Did you know?
Located in Sumter County is a house that has “haunted” both Americus and Oglethorpe. Its supposed guests are its original owners. In this case, we explore a story that has roots in two different counties. It even presents two different “haunted” locations. Before we get there, we must first discuss the history of Colonel George W. Fish, the man behind it all.
In 1820, Fish was born in Washington County to William and Sarah Fish. Over the course of his life, he traveled and lived all over Middle Georgia. He would marry his wife, also Sarah, in Baldwin County in 1843. They had children in Macon (the city) and lived there a short while. In 1852, they would eventually settle down and build a home in Oglethorpe, which is now known as the Fish house.
George Washington Fish would go on to be one of the most prominent men in Macon County. Although he died a Colonel, he was actually a district court judge as well. One of Fish’s children, William Hansell Fish, would actually go on to be Georgia’s 8th Chief Justice! (He also had two other children; one is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon.)
Despite being immensely prominent, along the way, a man named John Holsenbeck became upset with him. For reasons that are unknown to us and unclear in history, Holsenbeck felt that Fish had “grievously wronged him.” In fact, it was so bad that John and his “best friend” Jim Loyd hatched a plan to murder Colonel Fish. Premeditated is an understatement when it comes to what they did next.
After Loyd convinced Holsenbeck that Colonel Fish needed to be killed, they came up with a plan that took the Colonel’s gun away from a repair shop, without him knowing, to disable it. They must have stalked him for a long while to know exactly when and where he was going to be. On February 28th, 1871, they found the opportunity. John hid in the courthouse to wait for Fish to walk by later that night. When he did, Holsenbeck came out of the building, then shot and killed the Colonel. It’s said that the residents of the town found his body lying on the street the next morning. He was 51 years old.
Remember, Colonel Fish was very prominent. One of his friends happened to be the governor at the time, Rufus Bullock. Bullock sent two special detectives down to investigate the murder.
It wouldn’t be long before Loyd and Holsenbeck were arrested and stood trial. Both of them were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. After their trial, an audience (reminiscent of the crowd that came to see Tom Woolfolk die) appeared. This one, in fact, was described as a “carnival atmosphere.” The exact date of the hanging is not known.
After they were hanged, John Holsenbeck’s remains were shipped to Columbia County. Jim Lyod, who requested to be buried facing north and south, was interred in Oglethorpe Cemetery. History has almost wiped their existence off the face of the earth.
Colonel George W. Fish’s home immediately began garnering attention for being “haunted.” The Fish house, as mentioned before, was originally built in 1852. In the 1960s, a family would purchase it, and by 1969, it was moved from Oglethorpe to Americus, where it still stands today. Its “hauntings” are so well-known that Macon County’s tax assessor website reads the following:
“The Colonel Fish’s House is said to be haunted by the ghost of Colonel George Fish after he was found murdered here in the late 1800s. This house was originally located in Oglethorpe and then moved to Americus. The ghost followed the house to its new location.”
Also, in a cemetery full of graves facing east to west, you’ll find an unmarked grave. That grave, resting under a magnolia tree, belongs to Jim Loyd and is the only one facing north to south. One has to wonder: could it still be trying to tell a story?
Hey! We hope you enjoyed this tale! What a wild history, Macon County has! We once again found this story in “Echoes From the Valley” by Billy Powell. Also, if you’re ever in the mood and want to visit Americus, go to https://visitamericusga.com/ and check it out! Look out for our week ahead post coming this weekend. Next week will be a good one! Stay tuned!
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