by Jennifer Ward
The Myrtles Home & Former Plantation
Deep in the heart of St. Francisville, Louisiana, lies one of the most haunted homes in the United States—The Myrtles. The former plantation and home were built in 1796 by General David Bradford. In the early 1800s, it was common to find plantations along the Mississippi, and The Myrtles was one of them. For some, plantations were a significant source of income. They produced a supply of cash crops at the expense of those enslaved. Tragically, plantations were also a place of death and despair for many others. It’s a dark chapter in American history, filled with brutality and inhumane conditions.
The Creole—style architecture (seen above) shows the stark contrast between the rich and poor—those with freedom and those without it. The image above also reveals a wide porch, which wraps around the entire house. Wrap-around porches, commonly seen in the south, are also known as galleries. Residents would often use them as walkways to move from one part of the house to another. The exterior of the house features intricate ironwork framing the porch and a row of large windows. But beneath that beautiful facade lies an ugly past that has continued to haunt the place for centuries.
During the early 1800s, Judge Clarke Woodruff and his wife Sarah Bradford moved to The Myrtles to help her mother take care of the place. While the couple lived there, they had three children—Cornelia, James, and Mary. At first, it seemed like the ideal place to raise a family and build a life together; however, things did not go as planned.
The Tragic Story of Chloe
Judge Woodruff, a respected man in the community, had another side that wouldn’t have been praised. He was also a womanizer. While married to his wife Sarah, he had several affairs with various women—many of whom were servants and enslaved people at The Myrtles. In those days, female servants did not have much choice if they wanted to keep their jobs. One of his mistresses, Chloe (also a house servant), was likely forced into this adulterous situation, rather than deciding of her own free will.
As time passed, the affair between Judge Woodruff and Chloe ended. Chloe felt she was not liked and feared that she would be sent to work in the fields instead. Working inside the home at The Myrtles was probably as close to freedom as she might have been able to get. Even though she was probably unhappy there, working inside the home was a better option.
Chloe continued to wonder why Judge Woodruff wasn’t happy with her. To ease her anxiety, she listened to a conversation between Judge Woodruff and his wife, Sarah. However, Chloe was caught one day with her ear firmly pressed on the closed door. And as punishment for eavesdropping, her left ear was cut off. After this, it was thought that Chloe might have been searching for a way to redeem herself.
One day while the Judge was out of town, Chloe was ordered to bake a birthday cake for the oldest daughter, Cornelia. During the preparation, Chloe put pieces from an oleander plant in the batter. If you are unfamiliar with this plant, it is very poisonous. It contains chemicals that can slow a person’s heart rate and cause seizures or even death. Believe it or not, the consumption of a single leaf might be fatal.
Rumor has it that Chloe only attempted to make the children ill to get the approval of the Judge. If they were sick, she could restore their health and be seen as a savior. But things didn’t work out like Chloe had hoped. Later, she watched as the children and Sarah ate the poisoned birthday cake and died. According to death certificates, the mother and children died of yellow fever. However, no one can be certain since written public records at that time were often unreliable.
When the other servants found out what happened, they feared they would be blamed too. They removed Chloe from the house at once, dragged her to a nearby tree, and hanged her. After she was killed, her body was thrown into the Mississippi River. Tragically, that’s where Chloe’s life ends. But her story and spirit remain alive to this day.
Visiting The Myrtles
Today, the property operates as a B&B, offering daily home tours. You can book day, evening, and private sessions, but the complimentary tours are self-guided. Their restaurant, 1796, is on the property as well. They offer patrons classic cocktails and weekly specials.
I have mixed feelings about visiting a place that holds so much suffering. It’s very sad, and I’m not sure I want to surround myself with that. But at the same time, the house and its 10 acres are stunning. Maybe I will visit The Myrtles someday on a long road trip from New York.
Over the years, sightings of Chloe have been photographed and seen in person on the property. The Myrtles is rumored to have many other ghosts roaming the grounds too. Each has a story, but none seems as sad and intriguing as Chloe’s tragic tale.
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