Down in the wilds of the Fourth Gap, latterly used as an artery of
travel between Sugar Valley and White Deer Hole Valley, commonly known
as “White Deer Valley,” a forest ranger’s cabin stands on the site of an
ancient Indian encampment, the only clearing in the now dreary drive
from the “Dutch End” to the famous Stone Church. Until a dozen years ago
much of the primeval forest remained, clumps of huge, original white
pines stood here and there, in the hollows were hemlock and rhododendron
jungles, while in the fall the flickers chased one another among the
gorgeous red foliage of the gum trees.
Now much is changed; between “Tom” Harter and “Charley” Steele, and
other lumbermen, including some gum tree contractors, little remains but
brush and slash; forest fires have sacrificed the remaining timber, and
only among the rocks, near the mouth of the gap, can be seen a few
original yellow pines, shaggy topped in isolated grandeur. Some day the
tragic Indian history of White Deer Hole Valley will come to its own,
and present one of the most tragic pages in the narrative of the passing
of the red man.
It was into this isolated valley, that terminates in Black Hole Valley,
and the Susquehanna River, near Montgomery, that numbers of the Monsey
Tribe of the Lenni-Lenape, called by some the Delaware Indians,
retreated after events subsequent to the Walking Purchase, made them
outcasts on the face of the earth. It was not long afterwards that
warlike parties of their cruel Nemesis, the Senecas, appeared on the
scene, informing the Monseys that they had sold the country to the
whites, and if they stayed, it was at their peril.
Even at that early day white men were not wholly absent; they came in
great numbers after the Senecas had sold the lands of the Lenni-Lenape
to the “Wunnux,” but even coincident with the arrival of the Delawares,
a few white traders and adventurers inhabited the most inaccessible
Alexander Dunbar, a Scotchman, married to a Monsey woman, arrived in
White Deer Hole Valley with the first contingent of his wife’s
tribes-people, settling near the confluence of White Deer Hole Creek and
South Creek. Whether he was any relation to the Dunbar family, who have
long been so prominent in this valley is unknown, as his family moved
further west, and the last heard of them was when his widow died and was
buried in the vicinity of Dark Shade Creek, Somerset County.
Dunbar was a dark, swarthy complexioned man, more like an Indian than a
Celt, and dressed in the tribal garb, could easily have passed off as
one of the aboriginies. At one time he evidently intended to remain in
the Fourth Gap, as in the centre of the greensward which contained the
Indian encampment, he erected a log fortress, with four bastions, the
most permanent looking structure west of Fort Augusta. In it he aimed to
live like a Scottish Laird, with his great hall, the earthen floor,
covered with the skins of panthers, wolves and bears, elk and deer
antlers hanging about, and a huge, open fireplace that burned logs of
colossal size, and would have delighted an outlaw like Rob Roy
When the Seneca Indians penetrated into the valley they were at a loss
at first to ascertain Alexander Dunbar’s true status. If he was related
to the prominent Scotch families identified with the Penn Government, he
would be let alone, but if a mere friendless adventurer, he would be
driven out the same as any one of the “Original People.”
Dunbar was a silent man, and by his taciturnity won toleration for a
time, as he never revealed his true position. When the Senecas became
reasonably convinced that, no matter who he had been in the Highlands of
Scotland, he was a person of no importance in the mountains of
Pennsylvania, they began a series of prosecutions that finally ended
with his murder. This took its first form by capturing all members of
the Lenni-Lenape tribe who ventured into the lower end of the valley,
for those who had settled further down, and on the banks of the
Susquehanna and Monsey Creek had moved westward when they learned that
they had been “_sold out_.” However, the residents of Dunbar’s
encampment occasionally ventured down South Creek on hunting and fishing
expeditions. When the heads of half a dozen families, and several
squaws, young girls and children had been captured, over a dozen in all,
and put into a stockade near the present village of Spring Garden, and
rumor had it that they were being ill-treated, Alexander Dunbar,
carrying a flag of truce, set off to treat with the Seneca Council, at
what is now Allenwood, with a view to having them paroled.
The unfortunate man never reached the Senecas’ headquarters, being shot
from ambush, and left to die like a dog on the trail, not far from the
Panther Spring, above the present John E. Person residence.
While the surviving, able bodied Monseys could have risen and started a
warfare, they deemed it prudence to remain where they were, and to make
Sugar Valley, and the valleys adjacent to White Deer Creek, their
principal hunting grounds.
While Dunbar had lived, squaw man, though he was, he was the leader of
the Indians among whom he resided, else they would never have permitted
his erecting a pretentious fortress in the midst of their humble tepees
of hides and poorly constructed log cabins. At his death the leadership
devolved on his eighteen-year-old daughter, “Black Agnes,” his widow
being a poor, inoffensive creature, a typical Indian drudge.
“Black Agnes” was even darker complexioned than her father, but was
better looking, having fine, clear cut features, expressive dark eyes
which flashed fire, although she was much below medium height, in fact,
no bigger than a twelve-year-old child. She wore her hair in such a
tangled way that her eyes, lean cheeks and white throat were half hidden
by the masses of her sable tresses. She usually attired herself in a
blue coat and cape, a short tan skirt trimmed with grey squirrel tails,
and long Indian stockings. She was in miniature a counterpart of Miriam
Donsdebes, the beautiful heroine of one of the chapters in this writer’s
book “South Mountain Sketches.”
While it may have given the Senecas added cause to repeat their jibe of
“old women” at the Lenni-Lenapes, for not avenging Dunbar’s death, it
was a case of living on sufferance anyway, and foolish to have attacked
superior numbers. The Senecas always had white allies to call on for
arms and ammunition, while from the first, the Delawares were a
proscribed people, slated to be run off the earth and exterminated.
During this lull, following the Scotchman’s murder, which the Senecas
would have doubtless have disavowed, an embassy appeared at the Dunbar
stronghold to ask “Black Agnes’” hand in marriage with a young Seneca
warrior named Shingaegundin, whom the intrepid young girl had never
seen. While it would have been extremely politic for “Black Agnes” to
have accepted, and allied herself with the powerful tribe that had
wronged her people, she sent back word firmly declining.
After the emissaries departed through the gate of the stockade, she
turned to her warriors, saying, in the metaphorical language of her
race: “The sky is overcast with dark, blustering clouds,” which means
that troublesome times were coming, that they would have war.
The embassy returned crestfallen to Shingaegundin, who was angry enough
to have slain them all. Instead, he rallied his braves, and told them
that if he could not have “Black Agnes” willingly, he would take her by
force, and if she would not be a happy and complaisant bride, he would
tie her to a tree and starve her until she ceased to be recalcitrant.
