Eldred House Investigation

Born in 1796 in Connecticut Ward Eldred had his eye on Illinois while it was still a territory. He and his cousin Swift traveled by foot from their home in New York’s Mohawk Valley to Illinois in 1818. In the months just before statehood, they surveyed land in northern Madison County (presently Greene County) before returning to New York.  

 The Eldred’s had waited for assurances that Illinois would not enter the union as a slave state before committing themselves to moving west. A letter from Madison County resident George Churchill to Swift Eldred, dated 1818, addresses this concern. Churchill had made his acquaintance with Swift during the Eldred visit, and informed Swift that the state constitutional convention has “decided against slavery in general,” although the presence of previously owned slaves was as yet undecided. Churchill is optimistic about the prospects for Yankee settlement. He hopes for “Yankee Fashion” ballot- based elections and for ridding the new state of the “little remnant of slavery.” 

Ward married his first of four wives in January, 1819 and promptly returned to west central Illinois with his brother Elon and a herd of sheep that the two had driven from Ohio. In March 1820, his father Jehosaphat, and a clan of twelve other family members journeyed from New York to Illinois, settling west of Carrollton and awaiting the creation of a new county with newly surveyed land. A family anecdote says Jehosaphat’s youngest son Silas, who was only ten years old at the time, decided that he was not going with the rest of the family. His father told him that he could stay if he wanted but was quite sure that when Silas saw them leaving on the boats that he would change his mind and catch up with them. Much to his father’s chagrin he did not and the family had to double back a considerable distance to get Silas. 

Early in 1821, the Illinois legislature created seven new counties, dividing Madison County in the process to create Greene County. Before the land sale, the purchasers had made an agreement between themselves that they would not bid against each other. Instead the land choice would be based on who was first to arrive in the county. Land was sold in lots of no less than 80 acres or 1/8 section for no less than $100. Jehosaphat and Robert Hobson each claimed to be the first to arrive and should therefore receive the best piece of ground. According to the 1879 Greene County History, the Eldred’s arrived at the sale late and had an abundance of money. It is said that their saddle bags of gold and silver were so heavy that it required two men to carry them into the land office. Jehosaphat and Robert Hobson failed to come to an agreement before the sale and the result was a bidding contest. Jehosaphat became the purchaser at $150. This price so enraged Jehosaphat that he told Hobson that he would bid against him for any piece of land he wished to buy, ensuring he would pay a like amount. Friends interfered and Jehosaphat agreed that if Hobson paid him the $50 he would allow him to purchase the Land. 

 Jehosaphat Eldred and his sons William and Ward purchased Greene County land in January. Ward purchased five 80 acre (one eighth section) tracts in Sections 17, 20, and 21 of Carrollton Township. Some of this land today is still owned by the Eldred Family. His family probably made their initial homestead in Section 21. His second son, James John Eldred, was born in 1828. 

When Polly Langdon-Eldred died in October of 1822, she was buried on the Eldred’s Farm just west of the Rainey memorial statue north of Carrollton. The grave has long since been plowed under. With the passing of his wife, Jehosaphat moved to Galena, Illinois, during the lead mining excitement and went into extensive operations. He also established a stock farm at the mouth of the big Sandy Creek in Scott County. Upon his death in 1842, he left his vast holdings to his children and they drew legacies from his estate at Galena. 

The Center for American Archaeology suggests habitation of the future James J. Eldred House property during the 1820’s, primarily due to the discovery of domestic debris from that decade during the 1990’s excavations. Deed records indicate, however, that the school board commissioner did not sell the property until 1833, and it is likely that the 1830’s occupants owned ceramics and pearl ware dating to the mid-to-late 1820’s. Any 1820’s homesteaders would have been a squatter without title to the land, and such evidence as has been discovered is from excavations made within the walls of a later structure. 

The land on which the Eldred House would be built was owned by one of the early settlers of Bluffdale, Richard Robley, and several years after his migration with an idealistic group of New Englanders. In the late 1820’s several Vermont families, including the Robleys, Spencers, Brushes, and Russells, moved to Greene County and named their new settlement Bluffdale. Richard Robley first purchased 80 acres of land in Section 9, just north of the future Eldred House, in 1823. He later purchased 80 acres in Section 15 to the east. The state legislature designated Section 16 land for schools in 1829, but amended the law to allow the sale of such lands in 1831. In 1833 Robley purchased 310 acres of the south half of Section 16 from the Illinois School Commissioner, Samuel Smith, but apparently deferred payment.  In 1836, Robley sold the land to Hiram R. Brown, who paid $752 for it and who may have built a dwelling on the site or occupied a Robley-built structure with his wife Hanna. During the Brown ownership, Ward Eldred’s family lived across the road in Section 21. In 1838, the families likely contributed to the construction of distinctive limestone fencing that ran for seven miles along the Bluffdale Road. Road widening and paving in the 1930’s destroyed a majority of the fencing. 

