Texas Heritage, Spring 1984

Ghosts
still walk in
Brazoria County

IThe Lady in the gray taffeta dress

She strolls aimlessly down a narrow, usually
deserted street that runs close by the Brazos
River in the little town of East Columbia.
Known locally as the lady in the gray taffeta
dress, she is said to be the ghost of a woman
who was murdered many years ago.
Her body was found floating in an underground
cistern. She had been strangled, the
narrow tube-like sash of her dress drawn
tightly around her neck and deeply embedded
in the flesh. No one doubted that her husband
was the guilty party, but he had departed
for parts unknown before the body
was discovered .
There was nothing to do but remove the
body and give it a Christian burial. This was
done, but perhaps because her murderer
was never caught and punished, she cannot
rest but keeps her lonely vigil on dark and
foggy nights.
Then there is the lake, called Lake Jackson,
haunted by the ghost of a murdered, perhaps
decapitated, man. The story goes that
two brothers, John and George Jackson, sons
of Major Abner Jackson who owned one of
the finest and best developed plantations in
the area, got into a squabble over their father's
estate.
The upshot of this was that one morning
back in December of 1868, the brothers met at
a place close by the lake's edge and George
pulled out a gun and shot his brother to death.
Then not satisfied, or so some say, he
grabbed up a machete which had been left
lying in the grass, and cut off his brother's
head.
The head rolled into the lake, was never
found, and the body had to be buried without
it. It is for this reason, or so some believe, that
the ghost of John Jackson still wades through
the murky waters, calling in a plaintive voice
for his lost head.
Phantom children, thought to be the
ghosts of youngsters who lost their lives in a
fire which destroyed their home, laugh and
play along a twisting waterway called Oyster
Creek. Many years ago, not too long after the
fire, children screaming in awful agony were
often heard in the same area.
Those who like happy endings, and most
do, believe the laughing children are the same
ones, now recovered from the trauma of the
fire and playing happily among the trees
along the creek bank near where they lived
but never grew up.
Phantom dogs still stand guard at
Orozimbo, the plantation home of Dr. James
A. E. Phelps where Santa Anna was held during
most of his imprisonment in Texas. Those
who have seen the dogs (there are three of
them) say they cannot be flesh and blood animals.
They do not move, do not bark, just
stare with wild strange eyes.
So what are they guarding? Well, it seems
that back when Santa Anna was held at the
Phelps place, a well-planned effort was made
to effect his escape, an effort that was
thwarted when barking dogs aroused the
guards.
There are those who believe, or say they
believe, that the ghost dogs of Orozimbo are
the same animals, still standing guard, alert to
give the alarm should the spectre of a long
dead Santa Anna make another attempt to
escape.

A ghostly woman, clad in an elegant antebellum
gown, wanders the halls of Brazoswood
High School in the town of Clute, floats
up stairways, and disappears through plate
glass partitions.
So who can she be? Folks of the area have
reached back to the original owners of the
land on which the school stands and call her
"the ghost of Eagle Island.''
If there is any validity to this notion, she
may be the shade of Sarah Ann Groce Wharton,
wife of William H. Wharton, and mistress
of the plantation called Eagle Island. Just why
she roams through a modern high school
building no one hazards a guess. Perhaps
she is lost, but if so, she is not far from where
she belongs and may one day find her way
home.
A phantom girl rides a phantom palomino
horse through stagnant water at a place
near the town of Old Ocean. This is thought to
be the ghost of a girl, who with her beloved
horse, disappeared mysteriously from the
community many years ago.
Then there is the eerie music heard at a
place down near the mouth of the San Bernard
River called Music Bend. The various
legends which account for the melodious
sounds, and there are several, have one element
in common - a fiddler who loses his life
at Music Bend.
One story goes that a fiddle playing fisherman
was murdered by his partner, who apparently
didn't care much for music. The
body was thrown into the river, the fiddle after
it, and the ghost of the slain musician, his
death unavenged, still plays on somewhere
beneath the water.
But perhaps the most famous apparition,
certainly the most durable one, is the mysterious
light that floats across a place called
Bailey's Prairie, bobs along above the grass,
and occasionally soars high into the treetops,
and has been doing so for over a hundred and
fifty years.
The light has been described in various
ways by those who have seen it. Some say it
is about the size of a basketball and bright
orange in color, others that it's smaller, not
much bigger than a softball. One woman
who saw it in the middle of the highway on a
dark and rainy night, reported it as looking like
the full moon when it first comes up, big and
round and dark red.
At any rate, no matter how it is described,
it is generally conceded to be the ghost of one
James Britton Bailey, usually called Brit, an
early settler who was buried, at his own request,
standing erect and facing toward the
west on the prairie which still bears his name.
These strange burial instructions were actually
included in his will, but he is said to have
made certain other verbal requests concerning
his interment. He wanted, they say, a gun,
a pair of pistols, and plenty of ammunition in
his coffin. And, above all, a jug of whiskey at
his feet.
The jug, according to oldtimers, is what
caused all the trouble. Mrs. Bailey objected to
its being included and threw it out the window.
And the reason for Brit's nocturnal
prowlings? He is still out looking for that jug of
whiskey and, until he finds it, can't stand easy
in his grave. Catherine Munson Foster

Insert to TEXAS HERITAGE

6

Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Spring 1984. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45446/. Accessed August 28, 2014.