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Spirits and hospitality thrive at the Beaver House
Guests, diners greeted warmly by long-past family members of historic home
Beaver House
The Beaver House, established as a restaurant in 1989, was built in 1911 by John Alexander McDougald, the great-grandfather of current manager and fourth-generation family member Clay Beaver. (photos by SCOTT BRYANT/staff)

I recently had the pleasure of taking lunch at the storied Beaver House with the self-described acting manager and fourth-generation family member, Clay Beaver.

Beaver shared with me the history of this local landmark and treasure and I found it as enticing and deserving of sharing as the family style dishes comprising the menu and served daily with the conversation as lively as the spirits of long-passed family members who still serve as a benevolent, protective presence within their ancestral home.

Clay recounts that the home was built in 1911 by his great-grandfather, John Alexander McDougald. McDougald and his wife, Pamela "Mella" Klarp McDougald had seven children that currently has extended to five generations, with all but the fifth, so far, having occupied the home. The restaurant itself saw its opening in 1989, ensuring that the tradition of love, care and nourishment of the Bulloch County and Statesboro community that has defined his family continues to this day.

These efforts are embodied not only by the warmth and hospitality extended by Clay and the Beaver House staff, but also from those spirits whose continued presence out of love and care for the property is palpably felt and on occasion seen! 

The Beaver House is the earthly abode of seven ghosts, Beaver said, and in the spirit of Halloween, he was kind enough to share some of the haunted history.

Among the ghosts still calling the Beaver House home are John Alexander McDougal, his wife, Clay's grandfather, Roy, and his wife, Ruth. The ghost of a little girl, Annie, is also an eternal presence. She had fallen out of a tree, broke her neck, and subsequently died of pneumonia. The final spirits are two uncles.

Clay reports having seen all of the entities still present, with John Alexander being the most prevalent.

"People always see him going around the upstairs rail to the Master Bedroom wearing tan denim pants."

"Annie is all over the place. You'll see her in the living room hall. We have been out there at night and heard a child jump out of a chair, then footsteps running down the hall."

These supernatural occurrences are not just nighttime events and as Clay recounts, "It's not like Hollywood portrays. They are not these misty shadows. It's like a real person is there and then they are just gone."

Guests at meal service have come to the kitchen and asked "who was the little girl staring at me through the window." In fact, Clay's first experience with Annie was an unnerving one as he candidly shared.

"Coming down the stairs from removing some boards upstairs that had been water damaged, Annie was kneeling down next to a bench and jumped up running into the living room. That sent those present running out of the back of the house, terrified as it was the first experience with Annie."

Since this initial episode with Annie, Clay has found the spirits within to be a protective, comforting presence – mischievous at worst. 

Clay recalls an incident when cleaning one evening where the older dial radio mysteriously changed from a rock station to music from an era decades earlier. During a luncheon a diner of national renown for her gifts of perception asked about a large man sitting next to a radio in a red chair with a green ottoman in the exact location where John Alexander would sit in just such a chair listening to President Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats.

While at times startling and often playful in the moving of items and inventory, Clay is of the view that their presence is one of watchful, vigilant caretakers and protectors exemplified by a most endearing incident he shared. It occurred in the days prior to the Beaver House becoming a restaurant, when it specializing solely on catering.

On this particular Saturday, Clay said, preparations were being made for a grand tea to be held the following day to celebrate the betrothal of a close acquaintance of the family and, prior to leaving, every precaution was taken to ensure all doors were locked.

Later that evening, a storm moved through the area and upon arriving back Sunday morning the front door was found propped open so as to cool the house prior to the arrival of guests. Inside the house, the china, crystal and everything else was safe and in its proper place.

For me, I felt a sense of warmth, love and care with which I was greeted when crossing the threshold of this time-honored establishment and encourage everyone to indulge and immerse themselves within the Beaver House family style Sunday dinner experience.

You never know who may join you unexpectedly, but one thing you are guaranteed is an exquisite meal and hospitality like no other.