I didn’t know what to expect when I left to visit Mill Prong House recently. The last time I stopped by, the house was closed – and looked like something out of a ghost story.
When I pulled up, I discovered Mill Prong has improved over the last two years. Most of it is covered in a fresh coat of paint, the broken shutters are gone, and, hopefully, the missing chimney will be replaced soon.
Standing in the front parlor, Bug and I marveled at how good the interior looked compared to the exterior. We looked over a dresser from Ardlussa, examined old books, and ran our fingers over the genuine ivory keys of a busted antique piano.
No sooner than our fingers pulled back from the keys, thwack! The heavy backdoor slammed closed hard enough to rattle the windows.
I looked at the tour guide, Cindy, and joked, “Ghosts?”
The Haunting of Mill Prong House
In 1834, Col. Archibald McEachern purchased Mill Prong from the Gilchrist brothers. He remodeled the house to accommodate his wife, Effie, and their growing family.
The McEacherns raised 10 children to adulthood at Mill Prong. They sustained their large family off profits made from growing tobacco in the large fields surrounding the house.
By the start of the Civil War, most of their children had married off and started families of their own. But their fifth, a daughter named Julia, remained at home.
Born in 1824, Julia displayed talents at a young age. Archibald purchased her a piano. She rose to the challenge, securing beginner musical books and teaching herself to play.
Impressed with Julia’s aptitude for the piano, her parents sent her to the nearby Floral College. The all-women’s school focused on teaching young ladies everything from math to music.
After college, Julia never married. Instead, she stayed home with her parents and entertained her family and church with her musical talents. Years ticked by with Julia buzzing about the house and singing hymnals as she did her chores.
Those peaceful years came to a devastating end in the spring of 1865 with the arrival of typhus at Mill Prong. As Julia busied herself nursing her family, matters got worse. Sherman crossed the Lumber River in March.
When news reached Mill Prong, the McEachern family gathered their valuables and buried them in a nearby Carolina bay.
The fever kept the Yankees away from the house, but their buried treasures were discovered. What wasn’t stolen was broken, including Julia’s beloved piano.
A few short months after the Yankees left Robeson County, Effie McEachern died from Typhoid fever. After her mother passed, Julia fell ill with typhus, too.
A week later, Julia got up from bed, went to her dressing mirror, and brushed her hair. Then she pulled a chair to the window toward the setting sun, sang a hymn, and died on June 25, 1865.
The house passed down through the McEachern family over the years following Julia’s death. When the house fell behind in modern conveniences, the family moved out and transformed it into a tobacco barn.
Mill Prong was used this way for 48 years until the establishment of Mill Prong Preservation, Inc. The group cleaned the house up and started restoration efforts.
Various relatives found pieces of furniture tied to the old house and donated them back to Mill Prong. The pieces included Julia’s old piano.
Soon after its arrival, rumors spread that Mill Prong was haunted. Passersby claimed they saw lights in Julia’s room, though Mill Prong was closed.
I don’t know anything about lights – but doors slam if you touch the busted old piano.
I’ve witnessed it.