Sunday, April 27, 2014

Grandma Galloway And The Haunted House

Cottage at Hydesville
      Yesterday I wrote about my 4th great-grandmother Armina Galloway and her peculiar living arrangements.  Since I'm always looking for clues, (some might say I don't know when to stop), I checked the internet for some histories of Hydesville, the hamlet founded by Armina's employer Henry Hyde.  I also checked New York land records at Family Search to see what Henry's holdings might be, with an eye to finding the house Grandmother got for a "kernel of grain".  After searching ten years worth of records I gave up, in that short time Henry had amassed hundreds of acres, no telling which property it might have been.

     The histories I read were more illuminating.  If you grew up in the Rochester, New York area as I did, at some point you would have heard of the Fox sisters.  I heard the story years ago, but had forgotten that the site of their home was Hydesville!  But let me begin at the beginning-- in 1815 Henry Hyde built a cottage on property he owned and as others built homes nearby, it became known as the hamlet of  Hydesville.  The history gave the names of subsequent occupants of the cottage over the years, but it didn't go back far enough for my purposes.  It occurred to me however, the Hydesville cottage could very well have been the property Grandmother lived on previous to living with Henry.  The home was described as "humble with two fair sized parlors, a bedroom and pantry on the first floor, with stairs leading to a half story above."  Not the sort of residence a well off doctor would live in for long, probably a temporary residence while his mansion was being built.

     After Henry Hyde's death, ownership of the Hydesville property passed to his son who in 1842 rented it to the Bell family-- this is where the legend of the haunted cottage begins.  As the story goes; Mrs. Bell, covetous of the lovely goods shown her by a traveling peddler, murdered the man and buried him in the cellar.  Soon after, mysterious noises began to be heard within the walls, and before another year passed, the Bells left for parts unknown.  The next occupants were the Weekman family.  They too heard the strange noises, and their children reported being touched by a "cold hand".  One daughter even claimed to have seen a vision of a man in the cottage.  Shortly after that, the Weekmans also fled the cottage.

The Fox Sisters
     In December of 1847, the place was again rented out, this time to the Fox family.  The noises resumed, along with the sound of footsteps and the movement of furniture.  Supposedly the Foxes were able to communicate with the spirit causing the phenomena and claimed he was the peddler who visited the Bell family years earlier, and that he had been murdered in the house.  Kate and Maggie Fox, the two youngest daughters were said to be the most attuned to the spirit, and soon after became well known, traveling  all over the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and beyond demonstrating their ability to commune with the dead.  They are credited with the founding of "Modern American Spiritualism".

     The sisters later admitted it had all been a hoax, and died in poverty.  But the true believers still carried on the new religion.  As for Grandmother?  She would have lived in the cottage long before the supernatural disturbances if she lived there at all.  But it's sort of fun to speculate. 


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