Haunting Deaths at Poinsett Bridge, Greenville

A haunting legend tells of several masons who died during the construction of Poinsett Bridge. While most of their death were due to malaria or accidents, great efforts was done to cover up their death. It is said that these men were buried either under or within the bridge to save time and cover up the incidents.

Another story alleges that a female slave was hung (or beheaded as some sources have suggested) under Poinsett bridge for failing to obey her master. However, there were no official records of these events, suggesting that they may be nothing more than a hoax

History of Poinsett Bridge

Plans to construct a road across the Saluda Gap (as part of the toll road from Charleston through Columbia to the Saluda Mountains) were proposed in 1817 by John Wilson, the state’s civil engineer. Named Saluda Mountain Road, the 11-mile road was built in hopes of attracting trade from East Tennessee to South Carolina.

However, it wasn’t until June, 1820 when the construction of a bridge across Little Gap Creek began.

The bridge is said to be designed by Robert Mills, a South Carolina architect known designing the Washington Monument and the Treasury Building. Taking four months to construct, the 130 feet long stone bridge was completed and opened for use in October 1820. It was later named Poinsett Bridge, a homage to Joel Roberts Poinsett, then director of the South Carolina Board of Public Works. Poinsett had personally supervised the construction of the bridges and road across the Saluda Gap.

Poinsett bridge with little gap creek
Poinsett Bridge | Image credits: Jonathan Hanna

The Poinsett bridge—one of three stone bridges located along Saluda Mountain Road—featured a Gothic arch that stretches 15 feet high (at its centre) and 7 feet wide. The arch supports its own weight without the need for any cement mortar, a testament to the incredible craftsmanship of the masons in the 19th century.

Poinsett bridge stone marker 1
Stone marker about Poinsett Bridge | Image credits: Greenville Journal

Over the decades, the building of newer and better roads across Upstate and North Carolina led to the eventual abandonment of Poinsett Bridge. In 1970, Poinsett Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. At present, Poinsett Bridge is the only surviving stone bridge in Saluda Gap and is believed to be the oldest bridge in South Carolina and possibly the Southeast region. While it is no longer in use, visitors can still walk across the iconic bridge.

Hauntings at Poinsett Bridge

Over the years, visitors have reported numerous paranormal activities at Poinsett Bridge.

A common occurrence many have experienced is that they were unable to start their cars when they were ready to leave the site. It is said that the land where Poinsett Bridge stands is an old Indian burial ground, and that the unrest souls that were ‘trampled’ for hundreds of years are looking to exact revenge. Indeed, the claim stands ground as it was widely recorded that the area of Greenville County was once the hunting ground of the Cherokees.

Poinsett bridge walkway
Path on Poinsett Bridge where orbs have been spotted at night | Image credits: Greenville Journal

Orbs and mysterious red and white light resembling a lantern were also spotted by visitors of Poinsett Bridge. Some have suggested that these may have been the spirits of Asian and Native American slaves who have toiled away to construct the bridge but were forgotten by the history books.

Other creepy experiences reported at Poinsett Bridge include disembodied screams at the top of the bridge, cold spots along the creek, and whispers of a female voice.

Establishing Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve

In the early 2000s, 120 acres of land surrounding the Poinsett Bridge was established as Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve, a nature preserve maintained by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Heritage preserves are areas of land where history, nature, and archaeological sites are preserved in its entirety.

For visitors looking to unwind in the idyllic forest, nature trails such as the Old Indian Trail, the Eastern Perimeter Trail, and the Rock Cave Trail can found several hundred yards away from Pointsett Bridge bridge. However, many of the trails cut through Camp Old Indian owned by the Boy Scouts of America. Hikers are strongly encouraged to approach the camp’s caretaker for permission before embarking on the trails. Signs are also prominently placed in the area to warn hikers that they are leaving the preserve and entering private property.

Directions to Poinsett Bridge

To visit Poinsett Bridge, from US Route 25(northbound), turn left into Old US 25 Highway and drive northwest bound for two miles. When the road forks, take the left and turn into Callahan Mountain Road (County Road 42). Drive westbound for 2.2 miles and Poinsett Bridge will appear on the left. Parking spots are available on the opposite side of the street.

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