Friday, September 23, 2011

Dunleith in Natchez: Historical Research

by N.A.P.S. Lead Evidence Analyst Kimberly DeLorenze 

When traveling through the south, one may hear of ghostly tales and haunts around every metal gate. Natchez is no exception. There is one such place in Natchez, however, that does not wish to be known for its clanks and bumps in the night, but rather for its charming beauty and exquisite cuisine.  This place is Dunleith. Its history runs deep, but when asked, the Hostess at the check-in desk said, “there are things that happen here and some guests have made comments about seeing and hearing strange things while staying with us, but we prefer to just ignore it. They don’t bother us, we don’t bother them.”

In order to understand where the strange occurrences may come from, we must first look at the history surrounding the land of what is now Dunleith.

As was normal of most land in Natchez at the time of the 1700s, it had its share of owners. The Native Americans, French, Spanish and then British Settlers have all fought over rights to the land and the trade routes of the Mississippi River at some point. The land where Dunleith now stands was no different.

The History of Dunleith

In 1777, Jeremiah Routh, along with his wife and children, moved into the Natchez District, receiving a land grant of five hundred acres. After Jeremiah’s death, his son Job and new wife Anne Madeline Miller received a land grant of seventeen hundred acres. This is where he constructed Routhland. Routhland was built in the style of a baronial castle. Along with the house, the property also had slave quarters, kitchen, laundry, dairy barn, poultry house, carriage house, greenhouse and the Routh family cemetery.                                              

Job Routh died on the property in 1834.  The house changed hands again. It went to his youngest daughter Mary Routh and her new husband Thomas Ellis.  They moved into the residence three years later and raised their five children. After Thomas died suddenly in 1839, Mary Routh, married Charles G Dahlgren in 1840. She was 15.
In several areas of the South, diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and cholera would spread through the communities during the summer months.  Natchez and nearby cities were more susceptible because of the region’s high heat and humidity.  To escape the heat and risk of catching a disease, many wealthy families in the area would go further north during the summer months. Some of the common destinations were places like Hot Springs, Arkansas and Bersheeba Springs, Tennessee.
In 1855, the Dahlgrens traveled to Bersheeba Springs for summer vacation. On August 18, 1855, their home was struck by lightning. They returned to find their home burned and decided to start from scratch.

In December of 1857, a new home was built on the same spot where Routhland had once stood. “It set upon 40 acres, which also includes the carriage house, dairy barn, poultry house and a three-story brick dependency. The dependency features a 19th-century toilet and bathtub, which were considered to be rare amenities for the time.          

It was built in Greek revival style, with 26 Tuscan columns surrounding the house. The brick and stucco columns support a double gallery with intricately designed wrought iron railings spanning the columns. Jeffersonian windows extend from the floor to the ceiling on the first floor, providing ventilation and easy access to the gallery from any room.

Enclosed within the 14 ½ inch thick walls is 9,500 square feet of floor space. The floors are made of heart pine, with cypress baseboards painted to look like oak. Italian marble mantle pieces adorn each fireplace, and elegantly designed ceiling medallions enhance the chandeliers hung throughout the house.”  The Wallpaper located in the Dining Room was called Zubar.

The family only got to enjoy their new home for three short months before Mary Routh Dahlgren died in March of 1858. She died of a weak heart at age forty-five. She and Charles had only been married for three years. No longer wanting to live in the house without Mary and due to family turmoil between the Ellis and Dahlgren siblings, Charles sold the house to Alfred Vidal Davis for $30,000. Davis, in turn, gave the house the Scottish name of Dunleith.

Alfred and his wife Sarah, originally from Concordia Parish, moved into the residence in January 4th, 1859. He and his wife were able to enjoy Dunleith for a couple of years before the Civil War. In June of 1861, Alfred and his wife, along with his organized volunteer infantry called the Natchez Rifles, left via a steamboat called Mary E Keene. Their destination was Richmond, Virginia.

They returned to Natchez and their home in 1863 to find the city occupied by Union troops.  Two years later, his wife Sarah passed away, leaving him with their two young children whose names were, Alfred Vidal Jr. and Lily.

Alfred sold Dunleith in 1866 to Hiram M. Baldwin of Natchez. He lived in the house for less than a year because he died suddenly in 1868. Dunleith was now in the middle of a civil suit between Hiram’s sister and his widow. During this time, the home was taken over by John R. Stockton of Britton and Koontz Bank. He became the owner and overseer.

