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The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge, Florida
by Dale Cox
There are many different versions of the
story. Some tell of a burning bride, engulfed
in flames, who streaks through the swamps
of the Chipola River at night. Others claim the
spirit is more shadowy, a mere mist that
roams through the trees and floats out over
the historic iron frame of the old bridge.

Regardless of which version you prefer, the
story of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge is one of
the Two Egg area's oldest and favorite
legends. It has been part of the folklore of
Jackson County for more than 100 years, so
long in fact that the real facts behind the tale
have become obscured by the legend.

The story revolves around the supposed
1836 wedding of Samuel and Elizabeth
Bellamy. Although there are numerous
versions, the most common holds that the
wealthy young couple was married in an
expensive ceremony in Marianna. Samuel, a
wealthy planter and doctor, had built a
magnificent mansion there for his new bride
and it provided the setting for a wedding that
was the social event of the season.

According to legend, however, the day soon
turned from a celebration to a tragedy. Story
tellers claim that either while dancing or
while sinking into a chair to rest for a few
minutes, Elizabeth somehow touched her
expensive gown to either an open fire or a lit
candle.

All of the versions agree on what happened
next. The gown burst into flame and the
terrified young bride rushed from the house,
engulfed in fire. Before her husband could
save her, she was severely burned and soon
died from her injuries.

She was buried near Bellamy Bridge and, it
is said, her ghost still roams there, looking
for the long lost love of her life.

It is a sad and touching story and, regardless
of its truth, is an important part of the folklore
and history of the region.

All such stories usually have a basis in fact
and this one does as well. Samuel and
Elizabeth Bellamy were real people and
were, indeed, prominent members of early
Florida society. Their social standing makes
it quite easy to trace the real events that gave
birth to the legend.

Samuel and Elizabeth were both natives of
North Carolina. Samuel was the son of a
prominent family there and Elizabeth was the
daughter of General William Croom, one of
the wealthiest men in the state. The two
families were closely connected. Samuel's
brother Edward had married Elizabeth's
sister and that wedding signaled the
beginning of a courtship between the couple
that is the focus of the story.

Much of the courtship was carried on through
correspondence, as Samuel went away to
the University of Pennsylvania to study
medicine. When he returned as a doctor in
1834, the couple were married.

Contrary to legend, though, the wedding took
place at Elizabeth's family home in North
Carolina, not at the Bellamy House in
Marianna. And Elizabeth did not die on her
wedding day.

Shortly after their wedding, Samuel and
Elizabeth joined Edward and Ann in moving
to Florida. Elizabeth's half-brother and other
relatives were already living there and the
ready availability of prime land in the new
territory made it attractive to elite families
from the Carolinas. The couples settled in
the rich Chipola River valley near Marianna.

Edward purchased the Fort Plantation at the
site of Bellamy Bridge, while Samuel
purchased land a short distance northwest of
Marianna at a place called "Rock Cave." Both
farms quickly thrived and Samuel Bellamy
soon began producing high grade cotton that
was shipped to Apalachicola by Chipola
River barge.

When the couple had their first child, not long
after arriving in Jackson County, they named
him Alexander. By all accounts they were
both successful and happy.

Tragedy, however, was stalking them.
Samuel, Elizabeth and baby Alexander all
became severely ill during the fall of 1835.
The culprit was likely malaria, which ravaged
the early settlers of Jackson County. Letters
written at the time indicate that all three were
sick with fever.

Samuel eventually recovered, but Elizabeth
and the baby did not. She died on May 11,
1837 (from fever, not from fire) and baby
Alexander followed her to the grave one week
later. Their obituary appeared in Florida
newspapers of the time.

Samuel survived and for a time became a
successful and prominent member of
society. He represented Jackson County at
the 1838 Florida Constitutional Convention
and also served as an executive for the
Union Bank of Florida. Records indicate that
the famed mansion in Marianna was actually
built by him more than one year after the loss
of his wife and child.

The Union Bank failed, however, and the
fortunes of the young doctor soured even
more. He turned to alcohol and became a
severe alcoholic. His own brother seized
possession of his lands and Samuel finally
took his own life in 1853 by slashing his
throat with a razor while on a visit to
Chattahoochee.

The ghost story actually found its root in a
19th century novel by the writer Caroline Lee
Hentz. She described a tragic wedding night
death on the "Bellamy Plantation," but her
book was based on events that took place
near Columbus, Georgia.  Because Mrs.
Hentz lived the final days of her life in
Marianna, people began to associate her
story with the Bellamy Plantation on the
Chipola River and the lonely grave of
Elizabeth Bellamy and the ghost story as we
know it today was born.

Editor's Note: The information in this article
was taken from a detailed account of the
Bellamy Bridge story in the book
Two Egg,
Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories,
Legends and Unusual Facts by Dale Cox.
Bellamy Bridge
Scene of Two Egg's favorite ghost story.
Copyright 2009 by Dale Cox