The Apparent Ghost of Warren Bridge

Warren Bridge Road today, looking south towards Iredell from the Wilkes county side with the bridge seen in the curve of the road just ahead.

Tucked away on a rural road at the very northernmost extent of Iredell county is a small, nondescript bridge over the dark waters of Hunting Creek. While the bridge is in Iredell county, crossing over it heading northbound means entering Wilkes on the other side.
It’s a rural area, and always has been, with a smattering of farms and houses in the area, but mostly just wooded land on the Wilkes county side for a couple miles.

It was just 100 yards or so to the west of this bridge in 1916 that one of Iredell’s most notorious murders took place, and few people today know anything about it.

Newspaper article from a Charlotte paper shortly after the murder.

June of that year, Claude Warren and his sister Mary (though some accounts say it was actually his wife) were working one of their corn fields along Hunting Creek. Claude was harvesting corn with a mule and Mary was helping him in some capacity. As Claude came to the end of a row and turned to go back up another, his brother in law, Homer Matheson, who had been concealed in a ditch or gully, raised up and shot Claude in the back of the head at close range with either a shotgun or rifle.

Mary must have been hysterical and started screaming, because not only had her brother been murdered, but the killer was her own husband.

No one is entirely sure what was the cause of the murder, but there had apparently been a feud of sorts going on, and Homer was entirely unrepentant for the crime, claiming that Claude had threatened him first, and so he was only defending himself.

If the rumors were true, Claude had turned in Homer for moonshining along the creek, probably for a cash reward. Not hard to believe considering stories of moonshiners cooking along the creek persisted in the area well into the 1950’s. The rural location and reliable water source made it a good spot for such activities.

Matheson was tried for the crime but managed to avoid the death penalty, pleading guilty to manslaughter in the 2nd degree and receiving a sentence of 30 years. For reasons unknown, he only served seven before being freed. Mary sought a divorce and Homer ended up moving to Catawba county and remarrying.

Barefoot’s book is still in print if you would like to read the tale yourself.

Somewhere along the line, a ghost story sprung up. Daniel W Barefoot, in his book “Piedmont Phantoms”, recounts the story and then makes the claim that a woman’s scream can be heard near the bridge at times. Where this story came from and what year it began, I have not been able to find out. Most locals don’t know about the ghost story and have never heard much of anything scream except for the occasional fox.

It’s always amazing what legs these sorts of stories have. They live on in print or the internet long after the people who’s parents and grandparents were telling them to each other have lost track of them.

However, talking with the current land owner, he at least is aware of the murder, and claims that the spot where Claude was killed is actually marked with the barrel of a firearm stuck into the earth. I have not seen this myself, but I doubt he has reason to lie.
If you’re in the area during the summer, he happens to sell produce from his shop, which is just across the bridge on the Iredell county side. Pick up a watermelon and see if he’ll tell the story to you.

Alexander County’s Healing Springs Hotels

If you go searching for info about sulfur (or “sulphur” as you’ll see it spelled most commonly in the past) springs resorts in NC you’ll have tons of information to wade through. About the turn of the century, there was a definite fad for bathing in sulfur saturated water for apparent health benefits, and resorts even sold it bottled for drinking. Despite Alexander county’s rural setting, there was not only the real estate but the demand for two of the resorts locally.

The resorts were frequented by well to do people who would catch trains from out of state to come to the area in hopes of renewed health and vigor. “Diamond Jim” Lucas was one of the more well known locals to spend time at one or both resorts.

A couple postcards from Davis before it closed.

Despite their size and importance, I believe nothing remains of either resort today.
I myself have driven past the area where Davis was, about 1 mile north of the Lucas Mansion in Hiddenite and can’t visualize where it might have been. Because it has been gone for so long, no likely footprint can be seen on aerial photos either.
All Healing Springs is supposed to have existed in some form as late as the 1980’s before also burning. I have been unable to see it from the road driving it’s length or to find it’s location on aerials either, despite having access to maps from 1946.

