Berkeley Plantation

More From Virginia

A terrible accident killed family members, but spared the littlest one.

A spectral host inserts himself in the life of this house museum.



The Berkeley Plantation Mansion is a large, 3 story, brick mansion built in the Georgian style by Benjamin Harrison III, in 1726. It is the oldest 3-story brick house in Virginia. It is a wonderful museum to visit; both inside the mansion and the extensive grounds. In 1790, Benjamin Harrison VI at the direction of his friend and colleague, Thomas Jefferson, put in the beautiful Adam woodwork and the double arches of the ‘Great Rooms’ himself. The rooms in Berkeley Plantation Mansion are furnished with a magnificent collection of eighteenth century antiques.

The grounds are gorgeous, with walkways to the river running through and around the five terraced gardens (dug during the Revolutionary War) leading from the house to the James River. A small woodland glade offers picturesque views of the grassy hills and the river.



This plantation has quite a history. The land parcel it sits on was part of the 8,000 acre land grant given by England’s King James I to the Berkeley Company in 1619, with the plan to bring settlers to establish a colony and farm/settle the land. Many claim that the first thanksgiving happened at this plantation on December 4, 1619 at the end of their first year here. The English who survived this first year held a feast to thank the Lord for their bountiful harvest, with about 90 Indians joining the festivities, according to the letter of a distinguished professor Dr. Burr who had come in September to visit them. This early settlement was abandoned in 1622, when it was attacked by marauding Indians.

In 1636, a London merchant, John Bland became the new owner, and lived there with his family. The Bland family lost the plantation in 1676 when Giles Bland who was part of an insurrection, was caught and hung by the British.

Benjamin Harrison III then bought the property and built the existing Berkeley Plantation Mansion in 1726, a very handsome, sturdy home, up to the challenge of both being the center of hospitality for every President from Washington to Buchanan and enduring both the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and some years of neglect.

During the Civil War, General McClellan used the plantation and the Berkeley Plantation Mansion as his headquarters during the early years of the war, and President Lincoln visited him there. At one point, there were 140,000 Union soldiers on the property. The cellar was used as a holding cell for Confederate soldiers, and the rooms in the mansion were used as a hospital. During the last years of the war and decades afterward, the historic Berkeley Plantation Mansion was neglected and left to the elements. The low point for the plantation mansion was being used as a barn for animals. For several decades the mansion bravely stood, waiting to be adopted by someone. It wasn’t the state of Virginia or the federal government, but a private citizen who purchased the plantation and a new era of restoration and rebirth began.


Around 50 years after the Civil War, a former 14 year old drummer boy, John Jamieson, who had seen the plantation while stationed there in 1862, came back and bought this unique fixer-upper opportunity, really in need of tender, loving care. In 1927, his son Mac Jamieson and his wife Grace moved into the Berkeley Plantation Mansion, fell in love with the place and dedicated energy and funds to restore the Berkeley Plantation Mansion to its original, glorious state, which took awhile to do.

Today, it is open to the public who can take the house tour or the vast grounds tour, which includes flower gardens and the family cemetery. Outdoor weddings and receptions and special events are held in areas around the grounds, all the way down to the river.



In 1744, there was a terrible accident in one of the upstairs rooms.

During a stormy evening in 1744, William Harrison IV and two of his daughters were trying to shut a window in a bedroom which overlooks the James River. A fluke bolt of lightening came through the window and struck all three of them killing them, but missed Harrison’s infant son, Benjamin Harrison V, who was being held by one of the daughters. The baby survived, thanks to a physician who happened to be a dinner guest. Benjamin grew to be an important leader and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and was the father and grandfather of two United States Presidents; William Henry Harrison (9th) and Benjamin Harrison (23rd).

During the Civil War, the mansion was used as a Union hospital, and not everyone who went in came out alive.

Mac and Grace loved The Berkeley Plantation Mansion, and restored and renovated not only the mansion itself, but also restored the vast grounds.



The Spirit of William Harrison IV

The friendly, fatherly entity makes his presence known to the living.

His presence walks across the parlor, making the chandeliers’ glass tinkle when no one living is in the room.

This jovial entity likes to play little jokes on the staff. The door to the linen press swings open, and hits the unsuspecting tour guide lightly in the shoulder. The door on occasion swings back and forth at will.

His presence is strongly felt in the dining room during some tours, like a good host who greets the visitors.

The entity of Harrison has issues with the fruit in the fruit bowl. Fruit from the fruit bowl has been known to fly through the air, but comes back eventually to the bowl, or they roll on the table. Apples fall to the floor without hitting the wide board, like someone picked them up and tossed them.

Spirit of one of William’s daughters

She is a cooperative and gentle spirit.

In an upstairs bedroom, an apparition of a girl with a baby in her arms has been seen standing by the infamous window which wouldn’t shut so long ago.

Sometimes the window will shut by itself randomly or when the tragic story is explained to visitors on cue!

The friendly, fatherly entity of William Harrison IV makes his presence known to the living.

The Attic: Unknown entity

Footsteps are heard pacing around the attic when no one is there.

Spirit of a Soldier & his Friend

The apparition of a gaunt, tall soldier walking along the river is seen.

Sometimes this spirit has the company of a drummer boy; both probably casualties of the Civil War.


Yes indeed!

William Harrison IV may have died too soon in a stupid accident, but his entity is enjoying his afterlife in his renovated, restored Berkeley Plantation Mansion, getting his chuckles teasing the tour guides, keeping the living company.

At least one of his daughters keeps him company. A soldier who is perhaps still on duty, enjoys the view of the river, along with his young friend.




12602 Harrison Landing Road
Charles City, Virginia 23030
(888) 466-6018

Located Halfway Between Richmond and Williamsburg, Off Scenic Route 5 in Charles City, Virginia, on a beautiful spread of property, near the James River. From Williamsburg, travel west on Route 5 (John Tyler Memorial Hwy). Travel approximately 30 miles. Berkeley Entrance is on the left.


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Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

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