It seems every abandoned place has an undue reputation for being haunted. Since the International Printing Pressmen and Assistants’ Union of North America moved out of Rogersville in 1967, the former headquarters have fallen victim to vandals, thieves and arson. What buildings survive are privately owned and heavy guarded, but the community looks like a virtual ghost town. As Rodney Ferrell writes in his book Stories from Home: A Patchwork of Memories, even the ghosts have abandoned Pressmen’s Home, however.
In 1825, Major James Richards purchased 1800 acres of land he affectionately referred to as Happy Valley. He built a summer home near two mineral springs. Every year he and his family, staff and slaves came to enjoy the mountain air. He built a row of one-room cabins for the slaves. When he died, he was buried on Stone Mountain overlooking the valley. However, it seemed death did not end his seasonal visits.
Until one of the springs was sunk in a dynamite blast in the 1930s, his image returned every summer. Numerous people reported seeing him hobbling through the woods near his grave wearing the War of 1812 uniform he was buried in and leaning on his trusty walking stick. His home was converted into Hale’s Red and White Sulpher Springs mineral health spa resort. During the slower months, the cabins were rented by locals. During offseason 1889, an elderly couple and their 40-year-old son were living in one of them. Their son worked at a sawmill and every night he would come home, sit on the porch, smoke a pipe and whistle. Tragically, he was killed while on the job. Union President George L. Berry was born in Hawkins County and successfully bought the resort for union headquarters. During the 1909 convention, attendees staying in Whistlers Cabin heard the former occupant whistling and smelled pipe smoke. When the cabins were torn down the whistling apparition became silent.
Ferrell, Rodney. Stories from Home: A Patchwork of Memories. Rogersville, Tennessee: Rogersville Review, 2004.