Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Building of the Week: The Myrtles Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana

The Myrtles Plantation

Built in 1796 by General David Bradford (known as “Whiskey Dave”), the plantation was originally called “Laurel Grove.” General Bradford’s involvement with the Pennsylvania-based tax protest known as “The Whiskey Rebellion” dictated that he remain sequestered. And, so, he lived alone at Laurel Grove until 1799 when he was pardoned. At that time, he brought his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children to live with him at Laurel Grove. One of the General’s daughters, Sarah Mathilde, married Clark Woodruff, a student of the General’s. When General Bradford died in 1808, Clark and Sarah managed the plantation for Elizabeth Bradford until her death in 1830.

In 1834, the Woodruffs sold the plantation to Ruffin Gray Stirling and his wife, Mary Catherine who, upon moving in with their nine children, began an extensive expansion and renovation project which greatly changed the appearance of the house. What we see today with its wrought iron columns and gingerbread is the result of that remodeling. The new house was almost twice as large as its predecessor. Mary Catherine filled the house with exquisite furnishings imported from France and England—many of which remain in the house. They renamed the plantation, “The Myrtles.” In 1854, Stirling died, willing The Myrtles to his wife who managed the property until 1865 when she contracted her son-in-law William Drew Winter to take over the duties. Winter, husband of Mary Catherine’s daughter, another Sarah, was fatally shot by an unknown man, while standing on the front porch. Legend has it that he managed to drag himself inside the house before he died.

A sculpture outside The Myrtles.
In 1880, when Mary Catherine died, she willed the plantation to her son Stephen. However, by that point, the plantation was so heavily in debt that it could not be maintained. After that, the house and lands were sold many times—each time found the property being divided and sold in pieces. Today, The Myrtles is owned by John and Teeta Moss who have opened the mansion to the public as a bed and breakfast as well as a reception center. The Moss’ offer tours of the home and grounds so that tourists can have a chance to take in its Antebellum splendor.

Oh, there is one more thing. The Myrtles is reportedly the most haunted house in America—or at least among them. Owners of the last few decades have reported many strange occurrences. The house has been the subject of many paranormal investigations and programs. Robert Stack once commented that during the filming of his program, “Unsolved Mysteries” the crew experiences all manner of unexplainable difficulties. If you believe in that sort of thing or enjoy it (as I do), you might be interested in knowing about some of the ghosts of The Myrtles. In total, twelve separate spirits have been reportedly haunting The Myrtles. 

The figure of Chloe can be seen behind the column at the center
of the photograph.  My thanks to The Myrtles Plantation for the use
of the image.
One of them is reportedly the ghost of William Winter who was shot on the porch. The spirits of children are said to cause otherworldly mischief for visitors. However, the most famous of the ghostly legends is that of Chloe. As the story goes, Chloe, a slave, was the mistress of Clark Woodruff. When she was caught listening at the keyhole, Woodruff had the woman’s ear cut off. Supposedly, to hide her disfigurement, from that point on, she wore a green turban. To exact her revenge, Chloe is said to have baked a cake seasoned with oleander. Her intention was to poison Mr. Woodruff, however, the legend states that, instead, she poisoned Sarah and her daughters. Chloe is said to haunt The Myrtles to this day. In fact, several photographs exist which purport to show Chloe’s ghostly form. If you look closely between the main house and the outbuilding, you can see the figure of a woman in a turban between the two buildings.

Now, if we look at the records, we can see that Sarah Woodruff didn’t die from being poisoned. She died in the second Yellow Fever epidemic as did two of her daughters. So, there’s probably some cause to doubt the legend of Chloe. But, that doesn’t mean that something isn’t haunting The Myrtles. Besides, it’s more fun to think there is.

My one complaint about The Myrtles is that during our travels throughout Louisiana while I was writing The Garnet Red, I was quite excited to go to the plantation, and, in fact, we took a detour to the area for that reason. However, as you all know, I travel with Bertie. Bertie was denied entrance even though he was in a carrier and all four paws were contained. So...if you go, don't bring a dog. Since Bertie didn't go in, neither did I.

Otherwise, hooray for The Myrtles. In fact, here's a note to everybody's favorite beefy Demon Chaser, Zak Bagans--time to go there, if they'll let you. They may not let Aaron in. After all, they didn't let Bertie. But, it's worth a shot. I'm sure it'll be good for an hour's worth of "Dude! And Bro, did you see that!"

Here's something which requires less bleeping than our Zak's investigation might...

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