Captain Benson Bailey House Museum

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A murderess got away with her crimes, causing restlessness.



The Captain Bailey House Museum is a red-brick, seven gabled, Gothic styled I-house, probably built after the Civil War; late 1860s’ early 1870s’. It truly is a lovely structure. Tom and I visited but the museum was closed. You can get a private appointment if you contact The Brownsville Historical Society at (402) 825-6001. We plan to do so when we come through Brownsville, Nebraska again. We peeked into the front rooms that were set up in the style of the late 19th century; just the way Captain Bailey would’ve liked it.

According to The Society of Architectural Historians’ website, “The one-and-a-half-story brick building is a good example of an I-house, which is typically two rooms wide and one room deep with a central passage and an extension at the rear. This I-house is Gothic Revival in style with steeply pitched roofs, a symmetrical front elevation featuring three prominent gables with pointed-arch windows extending into the gables, and a one-story, full-width porch.”

Besides restoring the house, The Brownsville Historical Society also planted some lovely plants and shrubs, creating a pleasing garden around the house.




The Captain Bailey House was built after the Civil War by Union officer, Captain Benson M. Bailey, who served with 3rd Tennessee Mounted Infantry, a Union cavalry. In 1860, his first wife and their enfant daughter died, leaving him with their three children; William, Tilman and Elizabeth Florence. After the war, he married for a second time a lady from Tennessee and moved his wife and three children to Nebraska to start a new life together. Captain Benson Bailey became a river boat captain, and made a good living doing so.

The Brownsville home built here was perhaps a wedding present to his second wife, as well as the new Bailey family home. Its original location offered a great view of the Missouri River. Captain Bailey built his forever home during the hight of prosperity in the city of Brownville. Most of the historic homes in Brownsville were built before 1875. Around 1877, the Missouri River started to whittle away at the shore, endangering the houses built there.

So, the good Captain Benson Bailey moved the Bailey forever home brick by brick to a safer location on Main Street. “Mr. Bailey had his home rebuilt out of the materials of the original house, but this time well out of the way of the river-on Main Street between 4th and 5th, where it still stands today, a property of the Brownville Historical Society used as the organization’s House Museum.”

The city of Brownville got off to a roaring start economically when a U.S. Land Office was established there in 1857. It was made the county seat and great hope of further economic growth because of the possibility of becoming a railroad stop. it grew because of the river boat based economy. It also enjoyed economic success being the county seat until 1883 when the county seat was moved to Auburn. Financial depression and “changing modes of transportation” further brought economic decline to Brownsville in the later years of the 19th century. Instead of being a boom to their economy, the railroad decimated the river boat economy businesses.

Moving to Main St. neighborhood in 1877 may have saved the Bailey forever home, but it is theorized that the move put them next to a dangerous neighbor who supposedly caused the two unfortunate murders of Captain Bailey;(1883) and his wife; (1880), though it was never proven and remains a mystery, uh oh!.

Throughout the eras the people of Brownsville, Nebraska, found ways to survive and become a stable, but small community. The city reinvented its economic fortunes by rebuilding it’s economy based on tourism and its wealth of historical structures. The Captain Bailey House probably had a boatload of owners until it became a real fixer-upper opportunity, in need of a boatload of money to restore it to former glory.

Thanks to the Brownville Historical Society, founded in 1956, The Brownsville Historic District is alive and well with restored buildings and homes like The Captain Bailey House. The Brownsville Historical Society has made The Captain Bailey House into a Museum that has artifacts from the early years of the city of Brownsville. Thanks to this energy of this group, the entire historical district in Brownsville has been put on the National Register of Historic Districts.



Restoration of old structures to their former glory can act like a environmental trigger, causing overt activity from spirits who loved the place.

People who die at the hands of another, sometimes can’t rest until the guilty are brought to justice, or resent losing their life before their time so they continue to stay in their favorite place; not willing to accept their death in this world.

There are two stories about these murders, but not proven. One theory states that Captain Bailey was poisoned by a jealous neighbor. The poisoned food may have been for his wife, but Captain Bailey was the one who ate it.

Two other good sources I found stated that this neighbor had first poisoned Mrs. Bailey to get her out of the way, and then did the same to Captain Bailey when he wasn’t interested in her as a love interest. The murderess was never caught.

People who die because of an unlikely event that may have been prevented if circumstances had been different, can also be a cause for restlessness. Captain Bailey also must be annoyed at himself for not figuring out how his wife was poisoned, which would’ve prevented his own murder. After surviving the Civil War, it is an oddball way to die – eating food that was poisoned.




While there have been no published hard evidence, staff, neighbors and visitors have noticed the below manifestations. The Brownville Historical Society’s website even mentions that Captain Bailey apparently is still at home, and must enjoy the decor and items through out the house on display.

The Spirit of Captain Benson Bailey

Captain Bailey makes sure that the living know that he is still “Man of the House” by deliberately opening and closing doors all around his forever home.

When really agitated, his spirit will vigorously swing the door where he died back and forth. His body was found up against this door in a sitting position on the floor.

He is fascinated with electrical lights.

Late at night, neighbors have heard piano music coming from his house when no one living is there.

Staff, visitors have seen the spirit of Captain Benson Bailey himself walking around his house, like the master of the place.


Apparently so! Several sources report his spirit activity. He is still upset by the unsolved mystery of his poisoning and the poisoning of his wife, and finds some comfort in his forever family home. It must of pleased him greatly that the Brownsville Historical Society has restored his favorite spot in this world.



412 Main Street,
Brownville, NE 68321
402.825.6001 (Brownville Historical Society)

Captain Bailey House Museum can be found on Brownville’s Main Street between 4th and 5th Streets, in a downtown residential neighborhood.


  • Journal of the Fortean Research Center Paperbound

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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