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Ghost of Bellamy Bridge
Legend holds that the ghost
of a young bride sometimes
appears at Bellamy Bridge
near Marianna, Florida.
Bellamy Mansion
Samuel Bellamy built this
elegant Marianna home after
Elizabeth's death. Sadly, it no
longer stands.
The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge - Marianna, Florida
The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge - Marianna, Florida
The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge - Marianna, Florida
Bellamy Bridge
This Florida landmark is the setting for one of the
state's best known ghost stories. One of the oldest
surviving bridges in Florida, it was built in 1914.
A Northwest Florida Ghost Story
The story of the ghost of Bellamy Bridge is
probably Florida's most famous ghost story.
It is centered around an old steel frame
bridge that spans the Chipola River in the
swamps north of Marianna.

The legend holds that the restless ghost of a
young woman named Elizabeth Jane
Bellamy roams the swamps around the
bridge on dark and foggy nights.  The wife of
one of Florida's key antebellum economic
and political leaders, she is buried in an
overgrown family cemetery not far from the
skeletal remains of the old bridge.

Bellamy Bridge is not accessible by car, but
can be reached via the 1/2 mile Bellamy
Bridge Heritage Trail on Highway 162 north
of Marianna. The trail parking area is 1/10 of
a mile west of the current Chipola River
bridge. The trail is open during daylight hours.

The story of the ghost of Bellamy Bridge is
really a tale of two stories. The first is the
story of the ghost, a legend that has evolved
over more than 100 years of time. The other
is the true story of Elizabeth Jane Bellamy,
which is far removed from the legendary tale.
When the two stories are combined, they
create a unique lesson in how real history
can join with fiction to create popular folklore.

Let's start with the legend.  It holds that
Elizabeth was the beautiful young bride of a
prominent Jackson County planter, politician
and bank examiner named Dr. Samuel C.
Bellamy. The two were deeply in love and
planned for their wedding to take place in the
back yard of a beautiful mansion that Dr.
Bellamy supposedly built for his wife-to-be in
nearby Marianna.

The wedding is said to have been a
remarkable affair, attracting guests and gifts
from as far away as Europe. The two were
wed in a garden of roses and in their vows
each promised to love the other forever.

In the hours following the wedding, however,
story tellers hold that a horrible tragedy struck
the young couple. Elizabeth, they say, was
either dancing with her new husband or
resting upstairs in a comfortable chair (the
stories vary) when her long gown suddenly
came in contact with either a candle or an
open fireplace. The rich material burst into
flames and, before her husband or any of
their guests could react, Elizabeth ran
screaming from the house. Overcome by the
flames, she was horribly injured.

The young woman survived for a few days,
writhing in incredible agony, before finding
peace in the arms of death. Her body was
taken to the plantation of Samuel's brother,
Dr. Edward C. Bellamy, and laid to rest in a
grove of trees near the Chipola River. The
legend holds, however, that the grave was
unable to contain her love for her lost
husband. A spectral figure dressed in white
began to appear at night along the banks of
the river. In later years, when Bellamy Bridge
was built at the site, her ghost was often
seen in the swamps surrounding it.

It is a fascinating tale, but Is it true?  That's
been a question for years and the answer is
just as colorful and tragic as the ghost story
itself.

Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy were real
people. He was the son of a wealthy planter
and she was the daughter of General William
Croom. They grew up near each other in
North Carolina, but she was still a young girl
when he left home to study medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania.

Their courtship apparently began at about the
time that Samuel's older brother, Edward,
married Elizabeth's older sister, Ann. Even
though Samuel was 9 years her elder, the
two families approved of the match and
records verify that the two were married on
July 15, 1834 - in North Carolina and three
years before the supposed Florida wedding
and fire!

Both the Croom and Bellamy families took
great interest in the vast lands available for
settlement in the new Territory of Florida.
Elizabeth's brother, Dr. Hardy Bryan Croom,
was already living in Florida and it was not
long before the two Bellamy brothers and
their wives decided to relocate to the territory
as well.

Edward and Ann purchased the Fort
plantation where Bellamy Bridge stands
today, while Samuel and Elizabeth acquired
land they called the Rock Cave Plantation
along Baker Creek a few miles northwest of
Marianna. They lived there with their young
son, Alexander, and more than 80 African
slaves they had brought with them from North
Carolina.

The lands along the Chipola River and Baker
Creek were ideal for growing cotton and
sugar cane and the plantations prospered.
The swamps, however, were also breeding
grounds for mosquitoes. Sicknesses such
as malaria and yellow fever plagued the early
settlers of the area and it was from fever, not
fire, that Elizabeth met her death.

