The House on Madison Square

At 6 West Harris Street, on Savannah’s leafy Madison Square sits a stunning amber-colored Greek Revival mansion now called the Sorrel-Weed House. Depending upon who is doing the telling, the house was completed either in 1838, 1839 or 1840 for Francis Sorrel, a half-Haitian, half- French shipping magnate who became one of the city’s wealthiest citizens. The Sorrel home was said to be a center of social life in antebellum Savannah where Francis Sorrel and his wife, Matilda Moxley Sorrel entertained the city’s aristocracy and later, General Sherman and General Lee.

Savannahpics 187When I first started reading about this house, I came across multiple accounts of a double tragedy that supposedly occurred there–the suicide of Mrs. Moxley and the subsequent hanging death of one of Mr. Sorrel’s slaves in the carriage house.It was this story that inspired my novel, THE BRACELET and it’s this story that has been hardest to research. One of the books I came across, a collection of letters of a wealthy Georgia family and collected in a book called The Children of Pride was cited by some as proof that the Sorrels had already sold the house and moved next door to 12 West Harris before Mrs. Sorrel’s death. The date of her death has been variously given as 1860, 1861 and 1867. But my online search of the book’s index turned up no references to this incident. The Georgia Historical Society cites 1859 as the year the house was sold to another Savannah businessman, Henry Davis Weed. But the trustees of the Sorrel-Weed House give the year of the sale as 1862.

Regardless, the undisputed and sad story of Mrs. Moxley’s suicide and the disputed death of the slave woman in the carriage house live on, mostly it seems to separate tourists to Savannah from their money. I’m not a “ghost-hunter” kind of person. As an amateur historian and a lover of history I deplore the cheapening of history by these so called “haunted house/ghost tour” enterprises, just as I’m dismayed by the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not and other tacky businesses sullying Alamo Plaza here in San Antonio.

Despite the discrepancies, omissions, and contradictions regarding the house on Madison Square, I hope my entirely fictional story set in this beautiful city will give readers a glimpse into Savannah’s past while providing an exciting story of romantic suspense. THE BRACELET will be published this fall. I’ve just seen the cover and I can’t wait to share it with you. It’s stunning.