Have You Heard of James Briton Bailey, The Thirstiest Ghost in Texas?
A man reputed to be one of Texas' earliest Anglo settlers is also said to haunt Brazoria County in search of a different kind of spirit denied him at burial.
His name was James Briton Bailey, and legend has it that his ghost appears as either a spirit in the shape of a man holding a lantern, or as an orb of light. He's said to stalk the roads of Brazoria County in Texas, but while some ghosts might be out for revenge or some sort of moral closure, the story goes that Bailey is just lookin' to wet his whistle.
James Baily of the Old Three Hundred
I only recently learned about this Texas folktale, and I have to say I'm as impressed by Baily's life as I am by his ghostly legacy.
According to the Handbook of Texas, James Bailey was one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred. These were people who received some of the earliest land grants in Stephen F. Austin's first Texas colony.
He Don't Give a Damn 'Bout His Bad Reputation
Bailey was born in North Carolina in 1779. Like so many of Texas' earliest leaders, he managed to get himself into some trouble back east and decided to say "to Hell with you all" and move to Texas. Hey, our state's always been a great place to start over!
However, Bailey's reputation preceded him, and it's possible this caused some friction between him and Stephen F. Austin. The two were reportedly at odds over whether Baily had any legitimate claim to his land in Texas, but eventually Austin decided to recognize Bailey's squatter's rights.
Not a Total Mooch
Even though they weren't pals, Austin reportedly had settlers gather at Bailey's house to swear an oath of fidelity to the Mexican Constitution of 1824. At that same meeting, Bailey was made a lieutenant of the local militia, and eventually got himself promoted to captain. He went on to fight in the battles of Jones Creek and Velsaco.
What About Bailey's Ghost? What's He Looking For?
Bailey was known to do two things at the drop of a hat: get into a fistfight and get absolutely wasted on whiskey.
When he died in 1832, his will reportedly stipulated that he be buried standing straight up facing west with his rifle at his side, a lantern, and a jug of whiskey.
Depending on who you ask, either Bailey's wife kept the jug of whiskey because he'd had quite enough when he was still alive, or the slaves tasked with digging his grave shared it among themselves.
No Rest for the Thirsty
These days, if you drive along or near Highway 30 in Brazoria County between West Columbia and Angleton, you may see a bouncing ball of light, or the shape of a man with a lantern walking along the roadside looking at you longingly.
I don't think there's any reason to be afraid, though. Legend has it he's not out to hurt anyone. He's just looking for that jug!
I can't say I blame him. If I was a ghost stuck on earth, I'd be a drinker too!