Monday, June 27, 2016

The Murder of Miss Louiza Fox

Egypt Valley Natural Area, Ohio
Base of the hill where Louiza Fox was murdered
“Do you purposely find the roughest roads for us to travel on when you plan out our journeys?” Zech asked as we entered into the Egypt Valley Natural Area of southeastern Ohio. “Honestly if you hit one of these potholes we’re never going to get back out of it.”

He did have a point. Never before had I seen potholes with potholes in them. But with it being a natural area, my guess is the state doesn’t take care of the road very often.

But it was not stopping me to get to my destination. After what seemed like an eternity of zigging and sagging to avoid the craters in the road, we finally arrived at the top of a lonely hill. I was immediately taken in by the beauty of the area – for the first time since our journey began there was no noise except for the whisper of the wind through the tall grass.

Egypt Valley Natural Area has always been near the top of my “Places Not in Pennsylvania I Want to Visit” List. The region seems to be a hot spot of ghostly activity. There a number of interesting stories that have come out of the area. Near the spot I presently stood taking in the region, people have reported seeing a phantom house, complete with red glowing candles in the windows - maybe it only is seen at night because no house appeared as we stood there. A cemetery in the region (not the one Zech and I would be soon visiting) is haunted by a ghostly arm. The phantom appendage has been spotted crawling around the grounds of the old cemetery. Of course this same cemetery is supposedly guarded by a violent pack of hell hounds.

Where Louiza Fox was murdered
But the most famous specters that roam the valley are said to be that of a young, thirteen year old girl and her crazed killer. Unlike the other legends, this story is based on a true event that happen in 1869.

We made our way up the small incline to the small memorial that stood along the edge of the dirt road. Somebody had been keeping the grass around it neatly cut, which I was extremely grateful – had the memorial been in the tall grass we would have never found it.

The simple plaque is flush with the ground on top of a small slab of concrete. Decorated by previous visitors, at least I wasn’t the only one who dared to travel this remote spot. The plaque placed by a private company states:

On This Spot
Louiza Catharine Fox Aged
13 Yrs. 11 Mo. 13 Da. Was Murdered
By Thomas Carr Jan. 21, 1869.
Carr First Murderer Hanged In County

At the murder site
As I looked into the murder, I found it sad that more has been recorded about the life of the murderer Thomas Carr than there is known information about the victim Louiza Fox. I've found that this is fairly common in the 1800s. For some reason (unless you were wealthy or famous) the victim's life was often passed over in newspaper articles, but the life of the murderer is often told in a lot more detail.

What I was able to discover was Louiza was the daughter of John and Mary Fox and she was described as being beautiful and graceful. She lived with her family on a farm roughly two miles east of Sewellsville and was employed doing housework for the Hunter Family. Louiza has 
at least two siblings. She had a younger brother, William – referred to as Willie in newspaper accounts who witnessed the murder..Louiza had an older sister who was married to a man whose name was Wallace (I’m assuming Wallace was his last name, but they only source I found him mentioned refers to him as a man named Wallace). Sadly that is all that is all I could find about the young Louiza Fox.

Thomas Carr was born in 1846 in Sugar Hill, West Virginia, a small community near Wheeling. It is known that he served with the Sixteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Although he was only fifteen at the time he enlisted, he lied claiming he was nineteen. Though he served, he saw very little action; he was captured at Cheat Run, West Virginia and was sent to a prisoner of war camp. He was released near the end of the war, but never saw any action. After the war he ended up in Belmont County where he found work in a coal mine owned by the Hunter Family. Here he met Louiza who was employed as a servant for the family.

Thomas became infatuated with Louiza and soon proposed to her despite the girl’s young age. Louiza’s parents, her brother-on-law, and the Hunter family objected and soon it was called off due to the age different and Carr’s violent temper. Some sources claim that he was fascinated with her beauty but she turned him away without the prompting of her friends and family.\

Louiza's Grave
Salem Cemetery
Whichever version is correct would no longer matter when, on January 21, 1869, Miss Fox would fall victim to Carr’s violent temper. Louiza and her brother were returning home when Carr approached them. They sent Willie on home so he could talk to Louiza in private. Carr kissed Louiza before he pulled a razor and slashed Louisa across the throat. In his rage he continued to stab her fourteen times. From a distance Willie turned to see Carr attacking his sister and he ran home to tell his parents.

The next day a posse lead by John Fox discovered Carr hiding in a coal bunker. Carr had attempted to take his own life by slitting his own throat and when that failed he shot himself. Both attempts at suicide had failed. The posse grabbed him and took him in to stand trial for his crime.

Carr’s trial was in June of 1869 and lasted five days: he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged for Louiza’s murder.  His execution date was originally set for August 20, 1869 but due to a writ of error, his execution would be delayed until March 24, 1870.

