Recent Updates: The Cole Plantation is no longer a standing home. Due to structural problems in the roof and the underlying support structure,
the old plantation home of William Love Cole was torn down in the 1960s. The Cole family cemetery is still located at the old plantation homesite. The headstones are laid down level with the ground as shown in this photo. At one time this was probably the largest cotton plantation in Lauderdale Co., MS. and it held the largest slave population in Lauderdale Co. and Eastern Mississippi. According to Jim Barnett and H. Clark Burkett's "Mississippi History Now," in the decades prior to the Civil War, slaves were traded in every town of any size in Mississippi. Natchez was unquestionably the state's most active slave trading city, although substantial slave markets existed at Aberdeen, Crystal Springs, Vicksburg, Woodville and Jackson. Most of the slaves traded in the South arrived via the New Orleans seaport. Another major slave trading center in the South close to Lauderdale County was Selma, Alabama. This slave trading center was actually closer to The Cole Plantation than Natchez. In recent months I have been contacted by many descendants of slaves reportedly from the Cole Plantation with requests for records regarding slaves, family names, etc. I feel compelled to make the following statement to provide a better understanding of the conditions during the pre Civil War era as related to census records and the post Civil War era records survival in Mississippi and in the South. There are some record counts of slaves on the Cole Plantation. However, no names are ever recorded. Just the Race, Sex and age. Not even given names are listed. And Race is recorded because there were other Races held in the slave population beyond black slaves. These include White and Indian primarily. During the Civil War most of the homes, courthouses and records in the South were destroyed by the invading Union Army. A great amount of recorded history vanished and was no longer available for searching out the past as related to land deeds, marriages records, death records, slaves owned, etc. And add to this the fact that a great number of the average citizens living in the South during and after the Civil War could not read or write.....so their records were held in State and County government records offices. This is the main reason that records from the 1860s are so scarce in the South.
The History; William Cole was born September 19, 1800 in North Carolina. He married Harriet Cornelia Ellerbe on June 2 1824 in South Carolina. The Coles moved to Mississippi between the years of 1834-1838 and arrived in Lauderdale County to build their new home. William Cole’s plantation home was that was a double-tiered, double-galleried Carolina-style construction reflecting Federal and Greek revival influences. The Cole's operated a large cotton plantation.at Lizelia (old Daleville, MS.) and slave records indicate that by 1850 William Cole owned 125 slaves. Hewitt Clark's book, " Thunder In Meridian" he states that The Cole Plantation had more slaves than any other in Lauderdale County, MS. At that time the cost of acquiring a slave was $ 800.00 and the plantation had a net worth of $ 140,000.00. In today's market value of the dollar it would be valued at $ 3.75 million dollars.
When the plantation home was built it was said that William Cole made the slaves work in the fields during the day and hew the logs for the his new home at night. The home is described as having a wide hall between the 22 foot square rooms above and below. Each room had four large windows and was nearly 500 square feet in size . Massive chimneys 12 feet wide from the base to the second story and half that from the second story to the roof dominated the east and west side of the house. The wide stairway ascending to the second level was held up by large wooden pins that fastened it to the wall. A latticed passageway extended from the dining room to the kitchen. As in most old plantation homes, the kitchen was detached from the house for protection against the threat of fire which could break out from the kitchen cooking fires. There was an old story told about one of the owners of the Cole home who frequently drank too much. Once during one of these drinking events he rode home on his horse, up the front steps and through the front door and continued on through the house and out through the latticed passageway from the dinning area to the kitchen. Sometime during in the late 1800's the kitchen and dinning area was connected together and the kitchen became a part of the house.
