Mother’s Bridge

by on January 29th, 2011
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As of lately, I am asking people that I meet if they know of a legend pertaining to their hometown. My friend Steve was excited to share one with me. We talked via Window Messenger. I have Steve’s permission to post our original transcript. He is also the photographer of the displayed picture. Actually, several photographs attached to my articles are Steve’s work. It is such an honor to know him.

Ute says:

Good Morning Steve!

Steve says:

Good morning, Ute.

Ute says:

Thank you; I appreciate you wanting to share a legend with me.

Ute says:

Where did your story take place?

Steve says:

A small community in Watauga County, NC called Valle Crucis. About ten miles from Boone.

Steve says:

There’s a long bridge there that spans a gorge over the New River. It’s been called The Mother’s Bridge for as long as I can remember.

Steve says:

You can’t get to the river there because the banks are too steep. And the water is pretty deep at that spot.

Ute says:

Ok, I assume the bridge is important?

Steve says:

It’s not called Mother’s Bridge for nothing. The story is that just after the Civil War, when the father came back home from the fighting, he couldn’t stand not being able to work his farm because he’d lost a leg. About a year after returning, his neighbors found his body floating in the river about a mile downstream from the bridge. Everyone assumed he’d killed himself, out of despair probably

Steve says:

By the way, the farm is still there along with the old house but nobody lives in the house. Nobody has lived there since the children had all died. Someone built a new home on the far side of the farm and rents it out to tourists now. The mother, after losing her husband, lost her kids one by one, all five of them whenever each turned thirteen.

Ute says:

That sounds scary, how many kids were there?

Steve says:

Five, three girls and two boys. The story goes that every one of the kids had something wrong with them; they could never learn to read and all of them were turned away from the small schoolhouse because they constantly acted wild in class. School was different back then, no classes for the learning disability kids. Everyone, in every grade were in the same classroom at the same time.

Steve says:

They made it impossible for the teacher to teach the other kids so they just didn’t allow any of them to go to school. They all stayed at home with their mother. Not even their relatives would help by taking them in.

Steve says:

On the day the oldest child, a girl, turned thirteen she went missing and someone fishing downstream found her body floating in the river. Everyone thought she must have fallen in from the bridge and drowned.

Ute says:

That is terrible!

Steve says:

Then the next oldest turned 13 about a year and half later and on his birthday he disappeared from home. It was two days later that someone found his body caught up in some brush along the river. He’d drowned too. The sheriff went to their house to talk to the mother. All she said was that the boy had been acting up at home, then disappeared after she punished him.

Ute says:

So, the boy and the girl both drowned in the river?

Steve says:

Everyone thought he might have been swimming somewhere in the river but his mother said he never could learn to swim. The magistrate wanted to question the mother at the courthouse but there was no way she could leave her other three kids alone at home and they really weren’t welcome in town because of how they acted.

Steve says:

It was two years later that the next oldest girl was found the same way, drowned in the river and found less than a mile from the bridge.

Ute says:

My Lord!

Steve says:

She had switch marks all over her legs and back. So the sheriff by this time knew something wasn’t right with the family. The other kids in the valley began calling the bridge The Mother’s Bridge by this time. Lots of the little ones were afraid to cross it even in the daytime but there was no other way into or out of the village. When they did cross, they stayed in the middle.

Steve says:

Even the older kids no longer fished from the sides of the bridge.

Ute says:

Yes, I don’t blame them.

Steve says:

Well, there’s more. On the day the last sister turned 13 she too ‘ran away from home’ they called it. Just like the others, she was found drowned in the river. But it was more than a week later and in the summer so nobody could tell if she’d fallen in or if she’d been beaten like, her sister was. Her body was swollen so big they even had a hard time telling who she was.

Steve says:

Someone had taken some whitewash and painted a line down the center of the bridge, all the way across. Every parent made their children walk that line when they crossed Mother’s Bridge.

