Sherwood Forest Plantation, just a few miles down the road from Shirley, is the ancestral home of 10th US President, John Tyler.
You may remember from school that he succeeded William Henry Harrison, who stayed too long in the rain at his own inauguration, caught a cold, got pneumonia and croaked 64 days into his term. Seems Old Tippecanoe would have the shortest term in the White House.
Tyler, called “his accidency” by many, as he was the first Vice President to assume the role of President UPon the death of a sitting President, doesn’t get the royal treatment from most historians.
Tyler seceded along with Virginia during the Civil War and sided with the South. He ran for the Confederate Senate, won, but died before he was able to take his seat in the hallowed chamber.
He considered himself the champion of the Whig party, and liked comparisons to Robin Hood. When he bought his new farm, he named it Sherwood Forest in honor of the English hero.
Tyler’s grandson, yes, that’s grandson, lives in the house today.
Tyler fathered his last child at 72, and that child fathered his last at 77. Three generations and 33 Presidents later, the boy who never sat UPon his grandfather’s knee lives there. That is, unless he died yesterday. He was born in 1928.
But, this really isn’t about Harrison Ruffin Tyler, named for a President and a the Rebel who fired the first shot of the Civil War. Nor is it about John Tyler, President turned Confederate. It’s about the Grey Lady of Sherwood Forest Plantation.
It is a very simple story, and very little is known about it.
The Grey Lady was a servant, probably a slave in the house sometime in the mid 1800s. Allegedly, while in her care, a young child died. The Grey Lady can be seen carrying and often rocking the child, some say she is even trying to resuscitate her.
Everyone who’s ever lived in the 300 foot long frame home* claims to have had an encounter with her.
They hear her rocking, see doors open by themselves, and feel resistance when they try to close them. Some say it isn’t a story of terror, like murder or some such evil play. Many choose to believe the child died accidentally and the Grey Lady’s story is one of grief, not terror.
Frankly, I believe most if not all ghost stories can be explained away. This one is not different. However a few years back, the Grey Lady’s image appeared on the haunted staircase.
I think someone was showing “Les Mis” on the big screen!
I toured Sherwood Forest Plantation in October of 1977, if she was there, she was on a smoke break, ’cause I didn’t see her. But, I did see Mrs. Tyler dusting a table in the entry way.
*Sherwood Forest is known to be the longest frame home in America. The second Mrs. Tyler loved to dance and had a ballroom added on.