Part Two: The Long-Smith Cottage
(For part one, click here.)
The Long-Smith Cottage once stood on land owned by Jane Long, the "Mother of Texas." The house was built in 1855 by Long's grandson, James Winston, and was first lived in by Dr. James Gibson and his new wife Caroline. Their sons would later figure prominently in the bloody Jaybird-Woodpecker feud of 1888.
The bedroom of the Long-Smith Cottage features a rope-strung bed with a bedspack (kind of like a feather bed, except this form of mattress would have been stuffed with straw, Spanish moss or cornhusks).
"Legend has it that Museum docents would often find the bed with a deep depression in it, as if someone were sitting on the bed," said Site Manager Shereen Sampson. Though the bed is currently covered by a 1930s-era quilt, it was once covered by Jane Long's original quilt; rumor had it that the ghost of Jane Long was sitting on the bed.
"However," Sampson continued, "I never witnessed any depression on the bed. As I spent a lot of time in the Cottage redecorating the interior, I assumed I would have felt any unusual sensations. But there was nothing."
But all that changed this month. Sampson was chatting with a docent about her disbelief in the legend, but the docent insisted it was true and that she had witnessed the depression first-hand.
A couple of days later, Education Coordinator Jessica Avery walked into the office wide-eyed and asked if she had seen the bed in the Cottage that morning.
"I thought she was joking with me but she seemed a bit nervous and wanted me to come take a look. When I walked into the bedroom, the hairs on my arms stood on end: There was a deep depression on the bed, right where the docent told me they used to see one. I made Jessica swear she wasn't playing a joke on me - it was a perfect depression of a sitting person, and there was no way it was by the 'settling' of the mattress."
So who could it be? Perhaps we can say it isn't Jane Long, who never lived in the house and whose quilt is now kept in storage. Could it be Julia Bassett Smith, Thomas Jefferson Smith or perhaps Deaf Smith? For now, we can only guess...but we certainly wish we knew...
Want to learn more? Join us on Thursday, Oct. 29 and Friday, Oct. 30 for All Hallow's Eve house tours of the 1883 John M. Moore home and Haunted Walking Tours of historic Richmond, which includes a peek inside the Long-Smith Cottage and the 1882 McFarlane House! House tours will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the walking tours will begin at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for members/$10 non-members for house tours only; Cost for a house tour plus a walking tour is $10 for members/$15 for non-members. Email Pat Wright or call 281-342-6478 to order tickets!
We know for sure that there have been several deaths in the home -- but all were from natural causes. "This was common in the old days," said Site Manager Shereen Sampson. "There were no hospitals in the area, and family members died in their own beds. Once they had passed, the body would be laid out for viewing in the parlor, and then brought to the cemetery. This tradition did not change until well into the 20th century."
Rumors have circulated that one of John Moore's daughters haunts the house after a tragic death during childbirth. However, both of Moore's daughters lived to a ripe old age, so those rumors are definitely not true.
On the other hand, there IS a story that has been verified as true by several reliable sources:
A four-year-old child came to tour the house with her mother. When the Museum docent brought them in to the front entryway, the little girl’s attention was drawn to the front bedroom. She interrupted the docent by telling her mother to look at the man in the rocking chair, as she was pointing to the chair in the corner of the room. Then she said, “Oh, he’s coming to see us!” Her mother and the docent both looked at each other, and then back at the empty room. The docent then shuttled them quickly into another area of the house, and the little girl never mentioned him again. It was the room that John Moore Jr. died in.