Locked In — Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery

Magnolia Cemetery
70 Cunnington Street
Charleston, South Carolina

A moss-draped drive through the cemetery. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

After wandering through Magnolia Cemetery in awe for almost two hours I began to make my way out. The cemetery has winding drives through its oak shaded acres with a posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour. Not wanting to miss anything, I was probably driving slower than that when I approached the massive cemetery gates. The gates were closed and a chain and large padlock secured them. A number of expletives left my mouth and panic quickly set in. A couple of Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottis) loudly scolded me from atop an adjacent tombstone. The welcome sign listed rules for the cemetery but no number in the event that you’re locked in with the dead. As I dialed 911, I prayed that I would not face a fine or worse for missing the very obvious sign stating that the gates would close at 6PM. It was 6:15.

In this city of so many fine homes and buildings, only I would first head to the cemetery. But, this place is so much more than just a resting place for the dead, it’s truly an art museum, a guide to three centuries of art and architecture and a habitat for native plants and wildlife. Wandering among the graves were Domestic and Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). I passed a couple of ponds within the cemetery and was excited to see a dead tree in the center of one pond with a number of water birds perching on it. Even better, were the two “Life Birds” I saw there: Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) and American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus).

A snag in the main pond with perching waterbirds. Two Wood Storks are perched at the top with two White Ibises underneath. A Cattle Egret is perched on the right with a Great Egret in the background. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

For a taphophile, Magnolia Cemetery is heavenly. Everywhere there is marvelous funerary art and symbolism. As I walked and was fed upon by legions of mosquitoes (I won’t acknowledge their scientific name as they don’t deserve it) I had to pass graves that in most cases I would be drawn to in order to pursue more interesting graves. By the end of the first hour, I took to riding in my car to avoid the mosquitoes and trying to photograph the most interesting graves closest to the drive.

The large, Gothic Revival monument to Elbert P. Jones, died 1 April 1852. Designed by architect Francis D. Lee and constructed by E. Greble of Philadelphia. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Among the more notable monuments is the grave of Rosalie Raymond White. Situated next to one of the ponds, the White family plot has some fascinating art, but particularly interesting is the grave of young Rosalie who died less than a year after her birth. There is a hooded cradle and under the hood, the likeness of the child. According to Denise Roffe in her Ghosts and Legends of Charleston South Carolina, the likeness is a death mask and one of the few such things on a grave in the United States.

Grave of Rosalie Raymond White. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The death mask of Rosalie Raymond White. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Another prominent monument is that William Washington. I viewed this one from the car, so I couldn’t get all the information, but it appears to be a cenotaph (a monument to someone who is buried elsewhere) to this notable figure from the American Revolution. The monument, surrounded by an unusual circular iron fence (I’ve not seen one, though they were numerous in this cemetery), is a large marble column with an ivy garland wrapped around it. At the base of the column is a rattlesnake, a creature I’ve not seen at all in funerary art. The snake is taken from the early American Gadsden flag, the first flag carried into battle by the Continental Marine Corps during the American Revolution, which bears the words, “Don’t Tread On Me.” This flag has most recently been adopted by the Tea Party.

The monument to William White; a Doric column with a rattlesnake entwined at the base.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

This monument was designed by E.B. White and constructed by W.T. White, the city’s most prominent stone carver and monument builder. As I wandered the cemeteries of Charleston, in nearly every graveyard I found monuments with White’s signature.

Nearby, another marvelous monument by White is the stone for the Rev. I.E.H. Seymour. Topped with the statue of a praying woman, the stone bears a wonderful crest. An hourglass is encircled by an ouroboros, an ancient symbol meaning cyclicality; thus in this, the cyclicality of time or that even in death, life is created. This idea is strengthened by a wreath which can mean victory in death. The wings, however, are harder to interpret and I have yet to find an explanation. On this same stone is also the image of a bee, another symbol that I cannot yet interpret.

