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  • Roger W. Downes

Tragedy At Hooker Falls

A sad tale that spans all of eternity....

When you visit Buck Forest, or as it is known today the DuPont State Recreational Forest, you will eventually come upon Hooker Falls; a beautiful 12-foot-high waterfall that stretches the expanse of the Little River. However, the trail to this stunning drop holds a tale of sadness that no one should ever have to endure.

Hear this tragic story from Patty Stahl in the above podcast

As you trek along the Hooker Falls trail from the Hooker Falls parking area you will come to a split in the path, that if you bare right will take you down along the slowly sloping ridge to the roaring falls. But if you decide to bare left you will step into a darker part of our history, one washed in war, sadness and premature death. For this path, if you so choose it, will resolve at the Hooker-Moore Cemetery.


Barely a mentionable clearing in the forest, this graveyard is home to roughly 65 meekly marked graves with dates ranging through the 1800’s, minus five. These five graves boast modern stones with the names of Isaac Heath, Margaret Heath, Millard Heath, Harriet Heath and Hannah Heath carved onto them. At first glance you wouldn’t think twice to see a family buried together, until you noticed four of the five graves share the same year of death.


Was it a flood along the Little River? Was a group of Union Soldiers Hell bent for blood?

It was this mystery that set me on my quest to discover what had happened to Margaret (5), Millard (11), Harriet (7) and Hannah (17). Was it a flood along the Little River? Was a group of Union Soldiers Hell bent for blood? Or was it something even more sinister than my imagination couldn’t even fathom?


To tell you their story I must first paint the picture of what the DuPont State Recreational Forest looked like in 1861. Long before the DuPont Company purchased the forest from the Coxe family, and even before the forest had reclaimed the land as you see it today, “Buck Forest” was a thriving mountain town with two mills adjacent from each other perched at the top of Hooker Falls where town folk would take their grain to be ground. It was a quiet and simple life minus the occasional visitor along the toll road with stories from Greenville, or the stark warning about a rogue dog giving chase to those venturing to the mills.


Meanwhile, outside of this sleepy town rumors spread, like a violent thunderstorm booming in the distance before the first tornado touches down, of a rebellion to part ways from the North and their anti-slavery beliefs. But these murmurs meant little to the poor farmers of Buck Forest who couldn’t afford even one slave to work their farm let alone an entire group of slaves like their fellow countrymen in Georgia and South Carolina.





This is where a young and ambitious Isaac Heath met and married his bride who bore him ten beautiful children over their lifelong love affair. It was a blessed mountain life as the two lovers grew old together watching their oldest children grow, marry and start families of their own. Isaac and his bride dreamed of the same blessings for their younger children still at home.


Isaac just couldn’t bare leaving his babies behind without their daddy for all eternity.

However, in 1861 God had other plans and called Margaret, Millard, Harriet and Hannah home within eighteen days of each other after diphtheria came to roost in the Heath’s home. It is told by his great, great, great granddaughter, Patty Stahl, that Isaac carried each of his children by himself to the Hooker-Moore Cemetery to bury them. He did it all by himself in hopes to not spread the infection to others of the town.


Hardships had just begun for the Heath family as the Civil War erupted onto the countryside and his son Jackson signed up to fight. Luckily enough his son did return home alive and well but the war took its toll on an already struggling area and Buck Forest was eventually abandoned to the forest. But Isaac never forgot about his babies buried there and longed to be united with them again.


Following his passing at 85 in 1895, Isaac was laid to rest next to his four children, by his own request which he had made repeatedly for 34 years after their deaths. He just couldn’t bare leaving his babies behind without their daddy for all eternity.


The next time you trek to Hooker Falls, take a minute to stop by the Hooker-Moore Cemetery and thank God that He has once again united Isaac with Margaret, Millard, Harriet and Hannah.



Special thanks for Patty Stahl for her help in this blog and podcast.

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Thank you for taking the time to read about the adventures I take, the people I meet and the places I see.  

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