It sure is great to be returning to Our Valley Events, and what better way to return than the way it all started – with a ghost story.
This is not just any ghost story; it is a ghost story that takes place here in Huntsville and revolves around a most unusual character, an Alabama governor.
So, turn down the lights, sit back and read about the Moonlight Ride at Maple Hill.
The Moonlight Ride At Maple Hill: A Huntsville Ghost Story
In 1820, Thomas Bibb was the president of the newly formed Alabama Senate when the sitting Governor William Wyatt Bibb passed away. Thus, Thomas became the second governor of our newly formed state. It turns out that Thomas did not really enjoy politics and only served out the rest of his brother’s term without seeking re-election. While he did continue in the state Legislature, Thomas also returned to his main business, trading cotton futures. This afforded him a plantation in Limestone County known as Bell Manor and also a large townhome in Huntsville.
His business often took Thomas Bibb away from his plantation to Mobile and, more frequently, New Orleans. It was on one of these visits to New Orleans that Thomas Bibb shuffled off his mortal coil, in September of 1839. Those closest to Thomas knew that he wanted to be buried on the grounds of his beloved Bell Manor in Limestone County. To fight off the decay of death on such a long trip, Thomas Bibb’s body was preserved in a barrel of whiskey and sent back to north Alabama.
The body arrived in Athens and lay in state while citizens paid their respects to the former governor. He was then laid to rest in the small cemetery on the grounds of Bell Manor.
A few years later Maple Hill Cemetery had become the “resting place of Alabama governors” so the family had Thomas’ body exhumed to be re-interred at Maple Hill Cemetery.
This is where Thomas Bibb became a Huntsville urban legend.
The legend goes as follows: If you find yourself in Maple Hill Cemetery on the night of a full moon, find the grave of Thomas Bibb and watch. You will see a black carriage driven by white horses pull up to the grave. Thomas Bibb rises from the grave and gets in the carriage which then drives around Maple Hill Cemetery trying to find his way back to Bell Manor.
This ghostly ride ultimately proves fruitless though because Bell Manor no longer exists. Yes, the plantation house is still standing with the cemetery behind it, and a small community has even grown up around it. It is no longer called Bell Manor, though. Due to a misunderstanding in a late 1800s census, Bell Manor was transcribed to Belle Mina.
So the moonlight rides of Thomas Bibb supposedly continue to this day with the former governor trying to find his way back to his beloved home.
My long-standing theory is that if you have one ghost story in your family, you are bound to have more.
The Bibb family has more supernatural tales, but those are stories for another time….
- Wil Elrick hails from Guntersville, Alabama where at an early age he developed a love for both trivia and history. He has spent the last 20 odd years, fine tuning the art of communication while working in law enforcement, writing, television media, historical research, and public speaking. He lives in North Alabama with his two boys, and a neurotic German Shepherd Dog. He one day hopes that Bigfoot is proven real. Wil's new book Alabama Scoundrels is available from History Press.