Our month-long series of articles on local ghosts starts with a little history lesson.
Over 100 years ago a congregation in Redcar, England, built an impressive stone church and decorated the building with finely crafted stained glass windows.
In 1981, the local Hartsville First United Methodist Church was looking at some ways to make the church more attractive. This was usually a discussion of paint colors and bulletin-board topics.
However, member Diane Brainard had seen a small notice in a Nashville newspaper — the want ad section — from a church that was disbanding due to a loss of members and wanted new homes for its collection of stained glass windows.
The church was in Redcar, England.
Diane told fellow members Eleanor Ford and “Country Jane” Rickman (so named to distinguish her from another Jane Rickman in the church who lived in town) and both ladies decided to investigate.
They wrote to the church in England and arrangements were made to ship two-century-old stained glass windows to the USA.
The church asked for $900, a mere pittance of what the windows were worth, to compensate it for the costs of removing the windows and boxing them up for shipment. The actual expense of shipping was another $500.
It was still a considerable bargain!
The only hitch in the arrangement was when the windows went through customs in New York City.
One look at the windows and the stated value — $900 — caused the customs agent to reject their entry and not allow them to continue to their destination. He felt this was a con job by an antiques dealer to not pay a huge fee for the works of art.
Notified of the problem, Eleanor Ford took matters in hand and called the Port Authority offices. Once connected, she used her best Southern accent and pleaded, “Please, sir… we are from a very small town here in the South and we have never seen anything as beautiful as these windows. Won’t you please let them through se we can enjoy them here in Hartsville!”
The bit of Southern charm worked and they were soon on their way to Tennessee.
Once installed behind the altar, with hidden lights behind them to make them shine at any hour of day or night, the rest of the church suddenly seemed a little dull.
The ladies of the church decided that the large windows to each side of the sanctuary needed to be replaced with attractive stained glass windows as well. Church members would be given the opportunity to sponsor a window and have their name placed at the bottom for all to see.
All this leads us to our ghost!
Mrs. Ford dropped by the church during the installation, which was done by a crew of men from West Virginia that was professionals in this type of work.
She noticed that the window paid for by the family of Mr. Noel Hardy, was first in line from the pulpit on the left side.
The leader of the crew commented, “Mr. Hardy came by to tell us where he wanted his window.”
Eleanor was a little surprised at that remark, as Mr. Noel Hardy had been dead for several years and it was his descendants who had paid for the window. And all of them lived out of town.
She said, “Well, that is interesting as Mr. Hardy is dead and has been for quite some time!”
The men insisted that a Mr. Hardy had told them where he wanted his window.
Eleanor asked them to describe the “Mr. Hardy” who had spoken to them and they described Noel Hardy exactly as she remembered him!
They said to her, “What should we do?”
She said, “Do what Mr. Hardy told you! After all, if a man goes to all the trouble to return from the dead, I guess you had better do as he says!”
To this day, no one has come forward to explain who the man was that spoke to the workmen. It leaves us to wonder if indeed a ghost did appear in Hartsville, just long enough to make his wishes known!