Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bellamy Bridge, Part Six

This is part six of a continuing series on the true story behind Jackson County's popular legend of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge. To read the previous posts first, please scroll down the page.
The leap of the story of Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy from real fact to legend began in 1853 when 19th century novelist Caroline Lee Hentz published an intriguing book titled Marcus Warland or the Long Moss Spring.
Although she would spend the last three years of her life in Florida and die at Marianna in 1856, Mrs. Hentz was actually a resident of Columbus, Georgia at the time she wrote the book. Because of her later association with Jackson County, many have assumed the "Long Moss Spring" of the book was a description of Blue Spring near Marianna. According to her "Address to the Reader," however, the book was actually set in and around Columbus.
One of the subplots of the book, however, was the wedding night death of a young slave named Cora:
…Turning away she threw herself into a large easy-chair in front of the fire, and in spite of the excited state of her feelings and the extreme want of sentiment evinced by the act, she fell asleep in her downy nest. She had been up almost all the preceding night, on her feet all day, and had been dancing with such extraordinary enthusiasm, that the soft cushion and gentle warmth of the room soothed her to instantaneous repose. How long she slept, she knew not. She was awakened by a sense of heat and suffocation, as if her lungs were turned to fire. Starting up she found herself encircled by a blaze of light that seemed to emanate from her own body. Her light dress was one sheet of flame, the chair she left was enveloped in the same destroying element.
The story bears an obvious similarity to the Bellamy Bridge ghost legend: A young bride's gown comes into contact with an open fire on her wedding night, leading to tragic results.
The connection becomes quite clear when one notices the name given by Mrs. Hentz to the mistress of the plantation where the fire took place. The character was named, as you probably have guessed by now, "Mrs. Bellamy." The story, in fact, reads almost like a recitation of the Bellamy Bridge story:
“Mercy! Mercy!” she shrieked. “Oh! Mistress, save me, save me.” Rushing through the hall and down the stairs, the flames flashing more wildly round her, she still screamed, “Mistress, save me!” Mrs. Bellamy, who was in the room below, heard the sudden terrible cry of human suffering, and flew to relieve it. When she beheld the blazing figure leaping towards the open door, and recognized the voice of Cora, shrill and piercing as it now was, regardless of self, she sprang after her, and seizing her with frenzied grasp, tried to crush the flames with her slender fingers, and smother them against her own body. While she was thus heroically endeavoring to save the beautiful mulatto at the risk of her own life, Hannibal, who had dragged the carpet from the hall, wrapped it closely around the form of her he so madly loved….
Hannibal was a male slave on the "Bellamy" plantation that the fictional Cora had passed over in favor of another man, King.
When our series continues, we will look at how Caroline Lee Hentz's fictional story became part of the Bellamy Bridge ghost legend. In the meantime, you can read more by visiting: The complete story is also included in my book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts, available now through, or for order through most bookstores. It is also available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bellamy Bridge, Part Five

This is part five of a continuing series on Florida's ghost of Bellamy Bridge legend. To read the other posts first, please scroll down the page.
This faded photograph shows the old Bellamy Mansion in Marianna. This was the home that Dr. Samuel Bellamy supposedly built for his young bridge, Elizabeth. According to legend he refused to live in the house following her death and it remained silent for many years.
In truth, the house was not built until after Elizabeth died. Samuel, as legend holds, did go through a period of mourning and turned to alcohol in his despair, but his productive life did not end with the death of his young wife. He served as a delegate from Jackson County at the 1838 Florida Constitutional Convention in St. Joseph and was an officer with the Union Bank.
Bank records indicate that he borrowed the money to build the magnificent home nine months after Elizabeth's death. It was one of the largest homes in Northwest Florida and was built at a time when land speculation was booming in Florida and the Union Bank was extending loans worth much more than the security pledged by the borrowers.
The bubble burst during the early 1840s and Samuel Bellamy, like many other investors, lost his fortune. Scrambling to try to save what he could, he made a questionable deal with his brother. Edward took over all of Samuel's property, including Rock Cave Plantation, to shelter it from seizure in legal actions. This eventually led to a dispute between the two brothers that went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
Samuel's life rapidly deteriorated. He suffered from depression and battled alcoholism for the rest of his days. In 1853, he committed suicide by slashing his own throat with a razor at Chattahoochee Landing.
When our series continues, we will explore how the tragic true stories of Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy evolved into one of Florida's best known ghost stories.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bellamy Bridge, Part Four

