By Thomas D’Agostino
Rhode Island is one of the very few states in America that has an official haunted site. The state recognized it as such in 1885 when Amos Perry entered the Ramtail Factory in Foster as being haunted. The area where the small factory and village once stood is but remnants of what it once was, but the haunting continues.
The main character in the haunting of Ramtail has been a former partner in the mill, Peleg Walker. The story tells of how he was ousted from the partnership and during an argument swore they would one day have to take the keys to the mill from a dead man’s pocket. On May 19, 1822, the owners found Peleg hanging from the bell rope, keys to the mill in his pocket. He may be the one associated with the haunting of Ramtail but there are a few more that my research has uncovered who are also part of the array of ghosts who still linger at the mill and village.
Jonathan Bucklin, born around the same time as Peleg Walker would have gone virtually unknown in this saga had it not been for a document I discovered while researching the factory. It seems Bucklin was a neighbor of William Potter, one of the owners of Ramtail. In 1816 Bucklin borrowed $600 dollars from Squire Potter, putting his land up for collateral. Bucklin was given six months to pay the loan back against his land.
Six months came and went but no money was ever repaid. According to the deal, Potters took control of the land, putting it up for auction. To make good, Bucklin was offered a job at the mill. It was a short time later that Jonathan Bucklin was found in the mill having slit his own throat. His position given to him at the mill was that of night watchman.
His wife, Polly Hopkins-Bucklin, went on to marry Rufus Round several years later, thus making the story of Jonathan Bucklin even harder to trace. He is buried in the Bucklin plot, cemetery #25 in the woods of what was once their property. The graves are fieldstone markers, making it unlikely to pinpoint which one would be his specifically.
Historians have pinned the haunting solely on Peleg Walker and state that he married Polly Potter. His wife is buried beside him in the Potter plot with her headstone clearly marked “Mary Walker.” As you can see the two men, having died in close proximity of each other, over time melded into one story.
There is at least one more ghost roaming the ruins at Ramtail. His name would be Richard Salisbury. Salisbury was fond of his liquor and spent many a drunken night sleeping in home #1 at the site. By then, the buildings were mostly decrepit and abandoned. It is in this home that he died. He was buried in the Hopkins Mills Cemetery on Ramtail Road. As for the home he once made his abode, although nothing but a heaping cellar hole remains, his ghost is one of the several that haunt Rhode Island’s officially haunted site.
Betsy Grayson is another ghost of Ramtail. On December 29, 1860, Grayson went to the pool at Hopkins Mill to fetch some water from the raging Ponaganset River. The current pulled her and her wooden bucket into the pool where she hit her head on the rocks and drowned. Grayson was another squatter at the deserted houses of Ramtail. It is her ghost many have seen roaming the edge of the river at both Hopkins Mills and Ramtail.