Sweet Briar Collage

Jays Note: This is a really good list of Stories that was sent in By a visitor to my site. there are several stories here and all of them are very interesting!!!

The grounds of Sweet Briar College, founded in 1901, have changed little in the past century, except for the college buildings and a bit more open land. These were the lands of the Fletcher and Williams families. Their presence can still be felt at odd times and in odd places. Most members of the family are buried on Monument Hill, which rises above the College and from whose summit one can look down on the College buildings with an unobstructed view. It is here, perhaps, that one feels the strongest sense of the family's presence, but some of their spirits have been known to wander and frequent other areas of their former domain. Indiana Fletcher Williams founded the College in memory of her only daughter Daisy, who died in 1884 at the age of 16. "Miss Indie," who died in 1900, continues to make herself known in small ways these many years later. It is as though she is still vitally interested in what takes place at her College. Through the years, students, faculty, and staff have told stories of supernatural happenings at the College. What credence must we give to such tales as have come from the memories of these members of the Sweet Briar community?

Faculty sightings of Daisy

When the College was built and the first faculty hired, there was not enough housing on the campus for everyone. Some faculty members were invited to live in the extra bedrooms at the Sweet Briar House, the former plantation house of the founding family and now home to the President.

During that time several faculty reported "visits" from Indiana Fletcher Williams and her daughter Daisy Williams...

One evening, an instructor who liked to read in the west parlor was seated comfortably in a large green velvet overstuffed chair, one of two in the room. Electricity had been installed in the house by that time. A few years previously, oil lamps were used.

The large overhead chandelier with crystal prisms had been wired for electricity, but at that moment it was not turned on. The instructor was using a floor lamp. Suddenly the chandelier lit up and immediately switched off. On and off it went a half dozen times. No one else was in the room.

The instructor said, "Daisy, stop playing with the lights!"

The activity ceased immediately. Daisy was known to have been a very obedient child.

The Dancing Cloud

The Sweet Briar House has long been known for the lovely pier mirrors in its parlors. Originally, there were six and they were a delight for the children who were invited to the house to play with Daisy.

In 1931, an elderly woman, Elizabeth Robertson Lee, wrote a journal of her childhood experiences for her family. Elizabeth had been a cousin of the Caperton family who lived on a farm adjoining Sweet Briar lands. She visited her aunt, uncle, and cousins from her home in Buena Vista across the mountain during several summers as a little girl.

"We loved to visit Daisy at Sweet Briar. We could dance and pirouette in front of the tall mirrors in the parlors because we could see our reflections multiplied so many times. After we played, Mrs. Williams would give us cakes and sweets. It was like a fairy tale castle and Daisy was the princess. We did love to dance before the mirrors."

One afternoon, one of the professors who lived at Sweet Briar House stood before one of the tall mirrors to adjust her hat before going out. How careless, she though, the mirror is so cloudy it must need cleaning. As she looked more closely the cloudiness vanished only to return a few moments later. The cloud seemed to move across the glass like a mist, disappear, and then the mirror cleared. She said it looked as though the cloud was dancing.

The Face in the Red Velvet Frame

A personal narrative from Ann Marshall Whitley '47

It was while assembling the antique properties of Sweet Briar to go into a new museum that the question of locating a portrait of the founder of the College, Indiana Fletcher Williams, arose.

Since the founding of the College in 1901, nobody had ever found a likeness of Miss Indie. Many requests for a portrait had come in over the years but no one had been able to produce an identifiable picture.

One fall, while doing some research in the College library, I happened upon an old grocery carton sitting on the floor in the corner of a storage room off of the Rare Book Room. The weather had been wet and rainy for some weeks and the smell of dampness was strong in the room. A streak of mildew decorated the wall just above the carton. I felt that whatever was in the carton might be damp, so I carried it into the Rare Book Room, placed it on a table and opened it.

It contained a stack of nineteenth-century photographs of people and houses. These were unidentified but on the back of each was a number. Obviously there had been a key to these photos, however, it was missing.

A note in the bottom of the box said, "These photographs were found by Reuben Higginbotham in Sweet Briar House basement in 1953." Reuben had worked in the Sweet Briar House for Miss Meta Glass, the college's third president, stayed on through the tenure of President Martha B. Lucas, and then retired in the early years of Dr. Anne Gary Pannell's presidency.

The photos were damp and some of the edges were beginning to curl. I carried them to Sweet Briar House in the hope of drying them on top of the radiators, which were enclosed in wooden decorative frames. They would also be out of direct light if I used the radiators in the dining room. Edith Whiteman, wife of President Harold Whiteman, was home so she helped me spread out the photos on the dining room table so we could look at them.

I recognized the face of Elijah Fletcher, the founder's father, several of her daughter, young Daisy Williams at different ages, two of her husband, James Henry Williams, and one of a young man named Leeds, who was the son of Mr. Williams' sister Harriet Williams Leeds. Two group pictures of a family sitting in the yard in front of their home were later identified as the family of Mr. Williams' sister Emma McCall. These were all family photographs.

There three photos of unidentified women. Two of them were of the same person at different ages. She was fair with very light blue eyes, aquiline features, and a pleasant expression. The third photo of the group was of a woman in her twenties who looked related to the woman in the other two photos but she was stouter, her face rounder, and her hair was darker.

As I looked at the two photos of the same woman I knew I had seen that face before - but where? Of course, the face in the red velvet frame that was in the Rare Book Room at the library. It was locked behind wire mesh doors on a bookshelf that had several momentos of the Fletcher family. The photo had always been identified as Daisy Williams.

I had seen the face in the red velvet frame often enough and I had always doubted that it was Daisy. The face was more mature than any of Daisy's photos. Although it was done in profile, I sensed it was another person altogether. The librarians insisted it was Daisy.

I decided to go back to the library and bring the picture to Sweet Briar House so that I could compare it to the two photos of the unidentified woman.

I left for the Library and within fifteen minutes I returned with the face in the red velvet frame. I rushed into the dining room and laid the photo next to the other two.

It was obviously the same person at different ages! The framed portrait was done at about age sixteen, the second one at around twenty-five and the third one was the woman in her forties.

Then came the acid test. I removed the photo from the red velvet frame and discovered it had been photographed in Paris, France. Daisy had never been to Europe, but her mother had at the age of sixteen!

I stared down at the pictures getting more excited by the second and said to Mrs. Whiteman, who I thought was behind me, "Do you know who we have here? It is the founder, it is Miss Indie. We have found Miss Indie."

I heard a distinct low laugh behind my left shoulder. I turned to Mrs. Whiteman with a big grin on my face. She was not in the room. She was not even in the house. I was alone.