The bulk of the Monseys having departed from the valleys on both sides
of the Susquehanna, to join others of their tribe at the headwaters of
the Ohe-yu, left the Dunbar clan in the midst of an enemy’s country, so
that it would look like an easy victory for Shingaegundin’s punitive
“Black Agnes” had that splendid military quality of knowing ahead of
time what her adversaries planned to do–whether “second sight” from her
Scotch blood, or merely a highly developed sense of strategy, matters
not. At any rate, she was ready to deal a blow at her unkind enemies.
Therefore she posted her best marksmen along the rocky face of the South
Mountains, on either side of Fourth Gap. Behind these grey-yellow,
pulpit-shaped rocks, the tribesmen crouched, ready for the oncoming
Senecas. “Black Agnes” herself was in personal command inside the
stockade, where she was surrounded by a courageous bodyguard twice her
size. The women, old men and children, were sent to the top of the
mountain, to about where Zimmerman’s Run heads at the now famous
Zimmerman Mountain-top Hospice. At a signal, consisting of a shot fired
in the air by “Black Agnes” herself, the fusillade from the riflemen
concealed among the rocks was to begin, to make the Fourth Gap a
prototype of Killiecrankie.
In turn the entrance of the Senecas into the defile was to be announced
by arrow shot into the air by a Monsey scout who was concealed behind
the Raven’s Rock, the most extensive point of vantage overlooking the
When “Black Agnes” saw the graceful arrow speed up into space, she again
spoke metaphorically, “The path is already shut up!” which meant that
hostilities had commenced, the war begun.
The little war sprite timed her plot to a nicety. When the Senecas were
well up in the pass, and surrounded on all sides by the Monseys, whom
they imagined all crowded into the stockade, “Black Agnes” fired her
shot, and the slaughter began. The Senecas began falling on all sides,
thanks to the unerring aim of the Monsey riflemen, but they were too
inured to warfare to break and run, especially when caught in a trap.
Shingaegundin, enraged beyond all expression at again being flouted by a
woman, and a member of the tribe of “old women,” determined to die
gamely, and within the stockade which harbored “Black Agnes.” He seemed
to bear a charmed life, for while his cohorts fell about him, he plunged
on unhurt. The gate of the stockade was open, and “Black Agnes” stood
just within it, directing her warriors, a quaint but captivating little
figure, more like a sprite or fairy than one of flesh and blood.
[Illustration: OLD CONESTOGA WAGON, BRUSH VALLEY]
Shingaegundin espied her, and knew at a glance that this must be the
woman who the wise men of his tribe had selected to be his bride, and
the cause of this senseless battle. His was a case of love at first
sight, the very drollness of her tiny form adding to his passion, and he
ran forward, determined to be killed holding her in his arms and
pressing kisses on her dusky cheeks.
Such thoughts enhanced his ambition and courage, and he shouted again
and again to his braves to pick themselves up and come on as he was
doing. Dazed with love, he imagined in a blissful moment that he would
yet have the victory and carry “Black Agnes” home under his arm like a
Just outside the palisade he was met by three of Agnes’ bodyguard, armed
with stone hatchets. None of his warriors were near him; shot and
bleeding, they were writhing on the grass, while some were already in
the hands of the Monsey braves, who had come down from their eyries, and
were dexterously plying the scalping knives. Few of the mutilated
Senecas uttered cries, although as the scalps were jerked off, it was
hard to suppress involuntary sobs of pain.
“Black Agnes” saw nothing in the long, lank form of Shingaegundin to
awaken any love; she detested him as belonging to the race that had sold
her birthright and foully murdered her father, and she called to her
warriors: “Suffer no grass to grow on the war-path,” signifying to carry
on the fight with vigor.
Shingaegundin was soon down, his skull battered and cracked in a dozen
places. Even when down, his ugly spirit failed to capitulate. Biting and
scratching and clawing with his nails like a beast, he had to have his
skull beaten like a copperhead before he stretched out a lifeless,
misshapen corpse. As he gave his last convulsive kick the Monsey
warriors began streaming through the gates, some holding aloft scalps
dripping with blood, while others waved about by the scalp locks, the
severed heads of their defeated foemen.
Never had such a rout been inflicted on the Senecas; perhaps “Black
Agnes” would be a second Jeanne d’Arc, and lead the Lenni-Lenape back to
their former glories and possessions!
The victorious Monseys became very hilarious, hoisting the scalps on
poles, they shimmied around “Black Agnes,” yelling and singing their
ancient war songs, the proudest moment of their bellicose lives.
“Black Agnes” was calm in triumph, for she knew how transitory is life
or fame. Biting her thin lips, she drew her scalping knife and bent down
over the lifeless form of Shingaegundin, to remove his scalp in as
business-like a manner as if she was skinning a rabbit. Addressing the
grinning corpse, she said: “Bury it deep in the earth,” meaning that the
Seneca’s injury would be consigned to oblivion. Then, with rare
dexterity, she removed the scalp, a difficult task when the skull has
been broken in, in so many places.
Holding aloft the ugly hirsute trophy, she almost allowed herself to
smile in her supreme moment of success. Her career was now made; she
would rally the widely scattered remnants of the Delawares, and fight
her way to some part of Pennsylvania where prestige would insure peace
and uninterrupted happiness. But in these elevated moments comes the
bolt from the blue.
One of the panic-stricken Senecas, bolting from the ignominious ambush
of his fellows, had scrambled up the boulder-strewn side of the
mountain, taking refuge behind the Raven’s Rock, lately occupied by the
chief lookout of the Monseys–he who had shot the warning arrow into the
air. Crouching abject and trembling at first, he began to peer about him
as the fusillade ceased and smoke of battle cleared. He saw his slain
and scalped clansmen lying about the greensward, and in the creek, and
the awful ignominy meted out to his lion-hearted sachem, Shingaegundin.
At his feet lay the bow and quiver full of arrows abandoned by the scout
when he rushed down pell mell to join in the bloody scalping bee.
The sight of “Black Agnes” holding aloft his chieftain’s scalp, the
horribly mutilated condition of Shingaegundin’s corpse, the shimmying,
singing Monseys, waving scalps and severed heads of his brothers and
friends, all drew back to his heart what red blood ran in his veins.
