This home, near Jamestown, Virginia, is also known as the “Randolph family mansion.” Most of the world, however, knows it as “Tuckahoe.” This home has a lengthy history of legend and haunting. The legend and lore behind it has been discussed for centuries.
The house’s origins remain debatable because of its early age. Some records state construction began in 1733 or 1740, others declare the original structure was finished in 1710, while some historic records state the house actually dates back to 1690 or 1689. Earlier documents cite a windowpane in the home where “Thomas Randolph, 1698,” had been scratched into the glass. Thomas Randolph was William Randolph’s father.
There was no deed in the beginning, just a declaration that Thomas owned the land “west of Richmond.” William was actually the one who created the deed when he was an adult. He also divided the land, and a portion went to his cousin, Peter Jefferson. “Tuckahoe,” was named for a tribe of friendly Native Americans who once lived there.
Whatever the beginning, the real story unfolds when William Randolph started a family with Mary Page, who’s sometimes called Maria. The couple had four children, but sadly, they became orphans early. Their mother died just a year before their father. Fortunately, William made arrangements with family friends who took care of the children. The family who assumed responsibility for the children ended up moving into Tuckahoe. Peter and Jane Jefferson moved to Tuckahoe, along with their biological son, Thomas. Young Thomas would later write the Declaration of Independence and become President of the United States.
Rumors abound as to what started the activity or when it actually began. The paranormal history is as debatable and unknown as the home’s physical origins. The eldest spirit is said to be that of Mary Page, original Mistress of Tuckahoe. Her story has long been romanticized, although there may be some truth to it.
Lady Mary of Tuckahoe
Mary Page was a young neighbor of the older William Randolph. He wanted to marry her, but her heart was with someone else. Eventually, she gave into family pressure and married William. She developed a melancholy that she battled until her death in 1744. Whatever feelings may or may not have been between them, the fact remains that they had four subsequent children together.
Mary eventually became known as “Lady Mary” after death. It was believed her spirit was the house banshee, a harbinger of death and doom.
Tragedy was not through with the Randolph family. William’s granddaughter, also named Mary, survived a staggering tragedy that brought the family mania out in full force. During her adolescence, Mary fell in love with a bailiff of the family. The affection was mutual, but her family would never agree to such a union. Her brothers, other relatives, and even neighbors issued a host of threats if they even attempted it. The couple threw caution to the wind and fled the estate.
They lived together for some time and it seemed they would truly be allowed the freedom to remain a couple. They were eventually detected. At that point, they were living on Elk Island in the James River. By that point, the couple already had a baby.
Relatives broke in during the night and murdered both her husband and her child. They physically carried her back to Tuckahoe. This was a turning point in her life. The mania emerged and remained a constant companion.
Years passed and the family assumed she was cured of her insanity. Perhaps what’s most astounding thinking any person could endure such an unprovoked familial onslaught without suffering disastrous repercussions. However, the family eventually pushed her off onto Parson James Keith. Mary gave birth to, and raised, eight children, so the union wasn’t negative. She may have continued throughout the remainder of her life just as capable, but it was not to be.
One day, an unexpected letter arrived for Mary, after Parson Keith was deceased. The person sending the correspondence claimed to be none other than her long-lost husband, the bailiff. It said he’d survived the attack that night and fled the nation. After years abroad, he returned to see how his lawful wife had done for herself. Since she had married and had such a beautiful family, he wouldn’t trouble her anymore.
This was either believed to be a cruel joke, or some guilty relatives who made a poor attempt to right an unbelievable wrong. Perhaps, they believed it would somehow cure the mania she’d suffered. If the author had good intentions, they only got adverse results. She began searching for her bailiff, although there was nothing beyond the letter. The search brought out the intensity of her melancholy and she became “deranged.” She never recovered.
The Tuckahoe Fairy Tale
Tuckahoe even has its own fairy tale. There was a tradition in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries that no one, but a true Randolph descendent, could be married in the home’s oak-paneled room.
There was once a beautiful Randolph maiden named Dahlia. Hard luck had fallen on her, and she was being raised by an abusive stepmother named Ivy. Ivy had a biological daughter, Rose, from an earlier marriage. Dahlia’s father passed on soon after the wedding to her stepmother.
Dahlia had always been treated as a stepchild. The one bright part of her life was a servant the family called, “Mammy Mahalia.” One evening, the ladies got into an argument. Rose had stolen Dahlia’s beau, and the two were getting ready to marry. Rose would not be married in any room, but the oak-paneled room.
Dahlia objected and told them about the tradition. Ivy tolerated the protest, but would not refuse Rose. Dahlia had no choice, but to accept their decision. Plans began for a lavish wedding party.
Dahlia began a gradual decline. Her health waned as the event approached. The maltreatment from her stepmother and stepsister worsened as she grew sicker. Eventually, she died and was buried in a lonely corner of the family cemetery.
As soon as she was buried, she was forgotten. Attentions immediately returned to the wedding plans. On the evening of the wedding, attendees were dining on the rich menu, when someone yelled, “Fire!”
The oak-paneled room was like an incinerator. By the time the flames were extinguished, the entire room was destroyed. Everything, that is, except for a single painting that had fallen from the wall. It was Dahlia’s portrait and was the only item that remained unscathed. Mahalia finally admitted she watched the spectral form of Dahlia start the fire.
The wedding was held elsewhere.
The Peddler’s Murder
Another legend says one chamber in the household was completely sealed off. A violent murder occurred, where an unsuspecting peddler met a grisly end within a southeast chamber. Now his cries and moans of agony emanate from the room where he died. The Eighteenth Century owners had no choice, but to seal the chamber and silence the cries.
The staircase is another area also rumored to be haunted. Both George Washington, and his enemy Cornwallis, stayed there on consecutive nights. A short while later a violent storm came. The family living there saw a phantom Cornwallis run down the steps in bloody clothes. The phantom left a trail of smoke. Washington’s spectral form triumphantly chased him. The next day, the family discovered that Cornwallis had fallen and America was free.
The Gray Lady
The Lady in Gray is a figure that began appearing around the turn of the Twentieth Century. This may or may not also be Lady Mary Page, it may just as well be her descendent whose husband and child were murdered.
The spirit actually saved the life of one of the home’s mistresses. She appeared before a servant and shocked him. The servant cried out for the mistress to come and look. The lady darted off towards the door when a chunk of the ceiling plaster fell where she’d been sitting. Had she remained, the unexpected blow would have killed her.
Tuckahoe remains a historic structure that’s open to tours by appointment. The grounds are open for self-guided tours, but the house remains privately owned.
- Various Newspapers
- “Tuckahoe.” Worthington Advance 4 Nov. 1897: n. pag. Web.
- The American Historical Magazine 4.1-3 (1909): n. pag. Web.
- Paxton, W. M. The Marshall Family, or A Genealogical Chart of the Descendants of John Marshall and Elizabeth Markham, His Wife, Sketches of Individuals and Notices of Families Connected with Them. Cincinnati: R. Clarke &, 1885. Print.