Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ghosts of Dug Hill, Part l

In years past settlers in the interior of southern Illinois used a rough “cut” through the hills near Jonesboro, Illinois to reach the Mississippi River. This cut was known as Dug Hill Road.

Dug Hill Road
Today this road located 5 miles west of Jonesboro on State Highway 126 has lost its rustic appearance but in the 1860s it was a dark secluded spot that posed many dangers to both the locals and travelers that used it.

For this reason Dug Hill gained a reputation as being one of the haunted roads in southern Illinois. Stories of strange sights were often told and with each telling these legends grew.

Here are two of these stories.

The Murder of Marshall Welch

In April of 1865 near the end of the Civil War, a Marshall by the name of Welsh arrested 3 deserters from the Union army. He did not treat these men kindly. He took them to Jonesboro and turned them over to the authorities.

A few days after these men were jailed word reached Illinois that the war had ended--General Lee had surrendered at Virginia. These 3 men were then released.

They were bitter and angry at how Welch had treated them and they set out to get revenge. One late evening as Welch passed through the cut heading home these men lay in wait. They shot and killed him as he rode by. They left him lying in the middle of Dug Hill Road.

Welch’s body was found quickly but these 3 men were never arrested or punished for this crime.

Soon after Welch’s death local farmers and travelers who passed through the cut started to report unusual activity. Welch’s ghost was seen walking along this road wearing bloody clothing.

Several witnesses stated that he pleaded for help--as they approached he just vanished. More often his ghost was seen lying in the center of the dusty trail.

One wagon driver traveling through the cut spotted a man lying facedown in the road. He stopped his team and climbed down to see if he could help.

When he leaned down to turn the man over, his hands passed right through him. He tried once more but his hands only touched the dirt beneath the body.

Terrified, he ran to his wagon. He urged his horses forward. As he reached the spot where the body lay he felt a bump as his wagon wheels went over the phantom corpse.

He looked back and saw that the body was no longer there.

The Spectral Wagon

Yet another strange sight seen along Dug Hill Road is that of a ghostly wagon.

One cold dark snowy night in December a farmer named Bill Smith was driving his team of horses through the cut. He had to stop because the harness had slipped off one of his horses. As he repositioned it he heard a disturbing sound approaching him from down the road.

He heard the loud crushing sound of wagon wheels in the crusted snow approaching his position quickly. A chill ran down his spine. The wagon was approaching too fast and he knew the narrow road would not accommodate both wagons.

If he could not move his wagon or call out a warning both drivers would be killed.

He yelled loudly into the darkness but he feared the other driver had not heard him over the racket. He was right for the other wagon drew closer. In a panic, he attempted to move his wagon.

At any moment the two wagons would crash but then the farmer saw a shocking sight. The other wagon did crest the hill but the noise was no longer coming from the road. He looked up to see a man fiercely whipping two black horses.

The horses’ hooves pounded the air and the wagon wheels spun as if they were on the ground. This eerie sight soared above the farmer’s head headed for the next hill.”

  --taken from The Big Book of Illinois Ghost Stories by Troy Taylor

This flying wagon then disappeared from view and its loud crushing noises slowly faded away.

Yet another legend connected to Dug Hill Road I first read about in Troy Taylor’s book. This legend is about a mythical creature or boogeyman. Read about it in Ghosts of Dug Hill, Part ll.

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