Sunday, February 12, 2017

Searching for Sallie

The lone grave of Sallie Youker
Near Harrison Valley
"Are you sure we're on the right road?" Mike asked.

I had already lost count on the number of times he had asked the question since we had turned onto the narrow back road of northern Pennsylvania. The road twisted around the hilly farmland that I was quickly falling in love with; the crest of each hill provided a new and exciting view of the Potter County countryside. However, if we went any farther north, we would be in New York. From our current location we were only a couple of miles from the border.

Crossing the border wasn't on my list of concerns at the moment, I was quickly running out of road and I was convinced that Mike was correct and my research had failed me. At first I was sure I was on the correct road, but we had yet to find the Lone Grave. Doubt was quickly replacing the excitement I had at the start of this leg of our journey.

The end of the road was in sight when I noticed a young man planting trees along the road. I hit the brakes and backed up to ask him for help.

"You're really going to stop and ask for directions?" Mike gave me a strange look at the idea. “I didn’t think you ever asked for directions,” he laughed.

"There’s a first time for everything," I jokingly replied.

“Are you sure we should ask him?” Mike questioned. “He looks busy.”

“Hopefully he has a minute or two to spare.”

The young man walked over as I came to stop. “What’s up?” he asked bluntly.

"Have you ever heard of the Lone Grave?" I asked. He gave me a blank stare. "It’s also called the Lonesome Grave.” He still stared blankly at me. “I'm trying to locate it. I thought I was on the right road, but obviously I'm not."

The young man continued to stare at me without speaking. Though Mike wasn't talking, I could hear him thinking, "I told you this would be a bad idea stopping to ask for directions." I was beginning to agree with him as the young man just stood there motionless.

"It is a grave of a young woman that sits all by itself along one of the roads in the area," I offered hoping that it might make a connection.

Grave of Sallie Youker
"Oh," I saw the light come on in his eyes. "You mean the Bed Frame Grave?”

“The Bed Frame Grave?” I asked.

“Yeah, it is a single grave along the road with a bed frame around it."

I wasn't sure what type of material made the fence that surrounded the grave, but seeing he had a revelation about a lone grave, I was hoping it was the same one I was searching for. "Yeah, that's the one," I agreed.

"Ummm...yeah...," He looked around for a couple of minutes before he finally produced some direction that included the phrases "Where the road goes right and dirt goes straight," "Turn on the first road past the tin building in the middle of the field,” and “If you get to the old rusty tractor along the road on the right, you went too far.”

I thanked him for the directions and pulled out. Before we covered the hundred yards to the first intersection, Mike spoke the words that I was thinking: "Those were some interesting directions."

Yet the directions were spot on. In less than ten minutes I was standing at Potter County’s Lone Grave. Surrounded by a fence made of iron rods, I could see why the young man referred to it the "Bed Frame Grave" – the fence did remind me of an old bed frame.

Walking over to the stone, I knelt to read the words. “Is this the right one?” Mike asked as he walked over to join me.

“Yes,” I replied. “It’s her grave.”

“Who was she?” Mike asked. I imagine that this question has been asked many times before and will be asked many times again by those who pass the small plot.

Her name was Sallie Jane Youker and my search for her remote resting place started a couple months previously when I received an email from a reader named Barb asking if I had ever heard the story of the Lone Grave. I had heard of a number of lonely graves that are scattered along the back roads and remote regions of Pennsylvania's woods, but this one was new to me. She didn’t know the exact directions, but knew it rested in the hills north of Harrison Valley.

The story she heard was the grave belonged to a lady who had died and her husband hid her death by burning their house down before fleeing out west. The information Barb had sent wasn’t much, but it was enough to start with and I soon had information about the Lone Grave. What I discovered was, while her version had some elements of the truth in it, the story was wrong.

Sallie Jane was born July 23, 1823, the eldest of the five children of David and Emily Kibbe. She married Jonas Youker and together they had a son named David.  More about the Youker family, please see the note below.

Top portion of Sallie's tombstone
Sallie died May 11, 1861 at the age of thirty-seven as a result of smallpox. When her husband and son came down with the disease Sallie nursed them through it until she too showed the signs of smallpox. While her family survived the plague, in her weakened state, Sallie became a victim of the disease.

While Jonas and David were still recovering, Sallie’s brother took action. He built a coffin and braving the chance of catching smallpox, placed his sister in it. He dug a hole and buried her in this lonely spot not far from the place she had called home. Her brother still weary from burying his sister, sent word out to stay away from the Youker house and would set the home on fire to destroy the plague before it could be passed on to any of their neighbors.

Soon after the incident, Jonas and David left the area and would eventually settle down in Michigan.

Silence filled the air as Mike and I paid my respects to Sallie. The mixture of forests and farmland made the location, no matter how remote, a beautiful place to eternally slumber. After I finished paying my respects to Sallie, we set out in silence, leaving her to peacefully sleep among the fields of northern Pennsylvania.

If you choose to visit Sallie’s grave, please do so with the respect she and her resting place deserves.

A note or two about Sallie’s family: While digging through a number of family trees online I discovered that Sallie’s story often includes two children. I’ve only mentioned David in this entry because he is the only child I can determine Jonas and Sallie having. If there was a second child, I was not able to find an identity for this second child. Jonas would get remarried and have other children, but I can find David as the only offspring of Jonas and Sallie.

Sallie was the daughter of David and Emily Kibbe, early settlers in the area. David had migrated into the region and would marry Emily McNutt from Harrison Valley. This union would produce a number of children. In one of the family trees I found the name of Sarah as being one of the children of David and Emily. At first the differences in names puzzled me, because the family tree shows that Sarah married Jonas Youker. After digging a little deeper, I discovered that Sallie was a popular nickname for Sarah during the 1800s, but I’m not able to determine if her birth name was actually Sallie or possibly Sarah.

A note of thanks: I want to thank Barb for bringing the story about The Lone Grave of Sallie Youker to my attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment