APPLE GROVE — Sometimes a good ghost story is also an interesting history lesson.
Take for example, Bruce Chapel, a historic church in Southern Mason County, established in 1842. Its adjoining cemetery contains the graves of the Moore Family which is associated with the Mai Moore Mansion (another suspected haunted location in Mason County), all located on private property now.
The church and cemetery are near the ruins of the mansion which burned in 1959 and again in the 1960’s.
The church and cemetery has been investigated for ghostly activity by the Huntington Paranormal Investigations and Research (HPIR) group twice – the cemetery in 2006 and the church in 2012. HPIR logs the tri-state’s history and mysteries on its website www.huntingtonparanormal.com and on its Facebook page. The group also runs the “Haunted Guyandotte” tours.
Member Theresa Racer, who has her own Facebook page and blog about the investigations, was on the Bruce Chapel investigation in 2012 where she said the property owner allowed the group to investigate inside the church which no longer held services. She said one of the interesting things to come out of that investigation was an unusual photo taken while they were breaking down their equipment. There is an oddity in the photo just below an investigator’s head which three of the group’s best de-bunkers have analyzed and can’t determined what it is, though some who have viewed the photo on the website say it looks like a head. Racer said some comments on the photo suggested it looked like a possible African American girl or a Native American girl.
Racer said the group heard stories about the church being for whites only when it was built, and how slaves would look into the windows or wait outside during the church service. Racer said there are slaves alleged to be buried on the property and when an addition was added on to the church some time in the 1930’s, there is a theory some of the addition covers those graves.
In 2006, Bruce Chapel was one of HPIR’s first investigations when it investigated the cemetery, containing graves which date back to the early 1800’s, and got an interesting Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) recording, also posted on its website. According to HPIR, the site had been featured on many haunted places listings due to reports of light anomalies, strange noises, and other paranormal occurrences.
Of course, whether or not there are ghosts or paranormal activity taking place at Bruce Chapel and the Moore Mansion site, there is no doubt history took place. Racer said when investigating that history, the group looked at history books on Mason County and when the investigation in 2012 took place, the family who then owned the property allowed the group to explore substantial notebooks of old newspaper clippings and information relevant to the site.
This is what HPIR uncovered:
The chapel itself was the first Episcopalian Church in the area, and was built on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. George Moore. Funding came from a variety of sources, including the Diocese of Virginia, but more importantly, from the Bruce Fund, a fund set up by a Miss Bruce from Halifax, Va. Miss Bruce had family in the area, and was instrumental in the church’s completion, thus, it was named Bruce Chapel in her honor.
The chapel was consecrated in 1843 by Bishop Johns, and was used by other area faiths until they could build their own places of worship. By 1879, Bruce Chapel boasted the area’s first Sunday School, and by 1938, the back addition was added for use by church and community alike.
Bruce Chapel’s haunted history is often tied in directly with the haunted history of the Mai Moore Mansion. The Mai Moore mansion was once the home to Charles Page Thomas Moore, his wife Urilla Kline, and four daughters, Ida, Rebecca, Lauretta Mai (often referred to as May, Mae or Mai), and Elizabeth V. It was located in the Mercer’s Bottom/Apple Grove area of Mason County.
The Mai Moore Mansion was built around the time of, or shortly after the Civil War. It was originally believed to have been a later residence of George Moore who died in 1880 while in residence. George Moore was the uncle and adoptive father of Charles Page Thomas Moore.
Charles, who was born in February of 1831 in Greenbrier County, came to live with his uncle shortly after the death of his mother when he was 14 years of age. His father, Thomas, died when Charles was just an infant. Charles would go on to attend Marshall Academy, and several other institutions of higher learning in his quest at obtaining his law degree. While at Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pa., Charles co-founded the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in 1852. He was admitted to the bar in 1856, and served with Union forces during the Civil War. After serving in the war, he returned home to practice law. He went on to become a justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, retiring in 1881 to live in Mason County in the Mai Moore Mansion. Charles Page Thomas Moore died on July 7, 1904. He is buried in Bruce Chapel Cemetery.
After the death of Charles P.T. Moore, the mansion remained in possession of the Moore family. It was located near a small Adena Indian mound, named the Mai Moore Mound after Charles’ daughter, Lauretta Mai. Mai, as she preferred to be called, remained in the home after his death, and the mansion thus became known as the Mai Moore Mansion. It was consumed by fire in 1959. Vandals soon stole or damaged what was left, and by 1968 another fire had completely gutted the structure, leaving nothing but ruins. Lauretta Mai, born on January 19, 1873, never married. She passed away on March 12, 1965 and is also buried in Bruce Chapel Cemetery, along with her mother, and two sisters who also never married.
For more information, find HPIR at www.huntingtonparanormal.com and on its Facebook page; find Racer at Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State on Facebook and at http://theresashauntedhistoryofthetri-state.blogspot.com/p/haunted-west-virginia.html.
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories pertaining to Mason County’s most haunted places which the Point Pleasant Register will be running this week.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.