Thursday, November 4, 2021

HGB Ep. 409 - Gaither Plantation

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Moment in Oddity - Coffin in Golf Course Pond Complete with Skeleton and Axe (Suggested by: Mike Rogers)

Just another day out at the golf course...until you find a coffin in a pond and well, it wasn't empty. The coffin was discovered in 2018 in a pond at a golf course in Lincolnshire, England. Archaeologists estimated that it dated back to the Bronze Age. The coffin was made from a hollowed out oak tree trunk. The even more amazing part was what was found inside the coffin. The remains of a 4,000 year-old man, who was of high status, were inside along with a well preserved axe. And this was no ordinary axe. It was very rare, one of only twelve discovered in Britain. The coffin and axe are on display at the Lincoln Collection Museum. The Tetney Golf Club also has a tribute to the discovery made on the property. They have a photograph of it up on the clubhouse wall. An axe makes a pretty unique golf club and finding one in a coffin with a 4,000 year old skeleton, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Cherry Valley Massacre

In the month of November, on the 11th, in 1778, the Cherry Valley Massacre took place. Cherry Valley was just east of Cooperstown, New York and a man named Colonel Ichabod Alden was in charge of the 7th Massachusetts Regiment there. He had a long career in the military. He served in the Plymouth militia and then served in the 25th Continental regiment after the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. But when it came to this moment during the Revolutionary War, he was out of his element. Alden had been warned that Native Americans were preparing to attack, but he ignored them. Chief Joseph Brant showed up with 600 Iroquois. He was joined by 200 Loyalists serving under Major Walter Butler. Alden had less than 300 men and they were quickly dispatched. Forty Patriots were killed, including Alden and all the members of the Wells family, and seventy were taken prisoner. The attack came to be known as the Cherry Valley Massacre and was one of the most horrific frontier massacres of the war. A monument was dedicated at Cherry Valley on August 15, 1878.

Gaither Plantation

Covington, Georgia is nicknamed Hollywood South due to the number of movies and television shows that have been filmed there. One location that not only hosts weddings and other events, but has also served as a set for films and TV shows is the Gaither Plantation. The house dates back to 1850 and there are two cemeteries on the property along with other historic buildings, one of which is an old church that was moved to the property. Several of the buildings, especially the main house, have paranormal activity. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Gaither Plantation!

Covington, Georgia is about twenty-six miles east of Atlanta. This is the seat of Newton County and was incorporated in 1854. The city is named for United States Army Brigadier General and United States Congressman Leonard Covington, who was a hero of the War of 1812. General Sherman marched through the city on his March to the Sea in 1864 and several buildings were looted and burned, but a few antebellum homes were spared, one of which was the Gaither Plantation. The plantation is now known as Gaither's at Myrtle Creek Farm. 

The Gaither Family has a long history in America with most descendants tracing their roots back to John Gater who arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1620. Dr. Henry Gaither passed 875 acres to his son, William Hubert Gaither who built the farmhouse on the property in 1850. Gaither married Cecilia Billups Wood in 1855 and the couple had four children: Sara Clara, Mary Jane, Henry and William Jr. Tragedy struck for the family when Sara Clara died at the age of nine. She was buried in a plot in the family cemetery on the property. The farm was set up as a cotton plantation and the family owned 130 slaves. The plantation did very well for years, even after the Civil War, when the slaves were freed. 

In 1888, the Gaithers son Henry got into a deadly conflict with a neighbor named George Smith. We have read two versions, but both end with George Smith dead. One version claims that Henry destroyed some turkey nests on Smith's property and the men fought with Henry using a big stick to club Smith. The other version claims that Smith was clearing land with fire and accidentally burned some of the Gaither turkey nests that were scooped up in the brush heaps. When Henry found out about it, he grabbed a shovel and hit Smith over the head, killing the man. Regardless of what the facts were, Henry went on the run and ended up in Texas somewhere, never to be seen again. 

