The Greenbrier Ghost

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 23, 2018

On January 23, 1897, Elva Zona Heaster Shue of Lewisburg WV, a bride of three months, was found dead at the bottom of the stairs leading to the second floor of the log house where she lived with her new husband. Her body was discovered by a neighbor, a boy of about 11 years, who did chores for her. Her case remains to this day a one of a kind event in the American judicial system … the only case in which the word of a ghost helped to solve a crime and convict a murderer!

Zona Heaster ShueA state highway marker several miles west of town sums up Shue’s amazing story: “Interred in a nearby cemetery is Zona Heaster Shue. Her death in 1897 was presumed natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe how she was killed by her husband Edward. Autopsy on the exhumed body verified the apparition’s account. Edward, found guilty of murder, was sentenced to state prison.”

Upon finding the dead woman, Andy Jones, the neighbor boy, ran back to his home where he informed his mother, and then continued on to the blacksmith shop where Edward S. Shue was working. When told of the situation Shue appeared in great anguish, ran to his home, gathered his dead wife into his arms, and directed local doctor and coroner, Dr. George W. Knapp, be called. All during this time Shue held Zona’s head in his arms. After a brief examination, Dr. Knapp concluded that Zona “died of an everlasting faint,” i.e. a heart attack.

The body was prepared for burial with Shue assisting in the preparation of her body for burial, and placing her in the casket, always handling her head. He placed a folded sheet on one side of her head and an article of clothing on the other side of her head, which he said would make her rest easier. In addition, he tied a large scarf around her neck and explained tearfully that it “had been Zona’s favorite.”

Zona was taken to the home of her mother, Mrs. Mary Jane Heaster, on nearby Big Sewell Mountain. When the casket was opened Shue always remained at the head of the casket. The next day her body was buried in the little cemetery on the hill top. Nothing more was thought of the death other than that usual for a sudden death of anyone.

Shue house, Lewisburg WVWithin a month of the burial, however, the dead girl’s mother was telling neighbors that Zona’s spirit had appeared four nights in a row to accuse the blacksmith of her violent death – to “tell on him” – to set the record straight about her dying. Shue had been abusive and cruel, she said, and had attacked her in a fit of rage, savagely breaking her neck. Word spread quickly that these visions had convinced Mary Jane that the husband – who called himself Edward, but was really named Erasmus Stribbling Trout Shue, and was known as ‘Trout’ – had killed her daughter.

Mary Heaster and her brother-in-law Johnson Heaster went to Lewisburg prosecutor John A. Preston, who first disbelieved the story, but after several hours of questioning Mrs. Heaster became convinced that there was a basis for an investigation.

Dr. Knapp was consulted and he agreed that he might have been mistaken in his diagnosis. An investigation into Shue’s background revealed that he had served a term in the penitentiary and had been married twice previously, and both wives had died under strange circumstances. One wife was supposed to have died from a broken neck when she fell from a haystack. The other wife died while helping Shue to repair a chimney. He was on top the chimney and his wife was placing the rocks in a basket with a rope attached to it and as the basket was drawn up the basket turned and dropped the rock on the head of his wife.

Mary Jane HeasterAn exhumation was ordered and an inquest jury was assembled. The Greenbrier Independent reported that Trout Shue “vigorously complained” about the exhumation but it was made clear to him that he would be forced to attend the inquest if he did not go willingly. In rebuttal he replied that he knew that he would be arrested, “but they will not be able to prove I did it.” This careless statement indicated that he at least had knowledge that his wife had been murdered.

The autopsy findings were quite damning to Shue. An Independent report on March 9 said that “the discovery was made that the neck was broken and the windpipe mashed. On the throat were the marks of fingers indicating that she had been choken [sic]….. the neck was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The windpipe had been crushed at a point in front of the neck.”

The findings were made public at once, upsetting many in the community. Shue was arrested, charged with murder, and taken to the jail at Lewisburg where he was held until his indictment by a Grand Jury and the trial in June.

On June 22, 1897 the jury returned a verdict of guilty after only one hour and ten minutes of deliberation. The accounts in the Independent make clear that Shue was convicted of the murder of his third wife on circumstantial evidence, and not because of a “ghost’s testimony.” He was sentenced to life in the state prison. Following a foiled lynching attempt a few days later, he was taken by train to the state prison in Moundsville, where he died on the first of March, 1900.

