Old estate that’s now a charming B&B has a heartbroken ghost in one of its rooms.
If it’s a night with ghosts you’re looking for, book a room at the Edgewood Bed and Breakfast in Charles City, Virginia. Also known as Edgewood Plantation, this charming little inn is famous for being both a historic landmark and “a real haunted house.”1
Charles City County is known for being the home of several James River Plantations. This collection of estates span Virginia’s Lower Peninsula and are among the nation’s first. Edgewood Plantation was originally part of one of its most famous members, Berkeley Plantation.
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In 1619, King James I granted four Gloucestershire entrepreneurs a large tract of land located on the northern banks of the James River. Their mission was “to start the town and hundred at Berkeley.”2
Captain John Woodlief was commissioned to oversee the expedition. It took him and his thirty-eight men over two months to reach their destination. They had to struggle through many hardships along the way: a treacherous storm, a rat infestation, and very cramped quarters. So when their Good Ship Margaret finally reached Virginia, the grateful crew fell to their knees to thank the Lord for ensuring their safe arrival. Their prayer sparked “America’s first official English speaking Thanksgiving.”3
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Unfortunately, a mere three years later, Berkeley Hundred was destroyed by an Indian uprising known as the Massacre of 1622. Thanksgiving festivities were also ceased, until the holiday was renewed in 1948 by Senator John Wicker.
Besides being where the nation’s first Thanksgiving occurred, Berkeley Plantation is also famous for its ties to the Harrison family. It was acquired in 1691 by Benjamin Harrison III. His son, Benjamin Harrison IV, was the one who built the estate’s two buildings: a gristmill and a lavish three-story brick mansion. This beautiful Georgian-style home would later become the birthplace of two of the nation’s Presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison.
The success of Berkeley Plantation’s mill attracted Richard S. Rowland, who took over the estate in 1849. On it, Rowland erected a new structure around 1854. The mill and Rowland’s new 7,000 square foot cottage became known as Edgewood Plantation.
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Due to its strategic location, Edgewood Plantation would play an important role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. General Benedict Arnold and his British troops made the mill their headquarters in 1782. In 1862, Confederate commander General J.E.B. Stuart stopped at the house for a drink before making his way to Richmond. In fact, one of the inn’s current rooms4 is named after him.
During the Civil War, others made use of Edgewood Plantation as well. Corn ground at the mill fed hungry soldiers, for instance. From the house’s third floor, Confederate officers spied on Union General George McClellan’s beleaguered troops, who were camped nearby. And on the first floor, the Westover Episcopal Church offered their religious services.
1862 was the year of General McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign, an operation that would ultimately end with the Confederates emerging victorious. The Army of the Potomac would try to recuperate after a series of humiliating defeats near Edgewood Plantation. “One county resident who sought shelter with the Rowlands during this time recounted the sight of numerous ambulances, filled with dead and wounded soldiers, making their way past the house to Harrison’s landing.”5 This explains why many of the ghosts seen at Edgewood Plantation are of Civil War soldiers.
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“Of the many legends that surround the house, the most infamous is the one told by a couple who once stayed in the cottage and said that they were up for an entire night talking to the spirit of a solider named Aaron Young, III.”6 Aaron Young III was a member of Virginia’s Twentieth Regiment, which passed by Edgewood Plantation during the Civil War.
Edgewood Plantation would remain in the Rowland family’s hands until 1888. After that, it passed through many owners and operated as many things, including a post office, a telephone exchange, and a nursing home. In the early 1900s, it became Charles City’s first restaurant, The Blue Teapot. Today, it is a cozy little bed and breakfast operated by Dot and Julian Boulware, the couple who purchased the property back in the mid-1970s.
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There’s a lot about the inn that makes it worth the scenic, 28 mile drive along Route 5 from Williamsburg. Rooms are furnished with antique furniture, giving them an authentic 18th century vibe. Traditional Victorian teas are also offered at this quaint bed and breakfast. Guests love these fun luncheons because they perfectly replicate the ones enjoyed during the colonial times. Confirms the inn’s Web site: “Hostess Dot Boulware, in authentic Victorian attire, will lead you through the charming ritual of a Victorian Tea Party”7. Various tours of the property are also available year round.
