Experiencing Nashville: Part Three – The Bell Witch

March 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm (Adams, belief, blog, Blogroll, civil war, experiencing nashville, folklore, ghost, ghost story, ghouls, haunting, historic nashville, history, legend, monsters, nashville, photo, photoblog, photography, pictures, questioning, spirit, struggle, suffering, tennessee, TN, witch) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

For this “Experiencing Nashville” post, I ventured a little farther than I have before. Over the weekend, I took a drive up to Adams, TN. It takes about an hour to get there from here. On a rainy Saturday morning, I loaded into my car and picked up some friends before hitting the road.

I’ve been intrigued by the legend of the Bell Witch for years. I’m such a sucker for anything related to history and the paranormal. I tivo all the Ghost Hunters episodes, and thoroughly freak myself out when no one else is home. I love it.

Here is a little history on the Bell Witch story:

In the early 1800’s, Adams, Tennessee was known as the Red River Settlement. It was an area of vast land with great potential for farming. John Bell and his family moved from North Carolina to the Red River area, aquiring land and developing crops of corn and tobacco. It wasn’t long before strange happenings began to take place on the farm.

It began with a sighting of a strange animal in the cornfield. The family began to hear strange noises, thumbs and scratches on the walls coming from unseen forces. The noises seemed to escalate, then turning into more tangible happenings. Bedsheets were pulled off the bed while the family slept. Pillows were tossed around, and finally, physical assaults on John and his daughter, Betsy.

Over time, John sought out the help of friends and neighbors. They too witnessed the same things the family was claiming to regularly experience. The spirit seemed to acquire a voice, and would verbally taunt the family endlessly. When Betsy became engaged to a neighbor, Joshua Gardner, the spirit strongly opposed and would continue to voice “her” opinion, until finally driving the couple to call it off.

Poor John Bell was relentlessly tortured and taunted. His health grew worse, he began having seizures and eventually became bedridden. After John Bell passed away in 1820, the family found a bottle of a mysterious substance. The spirit boasted of giving the substance to John Bell and “fixing him”. According to the story, she even sang loudly and mockingly at John Bell’s funeral.

The spirit finally decided to leave, promising to return in 7 years. And so she did… although this time, only conversed with John Bell, Jr. and supposedly made several predictions about the coming age, such as the civil war, WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII. Then, the spirit again left, claiming to return in 107 years.

No one knows for sure if the Bell Witch actually returned. It’s possible that she did, in fact, return to the most direct Bell descendant, but no one made mention of it.

On the original Bell farm, there is a cave now known as the Bell Witch cave. It is said that the spirit lived/lives there. Is it another tourist trap to make money off unsuspecting visitors? Or is there any real credence to the stories? Even today, there are reports of strange happenings in the area. While visiting the Adams historical museum (located in what once was the Bell School), I asked one of the employees if there were strange occurences that take places there. She said sometimes things will move around. People will witness strange shadows that are unexplained. There are sounds that are sometimes heard, and lights that are seen in the distant fields.

So, who is the Bell Witch really? There is no way to know for sure. There are many guesses as to the real truth behind the legend. Some theories claim that Native American spirits continue to claim the land that was rightfully theirs. Others say that it was a spirit, demonic in nature, who even claimed to be present at Christ’s crucifixion. The more popular theory is that the spirit was a manifestation of Kate Batts, a local resident, who some suspected of practicing witchcraft. Another theory is that the “spirit” was nothing more than a manifestation of energy that is sometimes brought on by a young girl entering puberty, or even as a result of an incestuous relationship between John and Betsy. None of these claims can really be confirmed or proven… but then they also can’t be disproven.

While visiting Adams, I was a little surprised at how little there really wass to see. There is a little log cabin behind the brick school building, and a graveyard of Bell descendants (apparently the Bell family mostly went on to Mississippi, where they are laid to rest) just down the road.

The cave is inaccessible much of the year, except for the summer months when it dries out. We drove around to no avail, just trying to even find the entrance.

So, decide for yourself on what really can be logically explained away, or just let it continue to be a mystery of the unknown. It’s really more fun that way.


http://www.bellwitch.org by Pat Fitzhugh





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Experiencing Nashville: Clover Bottom Mansion

March 4, 2008 at 1:06 pm (blog, Blogroll, civil war, experiencing nashville, historic nashville, history, nashville, photo, photoblog, photography, pictures, tennessee) (, , , , , )

 I found Clover Bottom Mansion by accident. As I was driving around with a friend, we happened upon it and decided to go grab some lunch and have a picnic on the grounds before exploring it. The day started with mild temperatures for January, but as the sun started to fade, it got pretty chilly. Still, we pressed on, armed with our handy cameras. As I was doing research about this “Experiencing Nashville” post, I was surprised to see that there is a connection to former president Andrew Jackson. Apparently he played a larger role in the development of Nashville than I realized.Here is a little bit of history:

The pioneer story begins in 1766 with the exploration of the long hunters. The river was named in honor of one of their group, Uriah Stone. These adventurers carried the story of this bountiful, uninhabited land with them when they returned to Virginia and North Carolina. It was fourteen years, however, before the first settlers arrived.In the spring of 1780, John Donelson, having led the flotilla of settlers to Nashborough, recognized the need to plant a corn crop immediately. He again boarded the good ship Adventure with his family, poled up the Cumberland around the great bend until he found the mouth of Stones River. He was looking for the alluvial fields that were as fertile as the Valley of the Nile and which needed no clearing in order to plant.  A short distance from the confluence of the two rivers he found what he was looking for on the west bank of Stone’s River, forever after known as The Clover Bottoms. Here he docked his boat and built half-faced shelters to house his family on the opposite bluff. This was fifteen-year-old Rachel Donelson’ s first home in Tennessee.


