Thursday, April 28, 2022

HGB Ep. 433 - Waverley Plantation House

Moment in Oddity - The Lost City of Derinkuyu (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

A man in Turkey was doing some renovations on his house in 1963 when he made an amazing discovery. He broke through an exterior bedroom wall and discovered a tunnel entrance. What he didn't know at the time would soon be figured out by archaeologists. He had discovered the lost ancient underground city of Derinkuyu that dates to the 8th century BCE. This city extended to a depth of 200 feet and there were a series of rooms that rose to multiple levels. These rooms were carved into the soft volcanic rock of this region of Turkey and featured living and sleeping quarters, store rooms, rooms for livestock and even a school. Ventilation holes were carved up to the surface for ventilation. The city was able to hold up to 20,000 people and was believed to have been built by the Phrygians. These were an Indo-European group from the Balkan region. This was believed to be a place of refuge from Arab armies and the entrance tunnels were hidden in the hills surrounding Derinkuyu. This would serve that purpose during the Byzantine Era from the 5th through the 10 Century CEand then againin the 14th Century. The idea that this ancient underground city of refuge was found during a house renovation, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - "Annie Hall" Wins Best Picture

In the month of April, on the 3rd, in 1978, the movie "Annie Hall" beats out "Star Wars" for best picture. Star Wars was an extremely successful action-adventure blockbuster directed by George Lucas, while Annie Hall was a small-scale romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen. Annie Hall was played by Diane Keaton and Woody Allen played the male lead, Alvy. They were a couple in real life and Keaton's character was based on her. and the wardrobe of hats, oversized jackets and baggy trousers, inspired other women to give the style a try. At this 50th Oscars, the film not only won Best Picture, but Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. It was the first time a director won an Oscar for a movie in which he starred. But Star Wars didn't need to feel bad. Look at the franchise it created and where would we be without The Child?

Waverley Plantation House (Suggested by: Bailey O'Brian)

The Waverley Plantation Home is located near West Point, Mississippi and is not only one of the most photographed antebellum homes in the South, but is very uniquely designed with an octagonal shaped cupola. The Robert Snow family took what had become a rundown and abandoned home and over a period of 25 years returned it to its former glory. It's a registered historic landmark that you can visit today. Be sure to bring your paranormal senses because this place reputedly has several spirits! Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Waverley Plantation House! 

West Point is located in what is considered the Golden Triangle of Mississippi. This triangle is formed from the cities of West Point, Columbus and Starkville. The land was sold to a James Robertson in 1844 by two Native Americans. A lesser battle of the Civil War was fought in the town in February of 1864 and West Point became the home of Mary Holmes College in 1892. This was a coeducational, historically black college for young black women, which closed its doors in 2005. It now is home for Community Counseling Services that provides services for mental health and addiction. It would be a few miles down the road that Colonel George Young would build his plantation home.

George Young was born on December 28, 1799 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. His family were planters, but he had his sights set on the law. He graduated from the University of Georgia with honors. Young began his law practice in Lexington, Georgia and served in the Georgia Legislature as a representative for Oglethorpe County. Young married Lucy Woodson Watkins in 1825 when he was 26 and the couple would have ten children, six boys and four girls. They all survived into adulthood too. In 1833, Young moved the family to Lowndes County, Mississppi. He purchased thousands of acres of land at the Pontotoc Land Office, which was selling Chickasaw tribal land. Part of this purchase was near the Tombigbee River. Young was now going to go back to his roots and be a planter rather than a lawyer.

Young proceeded to set up several plantations fully staffed with slave labor. The Tombigbee River also provided revenue through boat transportation, which not only helped him transport his crops, but the crops and goods of other services. In 1842, he built a two-story dogtrot cabin near the river for the family to live in and a brick plantation office. He continued to save up his money because he had a dream of building a showcase mansion for his wife and he started that endeavor in 1852. This would become the Waverley Plantation House. Unfortunately, Lucy didn't get to enjoy the new house for long. She died shortly after it was built, she was only 52-years-old.

The mansion was designed by architect Charles Pond and built in the Greek Revival style and was very unique with two giant white columns rising on the front porch of a house that featured four-stories with a two-story main house and two-story cupola on the rotunda. The interior is awe-inspiring with a central spindled staircase that winds around in a circular path up all four floors. Each of those floors has a wall-less floor walkway. The rotunda had a sparkling chandelier hanging from it. Entering into this wide open octagonal foyer must have been something for guests and the Waverley had plenty of guests as this home became a center for the social activity of the nearby towns, hosting weekly dances. The first floor had four rooms: a formal parlor, dining room, library and a guest room, which was the biggest room in the house. A rosewood Steinway piano sat in the parlor and was one of only eight made that had an off-center keyboard. The second floor had four bedrooms. The top floor of the cupola was a ballroom. The kitchen was outside as was the custom of the time. The house was 8,000 square feet.

The grounds were magnificent with gardens and orchards. There was a cotton gin, brick kiln, ice house and a swimming pool with bathhouse. Later, a leather tannery, lumber mill and hat manufacturing plant would be added. The first American-made saddle blankets were produced here. There was also a few homes built by plantation owners who farmed nearby plantations. Two of these owners would be James and Thomas Young, George's sons. And there were, of course, slave quarters. Sir Walter Scott wrote a novel named Waverley and that is what inspired the name for Young.

Lucy wasn't able to enjoy years in the home, but the rest of the Young family did. Things would change with the Civil War. All of the boys signed up to fight for the Confederacy. George and his daughters opened up the home as a hospital and recuperation house. One of the people who stayed here was Belle Buchanan Edmondson, who was a Confederate scout and spy. At the time, a warrant was out for her arrest because she had been running supplies and letters to the Confederates. She hid out at the house. She died in 1872 at the age of thirty-three. Another person who stayed at the house was Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was wounded while leading his troops in stopping the Yankee invasion of Columbus. He recuperated for three weeks in the Egyptian Room at the house. He also used Waverley as a headquarters because the cupola made a great lookout. He and George's son, Col. George Hamilton Young, became friends and Forrest would continue to visit the house in the future.  

Beverly Daniel Young was George's third son and he joined the 11th Infantry Regiment in May of 1861. He fought in several battles: First & Second Manassas Battles, Battle of Seven Pines, Cold Harbor action, Battles of Petersburg & Gaines’ Mill and the Battle of Gettysburg. It would be at Gettysburg that he would be seriously wounded with a shot in his leg. He was taken as a prisoner and placed at the David’s Island Prisoner of War Camp in New York. This location was severely overcrowded and clearly the medical care would be lacking and he soon had a gangrene infection that took his life on August 28th, 1863. He was initially buried at Cypress Hill Cemetery in Long Island, but the family eventually disinterred the body and he was brought home and buried in the family plot at the George Hampton Young Family Cemetery. Thomas Young survived the war, but died in 1869 at the age of 38 years.

After the war, the enslaved people at Waverley were free and obviously more changed at the plantation. Families in the area were hit hard during Reconstruction and some of the homeless families were invited to stay at Waverley Mansion. Some of these people were given work at the tannery and mills. Colonel George Young eventually died in 1880 and Waverley Mansion passed down to two of George's sons who were bachelors still, Captain William and George Valerius whom they called Val. Captain Billy was what we would call a party animal and he had no interest in settling down with just one woman. Val was a gambler and regularly hosted card games at the house and cock fights in the yard. Val died in 1906 and Captain Billy died in 1913. He was the last Young child to live at Waverley Mansion.

Now the family had to decide what to do with the property. They couldn't agree on whether to sell it or keep it, but no one could afford the maintenance. They were able to afford to pay the property taxes, so that was all that they did and the house fell into disrepair and was abandoned for fifty years. And we all know what happens to amazing old mansions that are no longer loved. People who don't love them move in and turn them into party pads. The local fraternities had some fun here. And maybe that wasn't so bad for the two Young sons that were the last to live here since they liked a good party. Then nature moved in and vines wrapped themselves up the beautiful double staircases and bees built a hive in the cupola that weighed 200 pounds.

The mansion would get a second chance in 1962 when Robert and Donna Snow saw the house and fell in love with it. The house came with 35 acres that included a stocked pond and hundred-year-old trees and the brick plantation office. Many of the boxwood bushes decorating the property today were from cuttings of the originals planted by the landscape gardener who first designed the gardens on the property. The Snows were antique dealers, so they easily were able to fill Waverley House with period antiques and some of the Young descendants donated original pieces from the family. And the original gas-powered chandelier still hangs from the dome of the rotunda. The rotunda and cupola took 7 months to restore with the biggest project being removing the bees. The kitchen had fallen into ruin in the 1920s, so the Snows built a new one in the same spot. Waverley Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. 

Donna Snow died in 1991. Robert started his journey to transition in 2016 and the Snow children knew they needed to do something with the house that their parents had been so dedicated to for do many years. They were all getting up in years themselves and didn't have the energy to maintain the property, so they sought out someone who would bye the property and continue to upkeep it and have it open as a museum for the public. Along come Charlie and Dana Stephenson, who were excited to have the house and built a separate home on the property for them to live in so the entire house could be a museum. The Snows had actually lived in the house even though it was also a museum. The Stephensons replaced former HVAC system which was eight fireplaces and open window ventilation with a geothermal system.

