Dodson’s Tavern

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Murder or unjust execution can cause restless spirits…



Described as being “A beautifully restored home of 3 levels with formal garden and guest house with beamed ceiling.”

This restored Federalist Style, brick private home, has a large first floor, that once was a Tavern/ restaurant. There are two floors above the main floor, used for living space, bedrooms and places to keep the Kennedys’ vast collections of antiques, furniture and collectibles. Since moving here, they have had a sale, perhaps trying to make room for other things. Take a look at the website, and see the kind of items they collect.

It has its original pine floors, and woodwork, though most of the woodwork on the walls is painted white. The staircase is simple, yet grand in its own style.



Before the city of Petersburg became an official city, the original tavern was built on this site by entrepreneurial folk, the John Dodson family in 1753 to fulfill the drinking, lodging and food needs for all sorts of people. People with business in town stayed in the rooms located above the tavern, which probably also served meals as well. It isn’t surprising that this tavern was one of the first structures built here, as food, drink and a place to stay are basic needs of human beings.

A bigger, remodeled Dodson’s Tavern with added space probably happened in 1789, because of a booming business. Disaster came in 1815, when a fire that started in a stable raced through the streets and burned down the whole town. This monster of a fire was too much for the volunteer bucket brigade. Like many other town buildings and homes, Dodson’s Tavern was toast. The Dodson family made lemonade out of lemons. The Dodson family, being a determined lot, rebuilt Dodson’s Tavern; probably new and improved, with 1815 modern features that were not available back in 1789.

The guest and service policy in the Tavern and Inn from the beginning of its commercial use helped their income bloom. The location of the city of Petersburg was a strategic target during the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812 and the Civil War as well. The Dodson family didn’t take sides and served everyone who could saunter up to the bar, and pay for cold one or sit down and order food in their pub, or stay upstairs was welcome here. Patriots, Loyalists, British troops, Confederate and Union soldiers, guests from other parts, and of course the local population were all served without discrimination.

Many well-known folks drank, ate and stayed here, including General Marquis de Lafayette, General Lee, Vice President Aaron Burr, and his daughter, Theodosia and General Lee, who also watered his horse here as well. Theodosia treated every one staying at the tavern with marvelous cakes she baked.

Sometime in its very long history, it stopped its commercial endeavors; the Tavern, Inn and boarding house and became a private home. The descendants of the Dodson family took great care of the family forever home, adding modern conveniences like indoor plumbing, modern kitchen and electrical outlets; etc.. The last Dodson descendant, Col. lived here until he died in 1972. For the first time, the Dodson forever home was sold out of the family to the first of several owners.

The first owners did restoration work on the inside of the structure. Other owners who followed helped to maintain the historic nature of the home. Rob and Dianne White, while owners of Dodson’s Tavern home, revitalized the expansive garden area, including a boxwood garden.

Another owner built “a dependency” over the original summer kitchen” that can be used as a guest house and depository for extra antiques and collectibles. The dependency was on the local tour: Historic Petersburg Foundation’s Dependency Tour in the fall of 2019.

“The ‘dependency’ at Dodson’s Tavern is a wonderful mix of old and new. The main floor, which is now the guest house, is furnished with antiques — some quite unique — but equipped with a modern, updated kitchen and bathroom. It looks out over a terraced yard and pond. The lower level, the original summer kitchen, can be accessed only from the outside. Its stone walls and fireplace are original, dating back to the late 1700s. The two-room space (one was used for storage) is set up with antique furnishings and kitchenware that was used in colonial times. Standing in front of the massive fireplace, one can easily imagine the hustle and bustle of cooks preparing meals for tavern guests.”

In 2016, retired Leutenant Colonel Bob and wife Bobbi Kennedy, antique enthusiasts, who already lived in a Victorian House in St. Petersburg, bought the Dodson’s Tavern building. As the Dodson’s Tavern House is “much more suited for their extensive collection of primitive antiques,” they moved into their new home, and put their beautiful Victorian House up for sale.

Bob Kennedy has a “personal antique collection of very rare and very old books and Bibles, which he loves to show others. His collection not only includes a 1607 Geneva Bible but a 1661 book once owned by Bushrod Washington, George’s nephew who lived at Mount Vernon.”

They both have antique collectibles that are on display in their home as well. Bob Kennedy’s favorite piece is the 18th century New England settle (a pub bench), the focal point of their dining room. On the wooden floors, painted floor cloths made by Bobbi are beautiful alternatives to rugs.