Ad from 1916 declaring that the historic flooding has not blocked access to the hotel.

One thing that can hinder research about any sulfur springs resort is the liberal use of “All Healing Springs” in the name of these resorts. Without digging very deep, you can find them in several counties and numerous other states. One of the most popular was in Gaston county as early as the late 1880’s.

The Davis resort was doing well enough in 1921 to sell stock in the operation.

It could be that some old timers have a recollection of one or both the resorts from oral history passed down. For the most part today though, residents of Hiddenite and Taylorsville know very little about the area’s health tourism past, despite their names being written into the landscape with Sulphur Springs Rd. in Hiddenite and All Healing Springs Rd. in Taylorsville.

Postcard from the Taylorsville resort.

Numerous Updates Today

The Troutman trailer park has been reuploaded, as has Absher Farm and the Private School.
Marquee Cinemas, which was never on the original site has also been uploaded.
Marquee was demolished this year after less than 20 years in Statesville. The city now has no movie theater left save for the abandoned Newtowne Theater.
There was once another theater across from Wal-Mart on I-40, but it was closed and knocked down several years ago. Interstate expansion will eventually cover that area with a road surface.
A likely fate for many theaters suffering from Covid-related closures, diminishing profits due to on-demand services, and other economic factors. Good or bad, just like malls, theaters are apparently on the way out.

Some updates

I’ve added the “artifacts” page for Davis Hospital with the few items I have been able to find. It’s long been a motto in the urban exploration community to “take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints”, but I wish I could go back in time and save some of the old documents that I came across the first several times I went into Davis Hospital. That kind of ephemera is rare and quickly lost. It has little if any monetary value to the property owners.
If anyone reading this has any photos, documents, etc. they wouldn’t mind allowing me to photograph, please contact me via email (abandonednc @ yahoo).

I will also be adding a couple less than thrilling locations from the old site. They were some of my earliest attempts at exploring and pale in comparison to more recent explores.

The Ore Knob Mine Murders of Ashe County

Ashe might seem like a sleepy, rural county on the west end of the state, but back in the early 80’s there was some big city style intrigue going on there. It’s a tale of dirty cops, drug running, motorcycle gangs, and mafia style hits that culminated in a flashy stuntman from Nashville being lowered into the old Ore Knob copper mine to retrieve a couple frozen bodies.
The whole story is so convoluted it’s too much to tell in a blog post, but author Rose M Haynes succinctly lays out the details in her book The Ore Knob Mine Murders: The Crimes, the Investigation and the Trials. It’s very methodically researched and written and takes a couple pages to get into, but it’s the only complete account of the story. For someone interested in local history, it’s definitely a must read.

Alexander County Hospital

The story of the Alexander County Hospital is a fascinating one. While many hospitals are dreamed up by individual doctors or else corporations, the Taylorsville hospital was something different.
And the best people to tell that story are the ones who lived it, the ones who made it. The residents of Alexander county:

The hospital was never on par with surrounding major hospitals like Davis, but it became an integral part of the community. Today, it’s a 30 minute drive to reach any other acute care facility. In the early days when the hospital was being built, with rural roads and poor conditions, who knows how long a trip to Hickory or Statesville might take.

Unfortunately, as healthcare changed, became more expensive, the hospital’s policy of treating anyone who needed help began to hurt the institution financially. It was finally taken over by Frye Hospital in downtown Hickory and became something of an urgent care, but still continued to struggle. It managed to limp along into 2004 when it was closed after over half a century of service. As a result, Alexander county is now a county without a hospital.

Since it’s closing, the standard fate has befallen the old building. Looting, vandalism. A man was even found deceased on the property.

In more recent years, the town of Taylorsville has used the property’s parking lot for farmer’s markets and various festivals. The local fire department even raised $30,000 using the building as a haunted house during Halloween.

But it’s safe to say that whatever happens now, the building will never be a hospital again, and so much the worse for the residents of the county, whose parents and grandparents worked to ensure their children would grow up with basic human necessities.