Recent research reveals that by 1858 the Cole Plantation had grown to a size of 3,180 acres and would have covered approximately 5 square miles according to tax records from that period (History Of Daleville, MS., publication No. 84, Patricia Lightsey Davis). In the Civil War this plantation home was commandeered by General Sherman's Union Army as he crossed the South from Vicksburg, MS. on his quest to capture Atlanta and all points in between. Most of these old plantation homes in the South were looted and destroyed by fire after being used by the Union Army as housing and operational headquarters for the officers. The Cole Plantation, along with Merrehope and the F.W. Williams home in Meridian, were three of the few Plantation style homes to survive Sherman's march through Lauderdale County, Mississippi. By the end of the 1800's, The Cole Plantation residence had gained a community reputation for being haunted and was vacant for many years out of fear and superstitions surrounding these stories. Stories of a haunting by a spectral pegleg apparition and various other ghostly apparitions that had become a part of the legend surrounding old The Cole Plantation Home. Somewhere around 1940 my grandparents, John R. Vaughn and Minnie Vaughn bought the Cole residence and 173 acres (all that remained of the original Cole Plantation) from the Federal Land Bank and moved to Lizelia, MS. from their old home in Kemper County which was near the first cabin built by Jim and Mary Vaughn (not the original Indian hut on Walahak Creek). My grandparents lived at The Cole Plantation residence until they passed away. Sometime around 1965, most of the old Cole residence was torn down and reduced in size due to the poor condition of the structure (which by that time was over 125 years old) and the financial strain its upkeep placed on the family. By the late '50s, the home, which had been built of local timber from the late 1830s using pegs and the old square head nails, was rotted beyond recovery for the most part. Today there is a modern home on the original Cole Plantation home-site and only a part of the old plantation home's kitchen remains out behind the modern home. As a boy I lived in this old plantation home from the age of 6 until I was 10 years old. I have many vivid memories about this old plantation residence including the fireplace stories told by my grandfather about the Pegleg Ghost that haunted the old residence. During the years that I lived at the old Cole residence, Mr. M.C. Johnson operated a general store just about 2 blocks west of the Cole home. In those days there were often pedestrians traveling to and from the Johnson store. Especially those who lived nearby and knew about the old plantation history. During the late evening as twilight approached, one would often note that those folks who were walking by the Cole home would cling to the far side of the road, maintaining the greatest distance possible from the darkening silhouette of the old Cole residence, fearful of encountering one of the many ghosts that were reputedly attached to the old home. And with the Cole Cemetery just to the East of the driveway and the slave cemetery next to that, there was ample opportunity for ghosts, at least in the minds of those travelers. And during the few years I lived there as a child, it was uncommon for anyone to be about, outside on the old plantation grounds after dark. The Cole Plantation has become a part of the Vaughn family legacy. Hewitt Clarks "Thunder In Meridian" referenced above is an excellent read on the history of the Meridian and Lauderdale County, MS. area.
The Coles came to Lauderdale County Mississippi between the years of 1834-1838 to build a plantation on 1,000 acres of land purchased from Sam Dale. Their initial home was a cabin (pictured below) built approximate 1 mile east of where the Cole Plantation Home was to be built.
The original Cole Cabin was still standing in the '80s but a recent report says that it has fallen. It is located The Old Cooper residence which is located about a mile East of the Cole Residence site. William Cole died on November 10 1866 and it is not certain where he is buried. There is a Cole family cemetery located next to the old big oak tree about 80 yards east of the Cole Plantation House (see the Cole Plantation Family Cemetery Link at top right of page). The outlaw Tommy Wilson's body was buried there in an unmarked grave. There is a large slave cemetery about 100 years further to the East-North East of the Cole Family Cemetery. Stories related that there were several unmarked graves in that cemetery that contain the murdered victims of the robberies that occurred at the old plantation in the late 1800's.
There are at least two buried gold legends about The Cole Plantation. One is about an outlaw who lived at the plantation in the late 1800's where killings and robberies are said to have occurred during that period. These stories tie into information related by my Grandfather that the old Cole Plantation residence served as a stage stop and a hotel during the late 1800s along the old road that ran between Mobile and Daleville and to other points between and beyond. The stories stated that people staying overnight at the old Plantation were sometimes robbed and murdered and then buried in an unmarked grave in the Cole cemetery. After doing some lengthy research I have discovered more specific information on these Cole Plantation Ghost stories as related by an old African American farmer named Moses and written by Jack Giles in a book titled "Mississippi Treasure Legends Waiting To Be Discovered."
The following story is the preview excerpt out of "Incredible Discoveries Awaiting Discovery " by Jack Giles. This is a great book about legends of lost and buried treasure in and around East Central Mississippi. I heard many of these stories while growing up around Lizelia and Lockhart, MS. It's an excellent read and I recommend it. . The book can be purchased from Amazon.com in paperback or the online reading library at this link; Amazon.Com-Jack Giles.