The crest of the Seymour monument. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Not far away is the monument for Hugh Swinton Legare, who served two years as a state legislator, South Carolina Attorney General, then as a state Representative to the United States House and then United States Attorney General under President John Tyler. The monument consists of a large marble Corinthian column sitting on a large base. One side of the base is carved with the national crest with a bald eagle, while the opposite site bears images from the South Carolina state crest with a wonderfully carved palmetto tree with a pair of shields underneath back with 12 spears (representing the other 12 colonies); all sitting on a fallen tree. The palmetto’s significance comes from a battle fought on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, June 28, 1776, between colonists and the British. The colonists had built a fort of palmetto logs and the British cannon fire seemed to bounce right off. The dead tree represents the defeated British fleet. This monument was also built by White and is signed “W.T. White/Steam Marble Works/115 Meeting St”.

The Legare monument. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The South Carolina crest on the Legare monument. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Lagare died in 1840 in Boston, Massachusetts while attending ceremonies for the unveiling of the monument at Bunker Hill. He was buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery there. Interestingly, this is one of the cemeteries upon which the designs for Magnolia Cemetery are based. Mount Auburn, coupled with New York City’s Greenwood Cemetery provided the inspiration for the “Garden Cemetery,” a type of cemetery found throughout the United States. These cemeteries, created in park and garden-like settings were a departure from the usual churchyards where most people were buried. In 1857, Lagare’s remains were exhumed from his Boston burial place and he was re-interred here among the magnolias.

Magnolia Cemetery was founded in 1850 on the grounds of the former Magnolia Umbra plantation. The old plantation house still stands in the center of the cemetery. Laid out by South Carolina architect Edward C. Jones, the rules for governing the cemetery were copied from those of Mount Auburn and Greenwood. This sacred parcel of land has become the resting place of many of Charleston’s most prominent people.

Nearby is another stone carved with state symbolism including a wonderful, freestanding palmetto. The monument is for James Brown Boyd, Sergeant of the Palmetto Guards of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment. He was killed at the battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland (usually called Antietam), September 17, 1862. This is not a White monument and is signed “D.A. Walker.” The palmetto sculpture is signed, “A. F. Chevreaux, Sculptor”.

The Confederate section. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

According to Denise Roffe, this cemetery may have a few spirits wandering around. In one story, a brother and sister were fishing in the nearby Cooper River. When the little girl’s favorite doll fell in the water, she dove in to retrieve it and her body was found later clutching the doll. Her spirit has been seen in the company of a Civil War soldier, said to be her father. When the two are approached, they both vanish as the little girl giggles. Another spirit is also a young girl seen near the burial site of Annie Aiken.

Part of the burial lot for the crew of the CSS Hunley, the Confederate submarine that sank in Charleston harbor after sinking the USS Housatonic. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The cemetery is massive and I easily could have spent many hours here, but the swarms of mosquitoes feeding on me every time I got out of the car began to be too much. That’s when I decided to leave, and good thing as I found the locked gates.

The Egyptian Revival W.B. Smith mausoleum. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

A jolly man in a pickup truck pulled up as I spoke to the 911 operator. He had the key. Thank God. I told him I was so bowled over with Magnolia Cemetery that I had lost track of time. Smiling he listed some facts about the place: it contained around 33,000 interments (a number that is still growing) on 154 acres. I’m glad I’m not yet one of those who have found their rest here.

Sources 

  • Hugh Swinton Legare. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 July 2011.
  • Jacoby, Mary Moore and John W. Meffert. Charleston: An Album from The Collection of the Charleston Museum. Dover, NH: Arcadia Press, 1997.
  • McNulty, Kappy and Nenie Dixon. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Magnolia Cemetery. 23 August 1976.
  • Roffe, Denise. Ghosts and Legends of Charleston, South Carolina. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2010.
  • Seal of South CarolinaWikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 July 2011.

