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.

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