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Salem Black River Church

 

My family first made landfall in North America in the 1730s. They soon settled in Sumter County, South Carolina and very quickly established themselves there. Ever since I was a little girl, I have devoured stories of ancestors' exploits and old stately family estates long lost to time.

I believe that we walk between the siren songs of two influences in our lives - one from our soul that has seen many lives before and the other from our blood that speaks with the voices of our ancestors. I have always felt a very strong connection to that side of my family even though death and distance have kept me physically apart from practically all but my mother. Their pictures adorn my walls and the stories of their lives adorn my heart and imagination. In "Coming to Say Goodbye," I wrote of a dream I had of a family plantation and the connection it made with me - well, there is one remaining vestige of that long lost manse, the family church. Today it stands as "Salem Black River Church" - an imposing neoclassical edifice constructed in 1846. If you are curious, here is a link to an excellent article giving you more details on the structure itself and some lovely pictures inside and out, though none truly capture the imposing impression the building gives to one standing in its shadow (https://www.scpictureproject.org/sumter-county/salem-black-river-church.html/comment-page-1/?unapproved=1281326&moderation-hash=76ff6e0ed9e2123fc5dd775e395b3cf0#comment-1281326).

I first visited with my husband in May of 2016. I was thirty years old and here was my first time finally setting foot on the earth where my family as I know it began. I asked him to wait in the car for ten minutes to give me a few moments alone to see the place for myself. As I exited the car, I can't really explain the feelings that swept over me but to say that they were not entirely my own. We had parked in the small circular drive just before the church and were the only ones there - likely the only people around for several miles. Slowly, I approached the massive white columns of the porch taking it all in as I went. The feeling of being so small but welcome and safe. I knew I didn't have long on my own, so I continued around back to the iron gates of the cemetery - within lay generation after generation of my family. The moment I stepped inside, it felt exactly as though I was walking into a room full of people who suddenly stop talking and look in your direction. For a moment, my vision blurred, then cleared but the feeling did not fade. So I started talking to them. I told them everything I could think of about my life and the people and things that matter to me. I could feel them listening. At last, I found the graves of my great great grandparents. Words left me and all I could do was lay hands on their stones and cry. Not exactly tears of sadness but more of homecoming or reunion. All too soon, my ten minutes were up (I couldn't ask him to sit about for too long) - he joined me in the cemetery and we poured out toasts to each of my ancestors. After exploring the site for as long as our schedule would allow, I finally and reluctantly went on my way.

This past May (2019), I was able to make a second visit. It was a Sunday so I had hoped to catch a service as I would dearly love to get to know the congregation - likely I have relatives amongst them - but we were not so lucky. Still, it was wonderful to be back again - to feel so close to the spirits of my family. This time, however, when I approached the cemetery, I noticed to my dismay, a large padlocked chain binding the gates. I was crestfallen to have come all this way (it's a long drive from Virginia) only to be turned away. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving without visiting them. So, in a moment of desperation, I circled the old wrought iron fence knowing it was old and bound to have a chink somewhere. Sure enough, I found a place where a small depression in the ground had compromised its footing creating a gap just wide enough for me to squeeze through. Mind you, I DO NOT advocate trespassing in any situation - especially not on sacred ground - but this was an exception in my book and I certainly meant no disrespect. However, the moment I set foot inside the burial ground on the other side of that fence, I was beset by swarms of biting flies. Their numbers were staggering. I had been wearing a wide brimmed hat at the time and had to rip it off as they had gotten up under it and were biting my scalp through my hair. They were in my face, on my arms and legs - everywhere! And they were positively relentless. I was barely able to see to make my way to my great great grandparents stones, press my fingers to my lips to leave a kiss on their markers and a small stone before rushing back out the way I had come without stopping to pay any homage to any other of my relatives. The moment I was on the other side of the fence, the flies were gone.

It seemed very clear that the swarms were protecting the cemetery though I couldn't fathom why they wished to protect against me. Nor could I understand why their protection was necessary now when it hadn't been before. On my return home, I did a little web searching hoping to find contact information as my husband and I hope to return in the fall to spend some time cleaning gravestones. In my search, I found an article that made my blood boil - it seems that in 2017, a pack of miscreants from the nearby base decided it would be a hoot and a holler to vandalize the church; spray painting satanic symbols all over its graceful white columns and kicking in the ancient doors. (Link to the story: http://www.newsandpress.net/salem-black-river-presbyterian-vandalism/ and with images https://tinyurl.com/y2kulxoo) Fortunately, they were caught and summarily charged. But, suddenly the means both mortal and otherwise to protect the vicinity made sense.

