The Lady In Black

In downtown Fayetteville, if you turn off W. Jefferson St. onto Dick St., Heritage Square sits on your left. The square includes the Baker-Haigh-Nimocks House, the Oval Ballroom, and the Sandford House.

As far as I know, the Woman’s Club of Fayetteville operates out of the historic Sandford House and manages Heritage Square.

The club purchased the house in 1941. It was built in 1797 and survived both the fire of 1831 and Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1865. The Woman’s Club restored the house to appear as it did during the Antebellum, and I believe they still give tours by appointment.

Of course, that could have changed in the last couple of years. The Woman’s Club of Fayetteville no longer has a website – and Heritage Square’s voicemail does not mention them.

Either way, the Sandford House has a long history and is the source of several local legends. My favorite is about the apparition known as the lady in black, who has been seen roaming the stairwell since 1900.

The Lady in Black

In the spring of 1865, Fayetteville bustled with activity. Rumors swirled that Sherman’s troops were coming, and the Confederate army buzzed about town on various missions. Soldiers could be seen building earthworks, and large wagons carted off machinery and ammunition from the armory.

During all of that chaos, a young Confederate soldier began calling on the Sandford house. There he met a friend of one of the Sandford girls and fell deeply in love. The two often took walks through the garden or sat hand in hand on the porch discussing the future.

On one of these visits, news reached the town of the nearby battle of Monroe’s Crossroads and Sherman’s troops approaching the Cape Fear River. When the word spread to the Sandford House, the soldier became desperate to get to his regiment to help fight off the Yankees advancing towards the river.

Seeing the soldier in distress, his beloved led him to a secret tunnel leading from the Sandford House to the Cape Fear. Before entering the tunnel, the soldier hugged his sweetheart and promised to return to her after the battle.

In the following days, Sherman’s troops entered Fayetteville. They burned the armory, the Fayetteville Observer offices, mills, and various businesses. Union soldiers camped in yards, pilfered crops and livestock, and harassed and robbed Fayetteville’s citizens.

Despite the explosions rocking the city and the bummers patrolling the streets, the young lady returned to the Sandford house day after day. Sadly, even after Sherman marched out of town, the Confederate soldier never appeared.

Many believe the lady in black is the same young lady who continued to visit the Sandford House long after it became apparent that her beau had died. They say she continues to return to the house in her mourning dress, where she waits on the stairs hoping, against all odds, that her love will return one day.

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