Whether you believe in spirits or not, the story of Beulah Cawthon is a sad one.
Beulah was the younger of two children of NW and Beulah Burke Cawthon. Her brother, William was born two years before Beulah’s birth on July 15, 1892. Beulah’s mother, NW’s second wife, was from the South like her husband. NW’s first wife had borne him one child in 1860, a daughter, Alice, who married a man named J.A.Bowen, and died at age 27 in 1887. Both CW’s first wife, Martha and Alice are bried in Hill Crest Cemetery in Holly Springs, a historic cemetery where seven Confederate Generals, and at least one United States Senator are also entombed. Mr. Bowen is not buried there.
Not much is known about Beulah’s childhood. But when she was in her late 20s, and still living at home, her parents said she had mental problems and had her committed to the Mississippi State Insane Asylum in Jackson, MS. That facility is gone now, but the site is the home of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Beulah was apparently diagnosed with ‘circular’ manic depression, or bipolar disorder.
PHOTO: Stacey's Deer
Apparently within the next few months she began to show improvement and returned home to Linden Hill, a charming one-story antebellum Greek Revival style home on one of Holly Springs’ main streets.
But not long after that, Beulah apparently exhibited signs of mental stress once again. She was once more taken back to the hospital. NW and his wife both died, he in 1928, his wife four years later. Neither is buried at Hill Crest,
As for Beulah, it was inside hospital walls that she spent the rest of her life. 40 years imprisoned in a couple of different hospitals, never to taste freedom again.
The story is told in stark and realistic detail by Charlotte Nairmore and Shirley Coleman, Cute, as she is popularly known, both granddaughters of Nana Akins, the lady who bought Linden Hill from the Cawthon estate in 1935 and lived there until her death. Nana also had a daughter who was suffering from depression, so, to ease family pressures, the children were raised off and on by other family members. Charlotte went to live with Nana at Linden Hill.
Charlotte, middle-aged now, attractive, vivacious and eager to share her story of growing up, together with Cute, can recall numerous stories from Nana Akins about Beulah. Nana said Beulah still lived in the house but was neither frightening nor out to do any harm. “Drawers opened and closed on their own,” Cute said, “but Nana would pay it no mind and just say, ‘oh, that’s Beulah!’
The granddaughters heard so many stories about Beulah and saw so many strange things going on attributed to her that they think nothing of all. Sure, they’ll say, the drawers open and close, there are knocks on the door but no one there, chandeliers gently swing back and forth, their crystals tinkling but there is no breeze; lights go on and off. They think of Beulah as a prankster, a spirit happy to be in the house and happy to be there with happy people.
And it’s from Nana Akins and recent research, the granddaughters know the life history of Beulah.
After coming home from the Insane Asylum after her few months stay, Beulah began to show mental distress once again. According to Charlotte, Beulah’s parents woke up at midnight and Beulah was standing over their bed with a hatchet. She was admitted back to the same hospital on Aug. 29, 1920. It was a month after her 28th birthday. In her lifetime, she never got to visit Linden Hill again.
Sometime in the next few years, Beulah was transferred to the East Mississippi State Hospital and that was where she died in 1968. Her brother William came back to Holly Springs and arranged for her burial in Hill Crest Cemetery.
But even in death, Beulah did not have love or family. She is entombed with her father’s first wife and their daughter Alice, neither of whom Beulah would have known. Her father had had a stone erected in another part of the cemetery commemorating his parents and his brother. But Beulah was resting with strangers to whom she wasn’t even related.
According to Charlotte, William returned once again to Holly Springs requesting a seance in Linden Hill with his sister. Charlotte said he wanted to talk to his deceased sister about something, but she never learned anymore of what happened.
Charlotte lives in Horton, Alabama now, but came back to Holly Springs last week to visit with her sister Cute and Jim and Stacey, the New York/New Jersey couple who purchased the house last year. She told stories about hearing sounds like boots with spurs on them, and thought it was a Confederate soldier, part of the team that had destroyed Union supplies in Holly Springs when General US Grant was encamped there. She recalls another night in 1968, the year Beulah died, when she said she felt someone grab her arm while she was sleeping, hard enough to awaken her and have her cry out. There was no one around, but there was a distinctive handprint on her arm.
After Nana Akins died, the house was up for sale but remained vacant for some time. Charlotte made a comment at the bottom of the for sale ad Jim and Stacey saw on line in their Arizona home. Her comment about Linden Hill was “Beautiful home but it does have a live-in-ghost, we all fondly call Bulah (sic).”
That was enough to entice Jim and Stacey to investigate a bit more, check out some other facts, then sell their home and businesses in Arizona, complete the sale sight unseen, and take up residence in a Greek Revival, antebellum, one story home on a hill in Holly Springs. With a ghost named Beulah. Jim, formerly of Highlands, and Stacey, whose decorating style can only be described as exceptional and distinctive, have apparently made a cozy home for a spirit who revels in the ornate décor, the recycled trash turned into exotic treasures, the photographs of several generations, along with newspaper clippings telling family stories that decorate the walls.
Every day, and every night, they see and hear and even smell signs that Beulah is still very much a part of their home. They don’t say whether they believe in ghosts; they used to laugh at the idea. Regardless, the bargain price of the house was too good to turn down. They are comfortable with her, though they’ve made some adjustments. For instance, Beulah opened and closed the windows so much Jim nailed them all shut. They don’t answer the door every time they hear a knock….their dogs rush forward, then whimper and cower in a corner. They try to ignore the horrible aroma of castor oil they smell occasionally…Stacey said she looked it up and it means the smell of death. Stacey also uses sage to bless the house and has rosary beads hanging of every door still standing…they took out many of the doors between rooms because of the constant opening and closing of them. But they know…somehow they know….Beulah Cawthon is still at Linden Hill. Although now, she’s happy with Jim and Stacey also in residence.
NEXT: House tours and Philip the historian