This is part four of a series on the true story behind the legend of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge, Florida. To read the previous posts first, please scroll down the page.
This photograph was taken on the Baker Creek Road northwest of Marianna on land that was once the Rock Cave plantation of Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy. The groves of planted pines in the distance were once fields of cotton and sugar cane.
The couple's early life in Florida was very promising. The plantation quickly emerged as one of the most successful in Jackson County and Dr. Bellamy was readily accepted into Jackson County's social and political life. In late 1835, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy. The couple named him Alexander, in honor of Samuel's ancestors.
The rich bottomlands along Baker Creek and the Chipola River were ideal for growing and cotton and sugar cane. Tragically, though, they were also breeding grounds for clouds of mosquitos during the 1830s. These mosquitos carried a variety of fevers and diseases, including malaria. On December 6, 1836, Hardy Bryan Croom (a noted scientist and Elizabeth's half-brother) wrote in a letter to family that Samuel, Elizabeth and baby Alexander were all sick with malaria.
Often called the "remitting fever," because patients would appear to recover, only to suddenly relapse and die, malaria was one of the most common causes of death in antebellum Florida. Samuel eventually recovered from the fever, but Elizabeth and the baby did not. Elizabeth Bellamy died at Rock Cave Plantation on May 11, 1837. She was not the victim of a tragic wedding night fire, but of a deadly fever. Baby Alexander died one week later. He was only 18 months old.
Devestated by grief, Samuel buried his wife and son on the plantation of his brother, Dr. Edward C. Bellamy, near today's Bellamy Bridge. There the graves would be tended by Elizabeth's sister, Ann, and Samuel could visit as often as he liked. He briefly considered moving Elizabeth back to a family burial ground in North Carolina, but appears to have abandoned the idea as time passed.
It might appear, based these facts, that the legend of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge is nothing more than a tall tale, made up long ago to explain a lonely tombstone near the Chipola River. But if so, where did the unusual tale of a tragic wedding night fire originate?
In fact, the story of Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy was just beginning. Over the next twenty years a fascinating series of events would lead to the rise of the legend. Our look at the story behind the Bellamy Bridge ghost legend will continue in the next post. In the meantime, you can read more by visiting
The entire story can also be found in my book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea on Lafayette Street in Marianna (on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant) or for order by clicking here.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bellamy Bridge, Part Three

This is part three of a series on the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge. If you would like to read the previous posts first, just scroll down the page!

A short time after their 1834 wedding, Samuel and Elizabeth joined with Edward and Ann in beginning a long trek to the Chipola country of Florida. The Crooms were already established in the new Territory and the two new Bellamy families were joining them. According to documents later filed before Florida's Supreme Court, they left North Carolina with everything needed to start new plantations in Jackson County: supplies, overseers, livestock and dozens of slaves.

Dr. Edward Bellamy had purchased the Fort Plantation, a farm carved from the wilderness the previous decade in the rich Chipola River valley at the site of today's Bellamy Bridge. This is the area of Jackson County still known as the "Bellamy Plantation," but it was the farm of Edward and Ann Bellamy.

Dr. Samuel Bellamy and his new wife, Elizabeth, actually acquired their land at a place called "Rock Cave" on the opposite side of the Chipola and closer to the new city of Marianna. Samuel and Elizabth's Rock Cave Plantation was in the Baker Creek settlement, named for a small stream (seen here) that rises northeast of Cottondale and flows north and east, eventually joining with other creeks and flowing into the Chipola River upstream from Marianna.

Although legend holds that Samuel built the magnificent new mansion in Marianna for Elizabeth, they actually lived out at Rock Cave. Through backbreaking labor, his gangs of enslaved laborers cleared fields and built a large home for the couple, along with all of the other necessary buildings of the plantation. It soon became one of the most successful plantations in Jackson County and was the source for the first bargeload of Sea Island cotton to navigate the Chipola River and safely reach Apalachicola.

