The tragedy and suffering that took place on plantations in the antebellum time period are numerous and heartbreaking. One plantation in Tennessee, however, seems to have more than its fair share of bloodshed. The site of battles and enslavement, the grounds still speak about their unsavory past, with spirits that never made it out of the vicinity and still appear to those searching for ghosts or just a nice vacation in a beautiful, and terrible, location. Today on Ghost to Coast, we’re exploring the tales and tragedies of Wheatlands Plantation.
Sevierville, Tennessee has a lot of positive aspects, after all it is the birthplace of Dolly Parton and has a statue downtown of their most famous resident. It’s even nearby to the famous Dollywood. The plantation a few miles away, however, has a more negative connotation to its continued existence. The Wheatlands Plantation was originally a small family farm, started by a revolutionary war veteran in 1791. When he passed and the plantation was taken over by his son in 1819, he worked to expand the plantation to its largest footprint on the land with 3700 acres and many of the buildings you see today on the site. Original buildings that still stand include the plantation home itself, a smokehouse, and a few storage sheds. The quarters where enslaved people lived have long been torn down.
The highway that runs parallel to part of the plantation was built along a trail that was known as “The Great Indian Warpath.” In 1790, John Sevier followed the path before its paving and found himself face to face with members of the Cherokee tribe and a battle followed shortly after. Known as The Battle of Boyds Creek, this altercation occurred on the current grounds of the plantation. At least 12 people were killed in the altercation, but the numbers only counted British casualties and no information about the American casualties. An estimated 28 Cherokee warriors were killed in the battle.
The plantation, not surprisingly, has a history in the dark practice of chattel slavery. The original owners of the plantation had 15 enslaved people toiling on the Wheatlands Plantation. After the civil war, the same owner offered to pay the freed former slaves a living wage to remain on the plantation and to keep working. Many stayed, and those who did inherited parts of the plantation’s land when their former master passed away in 1875. Many freed individuals pooled their inheritances together to create their own community, Chandler Gap just south of the plantation.
While a small light shines in the history of Wheatlands Plantation, it’s worth remembering that the bloody location recorded over 70 murders on the grounds during its long existence. The Cherokee fatalities from the Battle of Boyds Creek were buried in a mass grave just behind the plantation house. 50 other grave sites exist on the land today, making the dead of the plantation outnumber the living. In fact, it’s reported that voices can be heard near any of the numerous grave sites, especially at night.
It’s not difficult to see why this location carries a reputation for being haunted, with many ghosts reported and strange activity observed. Visitors may even see the blood stain in the parlor from an altercation between father and son, decades ago. Guests report hearing the sounds of this murder as if it were playing over and over on repeat in the afterlife. A young girl in a blue dress has also been seen running up and down the stairs, but being unable to locate her when checking the floor she ended on. Deceased members of the original owners are still seen wandering the decadent halls and grounds. Enslaved children appear all over the plantation grounds, sometimes play hide and seek with the guest who spotted them.
One famous experience on the grounds includes a young boy and his mother visiting the plantation as a learning experience. The young boy felt awful the entire time they were at the plantation, telling his mother he was scared. The boy would faint to the ground as they were leaving, awakening and claiming he saw an African American man dripping wet with water from an unseen source on a day with no rain. The boy claimed this spirit ran straight at him and “went into his chest,” just before he hit the ground, unconscious.
While the plantation boasts real beauty and has since opened as a bed and breakfast and a vacation rental location, those on the site are dedicated to making sure the real history of the plantation isn’t swept under the rug. With the local community of Chandler Gap, a small light in the darkness and kindness in cruelty make the Wheatlands Plantation a conflicting story to digest, but the history remains on this sprawling plantation, and the ghosts that call it home- making sure no one forgets.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.