Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Mayo Mansion and Methodist Church of Paintsville, Kentucky

Mayo Mansion, City-Data
Good morning!  Last night I asked my FaceBook readers to pick which state today's post would come from, and Michelle chimed in first, suggesting Kentucky!  Michelle, for being the first to respond, this post is dedicated to you...but to everyone who else chimed in, don't despair!  It looks like West Virginia was the popular vote, and I've got PLENTY more of those in the works.  If I don't get around to posting a bonus location this afternoon, tomorrow's post will definitely be from West Virginia.  Anyway...

I chose the Mayo Mansion in Paintsville, Kentucky after finding several references to it on a Kentucky Topix thread.  Oddly, most people who chimed in claim that the Classic Revival structure is NOT haunted, but reports abound throughout the web about one particular ghost that has been sighted numerous times.  But first, a quick look at the history of the Mayo Mansion.

The Mayo Mansion was built over a period of several years.  Ground broke in 1905, but it wasn't completed until December of 1912.  It was built by Kentucky's first coal baron, John Caldwell Calhoun Mayo, for his wife, Alice Jane Meek.  Mayo came from humble beginnings, but worked hard to better himself, studied geology, and eventually became one of Kentucky's wealthiest citizens, buying up coal rights all over eastern Kentucky.  Originally, the mansion was supposed to be simply a palatial home, but influenced by the old plantation homes that still dotted parts of southern Kentucky (and most likely at the urging of Alice, affectionately known as Alkie or Alka) plans were changed to double the size of the mansion, which came in at a cost of $250,000.

Unfortunately, Mayo was never really destined to live in the dream home that took seven years to complete...and neither was Alice.  The two took a tour of Europe in 1913 and upon returning home, Mayo discovered that his incurable Bright's Disease had worsened.  He was briefly hospitalized in Cincinnati, but ultimately passed away on May 11, 1941 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel; he was in the city to seek out the opinion of the country's best doctors.

Filled with grief and the burden of inheriting the company from her husband, Alice picked up and went to Florida.  In 1917, she met and married Samuel Fetter, a doctor from Ohio who was recuperating from his own illness in Palm Beach.  They returned to Kentucky and purchased a Victorian home together, which they renovated extensively.  During this time, she was still busily taking care of her late husband's affairs, dividing the interest of the company between herself and her two children, and donating the mansion that was built for her.  She donated the mansion and the property to the Sandy Valley Seminary who under the administration of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, created the John C.C. Mayo College.

John Mayo had been a prominent member of the church, and had even donated the land and half the construction cost of building a new church building near his own mansion.  The construction of the church took considerably less time, starting in 1908 and culminating with the first service on September 19, 1909.  For a little bonus haunting, I found ONE reference that this historic church itself is haunted.  A woman is seen kneeling in prayer inside, and some have even heard her whispering or chanting in prayer.  Many believe this to be the apparition of none other than Alice Mayo.

Mayo Methodist Church
Sadly, Alice's second marriage only lasted four years, as Fetter's own illness finally took his life as well.  For business purposes, Alice had her name legally changed backed to Mayo.  No one could deny that Alice wasn't a shrewd businesswoman.  By 1928, the John C.C. Mayo College was officially known as the Sandy Valley Seminary, yet financial hardships caused the school to close down and sit vacant.  Alice sued to regain ownership of the property, stating that since the intended purpose to which she donated the land and mansion had failed, legally she retained ownership.  It was a long battle, but ultimately she won, and the title was returned to her in 1936.

However, she quickly turned around and in 1938 sold the property to a business associate of her first husband, E.J. Evans, who leased the property out to several organizations, including the city of Paintsville, who opened the Mayo Vocational School.  In 1945, the property was sold to the Most Reverend William T. Mulloy, the Roman Catholic Bishop from Covington, KY.  With the leadership of the Sisters of Divine Providence, the mansion became Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic School.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Residents passing by the property have often noted that Mr. Mayo still seems to be guarding his palatial home...but oddly enough, is never seen INSIDE.  Rather, he is seen, complete in period correct clothing and hat, sitting on the sidewalk outside the property, watching those who go by.  Why he is still sticking around, no one knows for sure, but he did spend seven years building a home for a wife, who, not only never really lived in it, but pretty much shucked it to the side.  Could the fact that he never really lived there be the reason why he won't go inside...or is the old Southern Methodist intimidated by all the Catholic nuns?

*There are some conflicting reports about the possible paranormal activity and even perhaps some of the history concerning this location and a mansion of the same name in Ashland, KY.  I'm still working to make sure that everything here is correct and pertaining to the same location.  If you have any updates or corrections, feel free to send them my way:  theresarhps@yahoo.com.  Thanks!*

For more info on this family:
Appalachian History, by Dave Tabler (Info on Alice)
The Strange Career of John C.C. Mayo by Henry Caudill

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