While waiting for his sentence to be carried out, Carr made a strange confession: supposedly he had killed fourteen others and attempted to kill five more. This confession seems to be an attempt at gaining even more attention – I was not able to find any sources that backed his claims. On March 24, 1870 the first and last legal execution would happen in Belmont County, Ohio. His execution took place in front of the courthouse in St. Clairsville and according to early reports his body was buried in an unmarked grave in the Methodist Cemetery, which may be part of the resent-day Union Cemetery in St. Clairsville.

Zech and I paid our respects to the young Louiza before continuing to our next stop at the Salem Cemetery, roughly a mile away. As we approached, Zech called out that he could see her stone in the corner of the cemetery. I parked and we entered the fenced off cemetery at the top of the hill and made our way down the hillside to where Louiza rested.

The wording on her tombstone is very similar to the plaque at her murder site..

Louiza's Grave

Although justice was served and her murderer executed, people began seeing Louiza’s restless spirit has been spotted sobbing at both her grave and at her murder site. And not long after Thomas was executed he supposedly joined Louiza in haunting the spot where he killed her.

We finished paying our respects to Miss Fox before leaving the cemetery and winding our way out of the Egypt Valley Natural Area.

Neither Louiza or Thomas appeared during our visit. I do want to note that I believe the mere solitude of the region, along with the lay of the land, is the cause of a number of the paranormal reports. I've read in places that phantom voices could be heard. While Zech and I were at the murder site, we could clearly hear voices talking, but could not determine the source at the time. As we left the spot, we were able to discover the possible source - three teenagers were sitting on the tailgate of a truck talking, over the hill and out of sight from where we had been standing.

I do ask if you visit the area, please do so with respect.

A side note/; While many of the newspaper accounts of the murder spell her name Louisa, I used the spelling Louiza, whi is the name on her tombstone and also the spelling used in most of the histories of the region,

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Along the Way: Dreese's Covered Bridge

Dreese's Covered Bridge, Beavertown
I was instantly greeted by the bawling of a hound as I stepped out of the truck. I paused as I watched the old dog make his way towards me, hoping deep inside he was friendly. Thankfully he was. He sat on the ground at my feet and I reached down to rub his head. A couple seconds later a man’s voice called out from the nearby farm and the dog trotted back towards the house. He made it to the other side of the road before he laid down in the grass to watch my every move.

With the approval of the bridge’s guardian I turned my attention to the covered bridge I was parked in front of. Dreese’s Covered Bridge, which is also known as Dreese Covered Bridge, but is more commonly referred to as the Beavertown Covered Bridge, spans Middle Creek northeast of the town of the same name. A little over one hundred feet in length, the bridge is a Burr Truss with multiple king post and the builder is unknown.

A side note: I was asked about the identification and how to identify the designs, but to be honest, I’m not one hundred percent on my covered bridge identification yet – a good source is the book “Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges: A Guide” which identifies the bridges and what type they are. The guide, though it calls itself complete, does not include modern covered bridges

The bridge was originally built in 1870 and was bypassed in 1979 due to its condition. In 2001 the county repaired the bridge and though it is not open to vehicle traffic, it is open to pedestrian traffic.

After photographing the covered bridge from the pull-off area, I made my way up to Covered Bridge Road and walked out onto the modern bridge. Setting up on this bridge provides a beautioful view of the bridge as it spans the waters of Middle Creek..

Dreese's Covered Bridge spanning Middle Creek
When visiting Dreese’s Covered Bridge, please keep in mind:

1) The bridge, which is located at the junction of Covered Bridge Road and Beaver Ridge Road, is owned by the county, though it appears to be a part of the nearby farm.

2) There is parking right in front of the bridge. The old road still exists and you can park on it while visiting.

3) I had a couple of vehicles pass as I was shooting from the more modern bridge that parallels Dreese’s Covered Bridge. Most slowed down, but please use caution when taking pictures from the bridge.

4) The nearby farm (just across Beaver Ridge Road) does have a dog that runs freely. I had no problems with the dog, he seemed friendly enough, but just be aware you may have a visitor.

Dreese's Covered Bridge is located on Covered Bridge Road, which is roughly two and a half miles east of Beavertown.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Along the Way: Klinepeter Coered Bridge

Klinepeter Covered Bridge, Beaver Springs
Covered bridges have always caught my attention. A piece of Pennsylvania’s history, many of the bridges have been lost over time but close to two hundred of them still exist within the state. Countless stories involve covered bridges and the lore that surrounds them is numerous. But it was not due to any ghost story or legend that I visited the Klinepeter Covered Bridge – it was the beauty of the structure that had brought me here.

Located on Railroad Street in Beaver Springs, Klinepeter Covered Bridge is also known as Gross Covered Bridge, which was the original name of this bridge. In some places I see it is referred to as Overflow Covered Bridge and also as the Beaver Springs Covered Bridge, but Klinepeter is the “official” name of this covered bridge. The bridge was originally built in 1871 and crossed Middle Creek approximately a mile northwest of Beaver Springs. In 1982, the bridge was moved and rebuilt at the present location over Beaver Creek. This move was due to a flood control project on Middle Creek that would have otherwise caused the destruction of the covered bridge.

