Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Historic Ghost Story from Gilmer County

Today, the county seat of Gilmer County is Glenville, formally known as Glendale.  However, at one point, the county court met regularly at another Gilmer County location...the town of DeKalb, where the wealthy and prominent William Stalnaker Family had settled.

However, the county seat was moved to Glendale in 1846, and by the time Glenville was officially incorporated 10 years later, the town of DeKalb was nearly a ghost town.  It had been on the decline for some years previously, despite the initial rejections of citizens to move their county seat to the new town of Glenville.

To some, the decline of DeKalb was simply a product of progression...but according to this site, others blamed the decline on a ghost.

In the 1840s, Gilmer County was home to a roving band of mountain pioneers known as the Hell-Fired Band.  The Hell-Fired Band's main mission was to halt the stop of technology and progress in the Gilmer County area.  They preferred to live like true pioneers, and objected the building of roads and rail lines in their area. In 1843, several members of the Hell-Fired Band were tried and convicted of killing a man by the name of Jonathan Nichols/Nicholas.  The band was sentenced to an 18 year prison term in Richmond, Va.  Various members of the gang served varying amounts of their sentence, some dying before their punishment was complete.

One such man who died before he had served his time was Daniel McCune, a descendant of the county's first permanent English settler, Peter McCune.  Daniel served eight years of his sentence before dying in prison.  It is the spirit of Daniel McCune who is said to walk the town of DeKalb, forever trying to fulfill the mission of the Hell-Fired Band.

Here's a Story on the Incident:

(01/26/2009 HUR Herald)
By Bob Weaver

The Hellfire Band was an organized vigilante group that roved the West Fork River Valley, a group of men described as renegades and thieves claimed they provided law enforcement and justice to the region.

Hellfire Band member, Daniel F. McCune, son of early Calhoun settler Peter McCune, was one of the principals in the outlaw group. He was born in 1800 and died about 1850 in a Richmond VA penitentiary, where he was sent for the 1843 murder of Calhouner Jonathan Nicholas.

Col. D. S. Dewees in "Recollections of a Lifetime," recalls McCune and three other members of the renegade Hellfire Band, Jackson Cottrell, Joseph Parsons, Alexander Turner were tried and convicted for the murder of Nicholas. They were sentenced to 18 years in prison in Richmond, Va.

Mostly the band preyed upon law abiding citizens, resulting in one of the earliest calls for some kind of law enforcement in a region that was to become Calhoun County.

Jonathan Nicholas was the overseer in charge of building a road along the West Fork in what was to become Washington and Lee Districts. Nicholas was a first cousin to Daniel McCune's wife, Rebbecca.
The Hellfire Band, while roving the West Fork River Valley, claimed they wanted to preserve the wildlife of the region for a sportsman's paradise, opposed to all newcomers or improvements.

Nicholas, with his road building efforts, was an assault upon their "preservationist" beliefs.

Jackson Cottrell was pardoned after five years, Alexander Turner died on the road to the penitentiary near White Sulfur Springs, Greenbrier County, and Joseph Parsons died soon after going to prison.
Daniel McCune died in prison two or three years after Cottrell was pardoned, about 1850.


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