Joseph Neibert Carpenter was the next to purchase Dunleith in 1886 for the depreciated price of twenty thousand dollars. He, along with his wife, Zipporah, and their three children Leslie, Agnes and Camille moved into Dunleith and it stayed in the Carpenter family from 1886-1976.
William F. Heins purchased the home in 1976 and operated a bed and breakfast there. In 1999, Mrs. Edward Worley and her son, Michael Worley, purchased the house.
“The Worley's spent a great deal of time and energy renovating and restoring the house and turned it into the inn that exists today. Dunleith boasts 26 guest rooms and suites, all of which have private bathrooms, antiques and antebellum period replica furniture and cable TV. Some have fireplaces and 16 feature whirlpool tubs. Of special interest to history lovers are the brick steps beside the house which are left from the original Routhland home that burned. There is also a dairy barn , The Gothic Carriage House, and the Castle Restaurant, which date back to the late 1700s and Routhland's early days. You'll also find a magnolia tree that is estimated to be over 250 years old.”
Recently, the owner Mr. Ed Worley passed away on his other property, Bowie’s Tavern. Both properties are now in the possession of Michael Worley, Ed’s son.

The beautiful home has changed hands many times over the years.  There have been several deaths on the property.  Although there is no recorded haunted history, reason suggests that over the years, with the fire at Routhland, with diseases moving through the area, war and other such events, that the conditions are just as favorable for a haunting there as any of the many other known haunted locations in Natchez. There have been EVPS caught around the house and the old magnolia tree and also higher EMF readings where there was no known electrical source.

Dunleith.... Haunted or not? My experience says yes, but you will have to visit and decide for

Timeline of Dunleith

1857-Routhland Two was built on the site of the original Routhland by Charles G and Mary Routh Dahlgren.
1858-Mary Routh passes away in March of a weak heart and Charles sales house to Alfred Vidal Davis.
1859-Alfred and his wife Sarah move into the home and rename it Dunleith.
1861-Alfred and his wife leave on a steamboat bound for Richmond, Virginia.     
1863-Alfred and Sarah return home. Union Soldiers are occupying the city.
1865-Sarah Davis passes away.
1866-Alfred sales Dunleith to Hiram M Baldwin of Natchez.
1868-Hiram passes away suddenly in home. Dunleith taken over by John R Stockton of Britton and Koontz Bank.
1886-Joseph Neibert Carpenter purchases Dunleith.
1925-Joseph Neibert Carpenter passes away leaving all property to his wife, Zipporah. Then, when Zipporah passed, it went to their son, Nathaniel Leslie.
1935-Nathaniel Leslie and wife Ameila apply to have Dunleith placed on National Register of Historic Places.
1886-1976-Dunleith remains in the Carpenter Family for five generations.
1976-William F Heins purchases property and operates Dunleith as a Bed and Breakfast.
1999-Mr and Mrs Ed Worley, along with their son Michael, purchase Dunleith and make major renonvations to the home. It continues as an Inn, along with The Castle Restaurant.
2011-Mr Ed Worley’s death.
Primary Sources

Morris, Kathryn E.  Dunleith. Richland, Mississippi: Hederman Brothers, 2007.

Various Web Sites:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The History of Longwood Plantation

This History was compiled by N.A.P.S. Paranormal Investigator Lauren S.
September 4, 2011

Longwood, aka Nutt’s Folly, is a six-story 30,000 square foot mansion was designed by Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia for wealthy planter Haller Nutt and his wife, Julia Williams Nutt, in Natchez, MS.  As it was nearing completion, the Civil War began and the workmen dropped their tools and went home. Haller died in 1864 and his wife Julia continued to live in the finished first floor that today contains many original family furnishings.  The upper five stories are an architectural wonder - a magnificent work in progress where time just stopped and stayed.  Longwood is the largest octagonal house in America and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Tours are available year round. [i]   

According to the National Parks Service, the site is architecturally significant because Longwood “is the largest and most elaborate of the octagon houses built in the country, as well as being one of the finest surviving examples of an Oriental Revival style residence illustrating the exotic phase of architectural romanticism that flourished in mid-19th century America. A Moorish-style suburban villa built for Haller Nutt, a wealthy cotton planter, Longwood's interior was never completed." [ii]  
The completed house was to have had 32 rooms, 26 fireplaces, 115 doors, 96 columns, and a total of 30,000 square feet of living space, but only nine of the 32 rooms were finished.[iii]  Click here to see Samuel Sloan’s floor plans and additional photos of the home and site.

The property is located on 87 acres of land. In addition to the main house, the property contained 5 parts: the Necessary; the Kitchen, the Slaves Quarters, the Carriage House, and the Stables. The site of geometrically-patterned gardens, which in 1860-1873 occupied 15 acres of land, is located at some distance to the southeast of the mansion and near the entrance to the estate. At a considerable distance to the southwest of the mansion is situated the cemetery of the Nutt family. [iv]

Current Condition
The floors above the first floor are still unfinished and the home needs repairs. According to the National Historic Landmarks Program review in 2008, “Extensive maintenance is currently needed to maintain the integrity of the structure, particularly to the dome area. Extensive structural repairs have been made on one side of the octagonal sides of the house where the galleries were sinking and shifting." [v]  

