Thursday, November 13, 2008

Montgomery County's Cooper-Conner House and Ghost Ram

In rural Montgomery County, which happens to be my home county, in the southeastern portion of Georgia, George and Nancy Cooper settled and built a house that almost resembled a small fortress. It was built somewhere around 1831. The reason the home was built this way was so that it could withstand attacks by local Native American tribes in the area. The outer walls of the home were made of large pine timbers about sixteen inches wide and six inches thick. These timbers were handcut and kept together by two inch wooden pegs. The home remained at its original site near the Dead River area in the southern tip of Montgomery County for years. Nearby is the famous local Dead River Cemetery where several Revolutionary War soldiers are buried. Not long ago, Brewton Parker College purchased the home and had it moved to the campus as part of its historical village display. Thousands of people tour the home and others in the village each year on the campus in Mount Vernon.

The house is the oldest surviving house in the county and it comes complete with its own ghost stories. The most famous of which involves a former history teacher and journalist, Kitty Peterson, who took her class to the Cooper-Conner House to illustrate local history and to engage in a little fun time through telling ghost stories. After stopping off at the Dead River Cemetery to talk about Revolutionary War soldiers buried there, Mrs.Peterson, chaperones, and her students headed down a wooded lane near the cemetery to visit the Cooper Conner House.

Once inside, Mrs. Peterson began discussing the home, how it was built, and a little history of the surrounding area. She then led her class upstairs to begin the ghost stories. As she began to tell her ghost story, she noticed that the sky was growing dark; she then heard a loud clap of thunder. Deciding that it was probably the better part of wisdom she sent one of the young men downstairs to the cars to make sure that the windows were all rolled up. However, although the sky was dark and thunder had been heard, there was not a cloud in the sky when Kitty looked out the window. This was weird, and many of the adults wanted to go ahead and leave the area in case the dirt road that led back to the main road got muddy in the rain. But there was no sight of rain, and no clouds in the sky. The students urged Kitty to continue with her ghost story, so she moved ahead. As she was in the depth of her ghost story, the whole audience jumped in fright as they heard what sounded as if the front door of the house had been slammed shut. Kitty sent a student downstairs to see if all was okay and to check on the front door. Kitty knew that since there was no breeze blowing, and if there were one, it would have to be a strong one to push the huge front door of the house shut. She felt that there must be someone there. But when the young man returned, he reported that there was noone there, and that the door was standing wide open. Stupified, the students and Mrs. Peterson wondered what could have made the noise that startled the entire class and sounded just like the huge front door slamming shut. Peterson then realized that there was a slight breeze, but that what little breeze was indeed present would have caused the door to open, not slam shut. She became nervous. She told the students that someone might be playing a trick on the class, so she took a quick head count. She was startled to find that all of the students were present and that noone was missing. Her students laughed and said that it was probably a ghost. Some even shouted out that they wanted her to finish her story. She decided that was best.

A few moments later, as she was well in to her spooky ghost story, the whole group was startled by what sounded exactly like footsteps making their way toward them up the steep staircase leading to the second floor of the Cooper Conner House where they were seated listening to a ghost story. The steps continued, and now they sounded like the sound of hoofs instead of human feet. Everyone's eyes widened. Students leaned in to one another asking if they were hearing things. Kitty thought it best to ask a few students to take a peek down the staircase to see what was making the noise. They did, and to their amazement, they saw nothing. When they reported this to Kitty and the other students, everyone became nervous and really scared. One student suggested that everyone go outside and see if they could find any tracks because what was making the sounds could have hurriedly walked back down the stairs and gone outside. Plus, it would have had to have made tracks in the dirt outside the house as it walked inside. The class gathered, moved down the stairs, and poured outside.

Once outside, they found that the entire yard was covered with hoof prints. Upon examining them, some of the teenagers in the group, many of which were avid hunters, said that the prints belonged to a ram. At this, Peterson decided it was time to leave. Everyone began walking back to their cars. As they moved away from the house, one young man discovered more hoof prints, but they were on top of the footprints the students and chapersones had made when they first arrived. They looked further and could see no hoof prints in front of them. What this meant was that whatever animal had made these tracks had done so AFTER the class had arrived, gone inside the house, and were seated listening to the ghost story.

About a year and a half after her class field trip to the Cooper Conner House, Kitty Peterson discovered a strange tale that might explain what happened that afternoon on the premises. In the past, Major Richard Coooper, a man who helped build the house, had been involved in the politics that led to the American Revolution. He was a fierce loyalist who hated Tories, those who were still supporting England and the King during the fight for independence. On a wartime trip to Savannah, Major Cooper met a Tory, and it did not take long for hatred to develop between the two. Things got worse between Cooper and the man and in time the two swore that they would not rest until the other was dead. That day came years later when the two met again at a tavern in Savannah. A fight ensued and Major Cooper shot and killed the Tory, who, as he lay dying, swore that Cooper had not heard the last of him. He swore that he was not yet done with Cooper. Then, he died. When Cooper returned home, it was no time before his servants and help began to complain that odd things were happening at the Cooper home. They reported doors standing wide open that had been locked tight before. But the most strange thing they reported was the sounds of animal hoofs walking across floors or climbing the stairway. Sound familiar? What is even more unnerving is that Kitty Peterson, nor anyone who was at the Cooper Conner House that day had ever heard of the legend of the curse, nor the stories of the mysterious hoof sounds in the home reported by the Cooper servants. Was this the ghost of the Tory returning to haunt Major Cooper? Who knows? But this story has been told for generations by the members of the families who owned the home before it was purchased by Brewton Parker College in 1991. Pictures of the house can be seen at this link:
http://www.bpc.edu/socscience/historic_village.html

I remember hearing this story a lot as I grew up in the area. I was even part of a committee who started a local history festival in Montgomery County that ran for about ten years. One of the events in the festival was a tour and reenactment at the Cooper Conner House. The old house is spooky, but it is a must see for any history buffs and ghost hunters. I remember feeling sort of uneasy as I wondered around the old house and went inside and upstairs. But I never heard the sound of hoofs. I have even met Kitty Peterson on several occasions, and I can attest to the fact that she is NOT one prone to embelishment. I believe there is something strange at the Cooper Conner House. In addition, I suppose in the interest of full disclosure, I should report that Major Cooper and many of the Coopers and Conners are ancestors of mine.

1 comment:

Sparky ♥ ∞ said...

What a *neat* story! Next time we're in Montgomery County, I gotta check this out. I do not believe in ghosts but love history, especially family history. Thanks for sharing! This is great! ♥ ∞