Friday, 10 September 2021 09:52

COLUMN: Ghostly music at Grassy Island Part II

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Grassy Island, near Ellerbe. Grassy Island, near Ellerbe. J.A. Bolton


As we continue this week with some folklore of the Pee Dee River area, we find that, in earlier times, a lot of folks used the ford to cross the river just above Grassy Island.

As the white settlers were moving in, the local American native tribes had died out or moved westward. But you know, it’s strange how many local legends still seem to hang on in certain sections.

So it was with the ghostly music around Grassy Island. Why, it seemed every time a thick fog moved in on the river, folks could hear the sweetest flute music coming from both sides of the riverbank. At first, the new settlers thought it was just the wind blowing through the trees. But some old timers said not, that it was part of an old native legend they had heard many years back — but they couldn’t remember exactly how it happened.

A few years went by and, to their surprise, some of the settlers who lived on the eastern bank of the river observed a small band of natives crossing the ford on foot. Leading the party was a native shaman   dressed in full native attire.

Naturally suspicious, the settlers wanted to know why the natives had crossed the river and what they were up to. What the native shaman told them was enough to raise the hair on a dog’s back!

Using broken English, the shaman said that they had come to appease the wandering spirits of two of their own people.

To the settlers this was just native nonsense, but they left the natives alone while they held their ritual.

As the natives seemed to be wrapping up their ritual, a flute was played. Most of the settlers said the music that came from the flute was so beautiful that it seemed as though the angels in Heaven were listening.

As the natives were about to cross back across the river, a young white man asked the shaman exactly what had just taken place.

The shaman replied, “Young buck, many years ago a young Indian brave, son of a great chief who lived on the other bank, and a young Indian maiden that lived on this side of this great river were deeply in love. For some reason their fathers didn’t get along and so the young lovers had to meet in secret. When they couldn’t cross the great river to see each other they would each play a flute across the river for the other to hear.” 

As many moons went by, said the shaman, the two parties of Indians were at war with each other over the fishing and hunting rights to the land and river. Many young braves were killed but it still didn’t take away the love the young couple had for each other. With only the sounds of their flutes from opposite sides of the great river did these two communicate.

It was on a real foggy morning and the river was running high, that as the young brave heard the sound of his lover’s flute across the river, he could not resist his love for his maiden anymore.

Braving the rushing waters, the young Indian brave made his way toward the middle of the river, all the while heading toward the arms of his lover. But it was not to be, said the shaman, for as he reached the depths of the river, he lost sight of the stepping stones and the strong current swept him off his feet, down the river, never to be seen again. 

Word soon spread that the young brave had drowned and his body had vanished beneath the great waters.

The death of the chief’s son seemed to bring an end to the war, but the young maiden never got over the death of her lover. For days, she would make her way to the bank of the river to play her flute hoping the spirit of her lover would return.

It was on a foggy morning, after the maiden had played her flute for what seemed the last time, that she heard the most beautiful flute music coming from the opposite side of the river. These were the same notes that her young lover had played to her in times gone by.

Without hesitation the maiden jumped into the rushing waters of the river and headed toward the music on the opposite shore.

Sadly, the maiden also vanished beneath the great waters, only to reunite with her lover in another world.

As the shaman finished telling the old story to the young man, a great fog seemed to appear over the waters of the river and the heavens seemed to be alive with sounds of flutes.

The band of natives had come to appease the spirits of the young lovers of their tribe, but it seems no man on earth could take away the affection the two lovers had for each other.

It was said that even today, as you paddle around Grassy Island on a foggy morning, you can also hear the mournful music of flutes coming from both sides of the mighty river.

J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and recently released his new book “Southern Fried: Down- Home Stories” all of which can be bought locally or on Amazon. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.