When I was a kid, I looked forward to spending a week or two out of the summer with my aunt and uncle. My family lived in what I considered the “Boonies” of Cherokee County; but my aunt and uncle had moved from Cherokee to the big city of Cartersville. They lived on Douglas Street. My visit to Cartersville had all the makings of a great summer. Everything I needed was within the traveling distance my bare feet could take me. Their house was a stone’s throw from Main Street; three blocks from the outdoor Olympic sized pool at Cartersville High School and just a skip and a jump from the Iced-Slurpees of a convenience store on Tennessee Street. An old, wood-framed store, was located a street or two behind their house.
One afternoon, early into my visit, my aunt sent me to the old store to pick up something she needed, probably a Coke. Once the screened-doors of the place squeaked to a close and my eyes adjusted to the dimness inside the ancient structure and my nostrils grew accustomed to the musty odor of old things, I found it was a place I liked. The older man who owned the store kept.a good selection of penny candy on hand and Mae had told me I could buy some.
I enjoyed the independence and responsibility my aunt entrusted to me. I relished the idea of doing such a grown-up thing as walking to the store alone. But, it was the getting there that gave me trouble.
To get to the store, I had to
walk run past an ivy covered, two-story house on the corner of Douglas and Carter Streets. At the corner, I had to pass in front of the house, then turn left and journey toward the rear of the property. Something about the place sent cold quakes through me. No matter how many times I went to the store, I could never shake the chilling feeling I got when I was near the house. I found myself avoiding the sidewalk in front of the house by crossing to the other side of Douglas Street, turning left on the far side of Carter Street and then zig-zagging back when I was a safe distance from the “spooky’ house. Holding my breath the whole time. Even now, more than four decades later, I can drive past the place and remember the coldness I felt there, on hot summer days.
This past Valentine’s Day, someone on Facebook posted this question: “Anyone know where the house is in Cartersville that is on the Travel Channel tonight?”
I scrolled down and saw that someone had posted an article with a photo of the house. My spooky house.
Turns out, in the 1930’s, the area of the sidewalk in front of the house had been the scene of a murder. Which led to a kidnapping and a hanging. The murdered man was the Chief of Police of Cartersville….he had been seeing to the arrest of young black man. aged twenty-two years. While the young man was incarcerated, the Chief would send for the beautiful, nineteen-year old wife of the prisoner. And so it went.
One night, the young man escaped and he and his brother drove to the home of the Chief, presumably to bring his wife home. The Chief came outside, not willing to peacefully let the girl go, an argument ensued, and somehow the Chief’s gun wound up in the hands of the escaped prisoner.
The gun was fired, the Chief died on Douglas Street.
The young man was arrested and jailed. A couple of nights later, he was kidnapped from jail and lynched in downtown Cartersville.
The young bride, fearing the friends and family of the Chief would kill her as well, (because they couldn’t let anyone know what he had been doing with the nineteen year old, black wife of his prisoner), fled town and was never heard from again.
(This is the condensed version of the story, if you prefer to read more of the article ….written by local attorney Tony Smith who quotes local historian Ed Bostick author of “Lynchings in Bartow County” for the Etowah Valley Historical Society. He quotes and names many other local residents. You can read the full account of the Cartersville Police Chief Joe Ben Jenkins murder by scrolling down to “1930” at this link: http://www.tony5m17h.net/CartersvilleLynchings.html ) Thank you Phil Bridges for the link.
No matter how you feel about ghosts, haints, haunts, ghouls and lingering spirits….I know I felt something cold and creepy on that street, three of four decades after the tragic events which unfolded there.
Thank you for reading, Danita