Recently I read Mr. Fred Woods’s very interesting Jan. 16, 2016 article online about the history of the Spring Villa plantation owned by Penn Yonge in the mid 1800s. Since I am 85 years old, I may be the only person still alive who talked with someone who knew Penn Yonge. I thought I should tell my story. Well, I really didn’t talk with the man who knew him, but I listened intently. You see, I was only five years old. It was the spring of 1936. My older brother Leonard and two or three of his friends were trying to make a deadline in order to complete their Eagle Scout requirements.
Mom and Dad took them out to Spring Villa, the old plantation seven miles from town that had been converted into a Boy Scout camp. For several days the boys camped outside while Mom, Dad and I stayed upstairs in the plantation house. There was no electricity at the plantation.
I was very impressionable. The boys wanted to research the legend of Penn Yonge, who had been the owner of the plantation before the Civil War.
The legend was that Penn Yonge was murdered on the spiral staircase of the plantation house by an Indian who jumped out from a large niche in the wall and stabbed him. Each summer the older Scouts would perpetuate the legend by putting red mercurochrome on the thirteenth step of the stairs. Since I was staying in this old house with only candles and lamplight, I was rather anxious to trace the legend also. I wasn’t too sure in my mind that the old Indian wasn’t still around. The older boys heard that there was an old man who lived nearby who was a boy before the Civil War and still remembered Penn Yonge. We went to his small frame house, a short distance from the plantation, and there on the front porch sat a very old man with a long white beard. Sure enough, he was the man who remembered Penn Yonge. He told us that, no, Penn Yonge had died while he was away somewhere. He said that Yonge was away a lot. He also told us that he was very cruel to his slaves, and if they tried to run away, he would cut off an ear. He recalled one incident just in front of the house where we were sitting on the porch when a slave, who was trying to escape, was apprehended by Penn Yonge’s dogs and an overseer. The old man had little regard for Penn Yonge. This was a fascinating experience for me and such a relief to know that old Penn Yonge met his demise somewhere else.
I would like to believe Mr. Woods’ account of Pen Yonge and his kindness to his slaves, but I can’t deny what I heard from the old man with the white beard.