This large second empire home stands surrounded by farmland in Michigan’s Thumb. The massive, ornate home was built in 1876 by John G. Bruce. He owned the Bruce and Webster General Merchants with his brother-in-law. Burnside Township was originally Allison Township, but the name was changed in 1866 to honor Ambrose E. Burnside, a union general in the Civil War. John G. Bruce was the postmaster for 16 years in Burnside. Most of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1881, but the mansion and general store were spared from the flames. In 1894 Bruce lost the general store to a fire, and rebuilt it with a brick building.
Bruce eventually sold the home to Cynthia Smith who died in the house from a fever in 1921. Cynthia’s son sold the house, and it changed owners a few times. It was eventually purchased by John Walker in 1926. Rumor has it, he was driving his automobile when he hit a pedestrian. Terrified at what he had done, he took the body back to the mansion and buried it somewhere on the estate. Some say the ghost of the victim, others say guilt, caused Walker to lose his fortune and he hanged himself in the mansion’s tower. It is said to be haunted; I am not sure about that, but it is a beautiful old house. It’s kind of spooky with the ghostly light green paint, and it seems like an odd location for such an ornate mansion that I would expect to be in a large city and not standing among the farm fields.
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