351 N. LIBERTY BELLWOOD

351  N. Liberty

Bellwood

d n english

The original house at 351 N Liberty was built 1825 the property Robert E. Chester . The house he built was a double log cabin with a “dog trot” between the structures. ( a dog trot  was a covered walk way with a wood floor) 

In 1835 the house was sold to Samuel Jackson Hayes for $4500.00. In 1852 the house was sold John H. Miller the local paper (The Whig) stated the home had been enlarged and well improved. The area was referred to as “Miller Hill” 

During the  Civil War the home was taken over and used as a Hospital and Surgical Center. Can you imagine what the staff and patients felt as the watched the town burn. The Union soldiers under Fielding Hurst first held  the town for ransom then set the fire that destroyed or damaged many of the buildings in downtown Jackson.

As the smoke cleared the rebuilding started. When the troops left town closing the hospital  everyone moved on with their lives. The Miller family restored their home bringing it back even grander than before. The mansion on Miller Hill.

The Miller family sold their home in 1930. From the 1930’s until the Gardner’s purchased the home it went through several hands as a private residence ,an apartment building and then it just was vacant no one wanted to tackle restoring the lady. All the time the stories of the house being haunted were around.

Gwen and Kent Gardner purchased the home restoring it slowly  and adding Gwen’s answering service.(someday I will do a story on Gwen and her business.)   Kent is a whole different story he was definitely a character.

After they sold the house it served many different roles from a home or shelter for Veterans,  men with issues with drugs and now a home and new start for women.

Next will come the ghost story …

It was in the early 70’s I had just come back to Memphis from one my “ roamings” when I got a call. It was one of my friends,Jim, from NYU who was working on his Phd  in psychology at Duke. 

Duke University was known not only for their Psychology Dept.

but also for  the Parapsychology Laboratory and Dr. Rhine.

As he informed me he was doing a “side-bar”  in Parapsychology for  a chance to work with Dr. Rhine.  His assignment was a “ghost busting” because of this he was coming to Memphis to take part in a study in Jackson, Tn. He had been at his grandparents in Florida when he got the assignment so if was easier to come to Memphis than go back to campus.. Jim said he would explain everything when I picked him up at the airport. (Did I mention he was a bossy yankee but a good friend) I got my “instructions “ and picked him up the next day. On our drive to Jackson I got the rest of the story.

A gentleman named Kent Gardner had called Dr. Rhine . Kent had found out Duke had grant money to do studies in hauntings in the south.. Somehow he convinced Dr. Rhine his house in Jackson was haunted. Jim was to meet 3 of his students from Duke at the Gardner home. According  to the grant the school paid for travel but the home owner covered the lodging and meals.  I asked why he called me he informed me I was a consultant and would do the backstory on the house that way he could expense my gas money .( cheap labor)

We arrived at the home on Liberty at the same time his students did. That is when I met Miss Tiny Gwen and Kent Gardner. Gwen showed us where we could camp out and put the equipment. Now in the 70’s the equipment was big and bulky not like what they have now. We sat up the equipment and listened to the history of the house and Kent’s stories.

The agreement was we would do one night study at the house then one night at Riverside Cemetery.

Now while Kent was telling his stories he took us out and showed us an area that he called part of the Underground Railroad. I looked at Jim and he looked at me and rolled his eyes. We both grew up in the country and knew a cistern* when we saw it. . (. *• an underground reservoir for rainwater)

From that point on there was doubt in anything Kent said.

The studies were completed Jim and the students headed back to school. I made arrangements to come back up to do interview, research and read a journal Gwen had that belonged to one of the Miller girls.

This is the story of the ghosts of Bellwood Mansion.

In the 1840’s there was a fire in the cook shack behind the main Hayes house. They were unable to save cook’s daughter who was sleeping in the corner of the room.  

It was said the cook lost her mind and mourned herself to death. After they reconstructed the cook shack and everything had calmed down the sightings began. In the yard 

to the side of the structure they would see the rocking chair rock and hear someone humming a lullaby. 

Forward to the days the house was used as a hospital the yard was littered with amputated limbs. The soldiers worked as fast as the could to dig trenches in the back of the property to bury the amputated limbs . Many stories were told about men who did not survive the surgery limping around the property looking for their arms or legs.

Of course there were the stories of visitors and employees of the home finding bloodstains on the floors where the operating tables  would have been. Then when they reported them or got back to clean the spot it was gone.

The young nurse who had worked in the surgery during the war has been seen . The story goes at night she would sit with the “boys” offering comfort. After the house converted back to a home many reported going down stairs and seeing a lady sitting in a chair in front of the window in the south west corner of the dining room crying.

There were the sightings of the Union Officer coming down the stairs with a tumbler of whisky in one hand and a cigar in the other.

A month after the group from Duke left I met Jim in Nashville to give him my report and read the finished report they had compiled based on their findings. I read his report as he read my report. We just shook our heads at every point I had reported based on history etc they had found readings. Plus they had a few I did not have. I took the copies back to give to Gwen so she could give them to Kent. I did not want to hear what he had to say. The Gardner’s later moved to a house on King off Highland

The first time I visited the house I got an strange feeling I told Gwen  she agreed and added some more information but we agreed not to say  anything to Kent.

My friend Jim finished his degree and moved back to New York where he taught for 20+ years I lost him in 2000. I will never forget the “ghost busting” in Jackson little did I know I would end up living in this fair city. 

Oh yea, the study in Riverside Cemetery was full of the wanderings  of the  residents.

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