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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (05/2005) Headlines (04/2005) Headlines (06/2005)   Vol. 39 May 2005 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the May 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


A rare coin discovered in a safe deposit box and brought to an Auburn dealer has been auctioned for $360,000.

The coin, one of only three 1793 Strawberry Leaf one-cent pieces known to exist, was sold to an unnamed bidder recently at the Baltimore Coin and Currency Convention.

The coin surfaced over the summer when it was brought to Republic Jewelry and Collectibles.

The woman who had the coin said her father, Roscoe E. Staples II, purchased it around 1941 for $2,750 and gave it to his wife as an anniversary gift.

When Staples was killed in World War II in the Solomon Islands two years later, his widow, Beulah Staples, put the coin in a safe deposit box. American Numismatic Rarities of Wolfeboro, NH, which auctioned the coin, said it was the first Strawberry Leaf specimen ever sold at auction when it brought $77.50 in 1877 through an agent for Lorin Parmalee.

From The Portland Press Herald, submitted by Christopher Towle.


Civil War buffs are getting access to a treasure trove of information- thousands of original maps and diagrams of battles and campaigns between 1861 and 1865, all posted on the Internet.

The Library of Congress is posting 2,240 maps and charts and 76 atlases and sketchbooks, while The Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia are adding about 600 items. Much of the collection is online now; the rest will be by the spring.

The items depict troop positions and movements, as well as fortifications. There also are reconnaissance maps, sketches and coastal charts and theater-of-war maps.

One plan of the Mississippi port of Vicksburg was done in 1863, the year Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant forced its surrender on July 4 in one of the war's most decisive operations. It gave the Union control of the river and cut the Confederacy in two.

It also won the attention of President Lincoln to his most successful commander. Lincoln wrote Grant a letter of congratulation and promoted him to major general.

The Vicksburg map includes fortifications, railways, levees, drainage, vegetation and even the names of a few residents.

The same day Vicksburg fell, more than 900 miles away Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee began retreating to Virginia from Gettysburg, PA, following his defeat there.

The National Archives and Records Administration recently drew attention to a map of the Gettysburg campaign in its own collection. It records positions of troops on July 2, 1863, when the South came close to winning the battle.

The agency has been looking at the back of some of its documents since it worked with Walt Disney Pictures on the current film "National Treasure," a fictional story about a map to hidden treasure on the back of the original Declaration of Independence.

The Gettysburg map, which is not online, went with Lee's report on the battle to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. On the back of Lee's 14-page report was written: "Read with satisfaction and returned to War Dept. Jeffer Davis Aug. 6. 1863"

Davis may have been relieved by the failure of Union Gen. George G. Meade to pursue and destroy Lee's retreating forces.

Gettysburg was a decisive defeat for the Confederates after a series of victories. Lee surrendered to Grant nearly two years later, after terrible losses on both sides.

The contribution of the Virginia Historical Society includes maps of Virginia locations, created by Confederate officers. They detail roads, bridges, waterways and buildings, including farms and plantations with the owner's names.

The Virginia society also presents the viewpoint of the Union side in a diary and scrapbook that belonged to Robert K. Sneden, an Army mapmaker. It includes battle plans and fortifications. The society acquired it recently after it had been locked in a bank vault for decades.

The Library of Virginia has maps that went with reports to the governor and field maps of the southwestern part of the state, found in books that belonged to Confederate Gen. William W. Loring.

Want more information? Posted items can be seen here.

From The News & Advance, submitted by Chadwic T. Anderson, Bedford, VA.


Judge J. Patrick Graybeal now has a cherished piece of his past, and pastor Gary Long has fodder for a future sermon.

Both say it's kind of a miracle.

Like the gold ring at its core, this story goes round and round. It starts in 1973- the year Gary and Barbara Long married.

"On Dec. 4, 1973, I was serving as commonwealth's attorney for Montgomery County. That night, I returned to our home on Overhill Road in Christiansburg at about 11:30 p.m. from the courthouse where many of us had been keeping track of the special election returns that first sent Madison Marye to the Virginia senate. When I parked my car, I saw a Pringle's potato chip can on the roof of my wife's car in the driveway. I picked up the can and it exploded, causing severe injuries, especially to my hands."