Basic Timeline
  • 1840- Haller Nutt married Julia Augusta Williams in Natchez
  • 1841-1863- The Nutts had 11 children, all of whom did not survive childhood.*
  • 1860- Construction began on Longwood.
  • 1861- After the exterior was complete, artisans returned to the North due to the Civil War.
  • 1862- Slaves completed the basement (main level) and the Nutt family moved in. After this, construction on the home stopped.
  • 1864- Haller Nutt died and his wife, Julia, and their 8 children continued to live in the first floor.
  • 1897- Julia Augusta Williams Nutt died at Longwood.
  • 1968- In August of ’68, Longwood and 94 acres of land were acquired by Mr. and Mrs.  Kelly McAdams of Austin, Texas.
  • 1968- In December of ’68, they donated the estate to the McAdams Foundation of Austin, TX.
  • 1969- Longwood was designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • 1970- Longwood was sold to the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez, MS.
                              * See details on the children below.

The Nutt Family History
Haller Nutt, younger son of physician and planter Dr. Rush Nutt and Eliza Ker Nutt, was born at Laurel Hill Plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi, on February 17, 1816. Nutt was educated at the University of Virginia from 1832 to 1835. Upon returning to Mississippi, he assisted his father in plantation management.

Julia Augusta Williams, daughter of Austin and Caroline Routh Williams, was born at Routhlands in Natchez, Mississippi, on August 11, 1822. Much of her youth was spent at Ashburn, also in Natchez. Williams was eighteen at the time of her marriage to Haller Nutt in 1840. [vi]  

Haller and Julia Nutt had eleven children:

  1. Caroline Routh Nutt was born ABT 1841, and died 03 JAN 1867 in 'Longwood', Natchez, Adams Co., MS. She married Charles S. Forsythe ABT 1865.
  1. Mary Ella Nutt was born ABT 1843, and died 19 AUG 1901 in Natchez, Adams Co., MS.
  1. Fanny Smith Nutt was born ABT 1845, and died AUG 1848 in Araby Plantation, Tensas Par., LA.
  1. Haller Nutt Jr. was born ABT 1846, and died in Winter Quarters, Tensas Par., LA.
  1. John Kerr Nutt was born ABT 1850.
  1. Austin Williams Nutt was born ABT 1852, and died 09 JAN 1860 in Winter Quarters, Tensas Par., LA.
  1. Sargent Prentiss Nutt was born 1855, and died 1939.
  1. Julia Agusta Nutt was born BEF 1858, and died 1932 in 'Longwood', Natchez, Adams Co., MS.
  1. Calvin Routh Nutt was born ABT 1859, and died 29 APR 1909 in Memphis, Shelby Co., TN.
  1. Lilly Frances Elizabeth Nutt was born 04 JUN 1861, and died 12 JUL 1930. She married James Williams Ward 13 JAN 1885 in Washington Co., MS, son of George Viley Ward and Maria Louisa Williams. He was born 13 SEP 1858 in Scott Co., KY, and died 23 APR 1930 in Staunton, VA.
  1. Rushworth Nutt was born 1863, and died 1863. [vii]  

Haller Nutt acquired several plantations through inheritance or purchase, including Araby, Evergreen, and Winter Quarters in Louisiana and Cloverdale and Laurel Hill in Mississippi. The cultivation of cotton, sugar cane, and other cash crops on these plantations brought him considerable wealth. Nutt owned nearly 43,000 acres of land and 800 slaves, and he had made a net profit of more than $228,000 from agricultural enterprises in 1860. His fortune prior to the Civil War was estimated at more than three million dollars.

When Haller and Julia Nutt were ready to build Longwood in the late 1850s, they chose Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. The couple worked closely with Sloan to create plans for the mansion. Sloan designed a multistory octagonal villa in the Oriental Revival style, with a domed cupola, full basement, and more than thirty rooms. Construction on Longwood began in the spring of 1860, and the exterior was virtually complete at the beginning of the Civil War. However, work on the interior was soon halted as Sloan’s artisans, fearing for their safety, hastily returned to the North. The basement story was completed by slave labor and was ready for occupancy by 1862. Although Julia Nutt later received bids for the completion of the interior of Longwood in the 1890s, the upper floors were never completed.

Haller Nutt suffered large financial losses during the Civil War from the destruction of cotton and real estate and the expropriation of stores and supplies by the Union and Confederate armies. This situation caused severe cash-flow problems that ultimately led to the foreclosure on the mortgages to Nutt family plantations in Louisiana. During the war, Nutt took steps to document the value of assets lost to the Union army in the hope that reparations would someday be paid. After the war, these records were filed with the federal government to substantiate the reparations claim of the Haller Nutt estate.

The Nutt family continued living at Longwood after the death of Haller Nutt from pneumonia on June 15, 1864, but Julia Nutt was left with the responsibility of rearing and educating several minor children. The remaining plantations, Cloverdale and Lochland, were not always productive, thus creating financial difficulties for the Nutt family. Nevertheless, Julia Nutt managed to support her children and provide them with what educational and social opportunities she could afford. However, without the counsel and support of Julia Nutt’s son, Sargeant Prentiss, her task would have been nearly impossible.

