by John P. Hodson,
Kankakee Valley Historical Society
Believe in Ghosts? Like to read a good ghost story? Well, gather around and here’s a whopper of a Baum’s Bridge ghost story!
William Ormond Wallace had a column in the Valparaiso Vidette Messages titled “The Stroller.” Wallace wrote over 700 Stroller articles until his retirement in 1962. Although, Wallace was known to embellish his stories a bit, I believe this story to be sound. The people mentioned in the piece are well-known Baums’ Bridge residents and handwritten notes on the original copy reference additional locals I’ve read about.
In this story below, Mayville was located near the intersection of 1050 S. and Baum’s Bridge Road. The John Morrison farm was another half-mile north of the intersection. Although, I’ve never been able to find the location of the Simpson home, that is not unusual for the area. All the other landmarks read here are true.
Pete Simpson was about 17 years old when his father died in 1893. He and his father lived in a run down shack that was in ill-repair after his mother had died in Mayville by Baums Bridge. It was an odd, unpainted “board-and-hit” building with unfastened doors with two rooms that looked like someone had just left the house. Shortly after his father passed, Pete had disappeared and was later found by an Officer in Montanna where Pete and his horse had been washed off a pass called “Green Gumbo Hill,” in a heavy rainstorm, and both had been killed.
Later on (1912), a couple had gotten stuck in heavy rainstorm by the Simpson house. The Jones, Smiths or Browns had been visited by this couple who had gotten caught in a low spot in the road not too far from the Simpson house. The couple who were stuck had no other choice but to leave their car and wade across the mud to the Simpson house.
As the story goes, they spent the night at the Simpson house. “We returned to the car and got our lap robes, in those days we had no such a thing as a car heater. We used to have a charcoal foot-warmer, and lap robes. We tried to fix the side-curtains down tightly of the car, then hurried to the cabin, where we knew we would have to spend the night.”
Sometime that evening, they have since figured it must have been about 3 o’clock in the morning they felt a presence in the room. “I opened my eyes, and saw a young man standing between me and the fire,” said the husband. “He had on a sort of cowboy outfit, with a broad hat, but standing between me and the fire I could not see the details.”
“I heard Ma gasp and whisper, Pa, Pa, and at the sound of her voice the figure vanished like a cloud. It just sorta melted away. After a few seconds of shock, I got up and went and sat on the edge of Ma’s bunk and whispered, ‘Did you see him?”
“She couldn’t answer. She clutched my arms fiercely and I knew I hadn’t been dreaming. There was no denying we were scared, and spoke in whispers. I think we clung to each other for a few minutes. Then I added a few small sticks to the fire, being very careful not to, decrease the flame.”
“At the first evidence of dawn we went back to the car. It seemed so bit and staunch sitting there that I cranked it up, and tried once more to get out of the mud but the wheels simply spun around in the slippery mire. So we walked up the road to John Morrison’s house.
“John was just going out milking. He stopped and waited for us. Ma and I had said ‘let’s not talk about what we saw and I had acquiesced, so I simply said, ‘Mr. Morrison, can we hire your team to pull us out of the mud? We can’t make it.”
“He put his milk bucket down, threw that harness on his mule team, and went back to the mud hole, and pulled us through with the greatest of ease. As I cranked the car again, I casually asked, ‘ Whose house is that? There seems to be no one at home?’ and he said, That’s the Simpson place. Young Pete went out west and left it. Heard he got killed on a narrow pass over a hill someplace in Montana. Somebody said it was a trail covered with soft green clay they called green gumbo, and he and his horse slipped over and fell a hundred feet or more.”
“Well, that’s about all there is to the story, except that when we got home and I took the lap robes into the house, Ma almost passed out, flinging to the corner of the one that had been partly on the floor by the fireplace, was a big gob of green gumbo clay.”
Partial Source: The Stroller, Vidette Messenger
Partial Source: KVHS website: http://kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org
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