Although thought to be much more prominent in the western portion of the United States, there are several ‘ghost towns’ scattered throughout the state of Alabama. Old Cahawba in Dallas County (southwest of Selma) is among them, and arguably the most famous and visited. Serving as the first capital of the state of Alabama, it’s tenure lasted only 7 short years, as the site had a distinction of being prone to floods. Also noteworthy, Dallas County was once one of the wealthiest in the United States, but this reputation was rocky at best and short lived. The initial boom subsided early after the capital was vacated but prior to the Civil War, Old Cahawba saw the population grow again. A nasty combination of those pesky floods and reconstruction proved to be too much to bear, and the beginning of a ghost town began. Nowadays, the Alabama Historic Commission and the Cahawba Advisory Committee are working hard to maintain the park so the site will remain visitor friendly and history can be preserved.
Of course, like many of my posts, this one has a ghost story attached to it as well. Col. C. C. Pegues of the Confederate Army had a lovely home in Cahawba, complete with a garden maze. Unfortunately, the Colonel was killed in the War Between the States, and it is told that his ghost was encountered by a young soldier who was escorting his lady home on the road adjacent to the Pegues property. The story has subtle changes depending on the source, but the general consensus is the solider encountered a spirit that if often referred to as a will o’ the wisp; a floating light like the illumination of a lantern floating in midair with no one holding it. It is sometimes said that perhaps it was a warning to the soldier of his own upcoming demise, and other times stated it was just a polite gesture of Colonel Pegues from the ‘other side’, providing a guiding light down the path near his home. Kathryn Tucker Windham told the story as “The Spectre in the Maze” in her 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey book.
Here are some pictures I took of Old Cahawba during a visit in 2012:
For more information, check out www.cahawba.com.