December 10, 2013

The Gillis House ~ Tales and Remembrances, Part 1

The Gillis House, 1923-1933

The following transcript is from the recollections of Flora Kathryn Crawford Eschenburg who lived with her family in the Gillis House from 1923 to 1933.  Flora was born in 1912 and passed from this life in 2004. She was the ninth of twelve children born to the marriage of Samuel Cooke Crawford and Rachel Victoria Seal.  It is believed by family members that the scene in the above photograph was probably on a Saturday afternoon with the help waiting to be paid before going into town.
Gayle Eschenburg Evertson
One of my most cherished memories of childhood was listening to my mother and her brothers and sisters tell stories.  There was a talent among the twelve siblings of the Crawford family for spinning a tale that would hold the listener spellbound.  
My favorite stories were those about the Gillis (Juh lees) House, a home on the Peck Plantation in Sicily Island, Louisiana, that was home to the Crawfords.  
It was haunted.
Entertainment at teenage parties at my home or the homes of my cousins included all the typical activities like eating, giggling, talking about boys, listening to  records and dancing.  But the highlight of the evening, when we were feeling bold enough, was to plead with my mother to tell ghost stories about the home in which she spent her youth.
The lights would be dimmed, everyone would huddle together in serious, awe struck quiet, and Mother held the stage.  Nothing  compared to the chills we experienced as we listened to the stories of unexplained events that invaded the lives of those who lived in the Gillis House.
All these stories lived vividly in the memories of those who experienced the phenomena, but as that generation began to die, I became concerned that these stories would be lost.  Of the twelve Crawford children, only three remain.  
While my generation delighted in the hearing, we were woefully inadequate in the retelling.  After years of pleading, I finally impressed upon my mother the importance of putting these stories in writing, so that her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and any others who follow, will have an account of the mysterious events that were part of the Gillis House and the Crawford family.
What follows are the remembrances of my mother, Flora Crawford Eschenburg, and my aunt, Sophie Lee Haley.

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Special thanks to Joan McLemore, daughter of Dell Crawford Meadows, for allowing me to share their family history and memories of the Gillis House on Roots from the Bayou.

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