The Hysell-Wilson-Garrette Home on Main Street was built prior to the Civil War. Some accounts say there was a home on the property as early as 1841, but more accurate estimates put the current house as around 1856.
Whatever the original date may be, we do know that an early resident of the home was Dr. James H. Hysell. Hysell was born in Meigs County, Ohio in 1837. After attending preparatory school at the then Marshall Academy, Hysell went on to graduate from the Ohio Medical College in Cincinnati, Ohio, and obtain his actual MD status from the University of Buffalo, in Buffalo, NY around 1861.
Dr. Hysell returned to what was then western Virginia, and along with his brother, settled in Guyandotte. During the year of 1861, Guyandotte served as a Union recruitment camp, although the town was largely of Confederate sympathies. Hysell was a Union sympathizer…at least that is what is believed. However, others say that his Union sympathies were really of an opportunistic nature. During the onset of the Civil War in America, the nation’s army lost over 27 of its 115 army surgeons to the Confederacy. Dr. Hysell enlisted immediately and quickly rose through the ranks to the position of Major.
After the war, Hysell returned once again to Guyandotte, where he married Mary Luella Hayslip, in 1864. The Hayslips were a prominent early family in Guyandotte, and together, the two lived in the grandiose structure which now sits on the corner of Main Street.
Perhaps due to Hysell’s Union sympathies, and perhaps in part due to the fact that the home was spared during the burning of Guyandotte by Union troops, rumors of a hidden tunnel leading from the house’s basement to the Methodist Church across the street are still discussed, both in books and in oral tradition. These tunnels are said to have been used as part of the Underground Railroad.
Unfortunately, such rumors are historically unfounded. Local historians have shown that the alleged entrance to the tunnel from the basement, is simply a bricked over cellar, not uncommon for the time period. The church, as well, denies all claims of a tunnel. At the time of the war, it was the site of the southern Methodist. When it was destroyed by overuse as a commissary by Union troops, the present church was built on its foundation, but no mention of a tunnel or tunnel system every surfaced.
In any event, Hysell operated an office down the street, and around 1867, served on the board of Supervisors at Marshall College. By 1874, the Hysells packed up and moved to Ohio, and the home was sold for a measly sum of $1000. Dr. James Hysell passed away in Ohio in 1905 from malaria, which he contracted while serving in the Spanish American War. Throughout the years, however, Hysell remained connected with the town of Guyandotte, as his niece Anna, and her husband, Canadian-born William Henry Wilson moved into the home.
Wilson was a renowned lumberman who took over the Guyandotte Mills. Under Wilson’s authority, Guyandotte continued to be known for its lumber industry. With that lumber money, Wilson made many improvements and alterations to the house, including a new roof in 1910.
Wilson died on February 1, 1925. He was the third member of his family to die within a year’s time. His wife, Anna, continued to live in the home until her death in the 1940s. During the 1937 flood that ravaged the Ohio Valley, Anna Wilson became the object of legend…a legend that exists to this day.
Several days before the 1937 rains came, Anna Hysell Wilson desperately warned her neighbors to move all furniture and valuables to the upper levels of their homes. Some ignored her warnings of impending doom, writing her off as a crazy lady. However, when the flood waters quickly arose past the first floors of many homes, Anna was prepared. Camped out in the second story of her home, complete with supplies, Anna was said to have passed out food and other essentials to neighbors who came by in boats.
Despite her generosity, neighbors came to shun Anna as being a witch for her predictions. Many years after the flood, children still avoided the house on the corner because a “witch lived there.” Anna’s daughter, Betty Wilson Garrette, remained in the home after her mother’s death, and made a home there with her husband. Throughout Betty’s tenancy, the legends of the witch remained. HPIR was flooded with stories from people who grew up in Guyandotte, and knew the home as “the haunted house” or the “witch house.”
Anna may be long gone now from her physical body, but perhaps she remains in the home in spirit. Current owners have experienced a fair share of activity over the years. Although activity increases exponentially around the time of Civil War Days, commemorating the Raid and Burning of Guyandotte, the home went through one particular era of increased activity. When the new homeowners decided to do some home improvements, the former front door with glass panel was removed, and replaced with a solid oak door. When the unexplained surge of activity became increasingly bothersome, a psychic was consulted. Not knowing the history of the house OR recent renovations, the psychic told the owner that the residing spirit was unhappy. It could no longer look out the front door, and was upset by this. The solid door was replaced, and immediately activity died down. The resident spirit was appeased.
Other day to day activity includes the sounds of someone walking around, doors opening and closing, and even the laughter of a woman. Perhaps it is Anna, having the last laugh…
Needless to say, the above piece is copyrighted by me, Theresa Racer. The photo of the Hysell House is property of HPIR President and Founder, Melissa Stanley. Please...don't steal our stuff, lol.