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Legends of Long Island—Long Island of the Holston

Long Island of the Holston
Kingsport, Tennessee

Had this four mile long, half mile wide island been located in any other river in Tennessee it would not possess the significance that it has. This spit of land could be called the birthplace of Tennessee and even Kentucky for the treaties signed with the Cherokee that opened their lands to settlements by the white man. One possible origin for the name for the state of Tennessee, from the language of the Yuchi Indians, “Tana-see,” possibly meaning “the meeting place,” may be derived from this island. It is no wonder that the Federal government named Long Island a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

Aerial view of Long Island of the Holston, 2009. Photo by Worldislandinfo, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The island is located near the junction of the North and South forks of the Holston. The Holston flows southwest towards Knoxville where it meets the French Broad River creating the mighty Tennessee River. Nearby, the Great Indian Warpath, a major trail leading to the northeast from central Tennessee, brought many natives past this island. This island served as an important ceremonial site for the Cherokee Indians who occupied this area until the late 18th century. The island was a sacred ground for rituals but also for councils and treaties. So sacred was this island that, according to a number of sources, it was forbidden to kill or molest anyone on this sacred ground.

The first major intrusion of whites into the area occurred with Colonel William Byrd’s expedition in 1761 which constructed Fort Robinson near the river junction. When the outpost was abandoned a short while later, the Cherokee resumed control of the area. However, the building of the fort only emboldened white incursions into the area. Hunters, explorers and the occasional courageous settler were soon found in the lands surrounding the island. When Daniel Boone, that great trailblazer to the Kentucky territory, arrived in March of 1775 with an axe-wielding crew to cut a trail to the new territory, the real trouble began. Long Island became the starting point for Boone’s Wilderness Road, bringing hundreds of thousands of white settlers through the area.

With the outbreak of war, many of the Cherokee sided with the British due to the increasing pressure from frontiersmen and by the middle of 1776 they had worked to free the area from whites. Colonial soldiers set out from Eaton’s Fort near the junction of the Holston’s two forks and crushed the Cherokee in battle at the Long Island Flats on August 20. The next year, a treaty was negotiated on Long Island ceding much of the Cherokee lands in East Tennessee and everything east of the Blue Ridge to white settlers. However, the Cherokee still maintained possession of Long Island, though Joseph Martin and his Native American wife, Betsy, established a trading post there; the first white settler on the island.

While many Cherokee had cleared out of the newly claimed area, there were still attacks on white settlements. A peace was negotiated at Long Island in 1781 just before the end of the Revolution. The activity of settlers increased and a boat yard was established on the river, opposite the western tip of the island. The year 1805 saw a number of treaties ceding the remaining Cherokee land in the area to white settlers including Long Island. Legend says that among the natives to leave the island for the last time was a medicine man who laid a curse on the island that no white would be able to comfortably settle on the island. Around the island, the city of Kingsport was created with the merger of Christianville and Rossville in 1822. The island was later incorporated into the town.

Parts of the island were developed and residences sprang up, but, according to the legends, insanity and crime occurred on the island in higher rates than elsewhere in Kingsport. Perhaps the curse was beginning to take its toll? Over time, the legend has been oft-repeated receiving additions on occasions such as the addition from the era of World War II.

Folklorist Charles Edwin Price recounts this tale in his Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee; this tale is recounted in a few other sources, but apparently based upon Price’s version of the tale. The tale, according to Price, tells of Amos Ross, whose son was a Marine in the war. On leave, his son and his son’s girlfriend at the time, went out to Long Island one evening to spend some time together. Ross, a fine upstanding Christian, worried that his son was committing a mortal sin followed the couple out to the island. Finding the couple in flagrante delicto, Ross became enraged and attacked, killing them both. After the incident, legend says, he was never seen again, though couples necking on the island, which may have been a “Lovers Lane” were occasionally attacked by the enraged man or at least his spirit. While this is a marvelous tale, it does leave some questions. Unfortunately, without access to the Kingsport papers of the World War II, era, I cannot prove this is just a legend or if it is grounded in fact.