When Ward Eldred purchased the land in the Illinois River Valley from Hiram R Brown in April 1840, he paid $4000 for the 310 acres in Section 16 and 160 acres in Section 17, adding to his extensive holdings in the area. The increased value of the land is probably due in part to the presence of a residential structure and possibly other support structures on the property. This coincides with archaeological evidence pointing to a structure on the site occupied during the 1830’s. 

Ward Eldred’s first two wives had died before he purchased the Section 16 property in 1840. He would marry twice more in the coming decade while raising cattle and growing crops on his lands. All four wives died during childbirth. The 1850 Census reveals Ward, at age 54, as the head of household, which also included his son James (21) along with four younger brothers and a seven year old sister, Evaline. The widower lost his own life in 1851 after contracting erysipelas (acute skin disease) while driving cattle during a flood in the Illinois bottoms.  After his father’s death, James John Eldred purchased his older brother Ward’s interest in the Section 16 property. James had married Emeline Smead, the sister of his father’s fourth wife, in February 1851, and the couple probably lived in the old Eldred Home.  During 1851 the Eldred’s completed a new four story limestone barn west of the house.  

Ward had need of such a structure, and had been gathering stone, flooring, and shingles for this purpose. At the time of his death he owned 194 head of cattle, 70 cows, 58 calves, 30 horses, and five oxen and goats.  He sold cheese to the major market in nearby St. Louis and grew wheat and corn.  James J. Eldred inherited the cheese making equipment and raised a variety of livestock and crops. The farm flourished and the Eldred’s had four children by 1860. In addition to the immediate family, the Eldred’s also supported two domestics, and his seventeen year old sister Evaline. Three farm laborers assisted them in the growing of their crops. As the nation headed to civil war, Eldred’s personal prosperity had led him to plan and erect a new limestone farmhouse. 

The James J Eldred house completed in 1861 was probably the most elegant residential structure in the region and is an important surviving example of Greek Revival architecture transplanted to the Illinois bluff. Combining the stylistic values of neoclassicism with traditional local materials, Eldred created a county estate home that became a center piece of regional social life during the 1860’s and 1870’s. 

James and Emeline Eldred raised children, managed a farm, and regularly hosted social gatherings. The prime years of the Eldred House were not all gaiety and light for its owners, however. All three Eldred daughters died at home: Alma at age 4 in 1861, Alice at 17 of tuberculosis in 1870, and Eva at 17 from the same cause in 1876. The unpredictability of agricultural life left James Eldred’s finances strained at times. In 1870, for example, a private tutor of the Eldred children sued Eldred for non-payment. He faced another suit in 1900, owing money to John Snyder of Carrolton in a case apparently involving a lease on Eldred property that was settled out of court. James, now 52, shared farming duties with his son Ward, 25, and also housed a 38 year-old cousin named Albon E. Wilson, a teacher at the old Columbiana School at the Illinois River ferry landing on the Greene County side of the river. Wilson was James Eldred’s cousin, and discussed purchasing land from James as early as 1880 to settle a debt. Not quite ready to sell, Eldred nevertheless felt the strain of maintaining his holdings. Wilson’s journal notes that in January 1880, “James was wounded yesterday with a pain in his back, was not able to be out all day to attend to his work.” In addition to teaching, Wilson helped on the farm and assisted in the sale and transport of Eldred’s crops. 

