Notable Men of Henderson County: The Life & Legend of Abraham Kuykendall
By Dan Gibbs
Abraham Kuykendall was born in New York in 1719 and he was in his 60’s when he served in the Revolutionary War. The veteran Kuykendall was one of what was to become Henderson County’s first settlers. He was awarded a land grant of 600 acres by the state of North Carolina in the late 1780’s for his service during the American Revolution. Those 600 acres encompassed a large portion of what is Flat Rock today.
He served in Captain Corbin’s North Carolina Militia where he served as a Corporal from 1770-1783 and as a Justice of the Peace in 1778 in Old Tryon and Rutherford County. Kuykendall migrated to the mountains of western North Carolina with his land grant.
Abraham was an entrepreneur and he saw great opportunity in his land holdings. He eventually acquired over 6000 acres and he built a tavern and an inn on the Old State Road near where Mud Creek Baptist Church sits today. It was the largest inn of its day in the area and he built stables and corrals that could hold the livestock that were being driven to the markets in Columbia, SC and Savannah, GA. The drovers could house their herds and livestock and stay for the night. He served some of the finest whiskey with his own distillery and his inn and tavern quickly gained a good reputation.
Kuykendall’s first wife Elizabeth died around 1800 when Kuykendall was in his early 80’s. He quickly remarried a much younger woman named Bathsheba. She was 20 years younger than Abraham and she quickly gained a reputation for enjoying the finer things in life and she did not seem to mind spending Abraham’s hard-earned money.
Abraham insisted on the patrons of his inn and tavern make their payments in gold and silver coins. Since Abraham did not agree with Bathsheba’s spendthrift way’s he started hiding his gold and silver coins in big iron washpots.
With all of the travelers to the inn and tavern, Kuykendall began to worry about the safety of his gold and silver. According to the legend, one night he woke up two of his servants and made them carry the wash pots of gold and silver coins through the woods near his residence. He blindfolded them first and made them crisscross through the woods until they were completely disoriented.
He took the blindfolds off and made them bury the washpots full of coins. He then blindfolded them for the return trip home. All the servants knew was that the location of the buried pots was near a large oak tree and a small stream.
One night about a year later Kuykendall returned to the woods one night to dig up one of the pots so he could make a large land purchase. He needed a larger sum of money than he had in his house. He went out late at night with a shovel but he never returned home. His servants and neighbors went out the next day looking for him, they found his body lying dead in the stream. There was no sign of foul play and it is believed that he tripped and fell and hit his head against a tree or a rock in the stream and died right there. The shovel was still lying beside him.
The pots of gold and silver were never found and a lot of people believe that it is still buried where he put them in the ground. The creek most associated with this legend is Pheasant Branch in Flat Rock, and once in a great while, someone will conduct another search. The legend of Abraham Kuykendall is the most enduring story of buried gold in Henderson County. Abraham Kuykendall donated the land that Mud Creek Baptist Church sits on today and he is buried in their cemetery that sits on the side of Erkwood Drive. He died in 1812 and his marker is well decorated.
The author of this article is local historian Dan Gibbs. He is a native of Henderson County and developed an interest in history listening to the stories told by his great grandfather Henry Clinton Gibbs.
Some of the websites used were the ncdar.org and Henderson Heritage. There are several newspaper articles on Blue Ridge Now that offer different takes on the legend of Abraham Kuykendall and Michael Sundburg of Hendo.today has a video posted on YouTube about the legend.