Keith Plantation – Canton, GA

One of the oldest houses in Cherokee County was built in 1865 along the Etowah River.  Actually, it was re-built after the house on that location burned, by utilizing hand-made kiln-dried bricks.  The clay for the bricks came from the Etowah River.  The house faced the river, and hundreds of acres of farmland surrounded it.  A barn was built near the house, and there were slave quarters also dotting the area.  The slaves were called “helpers” by the Keith family, and they were said to be very dedicated to the family.  The Keith Cemetery was a few acres back, away from the river set upon a quiet hill with peaceful trees surrounding it.  I’m sure the Keith family during their times of prosperity never suspected the horrific and depressing events that would occur over time, feeding future tales of hauntings, curses, and mysterious events.


The Keith Plantation had a lot of historical events occur on the property.  A portion of that occurred during the Civil War.  The family had to hide food and valuables from the Union soldiers, but the soldiers unfortunately uncovered the plot when they found food hidden in the trees.  The angry soldiers set the house on fire, and they dragged the owner of the plantation to a tree and hanged him – leaving him to die.  Despite their efforts, its owner was saved.  The knot in the rope was caught somehow on the tree, and this prevented him from breaking his neck.  The slaves stepped in to cut him out of the tree, and they also assisted with rebuilding the house, even after the Civil War was finished. After the Civil War ended, the Keith family parceled out land to their slaves, which eventually became known as Keithsburg.  Their family name became tied to the surrounding area that they used to own, which included the Pearidge and Nineteen Communities.


It is easy to imagine how beautiful the area was at one time, with pristine landscapes, farm animals plodding along, and people set to various tasks to keep the homestead going.  Today, that landscape has vastly changed.  The acreage has reduced from hundreds of acres to only 10 acres.  The house and barn is slowly being overcome by kudzu and general neglect, after another fire occurred around the 1980’s.  The road to the house has been blocked with “No Trespassing” signs clearly displayed on a downed tree, which is now covered with more kudzu.  The road itself is being absorbed back into its surroundings of vegetation.  No other buildings or anything else can be found on the property (old slave quarters were completely taken over by kudzu), and the Keith Cemetery is located across the street from Walmart in Canton.  It has a fence surrounding it, and a large black double gate, each adorned with a circled “K”.  It seems strange to see this historical cemetery right beside a busy Waffle House, cars zipping by it on Highway 5 to get to the entrance ramps of I-575.


Many different people, some related to the Keith’s, and historical societies have tried without success to relocate the house or find some way to save it.  The Keith family sold off the property in the 1930’s when the economic downturns of the Great Depression impacted them.  The York family purchased the property from the Keith family, and the road was re-named to York Drive.  It has changed hands several times since then, and it even was offered to developers in 2006.  They did not move forward with that offer, and the house stands in ruins.  The Cherokee County Historical Society did say that since the house had been so heavily modified and went through another fire, they did not believe there was “enough material left to preserve”.  They mentioned also that family members requested they not list it as a historic site on their roster, but the historical society would love to build a park along the river on that site one day if it becomes an option for them to do so.


The Etowah River is popular place to go fishing, even at night.  Some fishermen target the river very near the Keith House as a good spot for catching catfish.  There have been reports of strange lights at night around the Keith Plantation and coming from the windows, as if someone was moving around inside the abandoned house.  Prior to the road being blocked off, a ghost hunter heard about this story and decided to investigate further.  It was reported that an EVP was captured, which stated, “I’m trapped.”  Is a member of the Keith family or one of their “helpers” still around?  No one can say for sure.


Another historical fact of interest related to Cherokee County, and specifically to the Keith Plantation, was that the area had previously been one of the largest Native American settlements in the region for over 10,000 years.  This was until the Trail of Tears, when they were forced out of the area in 1838 by soldiers, 1,400 Cherokee from Sixes and Fort Buffington in Cherokee County joined over 15,000 already traveling on that route.  4,000 did not make it to their new “home” out west.