Sargeant Prentiss Nutt (later Knut) was educated in Philadelphia and at the University of Virginia. After reading law in Natchez, Knut moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a legal career. Knut persistently lobbied for the passage of a bill that would partially compensate the Nutt family for losses due to the Union army. The total of payments for reparations actually received by the Nutt family probably never amounted to more than $100,000. [viii] 

The last decedents to live at Longwood were the five children of Lilly Nutt and her husband, James William Ward. In time, only an elderly grandson of Haller and Julia Nutt remained in the house. [ix] The five children were Julia Nutt Ward, James Haller Ward, Robert Julian Ward, Isobelle Carolyn Ward, and Merritt Williams Ward. [x]  Merritt (Unknown - 14 Mar 1939), James (04 Feb 1888 - 02 Sep 1950), and Robert (29 Nov 1889 - 01 Jun 1962) are buried with their parents at Longwood. [xi]  

Reports of Hauntings
According to reports, Julia, Haller and their children still haunt Longwood. According to one source, Julia Nutt is usually seen inside on the staircase while Haller Nutt seems to prefer the garden area. [xii] 

According to Alan Brown’s book, Haunted Natchez, full apparitions have been spotted in the home including a woman in a pink hoop skirt standing on the stairs. A Longwood tour guide also reported that the lights flickered on and off when she made an unintentional error in the description of the mansion. She also reported that the photos of Haller’s mother and father often shift and need to be straightened when she comes in the house in the mornings and sometimes in the mornings the little children’s furniture is scattered all over the place. [xiii]   

According to another source, “Scores of people have witnessed strange aberrations, odors, and noises, over the years… A groundskeeper spied Dr. Nutt, in period clothing, standing under a tree. Others have noticed the sudden appearance of localized perfumed odors, presumably carried by Julia. A grandson of the current resident director once observed Dr. Nutt sitting in a chair. Another grandson saw Julia Nutt standing on the stairs. Thinking the lady was an employee dressed in period costume, the grandson thought nothing of it, until he realized that the lady he had seen looked just like the portrait of Julia Nutt. An investigation failed to reveal any employees dressed in costume…

Louise Burns, the Resident Director at Longwood for over 20 years, experienced perhaps the most frightening encounter. Awakened in the dead of night, Mrs. Burns found her head lifted and held off the pillow [but] No one was there. Mrs. Burns tried unsuccessfully to extricate herself, and felt a moment of fear. As she related the story to this author: "I had a choice. I could allow Dr. Nutt to scare me away from Longwood, or I could let him know who was boss." Suddenly her head was released." [xiv]

End Notes:  [Many of these references are HYPERLINKS - CLICK ON to go to Site for more info.]
[i] "Antebellum Mansions Open Year-Round." Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[ii] "Longwood." National Historic Landmarks Program. National Parks Service, 2008. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[iii] The Broken Dream of Longwood. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[iv] Heintzelman, Patricia. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form." National Register of Historic Places. National Parks Service, 3 May 1975. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[v] "Longwood." National Historic Landmarks Program. National Parks Service, 2008. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[vi] "PILGRIMAGE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION COLLECTION: NUTT FAMILY PAPERS 1841-1911." Archives & Library. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[vii] RootsWeb. Ed. David Lawrence., 4 Apr. 2003. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[viii] "PILGRIMAGE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION COLLECTION: NUTT FAMILY PAPERS 1841-1911." Archives & Library. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[ix] Brown, Alan. Haunted Natchez. Charleston, SC: Haunted America, 2010. 28. Print.
[x] RootsWeb. Ed. David Lawrence., 4 Apr. 2003. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[xi] Oberscmidt, John. "Nutt Family Cemetery." Adams County, Mississippi Genealogy and History Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[xii] Taylor, Troy. "Ghosts of Natchez." Haunted Mississippi. N.p., 1998. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.
[xiii] Brown, Alan. Haunted Natchez. Charleston, SC: Haunted America, 2010. 29-30. Print.
[xiv] "Folk Lore and Ghost Stories of Adams County, MS." Adams County Genealogical and Historical Researc, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2011.

