co., on building, Hamburg Bremen, $5,000.
Peters & Flood, on fixtures, Va. Fire & Marine, $1,000; Home of N.Y., $3,000; on stock, Phoenix of N.Y., $9,000; L & L Lancashire, $2,500; Va. Fire and Marine, $2,000; S. U. National, $2,600; Home of N.Y., $2,500; L & L & Globe, $5,000; Royal, $5,000; Connecticut Fire, $2,500; Western, $2,500; Va. State, $2,500.
P. J. Otey, Trustee, on building, Home N.Y., $2,000.
E. S. Brewer & Co., on stock and furniture, N.Y. Underwriters Agency, $1,800.
C. W. Button, on building, Hamburg Bremen, $3,000.
T. L. Walker, Trustee, on building, Hamburg Bremen, $2,000.
T. H. Flood & Co., on stock, N.Y. Underwriters Agency, $1,500.
The following parties were damaged by fire, water, or removal of goods to what extent cannot accurately be told at this time:
M. Moore, on building, Royal $5,000; damage by fire and water considerable.
Lee & Co., on stock, Royal $2,500; damage slight; Home N.Y., $1,000; damage inconsiderable.
G. M. Blackford, admr, on building, L. & L. & Globe, $10,000; damage very considerable.
Miss Hattie Drake, on furniture, Phoenix of N.Y., $500; damage, if any, unknown.
Lynchburg Club, on furniture, Phoeniz of New York, $1,000; damaged some.
J. H. Cobbs and J. J. Mays, on furniture, L. & L. & Globe, $800; damaged some.
G. Munday, on furniture and library, Royal, $1,500; part removed - damage unascertained.
Ledbetter & Co., on stock, L. & Lancashire, $500; removed
With Pollard & Calhoun
Jones, Watts, Bros. & Co., Williamsburg City, $2,500.; Phoenix of London, $2,500; Norwich Union, England, $2,500; Manhattan, New York, $3,000.
Ledbetter & Co., Norwich Union, $1,000.
With T. H. Ivey & Son
Jones, Watts Bros. & Co., $7,500.
C. W. Button, $7,400.
M. Moore, $3,000.
ACTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL
The City Council met last night for the purpose of taking formal action in regard to the burial of the unfortunate men who were killed.
President Carroll presided, and all the members were present.
After the object of the meeting had been explained by the President, who supplemented the act with a few remarks appropriate to the solemn occasion, Mr. Otey arose and said:
Mr. President; We are called upon tonight to perform a sad and sacred duty. A gloom has been cast over our city by the reason of the sad fate which has today befallen five of our heroic citizens, whilst in the path of duty. It becomes us to recognize in a fitting manner the great obligation under which we rest to the brave men who today, unmindful of danger have sacrificed their lives! Whilst nothing that we can do can soothe a single pang of the loved ones whom they have left to mourn their loss, yet it is moot that in bowing to the inscrutable ways of an Allwise God, we should drop a tear to their memory. Therefore, Mr. President, I beg to offer the following resolutions:
1. Resolved, That we, the City Council of the City of Lynchburg, recognizing the heroic conduct of Messrs. Gouldman, Clemens, Moore, Vaughn and Beldelvre, in their efforts today as volunteer firemen, when our city was in great peril, and that they have sacrificed their lives in the performance of a public duty, feel that it is our privilege to arrange the funeral of the deceased, and do hereby respectfully request of their families to be allowed to do so.
2. That a committee of three be appointed by the President to communicate at once with the families of the deceased, and to make all necessary arrangements for a public funeral.
3. That the said committee purchase a section of ground in one of the cemeteries for the purpose of the internment.
4. That said committee have designs prepared for a monument to be erected over the deceased, suitable alike to the said occasion and the heroism which caused it.
5. That the military, police, firemen, public officials, all associations and societies be, and are hereby, requested to take part in the ceremonies.
6. That as a mark of respect to the gallant men whose memories we honor, the fire stations and all public buildings be draped in mourning for thirty days: that we urgently request that all businesses be suspended from 9 A.M. till after the funeral, and that all places of business be closed: that the school board be, and are hereby, requested to close the schools.
7. That as a further mark of respect we will attend the funeral in a body, and all city officials be requested to join us: that we will wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.
8. That a copy of these resolutions be spread upon the record and a copy sent to each of the families of the deceased.
The resolutions were heartily seconded and unanimously adopted.
Mr. Otey also offered the following resolutions, which were likewise adopted.
WHEREAS, this city has today been in imminent danger from fire; and whereas it was at one time believed that without aid from our sister cities we could not control the fire fiend; and whereas our sister cities of Richmond and Danville both responded to our call with great alacrity and promptitude:
Now therefore be it Resolved that-
1st. That the thanks of this body and of our whole city are due and are hereby gratefully tendered to the city of Richmond and the city of Danville for the very prompt action in response to our appeal to them for help.
