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Have you run across a ghost on a Johnston County bridge?

Posted on October 10, 2021

Updated on October 12, 2021

Local news
For a Johnston County Heritage Center Ghost Walk, Chris Johnson portrays Aaron Lee, who says he heard the voice of a ghost on a bridge in Johnston.

Screen capture

For a Johnston County Heritage Center Ghost Walk, Chris Johnson portrays Aaron Lee, who says he heard the voice of a ghost on a bridge in Johnston.

theeden@johnstoniannews.com | 919-429-1675

Does a ghost haunt the bridge over Mill Creek in southeastern Johnston County?

In a piece for the Smithfield Herald in 1956, H.V. Rose told the tale of Lynch’s Ghost. Rose had no documents to rely on, but the tale had passed from generation to generation pretty much intact.

In life, Lynch — the lone name passed from generations of storytelling — was “a hard taskmaster” to the slaves he oversaw, Rose wrote. “His slaves were known far and wide for the color of their hair — all were redheads, and this by reason of the fact that they were always underfed,” he wrote. “Their fall and winter diet consisted chiefly of Jayman potatoes and cow tallow.”

One day, Lynch and a slave named either Old Squire or Squire went to work a cornfield by the bridge. But according to Rose’s tale, Squire could not please Lynch no matter how hard he worked. “The master was mean and cross,” Rose wrote. “Frequently, the slave would feel the lash of the master.”

At some point, Squire had had enough. “When the poor old slave could endure no more, he raised his grubbing hoe over Lynch’s head and struck him dead,” Rose wrote.

The slave buried the overseer’s body along the creek near the bridge.

After that, odd tales began to surface, Rose wrote. Lanterns and torches would extinguish on their own when people walked across the bridge. One man claimed that something — maybe Lynch’s ghost? — stole his walking cane right out of his hand.

“When safely over the bridge, he felt the gentle touch of a hand, and lo and behold, he was again possessed of his walking stick,” Rose wrote.

Another man, Aaron Lee, an eccentric fellow with a passion for chemistry, had heard the tales and decided to see the bridge for himself. As he prepared to cross, Lee felt a chilling gust of wind pass him and his horse, Rose wrote.

“It was with great difficulty that the poor creature could move at all, as she seemed weighed down with a load well beyond her normal strength and speed,” Rose wrote.

When the horse touched the bridge, Lee heard something that would stick with him for the rest of his life. “Lee was startled beyond his wits to hear a noise under the bridge which sounded like a man in great pain in a death struggle trying to call for help,” Rose wrote. “The only tangible word he could gather was the name, Squire.”

The horse bolted toward home, which is where Lee found her after the long walk home. The horse “was wet with foam and sweat and wind-broken,” Rose wrote. “She remained crestfallen and useless the rest of her life.”

Lee met Squire later in life, and the former slave confessed to killing Lynch, but he died before the sheriff could look for him, Rose wrote.

The encounter at the bridge and Squire’s confession were too much for Lee. “Lee, like his much-prized horse, became more pensive and more eccentric after the strange experience at the bridge,” Rose wrote.

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