Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Galloping Horseman of Pine Baron

Wescott Road, Edisto Island
In a little over a week, I'll be in Charleston, South Carolina! So, I was pretty thrilled when I recently stumbled across a little ghost story from Edisto Island, located about 40 miles south of Charleston.  I found this tale in the book, Tales of Edisto, by Nell S. Graydon.  Originally published in 1955, this book (which I got from our local Goodwill) is a treasure trove of the early history of the area, complete with a fair sprinkling of ghosts and legends!  One such legend is The Galloping Horseman of Pine Baron.

I haven't been able to find out much history about the actual original home of the Pine Baron plantation (often referred to as Pine Barren or Pine Barony).  However, we know that the original house was one of the many homes associated with the Whaley family, who were early settlers to the island.  Colonel Joseph Whaley was cited as living in the home between 1806 and 1862, when he was forced to leave due to Civil War tensions.

After the war, Joseph, along with his son William Whaley, fought to regain legal control of Pine Baron and other property.  Unfortunately, the original home was believed to have burned to the ground in the 1930s by a disgruntled family member.  There are several notable stories associated with the history of the house, but today's tale comes from a newer home of the same name located on the plantation.

In August of 1945, a storm was on its way to Edisto and the author of Tales of Edisto (Nell Graydon) was staying at a cabin on the beach.  When an evacuation of the beach was called, Mrs. Whaley invited several displaced persons to spend the night in the old family mansion.  At the time, Mrs. Graydon's son was with the 11th Airborne Division on Luzon in the Philippines. Communication with him had been sparse in recent weeks and there were rumors of upcoming major action in that area...action that if went poorly, would result in horrible consequences.  Therefore, Mrs. Graydon had been glued to the radio, hoping for news of the war.

About an hour had passed at the home when a tree fell, knocking out power. The increased rains were also threatening to flood the nearby creek and for the first time in history, the water was seeping uncomfortably close to the house.  One of the gentleman who were staying with the party, a Mr. M-, decided to throw on his overcoat and walk down to his car, where he hoped to hear some news about both the war and the weather conditions on the car's radio.

Mr. M- was gone for over an hour before coming back up to the house.  Unfortunately, there was too much static to hear much of anything and he had no war news to report to the worried Mrs. Graydon.  He did manage to hear enough to learn that the storm was hitting nearby Beaufort and that's when he decided he better head back up to the house!  He hadn't been back for long when Mr. M- casually asked the other 11 or so guests at the home what the gentleman with the lantern had wanted.

Mr. M- told the group that while he was at the car, he saw a man on horseback with a lantern quickly gallop toward the house.  However, none of the guests had any idea what he was talking about.  No one had come to the door and no one had seen or heard anything.  Mrs. Whaley, however, knew EXACTLY what was going on, and put her hand on Mrs. Graydon's shoulder.  "Don't worry," she said.  "Your boy is safe and no harm will come to Pine Baron or its occupants from this storm."

She quickly explained...

A former owner of the home, William Whaley, had such a short fuse that he was known as "Powder Bill."  Ever since his years at South Carolina College in the mid 1830s he had been known to partake in plenty of duels.  Shortly after his marriage, his young wife was appalled to learn that William would be taking part in yet another duel, 40 miles away in Charleston.  She begged him to allow her to accompany him, but he wouldn't allow it.  As a compromise, he promised to post couriers with fresh horses every five miles between Charleston and the island.  As soon as the duel was over, the news would reach her quickly.

Luckily, William survived the duel and the good news reached the young Mrs. Whaley in a timely fashion, right as planned.  And ever since then, in times of danger or despair, the occupants of Pine Baron would look for the Galloping Horseman.  The Galloping Horseman only brought GOOD news, and seeing him was a sure sign that all would be well.

*This story has a lot of similarities to another popular South Carolina coastal legend, the Gray Man of Pawley's Island.  The Gray Man, if seen during a hurricane, is a good omen, and whomever sees him will be safe from the storm.*

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