Wilson moved and started a grocery business in Carrolton later in 1880, and the Eldred’s began to sell land the following year. George Garretts bought 40 acres in Section 17 that year. In March 1883, floods sent many bottom dwellers away from the area and threatened crops. The Eldred’s still retained their reputation as social hosts, receiving attention in April for another successful party, but as with several other land owners in that area, 1883 represented a diminishment of their agricultural efforts at Bluffdale. James J. Eldred, Jesse Flatt, Roswell Flat, Ellen Hermans, and Anton Brichge all had “significant chunks of land” seized, presumably for debt. Albon E. Wilson gave up the grocery trade as he became engaged to the wealthy Cassie Robertson. He purchased title to farmland including the majority of Eldred’s in April, 1883. Wilson paid Eldred $8000 for the old Eldred property in Section 21, married Robertson the next day, and began managing the Bluffdale farm from the old Ward Eldred homestead. While James and Emeline Eldred lived at the James J. Eldred House until James death in1911, they sold their house and Section 16 property to Wilson for $12,000, in 1901. By that time the Wilson's were living in Carrollton and the farm was managed by Lawrence Wagener. Wagener who went to work on the farm in 1883 as a teen was assisted by his cousin Meek. Wagener moved onto the property in 1896, raising his family there as he managed Wilson’s agricultural affairs. Before Albon Wilson died in 1912 he signed over the property to his wife Cassie. The Wagener and Meek families continued to live on and manage the farm until her death in 1936. 

Upon Cassie Wilson’s death, the property went up for sale. Robert H. Levis of Godfrey bought 1,517 acres for nearly $27,000. Levis bought and sold several pieces of land in the area in the 1930’s and 1940’s, but the house and immediate property remained in his hands until 1995. Levis made the farm part of a budding absentee agri-business enterprise, eventually naming it Bluffdale Farms, Inc., with on-sight tenants as managers. Levis’ farm managers did not use the J.J. Eldred House as a residence but rather the more modern 1918 house across the road. The only upgrades that occurred to the house during the 20th century have been the addition of two15 amp fuses. The only occupation of the house during the Levis ownership appears to have been a pair of families seeking refuge from a 1943 flood and archeologists during the nearby Koster excavations in the 1970’s. 

Over the years the house became an informal repository for farm equipment. The great flood of 1993, advocated the creation of an information center and a scenic byway in the area. After three years of negotiations, a non profit organization, The Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Association (IVCHA), was granted custodianship of the house in June, 1995. IVCHA hoped to restore the house and use it for a visitor’s center for the area. By the time Bluffdale Farms (Levis family) donated the property, the building was in disrepair but the structure itself was sound.

Located at GPS 39.307829, -90.548598, Eldred , Illinois   62027

Website: www.eldredhouse.com


Hauntings: Reports of a Native American has been sighted along the tree line due to an accidental exhuming of his grave on the property. Rocks have been thrown especially in the kitchen. Other reports include phantom footsteps, knocking on the front door, conversations between a man and a woman have been heard, giggles of a young lady, equipment getting turned off on its own, small shadows in the nursery, apparitions throughout the home and the grounds and some have been touched within the house.



The Ghost Research Society investigated the Eldred House on June 11, 2011. Team members included: Stan Suho, Sandra Weber, Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Dale Kaczmarek with Mari Bushway of Hunting Haunts and Kelly Davis of Macoupin County Ghost Hunters.








Equipment setup: A static IR camera and IR illuminator was placed on the front porch to face into the tree line where an apparition of an Indian was reported in the past. No other equipment was set up as there were too many people and they were being shifted from floor to floor at regular intervals.  

Experiments Performed: I conducted a short EVP session near the tree line with the Ovilus X in phonetic mode. Later two group EVP sessions were conducted in the kitchen with Rosemary and a Mini-Box and the Ovilus X. I also took digital IR and digital IR trap camera pictures. During the group EVP sessions the REM Epod was placed in the center of the room but did not react at all.


Personal Experiences:


Dale Kaczmarek: While doing an initial EMF sweep with the Melmeter in the Nursery I got a 13.5mg reading in the center of the room which quickly dissipated. This was quickly followed by a 2.4mg reading near the closet of the same room. The batteries in both camcorders and full spectrum cameras were drained and the one operational camcorder battery started out with only 83 minutes of power. There were some apparent rocks thrown in various EVP sessions but can’t ascertain for sure if they were paranormal or someone in the room throwing them at this time. The dog in the yard did bark at irregular intervals for no apparent reason and twice while we were conducting an EVP session. While conducting the first EVP session I felt the sensation of either something touching the left side of my neck or my hair but can’t be sure if it wasn’t some of those centipedes dropping from the ceiling as they were literally all over the place.


Sandra Weber: Date: June 11, 2011   Time: approximately 10:00 p.m. – 3:15 a.m.

