Haunted Drummond Bridge

Posted by amber in Gatlinburg Haunts
Haunted Drummond Bridge - Photo

Drummond Bridge is part of a railway system that transported coal from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s in Eastern Tennessee. The bridge itself crosses over Coal Creek, a namesake of the goods used to move from state to state. At first glance, the abandoned railway trestle is pretty unassuming, and it only looks like a forgotten part of Tennessee history, left to be reclaimed by nature. However, the bridge is deemed one of the most haunted places in all of Tennessee.

Over the years, stories and rumors of the bridge have been passed around from friend to friend, through families and locals. Once you learn about the bridge’s blood-stained past, it’s easy to see why so many rumors of its haunting circulate.


The Coal Creek War


The story begins a couple of years before 1893, during a time known as the Coal Creek War, which was an armed labor uprising in the area. This labor conflict ignited in 1891 when coal mine owners in the Coal Creek watershed began to remove and replace their company-employed private coal miners then on the payroll with convict laborers leased out by the Tennessee state prison system.


The former wage-earning Coal Creek miners repeatedly attacked and burned both state prison stockades and mine properties in the area, all while releasing hundreds of the state convict laborers from their bondages, essentially setting the prisoners free. Many of the protestors were also wounded and killed in small-arms skirmishes during the ‘war,’ along with dozens of Tenessee state militia.


The Coal Creek War is described as one of the earliest and most dramatic episodes in American labor history. The Coal Creek War was itself part of a greater labor struggle that was happening across Tennessee at the time. The entirety of the ‘convict-leasing system’ was being questioned, as human rights were brought up, and the similarities to slavery were starting to be addressed. This system also began to suppress employee wages in the open market because businesses could essentially ‘hire’ prisoners for pennies to perform the same work as their paid employees.


Although the Coal Creek War essentially ended with the arrests of hundreds of coal mine owners, the adverse exposure that this state conflict generated led to the downfall of Tennessee’s then-governor, John P. Buchanan. However, the protestors did end up getting their way when the Tennessee state government refused to renew its convict labor lease contracts with private businesses upon their expiration dates. This made Tennessee one of the first southern states to end this unfair and controversial practice.


So, How Did Drummond Bridge Get So Haunted?


Good question, as the Coal Creek War itself, didn’t happen on the bridge, but the conflict alone could have caused such negative energetic imprints. However, it was one instance of life lost that has dubbed the bridge a haunted hotspot. Richard Drummond, a 25-year-old coal miner in the area, was part of the Coal Creek War and the labor uprising. Amid the skirmishes with state officials, Drummond reportedly killed a soldier and was sentenced to death by hanging.


Instead of waiting for the long arm of the law to bring justice to the estranged Drummond, a governor-sent militia man hung Richard from the steel supports of the bridge, leaving him to die. Rumors of a love triangle surround the hanging, and rumors began to arise that it was the reason that Drummond was killed so personally. Still, details evade us when searching for answers about the supposed scorned lovers. Eventually, sixteen officers and enlisted men were arrested and tried for the murder of Drummond. The trial lasted for weeks due to fears that renewed violence and hostility from the miners would return once the judge delivered the verdict.


The Haunting of Drummond Bridge


Today the bridge is haunted by Richard, and visitors to the location report hearing disembodied gasping breaths. Others see an apparition pacing from one end of the bridge to the other. Even nearby cattle are affected by the haunting, avoiding grazing in the field below the bridge, and dogs that refuse to cross it. Legend also says that visitors can hear Drummond’s cries if they hold still and stay really quiet.


The notches where the hanging took place are also still visible, giving a stark reminder of the dangers of needless revenge. Many visitors to the bridge state that the energies there just seem ‘off.’ Locals tend to avoid the bridge entirely, while paranormal investigators flock to it in hopes of capturing proof of the afterlife. I have visited Drummond Bridge during one of my trips to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Below is my account of the strange occurrences that happened during my visit!


First-Hand Account


It was early October, a perfect time to visit the Smoky Mountains, and I was traveling with my friend Kristin when we happened upon a diner on the ride down. We decided we could go for some coffee and pancakes and made our way inside. We must have gotten on the topic of the paranormal and had been talking a bit loud as a woman from another table came over to us and asked to sit down for a minute. She asked us our names, why we were in Tennessee, where we came from, the usual. She was extremely kind and warm-hearted, but her demeanor changed when she mentioned that she heard us talking about haunted locations. She said that if we had a couple of extra hours, Drummond Bridge was an excellent place to see. She explained the story, the history but left out the legends, as she said she didn’t want to cloud our minds with suggestions. We’re pretty adventurous as a team, and we decided to take her up on her offer. She gave us the address for the bridge and explained how to get to it.


After our meal, we set off to the bridge. After about an hour and a half of driving (Briceville is about an hour and forty minutes from Gatlinburg), we came upon the bridge. Before we even saw it, we felt a strange sensation as we drove into the area. The air almost seemed electrified, the trees looked dead, and there was absolutely no movement of the leaves. For it being the middle of autumn, it was strange that no leaves were falling.


We left our car and walked towards the river, knowing that the bridge would appear eventually. I began to feel nauseous; perhaps it was the pancakes? Kristin said that she was feeling strange too, that the woods were making her dizzy. As we walked, we were wondering where in the world this haunted bridge was. Could the peculiar woman have lied to us? Just as we questioned it, we finally came upon the Drummond Bridge, and both stopped in our tracks. It stood ominously, towering over the river, a testament to the history of the area. It was stained, rusted, and overgrown. We decided to avoid walking on the bridge, as it no longer seemed sturdy. We sat down on some stumps and just listened for a moment, but all we heard was nothing. Not even birds were singing in the area. After a while, we decided to go back to the car and head out to Sevierville, where our lodging was. As we left, I could have sworn I heard a faint ‘wait!’ as we walked away from the area. When I looked back, I saw a golden orb shoot behind a tree but decided to avoid telling Kristin as she scares pretty easily. Did the spirit of Richard Drummond show himself to me that day? It’s hard to say for sure, but the bridge itself and the area surrounding it do have unexplainable energy, one of sadness and life lost too young.


Have you ever gone to the Drummond Bridge in Briceville? Were you brave enough to get up-close and personal? Did you see the notches from the noose left so many years ago? There’s no question, The Drummond Bridge is genuinely one of the more spooky locations in Tennessee, and it’s worth visiting any time of the year. One more thing before you go, if you’re local to the area, have you heard of Cade’s Cove and the Cussing Cover?


Sources Cited: