Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Historic Green Manor in Union City-Does the Ghost of Florence Westbrook Still Walk the Grounds of the Mansion?

My post-Civil War American History class has been studying the turn of the century in America. I have been talking with them about the industrialization of the nation, the plight of farmers in the South, and the differences in lifestyles of the rich, poor, and middle class. As part of that discussion, I took my class to the Green Manor, which is now a restaurant located in Union City. The Green Manor was once a fruitful post Civil War cotton farm and the families who lived there were wealthy. I wanted them to see how these people lived and to give them a first hand look at some neat local history. What I did not expect was that the Green Manor has a haunted past.

The Green Manor was the property of the Westbrook family. In fact, W.R. Westbrook and his wife, Elizabeth, gave the home and thirty acres to Cora Westbrook, the tenth of their eleven children, and her husband, Drewry Carmichael as a wedding gift in 1889. The Carmichaels were productive, as Drewry and his brother built a factory for farm equipment in nearby Fairburn, and even helped secure the area as the Georgia headquarters of the Farmers Union. The city of Union City was founded as a result of this in 1908.

After telling my class about the history of the home and the area, as well as how the turn of the century looked in what is now Fulton County, the manager began to talk about some of the popular legends about Green Manor. I can tell you, they are very interesting.

As it goes, Mrs. Westbrook (Cora) had an unwed sister, which back in the day were called either old maids or spinsters. Her name was Florence Westbrook. She moved in with the Carmichaels and lived on the second floor of the mansion. At that time, which was before the first world war, the place was a working cotton plantation. One day as the Carmichael's had their laborers burning the cotton fields and plowing it under to help make pot ash, Florence decided to take buckets of water out to the field hands, as she noticed that they were working pretty hard and were more than likely very thirsty. As she walked near the fields, her long dress caught fire and she burned to death in front of the house on what is now Westbrook Street. She was buried in a grave in the Shadnor Baptist Church Cemetery, which is right down the street from the Green Manor.

According to the manager of the Green Manor, Florence Westbrook might not have wanted to leave her sister and their mansion so soon. In 1996, the burglar alarm went off in the middle of the night at the Green Manor, which by that time had been a restaurant for almost six years. A local police officer answered the call. When he arrived, he walked all the way around the mansion and saw nothing. Having this feeling of urgency to look up, he did and saw the figure of a woman standing on the second floor of the house. He tried to call for back up thinking that someone was inside burglarizing the facility. However, his radio would not work, and all that the dispatcher could hear when he tried to call in was static. However, the dispatcher knew that the officer had gone to the Green Manor to check things out. Feeling uneasy, she (dispatcher) decided to send an officer to see what was going on. When the second officer arrived, he saw the image of the woman too, but like his fellow officer, his radio would not work when he tried to call in the report. Yet a third officer was sent to the location, this time an off-duty one who just happened to be in the area. He was also carrying his radio, but found that it would not work either. The manager also mentioned the name of the officer, but I will not give it here since I do not have permission. She went on to say that any time someone mentions the Green Manor to him, he turns white like a ghost.

Other stories about Florence abound at the Green Manor. A local journalist in Fulton County, and I will not mention his name either because I have not sought permission, has a fondness for the Green Manor and writes about it a great deal in the local paper. One night, he had been down in Palmetto covering a very controversial city council meeting. The meeting ended late, and when he drove back in to town, he passed the Green Manor. The next day, he called the manager and asked her what they had done to upset Ms. Florence, for when he passed by he saw her furiously pacing the front porch. The manager commented that the only thing she could think of was that they had put up new drapes in the room that was once the bedroom of Florence Westbrook. On another occasion, the sister-in-law of Dr. Green, the man for whom the mansion is now named and who purchased it in 1917, came to the restaurant, and upon entering the front door, she saw the figure of a woman coming down the stairs and immediately exclaimed, "My God, that is Florence Westbrook."

The manager and staff of the restaurant say that things are always moved and noone can account for how and when they were moved. The staff reports hearing water faucets come on in the basement a lot, but upon investigation, no water is running. One night, the manager herself was called to the scene due to the burglar alarm going off, and upon entering, the first thing she saw was a hat from the hat room (the name of one of the dining rooms in the restaurant) at the bottom of the stairs. Such a thing would have been noticed and immediately corrected by the staff at closing. It was not there when the restaurant closed. The police officer who came with her was quite disturbed to see this.