The Cole Plantation & The Legend Of The Pegleg Ghost
Lizelia Gold - The First Treasure Legend
A strongbox filled with gold coins is reputed to be buried in Lizelia, Mississippi. This old community is located twelve miles north of Meridian, Mississippi, on Highway Thirty-Nine and used to be known as Daleville, MS. The front gate of the Naval Air Station lies just three miles East of the serene village. The story is written by Jack Giles, a native of the area and is based on a story as told by an elderly African American farmer named Moses to Jack Giles as a young boy as Moses drank water from a fruit jar down in the plowing field while sitting beneath an old red oak tree. The story had been told to Moses by his grandfather, Andrew who had raised Moses as a father. The story goes; "In the late 1800s, a man calling himself by the name of Tommy Wilson (no doubt an assumed name) arrived in a covered wagon. He and a female companion moved into the William Cole home in Lizelia. How this came to be is not known. Citizens about sixty years of age remember the magnificent house. The edifice was a double-tiered, double-galleried plantation home. An enormous stately water oak tree stood in the front yard of the home place. There were very few trees in the area as large as this one. It was common knowledge among the neighbors that a mysterious treasure was buried under the giant oak. The legend includes the suggestion that Tommy was an outlaw on the run. During his last robbery, Tom was shot just above one of his knees. This allegedly happened in Arkansas or Southern Missouri. Due to a lack of proper medical care, the wound became infected during his getaway. By the time the couple arrived in Lizelia, the bandit was a very sick man. An early winter had come to Mississippi that year. A brisk wind blew out of the north and sleet and snow threatened to cover the ground as the couple disembarked from their wagon. By this time the old thief had become paranoid and was constantly looking over his shoulder.
There was no barn for the horses and no kind of covering for the wagon. The animals were sheltered in a thicket of evergreen trees. Because he had been seized by fear, the fugitive refused to keep the stolen money in their house. As darkness fled with breaking of the day, so did Wilson's sanity. Delirium owned his mind for many days. Mental confusion and clouded consciousness, which were marked by anxiety, hallucinations, and incoherence, were fueled by poison in his body and soul alike. The nearest doctor was thirteen miles away in Meridian. It took a full day to get the doctor to the patient, who by this time was near death. The only hope of saving Wilson was to amputate his leg immediately. The surgery was prompt, but it was two weeks before it was clear that the villain would live.
The weather was extremely inclement for many weeks during this ordeal. The ground was covered by sleet and snow for a solid month. Slush and red mud made travel a nightmare for three months. The old criminal's mind seemed to have been jaded by the trauma involving the loss of his limb. Never would he have any memory of the events that took place the night of their arrival. Enough gold had been removed from the box before it was hidden to last Wilson and his female companion for perhaps a year. When the ground finally dried out, there was no evidence that a hole had been dug anywhere in the yard.
Months after Tommy's strength returned, he was fitted with a wooden leg. This having been done, he would limp all over the property hoping to have some recollection of what he had done with the stolen money. Witnesses observed that the grief exhibited by the old outlaw was similar to the displayed emotion that occurs with the traumatic loss of a loved one. Wilson was awakened at daybreak one morning with six pistols in his face. Tradition says that Wilson had slipped away at night with a huge amount of accumulated loot that belonged to his entire gang.
The anger of the unsavory band was at a fever pitch when they finally tracked down their betrayer. The one-legged man was dragged from his upstairs bedroom out to the front lawn. The livid group quickly assumed the mentality of a mob. In their frenzy, Tom was horribly abused in an effort to make him talk. They did not understand that the pathetic bandit could not tell them what they wanted to know. An inflamed pack of human wolves devoured one of their own that morning.
A long time ago, Jesus Christ said, "He, who lives by the sword, will die by the sword." The house was ransacked by the brutish bunch before they skulked back to the lair from which they came. The executed man's female friend also disappeared that day. The corpse of the crook was quickly buried on the east side of the house. Kindly neighbors who interred the body declared that a powerful aura of evil was so evident both in the house and on the outside that everyone departed as quickly as possible. The victims wooden leg was left upstairs by the hastily leaving grave diggers. Sometime after this, the claims of frequent apparition manifestations began and these served to evoked fear in the heart of folks for miles around. These alleged ghost sightings led to fireside discussions and conjecture by those who lived nearby, thus adding fuel to the legend that became known as The Pedleg Ghost of The Cole Plantation. Few ever dared to search for the considerably large amount of coins. Myth indicates that ghosts have always guarded the concealed stash. Those eager to find the Lizelia gold should be prepared to encounter a presence that will challenge their rationality. Something from beyond the depths of our imagination and explanation. To read the rest of this story, be sure to get Jack Giles book on this and other accounts of lost and buried treasures in East central Mississippi titled " Incredible Discoveries Awaiting Discovery " from your local bookstore or Amazon .com.
|The Cole Plantation Residence Cira 1944|
The Cole Plantation was considered haunted for generations and brave souls who dared to venture into the house after dark declared adamantly that the artificial leg could be heard walking around in the upstairs. Others have claimed that on nights when the moon was full, an eerie spectral apparition would often manifest. A stooped old man, lantern in one hand and a make-shift crutch under the other arm hobbling along on a pegleg, was said to be not an uncommon sight on such nights. Today the grounds around the old Cole plantation residence and graveyard are still considered by many to be a place where one should be wary regarding the Pegleg Ghost legend and everyone in the community of Lizelia, MS. is aware of this ghost legend.
