Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dead Husbands Tell No Tales…

The remains of an antebellum home, once the seat of country society, surrounded by flowers, shrubs and cotton fields, and filled with all that money could buy, lie deep in an alcove of trees one mile east of Hazel Green. Elizabeth Evans Dale is no longer the hostess of the home her fifth husband built her. She is no longer the vivacious beauty who longed to be the toast of society. Eerily, to this day, she is remembered as the Black Widow of Hazel Green and the home built to appease her taste for the refined is a charred, haunted reminder of what occurred in the life of a greedy woman between 1812 and 1850.

Routt house was built on an Indian mound where Indians burned ceremonial fires and are reported to be buried. Today, stories circulate among young and old about the auburn-haired beauty who wed again and again, only to bury each husband by lantern light in the dead of night with the help of her frightened slaves.

Elizabeth Dale Evans began her odd journey in Tennessee on a warm day in 1812, the day she was born. Her father, Adam, was an aristocrat with a taste for politics, her grandfather a Revolutionary soldier. With ancestral ties to Lord Baltimore and Cecil Calvert, she was a blue-blooded vixen with unusual beauty, posing a threat to women everywhere when men were scarce and a woman was defined by her husband.





• At 17, she married Samuel Gibbons, a Baptist preacher. That marriage lasted until 1830 when Samuel died of yellow fever, ‘black tongue’, producing swollen, distorted features.

• Her second husband, Mr. Flanagan, (barely anything is known about this man other than the fact he was a wealthy plantation owner), lasted three months before he succumbed to a strange malady.

• In 1835, Elizabeth married Alexander Jeffries, a widower with older children. Alexander was infatuated with his new wife and took her away from Tennessee to his 500 acre plantation in northern Alabama and the four room log cabin he’d built upon an Indian mound. The placement of his cabin provided a panoramic view of the vast landscape he owned. Elizabeth bore him two children, a son and daughter, who died at 7 years old and was buried in a cemetery next to the house. Unfortunately for Alexander, one day his body was found lying in the barnyard after he succumbed to a strange malady that left his body so swollen he was buried the same day, in the same cemetery next to the house.

• Widowed for the third time, Elizabeth, still the vivacious beauty, garnered the attention of dashing widower, Robert A. High, a former member of state legislature, who tried in earnest to hide his balding head. They married in 1839 but spent more time apart as Robert traveled extensively until he died suddenly in 1842.

• On March 16th, 1846, Elizabeth found wedded bliss with Absalom Brown, a New Market merchant. Her fifth husband adored her so much that he built the plantation house that earned her the cruel moniker of the Black Widow of Hazel Green. The house was built on grand scale. Facing east to view the morning sun, it boasted 8 large rooms (4 upstairs and 4 downstairs), 2 stairways and an enormous front door. To stand out from the trees, it was painted white. The L-shaped architecture boasted two broad entrances enhanced by large impressive staircases. It was the most expensive and luxurious home of its time, making Elizabeth the envy of everyone. Sadly, Absalom never enjoyed the home he’d built his wife. He died before the paint dried.

• Life was lonely in the large mansion. Soon Elizabeth married Willis Routt to ease her burdens. But wedded life seemed to constantly elude the dear widow. Willis died shortly after saying ‘I do’.

What does a woman with a mansion do when life has thrown her lemons? She opens her home to boarders and spurns rumors started by a neighboring plantation owner, who decreed that she was a woman ‘around whose marriage couch six grinning skeletons were hung’.

He also complained that her bridal chamber was ‘a charnel house’. Elizabeth filed suit and a large court case inflamed the rumors.

At 60 years old, Elizabeth’s beauty still had not faded. Neither had her desire for another husband, which brought her closer to a local school teacher, D.X. Bingham. Bingham went so far as to spread rumors that her neighbor had murdered two traveling salesmen from Tennessee, to aid her cause. Filing a $500,000 civil suit, her plan to redeem herself backfired. She was accused of killing her husbands and forced to leave town.

Did Elizabeth move to Marshall County, Miss., to live with her son? Locals say she still visits the graves of her husbands, who were buried by lantern light in the middle of the night in unmarked graves among the holly bushes. Many people have seen her auburn-haired wraith gliding in and out of the trees which have long since invaded her distinguished abode after an arsonist burned it to the ground in 1868. All that remains of Routt House is the front staircase and vandalized gravestones, to include the gravestone of Elizabeth’s father, who came to live with her shortly before his sudden demise.