Monday, April 4, 2011

King's Tavern at Haunted Natchez: The Truth Revealed

King's Tavern at Haunted Natchez: The Truth Revealed
by Mike Chapman

From the deep pine forests and hills of north Mississippi to the sun-washed beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi is home to many haunted sites.  I am privileged to have been born and raised in the state’s richest area of haunted locations in the southwest portion of the Magnolia State, in the old river town of Natchez.  Many people don’t know this, but Natchez is the oldest settlement on the Big Muddy, the mighty Mississippi River.  Sitting high atop three-hundred foot loess bluffs overlooking the river, it is older than New Orleans, Vicksburg, Memphis and St. Louis.  First explored by LaSalle around 1682, then settled permanently by the French in 1716 when they built Fort Rosalie des Natchez, the town has been under the flags of no less than five different countries.  Natchez was the home of the Natchez Indians, with three huge villages in full glory when the French began to arrive in force.  The tribe was virtually wiped out by the French after the uprising on November 28, 1729.  Emerald Mound, just outside of Natchez, is the third largest Indian mound in the United States, and was built by the predecessors of the Natchez Indians.  Washington, Mississippi, a small village just outside of Natchez, was Mississippi’s territorial capital and then became the capital of the state of Mississippi before it was eventually moved to Jackson.  Natchez is a terminus of the 444 mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway, with Nashville on the other end.  The Trace served as an overland route of flat-boaters returning north after floating their goods down the rivers to New Orleans. 

As the town “perched on the edge of the frontier” in what was known as the Old Southwest, Natchez has a truly unique history and has seemingly always had a polyglot of citizenry.  Natchez has many interesting periods and subjects in its history, including Indians, French settlers, and immigrants from Germany and Ireland.  Natchez has been home to refugees escaping west from the Revolutionary War, flat-boaters and “Kaintucks” from the Ohio River valley.  We’ve had periods of outlaws and bandits along the Trace, the king-cotton era of plantations and slaves from Africa, the Civil War and Reconstruction era – and all of that is before we even get to the twentieth century!  The twentieth century in Natchez also saw much rich history, with such events as the tragic Rhythm Club fire, the Goat Castle murder, the Old County Jail with its jazz musician hangman, and the establishment of one of the most intriguing and beautiful cemeteries in all of Mississippi.  At one time, Natchez boasted more millionaires than any other city in America except for New York City.  It has been the backdrop of many Hollywood movies, and is truly one of the most unique places in the entire South. 

Today, the spring pilgrimage in Natchez draws visitors from literally all over the world.  These visitors come to tour the dozens and dozens of antebellum (pre-civil war) mansions on display, replete with Spanish moss dangling from the oak trees and hostesses in full costume.  With all due respect to Vicksburg, Natchez is the place to sip on a mint julep, munch on fresh Mississippi grown catfish and hush-puppies, and watch the barges roll by on the Mississippi.  Due to its isolated location, Natchez has always been somewhat estranged and cut-off from the rest of the State.  As a result, Natchez and its citizens have developed its own identity, traveling a path of its own, often not the path chosen by the rest of the State.  It views itself as a very different Mississippi town.  Historian William C. Davis, in his A Way Through the Wilderness which I consider to be by far the best work on Natchez, wrote “In the past four decades (1760-1800, which includes the beginnings of King’s Tavern) Natchez had been French, then British, then Spanish, and now at last American.  No wonder Natcheans felt confused and paid allegiance chiefly to themselves and their own individual interests.”  Most other Mississippians do not realize this sentiment of self-allegiance and uniqueness continues in Natchez to a fair  degree even today. Still, Natchez is not easily accessible and lies off the beaten path.  Natchez is hardly a convenient side-stop located along a major thoroughfare.  It remains almost always a destination unto itself. Samuel Clemens, writer of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, once said of Natchez, “The town of Natchez is beautifully situated on one of those high spots.  The contrast that its bright green hill forms with the dismal line of black forest that stretches on every side, the abundant growth of the pawpaw, palmetto and orange, the copious variety of sweet-scented flowers that flourish there, all make it appear like an oasis in the desert.”

So, with the kind of “ancient” history that began at Natchez long before even the white man came, one can well imagine the potential for haunted sites that must be present here – and in this regard Natchez certainly does not disappoint.  Ghost writer Dr. Alan Brown, of Meridian, recently published his book Haunted Natchez in which he summarizes many of Natchez’ most well-known sites.  In this article, I’d like to focus on the site that many perceive to be the “crown-jewel” of Natchez’ haunted locations and that is King’s Tavern, the oldest structure in Natchez. When one approaches the history of King’s Tavern, whether it is reading its story online or the official historical marker on the grounds of the tavern itself, one is hard-pressed to find factual information.  I would even go so far as to say that it is virtually impossible to find the true history of the tavern unless one digs into the actual archives and records located at the Natchez Historical Society.  We, as the Natchez Area Paranormal Society, did just that.  In October 2010, we launched a full-scale, multi-faceted investigation into King’s Tavern, which culminated in an over-night field investigation with over 10 infrared and full spectrum static cameras and all kinds of sophisticated metering equipment and audio recorders, which occurred on November 27-28.  Much of the historical research was done by me, and P.I.’s Chris Jackson and Summer Stone.  The facts of the origins of the tavern that can be substantiated by historical record are as follows. 

