|George Buster Singleton|
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Old friends lead to ghost of the unknown soldier” was originally published in the June 16, 1994 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
Thirty years ago this month, I came to Monroe County. One quick look around the area told me that I was up to my ears in rich country history. Since I have always been a history buff, I felt right at home in an area that abounded in historical happenings.
Before my family and I had hardly gotten our belongings unpacked, I began to wander around and seek out those whom I had heard had a great knowledge of local history and could enlighten me on the various goings on throughout the area.
In a very short time, I was to meet and become the best of friends with two very special people. I was to learn that these two knew more about the area than anyone else that I would meet within the next 30 years.
Raymond Fountain and Tom Snyder (“Uncle Tom”) would soon be sought out at every opportunity, if only for a few minutes, to hear them tell their tall stories. I would come to spend many hours listening to their stories and asking questions pertaining to the whereabouts of these places of interest.
Both men, when time permitted, would accompany me to these places to point out the exact spots where I might witness strange happenings. Both of these dear friends are now deceased, but I will forever hold dear the memories of their friendships and the interest and time they spent with me.
Both of these friends also had a keen interest in early local history. Each had traveled over the area many times. They listened and searched; both asked questions and sought information from the old people who could relay first hand the true facts of things that had taken place in times past.
Strangely enough, both would tell me about these places and even go and show me the exact spots where various strange happenings occurred. But never would they go with me during the hours of darkness when these strange phenomena were supposed to be visible. They would always tell me to go and see for myself; each would laugh and tell me that they had gotten too old to run. They would laughingly tell me that they didn’t want to run over something and hurt themselves.
Last week, as I sat thinking about our times together, I decided to return to a place that I had not visited in a number of years. Making my way up through the Old Scotland area, I remembered my first trip to the hill country with Mr. Fountain. As we made our way past the old church and deeper into the hill country, I was beginning to think that my friend had gotten “turned around” and might be just a little bit lost. I was to soon learn that he knew this area like the back of his hand and could have walked out of these hills blindfolded.
Past the old church, I traveled for about four miles before turning to the northwest. Slowly making my way down the narrow gravel road, it seemed as though I was going back into another time. The heavy branches of the trees that grew beside the narrow road covered the road so completely until it seemed that I was entering a deep tunnel that would carry me into some unknown land where I had never been.
The huge boulders that rested on the west side of the dim road seemed as though behind each one lay a dark, hidden secret. Reaching the large, flat area near the creek, I pulled over and got out of my vehicle. Searching near and under the old wooden bridge, I remembered the story told to me by my friend.
Several old and rotted timbers lay under and around the old wooden bridge, giving evidence that the old bridge had been rebuilt several times during the past hundred or so years. The narrow road at one time was the main route of travel between the communities of Old Scotland and the Franklin area. The wheels of many a horse-drawn wagon had left tracks in the sands of this narrow road.
During the closing days of the bloody Civil War, it was quite common to see a wounded Rebel soldier wandering down this road. Most were trying to make their way back to distant homes and families. Many were without food or proper clothing, and many times were wounded or sick. Each were hoping that they might maintain their strength to finish the long journey.
Finish his journey
So it was with this Confederate soldier, who sick or wounded, sought shelter under the high wooden bridge that spanned the large creek. It is said that he slept on a ragged, dirty, old woolen blanket here under the bridge. His food consisted of anything he could gather from the wooded area around and from the large creek itself. Here he waited, hoping to regain his strength, so that he could finish his journey to some faraway cabin and a loved one who waited for his return.
Several months would pass as the sick and wounded Rebel waited day after day and week after week, hoping his wounds would heal for the journey home. He would hobble along the road near the large creek and across the wooden bridge during the late hours of the evening when the air had cooled and the breezes blew across the large bottoms near the creek.
He was seen by those who happened that way in darkness, when the light of the full moon shed its light on the old bridge and narrow road. He would slowly make his crippled way always toward the west. Never was he seen at any time walking eastward along the road or across the wooden bridge.
Disappeared from area
Then one evening, the wounded Rebel soldier disappeared from the area by the creek. Only the dirty and ragged woolen blanket was found to give evidence that he had been here. One story relates that his lifeless body was found by travelers near the wooden bridge. His ragged and crippled remains were carried across the high bridge and buried on the steep hillside in a grave, marked only with a large stone some distance from the large creek. Then, there are stories that say he just vanished from the area.
But should you pass this way during the late hours of the evening or during the times when the moon is full, when its beams causes dark shadows to play across the narrow road or old wooden bridge, don’t be surprised to see the ghost of the old wounded, crippled soldier slowly making its way along the old road, always walking toward the west.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)