Time has ravaged the once pristine antebellum mansion. Locals believe the area to be haunted. My own son and his friend visited the site one night and came back shaken to the core. When asked what they’d seen, they replied their flashlight revealed glowing eyes 5 ft. off the ground and a dark mass which threatened to approach through the trees if they ventured closer. Imagine a 17 year old literally shaking all over as he told this horrifying tale. Something scared him, there was no mistaking that.

What do you believe? Did, and do, Indian spirits roam the mound Routt House was built upon? Did Elizabeth encounter Indian spirits in her time? Do the spirits of six dead husbands, Elizabeth’s daughter, her father, and countless frightened/abused slaves, inhabit the woods encapsulating the mansion? Would you go see for yourself?

36 comments:

  1. Wow! Never heard of her but believe me, I want to see those ruins! Interesting blog Kathy. It would make a good book!

    I had an old maid aunt who lived in our family home for her entire 90 years of life. It was a big home with about seven bedrooms and she only lived in three rooms -her bedroom, the kitchen and the ladies parlor on the right side of the house. When she died none of the relatives wanted the big old house so it was sold. The minute the people started making renovations, she started rattling the mantle in the parlor. When they moved the kitchen, she started toting things back to the other kitchen, now a bedroom. She walks down the front hall at night and has been seen a couple of times in her bonnet. I would dearly love to spend the night there (but have been afraid to ask the people) just to be able to see Aunt Maude. I think those ladies set a great store by their houses and she still does.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cheryl, I have all the research because I'm using it for a book I'm already writing. :D I still haven't been to the ruins but, as I already mentioned my son has, and he could take us when he gets home at Christmas. Every time I pass the alcove of trees sitting in the middle of a farmer's field, I wonder about Routt House. Time has certainly changed the scenery around it but Routt House, secluded within those trees of Holly and Hazelnut, stood for another 100 years before it was destroyed. The Indian mound and slave cemetary stand to provide enough paranormal activity. Add in the unmarked graves of Elizabeth's husbands and you've got the basis for some very intensely scary stuff. ;)

    I've talked to a few people who actually lived in Routt House when it was made into 4 rental homes. It was full of paranormal activity. I've yet to speak to the family member who has all the dish on it but I'd love to. :D

    I love old homes! They have personality. They tell a story about the people who have come before us. I guess that's why castles are so appealing to me as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cool story! I think she must have helped those husbands along on their journey, by the way. Sounds awfully fishy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Lynn! Yep, the story is she poisoned them. I think what stirred up the contraversy was that their nails had turned yellowish and they were bloated. All signs of arsenic poisoning.

    Arsenic was used quite a bit in those days because it was nearly untraceable as long as the body did not start to decay. In fact, there's a story about a slave who worked for a family in north alabama not far from where you live. She meant to poison her master by putting arsenic in his soup but ended up poisoning the entire family. The wife and 2-4 children all died, but the master survived. The slave woman was immediately hung. It was a very big story at that time. I think it is related in the book, Madison County's Sins. I'll check the title when I get home and give you the author's name. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry, I meant to say that was probably the reasoning behind Elizabeth burying her husbands at night by lantern light so no one could see their bodies. She also ran her household with a very stern hand. Any slaves that disobeyed her or spoke to anyone about what went on in Routt House were dealt with severly. (Very sad!)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kathy,
    what a great story! Scary but good.
    Agree with Lynn that the poor widow must have had a hand in helping those husbands along to an early grave. Isn't it interesting that she never married a poor man?

    I would not want to go visit this home site. I am not much on scary movies or stories so a scary field trip is probably not something I would enjoy. Plus it would be outside.

    Stephanie

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Stephanie! Whazzz upppp!

    You're so right to notice Elizabeth's desire to wed wealthy men. She wanted the best, the latest fashions, extravagent coaches, the finest trappings and was famous for them. Hers was the first house built in Hazel Green with the high porch and decadent staircase. She wanted everyone to know they were wealthy and sought to deepen her purse with the right 'kinds' of men and associations.

