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Ah, with summer just getting its start, the temperatures in the historic old riverport of Jefferson have already crossed into the triple-digits! We recently added another fountain to the gardens of The Grove, and in this warm weather we seem to be fighting an uphill battle with evaporation! But we do have some great things to talk about - some upcoming fun in Jefferson, and a healthy number of ghost stories from our recent visit to Pennsylvania. With all that, I'll simply say a warm welcome to the June issue of the GroveZine - drag up a fan, pour a cold glass of iced tea, and come on in.
When we first purchased The Grove over a decade ago, people told us that the work on the 1861 home would never end - an old home always has something that needs addressing. Going into Summer, we had a few things both inside and out to repair, so we shut tours down for a couple of weeks. While the work was being done, we took the opportunity for a vacation to Pennsylvania. We'd love to take you along on a virtual version of our trip, but I remember as a kid when my folks would drag me to their friends' houses to watch vacation slides - a long, incredibly boring ordeal that seemed to go on forever. This is therefore an optional little side-trip that you can take only if you're interested... and you can bail out at any time. To check out our tales from the trip, just click on our Pennsylvania vacation link.
If you've been reading the GroveZine for a while, you know that the Fourth of July in Jefferson is an incredible celebration - it's a touch of Americana that you don't often see. The festivities begin in Otstott Park downtown with patriotic music in the gazebo; a children's parade of tricycles, bicycles, and wagons; and booths where you can buy goodies ranging from hot dogs to homemade ice cream. There is also a cake auction that raises money for the children's reading program at the Carnegie Public Library, so the day is a lot of fun. It is crowned by an incredible fireworks show over the bayou to celebrate America's birthday - the Fourth of July.
One of the highlights of July 4th in the park in Jefferson is a cake auction. Folks bring out their best recipes, and they're auctioned off to raise money for the children's reading program at our Carnegie Library. Tami usually makes a carrot cake for the auction, but when my mother passed last year we inherited all of her recipes, and in them we found a recipe for "Eggless Nut & Raisin Cake" that was hand-written by my grandmother all the way back in 1945. This year, Tami's submitting the 1945 cake recipe, and she even included a scan of the original recipe in my grandmother's handwriting. I got to lick the pan for both the cake and the icing, and I can attest to the fact that it's delicious! I think that it's going to bring a great donation for the kid's reading program.
This August there is a paranormal conference in Marshall, Texas - the East Texas Ghost Con 2012! Speaking that day will be Dakota Lawrence, a gifted Clairvoyant Medium and Psychic Paranormal Investigator; The Klinge Brothers from Everyday Paranormal; Larry Flaxman, bestselling author and founder of ARPAST; Martin Bravo, Founder of Bravo Paranormal in McKinney, TX; Jennifer Broussard, the director of Louisiana Spirits; Bayou Paranormal, Mike McCaskill, Lead Investigator/Sensitive for Unknown Paranormal in Longview, TX. I'll be there as well, so I hope to see you at the conference. Click on the icon/photo for more information.
Also in August, Jefferson will be having its first annual "Civil War Symposium" hosted by the Jefferson Historical Museum. It's a full, fascinating day for anyone with an interest in the Civil War. Jack Waugh will be speaking on "Sam Bell Maxey," Richard McCasline PhD will present "Defending the Lone Star: Union Efforts to Invade East Texas, 1862-1863," attendees will have the opportunity to have lunch with speaker James H. Davis, John Nance will talk about "Jefferson's Reconstruction Firgures," and I'm going to wrap things up with "Jefferson: During and After the War." It will be a fun, informative day! For more information, contact the Jefferson Historical Museum at 903.665.2775.
If you followed our travel link earlier, then you know that we had a great time up in Pennsylvania... but what's a vacation without visiting a few haunted locations? We did just that - some we came away with only the stories that we were told, while others we had some interesting encounters of our own. While we'll be sharing different haunted places in the future, for the month of June we wanted to focus on one of the most haunted places in Gettysburg - The Farnsworth House Inn. We spent a few nights there, and we were taking notes and photos to share with the GroveZine readers!
The original section of the house was built in 1810, and then the brick structure in back was added by John McFaland in 1833. During the Battle of Gettysburg, the Sweney family owned the house. In the heat of the fighting, this house was used by Confederate sharpshooters who are believed to have killed Jennie Wade, the only civilian who died during the fighting. The south side of the house has over one hundred bullet holes from the battle (you can see some of them in the photo).
