On a cold, stormy night 150 years ago, former captain of the Confederate army and deserter, Newton Knight, made his way to the home of Amos Deason with treacherous intentions.
Knight was the leader of a band of deserters in Jones County, Miss., known to some as the Leaf River Rowdies. After the Confederate government passed a law that allowed men who owned 20 slaves or more to avoid the draft, Knight abandoned what he believed to be a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”
He and his followers returned to Jones County, where they managed their farms in secrecy, visited with family, and according to legend, conduct raids on trains headed to and from Mobile, Ala.
Knight and his gang would hide in caves, deep within the swamps of the Leaf River. Their main hideout became known as the Devil’s Den. Eventually the Confederate army sent Major Amos McLemore and his men to Jones County to take care of the Rowdies.
McLemore was a native of Jones County and as such he was familiar with the terrain. Consequently, he was enjoying moderate success in rounding up Knight’s men. The Rowdies decided that something had to be done about Major McLemore.
The major was staying at the home of Amos and Eleanor Deason, loyal Confederates and friends of McLemore. Deason himself was a fairly affluent citizen of Jones County and a member of the state congress.
As Southern custom had it, the guest would reside in the best room of the house. So while Deason and his wife were forced to stay in the attic, McLemore and his companions were in the Deason master bedroom, discussing plans for the next day.
On the night of Oct. 3, 1863, Knight and two of his men made their way through the chilly autumn rain until they came to the house of Amos Deason. The men drew straws to see who would have the honor of shooting McLemore. Knight didn’t draw the winning straw, but seeing the man who won had never killed a man before, Knight declared he would do it himself.
The door to the Deason’s bedroom opened to the porch, which at that time partially wrapped around the house and its four rooms. Initially, Knight tried to get a shot from the window, but he realized he couldn’t get a good shot. But, he did identify who and where his target was.
Knight climbed onto the porch, swung open the door and shot McLemore at point-blank range. He then ran off into the woods before McLemore’s companions could catch him.
McLemore fell to the floor in a spreading pool of blood. Some said he gasped, “I’m killed!” as his body collapsed. But he didn’t die in the Deason home. Rather, he died a couple of days later and was buried just south of Estabuchie, Miss.
Eleanor Deason tried to scrub the blood off of the floor, but the stain continued to reappear every time it rained. It’s said their servants brought sandstones from the creek to try to sand the wood down, but no amount of sanding or scrubbing could prevent McLemore’s blood from reappearing on the pine floor.
Since then, new flooring has been added, but many believe that if the new hardwood floors were removed, the stain would still be there.
Though the stain was hidden, nothing could be done about how each year, on the anniversary of McLemore’s murder, the door to the Deason’s bedroom mysteriously swings open, as though Newt Knight’s ghost had returned.
This is just one of several hauntings at the Deason Home, now on the National Register of Historic Places. The home, completed in about 1847, is allegedly the home of eight spirits – three children and five adults, according to Frances Murphy, president of the Tallahala Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Murphy, whose ancestors the home is named for, spoke of a number of ghost sightings and paranormal experiences at the home. One such ghost sighting involved a woman who witnessed a female spirit roaming the hallway.
“It was so vivid that she could see the weave of the fabric of her dress,” Murphy said. “She was in a long, full dress, and she kind of glided into [a] room.”
Murphy also said years ago, when Mason Elementary School across the street was open, children would be spotted in the windows of the Deason Home. This wouldn’t be so unusual if it were not for the fact that no one had been living in the house for years.
“Kids then and now have always wondered who the children in the window were,” Murphy said. “They would see children looking out the windows at them.”
Perhaps the creepiest aspect of the house is even though new flooring covers over the bloodstain, evidence of the murder remains. Beneath the Deason’s bedroom, which is now called the “murder room,” there is what appears to be a stain on the joist supporting the house. It is possible that McLemore’s blood seeped through the wood and dripped down the joist, permanently staining it.
From a foul-mouthed ghost to a chair that rocks by itself, the house has had multiple paranormal activities. Even now, visitors said even if they don’t experience spirits, they have an eerie feeling when in the Deason Home.
Murphy and the Tallahala Chapter of the DAR are inviting everyone to visit the home on Halloween night. The house will be open Thursday, Oct. 31, from 5-10 p.m. and admission to the house is $5. Tours of the house will be available upon request. Who knows? Maybe visitors will witness firsthand the lingering spirit of Major Amos J. McLemore.