People and Places with Pierce: The Rum Keg Girl

BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) –  The fourth oldest town in the state is a place with many stories and legends. One of the more stranger stories involves a 12-year-old old girl who had an unusual burial.

“This is the oldest outdoor cemetery in North Carolina,” said Sandy Treadway, a volunteer with the Beaufort Historic Site.

The hauntingly beautiful Old Burying Grounds in Beaufort is a final resting place for generals, captains, and doctors just to name a few. Some of their stories we know well.

“It’s pretty easy with some people that are buried here to be pretty definitive about who they were and what they did,” explained Warren Vaughan, also a volunteer with the Beaufort Historic Site.

Others, we don’t know so well.

“What we’re finding out with some of these situations when we talk about them is that a lot of times, we’re saying legend has it, some people say,” added Vaughan.

Among all the stories and legends laid to rest here, one grave site draws more attention than the rest.

“There’s no doubt it’s the barrel of rum and a body within it, a child’s body,” said Treadway. “We think it’s the Sloo child. We do know that this child was born in England. She wanted to go back to England to meet her people.

“Well, they were kind of reluctant to take her primarily because of the nature of the voyage,” said Vaughan. “Finally, they gave in. Her father actually took her over there, her mother stayed here. On the way back out in the Atlantic somewhere, she’s taken ill and she actually passes away.”

“Normally, you would be buried at sea if you died as you were returning but because he had promised her mother he would bring her home, he purchased the barrel of rum, put her body in it to preserve it, and she and the barrel of rum, all of that has been confirmed, are buried in that spot,” explained Treadway.

The little rum keg girl’s story draws in hundreds if not thousands of people every year to the Old Burying Grounds in Beaufort. Many leave behind mementos, stuffed animals, beads, even sea shells, to commemorate her life.

“We have to clear it off pretty often because it gets pretty deep in there sometimes with all kinds of mementos,” explained Treadway.

“People have a real affinity for it and a real connection for it and somehow this is a way for them to express that,” said Vaughan.

“I really think it’s the fact that it is in the barrel of rum,” said Treadway. “People are kind of charmed by that. But it’s mostly the child.”

A child forever separated from her family.

“She’s alone,” said Treadway. “She’s not in the family plot. She is all alone here. So I think that’s what kind of resonates or brings out the parental care or the nurturing that people naturally have.”

We may never know for sure who she is, but one thing is clear. The little girl buried in a keg of rum will forever tug on our heartstrings.


Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.


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