Work in Progress


During the second week of August, 1891, relatives of Mr. Gilbert were turned away at the door when they attempted to visit Mrs. Gilbert and her infant daughter, three months of age. Mr. Gilbert’s mother attempted repeated visits, only to be told that Mrs. Gilbert was resting and the infant, who was colicky, was sleeping. Mrs. Gilbert became so concerned about her daughter-in-law’s condition that she went to the sheriff. The sheriff’s men had to restrain Gilbert in order to enter the house. There was no trace of Gilbert’s wife or child. Gilbert insisted that his wife was an unearthly creature whose skin took on a green hue at the full moon, that the child had the same condition, and that his wife had “gone home to be with her family under the hill.” No relatives of Gilbert’s wife could be located. Gilbert, clearly under the effect of lunacy induced by alcohol, has been committed to the state asylum for men. His mother expressed dismay, saying that her son had worked round the clock to enlarge and improve his home before the birth of the child. She has posted a reward of five hundred dollars for any confirmed information of the whereabouts of her daughter-in-law and granddaughter. (Local Newspaper, 1891)

The farmhouse remained in the Gilbert family until the mid-1960s, when the last Gilbert died. No one in the family ever lived in the house after the scandal of 1891. A buyer sued the Gilbert family in 1915, asserting that the house was beset by spirits and uninhabitable. Subsequent renters stayed less than a year. Eventually, the wisteria and infernal kudzu combined with the elements to drag down the abandoned house. I watched its slow decline from the time I was a child. The house had finally died in the last round of August thunderstorms. The roof had folded in on itself and the chimney collapsed.

I stood in the weedy, red clay yard with the man who had bought the abandoned property at auction. The house’s unique piled-stone foundation and stone stairs remained. I was determined to build a new house on the foundations of the old wreck.


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