On Sunday, October 30, 1988 The Sumter Daily Item published an article by George Georgas titled Haints asserting that:
“Along the beauteous bends of S. C. 261 outside Rembert, a large plantation house about two miles from a church seems to be a repository for what appears to one owner as a bevy of harmless, but ever apparent apparitions.”
The ” large plantation house” is Dixie Hall Plantation. The article mentions two members of the Sanders family- original owners of the plantation- as likely ghosts since they died in the house. After a few more paragraphs about “bangs, taps, and goosebumps” and occasional sightings of “the quiet woman wearing an old fashioned, lacy, white dress” and a man in “khaki-colored clothes” with a “strange haircut”, there is the following account of a “haint” :
“I was telling (Charlie, a plantation employee) that I hear (a short series of) footsteps that sound like someone’s using a walker. And he told me, ‘Miss Fanny used a walker the latter part of her life.’”
Miss Fanny’s family sold the Westfalls Dixie Hall.”
“Miss Fanny” is Mary Frances Poole Alston. Mary Frances was born 28 November 1894 in Scuffletown Township, Laurens County, South Carolina, the sixth child of Thomas Pitts Poole and Jemmie Alexander. “Fanny” was probably named in memory of her grandmother, Mary Frances Farrow. She attended Lander College, where in 1915 she was elected President of the senior class. 1 On 3 January 1917 The Laurens Advertiser announced the wedding of Mary Frances and William A. Alston:
A wedding in which was centred general interest was solemnized Thursday at noon when Miss Mary Frances Poole, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas P. Poole, became the bride of Dr. William A. Alston of Hagood, Sumter’ county. The marriage took place at the home of the bride seven miles east of the city and was attended by a large company of friends and relatives.
The Poole home was decorated for the occasion, potted plants and carnations being used in the decorations throughout. The charm of the general setting was the large, open fire in each room.
The guests were ushered in by Boyd Bobo and Martin Poole.
Preceding the ceremony Miss Virginia Alexander of Chester sang very sweetly “I Love You Truly,” “A Perfect Day” and “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, the accompaniment being played by the pianist, Mrs. Luther Roper of Laurens.
At the appointed hour the notes of the Lohongrin wedding march were sounded as the bridal party entered. First came the ushers, Boyd Bobo and Martin Poole, followed by the Rev. William H. Barnwell, the officiating clergyman. Next came the brides maids and groomsmen. Miss Mattie Bobo Poole, a sister of the bride, with Herman Myers, Miss Corinne Gleaton with Joshua Craig Poole, a brother of the bride, Miss Ruth Dubose with Percy Harvin, Miss Ina May Pitts with Vernon Keys. The bridegroom entered with his best man, Nathaniel Walker. Next came the little ring bearer, Lucile Poole, a cousin of the bride, followed by Miss Grace Poole, a sister, who was made of honor. Immediately following them came the bride with her brother, Furman Poole, who gave her away. The marriage ceremony of the Episcopal church was used.
The bride wore a suit of green broadcloth with accessories to match and carried a bouquet of bride roses, orchids and valley lillies. The maid of honor was gowned in a frock of white messaline with silver trimmings and carried a bouquet of pink roses. The bridesmaids wore dainty blue frocks and carried bouquets of pink carnations.
The bride is a charming young woman and is a graduate of Lander college. During the past year she has been teaching in the eastern part of the State. Dr. Alston is a large and successful farmer of Sumter county.
After a wedding dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Alston left for their home at Hagood.
The bride’s guest register was in charge of Miss Lila Clark and Fowler Boyd and among the guests present for the occasion were: Miss Corinne Gleanton, Springfield; Miss Ruth DuBose, Lamar; Mrs. W. H. Poole and daughters, Misses Mary and Lucile, Union; Mrs. John Ashe Alston and Miss Grace Hermeyne Mitchell, Hagood; Miss Inna Pitts, Renno; Miss Virginia Alexander, Chester; Percy Harvin, Sumter; W. G. Walker, Rock Hill; Vernon Keys, Rembert; Herman Myers, Sumter; the Rev. W. H. Barnwell, Statesburg; Miss Helen Alston, Greenwood; Miss Helen Alston, Charleston.
It was by this marriage that Mary Frances came to be mistress of Dixie Hall Plantation and to be claimed as a “haint” by an occupant of the Hall, nine years after her death on 12 October, 1979.2
Mary France’s brother Furman is my father. She is the only member of his family that I ever met.
1. The Laurens Advertiser, 7 April, 1915, page 3; http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn93067760/1915-04-07/ed-1/seq-3/
2. The Sumter Daily Item, 12 October, 1979.