Church Street Graveyard, Mobile, Alabama.
Bragg–Mitchell Mansion, 1906 Spring Hill Avenue, Mobile, Alabama 36607. (251) 471-6364
Built in 1860 in ornate Italianate style for steamboat captain Charles G. Richards and his wife, Caroline Elizabeth Steele, the Richards DAR House is located in the De Tonti Square Historic District at 256 N. Joachim Street in Mobile, Alabama. Over the years, this picturesque brick home has gained a reputation for being haunted. With its historic roots, this comes as no surprise. Even the sidewalk in front of the home is historic–it was made from discarded ballast stones brought over from Europe on wooden cargo ships. The ships would fill their hulls with the stones on their way to Mobile Bay, then discard them on shore when they picked up their cargo for the return voyage.
The Richards DAR House is a beautiful antebellum home, complete with a marble and granite veranda surrounded by a cast iron railing featuring ornate figures representing the four seasons. The Ideal Cement Company purchased the house in 1946, ending nearly a century of ownership by the Richards family. ICC converted the home into an office, but took pains to preserve the original architecture and woodwork as much as possible. The City of Mobile took ownership in 1973.
Behind a stone wall dating to the 1830s, vines crawl up wrought and cast iron fences, and antebellum granite headstones and crypts stand silently in the shade of southern live oak trees. Wind whistles through this quiet graveyard nestled in historic downtown Mobile, Alabama. Church Street Graveyard, as it is known, is a small 4-acre cemetery that rests behind the Mobile Public Library, with an entrance off Bayou and Church streets. It was established in 1819 and closed in 1898, although a few burials have taken place since then. Many of the earliest people interred there were victims of a yellow fever epidemic that killed hundreds.
The stories at this graveyard primarily center on a southern live oak growing just outside the stone wall off Bayou Street. Southern live oak trees, with thick trunks, gnarled branches, and often decorated with Spanish moss, can live up to 500 years. The Boyington Oak, as this particular tree is known, is relatively young. According to legend, it sprouted in 1835, a year after the gruesome murder that would give it its name.
A stately, Greek-revival style Southern mansion with tall, Doric columns sits off Springhill Avenue in Mobile, Alabama. Built in 1855 by Judge and Congressman John Bragg, brother of Confederate General Braxton Bragg, the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion is a simple, yet elegant example of antebellum architecture. Today it is a museum that carefully preserves its antebellum splendor for weddings and events, but visitors say something intangible has also remained. Some have reported chance encounters with the willowy fur of a phantom feline–as well as a forlorn and mysterious lady of the manor.
John Bragg purchased this 3 acre plot of land, then on the hinterland of Mobile, in May 1855 for $7,500. The mansion he built was 13,000 square foot and served as a seasonal home for his wife, Mary Francis Hall, who hosted parties and entertained guests from Mobile’s high society. They spent the remainder of the year at their plantation in Lowndes County, Alabama. Mary was 21 years younger than her husband, and the couple had six children. She was 42 years old when she died in 1869, just four years after the end of the Civil War.
During the war, Judge Bragg had all the oak trees on the property cut down so that the Confederate defenders of Mobile could more effectively fire on advancing Union troops. On Mary’s insistence, they moved all their most valuable possessions out of the mansion to their plantation. Ironically, Union soldiers burned the plantation and all their possessions, but left Mobile largely unscathed. Their oak trees were replanted in 1865 using acorns Judge Bragg had saved. Today these trees beautifully decorate the front lawn.
As many of my friends and readers know, I spent the summer and fall of 2014 along the Gulf Coast. Not only did I find the weather beautiful, but I also found rich history and folklore. During that time, I was able to visit some pretty interesting places in cities like Naples, Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are some of my favorites.
Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum
2081 Radford Blvd. Pensacola, FL 32508
www.pensacolalighthouse.org (850) 393-1561
Pensacola Bay has long been a strategic harbor, and even today, it is used for military purposes. The Pensacola Lighthouse sits on the grounds of the Naval Air Station, home of the Blue Angels. The first lighthouse was built in 1824/25 for $6,000 on the south entrance of the bay. It was 40-feet tall. The current lighthouse, located at the north side of the bay, was built in 1858 and lit in 1859. It is made of brick and stands 150-feet tall. In 1861, an artillery duel between Union and Confederate forces lightly damaged the tower. Today, some visitors claim to hear footsteps, heavy breathing, and their name being whispered. Others have had objects “thrown” at them in the keeper’s quarters. Some have even claimed a dark red stain appeared on the floor as the lighthouse was being renovated. [Read More…]
Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library
2244 Beach Blvd. Biloxi, MS 39531
www.beauvoir.org (228) 388-4400
Otherwise known as Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home has an interesting history. It was built in 1852 by a wealthy plantation owner named James Brown. Jefferson Davis did not reside in the house until 1877, twelve years before he died. His daughter Winnie continued to live there until her death in 1898. The Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home opened on the grounds in 1903 and operated until the 1950s. It was home to around 1,800 Civil War veterans and widows of Confederate soldiers. Roughly 780 of them are buried in the cemetery located on the property. Several visitors have reported encountering someone who they assume is an actor playing Jefferson Davis in the gardens. Later, when they compliment the staff on how realistic his portrayal was, the staff deny having a Jefferson Davis re-enactor on site. [Read More…]