HAUNTED BLOG

By Barney Caton 17 Jan, 2018

On the tour we visit Seven Hearths, which dates from the 1750s. It is also known as 'Reed's Ordinary' for the basement tavern licensed by homeowner and High Sheriff, William Reed. One of the spirits that has been seen numerous times by occupants and passersby is that of a young girl with long hair, wearing a dressing gown. The “official” legend behind the spirit is given in “Piedmont Phantoms,” by Daniel Barefoot, as follows, with the six bits of information numbered for reference:

Legend: Jane( 1) Hayes( 2) , died in 1850( 3) at age 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .

That's more than enough information for a tour guide to give the customers a good tale.

But where's the fun in that?! 

Honestly, with that much detail, this legend is tailor-made for research and, depending on what one finds, either augmenting or dissecting the story.

What follows, then, is a short demonstration of how to delve into a legend and see what research can add to, or subtract from, the tale. Note that I've described the research as I carried it out; a different order might well yield the same results.


1. Investigate the basic details

Let's start by seeing if a girl named Jane Hayes died in 1850. Checking the Birth and Death Records Book for Orange County, NC, for that year comes up empty. A check of years before and after also comes up empty.

An electronic search of such records at the NC State Library reveals no 'Jane Hayes' with a death year around 1850, or birth year around 1834. Records show one ' Fanny Maria Hayes ', who died in 1863, but at age 2 years and 3 months only. Seems like we have found no support for the basic legend.

Updated legend: An unknown girl( 1,2) died in 1850( 3) at age 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


2. Who owned the house in the 1840s and 1850s?

If the girl was a member of the family living in Seven Hearths at the time, finding the owner may be helpful. Hillsborough has records on lots in the main part of town dating from colonial times, and Reed's Ordinary is included. Seven Hearths sits on the NW corner of the intersection of King St. and Cameron St., otherwise known as 'lot no. 30.'

Reed bought the land in 1755 from Mr. William Churton, original surveyor of Hillsborough, official 'post of register' and namesake of our main north-south street. It passed from Reed to a succession of owners, such as Barnaby Cabe in 1764(?), William Courtney in 1777, and the Watts family from about 1800-1834.*

* There's an interesting story about a black man named Africa Parker associated with the lot and the ordinary. He apparently was a slave but later became a freed man, perhaps because of his utility with the distillery. This will be a later blog post.

About 1842, Col. Stephen Moore sold it, and then the records indicate several different co-owners and owners, including Osmond Long/Edward Strudwick, and John Garrard, until it was purchased in 1877 by Susan Hayes.

Hayes ! The last name in the original legend! Interesting, but 1877 is 27 years after the legendary death, so the girl being named Hayes would perhaps just be a coincidence.

The Hayes family seems to have owned Seven Hearths for many decades, until the 1950s. So, another possibility to consider is that somewhere along the way the ghost picked up the name of the long-time residents.

Still, none of what we found from ownership searches changed our information.

Updated legend: An unknown girl( 1,2) died in 1850( 3) at age 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


3. Did any other 16 year old girls die around that time?

Even if the name is wrong, perhaps the other bits of the legend are true. We searched for girls born anywhere, about 1834 (+/- a few years), and that died in Orange County about 1850 (+/- a few years). Reading obituaries from the Hillsborough Recorder (newspaper of record) proved fruitful. The most interesting names we found are as follows (alphabetical):

  • Elizabeth Coit , died 4 Jun 1852, 14 years old, of Cheraw, S.C. “Sent here to be educated”
  • Martitia Moore , died 24 Jun 1852 “in this county”, 15 years old, daughter of Robert (in Alamance Cty.)
  • Tarmesia Ann Parrish , died 28 July 1848, 16 years old, of typhoid, father was Williamson.

Interestingly, all three girls died within two years of 1850, and were close to 16 years old at the time. Also of note is that two of the girls died in the same month and year.

“Sent here to be educated” is an interesting clue, as the Burwell School for girls was a well-regarded institution in Hillsborough in the 19th century.

Tarmesia is hard to track down. Her father appears in Orange County in the 1840 census with a brood of children (and 11 slaves), but the 1850 census lists only the father and a son. The 1850 Mortality record clears things up a bit. As noted above, Tarmesia died in July of a “fever”, as noted above, after being sick for 20 days. Also succumbing to fever were her sister, Serena (in Sept. after 42 days of illness), and mother (in Nov. after 35 days of illness).