In 1890, William Gaither died and the property passed to Cecilia. She had him buried in the family plot next to their daughter Sara Clara. Cecilia only stayed with the property for a few years after her husband's death, moving into Covington proper in 1906 with her son William Jr. Boll weevils hit in the early 1900s, devastating the cotton crop. This is a little grayish beetle with a long snout. These traveled up from Mexico to the United States in the late 1800s and by the 1920s, they were in all major cotton-producing areas. At the time, one third of the insecticide used in the US was just to go after the boll weevil. The boll weevil has been eradicated in all states except Texas. The Gaither Plantation couldn't make their tax payment in 1921 and had to declare bankruptcy. The Gaithers lost the family farm over twenty-eight dollars.

Through the next several decades, the property was sold to farming families, including the McIntoshs, Siegfrieds and Welchels. The buildings on the property changed over the years. The property started with the plantation house, outdoor kitchen, barn, outhouse and slave quarters. The barn was replaced in 1950 by Ralph Welchel. (Read p. 47 from Ghosts of Atlanta, Phantoms of the Phoenix City by Reese Chrisitan.) 

Some buildings burned down or fell apart and other buildings were brought to the property, including the Harris Springs Primitive Baptist Church. The church brought some bad history with it. Legend claims that the pastor of the church caught his wife having an affair and murdered her. He then killed himself. Newton County took over the site in 1996 and they host events, weddings and tours there, as well as renting it out for film and TV production. Paranormal investigations take place here too because there are several spirits on the property.

One of the events that had been hosted at the farm were re-enactments. The Union marched on the plantation looking for Confederate soldiers they believed were being hidden there. Supposedly, Cecilia had hidden Confederates in a secret passageway. Re-enactors who have camped out on the farm claim to have seen a man's spirit walk from the fireplace to the front window in the parlor. The scene replayed itself over and over in a loop. The apparition of a solider in a gray suit has been seen in the basement appearing to be trying to hide. The re-enactors also saw someone in the windows when no one was in the house, as did people who attended the Hummingbird Festival.

East Georgia Paranormal Lead Investigator Bobby Bishop was interviewed by The Covington News in 2007 and he told the paper that he was skeptical of most ghost sightings, but Gaither Plantation was one of three sites he believed was a hotbed of paranormal activity. They have done many investigations at the property over the years. On one of their first investigations, a sensitive on their team said they were uncomfortable on the stairs leading to the attic and they later found that they had captured an EVP at that same time that said, "Don't go up the stairs."

Jerry Love was once the Chairman of Friends of Gaither and he had people who rented the property tell him that they saw a man in a grey suit down in the basement and a woman who was rocking a baby in an upstairs window. He said, "Every time someone would ask me, I would unlock the house and go and look for the person they were seeing. Sometimes it was the face of a woman in the attic window. Other times they would say they saw someone looking out of the downstairs window. There was never anyone there when I went to look." And people have claimed to hear the laughter and playing of children when no kids are around. There are three other children buried in the graveyard where the Gaither daughter was buried. And there is a slave cemetery too, so this could be where the children are coming from.

There is a handle on the indoor well that is located on the ground floor of the farmhouse and it has been seen turning on its own. The spirit of Cecilia Gaither is believed to be here, possibly because she was not buried with the rest of her family and is troubled by that. The name Celie has been heard coming through and that was nickname that the children used for Cecilia. Cecilia's room is on the second floor and is probably the most haunted area of the house. The pages of a Bible that belonged to her have been seen turning on their own and a rocking chair in the corner is rumored to rock with nobody in it and it is too heavy to be rocked by wind. This chair did not belong to the Gaithers and is on loan from another location and the legend connected to it is that the woman who owned it had lost her baby. Occasionally there have been reports of people who have seen Cecilia sitting in the chair and rocking a baby, but perhaps it was the mother.

