A warning for our listeners.
This story touches on different forms of racial violence and Trauma, so, please take care while you listen.
Roughly 40 miles, Northeast of Atlanta and Forsyth County, lies Lake Lanier.
That’s a real destination spot over 12 million visitors a year relaxing on its Shores partying on its water.
It’s a man-made lake and rumor has it.
It’s filled with haunted Souls.
There’s definitely 11 or 12 goes down there that I The locals say there’s something in the water you reach out in the dark and all of a sudden you feel an arm and a leg and it doesn’t move.
Many people who come to the shores of the lake to relax fish or party.
Think there’s some truth to these rumors.
Since the lake was built in the 1950s, hundreds of people have died in its Waters.
And some say, 27 of those people have never been found.
Nobody’s been able to lay them to rest it on the bottom of linear.
Hopefully, you find them before they find you.
People talk about the ghost who roams the shoreline at night than a blue dress or Whisper Of The Lost Souls trapped below the surface.
These haunted stories are just rumors, but when we dug into the secrets of Lake Lanier and the county that it sets in, we discovered a true ghost story, but nobody really talks about and it’s much more sinister.
From gimlet media.
This is not passed it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take a moment from that very same week in history.
And this October we’re telling you the stories that still haunt our world.
I’m Simone plannin.
We’re not taking you back to a specific date today, but rather to a story that unraveled over the course of several months in the fall of 1912.
Trade and nine years ago, one.
In this episode, we’re revealing the real Haunting of Lake Lanier.
It’s a story about months of violence and Terror that happened there and the memories of it that simmer under a veneer of suburban Bliss memories that live on with the descendants still alive.
Today things will come to the surface after the break.
Forsyth County sits Northeast of Atlanta.
It’s pretty Suburban known for its excellent schools and has reliably voted Republican with Landslide margins.
It’s the wealthiest County in Georgia and is one of the wealthiest in the entire us the county is a prime destination for Partiers to come chill at Lake Lanier, but on an afternoon in September of this year, the tone and Forsyth County was more solemn.
Good afternoon, everyone, please bow your heads for prayer.
God of our weary years.
God of our silent tears.
God in heaven, as we, in a crowd, was gathered for a ceremony to acknowledge the events that took place in the fall of 1912.
That’s history and impact at Forsyth County as deeply and uniquely as the events of 1912.
While this is a day to celebrate a tangible, acknowledgement of our past and promise of progress.
It’s also a day that invokes Deep Emotions for many in 1912 Forsyth County was a poor community.
A mostly made up of farmers of the 12,000 residents, roughly, a thousand were black formerly enslaved.
People, and their descendants while some of the black farmers were sharecroppers and renting the land.
A little less than half were farmers who owned their land, which remember, this is a little less than 50 years after the end of the Civil War after the war policies, enacted during Reconstruction opened up opportunities to black people.
That they hadn’t had previously removing barriers to land ownership voting and education and Forsyth County.
This meant that a black community took root.
It was a farming Community County stores and one-room schoolhouses sat in between fields of cotton and corn and life for black residents centered around their small churches, where they did everything from attend Sunday service.
Go to a lecturer or organized Mass meetings.
But over time that Community became more and more threatened after federal troops left, the South and 1877 white Southerners became emboldened.
They started making moves to reinstate a white supremacist system by pushing for laws to undermine political and social rights for black people, and committing heinous acts of racial violence.
This was the precarious environment that the residents of Forsyth County found themselves in and it reached its Tipping Point on the morning of September 5th 1912.
A woman named Ellen Grice said that she quote unquote found a negro man in her bed and then screamed out and her father came in the room.
This is Patrick Phillips.
He grew up in Forsyth County, in the 70s and 80s and he wrote about the County’s dark past in his book Blood at the root.
There are a lot of other explanations for how a young white woman could find a black man in her bed other than an assault like an interracial Affair, but nonetheless, that’s the accusation that she made.
According to a local newspaper, Allen claimed that she woke up to a black man in her bed and word started spreading.
A posse was formed and the share of rode out and arrested a bunch of young black men in the area where this was alleged to have happened.
They arrested several men and they took them to the county jail, where a couple of days later a crowd of angry white, people formed demanding, the accused be released so they could take justice into their own hands.
And that’s the moment when this administer grants Smith is overheard saying, Saying that he regrets all of this happened on account of quota.
Sorry, white woman.