In July, heavy rains inundated the corn crop. This unhappy event, plus constant harassment from the native Indians, caused the family to move to Mansker’ s Fort for protection.In the fall, word reached the settlers at Mansker’s that the flood waters had subsided and that the corn had eared. John Donelson sent a request to the men at Fort Nashborough to meet him at the Clover Bottoms to help harvest the corn. Approximately ten men from each fort built wooden sleds to drag the corn from the field to the boats moored in Stone’ s River. Several days were required to load the boats.As they left the shore, the boat from Fort Nashborough was attacked by Indians; only three settlers escaped. The Donelson party was on the north bank, harvesting the cotton planted there. They abandoned their boat loaded with corn and managed to escape on foot through the woods. Donelson’s heroic slave, Somerset, swam the Cumberland River and brought help from Mansker’s Fort to the stranded group.  Meanwhile, the boat from Fort Nashborough floated downstream, eventually reaching the bluffs with its cargo of corn and slain men. The settlers there rescued the corn and buried their dead.Some years later Andrew Jackson operated several businesses along the Stones River corridor. He first opened a general store near the Clover Bottoms. To stock his store he went to Philadelphia and traded land preemptions for flour, sugar, piece goods, and pocket knives. In 1805 Jackson, with two partners, formed the Clover Bottom Jockey Club. A race track and tavern were built by the river. The story of Jackson’ s duel with Charles Dickinson is well known. The unfortunate quarrel started at this race track.A story that is not so well known is that of Jackson’s boat yard on Stone’s River, near its mouth. Here he constructed five flat boats and one keel boat for former Vice President Aaron Burr who was leading a group of colonists to lands he had acquired in Louisiana. In 1812 Andrew Jackson became a military officer and pursued a military and political career. Thereafter his business interests on Stone’ s River faded away.


The United States of America was a fine place to be in the early 1800’s. The young country promised its citizens the right to free speech, to worship as they wished, and to pursue happiness. And it was the pursuit of happiness which much occupied the minds of the young men and women of the Clover Bottom Community of Donelson, Davidson County, Tennessee. In 1804, thirty seven year old Anthony Clopton, left the ranks of bachelorhood behind and married into one of the wealthiest families in the area, the Hoggatts of “Clover Bottom” Farm. “Rhody” Hoggatt moved with ease through the glittering world of antebellum Nashville and brought to the marriage a level of sophistication not always in evidence at what was still a rough and tumble frontier.  

The large tract of land known as Clover Bottom Plantation came to be owned by Dr. James Hoggatt, who built the antebellum home in 1858 on land inherited from his father, Capt. John Hoggatt, a Revolutionary War soldier. Apparently, the custom was to give land to the soldiers to repay them for their role in the Revolutionary War.


This fine Italian villa style home is centered in an area of local historical significance.Social life at Clover Bottom revolved around church, parties, and the race track; not necessarily in that order. Now horse racing was serious business, and no where on earth did appreciation for the sport transcend those of the Clover Bottom folk. Anthony Clopton and his neighbors were members of the Clover Bottom Jockey Club, the hub of Tennessee horse racing for many years. Among its members was one Andrew Jackson. General Jackson was particularly devoted to the “sport of Kings,” and never missed an opportunity to match his renowned horses against all comers.


The events surrounding the races of March 3, 1806 proved not only to be a rich source of gossip for the inhabitants for months, but continues to engage the interest of historians and the imagination of writers.In the 1920s Lebanon Road ran through the Clover Bottom farm property and crossed Stone’s River just west of the present road and bridge.


