The Rotherwood Conclusion

rotherwoodAs is typical, the facts win in the story of Rotherwood.

The structure has witnessed death, war, poverty, desperation, marauding soldiers, and it was nearly lost to the elements and the ravages of time. Yet, none of that is relevant to the modern legends. It has earned an impressive and unique history worthy of memory.

Most of the lore associated with Rotherwood is nothing more than stereotypes and the combined lore from countless other historic houses all across the south. The “brutal slave-owner” figures into the lore in most plantation houses from Louisiana to the Carolinas. It stands to reason that simply utilizing slave labor is brutal, in and of itself.

The chaining slaves in the basement never happened in the Tri-Cities, as far as can be current found. Legends of black dogs are common, whether you call them “hound of hell,” or not. In fact, the British Isles alone are saturated with tales and legends of phantom hounds. Rotherwood indeed may be haunted, but it isn’t by anything in contemporary myth.

Have these other structures been done as Rotherwood, in that fakelore has become the history, and the actual history has been forgotten? We can’t say, but you can’t deny a tremendous number of historic homes have stories a little too similar to those used elsewhere. Here’s a list of houses with “ghosts” from cruel slave-owners, -masters, or -overseers.

  • Lalaurie House- New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Lebeau Plantation House- New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Magnolia Plantation- New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Moody-Brick House- Fackler, Alabama
  • Myrtles Plantation- New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Prince Frederick’s Church Graveyard- Georgetown County, South Carolina
  • * Major Graham’s Mansion- Graham’s Forge, Virginia
  • * Shrimp Factory- Savannah, Georgia
  • * Shoal Creek Manor- Cambridge, Maryland
  • * Hickory Hill- Junction, Illinois
  • * John Frist House- Moorefield, West Virginia
  • * Crenshaw Mansion- Gallatin County, Illinois
  • * The Yellow House- Washington, DC
  • * Hower House- Akron, Ohio


(*Indicates the place also has legends of the owners chaining slaves on the property.)


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4 thoughts on “The Rotherwood Conclusion

  1. Hey Laura,

    From what I remember regarding Hickory Hill, the current owners have mentioned old chains in the attic. Whether this claim served merely to draw commercial attraction to the site is unconfirmed, but it seems to have been corroborated by others who have been in the house. Can you lead me to a source or sources that negate that claim? I agree that many stories are exaggerations or fabrications altogether, but I’m curious about this one.

    1. Hi, Mark. Like I said in the article, I can’t say if the stories around those other properties are factual or not. I haven’t researched many of them at all. There is tons of documentation supporting the “abuses” at Rotherwood, too, and it’s just blatantly false. I mean people in the area have even came out claiming their grandparents or great-grandparents witnessed this or that, or even they can remember seeing it. In reality, they can’t have seen it because it never existed. You would have to do some digging on the house and see what history tells you. There’s no easy answer for any place because so many would rather read a good ghost story than what might be a rather “boring” past, so that is usually what is used. And, there’s nothing wrong with a good ghost story, I love them, but like with Rotherwood, it’s creepy in a bad way when those stories take on historic merit.

  2. Laura
    I moved back home to Church Hill from Orlando, Florida in 1982. My brother and sister in law had heard that Rotherwood was just abandoned and open. We all came to investigate and yes it was standing with the back door open.
    After walking through and looking at everything it was obvious that one or more people had been living there or at least sleeping there.
    My sister in law took a lot of pictures but did it quickly as we did not know if we might be discovered and made to leave at any time.
    I will always regret that she did not get photos of the large iron rings in the walls of the basement. It was so dark in there that the flash hardly helped to get a decent photo. There were a few photos that turned out one with a questionable object. We did not actually see or hear anything just the shape in the photo that we didn’t see until the film was developed.
    I don’t think we went anywhere that I would have considered an attic. The rings were there. In the basement. I can not imagine what else they could have been used for except to keep a person chained. The room was very small and definitely not a place that an animal would have been kept.

    1. Hello, Donna. Thank you for visiting. I respectfully disagree. There is no record that Rotherwood was even a home before the Civil War. Current documentation proves there was a seminary on the property, owned by the Phipps, a bible college. It went well into the 1860s. The current building would’ve been constructed during the 1850s, because there was no house on the land when the Phipps family purchased it from F. A. Ross. The Tennessee General Assembly has Joshua Phipps on record as formally starting the Rotherwood seminary in 1856, just a few years before the Civil War. The Phipps family never lived at Rotherwood before the war, and Joshua Phipps died in 1861. People have discussed “slave rings” since the 1940s, but they don’t exist. You likely saw many old farming tools or implements used in dog breeding, as Rotherwood was supposed to have kennels right after World War I. It’s difficult for any house to have slave rings when no family actually lived there during the days of slavery.

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