The minister was black and the white crowd didn’t like what he was saying.
And so they turned on him beating him to within an inch of his life.
If Grant Smith hadn’t directed, The White anger onto himself, though.
The Lynch Mob might have been able to get to their original targets.
The men sitting in the jail.
This type of vigilantism otherwise known as Lynch law was common in the south at this time.
It was a way for white civilians to take justice into their own hands by terrorizing black people for unsubstantiated accusations and it happened often from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century roughly 600 lynchings took place in Georgia.
But on that day, the minister and the men inside the jail were spared, the National Guard was called in preventing the mob from carrying out further violence.
And it looks like at the end of Sunday evening, that everything’s going to be.
All right, what happens next is, undeniably an assault less than a week later.
Another white woman, an 18 year old named macro was found badly injured in Forsyth County and a nearby Village.
She’s found bloody and beaten in the woods and with you know, her skull bashed in and she’s alive but just barely alive.
And this leads the white Community to what they see.
As the inevitable conclusion that it has to be black rapist.
Who did this.
There’s a letter from a woman who was 14 years old, and she said, that’s when all hell broke loose and Forsyth County.
How is indeed an apt characterization for what happened next?
And Forsyth what follows will include description of racist violence?
Not to shock.
But to illustrate the depths of atrocities that are not very far removed from our present reality.
If you don’t want to hear it, I don’t blame you.
But this is your warning, what happens.
Next is the white people of Forsyth County.
Start looking for someone to blame for this.
And they hit upon really the only three young black men in the area when it’s a 24 year old, man named Robert Edwards and then two teenage boys, who are cousins named.
Ernest, Knox, and Oscar, Daniel Knox.
And Daniel were arrested and taken to a jail in a different County eventually later than.
The two boys would be hanged in front of a crowd of about 5,000.
But the third man, rob, Edwards, he was arrested by the sheriff and Forsythe as they traveled to the county jail.
A white mob started to form behind them.
As they move into town, people are kind of falling in behind them along the road excited at the prospect of a lynching according to the newspapers and they, you know, it said, a spirit of frenzy had overtaken the town and then there’s this really pivotal moment when the sheriff handsome, the keys.
And goes home and exits, the scene.
But the sheriff gone crowds of white men opened the jail and forced Edwards from his cell and beat him, and he is dragged around the square and hung from a telephone pole that overlooks the courthouse lawn.
It’s the really gruesome an awful scene.
Two weeks after make row, was found bloody and beaten in the woods.
And this sent the white mob into an even greater Frenzy.
The people looking for Retribution and Lynch law and their idea of justice for this wait until after the funeral.
And after her burial that night is the first night of really full-on night-riding.
Patrick says that these white mobs set out on Horseback and started writing through black communities at night.
They started firing into sharecroppers.
Cabins setting fire to black churches, threatening clenching and essentially communicating.
That Forsyth county is now a white man’s County.
They even went so far as to leave written notes on the doors of black residents, telling them to leave or stay and die.
Like Rob Edwards, the man who they had just lynched.
The goal is really to create so much fear that the black community will leave on their own that they will.
And that’s what happens.
I do, remember my mother saying that they were burning people out and took the term burning people out running people out.
This is Elon Osby.
She’s descended from one of the families targeted by the night, writers her mother, Willie Mae, Osby, and her grandparents William and Ida back.
Ali were living in Forsyth County at this time.
Matt mother said that the tensions just started to rise and And then this mob, I think they referred to him as nightriders.
They just started making their way through the colored sections.
And so, you know, word just started to move to the community.
You better get out or you could lose your life.
But if they last, they would be leaving their land behind acres and Acres of it, my grandfather.
Owned somewhere between 60 and 80 something acres and knowing the value of property to African Americans.
Even now, they’re very proud to own, whatever it is that they own, but think about African-Americans owning property in 1912 60-something 80-something Acres.
They wouldn’t just be leaving behind land.
They would also be leaving.
Find a life elon’s grandfather.
William Bagley was a cobbler and a school teacher.
My grandfather was an entrepreneur even being and I learned from my aunt, that he had a school on their property for the colored children to attend an actual little building.
That was a school here.
You are trying to educate your people or the next generation of your people and that is cut off.
Also, at some point elon’s grandparents realized they had no choice but to flee.
So in the middle of the night, they packed whatever they could fit into their wagon.
They were trying to get away.
My grandfather was trying to save his life.
