I never post anything about "ghost" or ghost stories but I found this interesting since I was born up in this area.
The Haunting of Tilly Bend Settlement
About forty years back I became interested in tracing my family's ancestors. This is how I discovered the Tilly Bend settlement. Situated in the Appalachian Mountains it really is a beautiful place. The Toccoa River flows down from the high mountains winding it's way into Blue Ridge Lake. Tilly Bend Settlement is nestled back in these same mountains.One must cross the Toccoa River and travel down a one lane dirt road that takes you deep into the forest. As you drive along one begins to notice(windows rolled down) how quit the deep woods becomes. This was my first impression of this area 40 years ago. This place has been lost in time because it looks the same now as then with the exception of the renovation of Tilly Bend Church. I have been here many times, many, many times over the last 40 years. I suppose you could say I'm drawn to the mystery of this place.
I will only share a small portion of my research, however you need to understand this Tilly Bend church sits right in the middle of this haunting. This church is not part of the haunting. This church is the house of God and services are held there on a regular basis and demands the respect as being the house of God.
In 1756 the Creek Indians lived in this area and got along quiet well with the white folks that came to this area from North Carolina. There are census records showing that the white men intermarried with the creek women. The Cherokee did not get along with the creeks and forced them out of the area. The intermarried creeks did not leave and neither did their customs.In 1820 the Stanley's had formed a settlement over the mountain in a place known then as Stanley Gap. This being told, I can now share with you what I know as fact.
Searching for my great, great grandmother's grave I ended up in Tilly Bend Cemetery. At this time the church only had services on decoration once a year. The church building was very old but still in fair condition for it's age. There were no glass windows only wooden shutters and that was common in the days before air conditioning. The doors to the church is what I remember most about this old country church. There was in both of the old doors what appeared to be like someone had shot the doors with a riffle of some sort. My first impression was that someone had done this out of pure meanness.
I then proceeded to walk around the side of the church and walked up and peered through one of the cracks between the shutters.Of course with the shutters closed and there being no windows the inside was dark. I could however make out the old home made church pews and the pulpit. I also noticed the high ceiling with the rafters showing. Yes,I thought this church is old and the welcome sign out in front of the church stated the church was established 1858.After I looked the old church over I then headed up the hill to the cemetery.
I noticed there were a lot of field stones marking the graves which is not unusual for very old grave yards. Right in the center is a very old and large Oak Tree. The only tree that is in this grave yard. I started looking around at the grave markers for my great, great grandmother's grave. Well to my surprise her grave was also in the center of the grave yard and her grave was the only one under the oak tree. The name on her marker is Elizabeth. So I'm looking at this grave yard thinking it looked as if no one wanted to be buried anywhere near her grave. I then wrote the information from her marker down and that is when I noticed the head of her grave was facing west. Which is very of odd because all the people here bury the dead facing to the east because the Lord will return in the eastern sky. I finished getting the information and I caught a glimpse of someone out of the corner of my eye. I did not hear a car come down the dirt road and there were(are) no houses close by. I turned very quick to see who it was and there was on one. I laughed at myself thinking yeah I am jumping at my own shadow. You see I didn't believe in ghost but I did believe in mean people. As I started back down the hill I noticed another grave Mary. The birth date was the same as Elizabeth. They both died on Oct.26 Elizabeth died 1905,Mary died 1906.I thought "boy somebody messed up on the dates.
I reached my car at the foot of the hill and as I got in I looked back up towards the cemetery and at the tree I saw what appeared to be a woman. Her dress was long and black. She had on a hat that I can only describe as a granny bonnet. I thought "you have got to be kidding". Then it looked as if she stepped back behind the tree. I was curious so I went about half way back up the hill and shouted "Hello" of course no answer so I walked all the way back to the tree and there was no one there. I hurried back to the car and left.
A couple of weeks later my grandfather ask me if I had went to his great mother's grave. I told him I had and ask why her grave was facing to the west. My grandfather said well she was a witch. I laughed and said really grandpa why is her grave turned around? He went on to tell me this, She was Creek and also a witch doctor for the Creek Indians. The whole settlement was afraid of her. Now she had a daughter to marry a Tilly and another daughter to marry a Stanley. There had been a family feud between the Tilly's and the Stanley's. So the two sister's became enemies because of their husband. The feud escalated and on Sunday morning the Stanley's went to Tilly church and started shooting through the doors of the church. Killing the preacher(he was a Tilly) and several others in the church, including the one sister who married a Tilly.