Native American burial grounds were found on the Keith property in the 1940’s under a large rock and were moved to Reinhardt College in Waleska, to the Funk Heritage Center on their campus.  There is said to be other burial mounds that were left on the property, which are still there to this day.  Before the Keith Plantation was blocked from visitors, people were finding bits of pottery and arrow heads here and there on the property.  Additionally, the Walmart that is off Riverstone Parkway on Keith Drive (originally part of Keith Plantation), sits on property that used to be called the Hickory Log Village.  The Garden Center is said to be the spot where a Native American fort used to be approximately 1,000 years ago.  A trading post and village were also part of this large settlement that overlooked the Etowah River.  In 1995, the whole area was excavated by archaeologists in order to remove these artifacts prior to building the new store.  There were 48 graves and thousands of artifacts that were discovered, which filled 120 boxes.  The full skeleton of a little girl, buried with her toys and personal items, was a part of this find.  The artifacts and remains were eventually re-buried in Canton, GA, with a full ceremony overseen by Cherokee descendants.  A permanent display was set up by JDN inside the Walmart next to the layaway counter with Native American artifacts when the store opened.  However, this display was NOT so permanent, as we discovered when we went into Walmart and asked about this display recently – July 2017.  The display, per the person at the Layaway counter, had been knocked off the wall at some point by accident.  The individuals who installed this display (assuming JDN) retrieved it, since it had been damaged.


When the Native American graves and artifacts were excavated from the Walmart site on Keith Drive, there were rumors of the dig being “cursed”.  People were nervous about Native American spirits not being laid to rest properly (eventually they were moved to the new burial site with Cherokee oversight).  After the store opened, Walmart employees working the night shift would hear voices around the same time every night from 2-4 am in different spots in the store, and there were objects that fell off shelves randomly with no known cause.  The most active timeframe was said to be 2-3 am for these experiences.  In all cases, no one was found around these locations.  There was one employee that stated they heard chanting in the storage area in the back of the store, no one was around, and they left the store immediately.  They never returned to their job at Walmart after that night.

For more information about Cherokee County History, visit the old Cherokee County Courthouse in downtown Canton, GA.  Hours of operation and other information can be viewed on their website at  Also, you can visit the Funk Heritage Center at Reinhardt College in Waleska to view Native American artifacts, tools, and other items.  Their website is

The Hauntings at Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge

Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge is a fun destination for many families, friends, and sweethearts in the warm months of the year in Georgia.  This park is away from the beaten path on some winding back roads in Forsyth County, not too far from the Cherokee County line, off of Highway 369.  There is a nice playground, swings, picnic tables here and there, plus a pavilion (with decent restrooms) for family get-togethers.  However, those amenities are not the reason that people are drawn to this location.  Beyond the covered bridge that spans across Settendown Creek, there is a series of shallow pools and water falls that meander down a rocky water scape that beckon children, adults, and even dogs to splash and play with delight.  This is a natural water park that doesn’t require hefty fees, is laid back, and it even has a haunted history!

The park is centered around the Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge, which was built in the 1820’s near a gristmill and sawmill on the property owned by Dr. D. L. Pool (no one knows why the “e” was added to Poole’s Mill).  One of the builders unfortunately drilled the holes into the lattice incorrectly, and it eventually was corrected in the late 1990’s when the bridge was refurbished after years of neglect and disrepair.  There is a fence that blocks entry to the “private property” that housed the old mill, but some of the park visitors wander down the edge of the creek to try to get a peek of the area.

The mill was said to have been owned by a Cherokee native by the name of George Welch.  He built the mill and ran it until the historic Trail of Tears, when he, along with many other Native Americans, were forced to abandon their properties and head west.  There were rumors that the property was “cursed”, and some people complained about accidents and bad luck on and off through the following years.  There were no tales that provided very specific information about these said unfortunate events to give them more substance, other than a fire that burned the mill to the ground.  No one knew what caused the fire, so it was blamed on the curse.  After that, the Poole’s Mill bridge fell into severe neglect.

One story that seems to stand the test of time has been about “The Blue Girl”.  She was a nine year old girl that was said to have traveled to Settendown Creek with her parents in the 1930’s.  When they arrived, the heat was unbearable, so the girl decided to cool off in the creek.  Although her parents warned her to be careful, she stepped into a creek swollen from recent rains.  It pulled her from her feet, and the current drove her towards the operating grist mill.  Her screams got the attention of her parents and the mill workers, but no one was able to get to her in time before the large water wheel pulled her under.  She was wearing a dress with a big blue bow, and the pretty young girl was just as blue when she was pulled out from under the wheel that pinned her to the bottom of the creek.