The builder of the bridge is not known, but it is now owned by the township. The bridge has a Burr Truss design, which is the most popular version of Pennsylvania’s covered bridges – one hundred and twenty-one of them are of the Burr Truss design. Klinepeter Covered Bridge is roughly one hundred feet in length and about seventeen feet in width.

Klinepeter Covered Bridge
On my visit I noted a couple of things. First there is no to little water in Beaver Creek. Looking at pictures other have taken of the bridge at its current location, it appears that water is rarely flowing under the bridge. So if you arrive thinking you’re going to get a beautiful picture of a covered bridge over a flowing stream, then this one is not for you.

However, the second thing that jumps out about Klinepeter Covered Bridge is there really is no “bad” way to shoot it. Due to its location the bridge is able to be photographed from many different angles. This is a big plus in photographing this covered bridge. Most of the bridges I’ve visited so far have limited angles and locations you can photograph them from. Klinepeter is the opposite and almost gives you too many places and angles to photograph it from.

I need to give a warning on this one: the bridge is open to vehicular traffic, so please be careful when visiting. I only had one vehicle pass through the bridge during my visit and the driver did not slow down at all - I am glad I was not in the bridge at the time the truck sped through. So please, please, please pay attention for any vehicular traffic.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Penn's Creek Massacre: Part Two

Monuments to the Penn's Creek Massacre,
The John Harris Ambush, and the Albany Purchase
The first part of the Penn's Creek Massacre can be found here: Part One

Hidden along Penn’s Creek, near the spot where it flows into the Susquehanna River, are two markers that are easily missed, though they are a very short distance from a number of major roads – Route 522 terminates less than a mile south at the junction with Routes 11/15. I would have driven past them once again had they not been brought to my attention by a friend who knew I was researching the Penn’s Creek Massacre.

The two monuments stand at the southern end of South Old Trail on the northern bank of Penn’s Creek. Arriving at the spot near the mouth of Penn’s Creek, I studied the two monuments and the surroundings, realizing for the first time that the bridge on 11/15 that crosses Penn’s Creek can easily be seen from this spot and wondered how many of those passing by knew of these monuments.

The first of these monuments recognizes the Albany Purchase. The stone is marked that it was brought to this location from Henry Shoemaker’s estate in McElhattan. The current plaque states that this is a replacement plaque – the original plaque was stolen when the stone stood on the Albany Purchase line, roughly a mile north of this location.

The Albany Purchase was a land deal was between the Provincial Government and the Six Nations in 1754. This land deal would cause a rift between the Delaware Indians and settlers, and also between the Delaware Indians and the Six Nations. The Six Nations had prevented the Delaware Indians from selling their lands previously, but with this treaty, they sold the lands that had traditional belonged to them. This sale of the Juniata and Susquehanna Valleys was done without allowing the Delaware Indians any voice in the decision.

During the summer of 1755, with the defeat of General Braddock, the Delaware Indians abandoned the English took up arms with the French. Empowered by the fact that the English had been defeated in battle, the Delaware Indians were hoping to push the settlers out of the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania.

Penn's Creek Massacre and
John Harris Ambush Monument
The second monument at this spot has two plaques on it. The top one mentions the Penn’s Creek Massacre. The bottom of the two plaques continues the story of the Penn’s Creek Massacre.

The first person to record the details of the Penn’s Creek Massacre was John Harris, who operated a ferry downstream from the massacre site. This John Harris would later have a city named in his honor – Harrisburg. However John Harris almost lost his life near the location of the present-day marker for the Penn’s Creek Massacre.

On October 20, 1755, Harris wrote to Governor Morris reporting the known details about the massacre on Penn’s Creek. In a postscript to his letter, he recorded that the Six Nations were urging for the Province of Pennsylvania to be put on defense. Conrad Weiser reported the same events to Governor Morris on October 22, stating six families had been murdered and twenty-eight people were missing.

Plaque for the John Harris Ambush
The lower of the two plaques on
The monument
On October 23, John Harris led a group of men – between forty and fifty in strength – up the Susquehanna to bury those killed in the massacre. Upon arriving, the group discovered that the dead had already been gathered and buried. Though the group wanted to return to Paxtang, they were urged by John Shikellamy to continue to the Indian town of Shamokin (present-day Sunbury) which was about five miles upstream from their location.

In the process of researching this, I’ve found most accounts say Harris’ party found the dead already buried. This leaves the question of who buried the victims of the massacre? Some writers have suggested friendly Indians arrived and buried them. I’m not one hundred percent agreeing with those authors. I have found in a couple places where it states that “John Harris and his party found traces of the massacre,” which to me means one of two things. One: they found the bodies and they were the ones to bury the victims; or Two: They found the results of the massacre and left them there. Honestly with hostiles raiding the frontier, the second of the two options seems more likely, but we will probably never have a clear answer on this.