“Black Agnes” stood there so erect and self-confident, like a little
robin red-breast, ready for a potpie, he would lay her low and end her
pretensions. Taking careful aim, for he was a noted archer, the Seneca
let go the arrow, which sped with the swiftness of a passenger pigeon,
finding a place in the heart of the brave girl. The tip came out near
her backbone, her slender form was pierced through and through. The
slight flush on her dark cheeks gave way to a deadly pallor, and, facing
her unseen slayer, “Black Agnes” Dunbar tumbled to the earth dead.
The dancing, singing Monseys suddenly became a lodge of sorrow, weeping
and wailing as if their hearts would break. The Seneca archer could have
killed more of them, they were so bewildered, but he decided to run no
further risks, and made off towards his encampment to tell his news,
good and bad, to his astounded tribesmen.
When it was seen that “Black Agnes” was no more, and could not be
revived, the sorrowful Monseys dug a grave within the stockade. It was a
double death for them, as they knew that they would be hunted to the end
like the _Wolf Tribe_ that they were, and they had lost an intrepid and
According to the custom, before the interment, “Black Agnes’” clothing
was removed, the braves deciding to take it as a present to the dead
girl’s mother, to show how bravely she died. They walled up the grave
and covered the corpse with rocks so that wolves could not dig it up,
graded a nice mound of sod over the top, and, like the white soldiers at
Fort Augusta, fired a volley over her grave.
That night there was a sorrowing scene enacted at the campground near
the big spring at Zimmerman’s Run. The grief-stricken mother wanted to
run away into the forest, to let the wild beasts devour her, and was
restrained with great difficulty by her tribesmen, who had also lost all
in life that was worth caring for, peace and security.
With heavy hearts they started on a long journey for the west, carrying
the heart-broken mother Karendonah in a hammock, to the asylum offered
to them by the Wyandots on the Muskingum. The bereaved woman carried the
blood-stained, heart-pierced raiment of her heroic daughter as a
priceless relic, and it was in her arms when she died suddenly on the
way, in Somerset County, and was buried beside the trail, on the old
Forbes Road. The Monseys, however, took the costume with them as a
fetich, and for years missionaries and others interested in the tragic
story of “Black Agnes” Dunbar were shown her blue jacket with the hole
in the breast where the arrow entered.
That arrow pierced the hearts of all the Monseys, for they became a
dejected and beaten people in their Ohio sanctuary.
While it is true that most of the very old people who lived in the
vicinity of the Fourth Gap have passed away, it may yet be possible to
learn the exact location of the cairn containing the remains of “Black
Agnes” and place a suitable marker over it. One thing seems certain, if
the tradition of the Lenni-Lenape that persons dying bravely in battle
reach a higher spiritual plane once their souls are released, her ghost
will not have to hunt the hideous, burnt-over slashings that were once
the wildly romantic Fourth Gap; it has gone to a realm beyond the
destructive commercialism of this dollar-mad age, where beauty finds a
perpetual reward and recognition.
Abram Antoine, a Cacique of the Stockbridge Tribe of Oneida Indians, had
never before while in Pennsylvania been off the watershed of the Ohe-yu,
or “The Beautiful River,” called by the white men “Allegheny,” until he
accepted the position of interpreter to a group of chiefs from the New
York and Pennsylvania Indians, to visit “The Great White Father,”
General Washington, at Mount Vernon.
While the General had not been President for several years, and was
living in retirement at his Virginia home, the red Chieftains felt that
his influence would be such that he could secure redress for their
wrongs. Cornplanter had been on many such missions, and come home elated
by promises, few of which were ever fulfilled in any shape, and none in
their entirety, consequently he declined to accompany the mission on
what he termed a “fool’s errand.”
Abram Antoine, through life in New England, New York and Canada, had
become much of a linguist, speaking English and French with tolerable
fluency, besides being well versed in the Seneca and other Indian
tongues. He was a tall, handsome type of redman, powerfully muscled, his
career on “The Beautiful River,” where he rafted and boated between the
Reservations and Pittsburg, and his service as a ranger for the Holland
Land Company, had developed his naturally powerful form to that of a
Hercules. Previously he had served in the American Navy, during the
Revolutionary War, which had instilled in him a lifetime respect for the
name of Washington. He was eager therefore to act as interpreter on an
occasion which would bring him into personal contact with the Father of
The Indians took the usual overland route, coming down the Boone Road,
to the West Branch of the Susquehanna at the mouth of Drury’s Run; from
there they intended _hiking_ across the mountains to Beech Creek, there
to get on the main trail leading down the Bald Eagle Valley to Standing
Stone (now Huntingdon), and from thence along the Juniata to Louisbourg,
then just beginning to be called Harrisburg. It had been an “open
winter” thus far.
At the West Branch they met an ark loaded with coal, bound for
Baltimore, in charge of some Germans who had mined it in the vicinity of
Mosquito Creek, Clearfield County, near the site of the later town of
Karthaus. A friendly conversation was started between the party of
Indians on shore and the boatmen, with the result that the pilot of the
ark, Christian Arndt, invited the redmen to climb aboard.
The invitation being accepted with alacrity, the ark was steered close
to the bank, and the Indians, running out on an uprooted snag which hung
over the water, all leaped on the deck in safety. It made a jolly party
from that moment on. The time passed happily, and many were the
adventures and experiences _en route_. No stops of any consequence were
made except at the mouth of Mianquank (Young Woman’s Creek), and
Utchowig (now Lock Haven), until the Isle of Que was reached, where
other arks and flats and batteaux were moored, and there were so many
persons of similar pursuits that a visit on dry land was in order.
There was much conviviality at the public houses of Selin’s Grove, and
the Germans amused themselves trying to carry on conversations with the
native Pennsylvania Dutchmen, dusky, dark-featured individuals, who saw
little affinity between themselves and the fair, podgy “High Germans.”
In wrestling and boxing matches, throwing the long ball, running races,
and lifting heavy weights, the Germans were outclassed by the native
mountaineers, but they took their defeats philosophically. A shooting
match was held, at which all the Indians except Abram Antoine held
aloof, but his marksmanship was so extraordinary that he managed to tie
the score for the up-river team. This was a consolation for the Germans,
and they left the Isle of Que well satisfied with their treatment.
Other arks left their moorings at the same time, mostly loaded with
grain or manufactured lumber from the Christunn and the Karoondinha, and
the fleet was augmented by a batteau loaded with buffalo hides, at the
mouth of the West Mahantango. This was the last consignment of
Pennsylvania bison hides ever taken to Harrisburg, the animals having
been killed at their crossing over the Firestone or Shade Mountains, the
It was a picturesque sight to see the fleet of arks and other boats
coming down the noble river, the flood bank high, driving up flocks of
water birds ahead of them, while aloft like aeroplanes guarding a convoy
of transports, sailed several majestic American Eagles, ever circling,
ever drifting, and then soaring heavenward.
