GHOSTS OF THE PRAIRIE
Rotherwood Mansion is a historic, private home that is located above the Holston River in eastern Tennessee. It is said to be haunted by two ghosts, although only one of them is the spirit credited with giving Rotherwood it's horrific reputation. The mansion was built in 1818 by Frederick Ross, who actually founded the town of Rossville, which later became Kingsport. He was a successful plantation owner and proud father of a daughter named Rowena, a girl who was admired and loved by everyone in the region.
Rowena was educated in the finest schools of the east and had only been out of school for two years when she fell in love with a young man from a neighboring town. They became engaged, but tragedy struck on the afternoon of their wedding when a boat capsized in the Holston River and the young man drowned.
The tragedy greatly affected Rowena and she was never the same again. Two years later, she did marry again but a short time later, he died of yellow fever. Ten years after, she married another man and this union blessed Rowena with a daughter. A few years later, death came into Rowena's life once again and her daughter also died. The woman could take no more.... and she committed suicide. Shortly after, the "Lady in White" began to be reported at Rotherwood. Rowena is the most frequently reported spirit at the mansion as people have been sighting her near the river banks for more than 125 years. Some say that she is searching for her drowned lover of long ago.
Rowena's ghost had already been reported many times when tragedy came to Frederick Ross once again. He fell into terrible financial trouble and he was forced to sell his estate to a man named Joshua Phipps in 1847. Phipps was a cruel slave holder who had a terrible reputation for evil and harshness... he is believed to be the other ghost of Rotherwood.
The mansion and the plantation prospered under Phipps until the first year of the Civil war, despite his bad reputation, cruel treatment of his slaves and general dislike for the people of the community. Summer came and Phipps came down with some sort of horrible illness that forced him to his bed. Many believe that a curse placed on him by his mistreated slaves may have taken his life. He was lying in his bed when, according to legend, a swarm of black flies came and covered his face, crawling into his mouth and nose and eventually suffocating him.
On July 10, hundreds of mourners and curiosity seekers assembled at Rotherwood for the funeral. The casket was loaded onto a funeral carriage but despite all attempts by the teamsters, the wagon refused to move. The horses strained at the small load but the wheels would not even turn. Then suddenly, the skies grew dark, as though a storm was approaching, and then bolts of lightning illuminated the sky. The canopy covering the casket of Joshua Phipps began to move and then an enormous, black dog jumped out from beneath it and ran off across the hillside.
Needless to say, the crowd was stunned at this inexplicable event and it is still discussed in the region today. It has also been said that this "dog" has made frequent appearances over the years and sometimes can be heard howling during the night.... especially when it storms.
After the funeral, Phipps was laid to rest and the locals returned to their homes. No one believed that Phipps would ever rest there in peace...and they were right. Many claimed that Phipps' ghost prowled the halls of Rotherwood at night laughing and screaming and yanking the covers off the beds.
Is the house still haunted? No one knows for sure and the current residents aren't saying.
The historic mansion of Rotherwood is now a private residence and is located in
Kingsport in the eastern region of Tennessee, just off of the Virginia border.
Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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