Her parents took her body away, and no one ever saw that poor family again.  Even though no one even found out any of their names, the little girl was dubbed “The Blue Girl” due to the blue hue cast upon her after she drowned.  The devastating story was told and re-told by the town’s people over the years, so it was not surprising when stories emerged about people seeing a girl in a pretty dress with a blue bow – with dripping wet hair and a blue face.  She was seen only at night around the covered bridge, and she would then vanish into thin air.

It was popular for a while for people to go to Settendown Creek and look for gold in its waters near the covered bridge.  Due to the stories of “The Blue Girl”, no one went at night.  Those that did go at night told tales of seeing her blue visage with the wet hair, and they would run away in horror.  A story emerged years later about a Vietnam Veteran who wanted to make some extra money by looking for gold in the creek.  Chuck Morse heard about the tales of “The Blue Girl”, but he didn’t take them seriously.  He was said to have come across her after he fell into the creek and found an old locket on the creek bottom with pictures of a man and woman within it.  She came to him, and he handed her the locket.  She smiled and disappeared, never to return again.  It was speculated that the locket held pictures of her parents, which put her soul to rest and reunited her with her family beyond the grave. There were no further reported sightings of “The Blue Girl” after this event.

So far, the investigative team has seen no hauntings during the daytime hours.  There will be future trips to Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge to investigate further, including during night time hours.  Everyone will be kept posted of the results.  The park feels relaxed and not creepy at all.  That seems to be the consensus of the families and friends that populate the park regularly for their enjoyment.

Blue Ridge witch – Haunting of Tilley Bend Church

“Once upon a time”.. Those are the typical words used when someone starts telling a story. Adults sit back, getting a faraway look in their eyes. Kids sit down on the floor, Indian style, arms propping up their chins. All eyes are on the story teller, and the words spin into their ears and wind around the minds of all that are suddenly entranced, waiting with baited breath for the story that will come after.


One of the strangest stories that we heard seemingly at random was from a young woman visiting our art gallery in Jasper, GA, in 2012. She claimed that she was sent to the gallery at the behest of The Blue Ridge Witch. She dutifully followed these instructions, but she didn’t actually purchase any of the local art on display. That was the only visit she made, and unfortunately due to the economic downturn, art was not selling enough to keep the popular gallery open for more than a year.

After the art gallery closure, the story of the woman who was sent by The Blue Ridge Witch was told over and over to friends and family.  This led to a search on who this witch could be, and lo and behold, this story had a basis in fact. There were claims of a Blue Ridge Witch buried at an old church called Tilley Bend.  When we heard about the church and the story, we had to go see it for ourselves.

The Tilley Bend Church was established in 1858, based on the sign in front of the old wooden structure sitting atop a small hill on Old Dial Rd.  The gravel winding road is decent to drive on, but it may not be the best ride during bad weather since there were lots of hairpin curves at varying levels of elevation deep in the Blue Ridge mountains in Fannin County. At times, there are sheer drops overlooking the Toccoa River.  Across from the church is a rustic Fellowship Hall, and behind both buildings is an old graveyard. This is where The Witch of Blue Ridge is said to be buried. According to people who still attend church services regularly at Tilley Bend, the church is not haunted – except for maybe The Holy Ghost passing through to visit the pious congregation.


The greater story begins in the 1750’s. There were Creek Indians that originally lived in the area.  White settlers from North Carolina moved alongside the Creek settlement, and they cohabited quite well. So well in fact, that white men began to inter-marry with the Creek women, according to census records. Eventually, the Cherokee Indians moved into the area and forced the Creek Indians out, since they did not get along.  Although the Creek Indians were pushed out, the white settlers with their Creek spouses did not leave the area.  A settlement called Stanley Gap was formed, and they carried their customs and knowledge with them. Remains from this settlement can still be seen past the Tilley Bend Church near the local lake.