Now the Tilly's did not let this go and one night they went to Stanley gap and killed some of the men while they were asleep.Now the sister that married a Stanley, her husband was killed that night. A few months later she died having a baby. Elizabeth Bradley vowed revenge on both the Tilly's and Stanley's for the deaths of her two daughters...After that every baby born to the Tilly's and Stanley's died at birth. I said "come to think of it, there was a lot of little baby graves. Rows of them "my grandpa said" Well after a year of this the Tilly's went to Elizabeth Bradley's house and got her. She was then taken to the center of Tilly grave yard and hung from the old tree. They cut her down and buried her right where she fell.Right before they hung her she told them she would come back
Now after a few months the little babies started dying, all at birth. People in the Tilly settlement started claiming the witch had come back and had taken up residence in a very old and mean woman. Elizabeth Bradley's sister in law Mary. So on the anniversary of Elizabeth Bradley's hanging, the men went and got Mary Tilly Bradley. They hung her from the same tree.They would not bury her facing west because she was after all not at fault because the witch came back through her and she was a Tilly.
I said "grandpa that didn't really happen". He said 'you saw the graves and I'm telling you it did happen and the older folks here will tell you that it's true. He said "and I'll tell you something else that's true I saw one of them witches one time when I was a small boy". My grandpa went on to say that when he was about 9 year old he went to decoration at Tilly and he described the very same woman that I had seen.
This happened 40 years ago and my grandpa has been gone for many years now. I have seen a tin type(old picture)of Elizabeth Bradley and I have also seen Elizabeth Bradley at Tilly Bend. I have kept a record and I have seen her 8 times the last 40 years. There has been two occasions that I have heard a little baby crying as I walk up the hill. Of course it quits when I get to the tree. Strange how one would think you only see ghost at night. I have only seen her in the daytime. Course I don't go there at night and I never will!
If this story took place, that would be after Salem. Anybody want to research the facts with me?
Right in the center is a very old and large Oak Tree. The only tree that is in this grave yard. I started looking around at the grave markers for my great, great grandmother's grave. Well to my surprise her grave was also in the center of the grave yard and her grave was the only one under the oak tree.
Just an interesting side note.
Cadaver dogs will key on a tree that has had a body buried underneath or near its roots. As the tree absorbs nutrients from the soil it also smells like a cadaver to the dog.
Hi Barry, I don't know how much research you've got, but there is at least a grave for an Elizabeth Tilley Bradley in Blue Ridge. Her date of death was 26OCT1906 instead of 1905. She's also listed as an only child from what I can see.
I enjoy genealogy research, and this isn't too awfully far from where I grew up either. I'll probably look into it a little more; I'd be interested to hear if you've done any searching.
Maybe you can dig a little farther that way... so far, I can't find actual public records of a shooting in the church or anything like that. I have managed to find that her grave is in fact facing west, there is a (new-ish) marker a few feet away bearing the name of Mary Tilly Bradley with same dates, and that there are fourteen Stanley babies buried in their (separate) family cemetery around the time period of the supposed curse. There are lots of small fieldstone and cross markers in the Tilley cemetery, but only two infants recorded. In my own family cemetery, slave burials were marked with small fieldstones, so I'm not sure about making the assumption that small markers = infant graves.
But enough facts to the story to keep a legend alive, I'd say.
I also came across another story about the Chastain House in the same town. Maybe if you get a chance you could check that out as well; it's a beautiful old place!
Thanks for inspiring a fun morning of ghost research! :)
that is one creepy photo
According to this map, Tilly bend would have been outside the the area controlled by the Creek Nation. It would have been deep inside the region controlled by the Cherokee.
If a woman was considered a witch, she wouldn't be buried on church grounds as that is consecrated soil. They would have dragged her out of town and hanged her from a tree away from the village and church and then buried her in an unmarked area, not put a marker up to her.
Wouldn't happen unless the clan had money to buy off the local pastor or power to force him to bury her in consecrated ground. I doubt the other clan would have let this happen.
As for other so-called witches buried in consecrated grounds, it's probably likely what they were executed for and what they were later SAID to have been executed for, are two different things.
Well, according to the story he was murdered before this happened. You do bring up a good point, but, there are always exceptions.