Quick History of a Ghost Town: Dandridge, TN

Optional Audio Transcript

Ah, Dandridge, Tennessee. This place may seem like your average, run-of-the-mill sleepy town, but it has a history like no other. I’ve been here a few times and did some ghost tours. There is a rich history of Dandridge, both good and bad. Dandridge was founded in 1783, before Tennessee was even considered a state. Before that, it was a village to act as the Chiaha’s chief back in the mid 1500’s. The town is old, very old.

The town gained travelers by being on a good route and offering places to eat and stay. It is the second oldest town, the first being Jonesborough, which I’ve also done a ghost walk through. Eastern Tennessee was Union-sided during the Civil War, but ghost walk guides, I wish I could remember their names, state that it preserved as a bit of a neutral zone for the two sides. This also meant that bloodshed was common, but so was conservation. Thanks to being a rest area, Jefferson County was well preserved.

Shepard Inn

Many presidents stayed in the town, including Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk. They stayed in a place called Shepard Inn that is still standing today. The inn was built in 1820, acting as a log cabin. It was bought by James P. Mitchell in 1850 from the original owner, Shadrach Inman, and made into a tavern called Mitchell House. It wasn’t until 1920, when it was renamed and rebranded to the Shepard Inn. It was sold again in 1950 and the inn closed. Around 2007, it was opened back up as a bed and breakfast by new owners.

So, the building has some back and forth during its history. During a stay, it can be said that you can sometimes smell tobacco (this haunt type of smell is everywhere, I swear), and the typical shadows and shapes. From a tale from the ghost tour guide, there is a ghost man who hangs out on the porch.

Wampus Cat

Like in Wilmington, Dandridge has a ghost animal, and it is a cat. They are called Demon Cats and no, I am not joking about that. They are also called Wampus, or Wampus cats. It’s either a giant cat or a dog / creature mix that is just really creepy. It started with an old Cherokee tale and has many stories behind it. It could be that a woman was saved by a demon, a transformation gone wrong from human to cat, or a curse. Other states most likely have different versions.

People have reported seeing the Wampus cat, a shadow, a cat walking upright, and glowing eyes. Honestly, I just think these tales are of people who forgot what a bobcat is. There are many types and stories of the Wampus cat ranging from West Virginia to South Carolina, and even an honorable mention in Harry Potter, if you are into the American houses.

Revolutionary War Graveyard

You get a graveyard, and you get a graveyard! Every town’s graveyard has some interesting stories, but one from the Revolutionary War should have some clear stories on haunts. It was attached to the Hopewell Presbyterian Church, but the church was later relocated in 1872.

Graveyard from River Valley Geotourism, dandridge
Graveyard from River Valley Geotourism

I looked through many places to try and find something haunted about this place, but it is just a graveyard. I remember walking around a graveyard in the ghost walk of Dandridge, but I do not remember it being haunted. So, creepy with some fascinating history, but not haunted.

Roper Mansion

This two-story brick house was built in 1820 as a gift, from the father, John Roper, to his newly wedded daughter and son-in-law. Since it was the early 1800’s, slaves were used to build and keep the house. There is not much on this house and it is now used as a bit of a local museum and gift shop.

Haunted Roper Mansion from Jefferson County Post, dandridge
Haunted Roper Mansion from Jefferson County Post

Some people felt as though they had dived into the past when they walked inside. Others hear people talking, which is a typical ghost-like commotion in older buildings. It is probably just an old home, but it is always worth a mention.

Jefferson County Jail

Oh, the jail, a place where ghost men would haunt the female administrative staff, at least that is what I remember from the ghost walk. This jail is very near and dear to my heart because on said ghost walk, something insane happened. But let’s go ahead with the history.

Jefferson County Jail from Backroad Planet, dandridge
Jefferson County Jail from Backroad Planet

Now, the history of the jail was not an easy find. It was built in 1845, with the jail part on the second story. There isn’t much else on it, which is sad as the building should have some interesting history, but sometimes that is all you can get. During the tour, the man was talking about how women refused to be in the building after dark, as there was a mean ghost who would scare them. Maintenance workers did not enjoy being there alone.

As we were about to walk by the jail, the bulb of a light pole above exploded. I’m not talking about it just burned out or turned off, no, it exploded. I was near the back of the group, so I didn’t get a glass shower, and everyone was okay, but it was spooky. It really heightened the scary mood for the rest of the walk.

If you are ever interested in these tours that I have done, you can always visit the Appalachian Ghost Tours. I’ve been on a few and they are pretty interesting, especially in a town that you went to for fun and not expecting to be scared. So, make an experience like I did and go seek a ghost.

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