Upon arriving at Shamokin, Harris and his men immediately noticed a number of strangers painted completely in black. Among these strangers were Indians they were familiar with, including Andrew Montour, who often served as an interpreter. Harris records that these strangers had come from the Ohio and Allegheny River Valleys to tell their brothers in the Susquehanna River Valley that they should leave and join them against the settlers.

The morning of October 25 John Harris and his men left Shamokin, heading down river to the safety of the settlements. The group was advised by Andrew Montour to stay on the eastern side of the river on their return journey. Harris and his group decided to ignore the warning and instead returned southward on the western side of the Susquehanna.

The group had only gone a short distance, arriving at the mouth of Penn’s Creek when they were ambushed by a group of Indians between twenty and thirty strong. The ambushers waited until the Harris’ men started across Penn’s Creek before opening fire upon the unsuspecting party. Shots were exchanged and Harris lost three of his men, while four of the ambushers were killed. Harris and his men retreated through the woods for half a mile before deciding to cross the river.

While in the process of crossing the river, one man was shot and four men drowned. The man who was shot was a doctor described as a large, fat man, who was mounted on the same horse as Harris. Upon entering the river, the doctor was shot in the back and killed, saving Harris' life. Part way across the river, Harris abandoned his horse (which had previously been wounded), and swam the rest of the way across.

While Harris and his men staggered back to Harris’ Ferry, a group of friendly Delaware Indians who had been living in Shamokin followed and went after the ambushers. They returned with information – a large group of French soldiers, combined with a a number of Indian tribes, were preparing for an attack on the settlements.

Penn's Creek Massacre
The top plaque on the monument
Despite this information, John Harris was determined not to flee. Instead he cut holes in his trading house and prepared for the worst. In addition to preparing himself for war, he also informed the Provincial Government, and also others on the frontier, to prepare for the worst – war was coming to the frontier.

As I stood there, I could not help but wonder 'What if John Harris had fallen that day?'  John returned to his home at Harris' Ferry and prepared it for any attacks. While others were already fleeing the frontier at the early signs of danger, he remained steadfast and strong. Had Harris fallen, I imagine that many more would have fled the area rather than staying on their homesteads along the Susquehanna.

Not only would history have changed if John Harris would have died during this bloody ambush, but also the geography of Pennsylvania. Harris' Ferry would grow and the town would eventually be known as Harrisburg. It is very likely if John Harris had fallen that day, Pennsylvania's capital would be known by another name or even possibly located at a different location in the state altogether.

As I stood there in the heat and humidity, I was overcome by sadness. The air was mixed with the anger of the Delaware Indians, the terror of the victims, the fear of the captives, and the sadness of the innocents. The frontier that was dangerous in the past was suddenly hostile and violent. Nothing would ever be the same again on the Pennsylvania frontier.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Penn's Creek Massacre: Part One

Monument for the le Roy Massacre
Along Ridge Road, south of Mifflinburg
I completely missed the monument. To be honest, I drove right past it.

Even though I was driving slowly along Ridge Road searching for the memorial, I had passed it before my father called out that I had just driven by it. The monument was only feet off of the road but was hidden under the two dead shrubs that bordered each side and behind a wall of tall grass and weeds.

Backing up, I found parking in front of a barn on the opposite side of the monument and stepped out. The farmer who was working in the field behind the monument waved as I crossed the road and started clearing away the weeds. The words on the plaque told me I had found the correct stone – this was the memorial for the Penn’s Creek Massacre.

It is hard to imagine that these peaceful, rolling hills between Mifflinburg and New Berlin once ran red with the blood of those who settled on the Pennsylvania frontier. The fields of corn and other crops hide any signs of the violence that once happened here.

This monument not only remembers the le Roy Family who were tragically killed at this location, but it also marks the changing point in Pennsylvania's relationship with the Delaware Indians who had lived among the settlers in peace. The treaty that the Delaware Indians had signed with William Penn had been broken and nothing would be the same between them and the Pennsylvania government again.

The Delaware Indians felt betrayed by the Six Nations who, one year earlier, sold the Susquehanna and Juniata Valley lands that had been their traditional homelands for centuries as a part of the Albany Purchase. The Provincial Government had purchased these lands directly from the Six Nations without any input from the Delaware Indians and was allowing people to settle on those lands.

The le Roy Monument after I cleared away the weeds
The events of the summer of 1755, which ended with the defeat of General Braddock’s army by the combined forces of French soldiers and Indian warriors, would change Indian relations and scar the Pennsylvania frontier, painting it red with blood from both sides. The defeat of General Braddock gave the Delaware Indians a bravery that they had never had before and they would use this momentum to attack the growing settlements in central Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania frontier was mostly unprotected due to Colonel Dunbar (who replaced the deceased General Braddock as the new leader of the Provincial Army) taking the army into "winter quarters," near Philadelphia - yes, they were retreating to "winter quarters" in the middle of summer.

