Port Tobacco, MD – If you’re looking for buried treasure, I wouldn’t go to Port Tobacco to find it.
At nearby Rose Hill, a legend has lived on for more than 200 years about buried gold and the spiritual protector of that small fortune.
The ephemeral guardian of the colonial treasure is not your typical ghost. This spirit has four legs.
That Charles County’s Blue Dog legend has been around for more than two centuries is not surprising. Purported to be the oldest ghost story in America, it’s a good one.
There seems to be some confusion as to whether the story originates from the colonial period or the time of the Civil War.
Most versions focus on the 18th century, when soldier Charles Thomas Sims and a blue tick hound stepped into one of the many taverns said to inhabit the colonial town.
We know the date was Feb. 8 and most legends place the story just after the American Revolution.
Sims’ tongue was loosed by the libations he consumed and he began bragging about a quantity of gold he had on his person, along with a deed to property.
Henry Hanos of Port Tobacco and his friends were listening as Sims enumerated over and over how good his fortune had been.
When the soldier started off from the tavern he got as far as Rose Hill Manor in Charles County before he was confronted by Hanos and his friends who demanded his money and the deed.
Sims was killed in the confrontation and his blue tick hound was also slain, valiantly trying to defend his master.
Legend has it that both dog and man died atop a large stone at Rose Hill.
Hanos took his stolen loot and buried it, along with the deed, under a holly tree that grew somewhere along Rose Hill Road.
When he went back later to retrieve the treasure, he was confronted by the ghost of the huge blue tick hound. Some versions of the story claim the dog was part mastiff, dogs bred for kings in ancient England. Either way, Blue Dog is a large dog of significant size and girth and could, apparently, literally frighten you to death.
Shortly after this encounter, Hanos took sick and fell fatally ill.
Reports of the blue dog’s ghost began surfacing in the years that followed the soldier’s death.
During the American Civil War, General Joseph Hooker, who temporarily led the Grand Army of the Potomac until a disastrous rout at Chancellorsville got him the hook, if you will, from President Abraham Lincoln, camped some 12,000 Union troops on the western shore of Charles County.
From October 1861 through March 1862, Hooker maintained his headquarters at Chiccamuxen Methodist Church. The fascinating side note to this story is that Hooker’s camps resembled brothels and members of the world’s oldest profession followed the camps wherever they went. The origin of the slang “hooker” for a prostitute, comes from this historical oddity.
Some of Hooker’s men heard the blue dog legend and decided they would find and dig up the buried treasure. When they went to abscond with the money, they allegedly found themselves confronted by the luminous specter of a huge blue tick hound who aggressively challenged them to such an extent that they gave up the ghost.
Olivia Floyd, the Confederate spy who lived at Rose Hill Manor during the Civil War, confessed to the Port Tobacco Times in 1897 that she had encountered the ghost of the blue dog.
Mike Meissner, owner of Blue Dog Saloon in Port Tobacco, said he bought the property in 1991, when it had an old grocery store on one side and a bar on the other.
“I was trying to decide what to call the place and my girlfriend at the time and I went down to Virginia and when we were coming back, I was telling her the story,” Meissner said. “She was from Port Tobacco and she had never heard the legend. I said, ‘You’re from Port Tobacco and you never heard of the blue dog?’ And then it hit me. That’s the name of the bar—the Blue Dog Saloon.”
Meissner pays tribute to the legend with a framed version of the tale and a large oil painting of the blue dog guarding the stone where his master died.
The stone is still there, but Rose Hill Manor, where it is located, was recently purchased by new owners and is now closed to the public.
The last known recorded incident of someone encountering the ghostly beast occurred in 1971 when the howl of Blue Dog was heard.
Several television crews who have sought evidence of the Blue Dog legend have filmed at Rose Hill the past two years on Feb. 8 when the howl of the faithful hound has said to be most prominent.
Contact Joseph Norris at email@example.com