Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Sam still Guarding the Red House?

The Red House is an imposing 2.5 story brick structure located in Eleanor, WV.  The original structure was built around 1840 by the Ruffner family, but there is reason to believe that the house may have actually been built as early as 1825.  The house, with its converted slave quarters and North and South Wings added by the Federal Government during the 1930s, now is home to the Eleanor Town Hall offices.  The right (North) wing, serves as the town hall section, while the left wing (South) serves as the Homestead Room, available for rent for parties, meetings, etc.  The original middle section of the house is being readied for a future museum dedicated to its New Deal Homestead history.

The town of Eleanor took possession of the Red House, or Ruffner House as its commonly called, in January of 2001.  Earliest records from the Eleanor town website say that the structure was home to the Samuel Earl Gibeaut family in the 1890s.  In the 1920s, it was owned by Frank Fitzsimmons, then passed to his brother Chris and family.  While Chris and his family briefly moved out of state, a family of Boldens lived in the Red House.  Chris returned to the home, and then sometime it was acquired by the C.H. King family.  C.H. King and his wife Ruth had a large family and farmed the land.  The King family was living on the property at the time of the New Deal, and the home was acquired by the Federal Government.  In 1946, the government deeded the title over to the Washington Homesteads for use as an administration building, and later, it came into possession of Dr. Lyle Moser.

With a long and somewhat incomplete history as to ownership of the house, legends of this structure abound.  One legend states that a slave was murdered on the uppermost staircase landing.  Another legend states that tunnels run from the house to the nearby Kanawha River, as part of an Underground Railroad stop.  To date, evidence of such tunnnels has never been found.  However, one legend DOES seem to make itself known to employees and visitors.  That legend is the ghostly overseer, protector, or guardian angel of the Red House.  Employees have dubbed him "Sam," and say that Sam likes to be heard, but not seen.

In recent years, however, it appears as if Sam, or perhaps some other resident ghost, DOES like to be seen!  Eleanor citizens walking along the town's sidewalks past dusk have been reporting seeing a man standing in one of the upper windows of the Red House.

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