A supernatural past...
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.
In the summer of 1986 Katherine Scott, who was living at the home, was found sitting on the back steps by Fielding D. Whipple, Deacon of the Baptist Church next door. Katherine begged him to stay with her until the police arrived. She had been hearing strange noises and footsteps all evening and called the police in fear that someone else was in the house. Mr. Whipple accompanied Katherine from room to room through the house. Although all the windows and doors were open as it was a hot summer night, the air felt heavy. As the pair reached the third floor the door to one room was shut. This particular room was referred to as general's room. During the American Civil War, a general from the Confederate Army was hiding in the attic room for several months. He was too sick to travel when his troops left, suffering from pneumonia. Shortly after Sherman and his army occupied Milledgeville the general succumbed to his sickness. Following his death, the family would find a mysterious depression in the pillow of the bed in the attic room as well as hear footsteps above when occupying rooms below. Assuming his ghost was unsettled and lingered in the room it was named the general's room. Mr. Whipple and Katherine opened the door and found the room in good order, and began their return downstairs. On the way they were startled to hear the slam of the general's door. They returned upstairs, everything seemed to be ordinary and descended back down only to be frightened by the sound of the door slamming again. By now the police had arrived. After ensuring no one else was in the home they approached the general's room. All was in good order and the officers propped open the door. Upon their arrival downstairs they too heard the slam from the general's door. The officers determined that "if the general wants the door to his room closed, then leave it closed." Perhaps after all the time that has passed the general is still afraid he'd be discovered.
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.
The Homestead is a private residence located at 240 West Washington Street.
Stories adapted from:
Duffy, Barbara. Angels and Apparitions: True Ghost Stories from the South. Elysian Publishing Company, 1996.
Duffy, Barbara. True Ghost Stories of Georgia: Banshees, Bugles and Belles. Rockbridge Publishing Company, 1995.
Miles, Jim. Weird Georgia