The Myrtles plantation has been a place of obscurity, nevertheless attracting many visitors who wish to see for themselves the curious manifestations of the supernatural.
In 1794, David Bradford purchased 600 acres of land near Bayou Sara, now called St. Francisville, and built a modest house consisting of eight rooms that he named Laurel Grove.
In 1817, Clark Woodrooff married Sarah Mathilda, daughter of David Bradford and together they had three children, Cornelia Gale, James and Mary Octavia. Tragically however, Sarah, Cornelia and James died of yellow fever. This account of the Woodrooff’s tragedy diminishes when compared with a story or legend that concerns a slave whose name was Cleo. According to the legend, Cleo, a young slave girl was taken advantage of by Clark Woodroff. After a time when his fancy turned to another slave girl, Cleo felt insecure and threatened and thus began eavesdropping on the family’s conversation. Inevitably, Woodrooff caught her in the act and as a punishment ordered that her left ear be cut off. So it was that, poor Cleo had to wear a turban from that day on.
This is where a turn of events brings down the household of the Woodrooffs. On the birthday of young Mary Octavia Woodrooff, a grand feast was prepared for the family. Sarah, Cornelia and James; all had a piece of cake each. Inexorably, the cake was laced with poison along with Cleo’s jealousy and hatred. The mother and her two children died soon after. The other slaves who witnessed the tragedy guessed rightly that it was Cleo’s work. Thus cursing her and calling her names, they dragged her out into the courtyard and hung her there from a great tree as a punishment for her evil work. From here on, begin the various tales of ghost sightings. Many claim to have seen Cleo sporting a turban on the porch of the Myrtles and some have heard her walking in the house, after dark. In case you haven’t noticed we all tend to ‘hear footsteps’ when allegedly there is a ghost hanging around you. Might I mention that it takes spiked up imagination too. There are even photographs of Cleo seen walking around the house.
All I can think of saying is either she is pretty damned or she’s doing a good job of attracting curious visitors, not to mention skeptics to the Myrtles Plantation. So now we know she not only loved her master but also the plantation.
Well, everybody knows that the best way to earn money from tourism, is to have a handy ghost around and also plenty of imagination which is essential when storytelling.
Oh! And never ever mention yellow fever and the fact that Bayou Sara (St. Francisville) was plagued by it or the fact that no one existed in the name of Cleo.