The Witches of Plain Dealing Creek – Valliant Brothers Murder

Plain Dealing Creek near the old Chamberlain plantation.
Plain Dealing Creek near the old Chamberlain plantation.

There have only ever been 5 witch trials recorded in Maryland’s history and two them were alleged witches who lived and practiced on Plain Dealing Creek in Talbot County.  The creek was also the site of the Valliant brothers legend where one brother murdered the other over buried treasure. 

Virtue Violl – Katie Coburn Arrested as a Witches

Plain Dealing Creek was named by the Indians after a trading post where they traded with the Quakers – or “plain” people. In 1715 Virtue Violl was arrested on suspicion of witchcraft. She was an old spinster who lived along Plain Dealing Creek. Virtue was indicted by Maryland’s Attorney General William Bladen for exercising black magic. He further stated that she – Virtue – had rendered Elinor Moore, another spinster speechless with her diabolical practices.

45 years later, In 1753, Samuel Chamberlain built a house on Plain Dealing Creek that later became known simply as “Plain Dealing.” He was a wealthy tobacco grower, and he was the first Chamberlain immigrant to establish a home in America. In his later years, Samuel allowed a woman to live on the end of his property in a worn down old shack. Katie Colburn – later referred to as “Witch Katie” terrified the local citizens, and was said to be the “last of her kind” in Talbot County. Folks said that she was “old, deformed and hideous … and one whom no one would look at for fear of being “hoodooed by a wicked glance from her evil eye.”

Katie was the second witch to practice on Plain Dealing Creek – 75 years after Virtue Violl.

No one knows what happened to either of the witches. Katie just disappeared. But a ghost started to appear later where Katie lived .. a ghost said to have appeared to a some of the Valliant children who lived on the Plain Dealing property many years later. Some say Katie was trying to send a message into the living world about the horrible Valliant murder where one brother killed the other over found treasure.

Plain Dealing Creek near where one Valliant brother killed the other over treasure.
Plain Dealing Creek near where one Valliant brother killed the other over treasure.

The Valliant Brothers Duel for Treasure

The Valliant brothers lived on the Plain Dealing haunted waterway. There are several versions of the Valliant brothers story, but we do have actual commentary from Lloyd Nicols, Valliant son of Jeremiah Valliant who was a tenant farmer on the Chamberlain property in the mid-nineteenth century.

Lloyd stated that when he was a boy of 10 years he saw a man standing near the Chamberlain graves on the Plain Dealing property. The man was pointing to an impression in the ground. Lloyd was frightened and ran to his mother. She walked back to the area of the sighting with her son and the man was still standing there. The mother couldn’t see him, but Lloyd could. He described the man as older with long white hair. The man was wearing breeches instead of trousers.

Lloyd and his mother came back again several times and each time, Lloyd could see the ghost but his mother couldn’t. The last time Lloyd saw the ghost he was by himself and had the courage to approach the spectral figure. The ghostly man led young Lloyd inside the old Plain Dealing mansion, long vacant and full of dust and mold. Old portraits of the Chamberlain family still hung on the wall. The man pointed to one particular portrait.

It was the portrait of Squire Ungle, a man who had fallen to his death from the balustrade above when he was drunk one night. He broke his neck and legendary stains from his blood still marred the Plain Dealing floor – and were much talked about by family members. Lloyd recognized the ghostly man and the same man in the portrait. He was Squire Ungle.

Young Lloyd and the ghost walked again to the Chamberlain family cemetery and this time the ghost spoke. He pointed to the depression in the ground and said that there was treasure buried there beneath some stones as far down as a well. It was left there by one of the Valliant brothers from many years ago. One Valliant brother dreamed that there was treasure buried in this exact spot. He told his brother and together the dug a hole ten feet deep and came upon a chest made of oak. They pulled the chest out and opened it. It was full of gold – enough gold to make them both rich. Suddenly the brother who had the dream lost his mind and lunged at the other brother. He killed him in order to have the treasure all to himself.

But upon looking at the body of his lifeless brother, the dreamer was filled with such remorse that he re-buried the treasure and placed the corpse of his beloved brother in the hole with the treasure and closed the grave – telling no one.

After hearing this tale from the ghost of Squire Unger, young Lloyd Nicols Valliant ran to tell his father and recounted the story. The father, with the help of some Negro slaves, dug a hole ten feet deep in the identified location and came upon stones. Lloyd Nicols Valliant said that when they uncovered the stones there was no treasure.

However, Lloyd’s father later bought Sharpe’s Island which would have cost a much heftier sum than most tenant farmers could afford.

There is no property that I’m aware of that has so many rich stories about different ghosts that span centuries. To think that a state that only has five witch trials in its history had two alleged witches practice on Plain Dealing Creek is enough to make one wonder if there not some mystical attraction to the supernatural in the Plain Dealing Creek region.

But add the legend of witches to the story of Squire Unger’s  appearance to Lloyd Valliant and the Valliant brothers story and one can conclude that Plain Dealing Creek is a region of mystery.

All of the property along Plain Dealing Creek is privately owned. But it’s a gorgeous area for kayaking and canoeing, and as you paddle up the creek you can see some of the old bones of the plantations that once lined the waterways. It’s particularly mystical in the winter months when the trees are bare.

The stories of Plain Dealing Creek is featured in Haunted Mid-Shore: Spirits of Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot Counties – and is told in great detail on the Talbot County Ghost & Graveyard tour.