Out from the Juniata came several more arks, consequently the idlers in
front of the rivermen’s resorts at “The Ferry,” as some of the
old-timers still called Harrisburg, declared that they had never seen a
flood bring in a larger flotilla at one time. All, however, were anxious
to get in before the river closed up for the winter.
When the up-river ark with its load of Teutons and redmen made its
moorings for the night near the John Harris tree, they noticed that all
the flags were at half-mast–there were many displayed in those days–and
there was a Sunday calm among the crowds lolling along the banks in the
“Who’s dead?” inquired Abram Antoine, as he stepped on the dock; his
naval training had made him alert to the language of the flag.
“_General Washington_,” was the awed reply.
The big Stockbridge Indian’s jaw dropped, his lifetime ambition of
conversing with the “first in the hearts of his countrymen,” and the
purpose of the mission had been thwarted by a Higher Will.
Turning to the gaudy appareled chief behind him, he conveyed the unhappy
message. The Indians shook their heads so hard that their silver
earrings rattled, and were more genuinely sorry that Washington was no
more than the failure of their quest. All ashore, they held a conclave
under the old Mulberry tree, deciding that there was no use to go any
further, but would spend a day or two in the thriving new town,
Louisbourg or Harrisburg, whichever it was proper to call it, and then
return home. There was no use going to Philadelphia again, and a new
prophet sat in the chair of the Father of his Country at the Nation’s
The party then separated for the present, most of them hurrying to the
nearest tavern stands to refresh thirsts made deeper by the sharp, fine
air on the river. Abram Antoine stood undecided, one hand resting on the
trunk of the historic Mulberry, a crowd of small boys watching him
open-mouthed and wide-eyed, at a respectful distance.
Pretty soon he was accosted by a very old, white-bearded Dutchman, with
a strip of soiled gray silk on the lapel of his coat, which indicated
that he was a veteran of the Royal American Regiment of Riflemen that
had figured at Fort Duquesne in 1758. Abram Antoine had seen many such
veterans in and about Pittsburg, and held out his hand to the aged
military man. The old soldier signalled with his cane that the Indian
come and sit with him on a nearby bench, which he did, and they passed
an hour pleasantly together.
The conversation turned principally to soldiering, and then to firearms,
and all the ancient makes of rifles were discussed, and their merits and
demerits compared. The veteran allowed that the best rifle he had ever
owned was of Spanish make, the kind carried by the Highlanders in the
campaigns of 1758 and 1763; it was of slim barrel, light and easily
handled, and unerring if used by a person of tolerable accuracy.
There was one gunsmith in the alley over yonder, a veteran of the
Revolution, named Adam Dunwicke, who made a rifle close to the early
Spanish pattern. It was the best firearm being turned out in the State
of Pennsylvania. The gunsmith, anyhow, was a man worth knowing, as his
shop was filled with arms of many makes and periods, and he liked to
talk with any one who was an enthusiast on guns.
Abram Antoine was fired by what the veteran told him, and as it was
still early in the afternoon, asked if he would escort him thither. It
would be fine if he could get an extra good rifle as a souvenir of his
ill-starred trip to Mount Vernon. The old man had too much time on his
hands as it was, and was only too glad to pilot the redman to the
workshop. They made a unique looking pair together, the old soldier,
bent and hobbling along on his staff, the Indian, tall, erect, and in
the prime of life. Their high, aquiline noses, with piercing, deep-set
eyes, were their sole points of physical similarity.
When they reached the gunshop, in the dark, narrow alley that ran out
from Front Street, the veteran banged the grimy knocker, and it was
almost instantly opened by Dunwicke himself, a sturdy man of medium
height, who wore great mustaches, had on a leather apron and his sleeves
were rolled up, revealing the brawny biceps of a smith.
Standing by the gunmaker, in the shadowy, narrow entry, was a very
pretty girl in a dark blue dress. She was as tall as the smith, but very
trim and slight, and her chestnut brown hair was worn low over her ears,
throwing into relief her pallid face, and the rather haunted, tired look
in her fine grey eyes, the marvelous smooth lines of her chin and
A third figure now emerged from the gloom, a small Negro boy, to whom
the girl was handing a letter, with her trembling white hands. As the
Indian, the veteran and the gunsmith withdrew into the workroom, Abram
could hear her saying to the lad, as she closed the door by way of added
emphasis: “Tell him to be sure and come.”
He could hear the footsteps of the girl as she went upstairs, and
henceforth he lost most of his interest in the question of obtaining a
rifle of the Spanish design. All his _designs_ were elsewhere, and he
was glad when the smith suggested they visit another room on the
opposite side of the entry, to look at several sets of extra large horns
of the grey moose or elk, which had recently come down on an ark from
somewhere up Tiadaghton.
As they crossed the hallway, Abram Antoine looked up the flight of
stairs–there were three that he could make out–wondering on which floor
the fair apparition retired to; he presumed pretty near the roof, as he
had not heard her on the loose laid floor above the workshop.
When they returned to the gun shop, the Indian, knowing the smith well
enough by then, inquired who the lady was whom they had seen in the
“Oh, I don’t quite know what she is,” he replied. “She stays upstairs,
under the roof; you know that the upper floors of this building are let
Instantly a life’s story, tragic or unusual, grouped itself about his
image of the girl, and his heart was filled with yearning. He was hoping
against hope that she would come down again. He had no excuse to go up,
but several times while the smith was chatting with the veteran of the
Royal Americans, he managed to wander across the hall, looking up the
well towards the grimy skylight, and then took another perfunctory
glance at the huge antlers standing against the wall. He prolonged his
stay as long as he could, saying that he liked to watch gunmakers at
work, and having ordered and paid for a costly rifle, he felt that his
presence was justified.
It was well into the gloaming when “knock, knock, knock” on the front
door resounded through the hollow old building. Abram Antoine’s blood
ran cold; he could have shot the visitor if he was the slender girl’s
recalcitrant lover, but fervently hoped that, whoever it was, would have
the effect of bringing her downstairs.
True enough, before he could get to the door at the smith’s heel, he
heard the light, familiar footsteps, and the girl, trying to look
unconcerned, was the first to turn the lock.
It was only Simon Harper, a big, lean hunter from Linglestown, over by
the Blue Mountain, who had come to take delivery of a rifle made to
“Oh, I am so disappointed,” said the girl, as she turned to run
The smith was escorting his swarthy customer into the shop. Abram
Antoine’s opportunity had come, if ever.
