An excerpt from “When Waterford and I Were Young” by John Divine
Aunt Dolly devoted much of her later life to taking care of her mother after the death of Grandfather in 1903. She never lost her love for her Baptist Church nor her belief in ghosts. Woe be unto anyone who did not share her belief in the supernatural.
I enjoyed hearing Aunt Dolly’s stories but, never having seen a ghost, remained privately skeptical. Several years after her death, though, I had an experience that is still as fresh in my mind as the day it shook me.
On January 24, 1885, Landon Merchant, a man who lived north of Waterford, was found dead on the road that leads to Clark’s Gap; his white horse was standing near the body. Mr. Merchant’s head had suffered a severe blow, whether from a fall from his horse or foul play was not known, but a legend was born of the “Man on the White Horse.”
Aunt Dolly, herself, had seen the white horse, and in an unpleasant way, resulting in skinned shins. She and several others of the younger set were going to a party in a light wagon with boards across the wagon bed for additional seats. As they passed the site of Merchant’s death, their horses shied to the side, and a white horse reared up, striking the board in front of Aunt Dolly and driving it back into her shins. I recall that she did have a badly scarred leg.
There is a sequel. In 1964, while doing an article for the Waterford Foundation, I interviewed Miss Eleanor “Bide” Chamberlin. This was a great experience as Miss Eleanor, then 90 years old, was a charming lady with an excellent memory of her life at Clifton on Clark’s Gap Road and the stories her mother had related of Civil War times there. Each trip to visit her was such a pleasure that I’ll admit that I made more than were necessary for the article. Talking to her and her niece, Mrs. Edith Stahl, was unforgettable.
One day, when I was leaving, Miss Bide said, “John, why don’t you write about the Man on the White Horse?”
I was bug-eyed. Shades of Aunt Dolly! Seventeen years after her death I hear of the Man on the White Horse from another source. My question to Miss Bide: “Did you ever see it?”
“No, but my brother and others saw it many years ago.”
With testimonials from persons of the character of these two ladies, maybe we should take a second look at ghosts.
For more stories of Waterford by John Divine, see When Waterford and I Were Young, in our online shop.