The old stone bridge abutments are still standing. The Stanford brothers, A.F. and R.D., had purchased the farm in 1918. Since Lebanon Road split the property, A.F. took the section to the east of the road and R.D. took the section to the west. A.F.’s part included the antebellum Hoggatt residence and R.D. built a two-story brick colonial revival home on his side of the road.In the period following World War I the outlying areas of Davidson County were still rural farm lands. A.F. Stanford ran a dairy farm at Clover Bottom while R.D. Stanford raised white-faced beef cattle. The majority of the population of the county, however, lived within the confines of the Nashville city limits. With the proliferation of the family motor car in the “Roaring Twenties,” excursions to the countryside became a popular pastime. For those fortunate enough to own an automobile, exploring country roads, farms, and creek sides was a welcome relief from city life. There was usually a picnic basket on board filled with fried chicken, biscuits that had been buttered while hot, stuffed eggs, and a special Nashville favorite, chess pie.Finding a swimming hole in one of the area rivers or creeks was an extra bonus on these outings. Although Mill Creek and Richland Creek were good for wading, neither furnished very deep holes for swimming. Men and boys swam in the Cumberland River, but it was considered too dangerous for women and children. The best swimming spots were found in the Harpeth and Stone’ s rivers.One such spot on Stone’s River was on A.F. Stanford’s side of the old bridge near where the present-day bridge crosses. Mr. Stanford created a beach by having tons of sand hauled in. He constructed a frame beach house with dressing rooms, lockers, and showers. There were boats, springboards, and picnic tables. He even employed Mr. and Mrs. M.B. Hall to manage the beach operation. Mr. Stanford’s generosity in creating this community beach is documented in a 1927 advertisement which stated that everything was free.It also stated that Old Hickory busses passed every thirty minutes-fare twenty-five cents.When the new bridge was constructed in the early 1930s, the old road leading to the beach entrance was closed. The new bridge piers were sunk into the the swimming hole and floods washed away the sand. All that remains of the once-lively recreational spot are photographs taken by Wiles Studio in 1931, now in the collection of Merle Stanford Davis who married A.F. Stanford in 1927 and was mistress of Clover Bottom until 1948.After World War II, Clover Bottom Plantation was sold to the State of Tennessee and is now listed as a historic site.  Compiled from the following sources:http://pages.prodigy.net/nhn.slate/nh00020.html Essay:Pioneer History of Stone’s River Near The Clover Bottoms By Amelia Whitsitt Edwards Carlyn McCullar Bain Suellen Clopton Blanton http://www.nashville.org/mhc/historical_markers_nashville.htm


update: 9/9/12

the current link for info of historic sites in Nashville, TN can be found here:


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Happy March!

March 3, 2008 at 1:26 pm (asthma, blog, bloom, blooming, flowers, health, journal, monday, nashville, renew, renewal, spring, sunshine, tennessee) (, , , , , , )

Let me tell you… I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am that March is here.  It can only mean that the gray, freezing, gloomy days of winter are numbered!  I drove past a cluster of blooming daffodils yesterday and felt my eyes actually tear up at the sight of them.  The renewal is upon us!

I’ve had my window open constantly for the past few days.  It is so nice to be able to enjoy the fresh air!  I took the opportunity to go for a drive yesterday.  I would have much rather trapsed about, but I figured I better not overdo it since my body still is not back up to normal energy level.  The weather was so great this weekend.   I’ve got to get out and about sometime real soon!

There is not really too much to report other than that.  My Dr wants me to continue to take it easy and slow for another month or so.  I am to continue to stay on the gross steroids.  He said that maybe by April I can start doing some sort of exercises to get my strength and stamina built up some.  It is frustrating to have to wait.  Now that I am starting to feel better I want to jump right back in and DO things.  I know that I have to play it smart, or else I will end up in bad shape again.

So, that is where things are on this Monday afternoon.  It is another gorgeous day.  I think I might take a short drive before I head into work.  Maybe I will sit in the park for a little while.

Look for the next Experiencing Nashville article later tonight.

I’m off to soak up some sun before rain moves in this evening.

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My goal of the day

January 15, 2008 at 7:49 am (gym, nashville, weight, weight loss, workout, ymca) (, , , , , )

I’m feeling a little better and am able to go a little longer without breathing treatments.  This evening, after work, I am going to the gym.  I will probably only be able to walk slowly, but it is a start.  I want to get into the habit of going, regardless of how much I really feel I can do.  I know I get easily frustrated when I can’t jump in and go at full force, but that is not realistic.

So, basically I’m writing this to convince myself it’s a good idea.  I will pack a bag of workout clothes and take it with me to work.  Before I leave tonight, I will change and head out.

So there, I’m committed and nothing will let me change my mind.  Right??

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Fall on the Natchez Trace

November 12, 2007 at 1:42 pm (autumn, blog, Blogroll, fall, friendship, journal, photo, photoblog, photography, pictures, reflecting, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Yesterday was a fun day! I was feeling good, which was a welcomed change. With all of the weather grossness, my breathing has been pretty rough. I have a tendency to over do it the second I’m feeling some relief.

I desperately needed to get out! I was starting to feel the tug of cabin fever, and I knew the winter blues were not far away.

So, a couple of friends and I piled into my car and took a drive. We trapsed out the Natchez Trace, which is a scenic roadway that runs from Nashville down to Tupelo, MS. Parts of the “Old Trace” are still visible, and walkable. It dates back to the days of pioneers and indians, and all of the bartering and trading that made Nashville what it is today. There are little historic stops along the way. I am a lover of history. I love to see how everything is connected, and discovering how something so mundane from so long ago somehow affects who I am today.

The scenery is gorgeous out that way. The farther you go, the more scenic it becomes. I was hoping for some pretty fall foliage. I was not disappointed!


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