Rotherwood Mansion in Kingsport, Tennessee, is a typical antebellum plantation. It was built in the early 1800s, after an earlier structure burnt down. It’s a good example of the kind of neoclassical architecture. That was a style common among the houses of the landed gentry and plantation owners of the day.
The house consisted of red brick, with a portico in front. It’s supported by graceful Doric columns that offset the overall massiveness of the place. Reverend F.A. Ross built, own and resided in Rotherwood Mansion and had a daughter named Rowena.
Rowena was well-educated, beautiful, respected and well-liked by the townspeople. Her father adored and doted on her. Unfortunately Rowena’s life was beset by tragedy. She lost two husbands, one to a boating accident and the other to Yellow Fever. Her daughter by her third husband suffered an early demise as well.
This was the last straw for the poor woman and she drowned herself in a nearby river. The Reverend Ross wound up ruined financially when he attempted to break into the cotton market and failed. He was forced to sell the house and plantation to a Joshua Phipps.
The Terror Begins
Phipps was known for being a cruel and ruthless man, especially to his slaves. It was said that he went so far as to build a whipping post inside the house. That was so he could enjoy inflicting pain indoors as well as out.
Phipps also had a mistress. She was a former slave and as cruel and sadistic as Phipps. She was just as likely to vent that cruelty on the slaves as he was. Most people despised both of these characters.
It was said you could hear the screams of their hapless victims in the dead of night. It sounded like a symphony of death and pain. No one wanted to hear except the two people who dealt it out.
Eventually, Phipps came down with a mysterious illness and fever in 1861 and was soon bedridden. The slave who attended him claimed a swarm of black flies entered the room. They lodged in Phipps’ nose and throat, and suffocated him to death. In the end, it was fitting for a life dedicated to the inflicting so much suffering on others.
Later on, the slaves tracked down his mistress and killed her in retribution for her part in Phipps’ cruelties. Her body was buried in an unmarked grave for fear the angry slaves would dig it up and mutilate it.
Strange Occurrences at Rotherwood Mansion
The funeral was probably the wildest of all. The horses were unable to pull the wagon with Phipps’ coffin on it. It was only after adding several more horses were they able to get the wagon rolling toward the grave site.
As this was going on, the sky began to darken as if a storm was approaching. The black shroud over the coffin began to shift and move about. Suddenly, a huge, black dog emerged and ran off howling. It was like the devil himself was after him. Supposedly, the dog haunts the grounds to this day. The dog’s spirit will howl and keen mournfully on dark, stormy nights.
It is reported that the ghosts of Phipps and his mistress still haunt Rotherwood Mansion. It is said you can hear him laughing sadistically at the suffering of his victims. He will rip the covers off of some unfortunate sleeper simply to enjoy the terror he induces.
However, far less malevolent, but still tragic, is the “Lady in White.” That ghost happens to be Rowena, still searching for her first husband. He was her only true love who drowned in a nearby river.