From History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.
Wamble Mountain, sometimes spelled Womble, lies in the range of the Missouri Ozark foothills that stretch across several counties in Southern Illinois. It is positioned near the Southwestern corner of Saline County in the edge of the Shawnee National Forest. Its elevation of 938 feet makes it just shy of the commonly accepted 1000 feet to classify it as a true mountain, although I wouldn’t tell that to the locals if I were you.
Somewhere around 1815, a man by the name of Chism Estes settled his family in the area of Wamble Mountain, then a part of Gallatin County. Saline County was formed out of a part of Gallatin in 1847. Equality was the county seat at the time. All important business of the area was conducted there. Chism had many children, one in particular by the name of John. Once John entered adulthood, he married and settled near his family’s farm. The story goes on that John traveled to Equality to sell some horses and cattle, and on his way back home, was murdered and robbed for the sum of money he had received.
The murder supposedly took place very near his childhood home and just across the ridge from where he lived. John was buried in an unmarked grave on that mountain. His murderers never received the justice they so rightly deserved. John left behind at least one son, James, who later fought and died in the Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee. My research did not reveal the location of James’ interment, and you will soon see why I wonder where he rests.
Very late one night, somewhere around 2:00 AM about 4 or 5 years ago, a friend and I were taking a drive through the mountain road, mainly because I said I had never traveled on it. There was no other traffic, or so we thought. Reaching near the top of Wamble Mountain, we approached a man riding on horseback. Very unusual at 2:00 AM, and he seemed to have come out of nowhere. We hadn’t seen him in our headlights as we approached. It seemed we just suddenly came upon him. The horse was moving quite slowly, both the man and the horse kept their heads hung low.
Most riders, when approached from behind by a vehicle, will turn to look, but he never moved in that direction, just kept his head down. The man was oddly dressed; almost an 1800s style, with a light chambray shirt, very simple canvas pants, and a fedora style hat. His hat was not the flashy type, but it had a flat brim, as was common. He had something that appeared to be a shoulder bag of the kind used to carry black powder hung across his body and a rifle of some sort hung in the saddle of the horse.
It was a very cool night, somewhere in the 30s, but we had the truck windows partially down as the heater worked a little too well most of the time. Although the sides of the road were covered in dry leaves, there was absolutely no sound of the horse’s hooves, no leaves crunching, and no clopping sound on the hard poorly-graveled road. Most horses will react to a vehicle, at least a flinch or side-step, as the car passes; but not this horse, it kept its steady slow pace straight ahead and his head down, just as his rider. And despite the air so cold you could see your breath; there was no steam from the nares of the horse.
Who did I see on Wamble Mountain? Some strange local who likes to ride in the middle of nowhere at 2:00 AM? Is John looking for his murderers or reliving the last moments of his life returning home? Or did James finally return home from Fort Donelson?