Photograph © O'Hara Denny Brereton
Haunted Dwelling — McClellan-Pomeroy House
The McClellan/Pomeroy House was located on the corner of Third Street, on a large hilly lot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, across from a Methodist Church, on the land where the Chambersburg Post Office now stands.
A lovely 1820ish stone Ante-bellum large home, covered in brick, which had 2 floors, a basement, plus a full attic third floor, which had three rooms. The second floor had 5 bedrooms plus a small one for sewing. The large dirt floor basement had a unique feature. There was a tunnel from the basement which ran under the streets of Chambersburg to the old library, as this house was part of the underground railroad, active in the years before the Civil War. It was a large room with a dirt floor, with a small section set apart, that one could see the boarded up tunnel.
The house sat on a 4 acre lot on a hill. Belle Pomeroy, daughter of Mrs. McClellan, had cultivated for many years beautiful flower gardens with tulips pure white through black. A variety of seasonal flowers, lilies of the valley, plus a vegetable garden were also present. A full time gardener was needed to take care of the gardens.
To enter the home, one went up stone steps, onto a solid, covered front porch. The front door was made of 4 inch solid mahogany wood, imported from Philippines, which opened up to a central hall, where the 11 foot ceilings on the first floor are first seen. A central hall ran the center of the home, where one found the parlor to the left and the living room to the right, as one came through the massive front door. Both these rooms had a large fire place. Going through the living room led to the dining room, located in the back of the house, the northwest corner. The butler's pantry led to the kitchen.
In the central hall there was a grand mahogany staircase, with banisters perfect for sliding down by the young who lived here, like Peggy Brereton. The maid's room and the steps leading down to the kitchen were found off the first landing, while the staircase continued up to the second floor landing, hallway and rooms. A small room on the third floor attic was used for an office, and the other 2 large rooms there were used for storage. The small windows in the attic rooms let little natural light on that floor, giving the rooms a very spooky feeling.
The grand McClellan/Pomeroy House was built around the 1820s by the McClellan family, whose roots were in the South. The McClellans were active participants in the underground railroad, and were a safe house for escaping slaves. During the Civil War, Chambersburg was burned twice by General Lee's troops, but not the McClellan house. Mrs. McClellan rode out to meet General Lee herself, and asked him not to burn her house, because she was a southern lady! The McClellans' married daughter Belle and her husband Nevin Pomeroy, who ran the town newspaper, The Franklin Repository, moved in with their family when they inherited the house. Around 1925, Belle died and the Pomeroy family asked Nevin Pomeroy's niece, Rebekah Brereton and her husband, Denny Brereton and their two daughters, Peggy, 7 years old and Polly, 4 years old, to move into the house to stay with Nevin, who was understandably lonely, and take care of the property. A few years later, Nevin died, and the Breretons stayed there four more years to take care of the place, keep the furnace going, etc. and raise their family.
Over the years, various family members lived in the house, until the house stayed vacant for a few years, though still maintained by the family. Thinking that the city of Chambersburg would keep the grand old house as a historical treasure, the Pomeroy family sold the home to the city during the late 1960s, early '70s. However, the city instead decided to tear down this historical relic and build their Post Office. Thus, the house was spared by General Lee but not by the city of Chambersburg, roughly a hundred years later.
For many years before the Civil War, the house was an intricate part of the underground railroad, and many slaves went through the tunnel in the basement to the city library.
The Basement: This unfinished basement was always cold, and gave the living an uneasy feeling, and wasn't used by the family. Going into the basement often filled the living with an uneasy feeling and anxiousness, though no particular presence was felt or seen. The family simply stayed out of the basement, and far away from the boarded up tunnel.
Described as a tall man, with a mustache, Uncle Nevin was a proper, formal gentleman, a straight arrow who took a keen interest in his relatives, having come from a family which highly valued family relationships and children. Children were always well behaved around Uncle Nevin. Uncle Nevin also was a dedicated newspaperman. Uncle Nevin was the editor of the Chambersburg newspaper, The Franklin Repository, until the day he died. He would come home in the evening hours as was his habit. He was an avid cigar smoker.
A few days after Uncle Nevin died, his niece, Rebekah Brereton was sitting in the living room reading a book. She heard the familiar steps of Uncle Nevin as he walked across the front porch. She heard his keys jingle in the lock and smelled the strong aroma of his cigar. She bravely ran to the door, opened it and found no one was there, though the smell of cigar smoke was stronger on the front porch.
While sometimes hauntings transfer to the new building built on the land where the haunted dwelling once stood, there hasn't been another occurrence of Uncle Nevin making his presence known, going about his business. Peggy Brereton recalls that her mother, Rebekah didn't mention again of another episode of an unexpected visit by Uncle Nevin. However, there is the possibility that Rebekah Brereton perhaps didn't want to scare her family.
However, it is unknown whether the uneasy feelings felt by many in the basement transferred over to the Post Office building.
Resource: Peggy Brereton Miesse and other family members.