If you secretly have a deeply-felt (but timey-wimily paradoxical) desire to meet Thomas Beale, then you may well be thrilled to find out that the George C. Marshall Museum in Lexington, VA will be hosting “a special, one-time only presentation” on 1pm on Saturday 20th June 2015 that features “Thomas Jefferson Beale” himself. Or rather, slightly less confusingly, Bedford resident Tim Flagg who “has portrayed Beale on stage and in several film productions aired on BBC, the Travel Channel and PBS”.
Will Flagg/Beale reveal the location of his treasure? I’ll let you into a secret here: because Ward’s pamphlet only ever referred to the man as “Thomas Beale” (and never as “Thomas Jefferson Beale”), anywhere that you see ‘Jefferson’ inserted into the name (was it the Innises who first did this?) is likely to be just a tad unreliable. So perhaps you won’t be going back to that Virginian mini-digger hire company for their “Weekend Beale Deale” any time soon. 😐
In other Beale news, mystery writer Jenny Kile recently visited Buford’s (which I always presumed had long been bulldozed by the passage of time), and found that Buford’s original chimney was still standing. (Though it’s probably not a good idea to breathe in too deeply in the page’s comments section, secondary theory inhalation can have nasty long-term health consequences).
John Piper’s Beale Decryption
But I also recently found that Reverend John L. Piper claims to have “found the key to the Beale Cipher” back in January 2014, and “is working to complete the two decoded pages to a final draft.”
Piper’s blog posts are marked as being for “members only”, so do not currently appear on the web. Yet, oddly enough, two of Piper’s comments on those pages are publicly visible.
One comment links to a New Orleans public library probate listing for “Beale, Thomas, Estate of Beale, Thomas, absent heirs of” dating to 1824. The same listing has related probate claims made by “Henderson, C.L.” (1825); “Canterbury, P.” (1824); “Oakey, Samuel W.” (1824); and “Beale, Thomas, Jr., Estate of” (1824), which I would expect Piper has looked through too.
In the other comment, he quotes from a Cowand genealogy webpage which describes how a family member (Jesse Cowand) was “a Corporal in Captain Thomas Beal’s Company of Orleans Riflemen”: and that’s a whole different story I haven’t previously covered here…
Captain Thomas Beale
There’s quite a lot written about Captain Thomas Beale’s (somewhat ad hoc) Company – which numbered 62 or 78 men, depending on which source you believe – and the part it played in the Battle of New Orleans. It was composed of “distinguished New Orleans businessmen and civic leaders, most of them from Virginia. Each member wore a blue hunting shirt, black slouch hat and carried a Kentucky longrifle.”
This Thomas Beale was, according to “Fifty Years In Both Hemispheres” (1854) by Vincent Nolte, “a man of advanced years, a native of Virginia, and then residing in New Orleans, where he had some reputation as a fine marksman.” (p.206) Along with almost bar one of his company, Captain Beale survived the famous 23rd December night-battle (though by running away and hiding, according to the none-too-fond Nolte).
Confusingly, there was both a Thomas Beale Senior (who died in September 1820 in New Orleans) and a Thomas Beale Junior (who died in October 1823, also in New Orleans). The existence of 1824 probate documents (as noted by Piper) seems to imply that Beale Junior died without a will.
Beale treasure hunter forum members have raked through these archival coals many time since. For example, ‘ECS’ noted as recently as Jan 2015 that:
* Thomas Beale [Senior] shot Major James Risqué in a duel that concerned Risqué niece,Julia Hancock. (For a time, Julia stayed with her cousin, George Hancock Kennerly in St Louis. Kennerly also fought in the War of 1812- Julia, later married William Clark of Lewis & Clark).
* Thomas Beale [Senior] fled Virginia after this duel.
* Thomas Beale [Senior] had an affair with Chloe Delancy of Botetourt county and fathered Thomas Beale Jr.
* Thomas Beale [Senior] went to New Orleans, married Celeste Boucher de Grandpre, had an uptown plantation, the Planters & Merchants Hotel, and gambling and sporting houses.
* During the Battle of New Orleans, Thomas Beale [Senior] led a militia, Beale’s Rifles, composed of New Orleans merchants and lawyers.
* Thomas Beale [Senior] died Sept 1820 in New Orleans, and in his will, bequeathed everything to Thomas Beale Jr, which caused several claims against the Beale Estate to occur,including claims by Celeste Beale (widow) who was represented by John Randolph Grymes, Samuel W Oakley, P Canterbury, C L Henderson.
* Thomas Beale Jr died at the Planters & Merchants Hotel, Oct 1823, which brought Chloe Delancy to New Orleans to make her claim against the Beale Estate./em>
Which Beale Is Which?
Let’s try to get some clarity here. 🙂
I think we can identify Thomas Beale Senior as having been Captain Thomas Beale, who Nolte identified as “a man of advanced years”.
And we can also surely eliminate Thomas Beale Senior as a possible author of Beale Paper ‘B2’, because the cipher plaintext states clearly that the second load of treasure was deposited in “Dec[ember] Eighteen Twenty-One”, more than a year after Beale Senior died.
All of which leaves Thomas Beale Jr., who by 1821 was not ‘Junior’ any more but just plain “Thomas Beale”: might he be the same “Thomas Beale” who Ward asserted left the ciphered note?
On the plus side, both the father’s and the son’s intimate connection with Virginia seems intriguingly sensible: and the fact that Thomas Beale Junior died in October 1823 (somewhat unexpectedly, it would seem?) seems consistent with the dates in the ciphertext.
Moreover, Emilee Hines, in her (2001) “It Happened In Virginia: Remarkable Events That Shaped History“, says that though fathered by Thomas Beale Senior, Thomas Beale Junior was actually born in
West Virginia and raised there by his mother Chloe Delancy: and that “when he went to New Orleans to locate his father, his father was dying and his stepmother wanted nothing to do with this Virginia son.” Geographically, Botetourt County (where Chloe Delancy lived) is immediately adjacent to Bedford County – the Blue Ridge mountains run through them both.
On the minus side, however, we know next to nothing else about Thomas Beale Junior. So right now it’s an intriguing possibility – and very arguably the best one we have – but that’s as far as it all goes for the moment.
Perhaps there is much more in the archives to be found out about Thomas Beale Junior: after all, you couldn’t really get much more specific than naming a person, his parents, and his places of birth and death, could you?