Built in 1818 by Peter Jones Williams, The Homestead has stood tall on Liberty Street for over 200 years. The home was the center of social life in Milledgeville and its walls held state officials, governors, and congressmen, among others. Besides being a gathering place, the Homestead belonged to the Williams family until the 1960's. While the deed for the property may be in other hands now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Williams family has left the Homestead behind…
From the home’s earliest days, spooky sightings could be had on the grounds. The ghost of an old lady dressed in gray could be seen walking the gardens of the home at sunset. The Williams family claimed that she was a banshee, a Welsh spirit that appears at the death of family members, and that she “followed them when they emigrated from Wales”. Banshee or not, the ghost was seen several times over the course of the house’s history, with the last time being in the 1950's. A friend of the Williams family claimed to have seen the ghost, clad all in grey, exit the Homestead, take a stroll down Liberty Street, pass the Baptist church, and disappear into Memory Hill Cemetery. She hasn’t been seen since. And yes, each of her appearances was followed by a death in the Williams family. Even though this infamous spirit disappeared in the 1950's, other ominous occurrences have been had on the property.
Peter Williams’s eldest daughter, Sue, is connected to even more haunts from the home. In 1854, right before her father died, Sue married John “Honest Jack” Jones, the son of a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court. (Remember him! He’ll pop back up soon.) In 1869, Lucinda Williams (Sue’s mother), died and Sue refused to relinquish any family assets to her brothers and sisters. Their relationship became strained, but Sue gained control of the house and continued to hold lavish parties. Time passed and in 1890, things began to change. “Honest Jack” Jones became ill and developed a fever. He grew delirious and even had to be tied to his bed. In the middle of the night, he escaped his restraints and jumped out the window to his death. His spirit has been seen hovering in front of the window where his fatal fall occurred. After her husband’s death, Miss Sue became reclusive and retired from public life. When she died, her family claims to have seen her ghost wandering the garden for hours on end, not stopping from midnight until the rising of the morning sun. While these appearances seem like something out of The Haunted Mansion, they aren’t even the most cinematically chilling thing to happen on the property.
In 1969, a man moved into the Homestead, and his experience within its wall is truly noteworthy. He was awoken to the sound of loud voices downstairs, and when he ventured down to see what was happening, he found himself in the 1840's. Women and men filled the halls of the home dressed in period clothing, the concrete steps of the front had been replaced by wood, and horse-drawn carriages were pulling up to the front door. Fiddlers were playing in the corner of the parlor, huge candelabras were lit, and guests gathered to chat and dance. When the man was debating whether to return to bed or look on a little longer, he was spotted by one of the guests who said, “Dear, we’ve been waiting so long for you to come down. Now we can begin the celebration.” He joined the gathering and at the end of the night, when everyone had left, he spotted an old lady dressed all in gray sitting in the library. She looked at him, pointed to a man in uniform who was also in the room and said to the resident, “You’ll never have to worry”. With that, the man woke up and found himself in his pajamas and robe on the couch in the library. The man never forgot what happened and continued to debate if it was real or just a case of sleepwalking. Years later, he discovered old photos of the original entrance to the house, the one that he had seen that night. At the time of the occurrence, he wouldn’t have had any way of knowing that those wooden steps had even existed.
The Homestead has had a lengthy history, both normal and supernatural. Of course, we will never truly know everything that happened there. If you’re intrigued, take a walk down Liberty Street yourself...just make sure to keep an eye out for the haunts of the Homestead while you’re there.
Stories adapted from True Ghost Stories of Georgia (Barbara Duffey), Weird Georgia (Jim Miles, Mark Sceurman) and Haunted Central Georgia (Jim Miles).