The Piano-Playing Ghost of Gaineswood



Gaineswood is a plantation house near Demopolis, Alabama. Having taken 20 years to complete, construction was finally concluded on the eve of the Civil War. It is currently an 'historic house museum", operated by the Alabama Historical Commission, and Gaineswood is considered to be the finest example of Greek Revival architecture in Alabama, the grandest plantation house ever built in Marengo County, and the home of as unique a ghost as any whose remains reside in the old south.

General Nathan Bryan Whitfield had been a cotton farmer in North Carolina when he moved to Alabama in the 1830s. A few years later, he was able to purchase a large parcel of land (480 acres or 580 acres, according to different sources) from George Strother Gaines, the brother of Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines, who was a hero of the War of 1812, who received the "Thanks of Congress"Medal, said by authorities such as the Smithsonian to have been a higher honor than the Congressional Medal of Honor. While owned by George Gaines, who was the US Indian Agent for the area, the property, in particular the area beneath what was to become known as the Pushmataha Oak,
The Piano-Playing Ghost of Gaineswood
was the site of treaty negotiations between Gaines and Chief Pushmataha of the Choctaw Nation. The resultant treaty was the agreement under which the Choctaw moved from their open lands to a reservation.

Around 1843, Gen. Whitfield began the lengthy construction of his mansion, which would eventually be referred to as "Gaineswood" and which was to be home for him, his wife, and their children. Unfortunately, his wife was to die prior to the completion of the home, and Whitfield hired a housekeeper, identified by some to
have been one Evelyn Carter, who may have been the sister of another household employee of the Whitfield's, or who might have even been the sister of Gen. Whitfield's deceased wife, to run the household and care for his family.
Carter had her own heartache, having had ended a relationship with a French count. Said to be an accomplished musician, Carter spent much of her time in Gaineswood playing the piano, both as entertainment for the family and during her own private time. As fate would have it, she fell ill, and died in the late 1850s, at the height of a horrid winter.

Carter had expressed her desire to be buried in her home state of Virginia, but the inclement weather conditions made transport of her body, in the mid-19th century, far to dangerous, if not impossible. The solution was to temporarily keep her remains in a coffin, beneath a cellar staircase. This did not sit well with the Spirt of Evelyn Carter.

Visitors to Gaineswood have told many stories of hearing footsteps ascending the cellar steps, of hearing some "one" enter the drawing room, of hearing a soft voice singing, and of hearing the tones of piano music, wafting throughout the house, tunes once favored by Evelyn Carter.

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