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The demon Fence Rail Dog

illustration of the fence rail dog

You didn’t think I’d let October slide by without a good Delaware ghost story, did you?

This is the Bonwell House in Frederica, DE. It was built sometime between 1747 and 1792, when Michael Hall Bonwell bought it. He soon added a grist mill, a saw mill, and a tannery. “Quaker” Bonwell, as he was known locally, wasn’t in fact very Quakerly at all.

Opening in picket fence leads to Bonwell House

No, Bonwell had a fierce temper, and in a fit of rage one day killed a young black man who worked in his bark mill. Ground him up. Bonwell was shunned by the white community after that bloody deed. In fact, when he died his white neighbors refused to touch the body.

He was grudgingly given a Christian burial by the black community, to make sure, says local legend, he would not rise to haunt them.

Apparently that didn’t do the trick.

A spectre soon appeared, a creature with red eyes, a thick bushy tail, as long as a fence rail. The Fence Rail Dog scared humans and horses, both, into a breakneck flight for home if they dared traverse that stretch of the old Felton Road late at night.

reflection of spooky fence rail in dark window of Bonwell House

I didn’t see anything amiss when I photographed the Bonwell place. Of course, I would only go in broad daylight…just in case.

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