Steve says:

It’s not like anyone, even the adults would walk to the rails and look over. Everyone was afraid of what they might see down there.

Steve says:

Or if someone hiding in the wood braces beneath the roadway would reach up and grab them by their feet and pull them into the river. There were some parents who started telling their kids, when they misbehaved or got into trouble, that they would make them walk Mother’s Bridge at night if they didn’t straighten up.

Steve says:

The sheriff refused to even question the mother again about any of this. People were pretty superstitious back then, right after the war when things were hard in the south. The mother’s only living kids were twin boys. It was two years before they turned 13 and during the few months and weeks before their birthday everyone wondered what would happen to them.

Ute says:

I’m afraid to ask!

Steve says:

The sheriff had three deputies standing watch on the bridge beginning a week before the kids’ birthday. Night and day. The rumor is that on the kids’ birthday not one of the deputies would step foot on the bridge after dark. They said they never heard a sound all night long. Most people believe they weren’t even near the bridge that night.

Steve says:

The twins were found, they say, still holding onto each other the next morning still beneath the bridge. The water is slow and deep there so there wasn’t time for them to drift downriver. There wasn’t a mark on either of them. They just drowned.

Steve says:

Of course since the deputies say they never heard anything, and one of them went to the farmhouse and found the mother asleep in the morning, nobody had the heart to accuse her of anything bad.

Steve says:

She lived on that farm, living on her Confederate husband’s war pension, for another 12 years. Legend has it that on the anniversary night of each one of the kids death she could be seen on the bridge, sometimes throwing something into the water below. People found dolls or kids’ carvings of horses and cows floating in the river.

Ute says:

That is so sad.

Steve says:

Yeah well, it isn’t sad for kids these days. All a parent has to say is ‘want to take a walk to Mother’s Bridge?’ and no kid in their right mind will keep up whatever he’s doing that disagrees with his parents. By the way, the mother died, they say, when the horse pulling her buggy got spooked while crossing the bridge, throwing the buggy over the rails with her in it.

Steve says:

It’s a well-known ghost story legend in NC and people swear they can still see someone in the dark sometimes, leaning over the rails of the new bridge. It’s still called Mother’s Bridge, but officially it’s just the Valle Crucis Bridge. People come from all over NC, Tennessee, Virginia, and even other states to sit all night on the banks watching the bridge, hoping to see someone.

Ute says:

Well, you wouldn’t find me there! What do YOU think happened to the children?

Steve says:

I think, like most other adults here, that the mother had some kind of mental disability, just like her kids. After her husband killed himself we, I, think she just wasn’t able to take care of her kids and thought she was sending them to be with their father.

Steve says:

Who knows though. Maybe they had some kind of family pact to want to join their dad and husband, when the kids turned 13, which is supposed to be the bad luck number. Nobody knows what really happened. I know that everyone who drives over the bridge these days drives right down dead center.

Ute says:

Wow. Do you remember when you first heard the story?

Steve says:

All the kids hear the story from as far back as we can remember. Most, not all, but most of us have been threatened with the taking a walk to Mother’s Bridge at one time or another. I’m sure just saying that has helped parents tone their kids down a notch or two. I’ve never said that to my kids though. But that doesn’t stop them from believing the story.

Steve says:

The county even put up ‘no fishing from bridge’ signs on both sides. It’s the little afraid kid in the adults. Like I said, I’ve sat on the banks myself looking for a ‘ghost’ but I’ve never walked across in the dark. It’s too long and too spooky.

Ute says:

How old are you now?

Steve says:

Old enough to know their isn’t really a ghost out there at night, but not too old to get the story out of my head. I’m 55.

Ute says:

I hear ya!

Ute says:

This is quite a legend. I truly appreciate you taking the time to share it with me!! Thank you so much!!

Steve says:

No problem. Now I think I’ll drive out there and take a look over the edge and see what I see. NOT!


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