In 1946, two years before I was born, a horrible “incident” happened in Walton County, Georgia, where I am now living. My friend, Bill, told me about it, asking me if I had ever heard the story, peaking my interest and curiosity. I began doing a little research on my own about what happened so close by, so many years ago.
I am not going to go into detail about it, but in a nutshell, two African-American married couples were ambushed one day on their way home with their employer, a white farmer, at Moore’s Ford Bridge on the Appalachee River by a mob of white men. They were tied to trees, and brutally shot multiple times. One of the women was seven months pregnant. One account that I read said that the baby was cut from her body, but I am not sure of the accuracy of this part of the story. The murders were never solved, nobody was ever arrested or convicted, and over the years the story has resurfaced from time to time in an effort to solve the crimes. It is still a mystery, and a tragic one, at that.
This story has taken residence in my brain, and I can’t let it go. The horror of that day, and what those poor people experienced is more than I can comprehend, although I am very much aware that at that time in the south, racism was king, and segregation and bigotry were the rule of the day. In my research, I found the location of the murders, or lynching, as it was called.
This morning, my little dog, Sunshine, and I went for a Sunday morning drive to Moore’s Ford Bridge to see the spot where this incident happened so many years ago. It was a beautifully quiet Palm Sunday morning as we turned off of US78 and drove down country roads past several small churches with parking lots full of cars and trucks. We passed farm land and several beautiful modern homes on the way to the bridge. I saw a few American flags waving in the breeze in front of homes, and I looked – half expecting to see – a Confederate flag on display in front of at least one of them. (There are still many places in this part of Georgia where this flag still flies). I was relieved that I didn’t see a one. As we approached the bridge, I parked the car on the shoulder a short distance away, deciding to walk to get a closer view. I heard the sounds of birds singing, the rhythm of a riffle in the river as the water cascaded over a small drop in its bed, and the morning breeze singing a mournful song through the pine trees. Sunshine, who is usually very curious at a new location, tugging at her leash to get a better smell of things, was eerily calm. She walked next to me in a close heel, tucking her tail, and didn’t want to leave my side. It was if she sensed that this was not an ordinary stretch of road.
I could feel the sadness in the morning breeze, and I could sense the tragedy that had happened there 68 years ago. The sounds of gunshots, the fearful cries of the victims, and the angry voices of the white assailants echoed across the river, as I imagined what that day must have been like. I could sense the pleas of the two couples, long dead, reaching across time, begging for justice as I stood on the bridge imagining how horrible that day must have been.
Then, I heard the song of a bird in the trees calling, “cheer-up, cheer-up.” Time had erased all physical evidence of what happened at Moore’s Ford Bridge back in 1946. The river played an accompaniment to the bird’s song, and the breeze brushed my face with the scents of springtime. Tears welled up in my eyes as the energy, both evil and pure, of that long-ago day, still lingering, reached into my heart, and touched me in a way I cannot describe with words.
This happened such a long time ago. The people responsible for this crime may all be dead by now. I wonder if they ever felt any remorse for what they did. The two couples who were murdered were denied their lifetimes of joys and sorrows that life brings to us all. This “incident” changed many lives…