The Crybaby Bridge
A building contractor in the small town of Greenville Alabama may have
solved a 70-year-old mystery. During renovations to restore the Dayton
House, building contractor James Farrell uncovered fragments of a human
skull in the building's subbasement. The remains are suspected to be
Lucille Dayton, the wife of Travis Dayton who built the house in 1929 as a
wedding gift and who murdered his wife less than a year later. This
70-year-old murder is still the topic of speculation in Greenville to this
Contractor James Farrell made a grisly find in the
Travis's father, Taylor Dayton was a wealthy man in Butler County Alabama
with extensive land holdings in Greenville. When Taylor died in August of
1928, Travis, age 23, inherited the family fortune as sole heir. The burden
of running the family business was a large one for such a young man and
Travis confided to several friends that he was "at wit's end on what to do."
Instead of bowing down to the pressure Travis went on a long vacation,
leaving a hired foreman to manage his father's fortune. In January of 1929,
upon returning from a trip to Mobile, he announced his engagement to Lucille
Williams. The Butler County newspaper records the announcement in its
"Girls all over Butler County are weeping bitter tears over the announcement
that bachelor Travis Dayton is to be wed this fall! The bride to be is
Lucille Williams from Mobile and although we are not aware of her family
surname in that town's society we are sure it is an oversight. We wish the
husband and future Mrs. Dayton the very best of luck!"
As is evident in the column's tone, the locals weren't very happy that
Travis had found love outside the county line. What isn't reported is that
Travis himself seemed to have been changed by the announcement. Gone was
the nervous young man with a huge family business to manage. Instead Travis
became silent and determined
And this determination manifested itself in a unexpected way. Travis
immediately began building a new home for his wife in downtown Greenville
and spared no expense in its construction. He alternated his time between
overseeing the house construction, looking after his business, and traveling
to Mobile to see his beloved who still hadn't set foot in Butler County.
When asked Travis said it was his idea that his wife not arrive in town
until after the completion of the new home. Of any other particulars he
said very little.
Finally by September of 1929 the house was ready. The new home was the talk
of the county with its ornate ironwork, wood detailing and size. Local's
waiting to see the mystery woman who deserved such finery were disappointed
when she arrived into town late on the night of the 12th and most had to
make do with looking at the brand new Ford convertible that was parked in
The Dayton House
The wedding took place on the 15th and was held inside the home. Minister
Franklin Jeffers of the Greenville First Baptist Church officiated at the
ceremony and when later quizzed by the newspaper stated that the bride and
groom were the only ones present and the ceremony was a simple one. He also
said that the bride was intensely shy and that was why the ceremony wasn't
conducted at a church and also why the new Mrs. Dayton had not shown herself
to the town yet.
But the most curious aspect of the wedding was left out of the Minister's
official report. Lena Baker, age 88, remembers hearing that Lucille wore a
heavy bridal veil during the entire ceremony. "After the Minister told us
that, everybody around town said that the woman must be scarred or
disfigured in the face," said Baker. "That's why she wouldn't come outside
or talk to no one. Even after they were married, she stayed in that house
day and night."
After the marriage Travis remained silent and refused offers to join his
workers for dinners or social events, instead retreating home to be in
seclusion with his new wife. Five months or so after the marriage new
rumors started spreading around town that Lucille was pregnant. The owner
of the mercantile store reported that Travis had ordered a baby's bassinet
along with new wallpaper and other furniture. When asked by Edmund Samsant,
the local doctor, if the rumor was true Travis replied that it was and that
Lucille's family physician in Mobile was attending to the pregnancy.
Samsant doubted that a physician in Mobile was traveling the roads up to
little Greenville to see after a patient but kept his opinions to himself.
He was later quoted in the paper as saying, "If the Dayton's didn't want me
involved then I wasn't going to insist, it wasn't my place."
Perhaps he should have insisted because on the night of June 10th, 1930,
something terrible happened . . ..
At roughly 12:30 am, patrons at a Greenville roadhouse named "Sally's" were
surprised to see Travis Dayton walk through the door. Lena Baker says she
heard that some even shouted hello to him before they saw his bloodstained
clothes in the dim light of the bar.
"They said that Travis Dayton looked like he had seen hell," said Baker.
"His clothes had blood all over them and he was carrying an axe in one hand
and a pistol in the other. One old man sitting next to the door said that
the blood was so thick on Travis's face that when he breathed a red mist
sprayed out. I think that's a pile of crap but I believe what those drunks
told me he said. They said Travis just looked around the room and
whispered, 'I had to do it. It had no mouth but I could hear it crying.'
