Saturday, July 22, 2017

Singleton recounts story of ghostly Rebel soldier 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 “Vagabond blood causes one to wander” was originally published in the July 11, 2002 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Tuesday, the 25th of June, the urge to wander began to come over me as though a slight chill of some sort had entered my body. My dear wife was going to be away for most of the day with a group from our church. So, after giving it a little thought, I rolled out my trusted iron horse and headed toward the nearest crossroad. Many times I never really know where I’m going until I come to the first intersection in the highway.

I was up near the community of Tunnel Springs when suddenly I turned to the west and proceeded back to the road that would take me into the Old Scotland area. As I made my way down the narrow road, I was amazed at the many blooming mimosa trees that dotted the countryside. Their raw, primitive beauty was something to behold as they spread their branches like large colorful umbrellas near the old forgotten house places. As I rode along the narrow dirt road and marveled at the beauty of the mimosas, I was reaffirmed that the Master’s hand was in all things of beauty that dotted the landscape around me.

Stopping in front of Old Scotland Church, I looked out over the cemetery and noticed that as always, there were many fresh flowers on many of the graves. I never grow tired of visiting the beautiful old church and the well kept grounds. As I have stated many times before in my writings, somewhere in my mind, I almost expect to see a couple of Scottish bagpipers step out of the tall timber, playing Amazing Grace, the most beautiful hymn that man has ever written. As always, my ancestral Scottish blood seems to rush forth and I enter another time.

After absorbing the total peace and beauty of the old church for about a half hour, I knew that I must go on to other places. Stopping at the old Davison cemetery for a few moments, I then proceeded on down the road. A quick stop at a couple of old homesites brought back to mind that day when I brought to one of these old homesteads an elderly lady, now deceased, who had been born here and raised here as a child. I remembered her telling me that it had been 65 years since she had visited this place of her birth and childhood home. I remembered her weeping and saying that this would probably be her last visit here. I assured her that I would bring her here anytime she wanted to come; all she had to do was to let me know that she wanted to come and again visit the old homesite. I remembered her picking some blooming jonquils that grew near the old yard. Weeping openly, she said she remembered planting these jonquils as a child. This dear old lady now sleeps in the cemetery at Old Scotland church.

Turning down the steep hill and down the narrow road that would eventually lead to the creek, it seemed as if I was going through a narrow dark tunnel. The heavy overhead branches of the timber covered the narrow dirt road completely. Slowly, making my way across the bottom, I stopped at the old wooden bridge that spanned the large creek. Stopping again, I turned off the engine of my motorcycle and stood looking down at the flowing waters of the creek. As I had many times before, I remembered the story of the wandering Confederate soldier, who, wounded and sick, had camped for a considerable time here under the wooden structure. I remembered my dear friend, Mr. Raymond Fountain, telling me about the ghost of this Rebel soldier being seen walking across the old bridge during the early morning and late evening hours. I remembered the story of how one could stand on the old bridge during the hours of the late evening and smell the odor of food cooking. As I made ready to depart this place of mystery, I vowed to return here again, and I had done several times before, during the late hours of the evening and try to witness for myself the stories that I had been told by my dear friend. As I rode to the west, the story of the Rebel’s strange disappearance raced through my memory.

Crossing the low bottomlands and another wooden bridge that spanned yet another large creek, I soon found myself climbing up into the hill country. As I approached the crest of beautiful Locke Hill, I knew that I had to stop and spend a few moments and absorb the vast beauty that lay in the bottoms before me. Here, I was reaffirmed once again, only God was capable of creating such beautiful handiwork with such vast magnitude of colors.

As I traveled the narrow dirt road toward the old Red Hills cemetery, I thought of the many dollars that had been spent on traveling to distant places in search of nature’s beauty. Since leaving Highway 21 at Tunnel Springs, I had witnessed nature in her grandest colors, except perhaps during the fall months, and it had cost me almost nothing, perhaps a quart and a half of gasoline.

As I stopped in front of the old Red Hills cemetery, the memory of another dear friend came to mind. I remembered how I used to come here with my friend Oscar Wiggins, and wander for hours through the old cemetery. I knew by heart the names of his distant ancestors who rested in some of the graves nearby. I had been shown many times the final resting places of several Confederate soldiers who had departed this world and now sleep in the red clay of the old cemetery. Never did we visit here that my friend did not always go first to the grave of his grandfather who had worn the Rebel uniform. And, always I would hear the story of his return from the dreadful war, a wounded and sick man. After his return from the war, he spent the remaining years of his life digging a living out of the red clay soil of the Red Hills area.

As I proceeded across the high hills toward Highway 41 and the Franklin community, I knew that I had to make up my mind real soon as to the direction I would take. Looking at my watch, I knew that the noon hour was fast approaching. Turning northward, I twisted and turned on the winding and scenic highway until I soon found myself approaching the town of Camden. A quick stop at a fast food place satisfied my hunger and soon I was on my way again.

Not knowing for certain as to where I was going, I found myself in the community of Possum Bend. It didn’t take but a minute to view the sights here, so I proceeded on toward the river and the paper mill on the highway that would carry on to the town of Pine Hill. Just past the paper mill, I turned to my left and soon I was at the intersection of the road that would carry me to either the community of Sunny South or turn left and travel toward Lower Peach Tree. Turning left, once again the memories began to flow as I swept past old familiar landmarks that brought back many hours of research and adventure.

I knew if I wanted to cross the Alabama River on the ferry, I had to be there before the 4 p.m. deadline. Stopping in Lower Peach Tree, I fueled up my motorcycle and drank a quick cold drink. I had heard many stories about this community and how a terrible tornado many years past had almost wiped out the surrounding area. I remembered a lady who lived near where I grew up had been blown up into a tree during this terrible storm when she was a small child. The rest of her life she was a cripple; almost unable to walk or to do anything.

Looking at my watch I wasn’t sure if I could get to the ferry by the time it closed for the day so I headed up the scenic Old Line Road. I knew that I had no time to waste if I was to get home before my darling wife came home from a day of shopping. With just minutes to spare, I stabled my iron horse and began the “honey do” work that she had instructed me to do. I had made it in time before her arrival home. This vagabond blood of mine is going to get me in to serious trouble yet if I’m not very careful…

Contentment is for those who have reached their goal
and are satisfied no more to wander.
Happily, I have not reached mine,
and have no intentions of doing so.

(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 on June 28, 1964 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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