During the Civil War, located at the Seven Corners area what is now Fairfax, Virginia was an outpost called Fort Buffalo, put there as a guard post to Washington D.C. The Seven corners gets its name from the intersection of State Route 338 (Hillwood Avenue). The junction of these five roads creates seven corners, and today is well developed with shopping centers and homes. But 150 years ago, according to legend, a man named Jacob Moses Thorne and his wife Mary moved to this area and lived on a farm called The Oaks.
According to family accounts, The Oaks was located on the northern side of Seven Corners, and Fort Buffalo was to the south of the cross roads. Like many families during this period in history, the Thornes took in travelers from time to time as a way to make extra income, some staying for extended periods. According to the story, sometime around 1900 an older gentleman arrived at the Thorne’s farm seeking a room for the summer. Being a well-mannered man of later years, he was welcomed to the house and paid a month’s rent in advance for room and board.
The Thornes, so the story goes, found this man to be a pleasant fellow, but he was not one to be openly talkative. He would occasionally share a story about his travels in the West, but never concealed his reasons for being in the Seven Corners region. Each day he would leave the house at dawn with a shovel, a canteen and lunch, always returning in the evening for dinner.
This same daily pattern had gone on for well over two months when one evening the old man decided to spill the beans, so to speak, and became very talkative. He informed the Thornes that he would be leaving the next day, and because he was sure that everyone had been wondering just what he had been doing in the area and his odd daily routine, that he would now finally tell them. In fact he was leaving the next day and felt an obligation to share his secret with them.
And so his story went like this:
During the Civil War, he was a young man of fourteen and signed up with the Union Army as a bugle boy. As the war progressed he became stationed at Fort Buffalo. Late one night as the Army was preparing for an early morning march south to what was expected to be a fierce battle, a Lieutenant called him aside. This young soldier was in charge of the payroll and was fearful of the next day’s outcome not only for his own life, but the fate of the gold payroll. Swearing the boy to secrecy, he was shown the Company’s payroll which was in gold coins. The Lieutenant then ordered the boy to assist him with carrying the payroll to a nearby wooded area and burying it near a large tree where they marked the tree so they would be able to identify it again after the battle when they would recover the gold.
As the Lieutenant had predicted, the following day’s battle was a brutal one and ultimately took his life, just as he had feared. After the battle, the armies moved quickly and the boy found himself in western Tennessee, far from the buried payroll. But never forgetting about it, the boy hoped to one day return to the Seven Corners area after the war to retrieve the gold. However, his life took him further west and it was many years before he could return to the Seven Corners and search for the gold. During that time the area had grown up considerably. Now an old man, he spent the summer searching for the lost treasure, but things had changed so drastically that it was impossible to locate the tree where the gold was had once been buried.
So on the night before his departure, the old man was disappointed in not finding the gold, but said he had lived a good life with wonderful experiences and was planning live out the rest of his days in Tennessee. The Thornes family never heard anything more from the old man, nor of anyone ever finding the lost payroll.