I found blog entries asserting the site to be haunted by a 'belle' and a 'sad boy.' I certainly saw nothing of the sort on my visits. Though I do feel a certain sense of protectiveness about them - the idea of folks traipsing through there 'hunting' them is uncommonly dismaying to me - for, if they are there, they are my people - their sorrows are their own and not the stuff of spectacle. It has given me a different perspective on ghost hunting in general and, though I have yet to participate in one myself, I likely won't in future.

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Comments about this paranormal experience

The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by yourghoststories.com. Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, AugustaM, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Cherubim (10 stories) (157 posts)
+1
2 months ago (2019-10-09)
Such a fascinating story. The old south does have such history! I'm form North Carolina and love to visit the graveyards out there. I believe something was protecting the graveyard too. Thank you for the links to your story and sharing it. ❤ How lucky that you had a chance to go back there.
Jubeele (18 stories) (784 posts)
+3
3 months ago (2019-09-02)
Hi Gus

Your account was poignant and moving. It is a beautiful experience to feel that connection with your heritage. That sense of continuity is precious; it helps to define the depth and essence of who we are. ❤

I've checked out the link. Such a stately place with its own quiet charm. It is good there are protections in place to save it from further vandalism. But it's a pity you were prevented from staying long on your recent visit. I wonder if you were to return and ask permission first, would it go easier for you?

A friend has a theory that the spirits of the departed who have not crossed beyond the Veil, do not necessarily stay within the cemetery, preferring to visit loved ones or other places of importance to them. He thinks they only return when people visit their gravesites.

That feeling when you suddenly realise you were not alone? I've had goosebumps over that before. Last year, I was taking photos of a place that used to be a war veterans' club and had the oddest feeling that people were staring at me. Maybe they were curious about my camera phone...? 😲
aussiedaz (18 stories) (1329 posts)
+2
4 months ago (2019-08-26)
AugustaM

That's an interesting concept from the Romans mate, I'll share my own crackpot theory based on experience and research. Mind don't belong to body, body belongs to mind Quantum mechanics lends a clue to the relationship between the observer and what creates reality. Short version: we exist in a wave field of energy known as the Higgs field and according to Bruce Lipton (Biologist) we have 56 trillions cells each with their own antenna's most likely picking up a signal from somewhere?

That somewhere in my view is the 4th or 5th dimension of whence we truly reside, this material reality known as 3D land is only a sub set to a greater reality one of which pertains it's own science of physics, basically we are in the hard school of knocks called the Earth Matrix and when Einstein made that famous quote "spooky action at a distance"he was basically acknowledging the spiritual element tucked into the layers of our universe. Anyway, back to the crackpot theory of mine, our spiritual higher self implants enough energy into the consciousness of it's chosen vessel during the pregnancy process usually during the first three months however never to a point of full spiritual incarnation?... By cosmic design, we need to function and develop the human mind/consciousness/ego with the higherself taking the back seat so the residing host can full-fill it's mission on the greater walk of enlightenment or something like that. Lol

Those people who are full on psychic are probably walking the thin line between co existing in two dimensions because of the meshing of minds and levels of energies they invested right at the beginning of the incarnation exercise. Most others just invest lower amounts of energy to keep our reality grounded, most of these folk are your hardcore materialist who don't experience nothing paranormal in life and usually laugh at the notion of anything outside of their normal day to day routine and then you have the other group, those folk who incarnate with enough spiritual energy to achieve outcomes like Astral projection, basic paranormal communication and picking up spiritual vibes of past. What we picked up on in my view, were the vibes of spiritual emotions transcending across the fabric of space and time from lives lived in the past.

That's my explanation for what it is worth.

Regards Daz
AugustaM (5 stories) (902 posts)
+2
4 months ago (2019-08-25)
Hi Aussie,

No, August holds no specific significance for my family *that I know of* - and these events occurred in May. I know what you mean by "cosmic amnesia" and I completely agree. The Romans believed that once your soul had been judged, you were given to drink from one of two rivers. For those passing on to Elysium (and all eventually would in their way of viewing things), it was from the River of Lethe, which made you forget all that had come before. But I feel as though, for some of us, when we were given the cup, perhaps a few drops from the other river were left therein causing us to remember a bit more than perhaps we should. Sometimes I do feel very strongly as though I am experiencing emotions left over from another life - it's very confusing and often leaves me feeling rather helpless as I have no means to resolve them.
aussiedaz (18 stories) (1329 posts)
+4
4 months ago (2019-08-24)
Hi AugustaM

