The South’s Most Haunted Plantation

The plantations of the southern United States are full of terrible history because of their connection with the cruel institution of slavery. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of them are believed to be haunted because of the terrible things that happened on them. The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana may be the most haunted of them all.

Myrtles was built by David Bradford, the son of Irish immigrants, in 1796. He had been a successful attorney in Pennsylvania before fleeing the state and leaving his family behind after his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. He named the plantation Laurel Grove and moved his family there after he was pardoned for his role in the rebellion.

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Bradford’s life passed normally, and he died peacefully, passing the estate on to his wife. His daughter, Sarah Matilda, her husband, and three children moved in to help manage it. It was at this point that tragedies soon began to affect those living there.

First, Sarah Matilda and two of her children died in the yellow fever epidemic of the 1820s. Her husband and their remaining child left Laurel Grove and sold it to Ruffin Grey Stirling. He remodeled the plantation and renamed it “Myrtles Plantation.”

Just four years after completing the renovations, Stirling died from tuberculosis. That was just the start of the family’s problems. Of his and his wife’s nine children, only four lived to adulthood. One of his sons-in-law was murdered on the front porch of the house after the Civil War, and much of the family’s wealth and belongings were destroyed during the war.

After the death of Mrs. Stirling, the plantation exchanged hands several times before being purchased by Harrison Williams, a Civil War veteran, in 1891. And the Myrtles once again proved itself as a place of tragedy when the Williams’ oldest son fell into the nearby Mississippi and drowned during a storm. The Williams were too grief-stricken to remain there, so they turned it over to their son, Surget.

The plantation remained in the Williams family until the 1950s, when a wealthy woman named Marjorie Munson purchased it. It was at this point that the ghost stories started circulating.

The first known story concerned an old woman who wore a green bonnet. Marjorie even wrote a song about her. Somehow, over the years, the story changed to include a slave girl who poisoned the owner’s wife and children in an act of revenge. No such event ever occurred at the Myrtles, though, so this story is untrue.

Before long, various ghost stories about the Myrtles began appearing in books and magazines. The house even appeared in the November 1980 issue of LIFE magazine, though it detailed the false poison story. Among the other ghosts people reported to have seen are a son of the Stirlings, a group of Union soldiers who were supposedly killed there, and the murdered son-in-law of the Stirlings. Some also report seeing the ghosts of children, believed to be the children of Sarah Matilda who died from yellow fever.

So, is the Myrtles Plantation truly haunted? With so many tragic deaths occurring on the estate, there is certainly plenty of material for a ghost story or two. Fortunately, you can stay there yourself or even book a tour…if you aren’t afraid of ghosts that is.

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