The Highland Center © 2015
The Highland Inn
"Pride of the Mountains" since 1904
68 West Main Street
Post Office Box 40
Monterey, Virginia 24465
For Room Reservations please call us direct at
Find out more on our rooms and reservations pages.
A story dating back to the 1950's has a young Colonel Erwin Rommel, later to be known as Germany's "Desert Fox" secretly staying at the hotel for three weeks in the 1930's to study the battle tactics of Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and the mountain campaign of General Robert E. Lee. However, the guest may have been the German Embassy Military Liason, Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Friedrich von Boetticher who was known to visit Civil War battle sites with Dr. Douglas Southall Freeman. The Rommel story appears in L. B. Taylor, Jr.'s "The Ghosts of Virginia" Volume III. It has been determined by the Virginia Military Institute and Rommel's biographers and researchers that he was never in the United States, but questions remain unanswered. Who was the German officer that was here secretly in the 1930's that interviewed Dr. Verity Carter? More important, who is the source of the pipe smoke that guests still occasionally smell on the Inn's balcony?
From time to time we hear from guests that they heard a child running on the front balcony at odd hours of the night. Could this be Janet Patterson, the daughter of the second proprietors of the hotel, Mr. & Mrs. H. P. Patterson?
H. B. Wood, the publisher of the Highland Recorder was obviously attached to Janet and served as a pallbearer at her funeral in May, 1912. He reported on her death at the age of 11 due to an extended illness: "Janet was a bright, interesting little girl, the oldest child of the home, having nearly reached the age of twelve. She was modest and womanly in her bearing toward all, and will be remembered by many who new her only while passing guests."
The Carwells were the third owners of the hotel and although they owned it for a short time, their ownership was marred by tragedy, mystery and scandal. Some surviving relatives still avoid talking about the terrible series of events that played out from 1919 to 1921. H. P. Woods, publisher of the Highland Recorder, once again tracks the events for the local residents.
J. Edgar Carwell and his wife Amanda Pullin Carwell purchased the hotel in September 1919. Charley Pullin, Amanda's brother purchased a small stake with them. Charley became well known as the long running operator of the Bus service from Monterey to Staunton. On Thursday, January 22, 1920 a fire was discovered in a third floor storage area. The Hotel Monterey was saved by a general alarm that brought most of the local residents to the scene.
After some difficulty a hose was brought into play and the fire was extinguished. The origin was a mystery and the building suffered mostly water and smoke damage. The loss was adjusted by the insurance company within a week and was estimated at $2,000, one-fourth of the price paid for the hotel.
Montereyans were shocked on Monday, January 26 to hear that Amanda Carwell had died at about 2:30 in the morning. Both the fire and the death appeared in the same weekly paper! Amanda (Mandy) was cheerfully discussing plans for re-opening the hotel during supper when she became ill. Death was due to poison, presumed by the physician to be ptomaine as she had eaten canned sweet potatoes. She was survived by her three small children and several brothers and sisters.
For the hotel to have caught fire and Mandy to have died in the same week must have caused much speculation. Even the paper seemed reserved in declaring what had happened. Mr. Carwell did not re-open the hotel. By July, 1920 the paper is lamenting monthly on the embarrassment of a town with it's primary hostelry closed. Mr. Carwell rented to some long-term tenants and apparently used his insurance funds to pay his quarterly mortgage installments. On March 26, 1921, one year and two months to the day of his wife's death, J. Edgar Carwell disappeared. Mass searches and calls to distant relatives turned up no hints of his whereabouts. The ideas of suicide, foul play and just "taking leave" were all advanced. His children had been living with Mandy's sisters since her death. Charley Pullin apparently partially re-opened the hotel in Carwell's absence.
SKELETON OF J. E. CARWELL FOUND ON MOUNTAIN ran the headline of the December 9, 1921 issue of the Highland Recorder. Two boys discovered his remains on Jack Mountain. He had not been robbed except a roll of money he was thought to have had was missing. He was shot in the back of the head. The jury of inquest was adjourned due to lack of leads or evidence. J. E. Carwell was buried by his family at Headwaters Cemetery. Five months later the hotel was sold to Charles Boggs with Charley Pullin maintaining his smaller stake.
Many members of our staff believe Mandy so loved the hotel that she is still here today. Her activity seems concentrated to the kitchen as if she is making sure we are doing things right. When Gregg & Debbie purchased the Inn they were told that some workmen here in the 1980's had seen a period dressed lady seemingly walking on air in the kitchen, disappearing at the ceiling. It was pointed out that an old stairwell had formerly occupied the spot. Usually when pots or utensils go flying in the kitchen some one will holler "Come on, cut that out Mandy!" In 2003 our punch bowl shattered in place with no one near it. This would have been unusual enough, but was even more baffling when the new replacement punch bowl shattered the following week.
Punch bowls are no longer kept in the kitchen. Sometimes when staff are in the kitchen all alone and they open a door to the refrigerator or a cabinet, they might get the feeling someone is peering over their shoulder seeing what they are getting. They might give a bit of a shudder, but they know it is just Mandy keeping an eye on her old hotel. Sorry thrill-seekers, because of insurance restrictions guests are not allowed in the kitchen!