The town of Chocowinity is the very definition of a small town with less that 1000 people. Make that 1000 live people and at least 2 ghosts. The town, who’s name means “Fish From Many Waters”, can trace it’s history back well before the civil war, but it’s just after the war where our stories take place.
The war had just ended with Lee’s surrender to Grant and while the people of the south were beaten in battle, they were more than ready to rebuild their homes and towns. One of those people was General J. Bryan Grimes, who had been beside Lee at Appomattox. He was a well respected and well liked man. In fact, the nearby town of Grimesland is named for his family and the state has erected historical markers telling of his service in the military.
On Aug.14, 1880, Gen. Grimes was on his way home from a political meeting in the town of Washington, NC. While traveling through Bear Swamp, a shot rang out from the brush, striking the General in the left arm and coming to rest near his lung. The general died at the scene.
Immediately a cry rang out for justice, and suspicion fell on a man named William Parker. Public outrage was so great, the trial had to be moved from Washington to Williamston. In a sensational trial that lasted for weeks, Parker was found not guilty by the jury.
Having returned to his home, Parker was soon a victim of vigilante justice as a group of men tied him up, and hanged him from a drawbridge crossing the Pamlico River near Washington.
As the story goes an ex slave confessed to the murder of General Grimes on his deathbed. Revenge for his brother was supposedly the motive. As the ex slave died his uttered the words “There Lord, I have confessed my sin. Now let me die in peace”.
William Parker was not so lucky. Fishermen in the area claim that you can still see the body swinging under the bridge which has been replaced by steel and concrete. They also claim that on quiet nights you can hear the chains that bound him and his ghostly voice repeating over and over “Not guilty, not guilty”.
Our next story involves a man that came to Chocowinity some time after the mob came for William Parker. No one knows where he came from, or even his real name, they just called him “Joe Savage”. Joe was suspected of committing petty crimes around the town, which had he just kept it at that he would’ve been fine, but a young woman accused him of rape.
It is said that the same men who hanged Mr. Parker also came for Joe Savage. They hanged him on the holly tree where the offense had occurred.
Savage, like Parker, cried out that he was innocent. However he also threatened the men who were about to do him in. He said that were he hanged, his spirit would not rest until it was proven that he was innocent. He also exclaimed that he would cause terrible things to happen to the descendants of those responsible for his death. The only way to escape it, was to come to the tree in the dark of the moon and apologize to the ghost of Joe Savage.
The holly tree still stands on the outskirts of Chocowinity. It is said that some young people go to the tree during the dark moon and apologize to Joe Savage.. Just in case.