His wife’s life is Trans lives, they would trying to make it out of society’s County.
And I still cannot imagine what that fear must have felt like and how long it lingered.
Just like the bagley’s over the course of several months on foot or by wagon, nearly every single black family made, the long Trek out of Forsyth County.
And then, you know, the county goes into this kind of deep.
Rip Van Winkle sleep.
That’s Patrick Phillips.
Again, the author who grew up in Forsyth County.
There are no black people in Forsyth County and really quickly.
The property is transferred into white Hands, by one means or another over the course of those decades.
The teens through the 20s and 30s.
In other words.
A lot of the land owned by these black families, was stolen by the white residents.
Forced them out.
So there’s this kind of blurry slippage where eventually some of land that belonged legally, still two black families, who had been displaced.
You just find a kind of clerical error.
We’re now that that land lot has been sold by someone who didn’t actually own it.
This is what happened to the land.
That Elon Oz, bees, grandfather owned.
She says, there’s no record that their land was ever sold.
And so it really does become a place then where it’s very hard to know this history or see it in the 30s 40s and 50s because it just looks like a place that’s always been White.
Beginning in the 1950s, the white people, who now owned the stolen, land started to see that land increase in value at the time, Atlanta was growing and the city needed.
Another supply of drinking water.
So the Army Corps of Engineers, damned a nearby River to build Lake Lanier.
Construction was finished in 1956, but I guess you could say, this didn’t really become Lake Lanier till 58 because it took two years just to fill it up with water in doing.
So the stolen land, that wasn’t flooded over became Prime lakefront property.
This beautiful lake is really One of a Kind.
It’s a legacy that will protect people from floods, provide, water supply and Recreation preserve the environment and boost the economy of this area for generations to come.
Then starting in the 60s and 70s, the lake became a main draw for tens of thousands of white professionals leaving Atlanta Forsyth County, boasted low crime rates, Green Space, and a homogeneous, white culture ideal for those looking to move during the period of white flight.
When white people fled the cities to avoid integration in schools and neighborhoods.
Its status as a white Enclave was cemented, beautiful home.
And every year, millions of visitors came to enjoy the lake, some gossiping about its deadly reputation and the Spooky lure of What Lies Beneath its surface, but often totally oblivious to the darker history.
The story about some secret lurking, under the lake.
Mrs. The real point, which is there is a secret under the surface of her side County, but what’s really covering over?
Over a really painful truth is this veneer of white Suburban, wealth and prosperity that you see everywhere in Forsyth County and all of that is built on land that once belonged to these Earnest and Incredibly hard-working.
Black farmers who had the land stolen from them, and whose descendants continue to suffer the consequences of that theft.
I will dig into those consequences and any potential for reconciliation after the break.
Welcome back before the break.
We heard the story of how in 1912 every black resident of Forsyth County got forced out of their homes by racial Terror and violence, the county became an enclave of white Suburban families.
Like Patrick Phillips is family as a kid growing up there in the 70s and 80s.
He says, people barely talked about what happened in 1912.
And when they did, let’s just say It wasn’t done with much sensitivity.
The thing that I did here like on the playground and the back of the school bus, kids said that they had run the, in words out, that that’s how people talked about it in Forsyth County in the 70s.
At this time.
There were no black people and Forsythe, but there was a growing movement to change that.
And so in 1987, a group of 75 protesters including civil rights icon Hosea Williams, decided to March.
In the county.
But this March didn’t sit well with many of the residents of Forsyth and counter protesters showed up in droves.
Patrick, who was 16 got stuck in the middle of it in typical teenage fashion.
He was late to the March.
So he decided to wait for his family in the Town Square where the March was supposed to end and then to my shock at a certain point.
I heard a microphone click on and I heard someone scream into the microphone, you know, raise your hand if you love white power and all around me people kind of Roar with approval.
Was that moment that I realized that I had stumbled my way into the middle of the Klan rally.
They were celebrating that they had unbeknownst to me, stop the Marchers.
They were met by police estimate to be several hundred members of the Ku Klux Klan and others, who cheered, booed and carried.
And Confederate flags.
There was just this, you know, Really incense rabbit mob, that surrounded both sides of the street and were screaming in word, go home and had banners that said, keep Forsyth white, and it was really the kind of bigotry that we’d all known about.
But I think the rest of the country was kind of shocked to see A week after white supremacists, pushed the Marchers back the organizers and civil rights leaders tried again.
