Saturday, October 22, 2016

Singleton tells of ghostly Rebel soldier who haunts bridge near Old Scotland Church

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 “Take the high roads to view autumn’s beauty” was originally published in the Nov. 16, 1995 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

As I travel around this area and talk to various people who have lived in our county for a number of years, I come away in total amazement. I find many who have never found or taken time to visit the high country in our area.

I won’t call any names, but just the other day, I had a conversation with an elderly gentleman who has lived in this area most of his life and had never been through the hill country of the Red Hills area.

I really felt sorry for that man in thinking back to some of the times in the past autumns I wandered through this area and viewed the breathtaking beauty. Looking at his background and lifestyle, I know that he has spent considerable money going on vacations to various parts of the country, when right here under his nose, some of the most beautiful scenery in the South is to be found.

Day of wandering

Just a few days back, I mounted my trail bike and set out for a day of looking and wandering back through the hill country of the Red Hills area. The autumn colors had not reached the fullness in beauty just yet, but if it had been any more beautiful, I would have had to turn around and return home. I could not have stood it.

As you have probably guessed by now, the wild goldenrod is my favorite flower. Standing there and viewing a quite large hillside covered with the glowing yellow blossoms was almost breathtaking. Then, looking across into the vast background behind the field of goldenrods, the gold-colored sweet-gum trees only added to the depth of beauty. The various changing of the other fall colors reminded me again, as it has each time I view the magnitude of coming autumn, that only the Creator is capable of creating such beauty.

The silence of the hill country only adds to the overall beauty of the area. Stopping here and there along the narrow roads at the old, abandoned home places brings a certain amount of sadness to mind. As I look back and try to visualize the past years of hard work and sacrifice, I know, too, that peace and contentment were to be found also around the warm fireplaces and along the high ridges and red-clay hills.

Yesterdays call out

The yesterdays seem to try and call out from those who now sleep in the red clay of the Red Hills cemetery. The peace and quietness around the old burial ground remind me that time has no meaning. The hardships and hard work experienced by many who sleep here have long since faded. The only sounds to be heard are the sighing winds in the treetops as those who sleep here await the awakening of the final roll call.

A visit is not complete to the area without a few minutes of meditation atop the high ground known as Locke Hill. The vast beauty to the east glows with the colors of autumn. Beauty is at its finest as I look across the colorful valley below and marvel at its magnitude of greatness.

Crossing the valley below is almost a story within itself. The narrow dirt road that winds its way across to the high hills of the Old Scotland area and there in the deep bottom, you will cross the high wooden bridge that crosses the wide creek.

Always, when I travel this way, I stop for a moment, hoping to see the ghost of the Confederate soldier who is said to have camped under the high bridge many years ago. There are those who say he walks the narrow road, always walking toward the west, perhaps toward home or places known only to him.

Looking at my watch, I knew that the time had come when I had to make the decision to turn back to where the roads forked and go to the Vredenburgh community or continue on toward Old Scotland.

Autumn colors

Deciding on the shortest route, I mounted my trail bike and began the decent to the bottoms below. I would make the trip through the hills to Vredenburgh within a couple of days, surely before the autumn colors fade. I couldn’t let this autumn pass without heading in that direction. I found myself wishing that there were more hours in the day so I could ramble to both places and view the greatness of this autumn’s beauty.

As I made my way down the narrow road to the vast bottom lands, I realized that the colors of the autumn season had not taken effect here in the low lands as it had up in the hill country. The fall colors had started to turn here in the low lands, but time seemed to move slower here along the large creek.

I knew that it was not for me to question this difference, because Mother Nature does her work as she sees fit. She would see to it that the colors would change when she thought it time. Perhaps this was her way of expanding the time for the enjoyment of viewing her handiwork.

Pausing for a few moments atop the old wooden bridge brought to mind the spirit of the old Rebel soldier. Did it linger here because it liked the area?

Primitive beauty

The quietness and solitude here by the large creek probably caused him to stay for a while. He, too, perhaps came through the area during the start of the autumn season.

The primitive beauty of the area might have helped cause him to forget the tragedies of past battles. There is no way of knowing why he was here; speculation brings about many theories. But, there are those who say his spirit lingers yet by the old bridge. Only it knows the reason.

Climbing the long, steep hill toward the Old Scotland area, I again saw the difference in the autumn colors near the hilltops. As I made my way along the narrow road near the old Davison cemetery, a huge buck deer jumped out into the road and raced along ahead of me for a considerable distance before turning out across a large clear cut area. Seeing him race along the dirt road, I wondered if he knew that soon he would be a much sought after trophy as the deer hunters covered the area.

Resting for a few moments at Old Scotland Church, I broke out my snack of small thermos of iced tea and a couple of moon pies. Looking across the church cemetery, I could see several graves that had fresh flowers on them. Here, too, lay loved ones whose descendants had not forgotten. The old churchyard and adjoining cemetery were truly places where total peace rode the winds of the afternoon. How could anyone ask for more?

 (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, lived for a time among Apache Indians, 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. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” 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.)

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