Located north of I-10 near the town of Mariana, Florida, for hundreds of years, sits the Bellamy Bridge that has been used as a crossing point on the upper Chipola River.

Before the Battle of Upper Chipola in March 1881, the people of the Lower Creek town of Ekanachatte used the area along the west side of the river as a hiding place for themselves and their livestock during the First Seminole War. Under Brig. Gen. William McIntosh, they were attacked, ten warriors were killed, and more than 180 men, women, and children were captured.

The early settlers of 1819 used the area as an important crossing going from the Spring Creek settlement to Blue Springs and on to the Chattahoochee River. The crossing can be seen on maps dating back to the 1820s.

In 1836, Dr. Edward C. Bellamy purchased the land and settled there with his wife Ann. Until the eve of the War Between the States, Bellamy operated the property under the name “Terre Boone Plantation.” In the beginning, he farmed sugar, rice, and cotton. Finally, concentrated his efforts on the production of sea island cotton. Where the plantation and open fields were, is now covered by a floodplain forest.

Dr. Horace Ely and Bird B. Hathaway built the first wooden bridge in 1851. This was at the same time the Jackson County Board of Commissioners authorized the building of a road from Campbellton to Port Jackson along the Chattahoochee River. When the road reached the Chipola River, they crossed using the new bridge.

During the War, the Confederate troops guarded the bridge from Union raiders and gangs of outlaws that frequented the area. Although it was never attacked during the War, it was an important way for both civilians and soldiers to cross the river.

With the elements taking a toll on the wooden bridge, a new one was built in 1872. Due to a massive flood of the Chipola River, the new bridge also being wood, only lasted two years.

In 1874 a new wooden bridge was built and remained standing until 1914 when it was replaced with the historic steel-framed structure of today. The bridge of 1874 is history to the legend of the ghost of Elizabeth Jane Croom Bellamy, sister, and sister-in-law of Dr. Edward C. Bellamy and his wife Ann.

Built in 1914, the steel-frame bridge that stands today cost $2,398 and was built by Converse Bridge & Steel Company. The length of the bridge is 119 feet and is not only the oldest standing bridge of its type, but it is also the tenth oldest bridge in Florida.

It remained in use until 1963 when the concrete bridge on CR 162 was completed. Closed to vehicular traffic since the wooden flooring planks have fallen into the river.  The steel-frame remains largely intact.

On November 1, 2012, the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail opened and provides public access to the bridge. During daylight hours the bridge is open to the public, and there are guided tours for nighttime access.

The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge

 Elizabeth was the beautiful young daughter of a wealthy North Carolina planter and fell madly in love with a dashing young doctor named Samuel C. Bellamy. Her sister Ann had already married Samuel’s brother, Edward.

Samuel and Elizabeth – along with Ann and Edward had made plans to move to Florida. There Samuel built a magnificent mansion as a wedding give to Elizabeth. So taken with the home, she wanted to get married in the rose gardens, and Samuel agreed.

Married on May 11, 1837, in the beautiful garden, Elizabeth supposedly ended her vows with, “I will love you always and forever. Never will I leave you.”

Retiring inside the mansion for the reception and ball, Elizabeth excused herself and retired upstairs to the master suite to rest. Sinking down into a cushioned chair in her gown, she fell soundly asleep. While asleep, she knocked over a candelabra and awoken suddenly to sensations of intense heat, light, and pain.

The people downstairs heard screaming coming from upstairs, and when they turned and look, they saw her running down the staircase in flames from head to toe.

Samuel and others tried to save her, but she was so badly burned; she only lasted a couple of days. And her final words were, “I will love you always and forever. Never will I leave you.”

Becoming depressed and an alcoholic Dr. Bellamy took his own life with a straight razor in Chattahoochee fifteen years later. Suddenly she rose from her grave, expecting to join with him to continue their journey together in paradise. Samuel never came.

Since the church did not recognize suicide victims back then, he was buried in an unmarked grave in Chattahoochee and forgotten. It is said Elizabeth walks the swamps around Bellamy Bridge to this day, looking for her true love.

The Real Story

Samuel and Elizabeth were real people. She was the daughter of a wealthy North Carolina planter, and he was a doctor.

They wed in North Carolina, not Florida. Further, she did not die on her wedding night but contracted malaria in Florida three years later. She gave birth to a son named Alexander, who was eighteen months old when she died.

From an obituary in the Tallahassee newspaper and Samuel’s private letters, she died on Mary 11, 1837, at the age of 18. Three days later, her son also died from the fever.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story about Samuel is true. His last request to be buried by Elizabeth’s side was ignored, and he rests in an unmarked grave somewhere in Chattahoochee.

Photo by Karsun Design Photography.

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