History & Hauntings of the Bruce Mansion
By Chris Bailey of Grimstone Inc.
The Burnside Township was originally settled in 1854 after being organized in 1853. The first settler, William Brown, arrived in Burnside in 1854. The area was primarily agricultural with the exception of Deanville, which was a thriving lumber center.
The property on which the Bruce Mansion rests was originally owned by Franklin Emery, purchased on August 29th, 1856. However, he entered service August 22nd, 1861 as Sergeant Company G Seventh Infantry Second Lieutenant. He was killed in action at Fredericksburg, VA on December 11th, 1862.
The property then passed hands to J. Gunn in 1863. During this time, During the time Gunn owned the land, John G. Bruce opened the Bruce and Webster General Merchants with his brother-in-law. He was also the Burnside postmaster for 16 years. Eventually, Gunn sold the farm to Bruce in 1874. The Bruce Mansion was then erected in 1876. The Victorian Italianate home was a rare example of Second Empire style in the county.
The area though was not without tragedy. Fires became a huge problem for the township. The great fire of 1881 destroyed a good deal of the built township. While the Bruce Mansion must have been spared, fire in 1894 claimed Bruce’s original store. He then rebuilt the establishment out of brick. Upon his retirement, he sold the store to Phineas White and Kirk Williams who renamed it the Burnside Mercantile.
The house during this time was also used by some as the local funeral home. The bodies of family members and friends who passed on, were viewed at the mansion before going to their final resting places. The body maintaining its brief stay in the parlor or enclosed front porch.
The home eventually left the Bruce Family and was acquired by Cynthia Smith. Cynthia maintained the property until she died in the house from “Fever” in 1921. It was willed to her son, Frank. Frank Smith did not keep it, selling it to Lambart Bowman Cowell in 1922.
The home changed hands numerous times in the 1920s. Five more owners took possession of it in succession during this time. This included John Walker in 1926. He died of “unknown” reasons on the property. One of the most interesting stories about the Bruce Mansion aligns near this time. One owner was said to have been taking the back roads in his automobile when he hit a pedestrian. Terrified at what he had done, he took the body back to the Bruce and buried it somewhere on the estate. Some say the ghost of the victim, others simply guilt, caused the man to lose his fortune and drive him to hang himself in the old bell tower. Perhaps this is Mr. Walker and the reason for his short stay.
John and Sarah “Sadie” Homer took ownership of the property in 1929. Due to issues with the state, they lost the land, only to reacquire it in 1945. Sadie however passes on. The home in 1953 sees its way to Albert Martus. Albert passed away “in State”. It was written “Death Caused Either By Pneumonia and or Cerebral Hemorrhage Due to Paralysis.”
The home though stays in the Martus family, going to Albert’s son Carl. Carl and Betty Martus keep the property until 1998 and in 2001, Marvin and Tammy Martus acquire it. They stay until 2007.
Today, the Waite’s own this lasting piece of history and perhaps all the passed away occupants as well.
From the reported stories and our own investigation, there are a number of unique phenomenons. One of the first we have noticed is that caught EVPS tend to mimic, especially on the second floor. Recorded conversations sometimes have an extra participant repeating back phrases or sentences. On the third floor, a female voice has been recorded speaking small phrases.
The basement though is different. While the property owners have seen a shadow of a man moving in the coal room, there have also been growls in one section of the basement. It has occurred on a few times when someone new has been in the house with them. They say the growls sound to be either large dog or bear sounding.
On a gentler note, a feline visitor has been seen on the main floor. It has actually brushed one of the property owner’s legs, folding over the material of her jeans before disappearing. Its meows are sometimes heard.
They also believe a little girl is present on the second and third floor. A few friends have taken photos in which you can see a silhouette. I am currently obtaining copies of the photos for review. The property owners out of curiousity have left small objects and read stories to her upstairs. The last time they did so, they audio recorded the event. When playing back the recorder, you can hear the noises of the room, even the pages turning in the book, however their voice is strangely muffled.
One of the most unique reported events was when they acquired the home. They started cleaning up the property when one noticed a woman in a long dress and yellow bonnet approach the house. Her most striking feature was a long slender neck. She disappeared when reaching the front steps. Later, they acquired an old photo of the property showing a party with several guests out front. Standing in the middle was this same woman.