“Do you have the letting of the rooms upstairs?” he said, politely, hat
The girl looked at him; it was probably the first time during the
afternoon that she had noticed his presence, so pre-occupied she had
“No,” she said, softly; “the lady lives on the next landing, but I saw
her going out.”
Abraham was well aware how closely she had been watching that doorway!
“Are there any vacancies?”
The girl dropped her head as if in doubt about carrying on the
conversation further, then replied: “I think there are.” “said the
Whether it was loneliness or desperation at the non-arrival of the
person to whom she had sent the letter, or the tall redman’s superlative
good looks and genteel demeanor–for a handsome man can attempt what a
plain one dare never aspire–at any rate without another word, she turned
and led the way up the long, steep stairs.
It was with no sense of surprise that she brought him to the top of the
house, into her own garret, with its two small dormer windows which gave
a view in the direction of the Narrows at Fort Hunter, and the broad,
majestic river. There was a narrow bed with a soiled coverlet, a
portmanteau, a brass candlestick, and two rush-bottomed chairs, and
nothing else in it. In those days lodgers washed at the well in the back
Both sat down as if they had known each other all their lives; the
frigid barrier of reserve of a few minutes earlier had broken down. They
were scarcely seated when the ominous “Clank, clank, clank,” that the
girl had been listening for so intently all afternoon, resounded up the
dismal vault of the stairway.
Casting a frightened look at the big Indian, as much as to say, “What
will _he_ say if he finds you here?” she bounded out of the room,
descending the steps two or three at a time.
Abram Antoine did not take the hint to retire, if such was meant, and
sat stolidly in the high-backed, rush-bottomed chair, in the unlighted
room. It was only a few minutes until she returned, her face red, all
out of breath, carrying the same letter which he had seen her hand to
the colored boy earlier in the afternoon.
[Illustration: OLD SCHELLSBURG CHURCH, LINCOLN HIGHWAY]
“Not in town, don’t know when he will return,” she was chanting to
herself, as she came through the open door. She started back, as if
surprised to find her new champion _still_ there. Without speaking, she
dropped down on the bed, facing him, fanning her flushed cheeks with the
envelope, although the little room was quite cold.
“I am sorry that your letter was undelivered,” said Abram Antoine, after
a considerable silence. There was another pause, and then the girl,
still clutching the fated letter, revealed her story of embarrassment.
“It isn’t a long story,” she began. “My name is Ernestine de Kneuse. My
father is the well-known miller and land-owner at New Berlinville, in
Berks County–Solomon de Kneuse. About a year ago a young stranger, Carl
Nitschman, I think a High German, came to the town, stopping at the
‘Three Friends’ Inn, which it was rumored he was to purchase. While
negotiating, he naturally met many of the leading people. He was
handsome and engaging, and all the girls went wild over him. It gave me
a fiendish pleasure to think that he favored me above the rest, and one
afternoon I cut my classes at the Select Academy, where I was in my
third year, and went walking with him.
“My father, who belonged to the old school, had a hatred for any one who
might even consider going into the liquor business, saw us together and
told mother. On reaching home, although I was eighteen and had not had
even a spanking for several years, and thought I had outgrown it, my
mother took me to my room and administered a good, sound ‘scotching’
with the rod.
“Previously they had forbidden the young man the house, and when I
informed him how I was treated, he told me if I was disciplined again,
to run away.
“Not long afterwards I was kept in at school, and mother accused me of
meeting my lover. I told her to go to the school and find out for
herself, which she did, but nevertheless that evening my mother visited
me in my room with the strap, and walloped me until I was black and blue
from shoulders to ankles.
“Meanwhile Carl’s negotiations for the purchase of the tavern had fallen
through, and he was preparing to leave for Reading. Through one of my
girl friends who was not so strictly raised, I communicated to him the
story of this latest indignity, begging him to take me with him. He
replied that he would be traveling about for some time before settling
down there, but as soon as he was located, he would send me his address,
and to come.
“I recall the morning of his departure, how I crawled out of bed before
dawn, and pressed my tear-stained face against the window lights as he
climbed on the coach at the inn, which was across the street from where
we lived, and settling down among his goodly store of bags and boxes,
was driven away.
“Weeks passed, and I eventually got a letter through one of my girl
friends whose parents were less strict, that he had gone to Harrisburg,
and I should join him there. By exercising a great amount of ingenuity,
I got out of the house, and on the night stage for Reading, during one
of the terrible Equinoctial rains, making close connections with another
stage for Harrisburg, and I came to my present abode a month before, but
have never once seen Nitschman in the interval.
“I’ve now learned that my parents are on my track, and will reach town
tonight; I have spent my last cent, and my letters to Nitschman receive
no satisfactory answers. I am now penniless, and cannot pay my lodging,
have eaten nothing all day, and have no place to go. I would not return
for all the world and subject myself to an irate mother.”
The Indian was much interested by the recital, and told her that he had
loved her the minute he laid eyes on her, and would marry her if she
would return with him to his home, which adjoined the Cornplanter
Reservation, in Warren County. “I will marry you right away if you will
Pressed and harassed on all sides, and hungry as well, Ernestine,
looking up into the handsome face of the redman, capitulated. Closing up
her scanty belongings in the shabby portmanteau, she went down to the
landlady and settled her bill in full out of a “Double Eagle” which
Abram gave her, and then the pair quickly left the building. The gunshop
was locked, and dark, the veteran of the Royal Americans and the smith
had forgotten all about their Indian friend and gone their ways
They soon found the leading hotel stand, where they enjoyed a good
supper and learned of a preacher who would marry them.
Just as they were about to leave the tavern the stage from Reading and
Stitestown pulled in, horses and running gear all spattered with mud and
slush. Among the first to clamber out was old Solomon de Kneuse and his
wife, but they gave them the slip in the darkness and confusion.
At the manse, after the ceremony, the clergyman mentioned that his
brother was to be a juryman the next day at the trial of Nitschman, the
highwayman, who had held up and robbed the aristocratic McAfee family on
the road to York Springs. “May he pay dearly for interfering with
quality,” he added, seriously.
Ernestine hung her head; she understood now why it was she had been
unable to see her lover since she came to the town; he had been in jail,
and perhaps she was stung with some tiny feelings of remorse to have
renounced him so quickly. However, necessity knows no law, but she
thought she knew her man.
Before daybreak the newly married couple were ensconced in the stage
bound for Northumberland and Williamsport, and in due course of time
reached their future home, just across the river from Corydon.
