Can a tragic event initiate a curse upon a house? Could an argument between neighbors, and a subsequent murder in 1876, be behind a curse on the old Morawitz Family farmhouse, located west of Highway 61, on the north side of what is now known as Route HH?

Goldena Roland Howard mentions the curse in her book, Ralls County Missouri, in a section she calls "House of Tragedy." Howard states that the house, built in 1835 for Dr. Tyree Rhodes, “is situated in a spot where tragedy seems to take on some diabolical form and stalk, lying in wait for its victims...It began with a murder."

Morawitz House
Jerry & Sue Downs

The Scott family occupied the house in the 1870s. In 1876, there was considerable flooding of the nearby creek and John L. Scott’s fence had been washed away. According to the June 22, 1876 edition of the Ralls County Record, this was causing an issue between Scott and his neighbor, Aaron Mefford. Mefford’s cow had taken to wandering into Scott’s field, ruining his crop.

Rather than attending to the washed out fences, the neighbors let the matter escalate. Scott threatened to shoot Mefford’s cow if he caught her on his property again. One summer evening not long afterwards, Mefford found his cow “with blood running from her hips.” Assuming that Scott had made good his threat, he went to visit his neighbor with a loaded shotgun at his side.

Mefford confronted Scott, who denied shooting the cow. Evidently Mefford didn’t believe him because he “emptied one barrel into Scott’s left groin, completely shattering the femoral artery, causing nearly immediate death.” He then made his way to New London to place himself into the hands of the sheriff.

According to Howard, this is when the real trouble began. Scott’s widow and two sons tried to stay on and operate the farm. One son eventually left to find work out west and was killed in a railroad accident. The other son was killed by his own horse on the farm.

Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Morawitz purchased the farm in the early 1880s. They owned the property in 1887 when 21-year-old Mike Lafferty was scalded to death by a steam engine that broke through the bridge over the creek near the Morawitz house.

William Henry Morawitz’s daughter, Wanita, was born at the farm in March of 1921. She remembers an interesting story from her childhood at the house. One night, a neighbor showed up at their door with her dog in her arms. She was hysterical, claiming that her son had just killed her husband and some cows, and that he was after her. The family hid the woman and her dog under the bed until the sheriff arrived.

Wanita also remembers the day her father was killed on the property - April Fool’s Day 1935. She was 14 years old, and had ridden her horse to school in Rensselaer with her brothers. They received word to come home immediately. At first they thought it was an April Fool’s joke, but when she arrived home, the first sight to greet her was her father’s body lying on the floor with a handkerchief over his face. The family believed that Henry must have had a heart attack while backing his car out of the driveway and turned the wrong way. He went over the bluff and was killed instantly.

Do you believe the property might be cursed? I know from firsthand experience that this is a mysterious area outside of town. I lived out on HH many years ago and had a few strange experiences.

Thanks so much to Kiley Schlader, great granddaughter of William Henry Morawitz, for introducing me to this exciting story about her family home.

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