But it wasn’t heirlooms and tea parties that drew the TAPS team (of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters) to Edgewood Plantation back in 2009. They wanted to see if Civil War ghosts were really lurking there. The ghost hunters of Richmond Investigators of the Paranormalwere just as curious in 2011. They brought with them “high-tech tools to track down the spirits”8, including electromagnetic field detectors. In the plantation’s slave quarters, the ghost of a cat caused these devices to go off the charts. The slave buildings are one of the plantation’s most active locations. .
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But the plantation’s most celebrated spirit has to be Elizabeth Lizzie Rowland, the fiancée of a Civil War soldier. When her beloved failed to return home from battle, it is said that poor Lizzie died of a broken heart. “Legend has it – and many people believe – that she still waits for him, watching from her upstairs window.”9 In fact, you can see her name etched into the glass.
Lizzie’s ghost has attracted tourists for years. Many have encountered her during their stays. “Visitors have looked up to the second-floor window and have seen the apparition of a very sad, dark-haired woman looking down toward them. Eyewitnesses have also see Lizzie’s apparition from the inside as they reach the top of the stairs and look in the direction of the window.”10
Image Source: Edgewood Plantation
Two suicides are also believed to have occurred at Edgewood Plantation. An old man is said to have killed himself in the mill, while a woman is rumored to have hung herself from the mansion’s stairs. Perhaps she is why many have heard footsteps walking up its steps.
The spirit of a small child has also been seen wandering around Edgewood Plantation. EVPs of children are frequently recorded in the house. Finally, a slim, unidentified man is known to dwell in J.E.B.’s room. Indeed, the estate boasts an impressive roster of spectral tenants.
Virginia Paranormal Investigations visited Edgewood Plantation on March 21, 201511. After interviewing Dot Boulware, they proceeded to investigate the mansion. They conducted EVP sessions and ran flashlight tests in several rooms. They got some activity in Victoria’s room and also heard a strange tapping on the third floor. A lot of EMF readings occurred in the dining room. They also collected evidence the old mill and slave quarters.
Edgewood Plantation was listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1982. It’s a link between the past and the present, the worlds of the living and the dead. It’s one of the few places in Virginia where you can room with a real ghost. You can also enjoy Civil War reenactments and perhaps spot a spirit hiding among the actors!
- “Edgewood Plantation – A Real Haunted House.” Edgewood Plantation, n.d. Web. 20 September 2015.
- Woodlief, H. Graham. “England in the early 17th century – History of the First Thanksgiving.”The New World – History. Berkeley Plantation, 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. Para. 5.
- Woodlief, H. Graham. “Berkeley – History of the First Thanksgiving.” The New World – History.Berkeley Plantation, 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. Para. 4.
- “An Elegant and Unique Virginia Bed & Breakfast Just Minutes from Williamsburg, VA.”Edgewood Plantation, n.d. Web. 20 September 2015. Para. 8.
- “Mill Quarter / Richard S. Rowland House and Mill.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 1973. Web. 30 September 2015. Page 9.
- “I Am Not Guilty.” Season 5 Episode 10 Recap. Ghost Hunters. SyFy, 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. Para. 8.
- “Victorian Teas – Edgewood’s Specialty…High Tea – Victorian Style!.” Edgewood Plantation, n.d. Web. 20 September 2015. Para. 1.
- Ahmed, Beenish. “Paranormal Technology: Gadgets For Ghost-Tracking.” NPR.org. 31 October 2011. Web. 20 September 2015. Para. 1.
- “Edgewood Plantation – A Real Haunted House.” Edgewood Plantation, n.d. Web. 20 September 2015. Para. 1.
- Southall, Richard. Haunted Plantations of the South. Woodbury, Llewellyn Publications: 2015. Page 162.
- Virginia Paranormal. “Virginia Paranormal Investigations at Edgewood Plantation in Charles City, VA.” Online video. Youtube. Youtube, 6 April 2015. Web. 20 September 2015.