None of the other Indians returned for several weeks. When they did,
they were miserable looking objects from drink, and Abram half blamed
himself for not looking after them, but love had blinded him to
everything else. He provided a comfortable home for his bride, and as an
agent for the Holland Land Company, mingled with respectable people, who
were considerate to his wife. Among these were the family of Philip
Tome, that indomitable Indian-looking Nimrod, author of “Thirty Years a
Hunter,” whose prowess in the forests of Northern Pennsylvania will
never be forgotten while memory of the big game days lasts.
Ernestine was really happy, and did not aspire to any different lot.
Though she was fearless, she hated to be left alone when her husband was
absent on inspection trips, and he generally managed to have an Indian
boy or girl–one of the O’Bails or Logans–remain with her when he was
In due time his handsome Spanish-type rifle, with its stock inlaid with
mother-of-pearl and silver, like the gun of some Moorish Sheik, reached
him, and of it he was justly proud, partly because it was the instrument
of his meeting Ernestine.
On the first anniversary of their wedding he killed a fine stag with it
on the Kinzua, while hunting with Philip Tome. It was in the fall of the
second year of their marriage that Abram Antoine was called away during
a heavy flood in the Ohe-yu, which flowed in front of their house. Old
Shem, the one-eyed, half-breed ferryman, had difficulty in getting him
across in the batteau, so swift was the angry current. He was to be
gone, as usual, several days.
On the night when she was expecting him home, Ernestine heard a loud
knocking at the kitchen door. Opening it she beheld Old Shem standing
outside, the rain dripping from his hat and clothing.
“Missus Antoine,” he wheezed, “Abram is over to the public house at
Corydon, a very sick man, and wants you to come to him at once.”
Ernestine was horrified, but, jerking down her cloak from the nail on
which it hung, ran out into the storm, and followed the aged ferryman
down the steep bank to the landing. The wind was bellowing terribly
among the almost bear hickories and butternuts along the shore, the
current was deep, dark and eddying.
When one-third the way over, Old Shem looked up, saying: “Missus, it
hain’t Abram that’s sick; it’s your _other_ man, Mister Nitschman, what
wants you.” “shouted Ernestine. “I never had any other man. Take me back
home at once, you treacherous old snake in the grass.”
Just then a pile of buffalo robes in one end of the deep batteau
stirred, and the form of a man arose–Carl Nitschman, back from jail.
“Talk sensibly, Ernestine,” he said. “I have come for you, and will
forgive everything. You know you belong to me; your going off with that
Indian was all a hasty mistake.”
Ernestine glared at him and again ordered the ferryman to take her home.
Instead he seemed to be trying to reach the Corydon shore the faster.
Just then Nitschman stepped forward, with arms outstretched, as if to
The slight and supple Ernestine sprang up on the gunwale, the boat
tipped; she either fell or jumped into the dark, swirling current. She
was gone before an effort could be made to save her, and the two
frightened men, white as ghosts, pulled for the light which gleamed
through the storm, in the tavern window at Corydon, with redoubled
energy. With a thud the prow hit the muddy bank and slid on shore.
To their surprise Abram Antoine was standing on the bank. The one-eyed
ferryman began to cry, a strange thing for any one of Indian blood. “I
was fetching your wife across to meet you and she fell in the river.”
Just then Nitschman, who had climbed out of the boat, was passing by
Antoine, who seized him by the collar. “Who is this son of ––?”
demanded the six-foot Indian.
It was then that the ferryman broke down completely and confessed all.
Antoine shook his captive like a rat, and slapped his face many times,
eventually tumbling him into the mud and kicking him like a sack of
flour. Then, picking up an oar, he beat the ferryman over the head until
he yelled for mercy. The noise roused the habitues of the hotel, and as
the victims were shouting “murder,” the local Constable, who ran the
hotel, placed Abram Antoine under arrest, beginning his fatal brand as
Nitschman did not appear to press the charge next day, and the ferryman
apologized for his part in the affair, so Abram was free, minus his
beautiful wife and his reputation.
It was beginning with that terrible tragedy that he began to find solace
at the tap room of the public house at Corydon. Philip Tome and even old
Cornplanter himself tried his best to save him, but he became an Indian
sot, losing his position with the land company, his home and his
self-respect. All that he held on to, and that because being an Indian
he was sentimental, was his Spanish rifle with the inlaid stock. He
spent more and more of his time in the forests, shunning white people
and fraternizing only with his own kind. He made a protege out of young
Jim Jacobs, a Seneca hunter of unusual ability, and they spent many
weeks at a time in the forests.
To him he confided that before he died he would literally have
Nitschman’s scalp, have the blood atonement against the destroyer of his
A score of years had to pass before he met the ex-highwayman face to
face. He had heard of the early exploits of this modern Claude Du Val,
who was supposed to have reformed, and his blood boiled that such a
villainous wretch could wander about scot free.
It was in the fall of the year, about 1822 or thereabouts, when the
great county fair was in progress at Morris Hills, one of the leading
towns above the New York State line, adjacent to the Indian
reservations. All manner of persons were attracted by the horse races,
displays of cattle, Indian foot races and lacrosse games, as well as the
more questionable side shows and gambling performances.
Abram Antoine’s Indian friends had been sobering him up for weeks, and
he presented a pretty good appearance for a man of over sixty, when he
appeared to challenge all comers in tests of marksmanship with the
rifle. Never had “The Chief,” as everybody called him, done better than
the afternoon of the first day of the fair. The wild pigeons were flying
high overhead in the clear, blue atmosphere of that fine crisp autumn
day, but whenever he turned his rifle upwards he brought one down for
the edification and applause of the crowd.
Just as he had shot a pigeon, his keen eye noticed a medium-sized,
fair-haired man, loudly dressed, edging hurriedly through the throng, as
if trying to get away. Antoine had never seen Nitschman except that
night when he had trampled him into the mud, but this fellow’s size and
general demeanor Corresponded with his mental conception of the one that
he had ever afterwards regretted that he had not slain.
Moving with rapid strides through the crowd, pigmies beside his giant
stature, he blocked his little enemy’s further progress. “Nitschman, I
believe you are,” he said.
“No, no; that hain’t my name,” spluttered the short man, coloring to the
roots of his faded yellow hair.
“Yes, it is, Chief,” yelled a young Indian who was standing close by.
That confirmation was all that Abram Antoine, bad Indian, wanted.
Swinging his rifle above the crowd, he brought it down with terrific
force on the head of his foe, crashing right through his high, flat
brimmed beaver hat and shattering the lock.
