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Ask Rufus: The legend of Black Creek

 

Rufus Ward

 

In 1851 Joseph B. Cobb published a book titled "Mississippi Scenes." It contained one of northeast Mississippi''s earliest ghost stories, "The Legend of Black Creek." Four miles north of Columbus and just north of the Highway 12 railroad overpass, Andrew Jackson''s Military Road crosses a meandering stream known as Black Creek. The old road has been straightened and the area is now residential but it once was not so. 

 

Cobb described the Black Creek crossing as "a forbidding spot, shaded by huge willows and swamp oaks, whose thick foliage imparts an aspect of gloom and terror sufficiently ominous to put a suspicious soul on his guard, independent even of the ghostly associations connected with its history." 

 

Black Creek was associated with several "awful deeds." A young Indian "had slain his brother in a fit of anger, and then thrown his body, tied to a large bundle of stones ... (into) a sudden sink in the channel of the creek." It was the scene of a horrible ambush, robbery and murder. The melancholy crossing was also well known as the place where several people had drowned in attempting to cross Black Creek when it was flooded.  

 

The most noted tragic incident, though, occurred in around 1817. Cobb related the story: 

 

"An aged Tennesseean, who died in the county many years ago, and who had been a soldier in the Army of General Jackson, often told the story of how Old Hickory, having arrived on the banks during a tremendous freshet, and being impatient to get along, rashly ordered two young dragoons to try the depth of the ford, and how both of them were swept away by the swift current, and never seen more." 

 

Those two soldiers were said to haunt the Military Road crossing, making their appearance on dark moonless or cloudy nights. It was told that at such times one could behold "two men on horseback with plumes in their caps, and great crooked swords dangling at their sides, rearing and plunging through the air about the height that the creek usually rises to in a high flood, whilst a great white figure (darts) up suddenly with a shriek out of the dark pool, and then (falls) back heavily again, as if pulled with a dead weight." 

 

So goes the 1851 ghost story of the "Legend of Black Creek." Is there a historical basis? Andrew Jackson ordered the construction of the Military Road but never traveled this segment. However, not far north of Black Creek on a hill overlooking Howard Creek is a ca.1817 grave of a U.S. soldier who died during the construction of the Military Road. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at rufushistory@aol.com.

 

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