We rented one of the most notoriously haunted rooms in the Farnsworth House - the Sarah Black room. It was named for the daughter of George and Verna Black, who turned the house into an early B&B called "Sleepy Hollow Lodging." While it's not clear that this was her room, it is at least named in her honor. The room is in the old, original part of the house, and if you look at any photo of the Farnsworth House, it is the top floor, and the top three windows belong to this room. Spirits that reportedly frequent the room are a young boy named Jeremy, and a woman in a blue dress named Mary.
When we first walked into the Sarah Black room, I opened the top drawer of the dresser to put in our clothes, and I discovered that it was filled with toys... as was the bottom drawer, and the smaller side drawers (as you see on the photo on the left below). We later found out that visitors who stayed in the room often brought toys as "trigger objects" to try to catch the attention of the young boy named Jeremy. While we've never done much with triggers, we figured that when in Rome... So one night I took out several wooden blocks, a few army men, a little white stuffed bunny, and laid them out on the floor. I also put a plastic tambourine on the cushion of the chair - you can see all this in the photo in the center. The next morning when I got up, the first thing that I did was to take another photo from the same perspective... as you can see, Jeremy must not have found any of the toys appealing, because nothing was moved. Oh well, at least we tried...
While we didn't have any interesting supernatural activity in the room per se, Tami woke up one morning and said, "I didn't get any sleep - one of our neighbors was stomping around outside the room all night." We wrote it off to another guest that couldn't sleep, although we did get another potential explanation. When we took one of the ghost walks associated with the Farnsworth House, we were told that that Sarah Black's room was once the master bedroom for the house, and the bathroom was the child's room. A young child who lived in the house named Jeremy (from the story above) was run over by a horse-and-carriage in the street below, and was brought back up to the room to await the local physician. When the doctor arrived, his father William is said to have paced the hallways and stairs while his son was being treated - he is said to have pounded on the door, although we didn't experience that part. Jeremy died that night in the room that is now the bath for the Sarah Black room. So did Tami hear William's footsteps in the hallway as he paced the night away, or was it simply another guest who couldn't sleep? We'll never know for sure, since we didn't open the door to look.
Just above our room was the attic, and we got to visit it on the ghost walk associated with the B&B. On one end of the attic is a small window where a Confederate sharpshooter fired at the Union troops. Just behind the sharpshooter were a couple of other soldiers who were loading rifles and passing them to him. It was a continuous assembly line; if the sharpshooter was hit, his body was pulled back, and the next shooter moved up. The bodies were stacked in the far corner of the attic, which you see here. Occasionally, very sensitive people on the tour have seen soldiers in the corner. In fact, when we first went in (and before our guide told us the stories of the bodies in the corner) a lady was so bothered by that corner that she wouldn't go near it. Tami and I both went over, and the energy was incredibly strong.
While we were eating breakfast one morning at the Farnsworth House, we met a couple from Australia. They were some of the only other folks there, so we figured that there weren't many people who'd spent the night. The gentleman told us that he'd been awakened several times by the crying of a child. When they reported it to the staff at breakfast, they were told that their room was once the nursery - and today, the Farnsworth House doesn't accept children under the age of twelve. We visited with them for a while, and there was no doubt in his mind as to what he heard.
Down the street from the Farnsworth House is the Jenny Wade House, which is the site of the only civilian killing during the Gettysburg battle. The house actually belonged to Jenny's sister, and Jenny was simply staying there. She was giving fresh bread and water to the Union troops. During the early morning hours of July 3, 1863, while baking bread for Union soldiers in the kitchen, Jenny was struck by a single bullet that traveled through two wooden doors... it killed her instantly. Jennie Wade was 20 years old. Legend has it that the fatal bullet came from a Confederate sharpshooter positioned in the attic window of the Farnsworth House down the block. Supernatural activity is reported in the Jenny Wade House, and a female figure is sometimes seen in the upper left window. She wasn't there when we came by, but we made a note to take the tour of the house the next day.