On July 20, 1794, a man named Prosper King petitioned the Spanish governor, who ruled Natchez at the time, for permission to build a house on lot 3 of square 33 - the site where the Tavern now stands.  Almost exactly two years later, on July 21, 1796, the petition was granted to Prosper by the territorial governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos.  Then, a year and a half later, on January 18, 1798, Prosper sold the property for the mere sum of $50.00 to his brother, Richard King. Whether there was a building on the site at this time is unknown, but in my opinion there was not.  My opinion is based on what follows next in the historical record.  On August 5, 1799, another year and a half after Richard purchased the property; it is recorded in the Minutes of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace (Adams County Courthouse, Adams County Mississippi, p.78) where Richard King was licensed to operate a public house.  It’s fairly obvious to me as someone who has been in construction for most of my life and a licensed building contractor for the state of Mississippi that Richard King bought the property and began building the tavern.  A year and a half later, when it was about completed, he applied for the license in order to open for business.  The tavern was never constructed or intended to be a private residence.  We know this.  It’s also elementary to see this from its architecture and floor plan.  It was not converted to use from a home to a tavern, but later just the opposite occurred: it was converted from a  tavern to become a residence, but more about that later.  Richard built it from the get-go as a tavern and then applied for the license to operate it as just that: a tavern. From the beginning he saw it as a business opportunity and commercial enterprise.  This makes sense, as it was the literal terminus of the Natchez Trace.  So, in my opinion, the actual date of construction was 1798 - 1799.  The historic marker on the site, which literally states “standing before 1789” is absolutely false.  This independent finding was confirmed recently when I met with historian Mimi Miller of the Natchez Historical Society, and she stated that the Pilgrimage Garden Club, which petitioned the State for the marker in the early 1970’s, got confused because there is an older record of another “King’s Tavern” located in the area where present day Liberty Road meets Cranfield Road.  They mistakenly cited the origin of the other King’s Tavern for the one downtown. When I asked Ms. Miller what her estimation of the date of the tavern was, she stated exactly the same time as we do: 1798-1799.

Later, in the 1820’s, the tavern was converted from a tavern to be a private residence when Elizabeth Postlethwaite’s husband came into ownership. On August 27, 1823, Henry Postlethwaite died of yellow fever.  His widow, Elizabeth, and her eight children moved into the Tavern.  She is credited with converting and enclosing the eastern porches into bedrooms, which today are still enclosed and used for seating for the restaurant when they need the extra space.  The Postlethwaite and Bledsoe families held the ownership of the tavern from 1823 until 1970, an incredible 147 years! During that entire time, it was used as a residence.  Most people do not realize that the famous King’s “Tavern,” in existence now for 212 years, has been a tavern for less than 25% of the time!  In fact, it is actually less than that, because even today it does not operate as a tavern, but merely a restaurant.  The one bedroom it does have, is no longer rented out due to lack of functioning central air conditioning and the reticence of the current owners to worry with the demands of a bed and breakfast.  On July 27, 1860, Elizabeth passed away at the residence.  This is a fact that should be noted by any shrewd observer, especially in light of the later claims of a female presence haunting the place.  In recent years (1970-1971 to be exact), it was purchased, restored and converted back more to its original use – to be a tavern and restaurant (known as The Post House Restaurant) by the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez.  Later, in 1987, they in turn sold the tavern to Yvonne Scott, who in 1988 opened the restaurant as King’s Tavern.  Frankly, it is during the time period of ownership by the Garden Club and Ms. Scott, that the “haunted” stories and myths began to emerge, most notably the infamous story of the ghost named Madeline.

The emergence of the Madeline ghost has been a seminal event for King’s Tavern.  Unfortunately, it is one that I think has been wholly misinterpreted and misrepresented.  The following is a typical “report” on the history of King’s Tavern that dominates the landscape when one attempts to find information on the Tavern.  Much of what is in this history is incorrect, but virtually every single story we have found regarding King’s Tavern keeps repeating the same incorrect information.  I have included it in this report as an example of this constant misreporting of the truth.  The source of the report is listed at the bottom of the entry, which is placed in italics:  

THE KING'S TAVERN - NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI: The King's Tavern was built in the year of 1769 and is the oldest building standing in the town of Natchez. This tavern carries the look of most seventeenth century buildings; built with sun-dried bricks, beams that came from scrapped sailing ships originating from New Orleans and barge boards that came from flat river boats once they made their way down the Mississippi and were dismantled. In 1789 a man named Richard King, bought the old house and moved his family into it. He named the building, The King's Tavern, and turned it into an inn and tavern. There is a notorious side to the restaurant, though. In the 1930s, workers were expanding the fireplace and tore out the chimney wall. They found a space behind the wall that contained the skeletal remains of three bodies: two men and one woman. Laying on the floor was a jeweled dagger, which was assumed to have been used in their demise. The woman is thought to have been Madeline, Richard King's mistress. As the story goes, when his wife found out about the affair, she had Madeline killed and bricked into the fireplace in the main dining room. Who the two male skeletons are is anyone's guess... much of the supernatural mischief today is blamed on Madeline, however. Workers report hearing a baby crying in the restaurant - specifically, from rooms that were supposedly empty. The story behind the infant's cry goes back to the 1700s when the building was not only an inn, but also the post office and one of the centers of the city's commerce. A young mother was trying to comfort her fussy infant, when a man named Big Harpe - one of the notorious Harpe brothers - walked over from the bar. She thought that he was going to assist her, but instead, he grabbed the baby by its feet and slammed the infant against the wall. As the distraught mother crumpled to the floor to gather the child's lifeless body, Big Harpe strolled back to the bar and ordered another drink. (Source: Jimmy Smith’s Mississippi Research page- online).

