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It’s hard to imagine a town more beautiful than Lexington Kentucky. As you approach this town you are greeted by countless acres of breathtaking horse farms that seem to offer a glimpse of what heaven must be like. White mansion-like barns rest above a sea of bluegrass, encircled by miles of lazy white or black wooden fences. Lexington has a history as rich as its farmlands. Jefferson Davis attended Transylvania University here. Mary Todd Lincoln was born and raised here before she moved to Illinois and met Abraham Lincoln, to become one of histories most colorful and famous First Ladies. Having come from a southern slave-owning family, she was not trusted by many in the north. And many people in the south felt betrayed by her for supporting abolition. John Hunt Morgan, the “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy” also called Lexington home. Lexington’s downtown is filled with little pieces of history. The Mary Todd Lincoln House, John Hunt Morgan House, and the Henry Clay House all offer tours. Another interesting place to visit in downtown Lexington is the Lexington Cemetery, centered pieced by the towering Henry Clay monument that rises above the trees like a giant.
The John Hunt Morgan House in downtown Lexington. Notice the third floor window. There appears to be a ghostly hooded figure peaking out the window. There is also a strange light in front of the tree. This picture was taken with the same camera that captured the ghost in the Octagon Hall window.
The John Hunt Morgan House
The John Hunt Morgan House was home to John Hunt Morgan “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy” while he attended Transylvania University. John Hunt Morgan’s grandfather John Leslie Hunt moved to Lexington in 1795 and opened a general store. The store was very successful, as people who were moving west often came through Lexington and needed supplies. With the success of the general store, Leslie Hunt bought a cotton mill, a hemp factory for the production of ropes, and an import-export business. Within a short time, Leslie Hunt became Kentucky’s first millionaire, which in those days, was an enormous amount of money. In 1814 with his new found wealth, Leslie Hunt moved the family into what is now known as the John Hunt Morgan House. John Hunt Morgan was born to Henrietta Morgan, daughter of Leslie Hunt, who at the time lived in Huntsville Alabama, in 1831. In 1850 Henrietta Morgan inherited the Lexington house and lived there for forty-one years until her death in 1891. John Hunt Morgan went on to become Kentucky’s most famous confederate general. In fact, Henrietta Morgan had six son in the confederate army and two daughters married to confederate generals, but none were so famous a John Hunt Morgan. When the union army seized Lexington, the union generals headquartered at the Bodley-Bulluck house which was within view of the John Hunt Morgan house. So you can bet Henrietta Morgan was watched very carefully. John Hunt Morgan, who was known to be a gentleman, led raids across the south with his Lexington Rifles Infantry men, destroying union supply lines. On September 4th 1864, he was cornered in a Greeneville Tennessee house by union troops and was shot in the back and killed. He was originally buried in Virginia, but in 1868 was moved back to Lexington Kentucky in 1868 and buried with his family in the Lexington Cemetery.
One of the more famous ghost stories associated with the John Hunt Morgan house involves a slave named Bouviette James. Bouviette was the mammy to the Morgan children. She became so close to the family over the years that she began to be treated as a family member. When she died some time after the Civil War, she was displayed in the family parlor and was also buried with the family in the Hunt Family plot at the Lexington Cemetery. If you go to the cemetery look for a small stone that reads, “Bouviette, Ever Faithful.” The story goes that years after her death , a nurse was looking after one of the Hunt children who was sick. The nurse had started to fall asleep but was startled awake when she heard someone humming a nursery rhyme. She looked up and saw a black woman wearing a bright turban and red leather shoes. The black woman then vanished. The child died the next day. The nurse didn’t mention the incident at first, but some time later she told the child’s mother what she had seen. The mother was grateful to hear this. She told the nurse that this was Bouviette. She knew this Because John Hunt Morgan had given Bouviette a pair of red shoes because he had overheard her say she had always wanted a pair. The mother said that this was Bouviette’s way of letting her know that she was still looking after the children. (Note: a 1998 article provided by the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation was used as a reference for this story. Copies of the article are available at the museum gift shop. Norma Jean Gibson, my very informed tour guide, was also very helpful in providing me with information about Bouviette and about the house‘s history.)
The Hunt family plot in Lexington Cemetery
The George Clarke House Bed and Breakfast
If you’d like to spend the night in a real haunted house while visiting Lexington, the George Clarke House Bed and Breakfast is a good choice. Completed in 1890, you will feel you’ve step back one hundred years when you walk through the front doorway. As with many places considered haunted, there is a sad and tragic story behind the haunting. George Clarke and his wife Julie lived happily with their family in the home for twelve years before Julie became very ill. Back in those days the dry air of the old west was considered a cure-all for what ailed people. So in 1912, George Clarke sold the house and moved the family to Garfield Oklahoma. To a true Kentuckian, moving so far from home can be like having your heart removed from your chest. Julie longed to return back to her beloved Lexington but was too sick and never recovered from her illness. Fourteen months after moving to Oklahoma, Julie died. George Clarke, no longer seeing the need to live out west, moved his family back to Lexington, leaving Julie buried in a lonely grave in Oklahoma, far away from her beloved Kentucky home. It is said that after her death, George never spoke of her again; it pained him too much. Though Julie was never able to return home in life, it seems that she has since returned in spirit. Her presence has been seen and felt many times over the years since her death.
The George and Julia suite in the George Clarke House
Since the house has been made into a bed and breakfast, at least three different people claim to have seen her ghost in the main hallway. Other people have heard ghostly laughter and conversations in the house. On one occasion, Julie’s eighty-year-old grandson came and visited the house. He talked that night about how he used to raise forty acres of sunflowers. A couple of days later, sunflowers were purchased and placed in a vase on the mantle of the Ermina's Chamber room. The next morning the guest in that room came down for breakfast. While eating breakfast, a crash was heard upstairs. It was discovered that the vase of flowers had flew off the mantle to about five feet in the room and landed on a Persian rug. The owner took the hint that Julie wanted the flowers in her room. So now sunflowers are placed in Julie’s room, the Augustine Room, and have been fine ever since. On another occasion, a female guest came down for breakfast holding a dried flower. She said that her and her husband had gone to sleep the previous night talking about Julie and when they woke up, the dried flower was on the fireplace mantle. The door to the room was locked and no one else had been in the room. One couple that stayed in Julie’s room announced after the third night that they had been visited by Julie. The man stated that his watch and his wife’s jewelry had been place on the nightstand. When the couple woke up the next morning, his watch was on one of the suitcases and his wife’s jewelry was in the bathroom. Another woman who was visiting with her daughter, claimed to be reading in bed when out of the corner of her eye, she saw a child’s feet and part of a night gown hovering in the air beside the bed. Julie’s youngest daughter, Jessie, was born in the house, and was possibly the source of this apparition, offering evidence that Julie may not be the only ghost haunting this beautiful old home. George, himself, has showed up in photographs taken inside the house.
Though the house is haunted, the proprietress, Kathryn Bux, is as friendly as the cats who cheerfully greet you when you step inside. Kathryn is always glad to talk about the ghosts in the house and will even show you some of the pictures in which apparitions have appeared. There is one particularly good photo of George’s ghostly face in the mirror above the fireplace in the parlor. The ghosts may at times be frightening, but Kathryn believes that they are friendly and welcome the guest who stay there. The ghosts enjoy the guest so much that sometimes they play a few tricks to make their presence known.