Goat Man’s Grave

Pine Hill Cemetery- Goat Man’s Grave – St. James, Missouri


   Like most cemeteries, Pine Hill Cemetery is not a scary place in the daytime, but it’s a whole different story in the dark of night. Most of the graves are marked only with a single rock with nothing inscribed on them, and some above-ground graves were built by stacking sandstones around the coffins. Supposedly one of the above-ground graves is what the locals believe to be that of the Goat Man. Goat Man is said to appear out of nowhere with red glowing eyes and will chase anyone that he encounters. It is said that he can only catch you in the grass or on the gravel roads in the area but can’t catch you on the pavements as his hooves will slip. Many visitors to the cemetery report problems with electronics and camera batteries draining unusually fast and others see shadow people  darting about in the graveyard; while others experience a feeling of light-headedness, uneasiness, and a constant "swirling wind" in their ears. Many do not see the Goat Man, but hear the sound of hooves hitting the ground and the cry of a goat. Many have also reported the apparition of a policeman appearing out of nowhere and then disappearing and others report a phantom car that chases you and then just disappears. Some of the paranormal activity can also be attributed to the Snelson family who are also buried in the cemetery which is very near the site of the Snelson-Brinker Cabin.

   The Snelson Brinker log cabin was built in 1834 by Levi Snelson. Levi built, lived in, and held court in the larger room of the two rooms, as he was a judge. Crawford County had no court houses at that time. Later, Snelson sold the house and forty acres to John Brinker for $125. Adjacent to the cabin is a combination smoke house and spring house. The property also contains a family cemetery which is known today as Pine Hill Cemetery that extends some distance into the thickly wooded area beyond the graves that are visible to visitors. The cemetery is also noted by some to house the remains of buried early settlers from the Meramec Springs Community, Cherokee Indians who died while passing this way on the Trail of Tears, Civil War veterans, and several members of the Huston Family.

   Most of the Cherokees leaving Georgia followed what is today called the Northern Land Route from Southeastern Tennessee across the mountains, through Nashville and Hopkinsville, Kentucky. They would cross the Ohio River near Galconda, Illinois, and continue across Southern Illinois to the ice-swollen Mississippi. After crossing the Mississippi, they would go northwest to Rolla before turning to the southwest to Springfield and enter northwest Arkansas. After crossing Benton and Washington Counties in Arkansas, they would disband in northwest Indian Territory.

   The Northern Route continued on the road parallel to State Route 8 into Steelville. West of Steelville, the detachments followed the present-day alignment of State Route 8 to St. James. North of State Route 8, in the Woodson K. Woods State Memorial Wildlife Area, is the Snelson-Brinker Cabin, which was a stopping point for some of the detachments. The house was owned by John Brinker in the late 1830s when the Cherokee Indians camped on the property. Four members of the Richard Taylor detachment died while at the Brinker residence and are buried in the family cemetery on the property. Although the dwelling has been altered in recent years, the site itself is significant for its associations as a known camp and burial site. Snelson-Brinker Cabin is the last Trail of Tears certified site in Missouri, certified October 12, 2006; and is considered by many to be a location of Indian Burial Grounds because of this event, possibly more than just those known to be buried in the family cemetery, or these four are actually buried in a different location along the river area of the original property. More recently, the tribe council or bureau came to the property and wanted to remove their dead and return them to the burial grounds at the reservation. This request was denied and currently the remains of any Indians buried at the cabin still remain intact.

   John Brinker, in the year 1837, had two daughters by the names of Vienna Jane, two years of age, and Sarah, who was just an infant at three weeks of age as noted in some documentation. Little is known of a Mrs. Brinker, she is not mentioned in any historical documentation and no one even knows her first name or if a Mrs. actually existed at the time of the tragic event that struck the Brinker household. Brinker also had a young slave girl named Mary who cared for the children among other duties at the cabin. She was housed in the lower portion of the spring and smoke house.

