Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

August 21, 2013

Chasing the mysteries of the Bagby mansion

By Lana Bellamy
Journal-Times

Aug. 21, 2013 — The Grayson area is an old community filled with history, mystery and deep family ties.

All three of these can be found in an old mansion off Main Street christened after one of the area’s oldest family names – Bagby.

The three-story mansion has more than 15,000 square feet of floor space and contains much of the original architecture, including walnut trim, cedar-lined closets and oak hardwood floors inlaid with walnut in the ballroom which is now considered the “community room” for RECC.

George Littlejohn Bagby, a famous concert pianist born in Grayson, built the house in 1927 for his mother, Mary Bagby, who died of natural causes just before it was completed.

Not letting it go to waste, George made the mansion his personal home. Always on the road performing and with no wife or children to share the house, it was mostly vacant, according to neighbors contacted Marsha Thacker and Don Combs, self-proclaimed historians of Grayson RECC.

Thacker and Combs were curious about the history of the house after the utility company acquired it for their main office.

Working as a team, they sought out old acquaintances of the Bagbys still in Grayson, reached out to living relatives and took out subscriptions to genealogy websites like Roots.com and Ancestry.com.

Though they’ve been working on the project for two years, their search has produced little information about the mansion or Bagby himself.

Combs said Bagby’s neighbor recalled him periodically returning to Grayson after long trips but rarely hosting visitors or parties.

What they do know about Bagby is that he was reserved, polite, artistic— a musician and painter—and alone.

Combs and Thacker believe Bagby became depressed after he crushed his hand in a New York car crash, complicating his piano performances.

When Grayson RECC acquired the property in the 1950s, they renovated most of the first and second floors into office spaces.

However, largely untouched is the upstairs quarters where the Bagby caretaker once lived.

“We’ve had people tell us they see things appear in the windows from time to time,” Thacker said, explaining a ghostly silhouette showing its face in the top floor’s windows.

“It’s definitely a spooky place up there,” Combs agreed. “But it’s a friendly ghost. We’ve never had any trouble from it.”

They had no doubt the ghost was the caretaker from the original Bagby days.

The two researchers are trying to piece together whatever they can find to form a complete picture of George Littlejohn Bagby’s true character and what the mansion was like. Bagby’s past mechanic, Earl Stewart, would take Bagby’s car out for drives while his boss was away on long trips in the late 1930s. Combs and Thacker contacted Stewart, who recalled that, despite being a mysterious character, he was always polite, kind and occasionally humorous.

Many pieces of the Bagby puzzle remain missing.

Using what few leads they have, Combs and Thacker use their spare time to gather information about the mansion and its original owner.

The researchers said Bagby had a few hundred paintings that were sold to an art gallery in Huntington.

They hope to visit the gallery as well as the family burial ground in Winchester where the Bagby family moved while George was still alive.

They encourage anyone with information about the family or the mansion to contact them at Grayson RECC or by email.