Our series on the true story behind the legend of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge will continue. In the meantime if you would like to read more, just follow this link to visit my Bellamy Bridge site.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bellamy Bridge, Part Two

This is part two of a continuing series on the true story behind Jackson County's famed legend of the "Ghost of Bellamy Bridge." If you would like to read part one first, just scroll down the page.
As I explained in my last post, the legend of Bellamy Bridge is certainly colorful, but is it true?
The story first began to appear in local newspapers roughly 100 years ago, indicating that it was well known by the beginning of the 20th century. Interviews with senior residents of the area confirm this.
Fortunately, the events related in the legend involved people who were prominent and well-known in their day. As a result, their true stories can still be traced.
Dr. Samuel C. Bellamy grew up in North Carolina and attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. His brother, Dr. Edward C. Bellamy, was also a physician and the two men were close during their youth.
The Bellamy family was prominent in North Carolina at this time and closely associated with another prominent clan, the Croom family. Dr. Edward Bellamy fell in love with Ann Croom, the daughter of Gen. William Croom, and the two were married in North Carolina during the early 1830s. Not long after, Dr. Samuel Bellamy began to court Ann's sister, Elizabeth "Betsy" Bellamy. At this point, the story begins to diverge from the legend.
Newspaper records confirm that Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy were married in North Carolina on July 15, 1834, three years before the date of the supposed Florida wedding (and tragic reception).
On the surface the discovery of proof that Samuel and Elizabeth were married in North Carolina three years before legend holds she died on her wedding day in Florida might seem to disprove the legend of the ghost of Bellamy Bridge, but true history reveals there is much more to the story.
I'll continue this fascinating true story in the next post. Until then, if you would like to read more and see an actual photo of the "ghost" of Bellamy Bridge, please click here.
The complete story can be read in my book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts, now available through,, or for order through your favorite bookstore. It can also be purchased in downtown Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea (on Lafayette Street across from the Battle of Marianna monument).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bellamy Bridge, Part One

As promised, I'm beginning today a series of posts telling the true story behind Jackson County's popular Bellamy Bridge ghost legend.

If you grew up anywhere near Two Egg (or pretty much anywhere else in Jackson County) you have probably heard at least some version of the story. It is one of Florida's oldest and favorite ghost stories.

Although there are several versions, the most common holds that the area around Bellamy Bridge, an old iron-frame bridge spanning the Chipola River a few miles north of Marianna and a few miles west of Two Egg, is haunted by the restless spirit of a young woman named Elizabeth Jane Bellamy.

As the story goes, Elizabeth was the bride of Dr. Samuel C. Bellamy, a prominent member of early Jackson County society. He built a beautiful new home for her in Marianna and the wedding was to be the social event of the season. Guests traveled for weeks to come and gifts arrived from as far away as Europe. The wedding came off beautifully, but the reception ended in unspeakable horror.

According to one version of the legend, Elizabeth was dancing with her husband and came into contact either with an open fire or a candle. Another version says she was so exhausted from dancing that she sank into a comfortable chair and unwittingly touched her gown to a burning candle. Regardless of story, the result was horrible. Her beautiful gown burst into flame. Elizabeth, as the story continues, rushed from the beautiful new mansion engulfed in flames. Her husband tried to save her, but by the time he could stop her flight and smother the flames, she was horribly burned. She died a few days later and was buried in a small cemetery on the plantation of Samuel's brother, Dr. Edward C. Bellamy. The cemetery is not far from Bellamy Bridge.

The legend holds, however, that the grave could not contain the love between Samuel and Elizabeth. Supposedly her ghost soon began to appear in the area around the cemetery and Bellamy Bridge. Some said she could be seen as a pale white figure roaming the swamps along the Chipola River. Others described a more horrible apparition, engulfed in fire, that rushed through the swamps and plunged into the river.

Samuel, it is said, was so devestated by Elizabeth's death that he dropped from public life, refused to ever live in the beautiful mansion he had built for her, became an alcoholic and eventually took his own life. The ghost of his long lost bride, however, continued to appear around Bellamy Bridge and some claim she can still be seen there today.

It is a fascinating story, but is it true? I'll begin to look closer into the real story behind this fascinating Florida legend in the next part of the series.

