In the discussion that follows, the term BTS I shall refer to Beale Treasure Story: The Hoax Theory Deflated, and BTS II shall refer to Beale Treasure Story: New Insights.
Some people mistakenly believe that the version of the Beale Papers printed in George L. Hart's unpublished manuscript referred to as the Hart Papers (1952), and in P. B. Innis' book Gold in the Blue Ridge (1973), is an official version of the Beale Papers. That is not true. Ward's pamphlet published in Lynchburg, Va. (1885) contains the only official version of the Beale Papers. There are major differences between Ward's pamphlet and the purported copy of Ward's pamphlet reprinted in the Hart Papers and in Innis' Gold in the Blue Ridge. Exact reproductions of Ward's pamphlet are reprinted in Viemeister's A New History of a Mystery (1997) and in Matyas' Beale Treasure Story: The Hoax Theory Deflated (2011). See BTS I, pp. 10, 66, 89.
It has been reported that after Ward's pamphlet was printed, and before it could be advertised for sale, a fire broke out in the printing office destroying most copies of the pamphlet. A thorough search of the Lynchburg newspapers by more than one Beale researcher has proved this report to be completely false. It is true that a horrific fire did destroy the printing office, as well as many other buildings in Lynchburg, but that fire occurred on May 30, 1883, roughly two years prior to the publication of the pamphlet. See BTS I, p. 11.
Some people mistakenly believe that James B. Ward was the author of the Beale Papers pamphlet. According to the Beale Papers themselves, the author of the pamphlet was the anonymous person selected by Robert Morriss to be the custodian of the Beale Papers. James B. Ward was selected by this anonymous person to be his agent to publish the pamphlet. Ward applied for a copyright on the pamphlet. He handled the distribution and sale of the pamphlet, but he was not the pamphlet's author.  
Ward's pamphlet refers to Beale as Thomas J. Beale. The purported copy of Ward's pamphlet reprinted in the Hart Papers, and in Innis' Gold in the Blue Ridge, refers to Beale as Thomas Jefferson Beale. Because the copy of Ward's pamphlet in the Hart Papers, and in Innis' Gold in the Blue Ridge is not the official version of Ward's pamphlet, Beale's official name is Thomas J. Beale, not Thomas Jefferson Beale. Nevertheless, some people still refer to Beale as Thomas Jefferson Beale. See BTS II, pp. 85–86.
Most people believe and mistakenly say that during Beale's two visits to Lynchburg he stayed at the Washington Hotel operated by Robert Morriss. That is incorrect. But, if one rewords the statement slighltly to to say that according to the Beale Papers Beale stayed at the Washington Hotel operated by Robert Morriss during his two visits to Lynchburg, that would be factually correct. The Beale Papers does say that Beale stayed at the Washington Hotel operated by Robert Morriss, but this is factually incorrect. Actually, Mr. Morriss leased the Washington Hotel in the fall of 1824. Up to that point, he took in boarders at his own house, which can be substantiated on the basis of advertisements in the Lynchburg Press. See BTS I, pp. 252-256. The anonymous author of the pamphlet was responsible for this editorial mistake.
Who and What Can You Trust?
The Beale treasure story is a popular topic, and one can find all sorts of information about the story on the Internet. And, it is growing. Unfortunately, some of this information is questionable, some is untrustworthy, and some is just plain incorrect. This can be especially frustrating for the weary reader just beginning to investigate and read about the treasure story. Who can you trust? And what can you trust?
A colleague once compared those writing about the Beale treasure story to authors of history books. A few people actually dig through old papers and documents in libraries, archives, county court houses, and the like, accumulating information, which they eventually publish. Then there are those who do little or no original research, who mostly build on the works of others, rehashing and paraphrasing the words of others, adding their own "spin," and sometimes expressing more opinions than facts.  
When I read an article or "blurb" about the Beale treasure published on the Internet, I ask myself whether the article is factually correct. I look to see whether the author has fallen into the "trap" of stating one or more of the common misconceptions (listed above). I also ask whether the author has said something that contradicts information given in the Beale Papers pamphlet (probably tough for someone new to the treasure story). If I find mistakes, I simply don't trust the author or his/her information. For me, the author must be factually correct to be believable. I'm sorry.

 Published May 11, 2011  

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Updated September 25, 2012  

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