History of Anoatop
Now Known as Springhill Plantation
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 many haunting ghost stories.
This house was built in 1857–59 by John R. Jones, his wife, and sons. Jones came here with a land grant for 1,050 acres and 40 slaves, 9 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.
In June of 1864, a band of Confederate guerillas came here from an encampment a couple of miles down the road at what was known as Camp Charity. The soldiers were securing fresh provisions of horses and food when a captain spotted a fancy saddle and decided to take it. Jones thought otherwise as he slipped into the back servants’ entrance under the stairway to the house and grabbed his rifle. Jones shot through a flowerbed of irises, which were called flags then, and into a circle of men, hitting the guerrilla captain. Of course, a gun battle ensued and the guerrillas eventually set the porches and balconies on fire before riding off to Chaplin, a small town 10 miles to the east, where they found a doctor for the captain. Unfortunately, they had to amputate the captain’s arm and this infuriated his men all the more. The Confederate soldiers returned in the evening, ambushed Jones, and shot him dead by the water well out in back of the house.
A local attorney tells the story that as a young boy he used to play here with a friend and he remembers that when it rained you could still see the bloodstains on the concrete where Jones lay dying. That sounds like a story a little boy would remember, don’t you agree?
Well, this tragic event incited fierce sentiment among the town’s people, as you can imagine. The following month, a Union troop came through town and heard the stories from the townspeople. The Union soldiers proceeded on to Louisville to a Confederate POW camp at Cave Hill Cemetery, where they passed around a bag of beans among the prisoners. The two prisoners who drew out the black beans were brought back to Springhill where the Union soldiers asked Jones’ sons what should be done with the prisoners. To everyone’s horror, the prisoners were shot dead in the front yard in reprisal for the Confederates taking Jones’s life. There were over 150 such reprisal killings in Kentucky during the Civil War.
One of the prisoners Richard Berry was from Glasgow, Kentucky, a small town about 50 south of Springhill. His family came to carry its son’s body back home for burial. The other prisoner, his name was May Hamilton, and because he had served with a unit from Richmond Virginia it was assumed that Hamilton must have been from Virginia far across the Allegany Mountains. The local citizens were so ashamed that the innocent confederate prisoners had been executed for an incident that they had no involvement the local woman’s club prepared the body, placed it in a cast iron casket and laid the soldier in state at the Masonic Home then he was buried in Bloomfield’s Maple Hill Cemetery. If you’re 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.”
A couple of summers ago on a late Saturday afternoon, a tall, dark-haired gentleman came into the wine shop. He quietly made his way over to the wine racks on the wall and inched his way around the displays reading and studying the wines. I offered the usual customer greeting and small talk about the weather, but I could tell he wasn’t looking for conversation. After he finally selected his wines and carried them to the counter, I promptly bagged and rang up his purchases on the register. As he turned and approached the door, he asked if I knew any stories about this old house. This was my cue to entice him with the stories and then sell him on a future stay at my bed-and-breakfast inn.
He listened with interest to the story about the ambush and murder of Mr. Jones. But before I could continue my story to the part about the reprisal killings, he told me of his best friend who lived in Paintsville, Ky., and that he always wanted to come to Bloomfield to locate the grave of his great-grandfather.
All the friend knew of his ancestor was that he was shot in Bloomfield and fought for the Confederacy.
“What was his name?” I inquired. “Why it was May Hamilton, I believe.” The surprise and excitement of hearing this made me gush out all the details I knew. What an eerie coincidence!