Butler County#039;s ghostly highway
Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005
Butler County just might have a haunted highway running through it.
How many times have you driven along Interstate 65 between the Greenville and Georgiana exits only to find that somewhere near mile marker 118, you begin to feel the hairs stand up on the back of your neck for no apparent reason?
There just might be a reason.
“I've heard over and over again that there is a sacred Creek Indian burial ground somewhere in that area, and that the interstate might be built over it,” Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram said. “Whatever the reason, I do know that that particular stretch of highway has seen the highest number of wrecks when compared to the rest of the county.”
It is a known fact that Butler County was established in 1819 by the Alabama Territorial Legislature from lands relinquished by the Creek Indian Nation. The Treaty of Fort Jackson, which was signed in 1814, brought about this turn of events.
From this, we know that there were burial grounds throughout the Butler County area.
However, there were two brutal massacres by the Creek Indians as a revolt against the Fort Jackson Treaty.
On March 13, 1818, a family who had settled on Federal Road, close to where Fort Dale was afterwards erected, settler William Ogle, his wife and five children were visiting with friends Eli Stroud, his wife and their infant.
History records that as soon as the men realized they were being attacked by Creek Indians, Ogle seized his gun and ran to the door. But, he was soon shot dead in the doorway. Stroud and his wife jumped over Ogle's body and ran into the yard, leaving their baby sleeping close to the fireplace hearth. While being protected by a large dog, Mrs. Ogle escaped and hid away from the house. Mrs. Stroud ran toward Mrs. Ogle screaming, but she was soon overtaken and killed. The attackers entered the house and killed the Stroud infant and four of the Ogles' five children. Of the two families, Mrs. Ogle, her daughter Elizabeth, and Eli Stroud survived.
Just seven days later, Captain William Butler, for whom Butler County was named, was massacred along with two other men, by Creek Indians who were led by Savannah Jack. After this second massacre, the settlers sought refuge in forts and stockades.
This prompts us to ask these questions: Could the Creek Indians still be attempting to drive the settlers off their lands even to this day? Or are there graves lying far beneath the pavement, with the souls being constantly disturbed by the disrespectful flow of traffic?
Just why has that straight stretch of interstate from Greenville all the way to Evergreen seen so many unexplainable accidents?
One report shows over 724 accidents over the last several years, mostly focusing in and around mile marker 120.
Butler County Sheriff Diane Harris echoed Ingram's explanations.
“We've seen some bad wrecks along that stretch of the interstate,” Harris said. “I've heard some people say that there's a sacred Indian burial ground around mile marker 120 or so, but I don't know if that's true or not. I do know there is no real explanation for the high number of accidents in that area.”
According to Lucille Reeves, the “haunted highway” provided more business for her than she ever wanted to see. Reeves, who is a retired registered nurse, worked for several years at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital. For the last three years of her employment, she was the night supervisor for the emergency room.
“The story was always told that the highway was built over graves,” Reeves said. “Everybody at the hospital was familiar with that stretch of road because it was obvious to us the number of car accidents was so high.”
Reeves said that it seemed like one-vehicle accidents were the most common accidents; occasionally, there were two vehicles involved.
“I remember an accident that involved two cars, and the people had been brought in to us,” Reeves said. “No one seemed to know what happened. They told us that it was as if they couldn't see the vehicle in front of them. It was so scary and it happened so often that none of us wanted to drive through that area, especially at night. But I have driven in that area, and it's a straight shot. I just don't see any reason for these things to happen, but they did.”
Reeves said that one of the worst accidents she remembered happening around mile marker 120 was in the mid 90s when a van carrying 11 people wrecked, and five of the passengers died.
“That was what was so strange,” she said. “It was just one vehicle, so you have to wonder what happened?”
Lena Harrison, who worked for over 30 years at WGYV radio station, said that she remembered vividly how many calls they received about accidents along that stretch of I-65.
“We would receive calls from the police department and from witnesses telling us about the wreck so we could report it on the radio,” Harrison said. “I started at WGYV in 1950, and it didn't take long for me to realize that we got calls all the time for accidents in that area. What we would do, of course, is comment about it on the air, and talk about how this was the third or fourth accident in, say, three months or so.”
Harrison said that there was “no rhyme or reason” for the accidents. But she did have one explanation.
“That is a long stretch of interstate, and maybe people get sleepy or bored or just complacent, and they just aren't paying attention,” she said. “I only know that we got calls about them day and night.”
Georgiana mayor Lynn Watson has his own explanation.
“There is a cemetery that runs parallel with the interstate that's hidden down a dirt road,” Watson said. “It's close to the Georgiana exit. Now, I don't know if that has anything to do with the number of accidents there, but it's something that makes you wonder.”
So, the next time you travel along Interstate 65 below Greenville, be very careful. Don't take your eyes off the road. And whatever you do, stay awake. Some restless spirits just might make your travels a living nightmare.