Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Ephraim Bartlett, the Edisto Raftsman >> Page 411

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription EPH RAI M BARTLETT4u
his eye; and, in the secluded toils of the farmer, on the borders
of swamp and forest, he will occasionally find himself disturbed by
a visitor or spectator which his own loneliness of life has extorted
from his imagination, which has shaped it to a becoming aspect with
the scene and climate under which he dwells. Many of these wild
walkers of the wood are supposed to have been gods and spirits of
the Indian tribes, who have also left startling memories behind
them; and though reluctant to confess his superstitions or the
white hunter and forester dread ridicule more than anything beside
yet a proper investigation might find treasures of superstition and
grim tradition among our people of this region, such as would not
discredit any of the inventions of imagination.
One of these traditions occurs to me at this moment, the scene of
which is at hand but a short distance from us, but not visible from
the railroad. Here is not only a haunted house, but a haunted tract
of forest. The tale was told me many years ago, as derived from the
narrative of a raftsman of the Edisto. The Edisto, of which we may
speak hereafter, is the great lumber river of South Carolina. Its
extent is considerable, penetrating several district divisions of the
State, and upon its two great arms or arteries, and its tributary creeks
or branches, it owns perhaps no less than one hundred and fifty mills
for sawing lumber. It supplies Charleston, by a sinuous route, almost
wholly; and large shipments of its timber are made to the island
of Cuba, to Virginia, and recently to New York, and other places.
Its navigation is difficult, and, as it approaches the sea, somewhat
perilous. Many of its rafts have been driven out to sea and lost, with
all on board. It requires, accordingly, an experienced pilot to thread
its intricacies, and such an one was Ephraim Bartlett, a worthy
fellow, who has passed pretty much out of the 'memories of the
present generation.
Ephraim was a good pilot of the Edisto, one of the best;' but he
had an unfortunate faith in whiskey, which greatly impaired his
standing in society. It did not injure his reputation, however, as a
pilot; since it was well known that Ephraim never drank on the
voyage, but only on the return; and as this was invariably by land,
no evil could accrue from his bad habit to anybody but himself. He
rewarded himself for his abstinence on the river, by free indulgence
when on shore. His intervals of leisure were given up wholly to his