Several years ago while researching my husband’s family I found this story of his many times great grandfather, John Champness Austin. Austin was born on March 27, 1690 in Pembury, Kent England and died in 1759 in Lunnenburg, Halifax County Virginia. How he came to live in Virginia is the story below related by Reed’s great great grand uncle, John Overton Austin (1819-1910):
“I write things that I remember, that my Grandfather and Uncle Wat [Walter] Austin told me, when I was a boy. What I write, I remember well, being 10 or 12 years old. My Great Grandfather was banished from England, to the Colonies, in America for killing a man. The circumstances were about this. The people of England were divided, in their opinion, about witches, hobgoblins, and other scary things that appeared after dark. Some believed there was such things others did not. Grandfather, made fun of those who believed such nonsence [sic].
“One man said he would bet $100.00 dollars that no man could cross a certain old bridge, built on a milldam, that was said to be haunted; that no man could cross that bridge, after dark that he would be scared back, by scary things.
“Now said he, ‘I will bet 100 dollars with any one, who will undertake it.’ Our Great Grandfather was then a young man, and was not afraid of anything. So he took their bet and the money was put up. When the day came there was a crowd on each side of the bridge, to see him cross. He was not allowed to have any weapons but a finger stone in each hand.
“When he got about midway the bridge he saw a white object rise up before him. He stopped near the hobgoblin. He spoke in a loud voice, ‘Who comes there 3 times.’ Not a word was said. The thing stood still. It looked like a man wrapped in a white sheet. It stood in his way. He stepped a few steps nearer, and stopped. Now said he, ‘Man or spirit, or whoever you are, get out of my way. I am going to cross this bridge.’ But the thing stood still. He threw a rock. They heard the rock strike the ghost, and Mr. Ghost fell dead, and young Austin walked by him across the bridge, and won the money.
“The next morning, they found the ghost to be a dead man, wrapped in a white sheet. It caused great excitement. A search was made, and they found, that a gang of men had a den in the old dam making counterfeit money. The discovery of this den, of counterfeiters, pleased the English people so much, that fearing that some of his enemies might seek his life, they put him on a ship and sent him to America, to the English Colonies for safety. ”
Seen above is Pembury England where it all began.