To use the language of Jim Jacobs, Nitschman fell to the turf like a
“white steer,” and laid there, weltering in blood, for he was dead.
All the latent hate and jealousy in the crowd against Indians
immediately found vent, and an angry mob literally drove Abram Antoine,
bad Indian, out of the fair grounds to the town lockup. It was some time
during 1823 that he expiated his crime on the gallows.
A. D. Karstetter, painstaking local historian, tells us that there was
no more noteworthy spot in the annals of mountainous Pennsylvania than
the old Washington Inn at Logansville. Built after the fashion of an
ancient English hostelry, with its inn-yard surrounded by sheds and
horse stables, it presented a most picturesque appearance to discerning
travelers. The passage of time had obliterated it, long before the great
fire on June 24, 1918, swept the town, removing even the landmarks which
would have showed where the old-time inn was situated.
Many are the tales, grave or gay, clustered about its memory, far more,
says Mr. Karstetter, than were connected with the Logan Hotel, run by
the Coles, which was erected at a much later day, just when the old
coaching days were passing out, and the new era coming in. All of the
history that grew up about the Washington Inn ante-dated the Civil War,
while that of the Logan Hotel was of the period of that war and later.
This gives one a good mental picture of the type of legend interwoven
with the annals of the ancient Washington Inn.
A winter rain had set in, just at dusk, as the great lumbering
five-horse coach (three wheelers and two leaders) from Hightown entered
the straggling outkirts of Logansville. The post boy on the boot blew
his long horn vociferously, waking the echoes up Summer Creek, then back
again, clear to the “Grandfather Pine” at Chadwick’s Gap.
A whimsical old German, who worked at Jacob Eilert’s pottery, picked up
his old tin horn that he used to blow as a boy when wolves or Indians
were about, and answered the clarion in cracked, uncertain notes. Lights
glimmered in cabin windows, and many a tallow dip, fat lamp or rushlight
was held aloft to get a good view of the coach as it swirled along
through the mud, and its crowded company. Everybody was standing up,
buttoning their coats and gathering together their luggage, as the big,
clumsy vehicle checked up under the swinging sign, on which was painted
the well-loved features of the Father of His Country.
The old landlord, his wife and the hostlers and stable boys and
household help were outside to assist the travelers to alight and show
them into the comfortable glow of the lobby.
“When do you start out in the morning?” all were asking of the
rosy-cheeked driver, although the hour for continuing the journey west
from Logansville was printed in big letters on the rate card at the
posting office at Hightown, as “Sharp, 6.00 A. M.”
In the candle-lit lobby, by a blazing fire of maple logs, the travelers
surveyed one another, the landlord and their surroundings. They were an
even dozen in number, nine men and three women. Some of the men were
hunters and had their Lancaster rifles with them; the others commercial
travelers. The women were also engaged in business pursuits.
The stage was the sole means of penetrating into the back country, and
the canals and the Pennsylvania Central Railroad (now known as the Main
Line) the only methods of crossing the Keystone State in those early
A good supper was served–hickory smoked ham and eggs, hot cakes and
native grown maple syrup, and plentiful libations of original Murray
“Sugar Valley” whiskey, which put the huntsmen and the drummers in
capital humor. After the meal they brought out their pipes and sat in
groups about the fire in the great, low-ceilinged room. The three women,
who were middle-aged and of stolid appearance, sat together, talking in
All at once, when the fire suddenly spluttered up, one of the drummers,
a big, black-bearded fellow, said loudly enough so that all could
hear–he was evidently trying to make the conversation general–”In the
mountains they say that it’s a sign of a storm when the fire jumps up
“And I guess we’re having it,” said another of the travelers, a little
man with gray side whiskers, dryly.
Then, as wide shadows fell across the floor, another of the men, a
hunter, ventured the remark: “Do you believe in ghosts?”
There was a pause, as if no one wanted to take up such a very personal
topic before strangers. It was in the days when the Fox sisters were
electrifying all of Pennsylvania, including the celebrated Dr. Elisha
Kane, with their mediumship, so that it was as popular a topic then as
now, in the days of Sir Oliver Lodge and Mrs. Herbine.
At length one of the men, also a hunter, from Berks County, broke the
silence by asking if any one present had heard the story of the Levan
ghost of Oley Township, in Berks; if not, he would tell it. None had
ever heard it, so he told of the young Levan girl who had lost her
father, to whom she was particularly attached.
One evening, while milking, she was seized with a very strong feeling
that her father was near, which feeling kept up for a week, growing
stronger daily. At last one evening she went into her room–the house was
built all on one floor–and she saw her father, as natural as life,
seated on an old chest that had come from France, for the Levans were
The girl did not seem to be afraid to see her father, about whom a light
seemed to radiate, and they conversed some time together, mostly on
religious topics. Her mother and sisters, who were in another room,
heard her talking, and the voice which sounded like that of the
departed, and came to the door, which was ajar.
“Who are you talking to?” the mother inquired.
“To father–he is here; come in and see him,” replied the girl, calmly.
The family was afraid to enter, remaining outside until the conversation
had finished and the ghost vanished. When the girl rejoined them, the
side of her face that had been turned to her father was slightly
scorched or reddened, as if she had been close to a fire. And that
tenderness of skin remained as long as she lived.
While other versions of the story have appeared, this is the way it was
told that stormy night in the Washington Inn in the long ago.
The ice having been broken, one of the women spoke up, saying that the
part of the story which told of the girl’s face being burned by the
_aura_ from the ghost interested her most, that over in the Nittany
Valley there was a case in the old Carroll family of a woman who had an
only child which she loved to distraction, but which unfortunately died.
The mother took on terribly, and during the night when she was sitting
up with the little corpse, besought it to prove to her that the dead
lived, if only for just one minute.
In the midst of her weeping and wailing, and romping about the cold,
dimly-lit room, the dead child rose up in its little pine box and
motioned its sorrowing mother to come to it. The woman ran to the coffin
and the little one touched her forehead with its finger, which burned
her like a red-hot poker. Then it sank back with a gasp and a groan, and
was dead again. Ever afterwards there was a sore, tender spot on the
woman’s forehead where the corpse had touched it.
Then another of the women told how she had been selling Bibles in the
Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and one of the wheels of her
carriage became dished from the bad roads. She had tried to put up with
a mountaineer who would not take her in, and gave her the choice of
sleeping in the barn with the team and the driver, or to occupy a room
in a deserted Negro “quarters” across the road.
All night long she had been annoyed by her candles being blown out and
the door blowing open, though she locked it time and again.
