My folks live in the mountains of Tennessee. I was raised there, and even though I have lost my Southern accent I still have part of me there. My folks’ home is old; it consists of a house, barn, some outbuildings, and a lot of woods and property. As kids we used to play a lot in the woods. On the southern part of the property there is an old homestead. The house has since been destroyed by age and weather, but the old rock foundation is still there, along with the old well. About 200 yards to the east of the foundation is a cave we used to explore. We have found all kinds of stuff in this cave, from arrowheads to old furniture that had been left in there. It was believed that the people who lived in the old homestead had first lived in the cave until they had their house built. All around the old farm are some of the oldest oak trees in the state.
One afternoon, after we had just gotten finished messing around in the cave, we were sitting under one of these old oak trees, resting and just talking. My sister, Dora Lee, asked me if I heard a sound. I said I didn’t, but we sat very quietly listening for whatever it was she had heard.
I could hear the breeze blowing through the trees. Then I heard what sounded like crying. It was very faint; I had to really strain to hear it. I looked at Dora Lee and neither one of us knew what we were hearing. We started to walk around to see if we could figure out which direction it was coming from, but weren’t able to find it. Then it just seemed to fade away.
Well, we went home and our mother had supper ready, so we cleaned up and sat down to eat. During dinner we started talking about the old homestead. My dad said that we young one should not be in that part of the property. He had said that before, but we always ended up there anyway. Dora Lee then told him about the crying sound we had heard. My Mom acted like she was somewhat upset by the talk, so I attempted to change the subject. But my sister was determined to tell them about it.
That evening my dad told me we should not be going to the old homestead, that it was not a good place to be. I asked him why. He never gave me a good answer, just that it was too far from the house and there was a cave in the area. The next morning I was outside, and my sister came over and said Let’s go back to the cave. I reminded her about how Dad didn’t like us being there, but she replied that he was at work and would never know. So I relented and we headed out down the path that led to the homestead. As we approached the cave on the way I could smell hickory wood burning as if someone was cooking. Dora Lee smelled it too. We went past the cave and on to the homestead. It was a calm day, no wind and not too hot. We just walked around, looking at different things on the ground, looking for anything interesting.
Then we heard the crying again. Dora Lee said It sounds like it’s coming from over here. I walked over to where she was, and the rock of the old well was still there. I looked down into the old well and I could hear the crying coming up from down there. I nearly jumped out of my skin! Dora Lee thought that perhaps someone had fallen in there, so we ran back to the house to get our mother and tell her about this. She was outside hanging up laundry when we got there. We told her about the crying and where it was coming from; she got a startled look on her face and said, Show me. We took her back to the homestead. As we got closer we could hear the crying again. Our mother could hear it too. She looked down into the well and said Good heavens, someone is down in there! She yelled down to let whoever it was that we would go get help.
We all ran back to the house and our mom called the fire department. It took about 30 minutes for them to get to us. As the truck pulled up, Mom was telling them about the old well. The problem was that there were no roads going back to the homestead. So, they had to bring ladders and ropes and everything they needed by hand. As we made our way up the path, the smell of hickory was very strong. The one fireman that was walking with Mom asked if there was a fire back there, or if anyone lived nearby. She told him that no, we owned all of the property out that way.
As we got closer to the homestead, everyone started walking faster until we reached the well. And sure enough, we could all hear a very faint cry coming up out of there. The fireman then asked my mom how old the well was. She told him that the documents on the property put that section to around the early 1800’s, so it would be well over 100 years old. They put a scaffold up to hang a rope on, then lowered a fireman into the well with lights and medical equipment. The well was dry, and had been for many years. They called the fireman on the radio. There was no answer at first so they tried again. This time he answered and was really upset. He told them to get him out of there NOW. He was yelling over the radio.
They pulled him out of the well. You could tell he was very upset once he cleared the edge and they got him unhooked. He came over to where my mom was standing with the fire captain, and told them there was nothing down there except the remains of a young girl. All that was left was a skull, a few bones, and part of a dress. The fire captain then called for the state patrol, who arrived about 40 minutes later. The captain told them what had been found. After everyone arrived they removed the remains from the bottom of the well. They were able to date the remains to the mid-1800’s.
It seems that someone must have killed the young girl and thrown her body into the well. It was not clear if this was done by whoever had lived on the property before, but in any case we never heard the crying from the well again. In fact, once everything was done, my dad had the well filled in. My mom asked the county office if she could have the remains of the little girl, and buried them next to the old homestead with a nice stone marker. We named her Sarah, and we never did find out any more information about her.