In fairness to Jimmy Smith, he is simply repeating what he has found elsewhere.  I’m not picking on him, as his is only one of dozens and dozens of misrepresentations of the truth. However, that’s just the problem.  As any good researcher knows, one has primary source material, and one has secondary source material.  Most of the time, paranormal researchers go the easy route and grab secondary material they can find online.  Anyone can hack what everybody else is saying with a few keystrokes and a few cut and pastes with a computer mouse.  What separates true professional researchers from the amateurs, is that the true researchers go to the primary source material.  The historical reporting that MSSPI and NAPS does, is to go directly to the primary source materials that are usually in archives and records often buried in a courthouse basement, on library microfiche, in scholarly & well sourced books (that are often rare and out-of-print), dusty, messy newspaper archives, and on historical foundation shelves.  It isn’t easy, in fact it is very time consuming and difficult, but it separates the pros from the pretenders.  True historical reporting is both a science and an art, and takes creativity, resourcefulness, detective work and dogged determination.  As the leader of a paranormal team I will say without reservation that MSSPI’s historical reporting is the best I have ever seen, and I point to them as a standard for my own team, NAPS, to emulate. This is the very thing I point to when I say most paranormal teams are amateurish, because your investigation is only as good as your research, and so if a team is simply going by what they find online for the truth, that says pretty much everything about that team and their findings.  That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.  What this field needs is good, solid investigators, not another team with a ghost meter and a na├»ve fascination with all the ghost hunter shows on television.  What is particularly offensive to me with the above story and its repetition by anyone and everyone, and that causes my injustice meter to peg out, is the fact that Richard King’s wife is being accused of a particularly diabolical murder, without one single shred of evidence.  She was a living, breathing human being, and her memory is being totally trashed and tarnished without any factual basis.  I note with interest that the stories always say, “The wife of Richard King.”  They never mention her name, because to do so would be to give her personhood.  Well, I’ll give her some dignity, identity and personhood here: her name was Esther.  So for the sake of making a story “sexy” and making people go “ooh and aah” we trash this woman’s memory.  I’m sorry, but the law enforcement officer in me says that to take a folktale story such as what is written above and cite it as history is not only poor evidence, but is careless, reckless and immoral.  Esther King deserves better.  What if she were your ancestor?

From a practical standpoint and law enforcement investigation methodology, I could go on and on about the holes in the alleged story – about the amount of time it would take to brick a body in a fireplace while the body decays and other people can see and smell the evidence; the availability of brick and mortar (not like you could run to Home Depot) – in that time they had to hand-make all their material, and so on.  It is obvious to me this is simply transference of a bunch of stories, one of which is, “The Black Cat,” by Edgar Alan Poe, in which a person is bricked up and entombed behind a wall, for the sake of a interesting “tall-tale.”  Southerners are famous for their “stories” told on front porches, and more often than not they have little to do with the truth.  There are important articles written by noted historians that should be read and their lessons carefully notated by serious paranormal researchers about the nature and culture of folktale stories in the south, and their role in our society as myths.  Furthermore, the story of Big Harpe killing the infant took place in Kentucky.  Big Harpe never stepped foot in Mississippi his entire life. So, the truth needs to be separated from the fiction – the folktales.

The above pseudo history alludes to the popular folktale story that circulates around the Tavern, that in 1932, the remains of three skeletons (one female & two male) and a Spanish dagger were found during remodeling of the building. The bones were “reported” to have been buried in Potters Field of the Natchez City Cemetery, though typically no such “report” exists.  So, the situation that one finds today regarding King’s Tavern, is one in which the “haunting” of Madeline has literally become the identity of the Tavern.  Not it’s architecture, history, age or its place at the terminus of the Natchez Trace.  Rather, it is this alleged Madeline that is said to be haunting the environs that supposedly make King’s Tavern so interesting and such a “draw.”  Not for me.  I personally think that is rather sad given the factual history of the structure and the interesting stories that actually did occur there.  In a local advertisement on television, an actress dressed as "the ghost of Madeline" lures listeners to come and eat a steak.  She slowly fades in and then fades out with an eerie Halloweenish laugh.  Upon entering and being seated in the restaurant, patrons are given a laminated National Enquirer story about some hack reporter’s experiences there.  It is in all of this context that our team, the Natchez Area Paranormal Society, began a very extensive investigation into many different aspects of the Tavern, one of which was to turn every stone and follow every possible lead to see if there is one shred of evidence to support the story of human remains being found there. After extensive searches of all kinds of records, including recruiting the help of the former Director of the Natchez City Cemetery (Don Estes) who also contacted the State Cemetery Archives, there is not one single shred of evidence to support that any human remains were ever uncovered there.  A dagger was found, and we do know that the dagger does exist.  I know that because of photographic evidence showing the dagger and also I was able, after a dogged search, to locate and speak to the owner. However, that is a far cry from finding the dagger buried in the chest of the mummified remains of a young female ensconced in a chimney wall – as some of the stories claim.

