Salem’s spirited tavern: Part two
By: Jennifer Bean Bower
William H. Lutterloh lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and worked in the steamboat business. He spent several summers vacationing in Salem and had befriended many of the town’s residents. When he fell ill in the summer of 1875, Lutterloh decided to return to Salem in an effort to renew his health. The reason behind his decision is unknown, but it may have been based on guidebook descriptions that boasted the town’s healthy climate, as well as its prized mineral spring.
Albert P. Hurt, a steamboat captain from Fayetteville, tried to dissuade his friend from traveling. He believed Lutterloh was too feeble to attempt the trip and that to do so would further endanger his health. But Lutterloh would not listen to reason and boarded a train despite the admonishment. Soon after, Hurt caught up with the locomotive and accompanied Lutterloh to Salem.
The two men reached their destination around the third week of June. When they entered the Salem Hotel, Lutterloh was so disoriented that he was unable to write his name in the register. John F. Shaffner, a Salem physician, arrived at the scene, gave him a sedative and diagnosed his condition—according to his deposition—as “softening of the brain.”
Lutterloh remained at the hotel where Hurt and a servant named Anderson Smith took care of him. For a few days, it seemed as if Lutterloh was improving. But on July 1, his health took a turn for the worse and within three days his mind had become deranged. Lutterloh’s words and actions were irrational, as he expressed an urgent need to travel to High Point, North Carolina. Then, on July 5, at 4 a.m., Lutterloh vanished from his room.
Smith felt sure that Lutterloh had left the building in an attempt to reach High Point and began to search for him at once. He looked out the window to see if Lutterloh was out on the lawn, but to his horror, his eyes beheld a body lying prostrate on the pavement below. Lutterloh was dead.
The coroner and a jury of men were called to the scene where they reviewed the evidence and reported the cause of death. Hurt, Smith, and Shaffner were duly sworn and asked to give an account of Lutterloh’s physical and mental state. They were also asked to recount the events of July 5. Their depositions, which appeared on July 8, 1875, in the People’s Press article “Sad and Fatal Accident,” stated:
Hurt, being duly sworn, deposed as follows:
“Sometimes I thought his mind was improving, but he would soon relapse into a delirious state so that he hardly had any rational moments…I remained with him until about ten o’clock last night and saw to it that the servant, Anderson, gave him the sedative prescribed by Dr. Shaffner. Went to my room… returned a few hours later…found him composed and left him. Anderson came and informed me of his tragic end. I have no doubt as to his death being caused by falling from the window whilst out of his mind.”
Smith, the servant, being duly sworn, deposed:
“I staid [sic] with Mr. Lutterloh…last night. It was the first time… it was thought necessary for any one [sic] to remain with him. He was very restless all night and his whole talk was about wanting to start to High Point; would jump wildly in bed and want to go, and once took hold of his trunk and started off with it; but on being spoken to, would become quiet.”
Shaffner’s duly sworn states that he had been attending Mr. Lutterloh for about two weeks. “He came here in a disorganized state of mind…In the condition he was in yesterday it is not probable he would have lived long… In his weak condition he could not bear much and the fall from the window no doubt immediately caused his death. Upon post-mortem examination, there are some bruises upon the left leg and left arm, and a contusion upon the right side of the head; no fracture upon any part of the body. The fall itself would hardly have destroyed his life, but for his weak and prostrate condition…”
On July 6, Lutterloh’s body was transported to Fayetteville and interred in Cross Creek Cemetery No. 1. Lutterloh’s death cast a sad gloom over the entire town of Salem where all mourned his “sad and tragic end” and regretted the loss of their summertime friend.
It has since been said that a face can sometimes be seen in one of the historic building’s windows. Is it the spirit of William Lutterloh, or do the glass panes—with their distorted ripples and lines—create illusions that trick one’s mind into seeing something that is not there? It is something only you can decide.
One thing is certain, the Salem Tavern—also referred to as the Salem Hotel—was a place of great happiness and sorrow. Although four men—not counting the unnamed traveler—suffered and died at or near the building, their spirits—through the telling of their stories—will always be present in Salem.
Jennifer Bean Bower is an award-winning writer, native Tar Heel and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While working as the associate curator of photographic collections at Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Bower researched local tragedies and composed the book Winston & Salem: Tales of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem.