One of my favorite things about writing a newspaper column is hearing from readers who have additional information to share. With my two most recent columns, I hit the jackpot.
After The Herald published a column about a shooting that occurred in 1888 in the area we now know as Dills Cove, I received a letter from Patsy Parris McClure, of Waynesville. Her family lived on that property in 1937-38, and Patsy has always heard the place was haunted.
The March 15 column that prompted Patsy’s letter told the story of a land dispute that resulted in Allen Dills, father of Sylva Fire Department founder Jonah Dills, shooting Logan Bumgarner and one of his sons. The elder Bumgarner survived, but his son, William H. Bumgarner, was killed. After hiding out for a month or so, Allen Dills turned himself in and was later acquitted at trial. Here’s an excerpt from Patsy’s letter:
“In 1937-38, my daddy, DeWitt Parris, worked for Mr. Jonah Dills as caretaker on his farm located in Dills Cove. We moved into a small farm house that Mr. Dills provided for us. We hadn’t lived there long until strange things started happening that couldn’t be explained. Daddy said that late in the evening it would sound like a T-model Ford would crank up behind the kitchen stove, and the noise would get so loud that the windows would rattle. Also, things began to disappear and then reappear.
“One evening a creature we would call ‘Bigfoot’ today paid a visit and scared my mother half to death. That’s when Daddy decided it was time to move. He mentioned all this to Mr. Dills, and he (Dills) said the place was haunted. Mr. Dills went on to say that his father and another man had been involved in a land dispute and they had engaged in a duel on the property, and the other man was killed by Mr. Dills’ father in the front yard of the old house and his mother was almost killed when she tried to intervene. Whether the duel was truth or legend, I have no idea, but my daddy related the story to us over the years.”
The shooting may not have been a duel, but it definitely happened. Newspaper reports from 1888 indicate the incident was the result of a “misunderstanding about a small tract of land” and was the “termination of an old feud.” Those articles say William Bumgarner was killed and that Logan Bumgarner was badly wounded and expected to die; the newspaper reports make no mention of Allen Dills’ wife being involved.
A column two weeks later resulted in a call from Ed Jones, who grew up in Sylva and now lives in Norton. Ed called right after he read March 29’s column on the late Hampton Barnes and the store he operated during the 1950s on N.C. 107 between Tuckasegee and Glenville. In addition to selling groceries, gas and bait, Barnes maintained a mini zoo featuring animals ranging from common to exotic, and typically kept cages of snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads, near the entrance.
“Your story brought back a lot of memories,” Jones said. “We used to stop at that store on our way from Sylva to the cabin my folks had in Norton.”
Ed told me something else that proves Barnes had a sense of humor. One box near the front of the store contained a baby’s toy rattle and a shiny new penny. The sign on the box read “Baby rattler and copperhead.”
Lynn Hotaling was editor of The Sylva Herald for 18 years, retiring in January 2016. She is the author of two books on local history.