Every once in a while, we, at Middle Georgia Haunted History, come across a story that seems so far fetched that we instantly become skeptical. This tale is one of them. What follows is one of the most incredible stories we’ve ever covered here, and you won’t believe what history we found to back it up. This is the story of Bone Pond, also known as Crystal Lake, a once beautiful tourist spot in Irwin County.
We’re going to do things a little out of order for this one, but trust us, it’s worth it. First, we’ll share what local lore tells us. It tells a lot. Because there are several ways this one has been told, we just chose a mixture of them all. Warning, some of this information may be sensitive to some readers. Please be advised.
According to the legends, a northern “sympathizer” by the name of Willie Bone owned the land and operated a mill on the pond. As this was in the Civil War era, it was actually uncommon to have that in the South.
All stories point to the fact that Bone was hiding a slave by the name of Toney on his land. Somehow, whether by accident, a hunting trip, or just a simple lead, a Justice of the Peace named Jack Walker came to Bone’s land. He was either looking for Toney or stumbled across the fact that Toney was there and Bone was hiding him. It gets grisly from here.
Mr. Bone either shot Walker in the head or hit him with a heavy rock to try and hide the fact that Toney was there. Again, according to legend, the blow didn’t kill Mr. Walker, unknown to Mr. Bone. Jack Walker would be buried alive shortly after in a shallow grave near the lake. This gets brought back up later.
Soon, other Justices of the Peace came looking for Walker at Bone’s Pond. In a panic, Bone ended up killing Toney and throwing his body in the deepest part of the pond to try and hide what he had done. There are different versions of what happened to Toney, but this one seems to be the most common lore. Remember, we’re just covering the myths right now and not the actual history, that comes later.
All of Mr. Bone’s efforts would come to no avail. Because Walker wasn’t fully dead, the search party found his grave with one hand sticking out of the ground. Bone was doomed. A coroner’s jury was assembled and decided his fate, and right there that night, Bond was hanged, over his pond, to death for his crimes.
Some stories of the event say that right as Mr. Bone died, the water actually rose up and swallowed the Mill, making it vanish instantly. Most legends agree that there was a curse put on the lake because of what happened. Reports of Walker appearing near the sands of the beach (Crystal Lake days), to Bone hanging around the tree lines, all the way to the devil himself coming out of the waters of the lake at night have been reported. All of this is legend, of course.
Those reports still come in from locals, although the entire property is completely fenced in and not open to the public at all. Any attempt to enter this property will result in your arrest. Do not go there, day or night, unless you’ve been given permission by the owners, which is unlikely due to the dangerous area.
So, what did we find pertaining to the actual, factual history?
Here’s what really happened according to many different sources stitched together to find the truth:
There was a man named Willis Jackson Bone, who was born in 1823 from South Carolina who moved to this area. He was a member of a militia whose goal was to help “the Union rise again” in the South. He ran a Mill on the Pond that he owned. Here’s where it gets incredible.
On April 20, 1865, a neighbor of the Bone property, who was a Justice of the Peace named Jack Walker, was, in fact, searching for a “run away slave” by the name of Toney who was “owned” (we don’t like it either, but it is history, we’re sorry) by a man named Samuel Young. There are actual records to support all of these statements, and they are fact.
Willis Bone did indeed shoot Jack Walker, and it didn’t kill him, so he beat him with his pistol and buried him in a shallow grave. He was captured after the threat of his family being killed. He was not hanged that night; instead, the next day on April 21, 1865, was the day of his execution. As we’ve pointed out so many times before, what became of Toney is not known. Whether he was captured, killed, or lived on is a mystery that is far too common in our history. We did find a record of Willis Bone, his wife Sarah, and son Zachary. We also found a will for a man named JJ Walker, whose death occurred in 1865 in the area. This tragic story appears to be historically true, for the most part.
Also, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. These events happened in 1865. So that doesn’t add up, does it? Actually, and sadly, yes, it does. The 13th Amendment that actually freed these men and women was passed in January of 1865 but wasn’t ratified or set into law until December of that same year. Again, we understand this is a hard subject, but the more we learn about it, the more we can prevent it from ever happening again.
So, what about that curse on the pond? Well, as we’ve pointed out, the land became a well-known tourist spot called Crystal Lake. Some of you reading this may have actually visited there when it was at its prime. According to other sources, after being sued by the families of tourists who drowned there (yes, that happened), the park had to close down. The lake has since almost completely dried up. The slides and docks left to rot in the hot summer sun. We don’t know much about curses, but man, if there ever was one, that’s it.
Unfortunately, there’s no historical area to bring awareness to for this story. Instead, we wanted to cover it to discourage others who may have heard the story from going there. You will be arrested. Do not go there. Instead, pick up a book from a local author who has covered it and read about it!
Hey! We hope you enjoyed this story and the history we found. Remember, we researched this for three months, and the information we gathered came from many sources. It is true to the best of our ability. The following pictures came from those sources, which we list below:
(Valdosta Today, Vanishing Georgia, Find-a-grave and Ancestry)
The legend can be found in several books and websites. One book is the second “Weird Georgia” book by Jim Miles. Check them out!
©️2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Leave a Reply