“The Beguiled” - an 'incident' at Madame Talvande’s School for Girls


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016

Sword Gate House
at the former Madame Talvande School for Girls, Charleston S.C.
(Public Domain)

What could be better than a story of young love based in Charleston, South Carolina? What if this story is based on an incident that occurred at a finishing-school for young ladies specifically catering to teaching proper behavior and morals? What happened to cause the mistress of the mansion to never rest in peace as she walks the hallways in search of her young charges? Does the public forgive her? Will she ever forgive herself?

In 1803 a French Huguenot named Solomon Legare built a beautiful home on what became known as Legare Street. Various additions were built onto this majestic home throughout the 19th century including when the new residents purchased the property in 1819. André Talvande and his wife Ann (although there is some question as to whether André’s [referred to as Andrew] wife or mother started the school), but it’s Ann this tale is about. The Talvande’s were French colonial refugees who were relocated from Saint-Domingue after its revolution in the early 1800’s.

Shortly after moving in Madame Talvande opened a school for girls targeting the upper crust families of South Carolina. In addition to the usual classes in rhetoric and science, the girls were taught French, music, dancing and social graces they would need to become future matrons of Southern society. Madame Talvande School for Girls carried a reputation as an excellent choice for molding young ladies into respectable women so much so she never advertised and always maintained full enrollment.

Boys will be Boys & Girls will be Girls

The legend is told of a young lady that attended her school sometime in the late 1820’s. Her name was Maria Whaley and she was the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. She was young, beautiful and had caught the eye of a Northern boy named George Morris. Mr. Whaley was not pleased with this relationship not necessarily because he was a “Yankee” as this was several decades before the Civil War, but because Morris was not from Charleston and viewed as beneath the Whaley’s. Yet the power of young love is a force that will not be denied. Mr. Whaley sent Maria to Madame Talvande’s school knowing that she would be safe and that undesirable boy would be kept away.

Madame Talvande believed in exposing her young charges to Charleston’s high society and held social gatherings and dances for the young ladies. Although Maria met many “acceptable” Southern boys she never forgot her first true love George. Unbeknownst to the Madame, George and Maria were keeping in touch. On March 8, 1829, Maria scaled the wall around the facility and ran to St. Michael’s Church and there with George, the Reverend Frederick Dalcho and two witnesses the young couple were married. Maria went sneaking back to the school until the next morning when her new husband came to call on his wife. Once again, according to the story, George cames to school in the early morning announced that he was there:

“to pick up 'Mrs. Morris.’ Talvande, obviously confused, told Morris that she was the only married woman at the school, but George was undeterred. Talvande lined the girls up on the lawn, and introduced George Morris. She said, ‘He is here for his wife. Is there a Mrs. Morris present among us?’ At first, the girls just looked at each other. Then, Maria Whaley stepped forward and said, simply, 'Yes. I am’.” {3}

The newlyweds head off to confront Maria’s parents and supposedly all is forgiven and the couple have a long and happy life together.

Madame Talvande’s Restless Spirit

Madame Talvande was not so blessed. Her reputation was in ruins. She was humiliated and families began to question the wisdom of sending their girls to her school. She immediately constructed a higher wall and it was said she topped it with broken glass bottles so no other young lady would ever climb over it again. Madame Talvande’s most famous student was a young lady that attended in the mid 1830’s, Mary Boykin Miller the Civil War diarist who was reportedly a stellar student. Many other ladies reported that Madame ruled the school in a “tyrannical manner”. In the late 1830’s Ann Talvande commissioned a well-known ironworker Christopher Werner to make the famous iron gates. that are pictured above. With the high wall and the gates she felt she could keep the boys out and the girls in.

In time the residents forgave her for the one unfortunate incident but it tainted her reputation and she was never able to forgive herself. It was said she wandered the halls and grounds searching for an errant young lady thinking to escape her fortress of a school.

The school closed its doors in 1849. Madame Tolvande died on November 16, 1850 and was buried in St. Patrick’s Churchyard in Charleston, but some claim she does not rest in peace. There have been reports that Madame Talvande still roams the halls of the house that is now a private residence.

"Full-body apparitions have been seen on the top-floor piazza, scanning the grounds for would-be escapists. The spirit has also been seen floating along the upstairs hallways, peering into the bedrooms and keeping a watchful eye on her charges from long ago.” {3}

There have been some reports of the apparition of a cavalier walking through the old dining on the way to the game room. Others have heard the front door swing open and then the sound of heavy footsteps through the entry to the north hall.

In 1930 a new family bought the former school - - -


Jessie Lincoln Randolph {2}
the granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln

(Public Domain)

There is no record if Miss Jessie ever met Madame Talvande.


1. https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/...me-rose-and-madame-ann-marsan-mason-talvande/
3. https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston...rd-gates-house-the-spirit-of-madame-talvande4.
4. https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/south-carolina/ghost-stories-sc/
5. https://ghost.hauntedhouses.com/south_carolina_charleston_talvande_mansion#
6. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33509700/ann-marson-talvande
For more information on whatever happened to Colonel Joseph Whaley's Plantation on Edisto's Island

Feb 4, 2021
The first Madame Talvande, Marie Rose Caussie Talvande, was the wife of Alexander Talvande, who escaped from the uprising in Santo Domingo. She was the 4th Great-grandmother of my late wife Ann Chafee. Marie Rose Talvande's son Andre' and his wife Anne Marsan taught in the school. When her son Andre died in 1834 Marie Rose moved to Augusta, GA to live with her daughter and is buried there. Her daughter-in-law Anne Marsan Talvande, the widow of Andre, continued the school and was the second Madame Talvande. More details about the house and the Talvandes can be found in the News Courier, Charleston, SC Monday 12 May 1941 page 10. I have attached the article which is legible when enlarged.


  • News Courier, Charleston, SC Monday 12 May 1941 page 10.pdf
    2 MB · Views: 3

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