    I've always wondered if Elizabeth's neighbor, Abner Tate, was a spurned lover or jealous suitor she would not accept. He was married with a family of his own and a large amount of property adjoining hers. Odd isn't it that their aggression toward one another began with the fact that cows were on the wrong side of land. Their clash of wills ended up with accusations of murder on both sides. Elizabeth sent her housekeeper, who had visited the Tate's household and spent time there (to spy no doubt), to the sheriff to report a horrid tale of two visiting salesman's bodies being burned in the large walk in fireplace of Abner's kitchen. (Those particular men were never found again, by the way. So their disappearance is oddly coincidental or true.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. And to further heighten the drama, the salesmen were on their way back home to Tennessee with a large amount of money stashed in their pockets. That money was never seen again, either. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Okay, so I have a question that hasn't come up. What did she have? She must have had something that most women do not for all these men to keep marrying her. Looks like by number three, people would have started to get a clue. I bet she killed her daughter too.

    I might go on that field trip. Maybe. If it was daytime.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kathy, I would love to go on a field trip to the ruins. How neat that would be. And I must cast my vote, too--she certainly gave her wealthy husbands a hand entering the afterlife. No one has such a naturally occurring bad run in love that ends with that many dead husbands. Nope, she influenced their demise.

    I've also maintained that it is bad juju to build on a burial ground. You just never know who you might disturb.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What did she have, Jean? Good question. She was a well-propertied woman without a man, in search of a man, with a charisma and beauty unmatched. What guy could resist that? With her blue-blooded connections, perhaps some of her husbands thought to venture further up into society.

    This is something I've wondered about constantly. Why didn't anyone suspect her? For the very reason that women weren't supposed to kill their husbands. All of her husbands were very healthy prior to marriage. Two died in Tennessee. Jeffries brought her to Alabama where no one could suspect her, and then two more husbands died before people started getting suspicious. It wasn't until Abner actually wrote a book and had 53 of them published and spread around town, that people began to doubt her sincerity. (Yes, this was one major blood feud!) And, the library has a book, dated 1847-ish, describing the trial of Elizabeth and Abner Tate. It was so cool to hold it in my hands and read it. ;)

    Crystal, the movie Poltergiest comes to mind, doesn't it? You don't build on burial grounds, upsetting spiritual resting places. Very bad mojo!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I know its been 2 years but could you post an update if you've visited the ruins. I didn't grow up in the area but my family did and I now do live in the area. When visiting as a child the adults would take the kids ghost hunting and this was a popular site but they never made it inside the area at night but came back so scared. A relative wanted to scare the group & brought a shot gun to shoot off but it wouldn't fire on the property but once off it it was fine. They reported hearing human footsteps close by keeping pace with them. It was a feared place that my great gradmother had tons of storiea though I assume most were made up for our entertainment such as fireballs coming out from the property. As for daytime, my family still fears the property having taken a few visits there. Once, a brick hit a family member on the head. He said it came out of nowhere. After that they decided it didn't want them there and that it was no longer a curious ghost hunt but a game with their life. They all hold a great respect for whatever it is in there and chose to leave it be. I have never been in it and actually am curious but have heard of people coming home with a bad aura after moving something on the property and in that mess it wouldn't be difficult to kick something around by accident. Also, let me say, these family members are not 1's to run around saying their house is haunted or easily believing ghost stories. Actually, most of them have never spoke of any other experience and would ignore what happened to them if others hadn't witnessed it. I am curious what's haunting the property because there's so many possibilities between the Indians, Elizabeth's husband & family members burried there, Elizabeth herself, or an other entity or even all of the above. I definately believe there is evil in there from what my family has seen. There isn't a whole lot of information available but I've always heard that other deaths have happened on this property besides the ones all the stories and that at one point (either after the death of a husband or right after she moved, during that era) the house had guests that weren't so nice gambling and drinking but of course there's alot of rumors and not a lot of info on it. I would love to hear from those who rented it up until it burned down & from the farmer who owns the property. That was another story, the farmer left that group of trees where the house once stood out of fear. Thanks so much! I look forward to hearing some new stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I live on steger road in meridanville, and need to talk to anyone that knows about this story.. my husband died last year and I have had two groups of paranaormal people at my house.. also several of the men on my street have also died within a year or so of each other.. I need to find out what is happening in my home and area.. and is it related to this black widow.
    kay barley
    993 steger road
    meridanville,al
    256-828-2551

    ReplyDelete
  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  15. In case anyone hasn't noticed, there is some type of land clearing going on on this property. It is my understanding that a road is being cut directly through the old homestead/grave area. Now I thought this was illegal. Not sure who is doing this... if it is the property owner for personal use or commercial use, but there is a LOT of brush clearing going on. I know one thing for sure... after reading all this, I would not want to be on that cleaning crew!!

