Ghost stories have common themes, regardless of where they are located. One such theme is that of the star-crossed lovers. Usually there are some kinds of circumstances in life that wouldn’t allow them to be together. Both of them may die and their ghosts are still seen together – unable to be together in life yet reunited in another realm. Or in some stories only one dies, forever heartbroken about what could never be. Two stories demonstrate this – one from European settlers and one from the Cherokee.
“Two Young Lovers Reunited” adapted from Rob Owen
Jonathan was a young farmer’s son from Pisgah Forest. He was a good worker, but mainly a dreamer. He thought that there was nothing but life on his farm but dreamed of the way things could be. Alice was a young woman whose family had moved to town recently and was thought to be very beautiful by the many young men in town who wanted to court her, but Jonathan was the one to win her heart. They courted for a year or so and then decided to marry.
When Jonathan asked Alice’s father for her hand in marriage, her father refused and forbade the two to see each other anymore. Alice’s father was rich and well-regarded in town, and he didn’t think Jonathan was good enough for his daughter. The two men quarreled, and Jonathan was told to leave immediately and that he would be shot on sight if he tried to visit Alice again.
Alice and Jonathan saw little of each other but managed short visits together from time to time. They were always very careful to keep their relationship private, but one time they were careless, and Alice’s father discovered the truth about his daughter’s suitor refusal to stop seeing Alice.
The angered patriarch found the two sitting together under a maple tree on the edge of their estate and flew into a rage. He raised his gun to Jonathan’s head but just as he fired, Alice stepped in front of her dear love to shield him. Before she died, Alice told her father she forgave him and then proclaimed her eternal love for Jonathan.
Her father buried Alice under the tree where she’d been killed. Overcome with guilt and remorse that he could not bear, he grew to blame Jonathan for his daughter’s death and used his power and influence to have him tried and hanged from the very same tree.
If you ever travel the back roads of Pisgah Forest and chance to see two figures that appear to be standing beneath an old maple tree on the edge of what used to be the Murray estate, you may be seeing two young lovers who were torn apart by her father but brought together for all eternity.
“The Legend of Connestee Falls” adapted from Jim Bob Tinsley
Legend recounts that before the coming of the first white settlers to the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, a young Englishman with an exploring party from Charleston was wounded and captured by a group of Cherokee warriors. The Cherokee spared his life, and he was nursed back to health in their village by the chief’s daughter Connestee. Over time they fell in love and often sat next to a lovely waterfall during their courtship. Later with the consent of her father the chief, they were united in marriage by the tribal shaman.
While visiting a trading post on the coast sometime later, the white man was persuaded to desert the tribe and return to the white people. When Connestee heard the news that her husband was not returning to her, it is said that the heartbroken lady jumped to her death from the top of the 110-foot waterfall that now bears her name. According to legend, glimpses of the tragic figure of Connestee may be seen when it is midnight and the moon is out, and echoes of Cherokee drums and singing can be heard rising from the depths of the Connestee Falls gorge.
A note on photos: the Local History department at the Library does not own photos of ghosts or alleged ghosts so have provided photos in the archives that match the themes of the stories. These photos represent elements similar to those in the stories only. Inclusion does not indicate that these people or places are ghosts and/or haunted.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. Sources available upon request. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.