Castalian Springs is a quiet little community in Sumner County that many Tennesseans had probably never heard of until the tornado outbreak on Feb. 5, 2008, which resulted in eight deaths there. Wynnewood, possibly the largest log structure ever built in Tennessee and once a stage coach inn and later mineral springs resort, was seriously damaged. Another historical treasure, Cragfont
, survived intact and remains open.
James and George Winchester arrived in the Cumberland settlements in 1785, a full decade before the state of Tennessee came into existence. The brothers built a log house and named it Cragfont in honor of its location on a high bluff. In 1794, George Winchester was killed by Indians near what is now Gallatin, and James went on to build a magnificent manor house with his wife, Susan.
The current Cragfont was completed in 1802, and the magnificent home, considered by many to be the finest house west of the Appalachians at that time, was a center of Tennessee society for many years. With a ballroom on the second floor, the first in Tennessee, Cragfont entertained such notables as Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston. It also saw quite a bit of political life as well, as Winchester was the first speaker of the Tennessee State Senate and a city planner, founder of such cities as Cairo and Memphis.
Winchester lived at Cragfont until his death on July 26, 1826, and Susan continued to reside in the house on the bluff until she passed away Dec. 7, 1864, at which time George Washington Winchester, the youngest child, was forced to sell the property. It then changed hands several times before being purchased by the State of Tennessee in 1958. Since then, the home has been restored, a caretakers cabin has been built, and the property is open for tours from April through October.
Cragfont, a beautiful and little-known piece of Tennessee history, is also haunted. Caretakers through the years have reported objects moved, candles lit, full-bodied apparitions seen, beds disturbed and more, and this is all after the property is locked up for the night. Pictures and video have been taken of activity in the house when it's locked, and firsthand accounts abound.
One person who experienced the ghost of Cragfont personally was country entertainer Conway Twitty. Twitty was known for his interest in ghosts and the paranormal, and he asked to spend some time in the home. After a couple of hours, he left, saying things had been thrown at him and whatever was in there didn't want him there as well.
The caretaker's cabin is also believed to be haunted, but it is not open to the public.
Cragfont is open Tuesday through Saturday from April 15-November 1.