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Wills, Letters & Legends

The Drish House


 
 

Facts and Legends about the Drish House  Tuscaloosa, Alabama

from Historic Houses, no 6; Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Part 2: The Story

 
 
     Dr. Drish was a man of many fine qualities but he had two unfortunate weaknesses - he gambled and he drank and he was consistently unlucky in his gambling.  He took boatloads of cotton to Mobile and lost the proceeds in a few nights wild play at cards, accompanied and followed by heavy drinking.  His daughter Katherine was loved by a young man who soon won her heart completely but her father resolutely opposes the match.  He locked her in her bedroom for several weeks and allowed her no food but bread and water, and by fair means or foul compelled the young man to leave Tuscaloosa.  Tradition says that he left riding on horseback down the Greensboro Road, that Katherine stood on the side porch and waved a last farewell as he rode past and that from that day began the change which was to wreck her beauty and her happiness.  She married afterwards a certain W.W. King.  They went on a wedding tour to New Orleans.  She and her husband were standing on a hotel balcony together when she saw her former lover pass on the street below.  She fainted and her husband, who had recognized his rival, was deeply incensed.  Two sons were born of this marriage but she began to show the signs of oncoming insanity and the husband returned her to her father's house with her small sons and himself moved to New Orleans and there obtained a divorce on the grounds of insanity and remarried.
     At the time when history begins to take the place of legend, as far as the narrator is concerned, she was still beautiful but the insanity had made rapid progress.  She no longer carried on connected conversation or any rational occupation or amusement.  She was a fine musician and sometimes played beautifully on the piano, but always stopped immediately if she became aware someone was listening.  A portrait of her husband had been hung above the parlor mantle and she frequently took this down and put it face to the wall, behind the sofa.  She was always restless, wandering from room to room.  As often as she could, she went out to walk in the woods and fields south of the house, sometimes accompanied by the negro woman who was ordered to keep her always in sight, but frequently escaping from her keeper, she went for rambles by herself.  She had always loved flowers and she sometimes returned with hands full of wild flowers or autumn leaves which gave her evident but unexpressed pleasure.
     About this time another tragedy came to the Drish family, Dr. Drish had a niece, Helen Whiting, of whom he was very fond and (she) came frequently to make long visits.  She was a very beautiful (girl) and a very popular one.  Suitors flocked around her and she finally married a Mr. Fitch, and they went to live in the Gorman house in Newtown.  He proved to be insanely jealous of her and without any good reason.  Fierce quarrels followed his unjustified accusations and frequent sprees of drunkeness added to the young bride's unhappiness.
     One morning after Mr. Fitch had been drinking several days he got up sober but very nervous and much shaken by his debauch.  He was standing before the bureau in their bedroom shaving.  The young wife reproached him for his conduct and he threatened her with violence if she did not keep silent.  She walked up to him and said: "Why, you know you would not hurt me.  Now would you?"  "I would not hurt a hair of your head." he replied, then turned, with one hand on top of her head, pushed it back and drew his razor across her throat, almost severing the head from her body.  He was arrested, tried, declared insane, and confined in an asylum.  For many months he resolutely refused to eat and was kept alive by forcible feeding.  After several years treatment, he was declared cured (and) he later became a prominent railroad man in the North.  A number of (--cts) which had belonged to Helen were still in the Drish house (and) the negroes would not touch one of them after her death and urged every one else not to touch them saying:  "Miss Helen'll get you ef you tech her things."
     Dr. Drish drowned these sorrows as well as that of the deminishing of his wife's estate under his ruinous management in constantly increasing droughts of alcoholic liquors.  Delerium tremens came to add its horrors to the troubles of the house and in a final attack he jumped from the bed in which loyal negroes were trying to hold him, rushed down the beautiful carved stairway, uttered a terrible cry and fell dead, midway down.

Continued on Page 3

 

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