The Cole Plantation Treasure (The Second Treasure Legend)
Looking back on the part of the story about the outlaw's pegleg being returned to the upstairs bedroom after he was buried makes me wonder what ever happened to that pegleg. Just the thought of a pegleg clumping around the old hardwood floors upstairs and coming down the old wide stairwell served to evoke a gripping fear inside me and my sister while growing up during the 1950s. I remember how dark the old great hall downstairs was after the sun went down and at the back of the house where the stairway ascended into the very dark second level of the old plantation home. This was a fearful place that I avoided on purpose during late evening and nighttime. No one would want to find themselves standing at the foot of the stairway looking up into that black void of the second floor where only a ghost would be. Even today I remember seeing some unexplained things that happened about the old Cole residence. At least unexplained to me as a pre-teenager. And I remember the old carriage house on the east side of the Cole home which held many mysteries. An old wagon, all sorts of tools and various farm equipment along with unused house furnishings, bottles and crockery and early automobile parts. It was crammed full with so many items it now seems likely the pegleg was sure to be there in that old carriage house. I remember carefully exploring the old carriage house with wonder, being cautious not to disturb any imagined ghosts that might be lurking within. Looking back today it seems a high probability that the old carriage house held the outlaw's pegleg secreted away in some corner or up on top of a boarded area across the rafters above the carriage house floor. And somewhere deep inside a distant memory lurks a vague and fearful thought that I once saw that pegleg, somewhere on the premises of the old Cole Plantation. A thought that even today makes me a little nervous. Somehow, over the years the stories of the buried treasure, the pegleg outlaw, the haunted plantation home and William Cole became merged into the same story and the pegleg ghost became William Cole who we referred to as Colonel Cole and often as Pegleg Cole.
New Update to this story: Until recently there was no proof that William Cole had only one leg. Through my sister's (Lynn Till) research, she has made the following discoveries about William Cole. A notarized letter written by Mr. Love Cole (son of William Cole) on Sept. 27, 1865 addressed "To His Excellency Hon Andrew Johnson, President of the United States. In the letter there was a request for amnesty to William Cole. This letter speaks of William Cole's health condition including an amputated leg. In the first paragraph it relates that William Cole voted against succession in the convention of 1851 when John A. Quitman was governor of Mississippi. William Cole was a delegate at the convention for succession from the Union. The letter was well constructed and Love Cole was apparently very well educated to write a letter like this. It is surmised that William Cole, a man of means and wealth would most likely have a prosthetic limb to replace the amputated leg. So the conclusion is that William Cole had a pedleg and the legend and story around The Cole Plantation and Pegleg Cole have merit. Additional information was discovered on a military site about William Cole. There is a Confederate citizen file consisting of twenty plus pages with records that he was supplying the confederacy with thousands of dollars worth of cotton, corn, fodder and mules.
I can still vividly remember the old plantation home, its floor plan and all the features of the house. They are indelibly marked in my memory. The family gatherings on Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer vacation holidays when we would all gather as a family with my Grandparents in that large plantation style dining room to celebrate the holiday feast together . The long table with the bench seating on either side accommodated as many as eighteen people at the one table. I am certain that this table was the original table for the Cole Plantation. Those were the days that holidays brought the family together as one. The ground to roof trellises on either side of the front porch where ancient climbing red roses reached to the roof of the old home are shown in the photo above.
Today there are many African Americians living in the area who carry the Cole name. Most of these have roots that connect them as the decendants of The Cole Plantation slaves.
|John R. & Minnie Vaughn|
John R. Vaughn is my Grandfather and his Grandparents are Jim and Mary Vaughn, the pioneers of the "Hewers Of The Wilderness" story. They purchased the Cole Plantation residence in about 1940 along with 173 acres which is what remained out of the original 1,000 acres and this became their home in Lauderdale County, MS.
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