Tag Archives: historic mansion

Death and Mourning in the 19th Century and the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion

This past weekend, friend and past guest of the Big Séance Podcast, Victoria Cosner Love, invited me (ahem… strongly encouraged me to leave my crypt) to a fascinating event, which appropriately fit the season, in my opinion anyway. It was my first visit to the absolutely beautiful Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion in St. Louis. “A Death in the Family: Death and Mourning in the 19th Century” is an annual mourning event there. 

An interesting fact is that the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is right next door to the famous Lemp Mansion and the Lemp Brewery Complex, and so the neighborhood is always an interesting place to find yourself this time of year. (Incidentally, the boys from Ghost Adventures just featured the Lemp Mansion and Brewery in their most recent episode, and the Ghost Hunters spent some time there a few years ago as well.) 

The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is reported to be haunted as well, and I did talk to a few people in the know, but this event didn’t focus on the paranormal aspects of the place.

 

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As you may know, I’m obsessed with staircases, especially grand ones in a historical location like this mansion. So I had to lead with the photo above, with one of the volunteers appropriately mourning in character at the front entrance. 

I was very surprised to also run into several friends, some of whom I’ve never met in person, like my new friend Ginger of Missouri History and Hauntings. I got to meet a few other fascinating and knowledgable people, as well. I’m so very glad I went!

So back to the event itself. Here’s a description of the event, taken directly from their site:

This is an open house style event, during which guests are free to visit exhibits throughout the Mansion and learn not only about mourning customs of the 19th century but illness, medical treatments, wakes, funerary practices and more from costumed volunteers and museum staff.

As well as visiting with our informative volunteers, guests get a chance to see a amazing collection of original objects related to death, mourning and medical practices, from private collections, that are on display just this one day every year.

 

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I loved the event, but I look forward to going back again soon, perhaps to get a general tour of the place, plus they have plenty of activities. I encourage anyone in the area to visit if you haven’t been. 

I would have loved to have been able to get more shots of the home, but this event was well-attended, which is a good thing, but it made it difficult to get really good photos. But I hope you enjoy the shots that I did capture.

 

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I loved the feel and the color of this beautiful, yet oddly shaped corner. I need to find more information about this room. 

 

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The Anderson House and the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site

 

This mansion, known as the Oliver Anderson house, was built in 1853, and is such a familiar landmark to me. After all, I was born in a hospital just a few hundred feet away from the road behind it. The house and the battlefield are now one of many Missouri State Historic Sites.

 

 

The battle, sometimes known as “The Battle of the Hemp Bales”, lasted 3 September days in 1861. The Anderson family was thrown out of their home by Federal troops, though the house changed hands several times over the three days. For the most part it was used as a field hospital for the wounded.

 

 

There are several ghost stories and legends attached to this home, yet whether the mansion is haunted or not is something the state is tight-lipped about. Over the years lots of people have worked in and around the house though, and it isn’t hard to find someone ready to share their experiences. I have childhood friends who grew up in this neighborhood, and between the house and the battlefield, they say strange things happened all the time. Obviously I’ve requested access to conduct a paranormal investigation, but Missouri State Historic Sites doesn’t go for things like that.

When I was growing up, a local Kansas City news station would often come to Lexington around Halloween to reenact ghost stories for segments on the news. In 1989, one of them was filmed here at the Anderson House. I was able to find the 1989 KMBC 9 News segment, and it is embedded below.

 

 

 

For most of us that grew up in Lexington, the back of the house is actually the view that you see first, since the front of the house faces the river bluff. The back yard leading to the battlefield looks a lot different now then it did back then. They used to hold the battle reenactments right on site every couple of years. They’d even use the Anderson house as a backdrop and sometimes a character in the drama. Fortunately, though it bugs some, they’ve redesigned the yard surrounding the house to look the way it would have originally, including prairie and a wooded area surrounding it, so it can no longer be seen from the road. I think it’s a really cool decision that has taken time and effort to achieve. However, it disturbs me that in my lifetime a whole stretch of wooded area has had the opportunity to grow and block the view of the Anderson House. I guess that means I’m old. One thing that does disappoint me is the fact that they no longer do the battle reenactments on site. They have them nearby on the riverfront. It is simply not the same.

 

 

Imagine it being the 1800s and this being your front yard. In those days, the river down the hill would have had major steamboat traffic. I love this shot. At the time I took this picture, there was actually a couple napping just over the hill.

 

 

I found these wildflowers growing in between the battlefield and the house. Unfortunately, my photo of the battlefield didn’t turn out, but you’re likely to find photos on one of the links I’ve included below.

 

 

Below is the cover of the brand new book about the Battle of Lexington, written by Larry Wood. I haven’t seen it yet, but Larry asked my permission to include one of my older photos in the book, a photo from the Machpelah Cemetery in town.  Click on the cover below for more information on its Amazon page.

 

 

 

For more information, including many other fascinating photos, visit The Battle of Lexington Historic Site on the web.

 

You might also like these Big Séance posts related to Lexington:

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri 
Verna Marie Owen (1859-1986), a Lexington Missouri Teacher 
Do Spirits Reside at Papa Jack’s Pizza in Lexington, Missouri? 
Dr. Silkini’s Ghost Show: Do the Dead Return? Spooks Sit Beside You! 
Return to the Old Catholic Cemetery in Lexington, Missouri 
The Iron Fence and the Family Plot

 

 

 


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