And then he put the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. He was dead
before he hit the beer soaked sawdust on the floor."
Local men quickly entered the Dayton house and found a mess. Blood and
birth fluids soaked the master bed, trailed down the stairs and even
spotted the steps to the empty garage. Travis's vehicle was found parked
next to a train trestle located about 1 mile away from Sally's bar. More
blood soaked the upholstery and spots of it led to the trestle and onto the
bridge itself. The Sheriff ordered that the swamp under the bridge be
searched but neither the body of Lucille nor of a newborn child was ever
found. After a week, searching was halted and the case was ruled a murder
suicide and closed. The city foreclosed on the house for unpaid taxes in
1931 and sold it to a local bank who tried to resell it with no success.
The bank itself went bankrupt in the midst of the great depression and true
ownership of the house became a matter of question.
Left alone and abandoned, the finest home in Butler County quickly became
the source of ghost sightings. Jack Norvison remembers one such occasion.
Window where a mysterious light has been seen
"I was a boy of thirteen or so back in 1946 or 47 and my friends dared me to
go into the Dayton house. I wasn't going to do it but I wanted to impress
them so I climbed up on the porch and made like I was going to climb through
a broken window. About as soon as I put my hand on the windowsill my
friends who were standing on the sidewalk all yelled and started running
away. I thought they were trying to spook me but when I looked back into
the house I could see a glow coming from the top of the stairs like there
was a light up at the top of it. That did it for me and I ran out of there
as fast as I could. My friends said they saw that light from the window up
near the attic and that it was the ghost of Lucille Dayton looking for her
dead baby. It might have been somebody up in there playing tricks on us but
if it was then they played that same trick over and over cause other people
have seen it too over the years."
And that wasn't the only location that gained a reputation as a haunted
spot. Lena Baker recalls that the train trestle where Travis supposedly
dumped the bodies is known to be haunted as well.
Lena stated, "If you're brave enough or stupid enough you can sit by the
tracks and wait for a train to come. When it started tooting it's horn
going through town people say you can hear the baby start to cry from
underneath that bridge cause it's scared of the noise and wants it's momma.
As the train gets closer to the bridge the crying gets louder and louder
till the train passes over the bridge and then it stops. Some people also
said that you could see a ghost light in the swamp water under the bridge
but in 1967 that swamp was drained by the county so I guess we'll never know
about that. County said they were draining it cause of mosquitoes but I
think the real reason was that they were still looking for the bodies Travis
threw in there. They never found nothing."
The train trestle where a baby's ghostly cries have been heard.
The swamp that existed in 1930 below the tracks has since been drained.
The house set abandoned until 1999 when Mr. R B McCullough from Mobile
finally bought it for an undisclosed sum and stated that he planned to bring
the house back to it's former glory. Renovations began early in 2000 by
local contractor James Farrell who says that he knew about the rumors of a
ghost but noticed nothing strange as he began repairs. On June 18th Farrell
and a worker were installing pipes in the home's dirt basement when they
made the grisly find.
"We were digging pipe trench and I was using a pick. I swung it down and
when I brought it up there was part of a human skull sticking on the end of
it. When I brought it up, it looked like it's eyes were staring straight at
me. So we stopped work and I called the sheriff on my cel phone. He came
out and pissed around and then called the County guys out here to see what
they could find. The whole shenanigans cost me 2 days downtime."
The skull was sent to Birmingham Alabama where it was examined, dated at
approx. 60 to 80 years old and thought to be from a female of approx. 25
years of age. It was also determined that the skull had been severed by the
blow of a sharp instrument across the neck. No medical records for Lucille
were available but the time frame fits the crime and the local police state
they believe the skull to be from Lucille.
The remains have been interred at the Greenville Cemetery with a simple
stone marker that reads "Lucille Dayton." Contractor James Farrell reports
that although he is still behind on work, he's still seen no ghosts on the
Interview James Farrell July 3rd
Interview Lena Baker July 3rd, and 4th
Interview Jack Norvison, July 3rd
Butler County Courthouse Records and Deeds Division
Greenville First Baptist Church 1925-1932 Marriage Ledger
Butler County Bulletin newspaper archive, various issues from Jan., Sept.,
and Dec. of 1929
University of Alabama Forensics Lab Report 3s-V (Greenville Remains)
Pictures by Derek Barnes