Besides this violent morality tale, there are other incidents occurring on the island. Again, these tales are told without specific reports of incidents. After dark, it is said that Native Americans have been seen on the island. Campfires are seen blazing with natives dancing about and performing rituals. In the early morning mist on the river, warriors have been seen gliding along silently in their canoes.

Sadly, much of the historic nature of the island is now gone. In 1996, the historical integrity of the island had been so depleted that the National Park Service, administrators of the list of National Historic Landmarks, suggested that the island be delisted. While the landmark designations has not been removed, much of the island is now heavily industrialized. Viewing the island via Googles Maps, it appears that most of the island is now paved over and covered with industrial development. The western portion of the island is now the location of a park and baseball fields are quite obvious, but little of the island’s original sylvan nature remains. The city of Kingsport, realizing the enormous value of having this marvelous landmark in town has done some work towards attracting visitors.

In 1976, a mere three acres of the island were given to the Eastern Band of Cherokee. These acres are a part of a park on the western end of the island, but the island still remains heavily industrial. It’s not hard to imagine that spirits returning to this haunted island, paddling around in the morning mist, don’t even recognize their spoiled sacred island.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Brown, John Norris. “The Long Island Curse.” Ghosts & Spirits of Tennessee. Accessed 14 July 2011.
  • Lane, Matthew. “Tribes discuss role of Long Island in King’s Port on the Holston.” Kingsport Times-News. 17 May 2007.
  • Long Island (Tennessee). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 July 2011.
  • McGuiness, Jim. “Tales of paranormal activity abounds in Tri-Cities region.” Kingsport Times-News. 28 October 2007.
  • Mooney, James. History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. Asheville, NC: Bright Mountain Books, 1992.
  • Price, Charles Edwin. Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1992.
  • Rettig, Polly M. National Historic Landmark Nomination form for Long Island of the Holston. 4 June 1976.

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A Piece of Marietta’s History – The Root House Museum

Root House Museum
145 Denmead Street
Marietta, Georgia

The internet has made mounds of information available for mining. Among these mounds of information are content sites like Examiner.com, Associated Content and Suite101. Sometimes denigrated as “content farms,” these sites provide a platform for writers on all levels and can also provide some financial income as well. Certainly these sites may be mined for information on haunted places and they can produce junk but also occasional gems, like this article from Rhetta Akamatsu.

Akamatsu, the author of the recent Haunted Marietta, has provided a well-researched and informative article on The Root House Museum. Built around 1845, this middle class residence has been moved twice in the name of progress and has finally been preserved by the Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society some two blocks away from its original location. The house is now open as a house museum with costumed docents guiding visitors through the home filled with period furnishings and gardens planted with plants appropriate to the period.

The house was the home to William Root, the town’s first druggist and a merchant. While residing here, Root was a founder of St. James Episcopal Church and served as its Sunday School Superintendant for many years. He also served as the county coroner for two terms. His family did experience a loss in the house, one of his sons died at a young age which was sadly a common occurrence at the time.

According to Akamatsu there has been paranormal activity experienced in the main bedroom of the house. Some have claimed to see the spirit of a woman, quite possibly that of Mrs. Root. Both the article and the book report that Mrs. Root’s spirit has been seen by passersby peering from the bedrooms windows. The book goes on to explain that the room contains an antique rope bed that is sometimes appears to have been slept in when the house is opened in the mornings. The bed, it is noted, is tightened every night before the house is closed. Sleep well, Mrs. Root!

Sources

  • Akamatsu, Rhetta. Haunted Marietta. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.
  • Akamatsu, Rhetta. “The Root House Museum, Marietta, GA.” com. 30 June 2011.
  • The Root House Museum.” Cobb Landmarks and Historical Accessed 1 July 2011.

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