    I have read elsewhere that Elizabeth was born in 1795 and married to her first husband IN 1812, being married to him 18 years, or until 1830. Also, that she was 50 when she gave birth to her 2nd child, or in 1945, when Jeffries died. As stated above, they married in 1835, the daughter was 7 when she died, which would be 1942, making it impossible for her to have married Mr. High in 1939... presuming the facts in this other article are true. Ref: http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pearidger/history/widow4.htm

    ReplyDelete
  16. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~tnsmith/scenes/theblackwidow.htm
    This link says she was born in 1797 and that Jeffries died in 1837, married to High from 1839-42. This article makes no mention of the children. It too, as the previous referenced article states the lawsuit brought against Tate was $50,000, not $500,000, which would have been unheard of in those days. $50,000 was a quite substantial sum in those days!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  18. http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pearidger/history/widow1.htm

    One more note.... The home burned in 1968, not 1868. This additional post referenced still has yet still different dates... same facts, just inconsistent dates... the mystery continues :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelly..When I was in junior high my basketball coaches Were Jay and Pluma Williams. After Jay past away Pluma moved into this house, probably around 1966 or 67. My Mother was big into the paranormal and she went to see Pluma while she lived there. Although my Mother didn't see anything she was overwhelmed with the presence of something in the house. She had asked me to go with her and I have many times(every time I read something about this story)wished I had gone. The house burned shortly after Pluma moved away from the house.
      .

      Delete
    2. I wish you had too! Thabks for the comment! Since last week, I have heard many stories about what is going on at the old homestead, again, none of them consistent. Everywhere from just cleaning up the property (first hand from a farm worker);to building a school, to building a golf course,all rumored accounts. I suppose time will tell. The farm hand did tell me there WERE aware of the graves and they are being preserved. That was my biggest concern. He was skeptical however, of the possibility if an Indian mound because of its size. Apparently, he's not too familiar with Indian mounds, as they are normally quite large, rarely grave sites, but rather used for ceremonial events.

      Delete
  19. Kelly, after you e-mailed the station, I went out and looked at the site. The clearing that is going on around and on the hill nearest Jimmy Fisk road is not where the old house and cemetery is. The other Indian Mound just to the east and south of that mound is where the remains of the house and cemetery are located. I noticed they have cleared some of the brush around the bottom of that area, but doesn't look like they are doing anything else there. I will check on it again in the near future. I don't know who owns that property, but will try and find out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Robert! A friend of mine has posted some pictures, which happen to be on my Facebook page. Would love for you to take a look at them and hone us in on exactly where the house and cemetery are according to the pictures. I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking I know the facts... my information is definitely all second hand. It has been amazing how much interest this has generated! I stopped and spoke to one of the workers who was actually doing some of the clearing. He was aware of the graves, but sadly was skeptical that any Indian Mound ever existed due to the size of the Mound. I think he was of the opinion that an Indian Mound was also a grave site, and not a ceremonial site, which is sad, as my concern is the history being disturbed by owners who are unaware of what they own. My goal is to educate the owners or residents in hopes they can pass the information from generation to generation. Thanks for your input and look forward to speaking with you about Wingstock this year!

      Delete
  20. Wow! I'm amazed by how much this blog post has taken off in the past week. Thank you for being so interested in it. I've heard of the clearing going on. Today, however, I heard it's not being done on the Elizabeth Routt grounds, but another copse of trees. All of my research indicates the house was built on an Indian burial mound. I have copies of quite a few articles written over the years, actually held an 1850 book in my hand and read and took notes on the court case. Very interesting stuff. My youngest son also took a night trip there with a friend and came home visibly shaken, saying they were chased out by materializing spirits. Gave me goosebumps!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi. I chanced to see the news report on WAFF and went to their website, which linked to your blog. I had never heard this story before but I m fascinated by it. Could you post directions to the site, and/or the name of the peson or persons who now owns the site? I would love to visit it and take some pictures. I am respectful of private property and would not venture there without permission from the landowner. I just need to know where to start. Thanks! --Dennis M.

