It’s October, and you know what that means! Battle Days, fall colors, harvest festivals, apple cider, pumpkin everything, and of course, Halloween! Spooky decorations, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, haunted hayrides, haunted corn mazes… Sensing a theme here? Ghosts! And of that, we have plenty!
All of the following are based on true stories. (Cue X-Files intro.)
Perhaps the oldest ghost said to inhabit the Bend Area is that of Anna Potts. Anna, her husband Sandy, and their two daughters are said to have settled in the area of Clifton well before the town existed. Well before anything in the Bend existed, really, before the Battle of Point Pleasant. Full-blooded Irish, with pale skin and flaming red hair, she and her daughters stood out in the backcountry, and the Native Americans named her the “Great Spirit Woman with Hair of Fire.” (I’m sure it sounds better untranslated.)
Believing they had been sent by the Great Spirit and unable to buy the daughters, the Native Americans killed Sandy and kidnapped them. Anna, with her trusty mule, set out to find the girls with little luck. But, like any good mother, she never gave up, and even after death is said to haunt the hills around Clifton still searching for her daughters…
Not long after, during the Northwest Indian War, Fort Randolph was re-established and Point Pleasant permanently settled. The frontier militia, like the National Guard today, received pay for their service, and paymasters frequently traveled between Fort Henry at Wheeling, Fort Harmar at Marietta, Fort Randolph, and others along the river. Well, one of these paymasters never delivered his pay.
Thinking it was too dangerous to navigate the river at night, he set up camp near Sliding Hill, more commonly known as “the rocks” between present-day Hartford and New Haven. It turned out that he would have been much safer on the river; two thieves murdered him in the night and stole the pay, said to be gold and silver coin. This was a big deal, and Fort Randolph soon sent out riflemen to search for the missing paymaster. Before they could be caught, the thieves buried the pay, fled, and joined the Native Americans in the war.
Like the paymaster, they also chose poorly and were killed in the war. Having no idea where to start, nobody ever searched for the buried pay, and life went on, at least at first. It wasn’t long before lanterns were seen at night on Sliding Hill, carried by ghostly figures searching the hillside. Steamboat captains and pilots frequently saw these lights as they turned the Bend, and travelers frequently avoided the area at night. Even the Register commented on how often people saw these ghosts, so add ghosts to falling rocks and tree limbs to watch for around the rocks!…
The last story I want to leave you with this week is much more mysterious than the last two.
Out back of West Columbia, there’s an area known as Mission Ridge. The Ridge itself runs from Lieving Road all the way to Potters Creek Road, but the community of Mission Ridge is strung along Indian Lake Road (formerly Mission Ridge Road) in a deep dead-end holler that nearly cuts the ridge in half. This was one of the earliest communities in the Bend, home to the Edwards, Fowler, Lewis, Rickard, and Van Meter families and their relations. Though it was mostly farms, it had its own church, school, and store. It also had its own ghost, and some suspect he’s still there.
He’s certainly a striking figure you wouldn’t forget. Said to be a relatively handsome man, well-dressed and riding a snowy white horse, almost nothing is known about the Mission Ridge Horseman or why he stuck around. Based on descriptions of his clothes, he probably died before 1850. He was obviously a man of at least some wealth, and that’s the right age for an early settler of the area, maybe even a veteran of the Revolution. That narrows it down quite a bit, at least enough to have fun guessing.
Perhaps it’s Adam Rickard, a Revolutionary War solider who settled in the area and whose children farmed Mission Ridge? Maybe it’s one of his children? Or perhaps Arthur or Isaac Lewis, early settlers and ancestors of Virgil Lewis who just so happen to be buried near the mouth of the holler? There’s only one way to settle it… If you’re ever out Mission Ridge and come across the Horseman, ask him his name for me!
Next week, we’ll get even spookier with one of our most famous ghost stories!
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.