And this go around the Marchers, weren’t a small group. 20,000 people descended on Forsyth County at the time.
It was the nation’s largest civil rights demonstration and 20 years.
Thousands of Martyrs demanding civil rights, and Forsyth County Georgia, march today under the protection of 2,300 National Guardsmen and police.
And there were racist protesters again, as there were last week.
But this time they failed to stop the Marchers, March leaders including mrs.
Martin Luther King, jr.
Atlanta, mayor, Andrew Young.
I’m presidential Contender Gary Hart, civil rights activist Hosea Williams.
This massive protests.
Led, the governor of Georgia, a Democrat, to establish a bi-racial committee to talk about the Marchers demands, including reparations.
The committee included, Six, White County residents, and six black appointees chosen by the governor and civil rights leaders, but after 10 months of negotiations, the Russians fell apart.
The two parties failed to reach a unified recommendation.
They couldn’t agree on the issue of land reparations.
So they’ve released their own separate reports and late 1987.
And Patrick says the two couldn’t have been any more different.
The report that was written by the atlanta-based majority.
African-American group, is kind of astonishing because it reads like something that could have been written this week.
The report from the Members of the committee recommended that the governor established a permanent race relations committee to root out racial hatred along with a long list of Demands, you know, it talks about the problem of having no black police officers in Forsyth County, the need for exchanges between teachers from different school districts.
It talks about reparations.
It talks about the questions of land.
I mean all sorts of things that are absolutely front and center for us in 2021.
The white report.
Meanwhile wouldn’t engage age with any of those ideas and they categorically refuse to consider compensating, black residents for the land.
Their families had been forced out of one County, Commissioner argued.
This would set a dangerous precedent that quote, if we did that, we’d be deeply indebted to the Indians.
The report instead said the black residents had voluntarily relocated.
I think the last line of that somebody wrote that the cow.
He owes these people, nothing other than the helping hand.
We’ve always extended to them.
The county maintained this denial for decades, but that’s just recently starting to change a few years ago.
A group of Forsyth County residents formally organized to address the racial injustices of the County’s passed in September.
They held a ceremony to publicly acknowledge the true history of the racial cleansing.
As we commemorate this historical marker of such a tragedy.
We ask that you would set us in the right heart, the right mind in the right Spirit to receive what will happen today to have the right intentionality behind the ceremony.
Dedicated a marker memorializing, the life of Rob Edwards, the man who had been lynched in 1912.
Ilan, Osby, who we heard from earlier, came to Forsythe to be the keynote speaker, but she was surprised at how few other descendants showed up estimate.
The unveiling of the marker said, you know, where you are not able to get in touch with more people.
Surely there’s more descendant than just the three of us and very hesitantly.
She said we made contact with them, but some of them are just afraid.
Out of over 1,000, black residents who were forced out.
Just three of their descendants return to Forsythe.
On that day.
The fear of this place.
It’s carried across Generations.
How are y’all doing?
One of the other speakers that day was Daniel Blackman.
A black politician who lives in Forsyth healing, but also a day of Celebration, so I want to read what’s on the marker so that we know what we’re celebrating.
A bronze marker had been installed across the street from the county courthouse, building and cummings.
A small City on the edge of Lake Lanier.
It told the story of what happened to Rob Edwards and the other violent acts that took place a hundred and nine years ago, on September 10th 1912. 24 year old black man named Robert Edwards was lynched and Holland right here in downtown coming.
During this era, deep racial hostility burden black folks with presumptions of guilt often resulting and accusations.
There were then he introduced Elon to get up and speak today along lives in Atlanta.
Georgia, and I would like all of us to give her a warm Forsyth County.
Welcome that she comes the street.
I have serious anxiety attacks when I have to speak and I speak a lot.
So if I called, don’t try to get me up, just give me my paper and we’ll keep moving.
Ilan, prop photographs of her grandparents and her mother along with the census lists of 1910 that it had the names of every black resident who lived in the county prior to those months of Terror invoking, their Spirits as she spoke.
My mother would speak about being from Forsyth County and that’s all I knew.
I was 30 years old before I learned what really happened.
And I only found 40 years later.
He or she was in Forsyth County speaking out.
Against the Injustice showing up.
While a brave act in and of itself held a specific meaning for Ilan.
She came because it was important for her to see what the county had done to reckon with its brutal past.
You know, whenever someone does you wrong.
