In our last post, we explored how Southern writer Caroline Lee Hentz wrote a novel years before the Civil War that told a story very similar to Jackson County's legend of Bellamy Bridge. According to Mrs. Hentz, her story was based on a real event that took place at a plantation near Columbus, Georgia. She indicated that she had based the character of "Mrs. Bellamy" in her book on a real person, a friend of her's during her residency in Columbus.
Shortly after writing Marcus Warland, Caroline Hentz moved to Florida. She lived for a time at the small resort community of St. Andrews (today's Panama City) before moving to Marianna to live with her son, Charles, in the Hunter house across Lafayette Street from St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Mrs. Hentz died in 1856 and was buried at St. Luke's.
Because she spent her last days in Jackson County, over time she became closely associated with Marianna. Many local residents came to believe, incorrectly, that her books had been based on her observations of life in and around the area. The spring in Marcus Warland, for example, was assumed to be a representation of Jackson County's Blue Spring. In reality, the description was based on a similar spring in Georgia.
The same was true of Mrs. Hentz' account of a tragic wedding night fire on the "Bellamy plantation." Although she was not describing the Bellamy plantation of Jackson County when she wrote the book, the story came to be associated with Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy and, particularly, Elizabeth's lonely grave near Bellamy Bridge.
Over time, the memory of Caroline Hentz and her books faded, but her sad story of the tragic death of a young bride survived as part of the folklore of Jackson County. The identity of the victim, over time, was altered from a young slave named Cora to Elizabeth Bellamy and so was born the story of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge.
It is a strange case of a real story in Georgia being used as the basis in a book of fiction that, in turn, finally evolved into a Florida legend.
Our series on the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge will conclude in the next post, which will feature an actual photograph of the "ghost." In the meantime, if you would like to read more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bellamybridge.