If it sounds as if I am totally dismissing the claim of King’s Tavern being haunted, I am not.  I personally believe – rather know - the Tavern has significant paranormal activity.  What I am lending clarification to is the cause of the haunting.  I totally reject the story of Madeline, but I do believe the Tavern is haunted by a female.  In fact, I believe King’s Tavern is haunted by more than one former human.  The first mention on record of any female ghost or spirit at the Tavern is from a Natchez Democrat article dated Saturday, February 23, 1974, in which Thomas Young (who grew up in the Tavern) states, “My mother Hilda died when I was 2 years old and my grandmother has told me many times of the misty figure of the veiled woman in a cloak, with head bowed and hands folded, which stood at the foot of her bed at night after my mother’s death.”  With no historical evidence of there ever being a “Madeline,” it makes far more sense that a Postlethwaite is more likely the true identity of the spirit that haunts the Tavern.  All of the evidence above seems to substantiate this theory.  Recall the fact that the Postlethwaite family lived in the home for 147 years!  What would you place more stock in, a folktale story that is highly impractical and totally unsubstantiated, or historical accounts such as what Thomas Young alludes to?  There is also some interesting photographic evidence that also lends itself to this theory, in which a photograph was taken in the upstairs bathroom a few years ago by a patron of the Tavern, which looks very similar to Elizabeth Postlethwaite!  (Photos above.) Natchez’ foremost professional photographer T.G. McCary, a multi-award winner and known nationwide, examined and studied these photographs on comparison software and concluded that in his opinion, they are the same subject.

Photo at Left:  NAPS Team Leader Mike Chapman conducting an EVP session on the rear porch during our Field Investigation of King's Tavern which began on November 27, 2010.  Photographer Benjie Sanders captured a psychic mist forming in the upper right hand corner.  Many people claim to see a face in the mist.  This mist had no natural cause.

In 2005, Yvonne Scott sold the property to Tom Drinkwater and Shawyn Mars who are the current owners of King’s Tavern.  As I stated earlier, on October 22, 2010, N.A.P.S. launched an extensive, full-blown paranormal investigation into King’s Tavern with interview & historical research phases initiated. Much of what you are reading now is a result of that investigation.  On December 22nd, N.A.P.S. officially closed our first investigation into KT, with a finding of Positive: Class B (significant paranormal activity present); with reservations about some experiences claimed being possibly due to high EMF and some likely due to matrixing (pareidolia) from the high expectations created by advertising of the haunting.  However, none of that is sufficient in our minds to explain all that is happening, and our own investigation revealed plenty of data and evidence on its own (including tactile, olfactory; Class A EVP; Photo and Video; as well as EMF and motion/temperature detection data – many of it cross substantiated).  Furthermore, as has been presented in this article, the investigation uncovered significant errors and misinformation into the history of the Tavern, including dates.  This correction of historical data may be the greatest contribution of this particular investigation.  Lastly, our investigation concluded its finding, but did recommend that the Tavern be investigated further, in the future, to answer specific questions and issues that this investigation raised.  I trust that this report will give you a solid background and clearer insight into the “true” King’s Tavern.  As a team, NAPS looks forward to many more of our own investigations into King’s Tavern in order to fine-tune our findings.  It is our goal as a group to be the foremost experts of King’s Tavern, in all of its aspects.  After all, it’s known as our hometown’s “most haunted site.”

Interview & Consultations with Don Estes: former Director of Natchez City Cemetery
Interview & Consultations with Mimi Miller: Natchez Historical Society
Interview with Tom Drinkwater: current co-owner of King’s Tavern
Historic Natchez Foundation: Land Records, Deed & Titles
Mississippi Department of Archives & History
A Way Through the Wilderness: The Natchez Trace and the Civilization of the Southern Frontier, by Davis
A History of Muhlenberg County (Kentucky), by Rothert
The Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock, by Rothert
Natchez Under-the-Hill, by Moore
Natchez: The History and Mystery of the City on the Bluff, by Whitington
The Devil’s Backbone: The Story of the Natchez Trace, by Daniels
Natchez On the Mississippi, by Kane
Archives: Natchez Democrat
The Judge Armstrong Library

© Copyright, 2010, Natchez Area Paranormal Society.  All or parts may be used with permission, we simply require that you cite your source.