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Rotherwood Mansion

Kingsport, Tennessee

Located over the Holston River in Tennessee, this impressive brick mansion was built in 1818 by Rev. Frederick Ross. Since then, it has been plagued with misfortune and death brought on by the old Southern culture.

The first legend, though there are many different versions, centers mainly on the reverend’s beloved daughter Rowena. Being a rich plantation owner, he was able to provide her with lavish gifts and an expensive education. His memoir states she was beautiful–petite with black hair and brown eyes. Two years after finishing school, she fell in love with a young man from a neighboring town. However, tragedy struck when he and his friends went fishing in the nearby river the day before the wedding. They hadn’t even made it out of Rowena’s sight when the flimsy boat capsized. Some say she witnessed the accident, and ran frantically down to the river. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do. All the passengers made it safely to shore except for her fiancé, whose body was found an hour later.

Affected deeply by the sudden loss, the beautiful Rowena disappeared from public sight. There are no mentions of where she spent these couple years as a hermit. When she emerged, healed and still eligible, a wealthy man from Knoxville proposed. They had not been married even a year before he died from yellow fever, and Rowena again faded into seclusion. This time it was ten years before she remarried. This led to Rowena giving birth to a daughter, whom she named Theodosia, after her mother.

Six years later, the still unhappy Rowena drowned herself in the same river near her home. Nobody is sure what finally caused this. It may have been that she never fully recovered from previous losses, but other stories claim it was her daughter’s death that put Rowena over the edge. Some even say she had heard her first love calling to her from the river. Not long after, Rotherwood became home to “The Lady In White”. The name comes from the long white nightgown she supposedly wears as she strolls along the river holding a lantern, still searching 125 years later.

The reverend also faced misfortune when he became bankrupt trying to break into the cotton market. Faced with little choice, he sold the mansion to an infamous slave owner named Joshua Phipps. The town hated him, as his cruelty caused slaves to scream loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Phipps even went so far as to build a whipping post inside the house. As karma would have it, he fell ill with an awful disease that confined him to bed in his carriage house. A young male servant, whose job was to fan his cruel owner, was the only one to witness Phipps’ death. As he was sleeping, an enormous cloud of black flies entered the room. They filled his mouth and nostrils, eventually suffocating the man to death.

Joshua Phipps’ reign of terror lasted even after his death, when he joined Rowena’s spirit in the haunting of Rotherwood. Obviously much less polite, he is known to tear covers off beds and laugh at sleeping residents, peer eerily through windows, move objects around, and laugh maniacally through the halls. Scarier yet, an enormous black dog lurks around the property and often howls. The dog is said to be another manifestation of Phipps, first sighted jumping out of his coffin at the funeral and shocking guests. For good reason, Rotherwood is still private residence, and therefore no live visitors are allowed.

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Allyson Ledford says:

January 30, 2006, 7:28 pm

man that is so scary and nasty! i wouldn’t go in that house. Can you belive it could do that?

tommy and courtney says:

April 13, 2006, 11:12 pm

really spooky and interesting

Ashley says:

April 24, 2006, 3:42 pm

I feel sorry for any one who got tricked to buy that place! Now a days you just don’t know.

jake says:

May 8, 2006, 4:20 am

sounds wicked ill have to see it myself

jennie says:

May 11, 2006, 2:05 pm

I have heard a lot about the rotherwood place because I live like 2 miles from it!!!I also heard a different story but I wount get in to that.But I will say that sometimes on dark stormy nights you can hear howling coming from the house.

Lacey says:

May 24, 2006, 6:16 pm

First of all, the city the Rotherwood Mansion is in is Kingsport. Netherland is the name of the road it is on. I’ve lived here all my life and I have never heard that version of the story. I’ve always heard that the woman and her lover were allowed to be together. They were actually getting married. The day before the wedding, he was fishing in the river in front of the mansion and drowned. I don’t remember exactly how she died, but she’s supposed to be haunting the place still. There is also supposed to be the ghost of another owner who lived there later and a large ghost dog. I’m not sure of the details of those, but there is plenty of information and pictures of the mansion on the internet if you look for it.

Destiny says:

June 11, 2006, 12:32 am

That’s still sad about her lover dying and all. But I’ld love to see the ghost dog!

