The Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail is a one-half mile nature trail that leads from CR-162 in Jackson County to the oldest bridge of its type in Florida. Built in 1914 on the sites of the earlier wooden bridges dating back to 1840, the bridge is one to the ten oldest bridges in Florida and is the focal point for one of the state’s best-known ghost stories. In fact, many believe it to be “Florida’s Most Haunted Bridge.”
The ghost story revolves around a young woman named Elizabeth Jane Bellamy who died in Jackson County on May 11, 1837. Her restless spirit is said to haunt the bridge and surrounding floodplain swamp in an eternal search for her beloved husband, Dr. Samuel C. Bellamy.
Samuel and Elizabeth, the story goes, were very much in love. She died as a young woman after promising to love him “forever and always.” He never recovered from her death and spent the next 15 years in mourning before taking his own life on the day after Christmas. Samuel’s final wish was to be buried beside Elizabeth, but according to the beliefs of the times he could not be buried in consecrated ground because he had taken his own life. Samuel was buried miles away in Chattahoochee, Florida, in a grave that has been lost to time.
According to the legend, Elizabeth’s spirit came back at the moment of Samuel’s death. She had promised to love him “forever and always” and has been walking the swamps around Bellamy Bridge in search of him for more than 160 years so they can journey to Heaven together. Samuel has yet to appear and Elizabeth’s long wait goes on.
Her ghost has been described as taking the form of unusual blue and white lights, a misty shadow or even the faint form of a young woman dressed in white.
The historic bridge takes its name from Samuel’s brother, Dr. Edward C. Bellamy, who lived nearby. Originally a wooden structure, it was built in 1850 andreplaced several times over the years due to deterioration and flood damage. The County Commissioners of Jackson County authorized the construction of the steel-frame bridge still seen today in 1914. It was used by motorized traffic until the 1960s and now can be reached via the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail which leads from a parking area just west of the Chipola River on Highway 162.
Following a historic road first used by the Spanish in 1686, the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail provides beautiful views of a floodplain forest that has been restored by the Northwest Florida Water Management District and leads to the historic and haunted bridge! Interpretive panels tell some of the unique stories of the vicinity, which is widely regarded as one of the most scenic spots in Northwest Florida.
Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail is located at 4057 County Road 162, Marianna, Florida. It is free to visit and open to the public during daylight hours 365 days each year!
Be sure to read the entire ghost story by visiting http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bellamybridge or by picking up a copy of Dale Cox’s book, The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge. It is available at the historic Russ House & Visitors Center or online from Amazon or your favorite bookseller. Proceeds benefit the trail project!