Benjamin Tilley, the church’s founder, is actually buried in Ellijay, GA. In the ancient graveyard, there are a lot of field stones used as grave markers. A single very large and very old oak tree stands guard over the graves, and has done so for many years.  Most graves are typically facing east, since Christians believe that once Jesus will return in the Eastern skies.  In this graveyard, however, some graves face the west, which is very unusual. Supposedly, this is done for witch burials.


One of the so-called witches was Elizabeth Bradley, a Creek witch doctor who was feared by all in the settlement.  Legend states that she birthed two daughters, each married into a different family – one was a Tilley and the other a Stanley.  Unfortunately, there was a feud between these two families, which escalated into a shooting at the church. A Tilley preacher and the sister who married into the Tilley family, along with other congregants, were killed. The Tilley’s retaliated by sneaking into Stanley gap in the dead of night and killed several men while they slept, including the Stanley that married the second daughter. Another tragedy occurred soon after when the Stanley widow died in childbirth.


At this point because of these two feuding families, Elizabeth Bradley lost both of her daughters and a grandchild. (Some versions of this story claim that Elizabeth was just angry about the family feud.) She cursed both the Tilley and Stanley families. All babies born thereafter for each family was stillborn. (Some say that it was all children that were impacted, through illness and death). Tilley family members decided that a year of death to their newborn babes was enough and that it needed to stop.  Elizabeth was forced to the graveyard to be hung from the tree in its center. Before they dropped her to her death by hanging, she vowed to come back. She was buried facing west, right where her body fell. When the infant mortality continued, some believed that Elizabeth had indeed returned, that she inhabited her sister-in-law, Mary Tilley Bradley. She was also hanged, same tree a year to the day that Elizabeth was hanged, but she was not given a witch’s burial since she was only a receptacle for Elizabeth’s evil spirit (plus she was a Tilley).

Elizabeth Jane Tilley Bradley

Some people claim to see Elizabeth Bradley’s ghost wandering the graveyard at Tilley Bend Church, while others see Mary Tilley Bradley. Some look for someone named Polly Long, who is not considered a witch. (Supposedly, if people call for Polly Long around the church, they will hear a scream and see a light coming towards them.)  A boy named Keith Stanley is said to wander around, wanting to tell his tale to guests. If he appears, the witches are said to grab at visitors’ legs to try to pull them underground (some claim to feel a pulling sensation on their legs). Most people claim that they only see these ghostly apparitions during daylight hours. Some claim to hear babies crying while walking around the property. There are many unmarked infant graves there. Some also see unexplained ‘paranormal’ lights. If you decide to investigate, be careful while going there at night, since there have been after hours vandals seen at that timeframe. It may be considered ‘suspicious activity’ to locals and the authorities.


New Hightower Baptist Church during the day is beautiful with its picturesque backdrop.  It is not much different on a cold, winter evening in February.  The lights bathe the small southern church with an opalescence that is somewhat mesmerizing, especially on a clear night with the stars and crescent moon visible above it in a velvet sky.  The woods around it are laid bare this time of year, stripped of their leafy foliage.  Across the way, the graveyard also has its own cloak of pristine light.  The large tree, that others have dubbed “The Hanging Tree” or “The Bleeding Tree” in the 1960’s and 1970’s, stands tall and seems to be guarding over those in their eternal rest.


The atmosphere is, well, extremely quiet – even late at night.  A sense of complete calm and serenity hovers over the whole area.  It is so quiet, in fact, that one could hear the sound of a stray leaf or acorn falling.  No feelings of dread or angry spirits seemed to be lurking.  Since the article was published about this church about 10 months ago, members of have done further investigations at this location.  A lot of interesting people with their own paranormal research stories have been encountered, but there have been no solid evidence of any paranormal activity found thus far by our team.

The investigation at New Hightower Baptist Church took a lot of turns and thanks to the feedback we have received from our readers.  This information gave us a much more interesting perspective and insight that we didn’t have previously.  We initially wanted to start the investigation at the beginning of the church’s history.  It was soon evident that the beginning of the founding of New Hightower Baptist Church was far from the start of this story.


Hightower is a common name in Ball Ground and Canton, Georgia, when looking at historical records.  “Etowah”, we learned, is (loosely) the Cherokee word for “Hightower”.  Both of these are commonly used in street and location names in this area.