On a side note, something very strange has been happening at the Jenny Wade House over the years... young ladies on the tour who have put their ring finger through the bullet hole in the inner door have become engaged or married within a year of doing so. The Jenny Wade House has letters to document this fact on display - of course, when we were on the tour, the unmarried young ladies were quick to put their ring fingers in the hole... just in case!
One supernatural event happened on the trip that actually made me laugh out loud. We were visiting the notoriously haunted Eastern State Penitentiary, a prison built in 1829 in Philadelphia, and during the self-guided tour, we walked into several intense pockets of energy and emotion. It was quite an interesting place, and there was a lot of activity there. I had been snapping photos with my camera, but at one point I pulled out my phone to take a picture that I could send to a friend. I'd charged it overnight, even though it gets a full charge in only an hour, so it should have been ready to go... instead, the battery was completely dead. I hadn't texted, I hadn't taken photos, I hadn't made any phone calls - there was no reason for its charge to be so suddenly and totally depleted. I commented about this to Tami, and one of the employees there nonchalantly said, "Oh, that happens all the time." I stopped in my tracks - if you've been reading the GroveZine for a while, you know that this frequently happens to visitors to The Grove, and I always give that exact same explanation! As the owners of The Grove, we typically don't have those kinds of problems, yet there I was in another haunted location, experiencing the exact same thing that our guests do! I had to laugh. Now I understand how visitors to The Grove must feel with their electronic equipment.
And speaking of The Grove, this month I was going to only share the travel ghost stories that we had... but as soon as we returned and started the tours again, we had something happen that I can't ignore. I have to tell a Grove ghost story! I had taken a group through the tour and was finishing up in the kitchen, which is the last room and where we wrap up. As you've heard me say before in the GroveZine, if I detect that something is going on during the tour, I usually don't say anything about it - I don't want folks to feel that the tour is contrived or has things staged. On a recent tour we'd moved into the kitchen, I was telling some final stories when the lamp on the breakfast table that we have in there turned off. Everyone ooh'ed and ah'ed, but I figured that the bulb had simply burned out, so I kept talking. In a few moments, it came back on. I told people that the bulb was probably loose, and just kept on with my stories. A few minutes later it went off again, and then finally came back on. This is a lamp that we turn on every day of our lives, and that particular tour was the one and only time that it's ever misbehaved. When the tour was over, I turned the bulb as I went by, and it was tight. I have no explanation - other than something supernatural - as to why it was going on and off. Since then, we've turned it on every single day with no fluctuations - whatever was happening during that tour was totally unique, and I'd love to know more about why it was occurring... but it's just one of the unexplained anomalies of The Grove.
We're delighted to be back home at The Grove - although upon returning, we had to call our contractor to address yet another new problem that came up with the house... you know, those folks were right - there's ALWAYS something to be repaired in an 1861 home. Hopefully we won't have to suspend any more tours for this one. There were more haunted places that we visited in Pennsylvania, and some more experiences to share, but we'll keep those for a future date so that the GroveZine isn't TOO long-winded for June. Thanks so much for reading the GroveZine... we're so happy to have you along for the ride. You guys make it all worthwhile.
And if you'd like to check any of my books, you can find them at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, or at The Grove's website if you'd like to order a signed copy of anything.
If you missed any issues of the GroveZine, or if you'd like to find out what's been going on for the last several years here at The Grove, you can find past issues at the GroveZine Archives.
07/04/2012 - "Jefferson Salutes America" 4th of July Celebration
07/15/2012 - Krewe of Hebe "Jefferson Heritage Triathlon
9/14-15/2012 - Trammel's Trace Rendezvous
10/06/2012 - Jefferson's City Wide Rummage Sale
10/06/2012 - Cypress River Airport Fly-In
10/12-14/2012 - 15th Annual Boo Run Benefit
10/20/2012 - Lion's Club presents: Mustang Car Show
10/21/2012 - A Taste of Jefferson
10/25-27/2012 - Marion County Fair
10/27/2012 - Krewe of Hebe & Auntie Skinner's "Monster Bash"
11/09-10/2012 - Trammel's Trace Rendezvous
11/23/2012 - Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony @ Lion's Park
11/29-30/2012 - 30th Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/01,06-08/2012 - 30th Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/03/2012 - Jefferson's Old Fashioned Christmas Parade
12/16/2012 - Uncertain Floating Christmas Parade
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