A Suicide's Curse
Augusta had its gambling in the olden days as well as its superstitions, and the Savannah River still played its part in the history of the City, where in the murky depth lies the only key to a gambler’s grave in Magnolia Cemetery.
"You have taken everything I have. When you die, may you not have even a grave to shelter you!”
This dying curse, pronounced by a losing gambler and suicide upon Augusta’s most picturesque figure of the post-war period, caused Wylly Barron to revise the rules of his gambling place, inspired him to numerous charities, and resulted in his construction in 1870, 24 years before his death, a granite mausoleum in Magnolia Cemetery. The gambler was so superstitious concerning the ups and downs of a bettors fortune, he made a will directing that his body should be placed in the vault, the door sealed, and the key thrown into the Savannah River.
Wylly Barron made a rule, self-enforced, that no man could gamble in his place in the Atkinson Hotel on Ellis Street (Carmicheal’s Range), whose position in life caused him to handle money or whose salary was insufficient to permit gambling. Minors were also barred from playing. Barron would spot a new customer and engage him in conversation.
“What is your business, young man?”
“I am a cashier in the bank.”
“Then you cannot play here. If you win, you will be tempted to gamble again. If you lose, you may steal from the bank to replace it. You are welcome to all the entertainment in the house, but you cannot play.”
If the guest protested, he was ejected.
Six feet tall, slender and dark, Barron carried himself like a prince. His attire was fashionable and extreme, and the sparkling gems with which he bedecked himself made him a flashing figure at watering places and race courses throughout the South. Among the thousand virtues linked to one crime was an all-enforcing charity. No disabled comrade, no suffering widow appealed to the generous gambler in vain. His benefactions were secretly bestowed, even while his profession was blatantly displayed.
According to cemetery records, Barron died at the venerable age of 88 years. It is said that he had lost considerable property and that there was not enough money to buy the prescribed metal coffin. The remains were bricked over inside the vault, the keyhole sealed, the key thrown away, and today there is no known key to either fence or vault.
The epitaph reads: “Farewell vain work, I know enough of thee, And now am careless what thou sayest of me, Thy smiles I could not, nor thy frowns I fear, My cares are past, my head lies quiet here. What faults you knew of me, take care to shun, And look at home---, enough there’s to be done.”