LookBack10.15

This old photo of downtown Hartsville was made around 1906 and recently donated to our Historical Society. The young men standing on the sidewalk would have all known the story of the murder in this week’s article.

Ghosts are often said to have died tragically, or perhaps been the victim of foul play and looking to exact revenge.

A famous ghost who occupies a town south of here is rumored to have been run over by a train and been decapitated. Now he haunts a section of the old railroad at night, swinging a ghostly lantern looking for his lost head.

Our ghost this week is a person who died from mourning the death of a beloved brother and now haunts the family home.

We won’t tell where in Trousdale County this spirit roams from room to room, as its present occupants don’t want curious people to show up on their lawn, peering through their windows and hoping to catch a glimpse of a real ghost.

Just let us say that we have sat down in the front room of the home and felt nothing eerie, until the lights were turned down low and the matron of the old home began to tell the tale of Miss Nonnie!

It seems that the family that occupied the home in the 1870s, was prosperous and well thought of in town.

There had been several daughters, two of which died before their eighteenth birthdays. One was married and had started a family of her own. The remaining daughter continued to live at home with her father and only brother. The mother had passed away a few years earlier.

The son, named after his father, was the pride and joy of the family. His father doted on him and the sister thought that her brother was both the sun and the moon, with a few stars thrown in for measure.

However the young man had gotten into the habit of going into town on weekends and enjoying a few drinks with the other young fellows in Hartsville, and perhaps playing a few games of poker.

One weekend the cards were in the young man’s favor and he won the small pile of money lying on the table. Content with his success, he bid his friends goodbye and got on his horse to ride the short distance to the family home.

He never arrived.

In the morning light his body was found lying in a ditch — his skull crushed in and his pockets empty.

There would be accusations. A suspect was charged with the killing and there was a trial, but that has little bearing on our story.

The sister, nicknamed “Nonnie,” was grief stricken.

After the funeral, she went upstairs to her room and never went out in public again.

For years, she sat silently in a chair in front of a window and looked mournfully out. Perhaps she was hoping that it was all just a bad dream and that her beloved brother would come riding up to the house once more.

There were few institutions back then for people who had nervous breakdowns, or even doctors to treat extreme depression, and Miss Nonnie never got any real help.

That was all years ago and as the story continued the lady of the house told me about the sounds of a person walking around upstairs. The children would wake up to find that someone had pulled up the covers about their shoulders in the night.

One child had trouble sleeping in the upstairs bedroom that had been occupied by Miss Nonnie, so one night the mother took her to bed and lay down with her till she was asleep.

That was when the mother heard footsteps, ever so softly, walking from the window to the side of the bed!

She told me, “Now, I don’t believe in ghosts and I’m not afraid of the Devil, but…”

She got up and turned on the lights, looked under the bed, looked in the closet and peered down the hallway. Nothing.

After several nights of this the mother decided to try something. When she lay in the bed, her daughter asleep, and heard the footsteps start at the window and start for the bed, she sat up in the bed and said in a firm voice, “No, no, Miss Nonnie… please, not tonight!”

The room got quiet. Miss Nonnie got the hint and stopped walking. All was still.

The nervous lady of the house repeated the trick each time she heard the footsteps and over time they were heard less and less.

Today the house is pretty quiet. Another generation has come and gone and the old home has the usual creaks and pops and noises that all old houses have. Or is it Miss Nonnie making her presence known once again?

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