By early October 1755 George Croghan, Indian trader and frontiersman, had warned that a mass of Indians had gathered and were preparing to attack the settlements on the frontier. Croghan was preparing his quarters at Aughwick (present-day Shirleysburg) for the upcoming troubles asking for supplies, especially guns and powder, for the stockade he was erecting.

Less than a week after this warning, the Penn’s Creek Massacre would occur. On October 16, 1755, the German settlers on Penn’s Creek were attacked. Over two days a party of fourteen Delaware Indians swept through the region between present-day New Berlin and Selinsgrove.

The events that happened near the homestead of Jean Jacques le Roy (whose homestead was at the farm near the monument) were later recorded by Barbara Leininger and Marie le Roy after their escape from captivity. It is from their recollections that the details of the massacre fully came to be known.

Early in the morning on October 16, 1755, the hired hand of Jean le Roy heard six shots while in the fields and immediately reported back to Jean what he heard. Around eight that morning, the Indian party arrived at the le Roy home and ambushed Jean near the spring at the house, killing him with their tomahawks. Jean’s son Jacob tried to defend himself but was overpowered and taken captive. Along with Jacob the Indians took Marie (Jean's daughter) and a young girl who had been staying with them prisoner.

The identity of this young girl is not known, but Linn in his book Annals of Buffalo Valley, Pennsylvania hints at an answer. He mentions a girl names Catherine Smith who was recovered during the attack on Kittanning in 1756. While the girl is not on Marie or Barbara’s list of prisoners Linn notes this Catherine was from Shamokin. One of le Roy’s neighbors was an Adam Smith, so it may be she was his daughter - it is not the answer, but it is a possible answer to the unidentified girl.

Once the terrible deed was done, they plundered the house and set it on fire, tossing Jean le Roy's body into it with the two tomahawks still sticking in his bloody head. As this was happening, a neighbor by the name of Bastian was riding past. The raiding party shot and scalped him.

During these horrible activities, two Indians went to the neighboring Leininger homestead. At the home were Barbara and Rachel Leininger, along with their father and brother. The two Indians demanded rum and when told they had none, asked for tobacco. They filled and smoked a pipe before they shot and killed Mr. Leininger then proceeded to tomahawk the brother to death. Barbara and Rachel were taken prisoner. Mrs. Leininger had gone to the mill that day, which saved her life.

In addition to these murders at the le Roy and Leininger homesteads, that evening members of the party brought six scalps and terrorized the captives with them. The next day members of the party left and later returned with more scalps. Between thirteen and sixteen people were killed during the raid and eleven were taken captive. The list of captives I’ve been able to discover are: Marie and Jacob le Roy, Barbara and Rachel Leininger, Marian Wheeler, Hannah Breylinger and her two children (one of her children died at Kittanning), and Peter Lick and his two sons, John and William.

A close up of the plaque
However, as I stood there remembering the tragedy of October 1755, I couldn't help but be overcome with sadness. The massacre that took place here was not a battle between armies - it was not a battle between enemies - it was a slaughter of innocent lives of those who had reached out to become friends with the Delaware Indians. The feeling of terror and despair that the captives must have felt as they watched their family members die and knew that their lives would never be the same again seemed to fill the air.

Barbara and Marie would be taken to Fort Duquesne and then on to the Indian town of Muskingum (near present-day Sharon in Mercer County). On March 16, 1759, the two girls finally managed to escape, eventually arriving at Fort Pitt and they were then returned to Philadelphia. Barbara's sister, Rachel, would become a part of folk history when she was returned home after the end of Pontiac's War.

One thing I want to address about this monument. Many online sources mention the monuments for the massacre near the mouth of Penn’s Creek and state that these monuments mark the location of the le Roy homestead. The marker I sought out that day is at the location of the le Roy homestead and is south of Mifflinburg near the junction of Ridge and Dice Roads. I ask that you use caution if visiting the monument: though it is located along a rural road, there was a lot of traffic on it the day I visited. Please remember that the monument and the farm opposite it are on private property, so please be respectful of your surroundings.

The second part of the Penns Creek Massacre can be found here: Part Two

A side note: Barbara’s sister is referred to in most early accounts as Rachel. I continued to use the name Rachel in this article. However many know Rachel by another name: Regina. Her story will be for another day.

Another side note: while many, including the wording on the memorial, use the English version of his name - John Jacob LeRoy - I opted to use the traditional version of his name, le Roy. In some sources, Jean Jacques le Roy is also referred to as Jacob King in some histories.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Legend of the Horseshoe Grave

Otterbein Church
If there is an easy way to get to the Otterbein Church and Cemetery the GPS unit did not know it. Getting off Interstate 70, we followed a maze of roads through the farmlands of south central Ohio.

“Are you sure you put in the correct address?” Zech asked as we journeyed on some very narrow country roads. I was beginning to think I may have messed up the address when suddenly the church suddenly appeared before us.

“So who are we looking for?” Zech asked as we got out of the truck and took in our surroundings. A beautiful brick church stood guard next to the grounds of the cemetery. The church was built in the 1820s and was used by the congregation until 1882 when a second church was built a little farther south.

“Mary Henry,” I replied. “She’s buried in the back corner of the cemetery…or at least that’s what I’ve read.”

“What is she known for?” Zech responded as he surveyed the small cemetery.

“You’ll have to look at her stone to see why I wanted to visit her grave,” I responded as we carefully made our way among the old stones towards the spot where she was buried.

Mary Henry's Grave
Otterbein Cemetery
As soon as we had entered the hallowed grounds of Otterbein Cemetery, I was able to see her headstone in the far corner of the cemetery. The iron fencing around it made it stand out among the older stones. Sadly Mary’s stone has been badly damaged over the years. People had broken off pieces of the stone for one reason or another, something that saddens and disgusts me. What remains of her headstone is held together by a metal frame and the iron fence around her stone keeps people from damaging it even more.

We paused at the front of her stone as we read the inscription. Reading the stone, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Once we stepped around to look at the back of the stone did the reasoning behind my visit suddenly became clear to Zech.

“Oh. That’s interesting. So what’s the story?” On the back of Mary’s tombstone is a rust-colored shape of a horseshoe that had become a part of regional lore. While many do not recognize the name of Mary Henry, the mere mention of Ohio’s Horseshoe Grave does cause many to recall the story of the strange mark.

Mary’s story begins in the early 1840s. Born Mary Angle, she was one of two women who had caught the attention of James Henry. James was not only courting Mary, but also was courting Rachael Hodge. Unsure which girl he wanted to marry, the legend goes that his horse finally made the decision for him.

On his way home one evening, James fell asleep while riding his horse. When he awoke he discovered that his horse had stopped in front of Mary’s house. He took this as a sign that Mary was the one to be his wife and on January 1, 1844 they married. As a wedding present James gave Mary the horse that had brought them together.

However, their marriage was a short one: Mary died during childbirth in February 1845. Their child was stillborn and (while I do not know for sure) I imagine that the baby was buried with its mother in the same coffin, something that I’ve read being done in similar cases.

The horseshoe on the back of
Mary;s grave
The first three years after Mary’s death her simple stone stood in the Otterbein Cemetery. From all accounts, the horseshoe marking was not on her grave at this point.

Three years of living alone he remarried – his bride was none other than Rachael Hodge. According to legend, the two of them were married at Mary’s gravesite. I want to insert that I do not believe that they were actually married at her grave as word of mouth states, but instead they were married in the Otterbein church next to the cemetery and possibly visited the grave after the ceremony. But I do find it strange that even the earliest versions of this legends (that I was able to find) do state they were married at Mary’s grave

As a wedding present, James supposedly gave Rachael the same horse that had originally brought him and Mary together.

Soon after their marriage neighbors began to whisper about a strange marking that had appeared on Mary’s grave. After hearing the rumors, James made a trip to visit the grave of his first wife to see if the whisperings were true. Imagine his shock when he discovered the blood red stain of a horseshoe on the back of Mary’s headstone.

James took the horseshoe as a sign that Mary was upset that he had married Rachael. He left the cemetery in sorrow and feeling that his actions had offended Mary’s spirit. According to legend it was shortly after James’ visit that the paranormal activity started in the cemetery. People reported hearing a phantom horse running on the road in front of the cemetery. Strange lights were spotted roaming among the headstones and mysterious noises were heard coming from the cemetery.

James and Rachael’s marriage would last for eleven years and would produce four children. James died in 1859 when one evening while he was out in the barn, he was kicked in the head by a horse. According to legend, it was the same horse he had given to Mary years before.

Mary's grave looking at it from the back
While this is the most common version, I found a version that differs slightly in regards to the horse that caused his death. According to this version the horse in question was a gift given to Mary and James by Mary’s parents as a wedding present. After Mary’s death, according to traditions of the time, the horse should have been given back to Mary’s parents. James instead kept the horse for himself to use on his farm. This supposedly caused tension between the two families. This version also states that the horse that kicked James was the horse he refused to give back to Mary’s parents.

No matter which version of the story is true, one thing is – the horseshoe marking still exists on Mary’s grave.

Zech and I stood there debating the origins of the marking. Neither of us could come up with a logical solution for the strange print on Mary’s stone, but both were amazed that whatever the source of the stain, it had lasted over one hundred and fifty years. Was it the result of paranormal activity or is there a natural solution for the marking? Truth is we may never know the answer.

We finally gave up on finding an answer and paid our respects to Mary before leaving her to rest in the corner of Otterbein Cemetery.

I do ask if you choose to visit her grave, please do so with respect and during daylight hours.