My students were amazed by the Green Manor. They enjoyed the tour and the ghost stories. The food there is absolutely amazing. The wait staff is great! But are there ghosts in the Green Manor? Who knows? Perhaps Ms. Florence Westbrook might stop by your table and say hello. Check out their website at and take a look at the pictures of the place. It is beautiful.

Monday, March 2, 2009

African Lions Loose In Georgia? Is the Circus in Town?

Yes, African Lions are just that-lions from Africa, which means that they are from and found there. But in Georgia, as well as other states, these large cats have been seen in the wild.

In Loren Coleman's "Mysterious America" he reports of an incident in Georgia in 1976.
In the little town of Alapaha, and yes, that is a real town in South Georgia and I actually met a couple who live there a few years ago, there was a report of a weird animal in the pasture of Mr. J.H. Holyoak. Mr. Holyoak was driving his pick-up truck to check his cattle when he spotted something strange in the pasture. At first he thought it was a big dog chasing his cattle. But upon a closer look, he noticed that this animal looked half-panther and half-lion. Mr. H (I will abbreviate as his name is hard to type) commented that it looked pretty much like a panther except it had a mane on its neck. According to him, the mane resembled that of an African lion. His son, Ken, a graduate of the University of Georgia, reported that he had never seen anything like this in the pastures and fields of South Georgia. The sigthing took place in Berrien County. He shot the animal and wounded it, but his shot did not bring it down. The animal ran off in to the woods after the shot. Ken reported that other area residents reported seeing the large cat in the forests and swamps between Alapaha and a little town called Enigma, and as Coleman points out, that is certainly an interesting name for such an occurance.

There are other reports of lions in Georgia. In the 1960s it was reported that two hunters killed what looked like a young African lion in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. There is a photograph of this kill, and the name of the man who owns the picture is Malcolm Edwards. I know nothing else about him. It was rumored that the animal had been kept as a pet.

There are probably more than a few explanations for this. First, there could be some large cat hybrid running around that we don't know about. There are a few species of large cats here in Georgia in the wild, and this could easily be a hybrid of such. On the other hand, these could have been lions that escaped from a circus. I would rule out an escapee from Zoo Atlanta, as Alapaha is over a few hours south of Atlanta. Alapaha is close to the Florida line in South Georgia. On the other hand, the killing in Blue Ridge was more than likely an actual lion being kept as a pet. I think that is illegal in Georgia, and if it is not, it should be for this very reason. But if an escaped lion somehow got out in to the wild in Georgia, I am sure it could breed or could have been out actually chasing those cattle for food. I shudder to think what might have happened had the Holyoaks wondered up on it accidentally while it was feeding. From the sound of his report, the gunshots from his rifle did hardly anything to it.

Oh well, if Semba is actually out there in Georgia, I wonder if he likes peaches, onions or peanuts? You never know. It does appear he has a taste for steak, though!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Are there Black Panthers in Georgia?

It seems that one of the oldest animal discussions in Georgia is the one centered on big black cats-Black Panthers. While there are panthers and other cats on the terrain of Georgia, it is debatable as to whether there are large black panthers in the state.

One of the oldest sightings of a black panther was in 1958 near Rome, Georgia. A motorist reported that a huge black panther jumped on the side of his car and left muddy pawprints on the side of the automobile. Other reports in Georgia exist, some in the metro-Atlanta area.

In Loren Coleman's book "Mysterious America" he mentions a report from 1975 where the local paper in Stockbridge, Georgia ran a story with the headline "Something Screams in the Night." According to the report, people in the vacinity reported seeing a sleek black cat having a long tail. The animal also had very large eyes, so much so that they were described as the size of silver dollars. The report also mentions that a famers penned up goat had been killed by the animal. A few days later, a few residents of Stockbridge reported seeing the same animal. These reports caused such a furor that officials from the Department of Natural Resources set traps in the area. Officials at the University of Georgia, specifically Dr. Ernest Provost, weighed in on the topic. He declared that "There may be panthers here but they are not black. This black business has never been proven. No one has ever gotten a black panther." The curator of the Atlanta Zoo at that time, Ron Jackson, mentioned that black panthers were not a biological impossibility, but that so far, noone had one.

I didn't realize it, but black panthers seem to be a topic of much debate. According to Coleman, there are zoologist and others in the world of science who have called black panthers the "feline flying saucers" because they are so elusive and mysterious. Others deny that they exist at all, as Dr. Provost illustrated. Noone seems to debate much about cougars and Mountain lions, but black panthers still mystify naturalists and mystery hunters alike.