As my first blogging trip, I’ve headed to Milledgeville, Georgia to explore some of its haunted past. Milledgeville was established in Middle Georgia by an act of the state legislature in 1803. The city was laid out as a seat of government for the state based on the designs for Savannah and Washington, DC. The state government was moved from Louisville in 1807 to the newly built and unfinished statehouse in the center of Statehouse Square. By 1814, the once rough and tumble town had grown into a respectable city that attracted wealth and prosperity. The new capital attracted skilled architects who created grand homes and government buildings including a state penitentiary, mental asylum and an institute of higher learning, Oglethorpe University.
In January of 1861, the city’s illustrious rise to prominence entered its twilight when a convention of delegates passed the Ordinance of Secession and officially joined the Confederate States of America. The city erupted in joy but on a fall day three years later, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman would enter the city accompanied by some 30,000 troops who would pillage and ransack it before leaving a few days later on their March to the Sea. The ruined capital was dealt a harsher blow when the state capital was moved to Atlanta in 1868.
The city remained provincial but worked to provide educational resources for the state. While Oglethorpe University during the Civil War and closed in 1872 (to be rechartered in Atlanta in the 20th century), Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College (now Georgia Military College) was founded in 1879 in the Old State Capital building in Statehouse Square. Ten years later on the site of the Georgia Penitentiary which had burned during the Northern occupation of the city, the Georgia Normal and Industrial College (now Georgia College and State University) was founded. The state mental asylum developed into Central State Hospital which would carry a patient load of nearly 12,000 people in the early 1960s. Changes in mental health treatment have led to the slow phasing out of the hospital and many of its programs. Combined with the closing of local mills, the local economy has had to shift away from health care and manufacturing towards industries such as tourism.
With a concentration of historic structures, it’s no wonder that Milledgeville has many ghosts. Kathryn Tucker Windham in her 13 Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey, includes the story of Sam Walker, who was mayor in the 1870s, who was deemed “the meanest man in Georgia” after he contributed to the untimely death of his son. It is believed that both Walker and his son may still haunt their former home. Barbara Duffey has penned two books, Banshees, Bugles and Belles: True Ghost Stories of Georgia (1995) and Angels and Apparitions: True Ghost Stories From the South (1996) both of which document many hauntings in Milledgeville.
Following are photographs of some of the haunted locations in Milledgeville. As my research continues, these locations will be highlighted individually.
- Duffey, Barbara. Angels and Apparitions: True Ghost Stories From the South. Eatonton, GA: Elysian Publishing, 1996.
- Duffey, Barbara. Banshees, Bugles and Belles: True Ghost Stories of Georgia. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1995.
- Mitchell, Nicole. “Georgia Penitentiary at Milledgeville.” The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
- Payne, David H. “Central State Hospital.” The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
- Turner, James C. “Old Governor’s Mansion.” The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
- Wilson, Robert J., III. “Milledgeville.” The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
- Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1973.