In the meantime, if you would like to read more, click here to visit the Bellamy Bridge section of

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge

I have received quite a few questions lately about the Bellamy Bridge ghost story. This is one of the most popular legends from the area surrounding Two Egg.
Since so many people have been asking, I thought I would begin a series here on the legend and tell you the true story behind it. I think the ghost hunt over the weekend at the Russ House in Marianna must have inspired some interest.
I'll begin posting the history of the Bellamy Bridge legend starting tomorrow, so be sure to check back and read along over the next few days. I also would love to hear from you about other ghost stories in and around Jackson County.
The story is also included in my book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts, so please consider picking up a copy. It is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant) as well as through, or for order through your favorite bookstore.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sheriff's Race for Jackson County

I just noted on the Jackson County Times website that Dudley Hall has withdrawn from the race for Jackson County Sheriff.

Many of us who grew up in Two Egg knew and appreciated Mr. Hall for all he did for the community and his country. I grew up with several of his sons and have many fond memories of working in the fields and prowling through the woods with them. He announced, in withdrawing from the race, that he has cancer. It was a blow to him, I'm sure, and to all of us who know and appreciate him.

I hope you will join me in praying for his speedy recovery.

If you would like to read the entire story, just click here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jackson County Times now online with a new website!

I'm pleased to let you know that Jackson County's community newspaper, the Jackson County Times, is now online with a brand new website. The paper is published weekly, but the website will be updated throughout the week. It already includes sections on local news, local sports and more. Plus, coming soon, new sections on Jackson County history and more will be added!

To visit the free website, just go to

If you haven't subscribed yet, you can also do that online.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Please remember the tornado victims

I'm sure you've seen some of the coverage of the horrible tornado damage across parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. More than 50 people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

These people are our Southern neighbors and they need all the help they can get. Please consider helping with a local relief effort or donating through the American Red Cross at:

Please also keep them in your prayers.

Thank you and may God bless you.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Willis Home - Greenwood, Florida

One of my favorite old Jackson County homes is the Willis House, located on Highway 69 as you enter Greenwood from Two Egg.
The beautiful old home is sometimes confused for an antebellum mansion, but actually was built well after the Civil War. The cherished house is now surrounded by a beautiful grove of old oak trees and is one of Jackson County's most significant architectural landmarks.
This photograph was taken during the early to mid 1900s. The woman pictured is Lizzie Willis.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Open Pond near Two Egg, Florida

The body of water seen in the distance here is known in the Two Egg area as the "Open Pond." Long a popular fishing hole in the Cox community, it is one of the few area landmarks shown on the original survey plats of Jackson County.
A section line crosses the pond near the route of the elevated road seen on the opposite side of the pond. When they passed through the area during the 1820s, the original surveyors followed this line while marking off their survey plats. The area was then open woods, but the pond was shown on their drawings.
Scientific studies show that the Open Pond and numerous other ponds in the area are found along the course of an old channel of the Chattahoochee River. Over time, the river moved east to its present course, leaving behind the winding channel dotted with small lakes and ponds.
Prior to the construction of the Jim Woodruff Dam and flooding of Lake Seminole during the 1950s, flood waters from the river would sometimes flow into the old channel and re-connect the ponds, leaving area residents stranded on spots of high ground.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Steamboat Apalachee

This faded photograph shows the sternwheel riverboat Apalachee, one of the steam-powered paddlewheelers that used to run up and down the Chattahoochee River.
These boats were of vital importance to the early settlers of the Two Egg area. They brought needed items up from Apalachicola or down from Columbus, Georgia. They also provided transport for cotton, tobacco, corn and other crops raised by local farmers. In the days before trucks and the railroads, the farmers had no other way of getting their crops to market except by boat.
From the 1820s until the 1940s, scores of riverboats traveled on the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers. The first to make the trip was the Fanny and the last was the John W. Callahan, Jr. These boats edged up to the bank at places like Neal's Landing, Tennile Landing, Peri Landing, Parramore Landing, Bellevue Landing and Butler Landing to serve the residents of the area. They also used these landings to take on firewood cut by local residents and sold to the boat companies. The wood, in turn, was used to fire the boilers and keep the steamboats running.
The arrival of the railroad in Jackson County during the 1880s followed by the arrival of modern highways and large trucks during the 20th century spelled the end of the boats and they rapidly disappeared.