Andy Powell says:

July 9, 2006, 7:45 pm

Lacey — thanks for the correction. I’ve edited the location to reflect the new information.

kim says:

September 4, 2006, 7:48 pm

i have been in that house before renovations took place. it was abandened (sp) at the time and the doors were open. i think all origanal fixtures and stuff was in there. i rem it had old victorian style wall paper and a hudge crystal chandiliar, barefoot claw tubs, and a big spiral staircase, i was too affraid to go up stairs. i was a little girl when my mother took me. it was amazing though, i can see it being haunted by more that one ghosts. i also rem the slave quarters where still on the grounds and had the chains and everything still in it.

sylvia says:

September 22, 2006, 11:49 am

well i was doing research on it and it claims that on there wedding day they were on a boat and it capsized killing him. aand years later she remaried and he died of yellow fever, then 10 years after that she remarried again and had a lil girl and her lil girl died and apparently she killed jer self b/c she could take it ne more

joni brothers says:

October 20, 2006, 11:31 am

This is an interesting story, but growing up in the south, it is just one of our everyday tales.

mindfreak says:

October 27, 2006, 10:28 am

Its as real as it gets i live in kpt and have been spooked several times by this woman. Also worth noting is Sensenball Tunnels(check the spelling of name)

randy shanks says:

October 30, 2006, 5:02 pm

I grew up in kingsport, and the story is partially correct. The young women’s husband to be was drowned during a fishing/boating accident on the day before or the morning of their wedding. The father was ok with the marriage. In fact, the young woman would later marry, but not happy, she hanged herself in the house.

The house was later bought by a man who was said to be cruel and wicked, and upon his death some strange thing happened during the funeral.

The house was used during WWII as a army commanders residents fdor the neighboring Holston defence Corp.

The house has been fully remodeled and is currently owned by a doctor.

Please excuse my spelling and grammer.

Joshua Hubbard says:

October 30, 2006, 7:49 pm

Here is the deal with Rotherwood. The place was built by a man name Fredrick Ross in 1818 before the city was even known as Kingsport(it was actually called Rossville). He had a daughter named Rowena (the lady in white). On her wedding day her mans boat flipped and he drowned. Then 2 years later she married again and that husband died of Yellow fever. Ten years later she married again and had a daughter of her own, which later died and made Rowena commit suicide. Then in 1847 Ross sold the place to a man named Phipps. He was supposed to be an evil man and cruel slave owner who actually had the torture chamber in the house for the slaves. He was nothing though compared to his wife that is rarely mentioned. If he was evil, she was the devil. Phipps died of very unussaul causes (a swarm of flies entered his room and suffocated him, now who the hell dies like that). On the way to bury him the coach holding the casket would not move at all, no matter how many horses they hooked up. then a very large black dog is said to have jumped out of the carriage and run back to Rotherwood, some say it is the hound of hell, which is where the howling comes from. The third ghost is a hard one to say who it would be, but everyone speculates that it is Phipps. Now I have been there countless times to get pictures and stuff and with the evidence I collected I say the hound is the spirit of Phipps and the third and unidentified spirit is of his wife. Overall I would not recommend going out there for just thrill seeking like the cheerleader earlier mentioned. For lack of better terms the place is just evil. From the moment you step on the property you know you are not wanted there. I do not intend to freak anyone out about the place but believe me it is not for the faint of heart. I have several photos that show what people go out there to see and have recordings of the howling. My e mail address is feel free to e mail me and I can send out the pics and such, just dont go up there.

Trish says:

December 6, 2006, 4:39 pm

I live in Cumberland Gap, Tn. I find haunted houses very interested. I grew up in White Pine, Tn and there is a house there that is said to be haunted. A lady was supposed to have baked her baby in the oven of the house, and they say you can hear the baby crying at night. Now I don’t know I have never been to the house myself, but I would love to visit this one. Sounds very interesting. There is also a house in Cumberland Gap, where there were slave quarters, and it is said to be haunted. Very scary looking. I have been to this one. Love this stuff. Anyone have any interesting, scary, haunting pictures, please email me at

Samantha says:

December 30, 2006, 5:10 pm

I’ve herd of this ! Yeah it was on the travel channel . Intresting to say the least

Samantha says:

December 30, 2006, 5:21 pm

my emaul is to people who want to hear about my experices and stuff. And Joshua I read that exact story in Ghost stories of Tennessee. By A.S. Mott?

Elizabeth Tester says:

March 4, 2007, 6:53 pm

I have heard of the Rotherwood haunting and I think it is scary but I would love to go and see the inside of the house I also enjoy reading about ghost stories they are realy interesting They kind of creep me out but that is the fun of it.

Tyler says:

March 7, 2007, 12:51 am

Hi. My name is Tyler and I grew up in Kingsport, TN. I have spent many nights on that river…alone of course, and never once recall seeing anything. I have been in that house as well, and never felt anything really wrong with it. But, that’s just me.

Tierra says:

March 13, 2007, 11:37 am

Here is what I heard I heard that the woman was down @ the river bank with her next day to be Husband but he died when he was fishing and something pulled him in and made him drown under water and she died trying to recieve him out of the water and now she walks the bank waiting for her husband to come out.

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