Samuel's letters and an obituary in the
Tallahassee
Floridian indicate that she died
from fever on May 11, 1837. She was only 18
years old at the time.

It is likely that Elizabeth was being cared for
by her sister, Ann, when she died. She was
laid to rest in a grove of trees near the site
where Bellamy Bridge stands today. One
week later, her young son Alexander also
died from fever and was buried by her side.

Samuel Bellamy never remarried and the old
legend is correct in its assertion that he
mourned for his wife the rest of his life.
Bellamy Bridge
The historic bridge is no
longer accessible by land, but
spans the Chipola River north
of Marianna. The river is a
popular canoe trail.
Copyright 2010 & 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: October 26, 2013
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Ghosts & Monsters of the South
He went on to serve as a delegate to
Florida's Constitutional Convention, as Clerk
of Courts for Jackson County and as
Secretary for the Florida Supreme Court. He
took his own life in 1853 by cutting his throat
with a razor at Chattahoochee, Florida.

The massive mansion that legend holds he
built for his young bride did not stand during
her lifetime, but was started nine months
after her death. It was demolished during the
20th century and survives today only in faded
photographs.

So how did a ghost story about a woman
burning to death on her wedding night evolve
from the true story of a young wife who died
from fever when she was 18 years old? The
answer to that question is as fascinating as
the legend itself.

During the final days of her life, the famed
19th century novelist Caroline Lee Hentz lived
in Marianna. As time passed, people began
to associate the places described in her
novels with real places in Jackson County.
Her "Long Moss Spring," for example, is now
commonly associated with Blue Springs,
even though she wrote about her spring well
before she moved to Marianna.

In her book
Ernest Linwood, or the Long Moss
Spring
, Hentz described a tragic wedding
night incident in which a young slave woman
was severely burned after her dress came
into contact with an open flame. She died
from her injuries and her ghost soon began
to appear in the area of her grave. The home
in which the tragedy took place was called
the "Bellamy plantation" in the book.

Ernest Linwood, the author noted in the
preface, was based on real events, but the
fire that claimed the young bride's life took
place in Columbus, Georgia, not in Jackson
County, Florida.  And the unfortunate bride
was not Elizabeth Jane Bellamy, but a young
slave woman who was given a large
wedding in the "big house" because her
mistress held her in high regard.

Caroline Lee Hentz died in Marianna and is
buried at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Over
time people came to believe that all of her
books were based in Jackson County. The
story of the wedding night fire on the "Bellamy
plantation" came to be associated with
Bellamy Bridge and the lonely graves of
Elizabeth Jane Bellamy and her child.
Click
here to read more of the real story!

As time passed, people forgot almost entirely
about Caroline Lee Hentz and her books, but
the ghost story and the legend of the tragic
wedding night fire survived. In short, the
ghost story grew from a novel based on real
events that took place in another state! The
tale became superimposed on a completely
different family in Florida, making it a unique
literary and cultural artifact.

None of this means, of course, that there is
not a ghost at Bellamy Bridge. The true story
of Elizabeth Bellamy's life and her tragic
death from fever just one week before the
death of her child is more than sufficient to
serve as the basis of a ghost story.

Many people, in fact, claim to have seen a
ghost in the vicinity of Bellamy Bridge. Their
descriptions of the ghost vary. Some have
seen a ball of fire that descends from the air
straight down through the framework of the
old bridge. Others say that mysterious white
lights appear in the surrounding swamp at
night. And still others describe the ghostly
figure of a young woman they have seen
walking through the swamps on the west
side of the bridge.

Please click here to see a photograph of the
"ghost" of Bellamy Bridge.

The Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail, a 1/2 mile
walking path that leads to the historic bridge,
is located at 4057 Highway 162, Marianna,
Florida (between Greenwood & US 231), just
1/10th of a mile west of the Chipola River. It
is free to visit.

To learn more about the trail, please visit
www.bellamybridge.org.
The Real Ghost?
Is the mist visible in the lower
right corner of this photo the
real ghost of Bellamy Bridge?
Click the photo for a closer
look.
Historic Bellamy Bridge
The old steel-frame bridge is
the second oldest bridge of
its type in Florida and one of
the ten oldest bridges in the
state.
Creator of a Legend?
The story of a young bride
losing her life in a wedding
night fire actually originated in
a novel by Caroline Lee Hentz.
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You can schedule a free tour of the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail by calling (850) 482-8061 or
emailing
info@visitjacksoncountyfla.com.