Etowah is derived from the English word, Hightower. When settlers first came into that region of Georgia and saw the tall mounds, they called them high towers and river that ran beside them the Hightower River. Etowah is the pronunciation of Hightower by the Cherokees, who lived around those mounds.

Canton has been the site of various ancient Native American sites, one of which included a large site discovered in 1995, which is now the current location of Walmart near 575 – Exit 20 (Riverstone Parkway).  The site was discovered during Walmart’s construction.  The graves were relocated from what is the present day parking lot, along with remains of an old fort that was discovered at what is now the Walmart Garden Center.  Over 20 years after the Trail of Tears ended, New Hightower Baptist Church was built on land that is quite possibly property received in the Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832.

Although our team did not turn up solid evidence of paranormal activity, we did receive stories from others that did.  Here are some of those stories (paraphrased and removed names):


  • One reader stated that she was a member of New Hightower Baptist Church in Canton GA, along with her entire family, and they regularly attended services. She has family members buried in the cemetery, and she grew up visiting their graves often and playing on the church grounds.  She never saw or heard anything odd, even when she went to the church at night to prove to her high school friends that it wasn’t haunted.  She believes that “the area just has some bad seeds”. She says “the church isn’t haunted, people just like to talk it up.”
  • One reader stated he visited this church and had a “negative entity” attack him in the woods by the baptizing pool.  He experienced a cold spot in July and felt “a long claw or nail” run from one shoulder blade all the way across his back to the other one.  He heard a very faint like voice that said “follow me”.  He later found “three long claw marks” across his leg, which felt like it was on fire, when he returned quickly to his car.  It was an experience he would not soon forget.

The largest story was received from a paranormal team called Northwest GA Paranormal.  They had paired up with Rome Area’s Paranormal team to visit “Hell’s Church”.  They discussed having shadowy figures on film, and mysterious mists.  An infrared camera captured one of their team members talking about her skin feeling like it was on fire, and they captured her dark veins in the camera at night.  They also captured EVPs, stating things such as, “help me”, “get out”, and obscenities – these photographs and recordings are captured and published on their paranormal pages.


We were intrigued and reached out for more information.  They went on a full moon in January 2016, several of them went to the baptismal pool while one stayed in the cemetery.  Under the moonlight, a dark figure was seen walking that was “darker than the dark”.  It moaned and ducked down by a grave when its picture was taken.  It is also published on their page.  The photographer felt sick after looking at the photo immediately after it was taken, and felt maybe that was a mistake and could have possibly made the figure angry.  He retreated and heard footsteps on the road, and he thought it was someone from his team sneaking up on him.  He took a photo and ended up capturing a ghostly mist, which could not be replicated in other photographs that immediately followed.  There are several pictures that show orbs as well in the cemetery.  It sounds like they captured some interesting content!

If you are interested in reading more about these paranormal teams – seeing their photos and hearing their EVP recordings, their Facebook pages are listed below:

Again,’s team did not capture any unexplained anomalies while on location at New Hightower Baptist Church.  We were using professional grade cameras, and we were very mindful of lighting sources (such as the streetlight) to prevent lens flares – which could explain some photographs with orbs and other similar phenomenon that others have captured.  Recording devices that were used were shielded from wind, which can mimic whispering voices or other strange sounds that could sound ominous.  We experimented with long-exposure photography as well (which have been published on this page), which also did not capture anything out of the ordinary.  Several trips were taken at various times of day to the cemetery and baptismal pool with no paranormal activities felt, observed, or captured by our equipment.  In our opinion, this is not a paranormal hotspot.  There have been others that have recorded and experienced audio and video anomalies, it is up to our readers to decide what they choose to believe.

In closing, we would like to remind anyone who is interested in visiting New Hightower Baptist Church that is an active church with an active cemetery.  We ask that you be respectful and mindful of that fact.  Many other historical cemeteries that date back to the 1800’s have become locked down and heavily patrolled since 2005-2010 due to vandalism.  We appreciate your interest in this article and hope you will review future articles as performs new investigations.