At the very least, though, this seems to have presented three candidates for our dead young girl:

Updated legend: A girl— Elizabeth Coit, Martitia Moore, or Tarmesia Parrish?( 1,2) —died around 1850( 3) at the age of about 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


4. Were these Burwell school girls?

The Burwell School (ca.1837- 1857) has good records about most of the girls who attended, in book form and online. Being a Burwell School girl is important to indicate that she was probably from out of town. A big house like Seven Hearths conceivably had extra rooms—perhaps especially an attic room6—for boarding such girls.

  • Elizabeth Coit is listed, and it is mentioned that she died in a yellow fever epidemic, and is buried in the Old Town Cemetery in Hillsborough. It turns out the 1852 yellow fever epidemic in the area was very serious, killing scores of people. We can probably presume that Martitia Moore also died from yellow fever.
  • Martitia is not mentioned in the Burwell rolls, but “Mary Moore” is. The record states little is known about the girl, but does state that she was called “Mitty.” It seems reasonable to think that Mitty was Martitia.
  • Tarmisia is not listed in the Burwell School rolls. It seems most likely, then, that she was not boarding in Seven Hearths, but was at home when she died. Her obituary describing her last words to her parents supports this interpretation. Thus, we remove her as a candidate.
  • Also listed is Mary Ann Freeland , died 31 July, 1848, at age 14, of consumption . This girl died within two years of 1850 of the illness specifically mentioned in the legend! Mary Ann's family lived in Mars Hill, a few miles north of Hillsborough, and the Burwell records say she was probably a boarder, the family farm being a little too far away for her to easily commute, one supposes. She was buried at Mars Hill Quaker Cemetery a little north of town. [Her obituary is cited and confirms the account.] We now have a third candidate—and perhaps a most likely one—for our spirit.

Updated legend: A girl— Mary Ann Freeland > Elizabeth Coit/Martitia Moore( 1,2) —died around 1850( 3) at the age of about 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


5. Where did the girls board in Hillsborough?

To really nail the lid on the coffin, so to speak, about who the spirit is, we'd need evidence indicating one girl boarded specifically in Seven Hearths. It's possible that such evidence exists, but it certainly isn't in the County Library. The most likely source would be letters from the girl home, describing her living conditions. Contacting the families might yield something if they've kept up with 160-year-old correspondence. Simply put, we don't know of any such records. The updated legend is unchanged.


6. Going to a source

The diligent researcher should contact anyone who might have more information than might have been published to date. I intended to do this with the folks at the Burwell School, especially since my research had perhaps fleshed out their listing of “Mary Moore.”

But tours had been running for a couple of months before I attended an event at the School and had a chance to talk to the director. I briefly explained what I'd been doing, and what I had found about Martitia, Mary Ann, and Elizabeth. Upon mentioning Elizabeth, the director immediately jumped in and explained that Elizabeth couldn't be the ghost because she had died here at the school. Apparently, it happened on a holiday break when, instead of going home like most girls, she had stayed. Perhaps this saved the family money on boarding, or Elizabeth didn't really board out—that part is unclear. In any case, it does seem unlikely that Elizabeth would haunt a home she hadn't died in, even if she'd lived there.


7. In conclusion.

Updated legend: A girl—most likely Mary Ann Freeland, but perhaps Martitia Moore( 1,2) —died in 1848 (or 1852)( 3) at the age of 14 or 15( 4) , of consumption (or yellow fever)( 5) in her attic room( 6) .

The updated legend suffices very well for telling the tale. The spirit is most likely Mary Ann, since the information we have about her matches the salient bits of the legend, including cause of death, and assuming she boarded “above the stairs” in Seven Hearths. If the cause of death is mistaken, she could be Martitia, who matches just as well except that she died of yellow fever. 

The spirit might have acquired the apparently mistaken name of Jane Hayes partly because memories fade or change over time, and particularly in this case perhaps because of the long association (70+ years) of the Hayes family with Seven Hearths. 

We were very fortunate in this case to have a clear, informative legend to investigate, and a wealth of historical resources and knowledgeable people to plum. Of course, these are only the candidate girls that we could find in records. It's still possible there's an undocumented fatality in, say, the Garrard family (owners in mid-1800s) that is the true haunt. But the particulars of the story fit the “Burwell School boarding girl” scenario very well, and that's what we're running with until someone proves us wrong.

Thanks for your interest.

By Enoch Pugh 06 Jan, 2018
I have decided to take the plunge and add a blog to my site.

I'll post some "behind-the-legends" stories and insights here.

