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  • Susan Stoderl

White Lady Ghost of Stow Lake—Another Fake!

Pioneer Woman and Two Children
Pioneer Woman by Charles Grafly (1915)

“Sophia and Pedro, finish your tea and cookies. The tea house closes in fifteen minutes. Then we’ll go check out the Pioneer Mother statue on our way to catch our bus back to the hotel. It’ll be getting dark by then so we can see if we see any ghostly activities,” said their pink-haired author friend.

“Cool,” said Sophia. “One legend says that the White Lady’s ghost makes her home inside the body of the Pioneer Woman’s statue—that they’re simpatico energy-wise. I wonder how often the statue turns her head to look for the White Lady’s kid or that she has three kids instead of two?”

“There was a lot of disagreement about the statue. This rich lady named Ella Sterling Mighels wanted the city to build a statue to honor all that pioneer women had contributed to society. She favored an image of a hoop-skirted woman teaching the Bible to children at her knee. However, many disagreed with the religious sentiment. Some other ladies proposed a statue of a woman and two or three children dressed in clothing portraying the gold rush period. A bronze relief on the statue’s base could feature a gold-miner father. And all the ladies thought they should hire a local artist. However, the guy in charge said ‘no way.’ He chose a big-name artist from the East Coast. Major mistake!”

“Yeah, big time!” Pedro said. “His name was Charles Grafly. His idea of a pioneer woman was to have her dressed in fringed buckskin and moccasins. Several donors let him know that women and kids coming out on the train or in covered wagons to settle California did not wear Native American clothing.”

Everyone stood up from the table and gathered their bags to leave. Sophia paid the tea bill and the three left the tea garden just as it closed.

“He changed her clothing to a homespun dress and plain shoes but refused to clothe the children. His vision was that they should be nude to symbolize being born into a new world. No fig leaves or draping for those poor freezing kids. It gets cold here!” Pedro stopped for a minute to catch his breath.

The weather this evening was damp and windy, backing up Pedro’s claim. Sophia hurried ahead, as she had not dressed warmly enough for the evening. She spoke faster as if it would make her warmer. “There she is, but she’s not moving and there’s no extra kid. Forget about the statue being haunted by the White Lady. I think the Pioneer Woman is turning her head in disgust. What pioneer woman would want to stand here in the damp with naked kids for eternity?”

“Yep, the gold rush woman and kids was a lot better idea.”

“Speaking of damp, let’s go catch that bus. Ghost busted again!”


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