Place: Bellevue State Park
Location: Wilmington, DE
Notes: Besides the beautiful yellow mansion the park is named for, the former estate has a lot more to offer. Especially in the way of history. There is of course, the first public school in Delaware right next to the abandoned sports complex (which is much more beautiful and dramatic than it sounds).
Since the main owner of Bellevue, William du Pont Jr, was a top horseman there are stables and plenty or room for horses everywhere. It’s still used as horse boarding and training today. (I found it first at a concert while wandering for the bathroom only to find an entire field just filled with horses roaming around!)
There are a few more historical homes and buildings dotted around the park (one with a garden growing 12 feet high sunflowers; I do not exaggerate!); I couldn’t get to all of them on my bike this one day but I’ll be back. There’s a fishing pond (though it’s quite big to be called a pond) right off the walking trails. Which I discovered after going up to the “vending machine” for a snack and finding it full of rather disgusting looking bait for the fishing crowd. Pass!
If you take the trail as far as you can go, right until you’re nearly out of the park and out on the main road, you’ll run into the most historical part of Bellevue: The Mount Pleasant Meeting House and its Victorian parsonage. There’s even a small historical cemetery.
History: Built in 1838, the Mount Pleasant Meeting House church is a small one room building. Next to it in the much more elaborate and frilly parsonage, built in 1894 in the perfectly named “Queen Anne style.” The oldest stone in the small cemetery out back is from 1841. While it’s typically rented out for weddings and holds a spot on the historical register, I was told by a park employee that it’s the most haunted place on all of Bellevue’s property. She refuses to go out there unless absolutely necessary and while there’s a haunted tour in October that’s a long way off, it being January now.
This led to more research. Since the church is only used for functions now, no one is technically a member anymore and cannot be buried in the cemetery. Still the cemetery looked half empty. It turns out that the empty space is a plot of unmarked grave. Unidentified travelers who died in the area: Traveler’s Row. With over a hundred gravestones at the church, I’m sure the haunting stories stem from there.
Apparently, Gunning Bedford, Jr. (a signer of the U.S. Constitution who argued with George Washington quite a bit and ferociously) also had a house on the grounds here; though he was buried in a Presbyterian cemetery elsewhere in town and not a member of this church. It’s a little hard to dig up much on that. There were nine Gunning Bedfords in his family and seven were alive all at once!
Source: park guide