A side note: I used the spelling Rachael because in the oldest version I found it was spelled that way. Most sources use the spelling Rachel instead

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Along the Way: James Black

Grave of James Black, Wildwood Cemetery, Williamsport
We all have our favorite song (or songs) that we find ourselves singing for no apparent reason as we go about our daily routine. I know that I have a number of songs that I find myself singing, whistling, or humming depending upon the situation I’m in. One of those songs is an old hymn that was a favorite growing up (and still is one of my favorites) – When the Roll is Called up Yonder.

The old hymn was the motivation behind my arrival at the Wildwood Cemetery in Williamsport.

James Black, the composer of When the Roll is Called up Yonder is buried next to his wife on the small hill immediately behind the cemetery office. His small stone is a very simple with just his name and the years of his birth and death on it. Nothing about his memorial hints at his life as a noted songwriter.

Little is known about James' early life, but it is known that he was born August 19, 1856 in South Hill, New York, a community just south of Ithica. He married Lizzie Fulmer and moved to Princeton, Indiana. In 1889 Lizzie passed due to the effects of a heart attack she suffered the year before. James returned to Williamsport and remarried Elizabeth Updegraff, who passed in 1921. He would remarry a third time, this time to Lucy Levan.

He found his calling in working with the Methodist Episcopal Church where he worked with children and youth, taught Sunday School, and was the church song leader. Outside of his church activities, we taught music during the week, composed hymns, and edited hymnals.

His most recognized hymn, When the Roll is Called up Yonder, has a catchy, upbeat melody but is based on a sad event in James’ life.

James would often walk the streets of Williamsport, seeking inspiration for his songs and also seeking out young people to encourage them to attend Sunday School. On one of these journeys he met a young girl he would later identify as Bessie. The young girl was sitting on the porch of a rundown house wearing ragged clothes and torn shoes. James would later identify her father was a drunkard and her mother washed clothes to make ends meet, so Bessie had very little in the way of new things.

James invited Bessie to attend the Sunday School, but Bessie replied that she wanted to attend, but she had no clothes fit to be worn to church. James bought her a new dress, shoes and a hat and had them delivered to her house. The following week James invited her again and Bessie started attending.

Graves of James and his third wife, Lucy
Bessie attended services regularly but one Sunday when the secretary was taking roll Bessie failed to respond. Her name was called a second time but there was still no response. James, thinking she was daydreaming, stood and called her name for a third time, but for the first time since she started to attend the Sunday School Bessie was absent.

James would later say that at that exact moment, he had a vision. What if on the day of judgment, when our name was called from the Lamb’s Book of Life, we failed to answer when our name was called?

A very concerned James left church that day and headed immediately to Bessie’s house to see why she was absent. He discovered that she was gravely ill with pneumonia and sadly she was standing at death’s door.

James returned to his home and searched through his hymnals trying to find a song about a heavenly roll call, but failed to find one. With the thought of a final roll call on his mind, James sat down at his piano and in minutes had written the lyrics and music for When the Roll in Called up Yonder.

A few days later James sang his song for the first time at Bessie’s funeral, the girl who had inspired the hymn when she was absent at roll call.

While James had written a number of other hymns, none ever gained the popularity as his tribute to Bessie. And on December 21, 1938 James answered his final roll call when he passed from this life.

I want to take a moment and make a quick note: the girl in most sources is identified with the name Bessie. I kept her name Bessie, but in the earliest references I could find, she is only identified as "the young girl."

Monday, June 6, 2016

Johnny Morehouse: The Story of a Boy and his Dog


Grave of Johnny Morehouse
Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio
“Where are we headed to next?” Zech asked as we drove eastward from Footprint Print. (You can read about it here: Footprint Rock.)

“Woodland Cemetery, Dayton,” I replied.

“So whose grave are we looking for?” he asked as he pulled up information about the cemetery. “Erma Bombeck?  George Huffman?”

“Who?” I asked.

“It says he was the founder of the Huffy Bicycle Corporation,” he replied. “I know…the Wright Brothers!”

“I didn’t realize they were buried there,” I answered, though seeing they were from Dayton I should have realized they'd be buried there. Obviously I had not done the needed research beforehand as Zech continued listing off the famous burials in Woodland Cemetery.

“So who are we exactly looking for?” Zech asked again. "I'm running out of famous people buried in the cemetery."

“Johnny Morehouse,” I replied. The sad story of Johnny Morehouse was one that I had read about many, many years ago and though I cannot remember where I had first read about his story, it always remained in my mind. Of course being a dog lover, Johnny’s story was one that definitely held my attention.

With the journey taking us through Dayton, I knew I had to make a detour to visit Johnny’s grave. But as I drove through the gates of Woodland Cemetery, I mumbled under my breath about finding one grave in the forest of stone monuments. How was I ever going to find his grave among the thousands and thousands of markers in the cemetery?

