Middle Georgia’s History Uncovered has certainly had a fantastic time exploring Middle Georgia! This story, however, focuses on my home county of Houston County. I also feel it may be one of the lesser known stories, which means to most of you, it’s brand new! That being the tale of Dr. Minor Winn Havis: his extraordinary life, untimely death and, you guessed it, a ghost story. Before getting into that, we must first give you the History of Dr. Havis.
According to information obtained from The Perry Area Historical Society, Havis was born on April 23, 1829, in South Carolina. As a child, his family moved to Alabama but ended up in Perry shortly after he became a teenager. He would later finish his education in Macon, then graduate from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1851. If you do the math, he was 22 years old at the time of graduating. Taking a moment of reflection here, it’s always a wonder how frustrating travel would have been during a Pre-Civil War period. Nonetheless, he did it and then came back to Perry to set up his medical practice. There he remained until 1861. Would you like to guess why?
If you guessed to join the Confederate Army as a sergeant, you’re right! He would go on to join ‘Palmer’s artillery’ where he was promoted to first lieutenant, then later becoming Captain of the company in which he served. Havis would remain in this position until the end of the war. Afterwards, he came back home, to Perry, and picked his practice back up right where it left off. I certainly don’t want to belittle his accomplishments here to you in any way. In fact, I’m paraphrasing from the wealth of information that has been given to me about him to condense it into a short story. I will cover him fully in other works in the future, but for now you should know his life was fascinating.
There is also something else remarkably interesting about Dr. Havis, and that is his manner of death. Unfortunately, it was not a natural one. Instead, it was one due to a tragic accident occurring on Carroll Street. In November of 1889, Havis was standing in the doorway of “Hugh Lawson’s Hardware Store” while Mr. Lawson was inspecting a “hammer-less Smith & Wesson pistol” when it discharged, striking Havis near the spine and hip bone. Even for today, that could prove to be a fatal wound. He wouldn’t die there, however. He actually managed to walk home, to 1002 Main Street, with the help of the community. That’s just about 3 football fields, for reference. It appears he was as tough as he was loved, because after a couple of days, he began showing that he may make a full recovery. In the late hours of November 27, 1889, however, he suddenly passed away. He was home, right there on Main Street. As I mentioned earlier, he was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery, where you can find his monument today.
Hey, What about that ghost story? So glad you asked. If you fast forward in time to the 1980’s, a long-time resident of that very same home named Martha Cooper, claimed to have started “ghost legend” in the home, by accident. In a hilarious tale, she said in the October 26th, 1988 issue of Houston Home Journal that she spilled some furniture polish on the floor in the hallway that left a stain. She later “entertained” the idea to her nieces and nephews that it was the blood of Dr. Havis and that he “still lived in the attic.” Admittedly, she said she never once saw a ghost while living in the home. With that said, it’s worth noting that some of her visitors did claim to see Dr. Havis in the attic area, and in the same article mentioned above, she even said a “Macon Television Crew explored the home, looking for the ghost of Dr. Havis.” Even more, she mentioned an “out-of-town visitor from New Jersey” having a “long talk with Dr. Havis behind the chimney in the attic.” Of course, all of that is legend. The known truth, however, is that much like that furniture polish: he left a permanent spot in Perry, forever.
Right here is where I wanted to point out that Dr. Havis is one of the many “pioneers” of Houston County. Middle Georgia is rich in history, and all of us are thankful for the ones who keep it alive. I challenge you to take a trip through Evergreen or your local historic cemetery, write down a few names from some of the historic graves, and come into the Perry Area Historical Museum to research those people. I honestly believe your love for history, the cemeteries, Perry and all of Houston County will grow. You may even make a few new friends along the way. Please always remember that it is strictly forbidden and flat out illegal to visit a cemetery at night. Only visit them to pay respects, or learn about the people buried there.
A Special thank you to our friends at The Perry Area Historical Society for the information about Dr. Havis. Also, to the Houston Home Journal for the information about Mrs. Cooper. support your local Historical Societies and Newspaper!
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