[MA] Tenney Ghosts – Gorrill Brothers

tenney-reportfrom-125Two ghosts on the Charles H. Tenney property (Tenney Gate House and Greycourt Castle) may be the Gorrill brothers, or their residual energy.

In my opinion, this part of the site’s history has been badly overlooked.  The legends give ghost hunters some very good reasons to more thoroughly investigate the Greycourt Castle area.

Here’s the short version of the story:

Nathaniel and Mark Gorrill (also spelled Gorrell) were brothers.  In the mid-to-late 1800s, they lived in their parents’ home near the site where Greycourt Castle was later built.

According to local legend, the brothers fell in love with the same young woman.  She rejected both of them, but both blamed the snub on the other one.

The brothers never married, never left home… and never spoke to each other again.

Though they shared a home, they claimed not to be related to each other.  (In the census records, they reported “something other than direct relationship.”)  They also claimed exactly equal interest in the house and their farm income.

Additional stories suggest that, under the cover of darkness, the brothers used to sneak out of the house.  Each one buried his half of the money somewhere at the hill near their home.

Neither wanted the other one to have access to the money, even if one of them died first.

In the early 20th century, someone in Methuen had a dream about buried treasure at Greycourt Castle.  According to the story, he dug in the basement of the Castle and found the brothers’ treasure: $20,000 in bonds.

There are several problems with that story.  The biggest one is that Castle was probably built after the brothers had died.  (There’s no census record for them after 1880.)   Also, the Tenney family still maintained the house (no neighbor would have access to the basement) at the time of the story.

But, there is one report to support the tale of discovered bonds: In 1909, the estate of Mark S. Gorrill reported that his bonds were missing, and asked for replacements.

The story of missing treasure surfaced again in 2005, when some workmen claimed to have found money that matched the Gorrill legends.  However, their tale didn’t make sense.  Police charged the men with stealing antique money that was found on a nearby 200-acre farm, not at the Tenney site.

That said, if one or both of the Gorrill brothers really buried their money (in gold or silver coins) at the hill, it’s probably still there.   Most websites that specialize in buried (and missing) treasure continue to list the Gorrill brothers’ fortune as missing, and still buried in Methuen.

In addition, with a lifetime grudge like the brothers’, they’re probably haunting the treasure regularly, making sure the other brother doesn’t steal it.

My “gut feeling” is that the brothers haunt the Greycourt Castle area.

Here’s the full history:

Nathaniel (1784 – ) and Lavinia Smith Gorrell of Salem, New Hampshire had two sons.  One was Mark S. , born about 1816, and the other was Nathaniel W., born about 1821.

The family moved to Methuen, Massachusetts, in the mid-19th century.  Nathaniel Senior’s father — the late Major Nathaniel Gorrell (1734 – 1821) — had owned land there.

The Gorrell family — who later spelled it Gorrill — established their homestead “on Daddy Frye’s Hill near the Castle,” according to a 1937 book.

The “Castle” refers to Greycourt Castle, the Charles H. Tenney estate.

The Gorrill family was prosperous.  In the 1850 census, their property was worth $3600, considerably more than their neighbors’ land.  (That’s about $90,000 in 2009 dollars, though that parcel of land would sell for considerably more than that now.)


The sons, Mark (age 34) and Nathaniel (age 29), were both single in 1850.  Both lived at home with their parents.

In the 1860 census, the story takes an interesting turn.  Instead of being 44, Mark reported his age as 40.  Following his brother’s lead, Nathaniel claimed to be 36 instead of 39.  Both remained single.  Both still lived at home.


In the 1860 Methuen city directory, all three men in the family were listed with an East Street address.


By 1870, the brothers had recovered their maturity — or at least reported their ages correctly — and had acquired a housekeeper, Kate Robertson from Maine.  Perhaps she was the woman they fought over?


Alas, by 1880 they were on their own again, and left the “relationship to head of household” line conspicuously empty.


In 1900, their names weren’t in the census index.  According to the stories, they died within a couple of years of each other.

In 1909, the question of bonds resurfaced.  The estate of Mark S. Gorrill said that his bonds were missing.


Despite several later claims regarding the missing treasure, no one has firmly established what happened to both Nathaniel and Mark Gorrill’s fortunes.



Legendary Massachusetts Lost Treasure Stories and State History (at Wayback Machine)

Massachusetts: a guide to its places and people (1937)

Police call Methuen treasure story a tall tale (2005)

United States Statutes at Large Volume 35 Part 2.djvu/278 (1909)

Trivia: Charles H. Tenney is not the only Tenney associated with a tale of hidden treasure.

According to an 1888 story, John L. Tenney (b. 1855 in California) — then living in Catron County, New Mexico — was visited by a cattle driver named John Brewer.  Brewer was one of the few survivors of the “Lost Adams Diggings Curse,” and told his story to John Tenney.  (That legend was the basis of the Gregory Peck movie, “Mackenna’s Gold.”)  For more information on that buried treasure, see Wikipedia.

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