Many Girl Scouts make a pilgrimage to Savannah and take Group Ghost Tours in Savannah to see one house in particular. On the corner of Bull and Oglethorpe Streets, sits a grand home that was the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low.
Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts of America and this is the story of her birth home, what many Savannians call simply ” The Birthplace”
The Wayne-Gordon House
Completed in 1821, the Regency Style house is thought to be designed by William Jay ( a well known architect who designed a few other homes in Savannah). It was built for James Moore Wayne who was the Savannah Mayor at that time. James Moore Wayne left to live in Washington DC to fill a term in the US House of Representatives and US Supreme Court, so he sold the home in 1831 to Sarah Stites Gordon and her husband William Washington Gordon. This was the first of four generations to live in the house on Oglethorpe Street and were the grandparents of Juliette.
Juliette Gordon Low’s parents, William II and his wife Eleanor, or Nelly, met each other in the 1850’s and both lived well into the 20th century. The two were very much in love. The Kinzie’s were a founding family of Chicago and Nelly’s father and uncle were Union officers, yet she remained loyal to her husband until the end.
William Gordon II became the first Confederate Officer to become general in the U.S. Army where he served both in the Civil War and the Spanish- American War. I tell guest on our Group Ghost Tours in Savannah that Nelly and William were nearly inseparable. She told her family…
I can’t live without him. If he goes, I’ll have to go too.
He, of course, let her know that when she died, he would come back for her. William Washington Gordon II died on September 11, 1912. In her heart, Nelly knew that he would come back for her when she was ready.
The Ghost of Love Lost
1917, at 82 years old, the doctor predicted that the ill and bedridden Nelly would pass at any time. Her five adult children, including Juliette, were in the room with her as she was taking her final breathes.
Her daughter-in-law Margaret was sitting in an adjoining bedroom after already saying her goodbyes.
Arthur Gordon was the son of Margaret and he recounted a story his mother would often tell. She had been in the room reading for a while, when all of a sudden the hallway door flew open and General William Washington Gordon II walked right on in. She said he was wearing his favorite grey suit and was holding his hat. He had a very glad look on his face. William didn’t even seem to notice Margaret as he approached his dying wife’s bedroom door.
Just moments later, Margaret’s husband came bursting in and told her that his mother had died.
But it was the strangest thing. Juliette herself wrote it best in her diary. She wrote that from a mask of death, her mother sat bolt upright and took on the look of a young bride. Smiled, then fell over dead. Margaret then told her husband her story of seeing William walk into the room, but he didn’t believe her.
The family went downstairs to let the servants know that Nelly had died and they notice the butler is standing at the doorway, holding onto the handle with the door wide open. He seemed as if he was in a daze! The butler looked at them both and said…
Sir, it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. The General done come down the stairs with his hat on his arm, looking for Miss Nelly.
Like I tell my guest on my Group Ghost Tours in Savannah, this is a beautiful story of Love. Not all ghost stories have to be gruesome and terrible. The true love of Nelly and Willy is a reminder that true love doesn’t end at death, true love is forever. So find the ones you love – husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons- and hold them tight. Don’t mourn over those gone. They will be waiting patiently for you.
You can find the Juliette Gordon Low House at 10 E Oglethorpe Ave, Savannah, GA 31401 or call at (912) 233-4501