Many years ago, so long ago that few remember except what they have been told by the old ones, there lived in the Horse Shoe area of Henderson County the only doctor in the entire section. JOHN KNOX STIMPSON CASE was his name, but no one remembers his full name now. By some, he was addressed by his proper title, Dr. Case; but to most of the young and the old he was Doc. Case and as the years went by he was referred to by nearly everybody as "Old Doc." Highly respected and deeply beloved by the entire country side, Dr. Case administered to the sick and injured; people and animals alike. There were no drug stores or pharmacies in his day as there are now. Here and there was an occasional store that was referred to as an apothecary shop, dispensing the few drugs and medicines that were available.
Doctor Case brewed and concocted his own medicines and remedies from the native herbs found in our mountains. Many of the barks, roots and leaves he gathered himself or he bought them from his neighbors. Regardless of the weather, whatever the time of day or night; whether his patient was man, woman, child or animal, Dr. Case when he was called always answered that appeal.
Sometimes in a buggy but generally traveling on horseback, he carried his instruments and medicines in his saddle bags. No distance was too far for him to travel to help the sick and injured. No ridge was too steep and rocky and no cove was too isolated; if that was where the doctor was needed, that was where he went. All of this was that period of years between 1850 and 1880.
It was late one evening of an early autumn day. There had already been a touch of frost in the air for several days and the deep fall coloring was beginning to paint the foliage on the hillsides. The doctor in his stocking feet was relaxed before the brightly burning hearth fire in the "lean to" of his log house, the lean to that he used as his office and drug store. He reached over the table and took a long swig from the small earthen jug that always rested within reach of his rocking chair. The day had been a long, hard one, more so than usual, and he smacked his lips in appreciation then he put the corn cob stopper back in the jug. It was the end of another exhausting day in the saddle calling on his many widely scattered patients.
"I'm not as young as I use to be," was the thought in his mind as he again leaned back in his chair and stretched his feet to the fire. Just then the door was unceremoniously flung open and a hatless, barefoot, teenage boy burst into the old doctor's office.
"Dr. Case! Dr. Case!" the breathless boy managed to utter, "Pa's in a bad way, awful bad! He wants you to come at once! I set out at daybreak before sun-up and I've run all the way, all the way from CRAB CREEK to fetch ye!"
"Now you just go out to the barn and feed my horse while I russle up a bite to eat," the old doctor replied. Tired and worn out as he was, he had never refused when summoned and now was no time to start. It was quite a distance from HORSE SHOE across the mountain to CRAB CREEK. By the time he had eaten a bite and was in the saddle the shadows had begun to lengthen. When Doctor Case reached the small stream that ran across the rough and lonely road that we know today as the BIG WILLOW ROAD, his horse stopped and the doctor loosened the rope reins to give it a chance to drink.
The animal lowered its head and took several swallows of the clear, cool water. Then without warning and for no visible reason, as far as the old Doctor could see, the horse suddenly jerked its head high and with its ears pointed forward, gave a loud snort which was followed by a shrill neigh as the horse leaped across the branch. It happened so unexpectedly that the rider was nearly thrown. Telling about it later, the old doctor swore that at the same time the horse jumped he felt the arms of a woman go around his waist as he caught the illusive fragrance of perfume.
The horse broke into a headlong gallop and Dr. Case was struggling with all his strength to get the animal under control.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he told later, that he could see the creature was dressed in a flimsy white gown and her long stringy hair was streaming behind as the horse plunged ahead. The old man was not superstitious and he had seen many strange things over the years as he traveled the lonely mountain roads visiting his patients. Woman or Devil! He could feel her arms tighten around him but when he tried to pull her hands apart there was nothing to pull. "Why, it was just like a body trying to take holt of a moon beam or a streak of light!" he said when telling about it. "I was beginning to get a mite scared too, what with that wild hag of a witch breathing down my neck and that fool horse in a dead gallop!"
When he finally managed to bring his horse to a stop, the animal stood in the middle of the road, legs wide apart, breathing heavily, sweat dripping from his body. The apparition in the filmy while gown quickly seemed to slip to the ground and vanished without a sound. The horse had galloped from the nameless stream to the foot of the mountain at the JESSE SENTELLE place. The old doctor, when telling of his experience afterwards, said that he had never in all of his life had such a thing happen to him although his practice of medicine had taken him to strange places where he had seen unusual things.
Muttering and mumbling to himself and his horse, he continued his journey, treated his patient and started back to HORSE SHOE. Just as he reached the same stream of water where the apparition had suddenly mounted his horse, the same white clothed figure stepped out of the bushes and took his horse by the bridle. The doctor, now bone weary and sleepy, was in no mood for tricks. He quickly dismounted to see what was going on and that figure simply vanished again.
Afterwards, when he told about the night's experience at the unnamed branch that flowed across the BIG WILLOW ROAD, people shook their heads. Maybe the old doctor was taking too much of his own medicine from that earthen jug that night. But then JIM MURRAY, a dependable man who wagoned back and forth a lot, told how several nights after Doctor Case's experience his team stopped at the same branch. He could see a bunch of cows in front of him. He jumped off his wagon with his whip to drive them out of the way. The cows and a white creature with long flowing hair in their midst vanished without a sound.
From that time on the little stream flowing across the BIG WILLOW ROAD was called 'HAUNTED BRANCH" and it is so called to this day.
FROM BOOK IN HENDERSONVILLE LIBRARY,
HENDERSONVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Entitled "TRILOGY", VOL. 1, 2, 3, BY FRANK L. FITZSIMONS; GOLDEN GLOW PUBLISHING COMPANY 1977"