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Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 19
Ann Miller Woodford replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains
"That East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends comment, especially bothered me, but it clarifies the view some folks from outside the region have about us even to this day.   … average intelligence...below that of colored…"
Sep 8
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Sep 8
Carol Anders posted an event

FREUD'S LAST SESSION by Mark St. Germain at All Souls Cathedral Parrish Hall / Biltmore Village

October 4, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
It is a "sharp, lively discourse, and audience members searching for engaging debate will be pleased, St. Germain's script is astute, and the humor is plentiful."-NY Times. Sigmund Freud invites C. S. Lewis to his home in London  ...they clash about sex, love, the existence of God and the meaning of life - just weeks before Freud took his own life. This play reveals the minds, hearts and souls of two brilliant men.  Afterwards a time to "talk back" with The Very Rev. Todd Donatelli and Dr. Mary…See More
Sep 8

Biltmore Forest’s Downton Abbey spirits add a chapter

by Rob Neufeld


            “Ruth, I want to go back home,” 93-year-old Bessie Reeves told her great-niece, Ruth Bailey, when Ruth visited her at the Deerfield Retirement Community in 1970.  Bessie yearned for her former life on White Oak Road in Biltmore Forest.

            White Oak Road had been the first street on which home owners had built homes after Edith Vanderbilt had sold nearly 1,500 acres of the Biltmore Estate to a development company in 1920. 

            The builders, D. Hiden Ramsey wrote in a 1925 booklet, “wished to create and abide in a community where persons of moderate means could build homes that would embody on a smaller scale the same ideals which actuated Mr. Vanderbilt in the creation of the Biltmore Estate.”

            Bessie and her maiden sister, Ethel, lived at 11 White Oak, and, through the Depression, hosted neighborhood women in cards-and-cocktails, aided by their servants. 

            Rita Rees, an unmarried member of the tannery-owning Hans Rees family came; as did Alice Connally Cheesborough, whose husband, Dr. Thomas Cheesborough had died in 1937.

            As a young woman, Bessie had accompanied wealthy women to England, and came back with a British accent.  You can imagine her saying to Ruth, in the voice of Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess in “Downton Abbey,” “Oh, Ruthie, I wish you could have as much fun as I had as a bride in Asheville, but you never will.”

            The Reeves family was related to the Rutledges of Charleston, extending a lifestyle line from England to antebellum Charleston, Flat Rock, Victorian era Montford, and Biltmore Forest.

            Bessie died at the age of 101.  A subsequent owner of her home, not given to belief in the occult, attested to her lingering presence.

           “One night,” he said, “one of us had placed a candle down on the grouting” of a tile countertop he and his wife had had installed.  “The next morning, I walked in the kitchen, saw the candle, and walked over to the sink.  Something told me to turn around; and I did, just in time to see the candle go up in an arc and down to the floor.”

            Ethel, who had preceded Bessie in death, has been heard wandering around at night looking for the door from her bedroom to the bathroom.  A renovation had walled off Ethel’s entrance.

            As Mr. Carson, the butler at Downton Abbey, has noted, servants sometimes end up being more attached to their mansions than their owners, and are likely to haunt the places after they’ve passed away.

            At 17 White Oak, a genial, old he-ghost has been seen frequenting what had been the home of Sarah Fotterill Potter Coxe, the fifth member of Bessie Reeves’ card-playing group. 

            Bailey recalled, in a 2000 interview, sleeping in the front bedroom of that house as a five-year-old and seeing a man “climb through a window with a cot under his arm,” and set up to sleep there.  She asked the man to leave, and he did.

            A later resident seemed to have an encounter with the same spirit.  “I came into one of the front bedrooms,” the new owner said, “and sensed …an older gentleman, 5’2”, white hair, mostly bald, about 105 pounds, with pleasant features” communicating with him.

           "This is going to be where your girls are going to live,” the spirit said, acknowledging that his presence would “not be pleasant for them.  I’ll leave.”

           Sallie Middleton, the late artist and niece of architect, Douglas Ellington, saw a less pleasant ghost when she had gone to buy 16 White Oak, the former residence of Alice Cheesborough.  Her description of a woman with graying red hair, a slight build, and nervous habits matched  Mrs. Cheesborough’s live-in housekeeper, Alma, whom Mrs. Cheesborough had called “the old spook” for her disapproving glances. 

            Alma had been proud of her status as keeper of decorum in the Cheesborough household, and was aggrieved when Middleton’s entrance displaced her from the largest bedroom into the smallest. 

            One day, Alma’s ghost departed—at the same time that the butler had made his final exit from the house across the street.   Some say that the two servants discovered they could commiserate; and the association developed into a post-corporeal romance.




Wedding party for Jessie Merrick and Alfred S. Barnard, c. 1900, photo taken at Lindsey’s Art Parlor.

Top row (l to r): Unidentified man; Vance Brown; Detta Merrick.  Middle row: Philip Cocke; perhaps a Miss West; Julia Atkinson; Elmer E. or William R. Heston.  Bottom row: Bonnie Reeves; Erwin Sluder; Bessie Reeves; unidentified man; Haywood Parker; and perhaps Nina Johnson.

Photo courtesy N.C. Collection, Pack Memorial Library.

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