The Haunting of Brush Creek Bridge
|Brush Creek Bridge|
At the back corner of our property Brush Creek takes a very sharp turn to the west before making another sharp turn north. Over this short section of creek between its curves, the railroad constructed a steel bridge in the late 1800s. Abandoned now, it serves as a picturesque reminder of our property's connection to the railroad....something I first noted in the photo at the top of this post when we visited the farm after a heavy snow, but before we moved in.
But it was what we didn't know about the Brush Creek Bridge that moves our conscious thought from picturesque to tragic. The area near the bridge has an absolute silence, tucked down into the deep banks of the creek with lowlands on each side of the flowing water. A few large trees send their branches out over the creek and a path worn by deer skirts the edge of the bank. The rusted steel of the bridge creates a midnight-black form at night, removing all light and reflection from moonlight on the creek below. Shortly after we moved to Sycamore Hill a friend forwarded a newspaper story from 1910 about a tragedy that occurred on the Brush Creek Bridge.
James Heminger, a veteran of the Civil War, was instantly killed on the bridge on December 13, 1910. The older man joined another man by the name of Eli Silvius to hunt rabbits in the early morning hours of the 13th. After some time Heminger handed his bag of game to his hunting companion and for some unknown reason headed to the bridge. Speculation on Heminger's death indicated that he must have been standing on the ties of the bridge when an engine with the Lake Erie and Western passenger train struck him. Heminger was deaf, which was the immediate cause reasoned for his not hearing the train as it approached.
The newspaper article stated that the body was badly mutilated. The back of the head was crushed in, the left shoulder torn, the neck and left side of his face were cut open. The lower part of his body was also crushed and the bones broken. Heminger was described only as "an old soldier".
I've often wondered how one couldn't sense the approaching engine. As anyone who has been even near a railroad knows, the vibrations in the ground-let alone a raised rail bed-would surely make up for other loss of senses. Was this truly an accident? And does the ghost of Private Heminger linger on Brush Creek Bridge? While I leave out the more gruesome details of his death, I suggest to family and friends that the old soldier wanders the old railroad bed in search of his severed toe.
Great Halloween Story eh? You can read the newspaper article here: Killed by Train