Keep coming back to my site and check for updates right here on the blog.
By Barney Caton 17 Jan, 2018

On the tour we visit Seven Hearths, which dates from the 1750s. It is also known as 'Reed's Ordinary' for the basement tavern licensed by homeowner and High Sheriff, William Reed. One of the spirits that has been seen numerous times by occupants and passersby is that of a young girl with long hair, wearing a dressing gown. The “official” legend behind the spirit is given in “Piedmont Phantoms,” by Daniel Barefoot, as follows, with the six bits of information numbered for reference:

Legend: Jane( 1) Hayes( 2) , died in 1850( 3) at age 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .

That's more than enough information for a tour guide to give the customers a good tale.

But where's the fun in that?! 

Honestly, with that much detail, this legend is tailor-made for research and, depending on what one finds, either augmenting or dissecting the story.

What follows, then, is a short demonstration of how to delve into a legend and see what research can add to, or subtract from, the tale. Note that I've described the research as I carried it out; a different order might well yield the same results.


1. Investigate the basic details

Let's start by seeing if a girl named Jane Hayes died in 1850. Checking the Birth and Death Records Book for Orange County, NC, for that year comes up empty. A check of years before and after also comes up empty.

An electronic search of such records at the NC State Library reveals no 'Jane Hayes' with a death year around 1850, or birth year around 1834. Records show one ' Fanny Maria Hayes ', who died in 1863, but at age 2 years and 3 months only. Seems like we have found no support for the basic legend.

Updated legend: An unknown girl( 1,2) died in 1850( 3) at age 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


2. Who owned the house in the 1840s and 1850s?

If the girl was a member of the family living in Seven Hearths at the time, finding the owner may be helpful. Hillsborough has records on lots in the main part of town dating from colonial times, and Reed's Ordinary is included. Seven Hearths sits on the NW corner of the intersection of King St. and Cameron St., otherwise known as 'lot no. 30.'

Reed bought the land in 1755 from Mr. William Churton, original surveyor of Hillsborough, official 'post of register' and namesake of our main north-south street. It passed from Reed to a succession of owners, such as Barnaby Cabe in 1764(?), William Courtney in 1777, and the Watts family from about 1800-1834.*

* There's an interesting story about a black man named Africa Parker associated with the lot and the ordinary. He apparently was a slave but later became a freed man, perhaps because of his utility with the distillery. This will be a later blog post.

About 1842, Col. Stephen Moore sold it, and then the records indicate several different co-owners and owners, including Osmond Long/Edward Strudwick, and John Garrard, until it was purchased in 1877 by Susan Hayes.

Hayes ! The last name in the original legend! Interesting, but 1877 is 27 years after the legendary death, so the girl being named Hayes would perhaps just be a coincidence.

The Hayes family seems to have owned Seven Hearths for many decades, until the 1950s. So, another possibility to consider is that somewhere along the way the ghost picked up the name of the long-time residents.

Still, none of what we found from ownership searches changed our information.

Updated legend: An unknown girl( 1,2) died in 1850( 3) at age 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


3. Did any other 16 year old girls die around that time?

Even if the name is wrong, perhaps the other bits of the legend are true. We searched for girls born anywhere, about 1834 (+/- a few years), and that died in Orange County about 1850 (+/- a few years). Reading obituaries from the Hillsborough Recorder (newspaper of record) proved fruitful. The most interesting names we found are as follows (alphabetical):

  • Elizabeth Coit , died 4 Jun 1852, 14 years old, of Cheraw, S.C. “Sent here to be educated”
  • Martitia Moore , died 24 Jun 1852 “in this county”, 15 years old, daughter of Robert (in Alamance Cty.)
  • Tarmesia Ann Parrish , died 28 July 1848, 16 years old, of typhoid, father was Williamson.

Interestingly, all three girls died within two years of 1850, and were close to 16 years old at the time. Also of note is that two of the girls died in the same month and year.

“Sent here to be educated” is an interesting clue, as the Burwell School for girls was a well-regarded institution in Hillsborough in the 19th century.

Tarmesia is hard to track down. Her father appears in Orange County in the 1840 census with a brood of children (and 11 slaves), but the 1850 census lists only the father and a son. The 1850 Mortality record clears things up a bit. As noted above, Tarmesia died in July of a “fever”, as noted above, after being sick for 20 days. Also succumbing to fever were her sister, Serena (in Sept. after 42 days of illness), and mother (in Nov. after 35 days of illness).