Sources: www.prairieghosts.com/shue.html
www.wvculture.org/HiStory/notewv/ghost1.html
www.wonderfulwv.com/archives/sept99/fea2.cfm

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The Russell House

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 22, 2018

William Ganaway Russell had the good fortune to buy a farm exactly halfway between Walhalla SC and Highlands NC.

In 1849 an industrious group of Charleston German businessman were looking for a suitable parcel on which they could create a new settlement in SC, and formed the German Colonization Society to do so. Their plan was simple: they would buy a large fertile expanse of land, subdivide it, and resell it to immigrants who they would recruit from Germany.

After much deliberation, the Society purchased from Colonel Joseph Gresham 17,000 acres in Pickens District near the base of the Appalachians (in the center of modern day Oconee county.) They named the town they laid out Walhalla –‘paradise’ in German– and within two years, the first settlers arrived and began to clear & farm the land. The Society took an active role to insure that the new Blue Ridge Railroad ran from Anderson, SC to the new town, thereby providing the last leg of a solid rail connection all the way to Charleston. They expected Walhalla to grow into a major railroad center as the train route eventually snaked west towards Cincinnati. That reality never materialized.

Meantime, by the end of the 19th century The Blue Ridge Railway was regularly taking vacationers escaping from South Carolina’s coastal heat as far as Walhalla. But Walhalla wasn’t their final destination. They were headed to Highlands NC, a summer resort founded in 1875 by Samuel T Kelsey and Clinton C. Hutchinson. The historic Highlands Inn, where generations have rocked afternoons away on the Main Street porch, was built there in 1880 (and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.) By 1931, Highlands’ year-round population of 500 swelled to as many as 3,000 in the summer. Also in the 1930s the town became a golfing mecca when Bobby Jones of Atlanta and some of his well-heeled golfing buddies founded the Highlands Country Club.

Russell House, Chatooga SCThere was no railway service between Walhalla and Highlands. Nineteenth century travelers would have to ride horseback or via stagecoach on the Highlands Highway for two days to get to Highlands, 30 miles away. And waiting for them at the end of their first day’s ride, along the banks of the Chattooga River near the old Cherokee settlement of Tsatugi, sat the Russell farmstead and inn.

William Ganaway Russell (1835-1921) purchased the property in 1867 and built most of the buildings, including the main house. Family tradition says that Russell paid for the property with a fortune he made driving cattle to feed California gold miners.

The large house was gradually expanded to provide rooms for travelers. That frame two-story building, dating from the 1880s, expanded to include a projecting rear two-story ‘L’ added around 1890. A two-story front porch was also added later. The inn could accommodate as many as 80 people per night. In the early twentieth century numerous prominent Georgians and South Carolinians spent the night at the Russell’s, or shared meals there.

William Russell died in 1921 and his wife died in 1935, but the family continued to operate the establishment into the 1950s. In 1970, the federal government purchased the property. Although the main Russell house was burned by arson in 1988, enough of 28 outbuildings (barns, spring house, root cellar, etc.) remain to give a good idea of what a thriving working farm and stagecoach stop this once was.

sources:www.oconeesc.com/history.html
www.vergie.com/walhalla_sc.html
www.fs.fed.us/r8/fms/forest/about/russell.shtml
Backroads of South Carolina, By Paul M. Franklin & Nancy Mikula, Voyageur Press, 2006

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They weren’t too beaten down

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 18, 2018

 

Sunday school picnic. Much of the food brought into abandoned mining town of Jere, West Virginia by “neighboring folk” from other parishes. There is a great deal of “hard feelings” and many fights between Catholics and Protestants. Miners as a whole are not very religious, many not having any connections with church, though they may have.
1938 Sept.

Marion Post Wolcott, FSA photographer

“My first assignments were very close to Washington. I think one of the first ones, if not the very first, was in the coal fields in West Virginia. That was a very short assignment, of course. And it was a very interesting one, too. I found the people not as apathetic as I had expected they might be. They weren’t too beaten down. Of course, many of them were but they were people with hope and some of them still had a little drive, although, of course, their health was so bad it was telling . . . .

“I think [all the FSA photographers] did have a social consciousness definitely, perhaps more than some people have but I think they were all — well, they were all interested in the plight of human beings and in the programs of the New Deal, and the remedial programs that the New Deal and the FSA were trying to do, I think that all these people had a lot of vigor and energy and were sensitive to their surroundings.