Wow, what a well written story one of which I can relate to from my own personal experience. Question first up, does August hold a very significant time of the year relating to birth,deaths, marriages in your family tree? It does for me. My great,great,great grandmother was on one of the first few free settler ships that came here to Australia from England in 1803. Her name was Sarah and she was married to a convict in 1822 at a church in Windsor Sydney that still stands today. A couple of years ago I found the graveyard where Sarah was buried in 1878 alongside 5 other family members... I too was overcome by a deep spiritual feeling I could not explain however it felt like I was there before?...BTW, I was fortunate enough to capture her ghostly imagine inside her headstone of which was pretty neat and cool, I really enjoyed the way you started your story up with your own philosophy: "" I believe that we walk between the siren songs of two influences in our lives - one from our soul that has seen many lives before and the other from our blood that speaks with the voices of our ancestors"' yes that is ever so true. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience bind by a duality sprinkled with cosmic amnesia, it has to be that way otherwise we would all go around the twist trying to deal with the emotions of a current life on top of other lives with full recall struth, one wouldn't know if they were Martha or Arthur however, not to say deep from a place with in, those sentimental nostalgic feelings from the past can't find there way to the surface in one way or another? Anyway, it felt like that for mine.

Thank you for sharing such an meaningful well written account.

Aussie!
AugustaM (5 stories) (902 posts)
+3
4 months ago (2019-08-21)
Mrs Ramsay, what a fascinating story about your family! That would make an amazing book one day if you are ever so inclined! I'd buy a copy! Genealogy is so enthralling when you get to digging and there are so many tools to make use of these days. My grandmother was very into it before her passing but in her time, a telephone and microfilm were the most high tech tools available. It is still amazing to see how far she got - one day I would love to pick up where she left off. I think it's important to know where you've come from.

Hi Mel! A very interesting theory. I am still puzzled as to who those alleged ghosts may be if they have truly ever been really sited. With the comparatively high rate of childhood mortality in the past, a sad child and disquieted young woman wouldn't be unreasonable expectations in any burial ground of this age. I still don't get any impression of their presence or identity. I feel quite strongly that it was the spirit of the family that had lived in that house as one collective entity that contacted me in that dream. Not so much one distinct entity but the sum total of their presence in that place reaching out for help in the face of destruction - help I was regrettably too young to provide. I felt small before it's presence much as I feel small looking up at the columns of the family church - it's the aura of the immensity of all that has gone before as it is summed up by this building that is so immensely solid and unchanged by it all.
Mel-D72 (3 stories) (6 posts)
+2
4 months ago (2019-08-20)
AugustaM,
I read this story a couple of weeks ago when you posted it. It is wonderfully written. I must admit I haven't had time yet to look at the link you provided, but I would love to.
I also wanted to comment to you sooner but could not get signed in if my life depended on it so I gave up until now.
Now onto my comment:
After reading this post, I read the post you referenced about the dream. I am wondering if there is a connection between "the sad boy" and your role in the dream. You stated you heard the dogs "baying" (probably more of a lot of excited barking at the hunters coming home). To a young boy, the words could have gotten confused in his thoughts. Is it possible that the "sad boy" knew something was going to happen at the church, knew you were family and interested in the family history; so came to you in the dream to reveal that maybe he died of injuries from being trampled by the horses by accident and he just wanted to let someone know? Maybe he wanted to not be forgotten? Maybe he was already lonely and felt you could get his story told? You said in the dream you felt small (at least I think I remember reading that). Just a thought.
Take care
Mel
MrsRamsay (5 stories) (59 posts)
+2
4 months ago (2019-08-15)
Just wanted to say, wonderful story! I know the feeling you talk about when you first went into your family's church. I've felt it in my dreams when I dream about my ancestors (which is rare, but especially prevalent at the outset of my doing research on the family tree). As an ancestry buff (actually, I'm more obsessed than anything) I find these "coincidences" throughout my tree that I no longer believe are coincidences. There is a pattern to it all... Families tracking with or near to each other over centuries, only to come together with certain marriages. My husband and I are 7th cousins, we grew up a continent apart and found each other in our second marriages. But 9 generations ago, his grandfather owned my grandfather, a slave, who was also his grandfather's companion and helped him raise his children after his wife's death. THEIR grandkids married, thus linking the families. And hundreds of years later, when our moms got together, they were almost like sisters. There is definitely a pattern to our ancestors and we are influenced by them, I'm certain of it!

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