So Waverley Mansion has been home to only three families in its 170 years. And there are reputedly a bevy of spirits who call this home as well. As of April 2022, the house is closed for renovations, but hoping to open in the next few months. Jimmy Denning is the tour guide who has been with the house for more than a decade and he meets people at the gate on Saturdays from 9am to 5pm to answer questions and share about the house. Neighbors, guests, the Snows and many more have experienced strange things on the property. Neighbors had claimed to hear music playing that sounds like it is from the late 1800s when the house was abandoned. Loud crashes have been heard in the house. Nothing is ever found disturbed. Doors slam shut on their own.

Alabama author Kathryn Tucker Windham wrote "13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey" in 1974 and in there she shared the story of the ghost of a little girl whose voice has often been heard calling out "Mama, Mama." The Snows saw her several times and she usually appeared on the grand staircase. They described her as looking to be about four-years-old, wearing a high neck gown that is white. Donna Snow once noticed the impression of a child-sized person on an upstairs bed. She told Robert about it and they watched the bed together the following night and sure enough, the depression appeared on the bed as if a child climbed up and went to sleep. She likes to move pennies around. Mrs Snow also heard the girl call out, "Mama?" So she squatted down and asked, "Can I help you? What is the matter?" She didn't get an answer and the girl disappeared. It's said that the spirit was not seen again after this exchange. Interestingly, Mrs. Snow's spirit has been spotted on the stairs, smoking.

A man was visiting Waverley Mansion with his young daughter Sandy at a time when renovations were underway. There was a film of dust on the stairs and he noticed the bare footprints of a child that were fresh, going up four or five steps. He pointed them out to Sandy and she wanted to leave and he agreed that they probably should go. Who could this child be? There are a couple of options. During the Civil War, a young girl died of Diphtheria when the house was used as a hospital. A relative of the snow family, Susan Hamilton, died in 1874 in an accident on the staircase when she fell and broke her neck. Perhaps they are both here.

The spirit of a Confederate soldier is seen here and many believe that this is Beverly Young. But there were many soldiers treated here and we assume some of them did die at the house. Whoever this ghost may be, his favorite prank is to scare people by appearing behind them in a mirror. Captain Billy's drinking buddies have been seen by men who visit the mansion as well. Colonel George Young seems to be watching over his dream home and who could blame him. He apparently likes to make appearances in the mirrors as well.

L. Sydney Fisher, bestselling author and paranormal researcher, visited the Waverley mansion in September of 2016. She had experienced paranormal activity on a previous visit, so this time she brought equipment with her. Her previous experience was hearing piano music coming from the parlor even though no one was in there playing. She hoped to catch a glimpse of the ghost, but it never materialized. For this 2016 visit, she carried around an EMF detector. In the first three rooms she entered on the first floor, nothing registered. In the parlor, a couple of the lights turned on and then the tour guide started to tell her about the love affairs and courtships of the people who visited and the EMF started lighting up like crazy. Sydney said she wished she could hear the spirits telling their stories.  

Alden Wiygulm made a video of her visit to Waverley Mansion in February 2020. Tour guide Jimmy Denning shared with her that college students claimed to see a man on a dark horse galloping down the old dirt road. And he said the eyes of a portrait of Donna Snow follow people. Alden was also told that the Snows children would often run to their parents and claim to hear the voice of a little girl in distress and they would ask their mom if she was okay. Denning claims to have never experienced any ghosts in the house.

North Mississippi Afterlife investigated the house and captured what they thought were two images in two different mirrors. One was of someone wearing red and another seemed to be of a small child. They heard unexplained noises and their batteries drained. Also, a rope that was blocking off one of the rooms started swinging on its own and hit one of the investigators in the legs. This is when they noticed it moving and they thought maybe someone had hit it, but then it sped up and suddenly came to a dead stop.

And apparently Colonel Young knew he was going to die. Kristina Domitrovich interviewed Denning for an article in Mud and Magnolias and he told her this weird story about George, "He died in November 1880, just a few weeks short of his 81st birthday, he was born Dec. of 1799. He had his haberdasher come out and he said, ‘I want a black suit.’ As he measured him, the haberdasher said, ‘Well, wait a minute, I’ve never gotten you a black suit before. Why not get a gray suit with pinstripes like I normally get you.’ He (Young) said, ‘No, no, no, I’m going to be buried in this one.’ About a week after his black suit was delivered by his haberdasher, he died. Must have had some kind of knowledge that he was going to die.”

This mansion looks just beautiful in past pictures, which we'll put up on Instagram, so we assume it will look even better after being fully restored. This unique house is not to be missed, if for nothing else than to see the staircase. Is Waverley Plantation House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Alden Wiygul video:

No comments:

Post a Comment