“[The Farm Security Administration] was one of the few places you could go where you felt that your pictures would be used and seen and that you could be honest in your reporting, whether with a camera or any other device. With your captioning you felt that any exhibits that they produced were definitely propaganda but you believed in them and you felt that they were honest, you wanted to slant them — if you would call it slanting it — or they were slanted, but so is any good program, an effective one.

“I never had worked in the field with handling both the captioning and the traveling and the sending back of the material, and not having my own darkroom. I wasn’t sure I’d like that, and the arrangement of sending the stuff back and having them develop and print it, this worried me a little bit, but it turned out very well because Roy [Stryker, Historical Section chief, Information Division, FSA] gave us a great deal of freedom in that respect.”

Interview with Marion Post Wolcott
Conducted by Richard Doud
at Artist’s Home in Mill Valley, California
January 18, 1965

Source: www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/wolcot65.htm

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The shock was so sudden and violent they could not stand it

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 17, 2018

On January 17, 1781, American General Daniel Morgan scored a stunning victory over British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre “Barbarous Ban” Tarleton’s regulars at the Battle of Cowpens, in what is now Cherokee County, SC. This win came at a crucial time for Revolutionary War patriots in the South, who had been repeatedly forced to retreat.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Col. Washington at the Battle of Cowpens

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. ‘Col. Washington at the Battle of Cowpens’.

 

Private James Collins, a 17-year-old South Carolinian, served in that state’s militia during the campaign in the South. He writes of the day:

“It was not long until it became necessary for us to seek safety by joining Morgan, who was encamped at the Cowpens, but we were not permitted to remain long idle, for Tarleton came on like a thunder storm, which soon put us to our best mettle.

“After the tidings of his approach came into camp–in the night–we were all awakened, ordered under arms, and formed in order of battle by daybreak. About sunrise on the l7th January, 1781, the enemy came into full view. The sight, to me at least, seemed somewhat imposing; they halted for a short time, and then advanced rapidly, as if certain victory.

“The militia under Pickins and Moffitt, was posted on the right of the regulars some distance in advance, while Washington’s cavalry was stationed in the rear. We gave the enemy one fire, when they charged us with their bayonets; we gave way and retreated for our horses, Tarleton’s cavalry pursued us; (“now,” thought I, “my hide is in the loft;”) just as we got to our horses, they overtook us and began to make a few hacks at some, however, without doing much injury.

“They, in their haste, had pretty much scattered, perhaps thinking they would have another Fishing creek frolic, but in a few moments, Col. Washington’s cavalry was among them, like a whirlwind, and the poor fellows began to kneel from their horses, without being able to remount.

“The shock was so sudden and violent, they could not stand it, and immediately betook themselves to flight; there was no time to rally, and they appeared to be as hard to stop as a drove of wild Choctaw steers, going to a Pennsylvania market.

“In a few moments the clashing of swords was out of hearing and quickly out of sight; by this time, both lines of the infantry were warmingly engaged and we being relieved from the pursuit of the enemy began to rally and prepare to redeem our credit, when Morgan rode up in front, and waving his sword, cried out, ‘Form, form, my brave fellows! Give them one more fire and the day is ours. Old Morgan was never beaten.’

“We then advanced briskly, and gained the right flank of the enemy, and they being hard pressed in front, by Howard, and falling very fast, could not stand it long. They began to throw down their arms, and surrender themselves prisoners of war. The whole army, except Tarleton and his horsemen, fell into the hands of Morgan, together with all the baggage.

“After the fight was over, the sight was truly melancholy. The dead on the side of the British, exceeded the number killed at the battle of King’s Mountain, being if I recollect aright, three hundred, or upwards. The loss, on the side of the Americans, was only fifteen or sixteen, and a few slightly wounded.

“This day, I fired my little rifle five times whether with any effect or not, I do not know, Next day after receiving some small share of the plunder, and taking care to get as much powder as we could, we (the militia) were disbanded and returned to our old haunts, where we obtained a few day’s rest.”

