American Roads Travel Magazine
Grove Inn~A Vicksburg Tradtion
Story and photos by Kathleen Walls
Cedar Grove Inn
Grove is a buff-colored Greek revival-style home. Galleries and columns grace both front
and back. I approached it with my rolling suitcase bumping along the brick path from the
back parking lot and circling the swimming pool. It felt warm and welcoming. Nothing like
what you expect in a haunted house. Yet the history of this Vicksburg home is a series of
fabulous highs and devastating lows. It survived Vicksburgs darkest hours and has
the scars to prove it. This cheerful sunny fašade is home to many souls who have lived
through both personal and national tragedies.
Grove was never a working plantation; rather it was a showplace; a gift from a loving
husband to his young bride. It is an elaborate token of a love story that stood the test
of time and remains a marker in Vicksburgs turbulent history.
Alexander Klein had moved to Vicksburg from Virginia a young man of 24. He was a jeweler
by trade and did well in his new hometown. He diversified his earnings and grew wealthy
very quickly as he had a finger in many pies: cotton plantations, sawmills, railroads,
banking and investment property. In 1838 he was well-respected in Vicksburg and felt he
lacked only one asset: a wife.
Just a sample of the oplunt furnishings at Cedar Grove
When he met Elizabeth Bartley Day, a beautiful,
Ohio girl visiting nearby relatives in 1838, he knew he had found the one for him. The
fact that Elizabeth was only 12 years of age did not deter him. He was a patient man. In
1840 he began construction of Cedar Grove with the intention of gifting his bride-to-be
with the most magnificent home in the city. The home was set on eight acres of land, which
he had landscaped in elegant style. One of the high points was his 9-foot-deep catfish
pond; today it houses darting goldfish. The back yard was a grove of 25 cedar trees, thus
1842, the central part of the home was completed and, at 16, Elizabeth was deemed old
enough to marry her 30-year-old suitor. He presented her with the gracious home and took
her on a year-long honeymoon trip to Europe, where they searched out the rarest of
furnishings for the mansion on the bluff. Money was no object.
The Bohemian glass transom
is reflected in the hall mirror
newlyweds returned by way of New Orleans and contracted Prudent Mallard, one of the best
furniture builders in the country, to make several pieces of furniture for Cedar Grove.
They also brought some treasures from Europe: gold leaf mirrors which are dusted with 24
caret gold, Italian marble
fireplaces, Paris window treatments, French Empire gasoliers which burned carbide and
water, creating the equivalent of todays natural gas, and one of the most innovative
and expensive treasures, Bohemian glass to place above the exterior doorways. It reflects
the sunlight to help with insulation; it appears black when viewed from outside and red
from within and is mixed with 24 caret gold.
Kleins began their family, which would eventually number 10 children, and the fairy tale
ended and real life stepped in. Of the 10 children Elizabeth bore, only six grew to
adulthood. Then there was that worst of Southern ghost makers, the War Between the States.
Cannonball embeded in wall
siege of Vicksburg found Elizabeth pregnant with her last child. She was six months along,
huge and terrified the house had already been struck by more than 40 cannonballs,
one of which is still embedded in the floor of Johns Smoking Parlor -- when the
opportunity to get to safety presented itself. General Sherman was related to Elizabeth;
an uncle by marriage. He offered to transport Elizabeth, her mother and children back East
until the war was over if he could use Cedar Grove as a hospital. Elisabeth agreed and
thus saved her home from the torch.
downstairs portion of the present-day Library Suite was the original wine cellar for the
home, and, because of its cool temperature, it was used as the morgue during the time the
home was a Union hospital. This suite is haunted by many spirits. Many guests note a smell
of decay here as if the bodies are still making their presence felt. Others have heard the
sound of men marching. But the departed Union soldiers are not the only specters here.
Ninety percent of the books in the bookcase are original to John and Elizabeth. Two books,
How to be a Lady in Modern Society, a favorite of Elizabeths, and
Notes on Law, one of Johns favorites, are frequently rearranged in the
bookshelf by some unearthly presence. Tour guides will frequently attempt to show them and
find they have been moved from their normal places.
is not the only place where you might encounter John or Elizabeth. They still seem to
inhabit much of the house, as do the spirits of several of their children. The master
bedroom, called the Grant Room as the general stayed in this room for one day after the
siege of Vicksburg, is on the first floor near the foot of the stairs, with the adjourning
room to the front of the house, now the Bay Room, acting as the nursery. It was in these
two rooms that three of the Klein children died. They can be heard playing nearby still.
One spirit that is seen occasionally is a young girl bouncing her ball up and down the
front stairs between the first and second floor.
Fountain in Cedar Grove back yard
youngest child met a horrible fate. Born during the siege just months after General
Sherman had moved Elizabeth to safety, the grateful mother named him William Tecumseh
Sherman Klein. Horrified neighbors swore any child bearing the name of the most-hated
general in the history of warfare would be cursed. But Willie grew to young manhood as an
intelligent and handsome boy. He was 16 and had just returned from a hunting trip with a
friend when disaster struck. He and a friend rested under a magnolia tree in the back yard
then, but when his friend tried to get up from the ground, he accidentally discharged his
gun. The bullet slammed into young Willies chest. The wounded boy tried
unsuccessfully to seek help by climbing the black iron staircase but only made it part of
the way up and fell dead at the foot of the stairs. Guests still hear the footsteps and
the thump mostly in the middle of the day.
presence is sometimes seen in his original smoking parlor. Many people have smelled cigar
smoke in there. More impressive is the story of the employee who was cleaning the room and
felt someone standing behind her. When she looked into the pier mirror in front of her,
she saw the reflection of a man, but when she turned around, no one was there. Others have
had a similar experience.
back porch, now the Wicker Room, looks out on Johns catfish pond. This was also the
scene of a terrible tragedy. A small child was playing one day and fell into the pond and
drowned. His body was not found until hours later floating in the water. One employee was
leaving the office one evening and heard a child scream followed by a loud splash. When
she checked the fountain, she found nothing there. At least nothing she could see with
room also served as the functional front of the house. It was here that
carriages dropped off guests for the lavish balls. The carriages then proceeded to the
Carriage House just across from it to stable the horses. Guests who stay in the Carriage
House suites often hear horses whinnying and stamping their hooves.
room that parapsychologists agree has the most activity is the ballroom. The cause of this
activity occurred many years later after the home had been sold out of the family. The
third owners of Cedar Grove were Doctor Podesta and his family. They loved to entertain
with fancy balls. Unfortunately one of their daughters was mentally handicapped. To avoid
embarrassment, they locked the girl in her room when they were entertaining. During one
lavish ball, the daughter escaped from her room. She somehow got a gun and went into the
ballroom. There, in front of the shocked guests, she pulled the trigger and ended her
unhappy life. It is said that she appears in the ballroom on the anniversary of her death.
stayed in the Bonnie Blue Room on the second floor and enjoyed it immensely. I had a great
view, and the huge old-fashioned bed was comfortable. No bumps in the night awoke me. The inn is so welcoming, and the breakfast in the
dining room downstairs is first-rate.
you enjoyed this article, you will enjoy my book, Hosts With Ghosts: Haunted
Historic Hotels in the Southeast, of which this is a partial excerpt.
Cedar Grove Inn
2200 Oak Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi 39180
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