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History Unraveled: Lewisburg’s Clairvoyant Sister: The “Cauling” of Mildred Bess Carter

Did you know that Lewisburg once had a fortune-teller in town? Mildred Bess Carter was the daughter of Ed Carter, a Black barber in Lewisburg. When Mildred was born in August of 1895 she had a caul, or piece of amniotic sac that covered her face. According to legend this caul was why she was able “see” and “hear” more things than other people. As a young girl, Mildred spent much of her time in her father’s barbershop interacting with his patrons. Carter’s shop was located downtown where Flanagan’s Barbershop stands today. Mildred was popular among her father’s customers and would sometimes receive money from them for her gifts.   (Pictured: Mildred Carter is on the right, sitting in the grass. Behind her Marilyn Nelson. Man on the left is Pinkney Golden Nelson with his hand on “Elizabeth”. The woman in the middle is Martha Carter Nelson).

According to legend this caul was why she was able “see” and “hear” more things than other people.

Mildred helped find items and tell fortunes for visitors from all over the country.

After Mildred’s father died in 1933, she inherited his building and lived in the upstairs apartment.  She became a well-known fortune-teller by word of mouth, thinking that advertisement would cheapen her gift. Mildred helped find items and tell fortunes for visitors from all over the country. Guests from The Greenbrier Resort and students from the Greenbrier College for Women would come downtown to have their fortunes told by Mildred.

Mildred allegedly predicted the date of her own death and had a gravestone as décor in her home.  Mildred Bess Carter died in 1985, at the age of 99.  She is remembered fondly by members of the community as being active at John Wesley Methodist Church, loving children, and being musically inclined.  In an interview from 2004, a lifelong resident of Lewisburg, Scharlotta Gardner remembers her mother, Sallie, being afraid of Mildred Bess Carter, since Mildred always said she had something to tell Sallie from her sister who had passed away.

Join the Greenbrier Historical Society for Black History Walks

To see where Mildred Bess Carter lived and to find out more about the vast Black history of Lewisburg,  that are available by appointment. Call 304-645-3398 to schedule.

– Brehana Scott, Marketing Manager at North House Museum. Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper #131. May 2021.

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