Looking Back: Tom Ashe found pot of silver

Published 5:19 pm Friday, February 14, 2020

A 50-year-old man who lived on Beech Ridge off Mackville Pike found a treasure in May 1928 while walking through the woods with his dog in Washington County, according to articles in The Kentucky Advocate and Danville-Advocate Messenger.

James (Tom) Ashe, “a respected poor man,” who lived alone, found a pot of silver coins — $1,600 in a tree stump on his farm on Mackville Pike. Another reference to the amount of coins, reported 1,700 gold dollars were found.

Ashe was walking through a field on his farm communing with nature when he made the discovery. The woodland was surrounded by high weeds when the dog scared a young rabbit which fled to an old hollow stump for refuge.

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Ashe paid little attention to the episode until the dog began barking and yelping boisterously and refused to leave the stump.

He was stuck with the perseverance of his dog and decided to return to the stump and force the rabbit from his hiding place so the dog might have a little chase.

The interior of the stump bore a peculiar appearance which attracted Ashe. He began removing the contents, both for the purpose of scaring the rabbit away and to satisfy his own curiosity.

He found the top of a kettle which was somewhat of a thriller and an incentive to make further explorations. At the next stroke of his hand, he found loose pieces of metal which had been discolored.

He cleaned one piece off and found it to be a silver dollar.

He continued his excavation until he had released and removed the large kettle. By this time he was almost exhausted with the labor and excitement. He carried the kettle and its contents to a cluster of weeds and bushes where he hid it as he was unable to carry the load very far.

He got help and carried the kettle to his house, cleaned the U.S. coins to find the kettle contained the coins which were all dated between 1803 and 1805.

The money was deposited in Peoples Deposit Bank in Springfield.

No plausible theory as to how the money came to be in the stump was offered, but indications were that it had been there for many years.

The discovery drew many people to the Ashe home to see with their own eyes the rich find.

People were speculating as to how the kettle of silver dollars happened to be placed in the hollow stump.

Some think a bank robber who was being crowed placed the money in the hiding place, skipped the country and never returned. Others are of the opinion that some miser in antebellum days buried his funds in the old stump and probably died without revealing their whereabouts.

No one completely solved the problem but speculation was abundant.

Several Danville people saw the money and said it was in a fine state of preservation.

“Mr. Ashe is a God fearing man; he had lived an honest life; he has never been blessed with worldly goods and now that he is reaching the evening of his life when his earning powers are limited by Father Time, he cannot but believe that his being attracted to the stump by the unusual demonstrations of his faithful dog was the friendly act of Providence,” according to the Kentucky Advocate.