20 February 2005

harriman - haunted in roane county, tennessee

today i came upon a web page, haunted places in tennessee, that includes a site in harriman: swan pond baptist church.

according to the site called juicy news daily, the church is haunted by a pastor who hanged himself there seventeen years ago.

now, i have no knowledge one way or the other about the hanging or the haunting itself. in fact, as a genealogist loathe to post anything on the internet less than two generations old, i'm a little hesitant about passing on the story. however, i was drawn to write about it by my surprise that the alleged haunting is from such a relatively recent occurrence - genealogically, i mean ;-) .

of course, any ghost haunting a building in the town of harriman would have to be relatively recently deceased, i'd think. harriman is only a little over a century old, founded in 1890 as a temperance utopia by the east tennessee land company. the area it's in, though - roane county and its surrounds - is ancient, lore-filled land.

much of the early county was forged from the heartland of the cherokees who settled there first and whose burial mounds can still be discerned in what was known as the hiwassee district south of the tennessee river which snakes right across the county's belly. indeed, roane county is wrapped around the juncture of the tennessee, clinch, and emory rivers, vitally important to both white settlers and native americans in early tennessee history.

somewhere outside - on that land, i'd think - is where i'd be if i were a ghost. even in harriman - though the temperance building and the library would be sorely tempting.

but no, i'd likely stake out one of the craggy escarpments that for me set the character of the town. or i'd be up at the harriman cemetery, standing knee-deep in kudzu that's waiting until all the caretakers die away. and i'd be peering out over the county from the ridge edge just above the giles family plot. or i'd be
wearing an engineer cap, standing on the trestle bridge going into town, waiting for now diverted trains to churn right through me. or maybe i'd be down by the emory, dodging the poison ivy in webb park, dangling my toes from one of its memorial benches as i gaze across at the little waterfall spouting from beneath the road. or i'd be up walking in cornstalk heights, just around the corner from the house i lived in on walden street as a kid.

no - in truth, i'd likely be down in south harriman, wandering around the yard where the nightgown of the newly deceased baby clara floated in the dark and landed on the rose arbor. but absolutely no way would i be inside the house there, still standing, where the yellakin stretchers - those viscous yellow monsters brought to life in my childish mind by my grandmother- may still lurk in the attic room with the door that opens to nowhere.

oh, yeah, on second thought, roane county's towns do offer homes, public spaces, and factories fit for apparitions. and maybe this is especially true for harriman, its utopic vision now blurred in a vortex of decline.

roane street, once a jewel of the county with the princess theater at its center, has become a desolate few blocks of mostly empty buildings bought up by a health conglomerate. the hosiery mill has closed. what a declining economy and the destructive pine beetle hasn't accomplished in harriman, it appears, arsonists have. seems they always did have trouble keeping a school standing. and just last august, what remained of the paper mill burned to the ground [see footnote.]

footnote: arson seems almost to be a roane county pasttime. on this past new year's eve, the scarborough memorial free methodist church in midtown was the target of an arsonist. the main suspect is a former firefighter in the county. read today's news about it in the roane county news here .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is an Urban Legend..we talked to people who lived in the Wheat Community, it never happened the interview for us took place in 2007