County Courthouse: A Murder and a Ghost Story - 65 State Street

Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #2 - The Shopping District

County Courthouse: A Murder and a Ghost Story - 65 State Street

Montpelier, Vermont 05602, United States

Created By: Kiltumper Close Press


The best vantage point for viewing the Montpelier County Courthouse is the pocket park of the Christ Episcopal Church across the street from it, which gets very active in the summertime. We’ll talk more about the church in a bit, but first have a look across the street at our courthouse.

We talked about the earlier, Jeffersonian version of the State House that was destroyed by fire, and unfortunately, that was not an unusual occurrence in 19th century Montpelier. There aren’t many buildings from that era we can talk about without adding “and then it burned.”

One example is this courthouse. The one you see now is the third one on this site. The first, made of brick, was built in 1843 and burned down practically before the paint was dry. It was replaced with another brick building, which also had a major fire in 1880, but that one left enough of the outside walls standing to rebuild it into the Greek Revival structure you see today.

About that Ghost Story: Hell Hath No Fury…

The courthouse has of course seen a lot of drama over the years, and one of the more sensational cases was an 1898 murder trial that provides the origin for two separate ghost stories. Mildred Brewster was the bored and restless daughter of a wealthy farmer from Huntington. She came to Montpelier looking for excitement when she was 21 and got more than she bargained for. She fell in love with Jack Wheeler, a handsome granite worker living in the same boarding house with her. The problem was that Jack had already fallen in love with a local girl named Anna, and he was entirely devoted to her.

Or was he? He is said to have admitted being intimate with Mildred but then became engaged to Anna, and Mildred was having none of it. She bought a $3 revolver in Barre, spent a few hours in the fields above Montpelier practicing her aim, and the following day – a rainy Memorial Day – she invited Anna out for a walk on Seminary Hill, the site of the what until recently was the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Witnesses report seeing them walk out under the same umbrella toward Jack’s house, which was nearby on Sibley Avenue. A few minutes later, Mildred drew her gun, and fired a shot directly into Anna’s head, and another shot into her own. Mildred survived; Anna did not.

The murder trial was an internationally reported sensation, and it was standing room only in this county courthouse a year later when Mildred was declared not guilty by reason of insanity. She spent the rest of her life at the Waterbury State Asylum for the Insane but is said to be spending her afterlife in the halls of the county courthouse. Staff over the years have reported sounds of glass shattering, items out of place, and voices in empty rooms.

Meanwhile, up the hill in the former seminary building now known as College Hall, there have also been reports over many years of glass breaking, doors closing, and pictures falling off the walls in unison. They are attributed to the murdered Anna, who is said to be haunting the tower. The ghost is regarded with some fondness in Montpelier, such that when the College of Fine Arts was in residence at College Hall, they named their café after her.

The street running next to the Courthouse is Elm Street and not too far past the courthouse is the site of Montpelier’s first log cabin settlement – this is where Jacob and Rebecca Davis and their sons lived when they first arrived and got busy clearing the wilderness. For future reference, the corner of Elm and State is the starting point for Tour #3 in this series, when we’ll talk more about that site.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #2 - The Shopping District


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