A volunteer and caretaker were in the kitchen when they heard voices coming from the front porch. They went to the door to see who was there and when they opened it, they found the porch empty. There was no one nearby who could have made the sound of voices they heard. The show "Vampire Diaries" filmed at the Gaither Plantation. Star Nina Dobrev claimed that a piano started playing on its own during a 2010 shoot. One of the Assistant Directors hollered, "Stop! Whoever that is stop the music. We're rolling. Cameras are on." When they went into the room where the piano was located, they found it empty. Nina also had the unnerving experience of having the lights go on and off erratically while she was in the bathroom. She thought the crew or some co-stars were playing tricks on her, but everybody denied playing with the power.

The Tyler Perry movie "Madea’s Family Reunion" was shot at the Gaither farmhouse and they experienced some activity. The director had called for quiet on the set as they prepared to film a scene. Suddenly, there were loud footsteps on the widow walk. The director yelled "cut" and was not pleased. He told an assistant to go find out who was up there and tell them to come downstairs. The assistant found no one, so they started the scene over again. Footsteps interrupted once again, only this time they were coming down the stairs. The director hollered for the person to come down and quit walking around. There was no response. A couple of people went and looked around and saw that there was no one on the stairs or near them. Just before the director yelled "action" to try filming for a third time he yelled, "Will the ghost of the house please cooperate!" They managed to film the scene without any further issues.

Central Georgia Paranormal Society investigated in 2013 and captured EVPs. In one recording, the group asked if there was a spirit in the house and it answered, "Hey!" In another capture they got the voice of a child saying, "Hello." They heard an audible heated discussion between two women coming from the empty attic. The front screen door also opened on its own and slammed shut. They investigated the church too and picked female voice in an EVP saying, "Willa." The group also has heard yelling, screaming and a choir in the church.

The Ghost Hunters investigated during Season 5 on episode 6. Judy Gaither Dial, the great-great-great granddaughter of W.H. and Cecilia Gaither, met the team and told them she has encountered the ghosts before. She told the guys that the doors on the buffet open and close on their own. And this isn't because the floor is unlevel because the doors will swing shut after they have opened. Judy also thinks that she was touched by Cecilia in Cecilia's bedroom. She felt a hand on her back when she was telling some friends about her great-great-great grandmother. The rocking chair in that room also moves on its own. The attic scares her and she won't go up there. Judy took the team out to the Baptist church that was moved onto the property and she told them that the chair behind the pulpit has vibrated and had an apparition of a man sitting in it. Marty Roberts, Jr. was the caretaker at the time of the investigation and he told the guys he had seen shadow figures and heard disembodied voices at the house. TAPS heard a voice in the attic and footsteps and shuffling. Jason put flour down on the floor to see if they could catch any footprints, particularly rodent footprints. This old school technique got them three footprints. They didn't match any of the patterns on their shoes. The team captured on video, the buffet doors opening on their own.

Judy has shared other experiences that she has had. She enjoyed sitting on the front porch swing and one time when she was sitting without swinging, she felt something unseen sit down next to her and then the swing started moving. Her feet couldn't reach the ground, so she knew it wasn't her moving the swing. Judy jumped off the swing and ran inside to tell Tracy, the caretaker at the time, what had happened. She expected Tracy to be shocked, but she only said, "It's happened to me too." Judy has heard many strange sounds in the house. Judy also claimed that a decorative bowl would move around. The Georgia Paranormal Research Team out of Dublin, Georgia investigated the house and they had an experience that backed up Judy's claims about the bowl. They placed a flat piece of paper under the bowl and then went to investigate the other rooms of the house. When they returned, not only had the bowl moved, but the piece of paper was crumpled up next to the bowl. They also recorded spirits knocking to let the investigators know that they were there. 

The church is reputedly pretty haunted as well since it was the scene of a murder-suicide. Whenever women sit or stand on the pulpit and sometimes even when they just pass by it, unexplained activity will start up in the church and women feel very unwelcome. The chair in the pulpit will begin to vibrate. A man has been seen sitting in the chair and his head would move around as though vibrating too, so maybe the chair just has issues with people sitting in it. 

There is much history at the Gaither's Plantation. Are some of the family members still sticking around? Do objects and furniture on the property have attachments? Is Gaither Plantation haunted? That is for you to decide!

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