Johnny Morehouse and
His eternal companion
Woodland Cemetery was founded in 1843 and would become one of the nation’s oldest “garden” cemeteries. By 1840, Dayton was rapidly growing and the grounds of the original cemetery which was located near the junctions of Third and Main Streets, was not going to be large enough. Under the direction of John VanCleve forty acres were selected outside of the town limits. Due to the variety of trees growing on the hills, the name of Woodland was selected for the cemetery.

I have to wonder if John VanCleve and the original board of trustees would have ever imagined that the cemetery would grow to over two hundred acres, have over three thousand trees, countless shrubs, and would eventually be the resting place of more than one hundred thousand graves. Interestingly I discovered that the highest point in the city of Dayton is Lookout Point, which is located on the grounds of Woodland Cemetery.

“Why are you stopping?” Zech asked as I sat there debating where to start on a nearly impossible task.

“Just thinking about where to start,” I answered mentally kicking myself for not doing enough research.

“He’s buried right over there,” Zech said as he pointed towards a spot to our right, just yards from the entrance to the cemetery. From where I had stopped, he was able to see the memorial that I sought. In seconds, we were standing at one of the most visited memorials in Woodland Cemetery.

The words just below Johnny and his dog
Read "Slumber Sweet"
The monument that sits at the grave of Johnny Morehouse is one of a dog that stands watch over a young boy who is eternally sleeping. Around Johnny’s sleeping body is a harmonica, the boy’s cap, a top and a ball, items that had been in Johnny’s pockets when he perished at a young age.

Johnny’s story starts in 1860. Johnny was the youngest son of John and Mary Morehouse. John Newton Morehouse was named after his father of the same name. Little Johnny, as he was commonly known, had one older brother, Horrace, who was three years older. Some records show that John (Johnny’s father) was married to a Barbara, who may have been John’s second wife. Many stories claim that Johnny was the son of John and Barbara, but newspapers at the time state Johnny was the youngest child of John and Mary.

One August day as Johnny was playing near the Miami and Erie Canal, which existed along present-day Patterson Boulevard, he slipped and fell into the canal. Unable to swim Johnny struggled in the murky waters of the canal. Johnny’s loyal dog jumped into the waters of the canal in an attempt to save the boy. Some claim that both the dog and Johnny perished in the canal that day, but the most common version of the story states the dog was able to pull the boy from the waters, it was too late to save Johnny.

Johnny’s parents buried their son in the grounds of Woodland Cemetery. According to many, several days after the burial, the dog began to show up at Johnny’s grave. The dog would lay there, waiting for his young master. The dog, whose name has been lost to history, would be taken home, but within hours would reappear at the grave site. Visitors to the cemetery worried about the dog and would leave food and water for it. Soon the dog too passed away and legend states at it was buried next to Johnny’s grave. (I need to note that history really doesn’t record what happened to the dog – one of the earliest versions I could find, which was still many, many years after Johnny’s death, merely states that one day the dog had disappeared. Whether it had died at Johnny’s grave or finally wandered off remains a mystery.)

In 1861, a special stone was erected to commemorate Johnny and the devotion of his dog. The stone was created by local business man Daniel La Dow, a local business man. The front of the statue has “Johnny Morehouse” carved into it, while on one side are the words “Slumber Sweet.” It has become a common practice for people to leave little toys for the dog and trinkets for Johnny.


A close-up of Johnny's faithful dog
Local lore claims that Johnny and his dog have been seen wandering the grounds of the cemetery. One more than one occasion people supposedly called the police after seeing a young boy with a dog roaming about the cemetery at night. Nearby residents also claim to hear the sound of a barking dog coming from within the cemetery at night – could this be the ghost of Johnny’s faithful companion or merely a stray that managed to wander onto grounds of the cemetery?

While we didn’t see Johnny or his dog, but I did leave a couple trinkets on the stone for them.

Leaving Johnny’s resting place, Zech and I drove up the hill to look at some of the large stones that definitely caught our attention. While we found no other names I recognized, we found a couple of interesting sculptures that we photographed.

There are a number of other ghost stories about the cemetery and while I’m not going to go full into them I want to note a couple things that Zech and I both noticed that may explain some of the stories. The first thing is that on two different times we had vehicles “sneak up” on us in the cemetery. With the sound of the traffic on the main roads and the rolling hills of the cemetery grounds, both cars seemed to appear out of nowhere before either of us realized that they were there.

Another thing that we noticed involves a lady who we saw jogging on the roadways of the cemetery. Zech had caught sight of her first and pointed her out as she jogged on another road near us. She appeared and disappeared behind the stones and at one point we lost her completely. I soon discovered that the road turned and a large monument hid her direction change.

A third factor that may explain some of the ghost stories is the number of trees in the cemetery. The light filtering in through the leaves causes a lot of shadow play, which could be responsible for some ghost stories.

Now I’m not saying that this accounts for all of the stories, but I believe these factors may have something to do with some of the ghost stories.

We left the cemetery, making one more stop at Johnny’s grave before we departed Woodland, to pay our final respects before leaving the dog to eternally stand guard over his boy in silence.