— from Autobiography of a Revolutionary Soldier, by James Collins, Clinton, LA: Feliciana Democrat, 1859

 

Cowpens, along with the recent battle at King’s Mountain, was a triumph that the Continentals urgently needed to boost their morale, and demoralize the British army and loyalist sympathizers. It was a decisive blow to Britain’s commanding General Cornwallis, who might have defeated much of the remaining resistance in South Carolina had Tarleton won. That cold clear January day was a turning point in the Patriots’ war for independence.

 

Sources: The Historical Atlas of the American Revolution, by Ian Barnes, Charles Royster, Routledge, 2000
www.theinternetfoundation.org/Family/RevolutionaryWar.htm
www.freeinfosociety.com/article.php?id=193
www.ngb.army.mil/resources/photo_gallery/heritage/cowpen.html

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Well the son-of-a-gun pecked in, now let him peck out

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 16, 2018

Nationally recognized herbalist Tommie Bass (1908-1996) was the subject of scholarly and popular books, television features, a front-page essay in the Wall Street Journal, and numerous articles in newspapers and magazines. Bass lived almost his entire life in the Tennessee Valley and Ridge section of Alabama, primarily in Cherokee County.

“I don’t ever get a letter, but what I answer it. One way or the other. And generally speaking, some of them sends a self-stamped envelope, but some of, a lot of them don’t. But when you answer around a hundred letters for twenty-five dollars, twenty-five cents a letter, that runs into money (chuckles). But I answer ‘em anyway.

[Looks through junk mail] “Most everybody gets something like that. And, course, this one here is from the Baptist Church at Centre, their bulletin. And this one here is a-wantin . . . this here is a politician they want me to send money to help me get along, you know, I get ‘em from the Democrats and Republicans, regardless of who they are, and I even get letters from the Catholic priests wanting me to help ‘em, you know, along.

Tommie Bass, Alabama herbalistPhotograph of Tommie Bass by Tom Rankin, 1983.

“Course this is one of them get rich letters here this make you a million dollars in just a few days, you know, send five people five dollars apiece and then when your name gets to the top, why you’ll go a-getting the five dollars — but don’t try it buddy it won’t work.

“Course this here one, here’s another politician. I get ‘em . . . when they’s running here in our state from the Democrats, I’d average two or three letters a day, and then the same way about the Republicans, you know, it just didn’t make no difference just so they can get some money. (chuckles) But I didn’t give ‘em none. I figured . . . the fact of the business is a fellow running for office, a man or a woman, I’m like the little boy was about the peckerwood.

“Peckerwood pecked a hole in a hollow tree and he went over in there, and the little boy he drove a peg in behind it. Somebody said to him, “Son,” said, “you shouldn’t of done the little bird that way.” He said, “Well the son-of-a-gun pecked in, now let him peck out.

“And so I’m that way about a politician. If he wants to get into office, let him get in there (chuckles), but I ain’t gonna try to help him. Course, if he’s a good guy, I’d talk for him, but as far as paying him in there, I don’t go along with that.”

—excerpt from ‘Tommie Bass A Life in the Ridge and Valley Country,’ 1993 video produced by Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cherokee County Historical Society

sources: www.folkstreams.net/pub/ContextPage.php?essay=154
www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-2166

4 Responses

  • Roger Browning says:

    In a world of black garnin and woods colts running amonk, why does a site based outta New York City even care about a world long gone? A world of time and space we were raised to leave and even now, ridiculed for staying near. Mama was right..you can’t escape your raisin. Yes, we still will, “wrestle you for it”, whether you be the King or just a taker. We still take our part , when called on either to fight or pray. This appears to be a concept that will never completely die. However , our youth stay confused as the roots/memories of our past become layered over with each successive load of garbage covering the ancient soil.

  • Dave Tabler says:

    As you point out, Appalachia was/is “a world of time and space we were raised to leave,” and hence one with roots there can easily find himself following a career to NYC, despite 5 generations of West Virginians behind him.

    I assume the ‘garbage’ you refer to in the statement: “our youth stay confused as the roots/memories of our past become layered over with each successive load of garbage covering the ancient soil” has something to do with the content of this site. How very easy it is to throw stones at the efforts of others. Start your own site and set the record straight as you see it if you feel a compelling need to defend the ancient soil.

  • Roger Browning says:

    Sorry, Mr. Dave…wasn’t about you or the website. Was no point to it for you. Doesn’t always have to be….just a general lament on the shape of the US of A. Peace out and good hunting…

  • Granny Sue says:

    I like that quote!

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