Investigator: Sandra Weber

Location: Eldred House, Eldred, IL

Weather: outside: mid 50’s to low 60’s, partly cloudy, waxing moon, slightly smoky near bonfire

Other Investigators Present: Dale, Stan, approximately 30 other investigators from Troy Taylor’s Midwest Conference (event hosted by Kelly Davis, President of the Macoupin County Ghost Hunters and Vice President of the Eldred House Operations)

Equipment:       Camera (Canon Power Shot A720 IS set on night shot

                        EMF: (Tri-Field Natural EM Meter)          

Thermometer: Infrared: FLIR


Phenomena witnessed by investigator


Time:                Phenomena:


10:30 p.m. –1:30 a.m. I walked throughout the house (3 floors, basement) and grounds taking photos and readings on the Tri-Field Natural EMF meter.  Readings throughout the house and grounds were consistently approximately 0.5 on the Magnetic setting. (I held the meter with my elbow braced against my body and the meter in front of me, stopping every 3 – 4 paces to allow the meter to stabilize before taking each reading.) I took approximately 100 photographs which showed nothing unusual (some small “orbs” and one large one). I instructed a friend on the use of the FLIR.  She used it throughout the house and grounds but found nothing unusual.


1:30 a.m. –2:15 a.m. A group of approximately 15 - 20 investigators sat in an open circle in the kitchen.   Dale Kaczmarek and Rosemary Guiley led the group.  Rosemary used a device similar to a Frank’s box in an attempt to communicate with any entities.  I could not distinguish any clear words.  Dale used the Ovilus on dictionary and phonetic modes. Again I could not distinguish any clear words, with the possible exception of “eight” in response to a question about how many spirits were in the house.  At one point, a small pebble hit the investigator on her right upper arm.  She was sitting to my right.  I did not see the pebble hit her, but the investigator on her right side claimed to have seen it hit her.  The investigator who was hit pointed to an object on the floor that she believed had hit her. It was a pebble, approximately ½ to ¾ inches in diameter and approximately 4 inches from the wall.  I had previously taken photos of the walls.  They did not appear to have any loose materials that could have fallen on her and been mistaken for a pebble or rock.  I failed to take any photos of the ceiling.  On Monday, June 13, I emailed Kelly Davis to ask her about the condition of the ceiling.  Her response was as follows: “The ceiling in most of the house is bad.  However, the room that has the rocks being thrown has a brand new roof with only wood exposed—no plaster whatsoever.  Any other rooms besides the basement I don’t look at that as evidence.  So the rooms we say are ‘legit’ are the new kitchen and basement rooms.  Any other room could just be gravity from the aging process.”  In a follow-up email exchange, Kelly commented that “the rocks that land within 3 feet of the wall in the kitchen I throw out.”  She said she would look for a photo of the kitchen ceiling and send it to me.  I will amend my report if I get it.  

                        During the session, Dale’s Geiger Counter was audible in another room.  There were occasional clicks but spaced apart.  Several EMF detectors positioned in the middle of the circle failed to alarm. During the session, my Tri-Field Natural EMF meter was on the floor in front of me, set to alarm if the Magnetic reading went over 1.0.  It did not alarm.             

2:15 – 2:45       I participated in EVP sessions in 3 corners of the property.  No response was heard at the time, but the investigator with the recorder (“Mary” from Virginia) promised to let me know if she found anything.  

2:34 – 3:15       I observed Cindy from Macoupin County Ghost Hunters use dowsing rods.  The rods were made of copper and moved inside cylinders also made of copper.  A quartz crystal was attached with copper wire to the end of one rod.  An amethyst crystal was attached with copper wire to the end of the other rod.  The rods responded to her questions by moving apart for “yes” and together for “no”.  She did not appear to be moving her hands or shifting her body weight.  When I asked questions, the rods did not respond.  When I asked Cindy to ask the same questions, the rods responded to her questions.  Strange.  

Summation:  I made no paranormal findings but am at a loss to explain the falling pebble and dowsing rods.  Eldred House is a lovely building, and I enjoyed the opportunity to gain more experience and meet investigators from other teams.  I am kicking myself for failing to photograph the ceilings!  

