Monthly Archives: October 2017


Monument destruction

Dear Editor,

I am no longer annoyed by Rev. Ron Rawls and his followers attempts to destroy our monuments, I am angry. We don’t obliterate history, we teach it.  The reverend’s point is legitimate and I agree that we have not achieved equality within the races, but tearing down the monuments in not the answer. The church I attend, Memorial Presbyterian Church, and Rev. Rawls’s church, St. Paul’s AME, have partnered on numerous occasions and would like to do more.  We have many positive ways of looking at the problems. Tearing down monuments is not a solution.

The city made the correct decision about the Confederate monument. The monument should remain as is. Additionally, it is not legally the city’s decision to do anything about the Loring monument. Both monuments mean more than just the racial issues. I challenge Rawls or any of his followers (except Sandra Parks, who would know) to name the women who erected the Confederate monuments.  They didn’t put that up because of racial issues; they did it to remember people they loved. Do you want to destroy this?

William Wing Loring was an amazing military man. The Civil War was a battle front more than a racial issue to him.  We need to know more about people like him, not destroy their legacy.

I think education is the issue here and I commend Rev. Rawls and Sandra Parks for bringing the issues to the surface. Yes, they are “making noise.” They were right in doing so; however, removing the monuments is like flag burning.  It is disrespectful and unproductive.  One speaker in favor of removing the monuments said, “We should remember history, but not honor it.” You can’t remember history if you don’t teach it and it is the choice of the beholder whether or not to honor it.

I would like to move forward by providing more information about both monuments and include the Foot Soldiers monument in any of the tours.  I have never heard a tour or trolley driver talk about either the Confederate Monument or the Foot Soldiers Monument.  Why not educate those who take our tourists around about explaining our past?

When I do Black History tours I try to describe the past accurately and I always say we have not achieved the ultimate goal of equality.  Take down the monuments and I will have less to point to as I explain it. I walk on the foot prints of Andrew Young and show people the corner where he was assaulted.  I know the churches where Marten Luther King preached and organized. We don’t want to destroy those.  Why destroy other testaments of our past?

We cannot be so negative as to obliterate important signposts of our history. It is our responsibility as the nation’s oldest city to educate our own and inform our visitors.  We can do that with monuments.

Thank you Rev. Rawls for bringing the issue to the front.  Now, leave our monuments alone.

Karen Harvey

St. Augustine

 

Karen Harvey is a local author and historic interpreter. She conducts tours of the city to include black history tours.


Osceola’s Head

Spooky St. Augustine

Osceola’s Head

 

 

Osceola, the great Seminole warrior, did indeed lose his head to a surgeon’s knife. The bizarre part of the story is that his head was cut off in Fort Moultrie, SC, in 1838. It was then transferred back to St. Augustine and years later lost in a fire in New York City in 1865.

Why then, do people see his image imprinted on the coquina stone of the Castillo de San Marcos? Why to visitors claim to see the head floating over the fort like a moon rising from the ocean above the ancient fort?  Legends abound concerning the death of the celebrated Seminole warrior who was imprisoned in the Castillo de San Marcos in 1837. Reality and legends blend with those stories of Osceola’s head.

Although Osceola was held captive in the fort, he did not die there. He was moved to Fort Moultrie, S. C. in a weakened condition resulting from malaria.  His doctor, Frederick Weedon, accompanied him.  It is known that Weedon was with him at the time of death.  It is also known that Osceola’s head was severed from the body after his demise.

Apparently, Weedon returned to St. Augustine with the cranium.  Stories are told that the doctor hung the head on his children’s bedposts to punish them when they misbehaved.

There is a house on the corner of Bridge and Weedon streets where Dr. Frederick Weedon is said to have lived with his family.  In the 1990s a little boy was visiting his grandfather in that house. The youngster was awakened in the bed room, startled by the figure of a tall Indian peering over his bed.  Although surprised, he was not frightened and reported the vision to his grandfather in the morning.  The grandfather was unwilling to admit that he knew the legend of Osceola’s head and that Dr. Weedon would discipline his children by placing the disembodied head in the room at night. Perhaps he feared the grandson would not return for a visit.

The only problem with that story is that the house was not built until 1925 and Weedon died in 1857.  Perhaps, though he did live on the street named for him and spirits exist.

It is known that Weedon kept the embalmed head in his office or in a drug store.

Facts continuing to authenticate the story include Weedon’s presentation of the skull to his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift.  Although seemingly preposterous, the fact is, the skull was a precious item historically and scientifically. Weedon’s son-in-law, Daniel Whitehurst, had studied medicine under Dr. Valentine Mott, a well-regarded surgeon in the country.  Documentation shows that Whitehurst eventually presented the remains of the intriguing Indian to Mott who died in April 1865.  Shortly after his death a fire consumed part of the Mott Museum and no written account provides evidence of the location of the famous cranium.

Regardless of the outcome, stories linger on in St. Augustine.  Have you seen Osceola’s head?  Do you know any similar legends?  I also am curious if any members of the Seminole culture find this offensive. I’d like to know. No doubt we can say the stories perpetuate the memory of the nineteenth-century warrior.


Kenny Beeson’s Exorcism

Ghost Legends

Kenny Beeson’s Exorcism Rite

 

It wasn’t the mysterious smells that put Kenny Beeson over the edge.  Nor was it the sounds of booted feet stamping across the floor, or the ships bell that rang when no one entered the shop door.

No, it was when his friend died in the 1960s and he couldn’t banish the spirits from his shop.  That’s when he knew he had to take the next extraordinary step.  He had to ask a Catholic priest to exorcise the evil spirits invading his life.

It all started when Kenny was a young man working as a tailor at Kixie’s Men’s Shop at 138 St. George Street.  Only Kenny could smell the perfumed odors in the back workroom.  Then came the sounds:  stamping feet, a ringing bell over the front door, even moaning and clanging chains.

It was becoming difficult to work alone at night so when Kenny’s friend, Preston, kept him company one night, he was relaxed.  That is until the bathroom door slowly swung open and an overwhelmingly sweet odor drifted through the air.

“We’re getting out of here,” Kenny yelled. The two men sprang to their feet but before Preston went through the door Kenny noticed the image of a face on the back of his shirt.  It was too late to stop him as Preston was high tailing it out to the parking lot.  But Kenny stopped long enough to pull out a tape recorder and leave it running on the workbench.

 

The next day he listened in awe as he heard the documented clamor. Before he could contact Preston, his friend died of a heart attack.  It took all his strength to attend the funeral and as he entered the chapel he was overcome by the stench of funeral flowers, the same smell that had invaded his work space. Then he saw the man whose image had been emblazoned on the back of Preston’s shirt.  It was Preston’s brother.  Had this been a premonition of the death?  The brother followed his brother in death soon thereafter.

Kenny was so shaken by all of the strange events he went to Monsignor Harold Jordan to ask for help. Although Monsignor Jordan had never attempted an exorcism rite, he realized how deeply frightened Kenny was.  He blessed the rooms and ordered the demonic spirits to leave.

The service apparently worked as all was quiet after that.  Kenny said he never heard anything else, although occasionally he did smell flowers.

Kenny Beeson became a leader in the community which included serving two terms as city mayor.  He chose to keep his story quiet, telling it only to his closest friends.  It was not until 1992 when he went public with the story, telling it to me for publication in Compass.  From there it has become one of the staples of the ghost tour litany of tales.

Did the exorcism work?  Shortly after the story was printed a couple living in an apartment down the street from Kixie’s Men’s Shop came to me with their tale of haunting in their residence. Is it possible that the spirit haunting Kixie’s moved down the street?  Does anyone know?