    ReplyDelete
  22. What road is it located at

    ReplyDelete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The property being cleared is on the corner of Joe Quick and Jimmy Fisk Rd. But, please remember this t is privately owned property and I'm sure, should he choose, could charge one with trespass. I was told who the owner was, but I'm sorry, I don't remember what his name was. It was in one ear and out the other as soon as I heard the graves were being respected.

    Katherine - I apologize for the bleeding all over your blog!! I have found this an absolutely fascinating subject, particularly since I live just down the road. The clearing is taking place on hundred's of acres, probably the length of over half of Jimmy Fisk Rd., what I imagine is all the land of the current owner. The worker I spoke with did say he was aware of the graves and they were ensuring they were not bothered. I have chatted with numerous people who have verified this is, in fact, the location of Ms. Routt's old home.

    I am trying to find out more about the history of the actual Indian Mounds and from what era and tribe they originated.

    The book you mention, is that available at the Huntsville library, or is that a privately owned book?

    Thank you so much for the information you have provided in your blog! It has been a wealth of information and very interesting for us locals to learn about this local legend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahoy, Lady Kelly! Sorry I haven't seen your message. Yes, the book is available in the archive section in the Huntsville Library.

      Thank you so much for sharing my excitement about this subject!

      Blessings, Katherine

      Delete
  25. Wow! This is link is a MUST SEE! Here's yet another link a Facebooker has shared with me. This one has a map of the property with the location of the graves and a dozen or two pictures. Finally, a picture of probably the only remains of the old house, a set of steps. Also and old tree with carvings. Also another version of the song "One Mile East of Hazel Green", this one by Randy Waller and The Country Gentlemen. The discrepancies are almost as vast as the concurrences of the facts. The spelling of Elizabeth's last name at her death is found spelled "Routt" and "Rout", and seems I've even seen it as "Route". This probably adds to the difficulty of finding historical data. Or is this a purposeful error to keep the permanent recordings of her many marriages a mystery?

    The aerial view makes it almost impossible to dispute the fact that the homestead was built on an Indian Mound as it is almost a perfect circle.

    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~maury/AlabamaCemeteriesWeb/MadisonCounty/Jeffries-RouttCem/Jeffries-RouttListing.htm

    I have also been meaning to ask... has anyone spoken to the lady above, Kay Barley? I would love to know how/why she thought the events surrounding her had anything to do with the "Black Widow". Had her husband visited the property perhaps, or had an encounter with someone who had? Stegar Rd., in the big picture, is not far from the site, but too far to be directly linked I would think. Peeks my curiosity! Would love to see a post from her or somebody that spoke to her.

    Ironically enough, my ex-husband lived directly across from this place about 10 years ago. I am SO glad I didn't know about it at the time!!!

    ReplyDelete
  26. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~maury/AlabamaCemeteriesWeb/MadisonCounty/Jeffries-RouttCem/Jeffries-RouttMaps.htm

    ReplyDelete
  27. Also the neighbor elizabeth quarreled, Abner Tate, is the same Tate as Tate Farms. Perhaps someone there has more info.

    ReplyDelete
  28. By the way, it doesn't look like a circle to me, it looks skull shaped. :/

    ReplyDelete
  29. Katherine. I noticed some errors in several write ups about the old Galloway House as it was known as when my family lived there in the 1950s and 60s. First the artist conception is not correct. The house didn't have as many columns as shown. It was L shaped, but there were only 6 large rooms and 2 connecting stairways. The article said it had 8 rooms.

    I visited the cemetery many times and there was only one of the husbands identified by a gravestone and another that could have been, but the top part of the gravestone was missing, The DOB and DOD indicated that it could have been a husband. At the time I didn't have a list of all of them. Some of them could have been buried without gravestones. Her father and daughter were buried there. She was about 5 years old.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I just visited this site. I live in Meridianville just South of Hazelgreen. I didn't know about all of history of this house before I went and now it explains why I felt like someone was watching me. I came home and told my wife about the way I felt and started doing research and found this page.It was one of those feelings you feel like looking over your shoulder wasn't enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very cool! I'm glad you got to go see it for yourself! I know my son had a terrifying experience there on Halloween night! LOL! ;)

      Delete
  31. I do think I found records of her and her son in the United States Census, 1860 in Marshall, Mississippi. I wonder where her grave is, although, given the vandalism at other cemetery, maybe its best it remains hidden.

    ReplyDelete