All you really want is for that person to come and acknowledge that what they did was wrong and then they say they’re sorry this marker.
It acknowledges the wrong.
It admits what really happened here and is the first step to precise County saying we’re sorry.
Let the racial healing begin right now.
And I spoke a few weeks after the ceremony and I asked her, what it was like to see the county acknowledge the real history of Forsyth forever.
The white people emphasize County to things that they were very, very quickly to declare.
Is that nothing happened here?
First of all, that’s a myth.
And the second thing is, we’re all fine.
There’s no racism in Forsyth County now, you know and And the reason there was no racism because there were no black people there to be racist against.
You know, I wish that at the end of the wording on the second part of that marker, that could have been the last three words.
We are sorry, but they’re not there yet.
How take what we can get, but Elon wants.
More than an apology, she was cheated out of land, that could have been hers and it’s for this reason that she wants more.
What is it about this history that haunts you and do you feel like that haunting ends with you or?
Does it continue if my grandfather had been able to pass this land down the financial rewards of this land, pass it down to his children, and then they’re able to pass it down.
You know, where would my life be today?
And maybe that is kind of a haunting because I’ll never have the answer to that.
Can’t ask for history to change, but she can ask for justice in a different form.
Look in the form of money of the current monetary value of the land.
That was stolen.
I remember a time when I thought, I don’t really need reparation and I don’t need a financial value applied to this.
And I have changed because now after The Trump Administration and I saw how the climate of America was going backwards and I saw how racism again is alive and doing very well, you know, this could happen again, another Forsyth County, racial cleansing, possibly could happen.
And so I have changed my mind about reparations because I believe that somebody Eddie needs to pay.
But for Ilan, what’s even more important than reparations is continuing the conversation about the racism that still exists in the country.
And speaking out against it, white people don’t get to sit on the sidelines and watch the news and either not care at all, or they just get to say, oh that’s awful.
They don’t get to do that anymore.
They have to speak up.
You can’t clearly see the effects of this haunting.
It’s been covered over by Starbucks and country clubs and the mcmansions of Forsyth County.
It’s been flooded over by Lake Lanier and the second homes of George’s wealthy that now line its Shores, but it’s there in the makeup of the place etched and ancestral memory, the kind of memory that shapes you whether your Are a vet or not?
Today the story of what happened in Forsyth County has lost among the other horror tales gossiped about by the visitors who come to the lake to party to relax to get boozy.
They don’t know it, but they’re floating over the land.
But just a few Generations ago, was being traversed by elon’s ancestors and countless others escaping the violence of this place.
They aren’t talking about what happened in Forsyth County in 1912.
They can’t hear the real ghosts that are haunting them.
It is a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.
This episode was produced by Sarah Craig.
We’re bringing you a story about the greatest magician of the 20th century.
So one afternoon Conan Doyle says to Houdini my wife would like to have a seance with you.
The rest of our team is producer, Amy, Padula and Associate producers, Julie Carly and Ramon Philip.
Laura Newcombe is our production assistant.
The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing by more a waltz, Andrea be Scott and Zach Stewart.
Ponte a tape sank by Claire Reynolds fact-checking, by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Matt bowl and Hans Dale shoe original music by Tax kicks.
J bless and Bobby.
This episode included super special original spooky music by Bobby, Lord featuring Natalia.
Paruz aka the saw lady.
It was recorded by Sam.
Bear at Relic room.
Our theme song is Toko, leonov by cocoa with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman, the executive producer at CSP.
Media is Zach’s, Ponte a, the executive producer from gimlet is Abbie ruzicka.
This episode wouldn’t exist without Patrick Phillips.
His book Blood at the root a racial cleansing and America.
If you want to learn more about the story, you should check it out.
Thanks to Patrick Phillips Ilan.
Osby, Leroy Grogan JB Knuckles, Renata sincere.
The community remembrance project of Forsyth County and to Lydia Pole Green, Dan Behar and Clara Sankey Emily.
In list Styles and Nabil.
Not past it.
Now, to listen, for free exclusively on Spotify.
Click the little bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes.
You can follow me on Twitter at Simone, polenin.
Thanks for hanging.
We’ll see you next week.
I want people to, I want white people to start a conversation with their co-workers to start a conversation in their families, to start a conversation in their neighborhoods.
Just talk about racism.
I’m just hoping that the new generations will drive out the old generation of hatred and racism.