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The Bizarre Tale of William and Nancy Ashley

  • Simply Weird
  • 4 mins

By Crusader1307

This is not a tale of traditional ‘’Ghosties and Ghoulies’’, nor even one of Curses and ‘’Bumps in The Night’’. It is however about a ‘’Monster’’ nonetheless….Human Prejudice. The strange story begins in 1871 with a lone Black Woman, crying at the recent grave of Her Husband in Tampa, Florida. In this, nothing is too unusual… that Her Husband was White. The Story of William and Nancy Ashley goes back (in part) to The Ashley Family coming to Florida in 1806 (Florida was not even an American State at that time). Moving to The Port of Tampa Bay, The Ashley Family made a vast sum of monies in Commerce. The Family Heir, William – would inherit the business in the 1850s. It is unclear, but it appears that John’s Father purchased a Black Female Slave/Servant, to look after William’s Home. Florida, when it became a State, was in the Deep South. Like most Southern States, Slavery was accepted and encouraged.


Although no photograph of Nancy remains, all agreed that She was a woman of ‘’great beauty’’. William apparently saw ‘’no color’’ and fell in love. So did Nancy. This naturally caused great issue, for Black American were seen as Property and as such, no ‘’White’’ could marry them. Discouraged, William found that The Law proclaimed Florida to be a ‘’Common Law’’ State in this regards. Based on Medieval Law, and in the eyes of John and Nancy…..They WERE married. But William knew that if He signed Nancy’s ‘’Papers of Emancipation’’, the two still could not live ‘’in the open’’ (as it were).


Nancy and William lived a well off life, ‘’behind the walls’’ of their Home. No one suspected anything . In fact, then only one who did know was William’s best friend, John Jackson. He saw no issue with the two being in love. He vowed to keep ‘’the secret’’. When The American Civil War came in 1861, it caused no effect on The Ashleys. With the end of The War, and The Federal Government declaring Slavery illegal – William immediately signed Nancy’s papers. But still the couple could not finally live in peace and happiness. Die to the harsh Laws of The Reconstruction Era, The Federal Government found it better to punish The South for The War, rather than educate it in it’s waywardness. Racial hatred was even more rife. Black and White were segregated away from each other (in ‘’polite company’’). Even when a person died, Blacks were buried in their ‘’own cemetery’’ and Whites theirs. In this, is the real element of our tale.


Sadly, William died in 1871 – leaving Nancy despondent. According to His Will – all His monies and properties went to Nancy. When She died, He expected Her remains to be buried next to His. A proper plot was selected. William’s friend John mad sure that William’s Last Will and Testament was carried out to the letter. But when Nancy passed away in 1873, just two years after Her William, The Cemetery refused to allow a ‘’Black Woman’’ to be buried in The ‘White Cemetery’’. No one would even consider exhuming William and re-burying Him in a ‘’Black Cemetery’’. John was determined to see justice.


Late one late, John paid an ‘’understanding Gravedigger’’ to accompany Him to The Cemetery where William was buried. Digging up William’s grave, the two Men gently placed Nancy’s remains on top on William. The Grave was filled in. No One suspected anything until the new Headstone arrived. Bearing William and Nancy’s name together, a rather lengthy epitaph is paraphrased to The Reader…..’’There is No Color or Race in Death, Only The Dust of The Grave….From Which We All Become’’. The Reader of The Sone is further told to contemplate ‘’A World Where Color is Tolerated and Not Insulted’’. Given that no One in The Town would dare dig up William and Nancy’s Grave (Superstitious), the event went by without a nod. The two still rest in Oaklawn Cemetery in Tampa, Florida… Final Peace. Perhaps The World will one day take Their example to heart.