At the very least, though, this seems to have presented three candidates for our dead young girl:

Updated legend: A girl— Elizabeth Coit, Martitia Moore, or Tarmesia Parrish?( 1,2) —died around 1850( 3) at the age of about 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


4. Were these Burwell school girls?

The Burwell School (ca.1837- 1857) has good records about most of the girls who attended, in book form and online. Being a Burwell School girl is important to indicate that she was probably from out of town. A big house like Seven Hearths conceivably had extra rooms—perhaps especially an attic room6—for boarding such girls.

  • Elizabeth Coit is listed, and it is mentioned that she died in a yellow fever epidemic, and is buried in the Old Town Cemetery in Hillsborough. It turns out the 1852 yellow fever epidemic in the area was very serious, killing scores of people. We can probably presume that Martitia Moore also died from yellow fever.
  • Martitia is not mentioned in the Burwell rolls, but “Mary Moore” is. The record states little is known about the girl, but does state that she was called “Mitty.” It seems reasonable to think that Mitty was Martitia.
  • Tarmisia is not listed in the Burwell School rolls. It seems most likely, then, that she was not boarding in Seven Hearths, but was at home when she died. Her obituary describing her last words to her parents supports this interpretation. Thus, we remove her as a candidate.
  • Also listed is Mary Ann Freeland , died 31 July, 1848, at age 14, of consumption . This girl died within two years of 1850 of the illness specifically mentioned in the legend! Mary Ann's family lived in Mars Hill, a few miles north of Hillsborough, and the Burwell records say she was probably a boarder, the family farm being a little too far away for her to easily commute, one supposes. She was buried at Mars Hill Quaker Cemetery a little north of town. [Her obituary is cited and confirms the account.] We now have a third candidate—and perhaps a most likely one—for our spirit.

Updated legend: A girl— Mary Ann Freeland > Elizabeth Coit/Martitia Moore( 1,2) —died around 1850( 3) at the age of about 16( 4) , of consumption( 5) in her attic room( 6) .


5. Where did the girls board in Hillsborough?

To really nail the lid on the coffin, so to speak, about who the spirit is, we'd need evidence indicating one girl boarded specifically in Seven Hearths. It's possible that such evidence exists, but it certainly isn't in the County Library. The most likely source would be letters from the girl home, describing her living conditions. Contacting the families might yield something if they've kept up with 160-year-old correspondence. Simply put, we don't know of any such records. The updated legend is unchanged.


6. Going to a source

The diligent researcher should contact anyone who might have more information than might have been published to date. I intended to do this with the folks at the Burwell School, especially since my research had perhaps fleshed out their listing of “Mary Moore.”

But tours had been running for a couple of months before I attended an event at the School and had a chance to talk to the director. I briefly explained what I'd been doing, and what I had found about Martitia, Mary Ann, and Elizabeth. Upon mentioning Elizabeth, the director immediately jumped in and explained that Elizabeth couldn't be the ghost because she had died here at the school. Apparently, it happened on a holiday break when, instead of going home like most girls, she had stayed. Perhaps this saved the family money on boarding, or Elizabeth didn't really board out—that part is unclear. In any case, it does seem unlikely that Elizabeth would haunt a home she hadn't died in, even if she'd lived there.


7. In conclusion.

Updated legend: A girl—most likely Mary Ann Freeland, but perhaps Martitia Moore( 1,2) —died in 1848 (or 1852)( 3) at the age of 14 or 15( 4) , of consumption (or yellow fever)( 5) in her attic room( 6) .

The updated legend suffices very well for telling the tale. The spirit is most likely Mary Ann, since the information we have about her matches the salient bits of the legend, including cause of death, and assuming she boarded “above the stairs” in Seven Hearths. If the cause of death is mistaken, she could be Martitia, who matches just as well except that she died of yellow fever. 

The spirit might have acquired the apparently mistaken name of Jane Hayes partly because memories fade or change over time, and particularly in this case perhaps because of the long association (70+ years) of the Hayes family with Seven Hearths. 

We were very fortunate in this case to have a clear, informative legend to investigate, and a wealth of historical resources and knowledgeable people to plum. Of course, these are only the candidate girls that we could find in records. It's still possible there's an undocumented fatality in, say, the Garrard family (owners in mid-1800s) that is the true haunt. But the particulars of the story fit the “Burwell School boarding girl” scenario very well, and that's what we're running with until someone proves us wrong.

Thanks for your interest.

By Enoch Pugh 06 Jan, 2018
I have decided to take the plunge and add a blog to my site.

I'll post some "behind-the-legends" stories and insights here.

Keep coming back to my site and check for updates right here on the blog.
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