Stan Suho: Well there's really not much to report on this investigation. We were part of a rather large group and there was no power in the house. This prevented us from doing the usual equipment setup. However I did set up some G.E.I.S.T. devices in the middle room. I set up the Ion Detector, Geiger Counter, and the Tri-Field on a table. I was able to monitor them visually. The three devices were very quiet, probably because there was no power available. I walked around the house taking pictures. I also walked around with my Night Vision Viewer monitoring the several groups. When not doing that I sat in on the EVP sessions conducted by Dale and Rosemary and witnessed several stone throwings.


While nothing showed up on my instruments or my pictures, and I have some doubts about the stones, this place has possibilities and I think we should take up the offer to do a follow up with a full setup by our group.  

Evidence collected:  

Lots of audio evidence was collected during two live group sessions with Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Dale Kaczmarek leading the sessions. Rosemary used a Mini-Box while Dale demonstrated the Ovilus X. Both had interesting results.  

Better.MPG when Rosemary changed to a different scan on the Mini-Box, she asked if this were better and the immediate response was, “Better.”  

Cant.MPG a question was asked to make the meter go off in the middle of the floor and the reply through the Ovilus X was “Can’t.”  

Cool.MPG in an attempt to get rocks thrown, Kelly said, “I’ll give you a dollar if you can do it” and the response was, “Cool.”

Get out of here.MPG a Mini-Box statement said “Get out of here.”  

Give me that ball.MPG during a Mini-Box session a comment was made that the money for throwing rocks was to be spent to buy a ball for the next time, others were attempting to use more money and candy to illicit more rock throwing but the Mini-Box response was plain and clear, “Give me that ball.”  Give me that ball ENHANCED.MPG is the enhanced version of this same recording.

Help.MPG a question was asked, “Is there anyone here that wishes to communicate?” The reply on the Ovilus X was, “Help.”  

Hit the bucket.MPG Rosemary asks, “Can you throw a rock in the center and hit the bucket?” The Mini-Box response was, “Hit the bucket.”  

Important.MPG a statement from the Ovilus X was, “Important.”  

Itseasy.MPG Rosemary asks, “Why do you throw rocks at people?” The Mini-Box responds with, “It’s easy.”  

No.MPG Rosemary asked, “Did you turn the camera on and off?” (Referring to another researcher’s encounter of her camera being shut off)  The Mini-box responds with, “No.”  

Perhaps.MPG A question is asked, “William, can you talk on this device?” The Ovilus X responds with, “Perhaps.”  

Question about Epod.MPG Kelly was asking the spirits to interact with the Epod and turn on the LED lights when the Ovilus X responds with a long sentence in phonetic mode which is unrecognizable at present. (Answer about Epod.MP3)  

Skinbrown.MPG A question is asked, “William is your skin brown?” The Mini-Box responds with, “Pink.”  

Sorry.MPG A question is asked, “Will you throw another rock for us?” The Ovilus X responds with, “Sorry.”  

Thatsme.MPG A question about a previous session about someone who was possibly a slave is asked, “Are you still with us?”  The Mini-Box responds with, “That’s me.”  

Trouble Ovilus.MPG People are trying to illicit a rock throwing when the Ovilus X responds with, “Trouble.”  

Trouble.MPG An earlier session before the Ovilus trouble with the Mini-Box which responds with, “Trouble.”  

Voice1.MPG picked up on the audio track of the static IR camera positioned on the porch a female whispering voice sounds like, “Dale, help us…” and can’t make out the rest.

Voice2.MPG also picked on audio track of camcorder a female whisper is said to say, “Hi.”  

Whosasking.MPG a question is asked about the spirits in the house and the Mini-Box responds with, “Who’s asking?”  

Yes.MPG Dale asks, “Is there money hidden in the house?” The Ovilus X responds with, “Yes.”  

Conclusions: All in all, there were some interesting audio interactions both with the Ovilus X and the Mini-Box during the group EVP sessions. During the first group EVP session there were a lot more people who had IR cameras and camcorders running and we only had one small possible pebble thrown while in the second session, which was much smaller, there were much fewer cameras in operation which allows the possibility of deception or outright fraud in throwing stones. While I’m not suggesting anyone in particular, I find it highly unlikely that the all those stones were thrown by a supernatural entity within a 19 minute EVP session.

With the large group of people present, conditions were not ideal for a proper investigation as there was lots of contamination from other floors, walking around, dog barking and general movement.

I did find the place of interest especially due to its lack of power therefore no AC fields or false readings on EMF detectors. I would like to investigate this place again with a smaller group and much more equipment and cameras set up and a command center.

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