Washington County Fright
By: William Wright

Published in the Independent Journal
16 October 1986

In 1905 the wilds of Washington County looked a little different than today. The stretch of road between Shirley & Davisville was gloomy enough at twilight, with the giant gnarled oak trees reaching their limbs down into the rutted road bed, but near midnight it would take on a spectral cast that would make your spine a raceway of chills. On one such night a mystery began that would that would baffle some people for nearly 50 years.

Young Samuel B. Wright was known as a rounder – not really bad, just a bit deviant. An example of his view of the world was the time was the time the "Brush Arbor" meeting had been protacted for four weeks. During the elongated alter call he leaned over to his buddy and asked, "You think this meet’ins gone on long enough?" The companion nodded, and Sam with flourish, struck a match on the seat of his pants and touched it to the dry crackly leaves of the "Arbor". The meeting came to a speedy and abrupt halt.

On Saturday night in 1905 Sam went "jiggin". To modern folks that is a type of fishing, but for Sam it was a dance (sort of 19th century breakdancing). These events would start in the afternoon with a picnic and carry on into the night with fiddl’in and pick’in. A good jigger could wear out his shoe leather in two or three good jig nights. This was a good’ern, lots of good music, pretty girls, and even some "shine".

At first Sam tried the music, doing his best to impress some of the belles with his fancy stompin. Then he sidled up to a pretty little wall flower – cute as a button with flashing eyes and a shy smile. She wouldn’t take to him. She let him know that she was only there on account of her cousin, and she didn’t cotton to the "Devil’s Games" such as dancing and the like. Also if her pa, the ELDER GIBSON, was to find out she was there little Miss Mary Ann would be in dutch but good. With that she furled her skirts and sailed out of reach.

Sam had taken to her, and it hurt real bad for him to brush him off. So he walked past the punch bowl and found Tobe. Tobe ws the best "shiner" (moonshine maker) in that part of the hills. After a fair exchange, Sam had a jug and tried to forget the pretty little 14 year old that had broken his heart.

On the road from Shirley to Davisville it was gloomy even at twilight, but at midnight it is downright GHOSTLY!

Sam had forgotten who saddled his horse and hoisted him in the proper position, but he was sure he hadn’t done it by himself. Boy was he buzzing! He thought he might stopped by the old well and try to clear his head and splash some water in his face. He wouldn’t drink it – even though people said it was clean again. No, he wouldn’t drink it – not after they found old man Hewitt in it – MURDERED! Two years or more, it didn’t matter, you just don’t drink water what had a corpse in it.

Sam had a little talk with himself as he tried to stay on his horse.

What time is it?

Look at the stars.

Nooo – don’t do that. They move in circles when you do that.

Must be about 1:00............maybe 12:30.

Oh, what a headache. Boy is it spooky lookin’.

Hey, it looked like something moved..........what’s that?

Oh, just an old snag.

Sure looked like a big hand grippin’ a knife.

Maybe I should get out my gun?

You are too drunk to point it.

Where is it?

In the saddle bags............OH........don’t turn your head so fast!

Ah, there’s, good old Mr. Colt. It may be just a ’60 model but just let one of those trees grab me – I’ll blow their knots off.

As he neared the well Sam’s mind had been convinced that there was something out there.

What was that?

........steady.......boy-howdy, it’s hard to see.

Wish I hadn’t drunk so much.

What’s it?

Sam’s eyes grew wider and whiter. There, hovering over the old well, was a white glob, up and down, and back and forth.

A HAINT! Old man Hewitts ghost!

He never did like me after I turpentined his hound.


The gun .....where’s the gun?

It’s in your hand stupid! FIRE!



Oh, yeah..............

Run, horse, RUN!

Get me out of here!

Faster! FASTER!

The next morning, Sam woke up inside the outhouse. At first he didn’t remember anything, but then it all came back to him. A GHOST! He had seen a ghost, and shot it, he thought?

He got up and decided that, it bein’ Sunday, and after all that sinning he had done last night, he’d better get to Church. But where? Where that little Gibson girl go? White something.........White pine.......no.........White Oak?...........WHITE OAK GROVE. He spruced up as best he could. Then off he went up the Shirley – Davisville road. The road didn’t look quite as scary in the morning light. As he neared the well, his heart began to pound in his throat, and his mind raced.

Wait until I tell the folks at church. What an experience! Shooting the Devil’s hardwork. What a testimony........good for a whole bushel of ‘amens’..........What’s that by the well?

That morning Sam sang loud at Church, put a whole two bits in the plate and sat quietly through the rest of the service – even the testimony time. And he said nothin’ about that ghost for 50 years.

I am Sam Wrights grandson. The story I have written is based on fact. Just some of the names and events have been altered. Sam and Mary Ann finally did get together and they raised seven children in Bonne Terre.

You may ask "Why did Sam stay silent for so long about the ghost?" Well, it wasn’t really a ghost it was a white faced steer scratching it’s neck on a fence post. Three of Grandpa’s five shots hit the steer right in the forehead. How could he testify at Church about the devil’s handywork, when the steer belonged to one of the Church Elders?