Plenty of rumors have been tossed around about a small, country church located on Shoal Creek Road in Canton, GA.  While its true name is New Hightower Baptist Church, many have dubbed it with a different and more sinister name: Hell’s Church.  That name just doesn’t seem to fit the white steepled church nestled against vivid blue skies on a sunny spring day, especially after driving up the small, winding back road to it, with the picturesque backdrop of trees, flowers, and rolling hills.  A monument adorns the front entrance with these words:


“A Remnant from New Hightower Baptist Church. Burned by Vandals 1990. New Hightower Baptist Church constituted in 1886 as a school, church, and for the burial of the dead.”

damaged-headstoneHeadstone repaired after vandals broke it.

Various rumors have been perpetrated over the years about Satanic rituals taking place at the church.  The body of a boy was supposedly found in the 1980’s somewhere on the church grounds as a result of a cult killing, but no proof has been found – although there are claims that articles are supposed to exist with that information.  At times, beer bottles and evidence of activities occurring around the woods and Baptismal Pool.  There was an article written by the AJC about a firebombing performed by Michael Douglas Priest, Jr., in 1990 (article has been archived, but excerpts are below).  Per the article, he and his friends were trying to punish Jack Howard Potts (he kidnapped and killed Michael’s father 16 years previous ), plus to strike out at the local Satanists and their site for worship.  Vandalism continued to occur periodically at the church and in the church cemetery up through 2009.


graveyard.jpgOver view of the Graveyard showing damaged and missing headstones.

Six teenagers were arrested Thursday in connection with recent vandalism that caused an estimated $100,000 damage to a Cherokee County church that has been the target of teen vandals in the past, authorities said.

New Hightower Baptist Church on Shoal Creek Road in Canton, which is reputed by some to be a “haunted church,” was vandalized on March 27 and again on April 3, Cherokee sheriff’s Major Ron Hunton said Friday.

“The offenders damaged some 40 tombstones and burglarized the church,” Hunton said.

He said the suspects burned church hymnals inside the building and damaged the air duct system of the church.
Michael Douglas Priest Jr., 18, claimed he was trying to avenge his father’s murder by burning down the church, and was later sentenced to 90 days in a boot-camp-style prison and 10 years’ probation.

Virtual tour

Besides the rumors about Satan worship, the church is supposed to also be haunted.  Visitors to the church have said they hear music, which is believed to be organ music being played within the church.  They sometimes see figures and lights moving around in the church and on the grounds, when no one is supposed to be there.  Also, people claim to feel a “negative presence” and to see orbs in pictures taken on the property.  A lot of them believe it centers around a “hanging tree” that sits along the edge of the graveyard, which is said to be where people were hung previously – but no data or accounts exist that gives details about this.


hanging-treeRumored hanging tree at new Hightower church

Other stories are out there that debunk the “haunting” rumors.  There are claims that all of these rumors started in the 1970’s, when the church became a haven for underage parties.  Teenagers were hanging out and drinking on the grounds, and they started seeing and hearing things.  Their imaginations ran wild after they started hearing music late at night and seeing eyes in the windows.  What they didn’t realize was that a homeless man had taken residence in the woods and the church, and he was making the noises to try to scare people off.  Instead of having the intended effect of creating more solitude for himself, the rumors about the church being haunted promoted more visitors.


pool-farBaptismal pool next to a creek.

Regardless of the sordid tales about murder, hangings, occult activities, and vandalism, New Hightower Baptist Church is a rare and beautiful gem in a small Georgia town.  There is a calmness and serenity about it, and the area around it has a timelessness associated to it.  Previously, horse drawn buggies carried its members from the church and down the beautiful wooded path to the creek to be baptized.  A new Baptismal Pool has been created in the meantime, but it does not take away from the agelessness and beauty of the meandering creek with the wildflowers perched along its bank.  There doesn’t seem to be anything here that lends to true haunting or even nervous tension – other than people telling their tales and exercising their imaginations.


pool-up-closeBaptismal pool after being repainted. Vandals graffiti covers all sides.

More research will be done by on the history and stories related to this church.  This article is only an introduction of what is to be added here in the future, including videos, professional photographs, etc. Some of you reading this may attend services at this church or know people that do. If you have stories about this church, we want to hear from you!  If any of you have differing accounts that you would like to share, we would love to hear them and your perspective on the events here.

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