   One day in 1837, John Brinker hitched his cart and horse and went down into the very nearby community of Meramec Springs, an ironworks town back then and historical park today. He went for supplies. When he returned, he found that the eldest child Vienna Jane was missing. Mary would give no responses or recognition that she knew anything about where the child could be. The Sheriff was summoned and a search party set out to locate the child. She was discovered in a shallow riverbed behind the cabin deceased. Her head was bruised and battered as if she may have fell and been knocked unconscious and possibly drowning. However the Sheriff was suspicious of how the child met her demise.

   The Sheriff set up with Brinker that he would once again go into the springs for supplies, but this time they would take cover in the woods and watch the cabin. After Brinker was out of sight, they witnessed the slave girl Mary running out of the cabin with the infant, Sarah, and heading in the direction of the creek bed. They intercepted her before the infant could be harmed, and it is said that they tied her to the old tree to the right side of the cabin (if facing the cabin and the tree still remains but is dead now), and threatened to beat her if she did not talk. Mary then confessed to the killing of Vienna Jane. She stated that she tried to drown her, but the water was too shallow and she would not die, so in her words, she beat her in the head with a stick until she died. She also confessed that she was on her way to kill the remaining child, Sarah. There are different accounts as to her motive, one printed in a St. Louis Newspaper stating that she did so because Brinker was going to sell her. The other version is that she had been impregnated by and given birth to Brinker’s child, and the elusive Mrs. Brinker made John Brinker sell the child. Therefore Mary committed this crime out of revenge for the loss of her own child. A news article of the times quoted Mary as being a shrewd girl, remarkably fond of children, and that she exhibited no fear or compunction at the moment of apprehension. Mary gave her confession, signed it with an x, as she was illiterate, and was taken to jail to await her indictment and trial. The news article indicates that she spent time in the Potosi Jail, in Washington County, while awaiting trial. I am not sure why this would be however since her trial was held in Crawford County, Steelville, MO.

   Mary was indicted on the first day, a jury of twelve white men was seated on the second day and by the end of the day she was convicted of first degree murder, the day being August 18th, 1837. The very brief trial consisted of wit-nesses testifying against her, those being Thomas Shirley, William Blackwell and John B. Brinker himself. Mary's confession was deemed admissible as evidence but caution was given to the jury, by the judge, that it could only be admissible as legal evidence if Mary had given the confession of her own free will without the influence of hope, fear, pain or torture. The defense offered up no evidence on behalf of Mary according to summarizing court records, such as the Sheriff posse tying her to the tree and coercing the confession from her and the fact of if this event really did take place remains questionable today, as no one presented such an event at Mary's trial. I believe it is safe to say that this event most likely did take place, one due to the era and it just being the way things were done when it came to slaves who were owned property and essentially such actions were common. Also, to this day there have been falsehoods in the case that have stood the test of time, such as Mary was hung from that tree in the cabin yard when found guilty of the crime. The tree has forever played an integral part of the story of Mary's case, and we know she was not hung from this tree, therefore the tree's stigma and true involvement in this case is very likely the case of it being a part of the coerced confession of Mary. Unlike most trials of today, Mary's was pretty much one sided completely. This is not to say that Mary was innocent of the crime, but I do believe it has been the basis of some speculation of if she was truly guilty.

   On August 19th, Judge Evans, the presiding judge on the trial, sentenced Mary to death by hanging to be carried out on September 30th, 1837. Her attorneys did make a motion for a new trial that Judge Evans denied, so they filed for appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court. The Missouri Supreme Court reversed Mary's conviction and granted her a new trial based on two grounds, inconsistent mode of death were charged in the conviction, beating the child to death with a stick and drowning her, and the fact that the prosecution continued to examine witnesses after agreement was made in the court that the evidence be closed, which would thereby be inflaming the jury against Mary. Her new trial was delayed over arguments of change of venue, the trial continuing into 1838. She was once again found guilty with no appeal process taken this time, and she was then hung by the Crawford County Sheriff on August 11th, 1838, at the age of 16/17. She was buried in an unmarked grave on the bluff on the north side of Steelville. Mary’s execution made her the youngest known person ever put to death under Missouri authority.


From the book "Haunted Graveyards of the Ozarks" by David E. Harkins.