There were more resolutions adopted along the same line which are not replicated here.
IN AID OF BEREFT FAMILIES
Contribution boxes, in aid of the families and little ones of the men who were killed yesterday at the fire, will be opened at the Arlington and at Guggenheimer & Co. this morning.
We are authorized to announce that a gentleman is willing to be one of one hundred to contribute $100 toward the relief of the stricken families of these men, and also one of fifty to contribute $50.
Any contribution left at the NEWS office for this purpose, will be turned over to any person or persons authorized to act in the matter, and the names of the persons contributing and the amount given will be made public.
There followed more extensive and detailed reports of the funeral ceremonies, speeches, damages incurred, for example:
The remains were then borne out of the hall to the hearses and the funeral cortege took up its solemn march through the streets to the Presbyterian cemetery, following being the
ORDER OF PROCESSION:
Light Artillery Blues
Hearses - with Pall-Bearers on each side
Hill City Guards
Families of Deceased
St. Patrick's Society
Tobacco Association - on foot
Cigar Makers' Union
Citizens - mounted and on foot
The line of march was up Main street to 5th; up 5th to Court; down Court to 12th; out 12th to Grace and out Grace to the Presbyterian cemetery.
The procession was by far the largest ever witnessed in this city, being nearly, if not quite, one mile in length - a grand and impressive funeral pageant; and its progress was watched with interest and veneration by thousands of people.
AN APPEAL FOR THE AFFLICTED
Owing to the recent terrible affliction that has visited this community there was no entertainment at the rooms of the Y.M.C.A. last night. The rooms will be open today and tonight and likewise tomorrow; and half of the entire proceeds will be contributed to the orphan children of the deceased firemen.
Contributions of meats, &c, are solicited, and the citizens invited to aid in this effort to relieve these afflicted families.
In the ensuing weeks and months there were many more articles especially about the relief funds for the families.
In its issue of April 10, 1885, the Daily Lynchburg Virginian published its first of two book reviews of the The Beale Papers pamphlet, under this title:
Treasure Buried at Bedford
There follows a summary of the pamphlet story, concluding with:
Mr. J. B. Ward, of the county, will sell the books at fifty cents each to all who wish them. Buy a book, get a pick and shovel, strike for Bufords, dig, grow rich or starve.
The second review appeared April 15th.
The Buried Treasure
We are informed that much interest has been excited by the Beale Papers, which give an account of a large amount of gold and silver buried near Bufords, in Bedford County. The book is sold by Mr. J. B. Ward and his agents, and will doubtless find many purchasers. A condensed history of the hidden treasure will be interesting ro our readers.
There follows yet another summary of the story.
Isn't it surprising that after "much interest has been excited", nary a word appeared in the local press when the booklet was withdrawn from sale? Nor was anything mentionned of the print shop fire which, as told by James Ward to Clayton Hart many years later, destroyed the remaining pamphlets. What force, what influence, could possibly shut down all subsequent information? The answer is simple and clear.
This was the era of the dime novel. Adventures out west were much in demand. Secret codes were recently popularized in Edgar Allan Poe's works. Add to these the possibility of finding treasure in your own backyard and you have a fail-safe formula for sales success... the equivalent of a sexy spy story on a trip to Mars in our times.
James B. Ward and one or more accomplices produced The Beale Papers to raise funds for the bereaved families of the 1883 tragedy, perhaps, or not, with the support of their Mason Lodge. They did not perceive this as a hoax; it was merely a novel, all for fun, and for a worthy charitable cause. They felt therefore justified in crossing a few lines, such as the use of Robert Morriss' well-known and respected name, then dead over twenty years, to give credibility to their project, and extensive plagiarism from E. A. Poe's works, in particular, The Journal of Julius Rodman (see The Beale Monograph). Their plan was well conceived except for one fatal flaw. They underestimated their eventual success and the grief they would bring their own friends, relatives, and neighbors, the landowners around Goose Creek. There were also other influential public personalities mentionned in the booklet, such as Mitchel, Jackson, Clay, Coles, Witcher, and Marshal. An immediate howl of protest from these people led to the immediate withdrawal from sale of the pamphlet. The remaining copies were destroyed in a print shop fire, yes, in that establishment's wood-burning stove, as they hurriedly disposed of them. They may also have retrieved and reimbursed those already distributed.
And what about the codes? The Gillogly strings are a powerful argument that C1, at least, is a fake. Alternatively, code books in the form of personal nomenclators, were on sale right beside the dime novels. It would not require a cryptographical genius to produce codes identical in appearance to these and unsolveable to this day.
This, I believe, is the true story behind The Beale Papers.
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