Ghost Island on Lake Hartwell

Ghost Island and the Spector of History

Ghost Island or Cemetery Island is a small island located on Lake Hartwell, so named for the remnants of the Harrisburg Plantation cemetery on the island. When the plantation and surrounding area were flooded in 1962 to create Lake Hartwell, the cemetery's hilltop location meant it remained above the surface of the lake as one of the sole physical reminders of what was once there.

Harrisburg Plantation was built by John Harris Jr. in the late 1700s after Harris bought the land using funds he had acquired as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Harris soon became a notable figure in the upstate serving as a judge, doctor, and "high sheriff" in the newly formed Pendleton and Anderson counties until his death in 1845 when he was buried in Harrisburg Plantation cemetery alongside his wife, Mary Pickens Harris.

When construction of the Hartwell Dam was authorized in 1950 as part of the Flood Control Act, the land which was once Harrisburg Plantation was slated to be flooded to create Lake Hartwell. The remaining descendants of some of the early settlers of the upstate were given offers for their land and all eventually accepted them, even Eliza Vickery Brock who had initially used a rifle to threaten contractors. When construction of the dam was finished in 1962, the only distinguishable feature of the plantation that was left above the water was the cemetery.

Today, Ghost Island serves as a spooky attraction for tourists and college students who can camp there and explore the 59 graves located on the island. The island reportedly lives up to its name with occasional ghost sightings by campers. There is also a legend that the area was home to a woman named Serril Broin who was the granddaughter of a woman accused of being a witch and killed in the Salem, Massachusetts trials. Broin allegedly haunts the island to this day, though no evidence indicates Broin or her grandmother ever existed.

Whether Ghost Island is home to paranormal activity or not, it is a haunting reminder of the very real suffering endured by the enslaved people who helped carve out the upstate and the how the memory of plantations continues to shape upstate folklore.