As shared by Eddie O'Daniel, former owner/proprietor (with some editing by Jeff Daugherty, current owner/proprietor)
Disclaimer: The history and stories that I’m about to recant are facts and folklore that have come from The Kentucky Standard newspaper, Nelson County Encyclopedia, and personal accounts of neighbors and family members who once lived in this home.
The house is best known for three things: (1) the Civil War skirmish here in 1863; (2) the architecture of the home, such as the elaborate ironwork outside and woodwork inside; and (3) the Underground Railroad.
The house was owned by John R. Jones from Virginia. The house was built in 1857 and set on a hill located on a large tract of fine land. It was a two-story house containing 15 rooms and was made of brick. Jones came here with a land grant for 1,050 acres and 40 slaves, nine who attended the house and the others living in cabins along the perimeter of the land. One cabin is still partially standing in a grove of trees in a backfield that you can see from the winery.
Jones was 79 years old when he married a 42-year-old woman named Anna Grant. They married on May 8th or 9th, 1864. Anna was Jones' second wife and must have made him feel young because he listed his age on the license at 68 years old. The old "letch" probably lied to Anna as well.
On Friday, June 17th, CSA Lt. Col George M. Jesse from Owen County, Kentucky, a regimental commander under General John Hunt Morgan, was leading a band of Morgan's men along with some farm boys who wanted to join the fight. This small unit, probably about 150 or so cavalrymen, had escaped Morgan's failed Cynthiana raid. Jesse was called a guerrilla, but he was a CSA regular Army officer. His men had been encamped near Bloomfield at Camp Charity.
Lt. Col. Jesse was a detached commander who acted very much like Col. John Singleton Mosby "The Gray Ghost," of Virginia. Jesse had served in the Kentucky General Assembly from 1857 until 1859 and was sent out scouting parties to press (steal) horses for his men. Jesse sent out a patrol to locate the Confederate Green Duncan's place. Duncan's home was on the south side of the Bluegrass Parkway and has since burned down. The patrol Jesse sent out found John Jones' farm instead of not realizing Jones was a Union man. Private Thomas McIntire and his men knocked on the door, but Jones would not answer. They then threatened to burn down the house, but still, Jones did not give up his saddles and bridles. One of his saddles was believed to be made of jewels and precious metals. Jones loaded his gun and fired, the bullets hitting McIntire. He was carried away and later his arm was amputated.
When Jesse was informed of this; incensed, he sent men to burn Jones' house and shoot Jones. Three soldiers returned and set fire to the wooden framework around the house. Jones fearful the house would burn and his wife and daughter would be killed, stepped onto the porch where he was shot dead. The Confederates left and neighbors put out the fire. John and Anna had only been married for 40 days. Jones' grave can be seen in Campground Church Cemetery in Nelson County, KY. His inscription reads:
In memory of
John R. Jones
Born Aug. 27, 1785
And shot this
June 17, 1864
Aged 78 yrs, 9 months
and 20 days
General Stephen Gano Burbridge, military commander of Kentucky, issued his Order No. 59, that dictated when a Union man was killed by guerrillas, prisoners of war would be shot in reprisal. The men selected to be executed were, John May Hamilton, 37, of Richmond, IN, and Richard Berry, 20, of Livingston County. Union Major Francis Henry Bristow of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry oversaw the executions. The prisoners were brought to Bloomfield, and taken to a spot on Bunker Hill, on the south side of town where they were to be executed. Berry began to weep but was chastised by Hamilton and told to die like a brave Confederate soldier.
Berry asked for and was given time to write a letter to his father. He wrote:
"I am to be executed in a few moments. I do not want you, ma, or the children to grieve after me; bear it with as much fortitude as possible. I think I am prepared to die. I have been living as a Christian ever since I have been in prison, reading my testament and praying. So don't grieve for my sake. Assure yourself that I am prepared and not scared."
Richard Berry's family came to carry their son's body back home for burial. The local woman's club prepared Hamilton's body placing it in a cast-iron casket and laid the soldier in state at the Masonic Home. They then buried him in Bloomfield's Maple Hill Cemetery. If you are so inclined, you can find his small stone midway up the hill in the oldest part of the cemetery. It says simply "May Hamilton CSA, shot 1864." Since then, a larger stone has been erected in his memory and reads, "He came here as a stranger, but now he lies with friends."
During the civil war, many doctors came to Kentucky to assist with all the wounded. One of those doctors was Dr. James Robert Hughes who was originally from Springfield but at the time had a large farm in Missouri. While he was in the area, he fell in love with the daughter of Anthony W. McElroy, a wealthy businessman in Springfield. Hughes married Marie Rice McElroy in 1848 and needed a suitable home. Hearing of the tragic stories of the Jones family and confederate soldiers they approached the Jones family with an offer to trade Dr. Hughes's farm in Missouri for this farm here. After Dr. Hughes moved into the manor, he began building the front wing on the home rather than rebuilding the balcony and porches the Confederates had burned. Which explains why there is a huge portico between the foyer and the stairway and between the Merlot Suite on the second floor and the stairway. In this way, Dr. Hughes would change the appearances to the stately manor and thereby change the haunting reputation of the home of "the darkest day of Bloomfield's history".
Dr. Hughes later imported the ironwork on the side porch from Paris, France, in 1904. The wood casing in the original part of the house is Federal-style and the Hughes addition is the Victorian "keyhole" design. The mantel in the parlor is cast iron, as well. The wood trim of this house also includes some Greek and Egyptian influences. The door and window casings are wider at the bottom than at the top, which gives the illusion of height and was a design used by the ancient Greeks on the columns of their temples. At the time many of the old plantation homes of Bloomfield were built, King Tut's tomb had been discovered. It was quite a fad to use the ancient Egyptian designs, which explains why the symbol of infinity is on the large mantle of the southwest room now used as a den.
Written by Eddie O'Daniel, former owner of Springhill Plantation Bed & Breakfast and Winery.
From my high school days back in the early sixties, I remember stories told by my parents as we drove past the old plantation manor with the black ironwork across the front.
"Legend has it that there is a tunnel that runs from the root cellar to another house down the road. Runaway slaves would hide there and escape through the tunnel if they had to!" My father would proclaim.
Sure enough, when I moved here, I had to check out the root cellar to search for the tunnel. The outside entrance of the cellar was easy to find, just outside and below the kitchen window. There were names and dates drawn in the concrete step in front of the roof-tin doors that led down into the damp darkness filled with cobwebs at every advance. The writing evidently marked the completion of the outside entrance by Harold and Dottie (Dennis) in 1950.
Until recently, we knew of no other entrance to the cellar. It was another manor mystery until we renovated the back wing and found a hidden trap door under the subflooring. When we opened it, our eyes fixed on the first ancient, well-worn wooden step that led down to the root cellar. The lower steps were gone, but you could see where the cripples had been painted against the brick walls below. With the lights on in the cellar, you can plainly see the huge depression where a large, flat rock, now cracked and broken in several still large pieces, covered the depression. The rock was obviously the kind one would find in a creek bed - not something you would expect to find under a house on top of the smooth, cool dirt. This must be the entrance to the tunnel that Dad had told me about every time we passed this house. My guess is that it leads down into the cave system, which has an opening on the side of a hill about a quarter of a mile down the road, just this side of the Duncan Plantation home. This old manor has since burned and been demolished.