First Adult Honorable Mention - Fire Witch Story by Emily
Druscilla of Glendale
wife Charlotte could have no children, so she rejoiced when she received
a letter in 1842 from her sister-in-law in Massachusetts saying she regretted
the imposition, but hard times and her husband’s illness were forcing her
to send their adopted daughter Druscilla to live with them.
The Givingses knew nothing of the
child except she had appeared on his sister’s doorstep.
Benjamin owned a large cotton mill
along the shoals of Lawson’s Fork and he knew raising Druscilla would fulfill
Charlotte’s yearning for a child and cure the loneliness of living in a
When the eight-year-old arrived by
stage in South Carolina, the couple was delighted to see a beautiful girl
with long black hair and light gray eyes. They had the finest clothing made
for her in Charleston and shipped to Spartanburg County. Druscilla soon
had the finest toys, a tutor and a pony that was surly except when Druscilla
“Shouldn’t you write your mother?”
Charlotte asked her one afternoon. I’m sure she would love to hear from
Druscilla flashed fiery eyes and
then softened and clasped Charlotte’ arm. “You are ‘Mother,’ the only mother
to ever love me.” Charlotte caressed her and never brought up the subject
Druscilla magically seemed to know
when Benjamin needed a lift and, on those days, she would take cake or
pie to him at the mill. Her beauty and finery always attracted great attention
as she swept across the mill’s wooden floors, and even more so as she grew
into a winsome teen-ager.
Benjamin was impressed by a young
man who had grown up in the mill. Lester Elmhurst didn’t have much formal
education, but he read what he could find and he had a good sense of business.
Druscilla instantly found his rough good-looks appealing, but she knew he
would never approach the mill-owner’s daughter without encouragement. She
found reasons to show up early to walk her father home and flirted with
Lester at every opportunity.
Lester, however, understood the danger
of such a relationship. More importantly, he was trying to win over young
Mary Stevens who worked at the loom next to his mother. Mary was shy but
she suspected Lester’s feelings and was in high hopes he might come to love
One evening, Druscilla saw Lester
walking Mary out the door with his arm around her. She stared at them with
a cold, hard glare, but their love was already such that they were oblivious
Druscilla made a point of befriending
Mary. Not long after that, Mary’s body was found a half-mile down the creek.
When the Givingses gave a party for
Druscilla, inviting the Upcountry gentry, Druscilla flew into a rage when
Charlotte said an invitation to Lester would be inappropriate. Charlotte
acquiesced, but Lester didn’t come.
In his grief, Lester threw himself
into his work even more and Benjamin promoted him to superintendent. He
was young, but everyone liked him and produced more goods for him.
Although three years passed, Druscilla
still was drawn to Lester, but his good heart felt chills when she entered
The next spring, Lester asked Benjamin
if he could move from his parents’ home into the former superintendent’s
house; he had married a young woman from a nearby town.
When she heard, Druscilla came home
hysterical, calling Benjamin and Charlotte ugly names. They were mystified
as to what had prompted her outburst. She left and didn’t return until the
In the mid-1850s, Benjamin invested
in new equipment about the time cotton prices went up and he had to declare
bankruptcy. Embarrassed to turn in his keys to Lester, now the new owners’
manager, Charlotte and Benjamin decided to make a fresh start elsewhere.
They were none too sad when Druscilla refused to move with them. She continued
to live in the house, shed of much of its beautiful furnishings.
When the Civil War brought contracts
for Confederate clothing, the mill was running around the clock and, as
mill-hands came and went at midnight, people would see Druscilla walking
along the edge of the bank, staring into the water.
There were never any lamps lit in her home except as
people would pass on their way to church on All Hallow’s Eve, a tradition
in their little village of Glendale. The wind always seemed to pick up as
they rounded the bend in the road there.
Druscilla tried in vain to get acquainted
with the village children in hopes of meeting Lester’s, but children ran
from her and would pass her on the far side of the road.
Eventually, no one saw Druscilla
and residents figured she had gone off to be with her aging parents. Decades
went by and the shutters began to fall off the Givings mansion. Its clapboard
turned gray and the yard was overgrown.
By 1931, Lester was long buried and
the mill closed for good; those who could afford to had moved away.
An empty, five-story brick mill with
a tower was an exploration hard for young boys to resist. Youth would first
hear footsteps, then a loom would knock back and forth although there had
been no power to the mill for years. As they would run down the tower steps
and out the door, they all declared, they had heard a screeching “Heh, heh,
One night in 2004, five boys challenged
each other to stay the night in the mill. Three left as soon as the loom
started. Seeing an old woman sitting on a bench, the other two 12-year-olds
dropped cigarettes from their mouths and screamed as they ran, one of them
knocking over an old gasoline can. They hid in the bushes and watched the
fire as the shape of a witch – the kind they had seen in picture books –
appeared in the top-floor window.
They heard a scream. Maybe it was
Emily Cooper lives in Columbia, SC. She
is the Editor of the SC Methodist Advocate.
This web site has been
started as a public service to share the story of Glendale. The
web master and person to contact about putting information on the
web site is Mary McKinney Teaster. Contact her at:
or by telephone at (843) 873-8117. See more information
about Mary and her Glendale connection at Mary