LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - It’s round, heavy, and pretty much a complete mystery that people can only speculate about. The Gregg County Historical Museum recently received a donation of an unusual piece of antiquity - the old ball and chain, minus the chain.
It presently resides in a bucket at the Gregg County Historical Museum while the director figures out what should be done with it.
It was brought in by Docent Larry Courington, who got it from David Brabham, and he got it from Jim Bob Rollins, who got it from his dad V.G. Rollins.
But who was that?
“My scoutmaster, V.G. Rollins, Troop 201. After he retired from being a scoutmaster, he became a treasure hunter, and he found the iron ball,” Brabham explained.
Brabham said he and Jim Bob discovered it when they were going through Jim Bob’s father’s things after VG passed away. As far as the story of where VG found it, well, it’s complicated.
“Some of it’s conflicting,” Brabham said.
Brabham is probably a pretty good judge of what’s conflicting since he’s, well, a retired district judge. But the stories go like this.
“He found the iron ball in the Junction Area in Longview. Other information - he found the iron ball behind what’s now Super One up on Highway 80,” Brabham relayed.
From there, it gets theoretical.
“It’s believed that a convict that escaped somehow was able to have the chain separated from the ball,” Brabham surmised.
“I don’t know if they would have had it shackled to two inmates, you know, that were chained together,” Courington offered.
Whether there was one or two convicts, there was an escape.
“My understanding is the convict was never placed into custody. He escaped,” Brabham said.
So someone may have made the weighty decision to help the prisoner and cut the ball off.
Brabham says his old troop now tells a ghost story.
“On a full moon in the Sabine River bottoms, you can still hear the clanking of a chain, a man running through the woods trying to find some man or something to take the chain off his legs,” Brabham relayed.
And of course, Troop 201 ran with that ball, although obviously someone else did not.
If your family has lived in East Texas a few generations and has a story passed down about how a great great uncle escaped his shackles, well the Gregg County Historical Museum would like to hear from you. No word yet about displaying the iron ball.