History

Goatman’s Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton’s Old Alton Bridge

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The historic Old Alton Bridge, which connects the towns of Denton and Copper Canyon, has a complex and haunted history. From tragic and riveting tales of murder to the somewhat vague stories of a ghostly goatherder, it’s sure to give you the chills if you ever visit – heading out there after dark probably isn’t advisable, in any case!

Goatman's Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton's Old Alton Bridge

Wikimedia Commons/Brianchester666

The bridge was built in 1884, by the King Iron Manufacturing Bridge Company. Its original purpose was to carry horses and automobiles across the river. Though it is called the “Old Alton Bridge” the community of Alton had already dispersed by 1884. Denton County itself was formed in 1846, and the first attempt at settling the county seat was Pinckneyville (named for the Texas governor). However, water shortages forced politicians to move two years later, in 1848. The new townsite was located on a high ridge between Pecan Creek and Hickory Creek and was called Alton.

Their luck with this second townsite was also short-lived; in 1850 they moved once more, to a location five miles from present-day Corinth. This attempt was more successful. The Hickory Creek Baptist Church was organized in 1855, and by 1856, there were several buildings including a school and a saloon. However, the county seat was moved once more in 1857, to Denton. The post office closed forever in 1859. Today, the Baptist Church and the Alton cemetery are all that remains of the Alton village. The bridge was built twenty-five years later and dubbed the “Old Alton Bridge.”

Goatman's Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton's Old Alton Bridge

Wikimedia Commons/Pixelsyndicate

It didn’t earn the “Goatman” title until half a century later, when an African-American named Oscar Washburn settled in the area. His living was raising and selling goats. He was successful, and most of the community was supportive and friendly toward Washburn and his family, but unfortunately, the local Ku Klux Klan was not so pleased. Washburn posted a sign on the bridge which read “this way to the Goatman’s.” This action angered members of the Klan, and on a fateful night in August of 1938, they drove their cars across the bridge with their headlights off, took Washburn from his home and family, and dragged him to the bridge. The legend goes that they then fitted a noose over his head and threw him over the side of the bridge – but when they looked to see whether he was dead, his body had disappeared. They returned to his home and slaughtered his family, according to the legend. Washburn was never seen or heard from again – or was he?

Goatman's Bridge: History & Hauntings of Denton's Old Alton Bridge
Facebook / Jeff Stephens

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