"Ghosts of East Texas
and the Pineywoods"
Publisher: 23 House (April, 2005)
I first started researching this chapter, I wasn’t quite sure about it being a
bona fide ghost story. I had been told about the spirit of an Indian in full battle
dress appearing on a horse, and a mysterious fog that appeared even on warm, sunny
days. I thought that I’d investigate anyway, and it turned out to be one of the
most interesting journeys that I made during this book. It all started when I
was putting together some information for another chapter. I heard about a huge
monument in the pineywoods of East Texas
that marked one of the worst Indian massacres in the history of this part of the
The story starts in December of 1837, well over a year after Sam
Houston and his men soundly defeated General Santa Anna at the battle
of San Jacinto, which won independence for Texas.
Sr., moved his family from Talladega, Alabama to East
Texas and purchased land from the newly formed Republic. The property had
originally been part of a treaty settlement between the Texas Revolutionary Government
and the Cherokee Indians negotiated by John Forbes, John Cameron and Sam
Houston. In December of 1837, however, the Senate of the new nation of Texas
nullified the treaty. The Cherokee weren’t all that happy with the treaty because
it greatly reduced their lands – since they were led to believe that it would
give them a permanent home, however, they accepted the terms. Some bitterness
still existed among many tribe members, and the nullification of the treaty only
exacerbated those feelings. The stage was set for an inevitable clash between
the Texans and the Cherokee.
On Christmas Eve of 1837, Issac Killough
didn’t know about this rising animosity with the natives. His four sons, two daughters
and their husbands, and two single men, Elbert and Barakias Williams all settled
on the land. Over the next several months they built houses, and planted crops
to sustain their families.
The corn was ready to harvest by August, but
word had reached the settlers of a growing threat by the Indians. The Killough
party joined with other settlers and fled to Nacogdoches
In a month or so, the threat seemed to have dissipated, or
so the Killoughs thought. They struck a bargain with the Indians to allow them
to return to the land to harvest their crops, promising to leave before the first
frost of winter.
Apparently not all of the Cherokees respected the arrangement,
however, because on the afternoon of October 5, 1838, a renegade band attacked
and killed or kidnapped eighteen unarmed members of the Killough party, including
Issac Killough, Sr., himself.
The survivors, which included Issac’s wife
Urcey, began a harrowing journey to Lacy’s Fort, forty miles south of the Killough
settlement. When they arrived there safely, an enraged General Thomas J. Rusk
organized a militia and rode out in search of the Indians. Rusk’s men caught up
with them near Frankston, and defeated them in a skirmish in which eleven of the
Indians were killed.
Killough Massacre was the largest Indian depredation in East
Texas. The bodies that were found were buried at the site, and in the 1930s
the W.P.A. erected an obelisk made of stone to mark the location. In 1965 the
cemetery was dedicated as a Texas Historical Landmark, and the area is now enclosed
by a fence with a small parking lot beside it.
courtesy Janet Gregg, 2005|
I actually visited the monument, I’d heard quite a bit about supernatural activity
there, including the aforementioned sighting of a Cherokee warrior and the mysterious
fog. Several paranormal investigators who’d been there had regaled me with stories
of odd temperature readings, electric fields, and other scientific measurements
often associated with ghosts. I wanted to see the place for myself, though, both
for the historical aspects, as well as the spirits that might be showing up there.|
I drove through Jacksonville,
then headed north on highway 69. It wasn’t long until I saw a sign that said,
“Killough Monument” with an arrow pointing to the west. I followed FM 855 a short
distance until I came to an identical sign pointing south to FM 3405. I turned
my vehicle in that direction, and started looking for the monument. Almost an
hour later, I was still looking for it. There was a maze of little Farm/Market
roads and I covered most of them; more than a few times I was sure that I was
lost. I even stopped and asked people how to find the Killough Monument, but those
few that had even heard of it couldn’t tell me where it was. One gentleman offered
the observation that, “I think it’s around here somewhere, though.”
finally gave up, and pressed on to other destinations. By then it had become a
quest for me, though, so I knew that I’d return with a more detailed map and much
In a few weeks’ time, I’d found someone to give
me precise driving directions, and I followed them on an online map before ever
leaving home. If the monument was where they said it was, I’d been all around
it on my previous visit, and had even driven past the turn-off road.
Armed with that information, I set out for Jacksonville
once again. Sure enough, I drove straight to the monument.
courtesy Janet Gregg, 2005|
have to say that when you first see it, the stone obelisk is quite impressive
– the stone composition has the same look as W.P.A. buildings from the 1930’s.
The graves of those who were found dead are around its base, and the entire area
is surrounded by a fence with a historical marker near the entrance. It is beautifully
kept, and on that particular day, very serene. When I got out of my car I noticed
one thing that truly turned my stomach – someone had spray-painted a pentagram
on the parking lot. If I live to be three hundred years old, I will still never
understand how some people can bring themselves to vandalize property like that…
especially at a sacred place such as a cemetery.|
I just shook my head,
sighed, and continued on. I walked through the gate, and walked around to take
a good look at the place. As I walked around inside the fence, a rush of emotion
hit me – it was as if I was feeling an overwhelming sense of fear. I think that
this was one of the strongest impressions that I had in the course of writing
this book. It was literally all that I could do to keep from running back to my
car and locking the doors.
There was certainly no rational reason for
the feeling. The place seemed to be very safe, and although it was far out in
the country, there were many homes within a short distance. I simply couldn’t
explain the feeling that I was experiencing, and the longer I stayed, the more
intense it became.
The scientific side of me was questioning whether
or not my imagination could simply be getting the best of me, but I dismissed
that notion immediately. It was too strong a sensation, and try as I wanted, I
couldn’t get rid of the sense of dread.
As I snapped a few photos, I
realized that I’d had as much as I could stand. Something was urging me to get
away from there very quickly, so I did. I managed to keep from running, but I
did walk rather quickly. I also couldn’t help but look back over my shoulder again
and again, since I was sure that something was coming for me.
jumped into the car, slammed the door shut, and then hit the electric locks. I
felt better, but not that much. It wasn’t until I was several miles down the road
that I was feeling like myself again.
Whether I had been influenced by
supernatural forces at the massacre site, or I’d just picked up on the residual
feelings from that terrible event, I’ll probably never know. I want to go back
though, if for no other reasons than to pay my respects to the settlers who are
buried there. It was an experience that I want to explore further.
you visit Killough Monument, please remember that is a memorial to a family who
died in a very tragic way. As with any cemetery or sacred ground, be respectful,
and please do not take anything out with you but photographs.
Monument is not the most intuitively obvious place to find, and in fact, I had
to make a couple of trips there before I ran across it myself. Here are the directions
to make it a little easier on you: |
the intersection of Highway 69 & Farm/Market (FM) Road 855 go west on FM 855 until
you reach FM 3405. There is a sign there (or was at one time) that reads “Killough
Monument” and points to the left.
left on FM 3405 and go just about .4 miles to FM 3411.
right on FM 3411 and go .6 miles until you reach a road with a green gate with
a huge boulder on either side. That is actually FM 3431, but there is no sign
left and proceed through the gate – the monument and cemetery are at the end of
Excerpted from "Ghosts of East Texas and the Pineywoods"
with permission, October 8, 2005