Note: This is the final installment of a three-part series on the history of Barnsley Resort, which started out as Woodlands.
Godfrey and Julia Barnsley had two daughters, one of whom was Julia. In 1864, Julia married Capt. James Peter Baltzelle. Restoring and finishing Woodlands was a job of gargantuan proportions and there was never enough money. In 1865, Barnsley moved to New Orleans in an effort to rebuild his lost wealth, leaving Capt. Baltzelle and Julia to manage Woodlands.
Barnsley went to New Orleans hoping his cotton business would support the family. However, the run-down Southern economy and his poor health eventually defeated him. Impoverished and land poor, Godfrey Barnsley died June 7, 1873, in New Orleans. He was buried in the family cemetery at Woodlands.
In 1897, the Baltzelle’s only daughter, Addie, married B.F. Saylor. They had five children, two of whom were sons Preston and Harry. From earliest childhood the boys dreamed of restoring the house built by their great- grandfather. Harry gave all his time to Barnsley Gardens. On Nov. 5, 1935, the morning of his death, Harry discussed plans for structural repairs with his mother and said, ‘’It won’t be long now, Mama.’’ Addie was the last of the Barnsley family who lived at Woodlands when she died in 1942.
One day Godfrey Barnsley saw the spirit of his dead wife, Julia, standing by a fountain. There is a memoir in the family papers housed at Emory University that describes the happenstance. The most fascinating evidence of Julia’s presence came in the form of a letter Barnsley received one day. It read: “Dear Mortal Barnsley, Julia is with me and all doing fine.” William Scarborough. The letter was from his long-deceased father-in-law, in his handwriting.
Godfrey Barnsley’s ghost supposedly haunts the library of the mansion. Resort employees at Barnsley have reported seeing Mr. Barnsley step out of his library. He has also been heard shuffling at his desk, just as he was known to do in life. He has been spotted roaming through the ruins at night, and walking with his beloved Julia through the gardens.
Godfrey Barnsley’s granddaughter, Addie Baltzelle Saylor, believed that George Barnsley appeared at the front door of the house on the day of his death in South America. One day there was a loud knock at the door. Addie’s younger son, Harry, answered the door. Addie said, after that, he looked very odd. Harry told Addie, “Uncle George was there, but he disappeared.’’ The next day they received the cablegram telling of George Barnsley’s death in South America at the exact time Harry answered that knock at the front door.
Murder at Woodlands
This true story involves Preston Saylor, and his younger brother Harry. Woodlands’ patriarch, Godfrey Barnsley, was their great-grandfather. Their mother was Addie Baltzelle Saylor, only child of Julia and James Baltzelle.
Preston achieved some notoriety as a prize fighter in the 1920s. He used the professional name of K.O. Duggan. Preston and Harry did not get along well. There were disagreements about property rights at Woodlands and that made matters between them worse. In Preston’s absence, Harry played a large role in the care of the property. Preston mistakenly thought Harry was plotting to take Preston’s share of Woodlands.
A much more serious complication developed when Preston suffered injuries in the prize ring. Those injuries allegedly affected Preston’s mind and he was committed to the state hospital for the insane.
March 13, 1935, Preston escaped from the hospital and went to Barnsley Gardens, although he left a short time later. It is believed he blamed Harry for committing him. Preston returned to Barnsley Gardens in November that year and hid in one of the outbuildings. The morning of Nov. 5, 1935, Preston appeared suddenly in the living room of the mansion and shot Harry. The bullet went through Harry’s heart and he died in his mother’s arms. Mrs. Saylor cried, “Preston was not himself.”
Convicted of murder, Preston Saylor was sentenced to life imprisonment on Nov. 27, 1936. He was paroled in January 1943, and given his full freedom.
We enjoy a good story, don’t we? Godfrey Barnsley’s story is nothing sort of fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed researching the history of Barnsley Gardens. Northwest Georgia is rich in history and we should all be well versed in that history. My bio appears at the end of all my columns. When I say, “… history enthusiast” I am sincere and I plan to continue writing about history once in a while.