Saturday, December 31, 2016

Singleton recounts the tale of westward walking Confederate ghost soldier

CSA grave in Red Hills Cemetery.
(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 “Traveling through the county’s hill country” was originally published in the Jan. 4, 2001 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Since my dear wife couldn’t find anything for me to do, on Friday after Christmas, I decided to slip away for a few hours of wandering aimlessly around the hill country of Monroe County.

I cranked up my vehicle and headed toward the hill country of the Old Scotland area. I never get tired of traveling the winding dirt roads of this area of our county. I have traveled these roads and trails many times, and always something appears that I have seemed to miss on other previous trips. The only problem of this trip was that there was so many hunters in the woods it was hard to get around without running into them.

My first stop was the old Cunningham cemetery, located only a short distance from the pavement known as the Ridge Road. As I had noticed earlier, the wrought-iron fence around the small family cemetery had been repaired and painted. Much work had been done on the fence and the cleaning of the grave markers of the members of the Cunningham family buried here.

It’s refreshing to know that there are those who yet see to it that the final resting places of their ancestors are kept clean and in good repair.

Down the road aways, I stopped in front of the beautiful and scenic Old Scotland Church. Almost expecting to hear the sounds of the Scottish bagpipes from the nearby wooded area, I viewed the historic old church and the well-kept cemetery nearby.

Noticing again the burial site of a grand old lady who had passed away almost two years back, I remembered the day that this gracious and dear lady called me and wanted me to escort her to her old family home place, down the road aways from the church and cemetery.

When we reached the old homesite, this dear lady sat down and cried, stating that it had been over 65 years since her last visit there. Along the edges of the grown-up yard, she pointed out some blooming jonquils that struggled to survive there among the tall weeds and brush.

With tears streaming from her eyes, she told me that she had planted these jonquils many years ago when she was a small young girl and had lived here.

Returning to the churchyard, she pointed out to me the graves of her family and her ancestors. She also pointed out the place where she was to be buried. This beautiful and darling old lady had gotten her wish. She now sleeps among those she loved so dearly there in the beautiful old cemetery of Old Scotland Church.

Making my way slowly down the narrow dirt road, I stopped for a moment at the old Davison burial ground. There under the fallen leaves from the trees that grow in the old cemetery, those who sleep here were also a part of the then-active community of Old Scotland.

Making my way slowly down the winding hill that leads to the creek, I stopped for a few minutes on the wooden bridge that spans the creek. I remembered being told the story of the wounded Confederate soldier by my dear friend, now deceased, Raymond Fountain. The story goes that this wounded Rebel had camped for several months under an earlier bridge that had spanned the creek here at this same location.

The wounded and sick Confederate had camped here for a period of about four or five months. He survived on the wild berries that grew nearby and the fish he caught out of the large creek. Those who passed this way said he could be seen during the early morning hours and the hours of the late evenings, walking along the narrow road near the bridge.

The stories state that the wounded Rebel, dressed in a torn and dirty Confederate uniform, would always be seen walking toward the west. Never was he seen walking eastward, back toward the bridge where he camped.

The stories go on to say that one day the wounded Rebel soldier disappeared, never to be seen again. No one knows what happened to the wounded and sick Rebel.

My friend stated that those who traveled this narrow road during the years after the terrible war had seen the ghost of the unknown Rebel, walking the road and across the wooden bridge. As always, he was seen walking to the west.

I have visited this location many times, searching for the ghost of the unknown Rebel. But that’s another story.

Slowly making my way across the low flat bottom lands, I thought of the many times that I had journeyed this way. As I started the climb up the steep hill known as Locke Hill, I thought of the many stories that had been told to me by my friends, Raymond Fountain and Oscar Wiggins.

Many times, we would come this way and they would tell and tell again the stories of the area. Both of these dear friends had a thorough knowledge of the early history of this area.

The ancestors of my friend, Oscar Wiggins, had settled up the narrow road aways in the old community known as the Red Hills community.

A stop for a few moments atop Locke Hill was breathtaking. Looking back across the vast bottoms to the east seemed almost as being in another world. I remembered being told the story by my friends of the family who had settled nearby, thus giving the tall hill its name.

Many stories of good times and heartaches had taken place there on Locke Hill.

Stopping at the old Red Hills cemetery, I visited the final resting place of my friend’s ancestors. He, too had fought for the Southern cause and had been laid to rest in the red clay of the Red Hills cemetery.

During the bitter fighting of the war, he received a serious wound. Slowly, he made his way back to Red Hills, taking almost a year to walk from the state of Tennessee, where he had been wounded.

Walking through the old burial grounds, the many stories told to me crowded my mind. Many of the old grave markers and crumbling burial crypts brought to mind the stories of their lives and good times related to me by my dear friends.

Then, too, many of those who slept here had suffered many hardships as the dreadful Civil War took its toll on the community nestled here in the hill country.

As I got into my vehicle and headed westward toward the Franklin community and Highway 41, I knew that I had made the right choice by coming this way. I felt as I had on all the other excursions through this area; I had done the right thing by coming this way.

Perhaps, somewhere beyond the sunset, those who sleep in the old cemeteries and burial grounds along the way know that they are not forgotten; they are remembered. I was glad that I had come, if only for a short time.

(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.)

No comments:

Post a Comment