Graybeal, who later became judge for the 27th Judicial District and still substitutes on the district bench, lost both hands in a bombing that sent Frank DeWease to prison for 24 years.

Five years earlier, Graybeal had successfully prosecuted DeWease for the beating and strangling death of his wife. Less than a week after DeWease was paroled for the killing, Graybeal was injured in the bombing. DeWease, who always maintained his innocence, was released from prison the second time in 1998.

On that dark December night in 1973 as Graybeal reeled from the shock of the explosion, he was thinking about survival. He wasn't thinking about his wedding ring.

"I couldn't see anything," he remembered after being reached by telephone last week. "I couldn't even see what was left of my hands. I thought about the ring later on."

For 31 years- through a distinguished career as a judge and a retirement that allowed him and his wife, Jill, to move to a waterside community- Graybeal, now 72, presumed his wedding ring was history.

"I thought it was either destroyed or lost forever," he said.

Understandably, he forgot about the ring. He might have forgotten about miracles, too, had he not believed in them.

"I've believed in them for a long time. I've had several in my life," he acknowledged. "This is another one."

This Dec. 6, Graybeal's wedding ring arrived in the mail.

"I was out raking the leaves," said Gary Long, associate pastor at Christiansburg's Main Street Baptist Church. "Right at the side of our carport, there is a holly shrub. Under it, I saw something that was gold and oval shaped. When I picked it up, I realized it was a ring."

Long handed the ring to his daughter and told her to take it into the house and give it to her mother. When she saw the ring, Barbara Long knew instantly where it belonged.

For the past 6-1/2 years, the Longs have lived in the home local folks still call the Graybeal house. The story of J. Patrick Graybeal's ordeal, they knew, was as much a part of the house as the giant oaks and massive rhododendrons that surround it. In fact, the couple had met Graybeal two years ago when he stopped by on a trip to Christiansburg.

"He was here in the area and had a camera. He wanted to take pictures of the rhododendron in bloom. When he came to the door, he rang the doorbell," Barbara Long recalled. "He said, 'Could I just take some pictures? I want to show them to my wife.'"

As soon as she spotted the mechanical hooks poking from his sleeves, Barbara knew who the man was at her door.

The Longs invited Graybeal into their house for a visit. A few weeks later, they received copies of the photographs he had taken, along with a note card engraved with Graybeal's initials: JPG.

As Barbara held the misshapen band of gold retrieved from her husband's raking, she noticed an inscription: JEL to JPG, 7-18-53.

"I immediately recognized the initials," Barbara said. "I had kept the note he sent us."

Gary Long, who sometimes wishes his wife wasn't such an accumulator, said he was grateful that she saved the note from Graybeal.

"We were glad to mail the ring back to him and his wife," he said. "I'm sure it will be a keepsake for him and his family."

Before sending the ring through the mail, Barbara wrote to Graybeal, explaining that she thought something "quite providential" had occurred and that she had something he would probably consider "buried treasure" after so long a time. She asked Graybeal to phone her.

"When I called her, I said the only thing we could think of that could possibly be at that house was the ring," Graybeal said. When an envelope bearing the ring arrived a little later, Graybeal didn't open it right away. He saved it until his wife got home so they could open it together.

"It was pretty emotional," he said.

"It was certainly an unexpected, pleasant surprise," Jill Graybeal added, explaining that she and her husband chose the ring together before their wedding 52 years ago.

The Graybeals said they lived in the house on Overhill Road for 13 years after the bombing, hoping to come across the ring while doing yard work. They never did. For days after the attack, friends and neighbors combed the landscape, looking for the ring without success.

The ring is now in the Graybeals' home in South Carolina, sitting on top of the note Barbara Long included with its return. With his typical salty wit, J. Patrick Graybeal says he hasn't yet figured out what to do with it.

"I don't have any fingers," he said, "so I won't be wearing it that way."

Graybeal said he will save the ring for his two daughters who, he said, "were just as amazed as we were" at the reappearance. A proposal that he wear the gold band a bit closer to his heart has been made.

"There you go," he said. "That's a real possibility, too."

From The Roanoke Times, submitted by Chadwic T. Anderson, Bedford, VA.

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