The Kennedys enjoy sharing their home, history, and collections with friends and neighbors alike. Some resident spirits seem to enjoy their new housemates, and make themselves known in benign ways. One wonders why they are still here.



Forever Family homesteads or forever homes and or much loved businesses can draw back spirits to reside or visit there in their afterlife

The same family was connected to this much-loved family business and/or lived in Dodson’s Tavern home from 1753 to 1972.

A few family spirits still enjoy their home.

Murder or unjust execution can cause restless spirits.

A guest of the 1800s was bragging about his sack of money. He had his throat cut, as he walked down the hallway to his room in the Tavern. and money stolen. A slave was blamed for the murder and theft, probably by the real murderer and thief. The accused slave was hung on a tree in the Tavern’s back yard. Slaves at this time apparently didn’t get a trial or protections of the law.

The Spirit of the murdered guest lets the living know what happened, the best way he can.

The slave is said to haunt the property, but no personal experiences have been reported.



New Owners were Warned

Before buying this building, Bob and Bobbi were given a lengthy portfolio, compiled by previous owners, detailing a number of events that one might describe as paranormal.

Neighbors told them about known paranormal activity; but they bought it anyway.

So far, activity has been benign.

Spirit of Col. John Cargill Peagram

In the years following Col John’s death, Peagram’s books in his extensive library were kept as they were left. During the night, his books were found around the room, like he was still reading them.

Burglar alarms have gone off throughout the years, when owners are not home; bringing in the police. After looking around, no one living was found, but they heard a slamming door, but no one living did it. Some suspect spirit Col. John Cargill Peagram, perhaps mad that police came in to disturb him, not understanding about alarms.

Pennies left on the mantels and the stairway landing would fly off by themselves. Bobbi put penny on a railing, to see if it would fly off. When she came back to check on it, she found a 1959 roosevelt dime, not put there by anyone living.

It may have been the spirit of Col. John Cargill Peagram. He was living in this home in 1959. Perhaps, he wanted to welcome the Kennedy’s.

Items can disappear suddenly and reappear in odd places.

Spirit of Murdered Guest

Haunts the hallway where he was murdered.

In the 1990s’ a visitor that came to see a past owner, happened to look into a mirror, where she saw a semi-see-through male apparition; dressed in a much earlier era’s clothing.

One of the past owners of the house was staying in a second floor bedroom. She heard the front door open, she heard three heavy male steps coming up the staircase and come down the hall behind her. Then she heard a heavy thump like a duffle bag dropping to the floor.

Some think that the thump was the murdered man hitting the floor after his throat was cut. Ewww.

Spirit of a Kind Female Spirit

One of the past owners had a granddaughter spend the night. A female, motherly spirit periodically during the night would crack the door, and check on the granddaughter.

It wasn’t the girl’s grandmother checking to see if the child was alright, because this living woman had slept all through the night.



There is a huge lengthy portfolio of paranormal experiences on record.

Paranormal World Seekers had an investigation in Petersburg, which included Dodson’s Tavern. They made a dvd of their experiences and hard evidence. Not sure that they caught anything at Dodson’s Tavern; perhaps the antics of the good Col John.



Most Probably so.

So far, activity has been benign. “Whether or not they are actually living in a haunted house, the Kennedys say they’re just happy to reside within the walls of history.”

Bobbi Kennedy stated in an article, “Until I really see something and then I will believe it,” said Bobbi. ‘Things have been going well, if there are ghosts, we seem to be on their good side.”

This article was written soon after they had bought the Tavern. Perhaps in 2019, the spirits have made the polite effort to show themselves or letting Bob and Bobbi Kennedy know that they are there too.

The spirit of the murdered man still wants justice done, he will continue to try to communicate with the owners.

Spirits seem to accept their new housemates. Perhaps they respect Bob Kennedy, as he is a retired military man with some great stuff to look at, including ancient books. I think the spirit of Col John’s weakness is books. Now he has some interesting ones to look at.



311 High St.,
Saint Petersburg, VA 23803

Dodson’s Tavern can be found in central historic downtown St. Petersburg between Cross St and N. Market Street.


  • HAUNTED PLACES. THE NATIONAL DIRECTORY, by Denis William Hauck, pg. 434, Puffin Books, 2002
  • CIVIL WAR GHOST TRAILS:Stories from America’s Most Haunted Battlefields, by Mark Nesbitt, Stapole Books, 2012
  • By Kimberly Ann Calos * Posted May 8, 2016 at 2:01 AM

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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