Editor’s note: I’m filling in for our resident historian, as Museum of the Waxhaws Director Scott Farb has a lot on his plate this month. Scott will be back for another edition, to dig up some more local history in May.
One poorly aimed gunshot brought about the latest chapter in this column. The Monroe branch of the Union County library has a ‘ghost’ file, detailing all the weird happenings throughout the county. Going back to 1927, an area of the file touches on the ‘ghost horse’ supposedly seen in the area around the current Monroe Airport.
It appears there was a certain white stallion of medium size with a heavy mane, that liked to roam the area in the 1820s. The horse was sighted in a territory stretching from modern day Monroe to Indian Trail and from Wesley Chapel to Unionville. This was before there actually was a Union County, as the county was formed in 1842.
Looking at old newspaper articles, it was said the horse could be found about one and a half miles “west of Bakers”, about the Rocky River and Old Charlotte Highway area, near “Vern and Carl Helms’ home” most every morning on a hill in a “thick clump of lofty pines”.
According to a 1927 article entitled “Last Wild Horse in Union County Killed by Bad Shot”, the men of Monroe decided to capture the horse, so they built traps and lanes to drive him in. When that failed, 20 men set themselves up in different places, with a bell on each of their own horses to run and tire him out.
Each would take up the chase as the wild stallion ran by. They did this until late in the evening, when the group decided their best shooter should “crease the horse’s neck” which meant to nick the horse’s neck near the mane. The idea was that the horse would fall down and remain unconscious long enough to be roped up.
Andrew ‘Andy’ Secrest, who died around 1858, won the toss of the coin for this task. Instead of creasing the neck however, he shot too low and killed the animal.
The file states testimony from the Helms and Secrest families, along with others, who swore for years afterward, they saw the horse standing in the cluster of pines near the current airport.
Current residents of the area said either they or their relatives have seen the animal, with differing accounts as to what it looks like.
Thomas Drayton said his father used to tell him stories, about the white horse that used to run with kids in the fields in the 1940s. Margaret Holden told Union County Weekly she herself has seen the horse before, running in the countryside.
“At night, when I’m driving back home along Old Charlotte Highway, I’ll see this horse on the side of the road, almost like he’s racing the traffic,” the 68-year-old Monroe resident said. “But then after a while he just disappears.”
For more information about the Secrest Family or to see the ghost file, visit the Union County Public Library in Monroe.