Prior to the present Rose Hill’s construction in 1852, another house with the same name stood on the exact site. It was a two-story wooden structure built by R.J. Nichols, an entrepreneur from Connecticut. When Nichols died unexpectedly in 1849, he had failed to make a will and because he had numerous business ventures with multiple investors, his entire estate became tied up in litigation that took two years to unravel. Ultimately, the home and the 100 acres on which it sat were put on the auction block. On 6 January 1851, a wealthy plantation owner named Daniel Reece Tucker purchased the property for $5,500. Three weeks later the house burned to the ground. Tucker immediately began rebuilding and completed the present day Rose Hill in 1852.
The new home became a grand host to parties, prestigious receptions and balls, but devastation continued to plague the property. In 1879 Tucker died and while the property passed to his daughter Emma Tucker Sibley, over the years the entire family Daniel & Martha Tucker, their daughter Emma and her husband George all died in the home.
The home continued to pass hands to new families and in the early 1950's restoration work began on the home. Carpenters and painters witnessed the apparition of a young woman dressed in a long, flowing white gown appear. After a smile of approval, she vanished. While no one knows the identity of the lovely ghost, visitors to the home presume she is Emma Tucker. Emma is most commonly seen in the front left bedroom on the second floor. In 1994 an older gentleman was sleeping in the room and during his slumber he was awoken when a young lady crawled into bed with him. Frightened he jumped out of bed and made haste running out the front door, half naked, and vowed never to return again.
In 1995 another guest planned to spend the night in Emma's room. As the guest prepared to go to bed, she sat in front of the Victorian dresser and mirror to brush her hair when she was startled to hear "You shouldn't be sleeping in my room!" Distressed by the voice she rushed out of the room and asked the hosts to sleep in another bedroom. Another room was available and when she returned to Emma's room to gather her belongings, an apparition of a lady dressed in a long, flowing white gown stood in the room. Frightened she asked another to gather her belongs and when they did, the lady had vanished.
Shortly after these guests had encounters, Emma made her presence known again. Early one morning the home's alarm went off. The manager and her husband cautiously entered the home. Upon entry, the first floor seemed in order and as they approached the second floor they noticed the doors to the front balcony were open. The manager thought this was odd as all the doors were double locked before she left the night before. As they approached the balcony they passed Emma's bedroom and noticed that the covers had been turned down and the pillow was in the middle of the bed. Perhaps Emma had simply wanted some fresh air?
Today Rose Hill is the centerpiece of Lockerly Arboretum, a 50-acre botanical garden of trees open to the public.
Stories adapted from local sources and:
Duffy, Barbara. True Ghost Stories From the South: Angels and Apparitions. Elysian Publishing Company, 1996.