It was a commonplace sort of a ghost story, and one of the hunters
yawned at its conclusion. The evening’s reminiscences might have ended
then and there if the third woman traveler, the youngest and sturdiest
of the lot, who thus far had been the quietest, turned to the landlord,
who sat smoking in the settle, with a couple of his guests, asking him
if he remembered the Big Calf.
“What do you know about the Big Calf?” he said, quizzically, looking at
the woman in order to see if he could recognize her.
“I know as much as you do, I reckon,” she said. “I lived in this town
for a year learning millinery with Emilie Knecht.” “said the landlord.
“I surely am,” responded the woman, “and I knew you well, Jakey
Kleckner, in those days.” “said the boniface, sitting up very straight.
[Illustration: INTERIOR OF SCHELLSBURG CHURCH]
“Long years ago,” began the business woman, “when this public house was
first opened, the landlord’s cow gave birth to an unusual calf. At six
weeks it was as big as most heifers of six months, and it was handsome
and intelligent, a brown-gray color–‘Brown Swiss’ they called the breed.
All the drovers and cattle buyers in the mountains wanted that calf for
a show, and her fame spread all over the ‘five counties.’
“There were two buyers from out about Greensburg that came in all the
ways to get her, but the price was too steep. They hung around all day,
drinking with the landlord in the tap room, and though he took too much
in this drunken bout, kept enough of his wits with him to refuse to
lower the price one shilling. The next morning he had to go away on
important business, and in the afternoon the drovers returned, telling
the landlord’s wife that they had met her husband on the road, and he
had consented to accept a lower figure.
“The woman replied that while she was sorry her ‘man’ had shown such
weakness to change his mind so quickly, when on leaving he had told her
that he had been sickened by the importunities of the two strangers the
day before, yet she claimed, the calf as hers and it would not leave the
premises for any price, and except over her dead body. She prized it
especially since she had also raised the mother, which had recently been
killed by a wandering panther.
“The men departed in an ugly mood. When the boniface returned in the
evening he was indignant at what his wife told him; he had not met the
drovers on the road, and if he had, the calf was not for sale.
“Shortly after his arrival a German Gypsy, one of the Einsicks, appeared
in the inn-yard with a big she-bear, a brown one, which he took about
the mountains to dance and amuse the crowds at public houses, fairs and
political meetings. The stables were full, but after some arguing the
landlord consented to let the bear occupy the box stall where he kept
the Big Calf, which he removed to the smoke house.
“During the night, which was very dark, the covetous drovers returned,
and, not knowing of the Big Calf’s changed quarters, one of them went
into steal it. In the darkness the bear seized him and hugged him almost
to death. His companion, vexed at his slowness in fetching out the Big
Calf, called to him, and he made known his predicament.
“There was no way to free the captive but to begin clubbing the bear,
which set up such a loud growling that it aroused the owner and the
landlord, who ran out with pistols, just in time to see the two would-be
cattle thieves decamping from the inn-yard. They both fired after them,
but the scoundrels got off scot free. They never returned.
“The Big Calf grew into a very handsome cow, and was the pride of the
mountain community. It was always brought in from pasture at night and
milked, lest it share its mother’s fate and be pulled down by a
“One evening, while the landlord’s only daughter, a very pretty,
graceful girl, was driving the cow home, she was joined by a handsome,
dark-complexioned young man, mounted on a superb black horse. He
accompanied her to the stables, where he watched her milk, and then put
up for the night at the inn. Next day he became very sick, and several
doctors were called in, who bled him, but could not diagnose his
“Meanwhile he proposed marriage to the landlord’s daughter, who nursed
him, pretending that he was a young man of quality from Pittsburg, which
flattered the innkeeper and his daughter mightily.
“All this while he was trying to learn if the landlord kept any large
sum of money in the house. It was not long until the girl confided to
him that her father had gone into debt buying a farm in Nippenose
Bottom, as he wanted to retire from the tavern business. It was there
where he was when the two dishonest drovers from Greensburg had returned
and tried to euchre his wife out of the Big Calf.
“Satisfied that there was no booty in the house, the fellow rose one
morning before daybreak, dressed quietly, although the girl was in the
room, wrote a note to her which he left on the clothes press, and made
his escape. The wording of the letter ran about as follows:
“‘Dearest Love:–I am sorry to have left without saying goodbye, but my
intentions were not sincere, for while I admired your beauty and good
sense, which none can deny, I was only here to find out where your
father kept his money. But since he has none, and has gone into debt, I
need remain no longer. I thank you for all the information you gave me,
and for your kind attentions. Gratefully yours, David Lewis.’
“The poor girl had been one of the dupes of the celebrated ‘Lewis the
Robber,’ or some one impersonating him, as he had many _alter egos_,
some more daring than himself, and understudies. If half the stories
told of his exploits were true, he would have had to be a hundred years
old to do them, and get to so many places.
“At any rate, the pretty girl was frightfully cut up by her misfortune,
and took to the bed lately vacated by ‘Lewis.’ She had told all of her
friends that she was to marry in a fortnight, and go to live in a big
house on Grant’s Hill, Pittsburg, and it was all terrible and
humiliating. Rather than let the real story get out, the girl’s parents
connived with her to say that word had been brought that the young
gentleman, while riding near Standing Stone Town, had been thrown from
his horse and killed. Hence when the girl was able to reappear, she was
dressed in black, as if in mourning for her dashing sweetheart.
“The first time she came out of doors she went for a walk alone just
about dusk, so that not many people would be abroad, towards the lower
part of the village. She was never seen or heard of again. There was no
stream or pool big enough for her to drown herself in; a panther could
hardly have dragged her off and not left signs of a struggle; she might
have fallen in a cave or sink, it is true. At all events, it seemed as
if the earth had swallowed her up. Perhaps Lewis, or whoever he was,
came back after her.
“When I came to Logansville to learn millinery with Emilie Knecht, I
lived in her house over the store, just across the way from this hotel;
the building was burned down afterwards. How such a gifted milliner came
to settle off here in the mountains I could never tell, but I suppose
mountain ladies must have nice hats just like those in the valleys.
“We became good friends, and very confidential, though at that time she
was over thirty years of age and I was at least a dozen years younger.
She would never tell where she came from, except that it was down
country, and there seemed to be something on her mind which weighed on
her terribly. Though I think she was the loveliest looking woman I have
ever seen, she cared absolutely nothing for the men. As she believed in
ghosts, and so did I, we compared experiences.
“I told her of a ghostly episode which left a deep impression on my
childish nature, which happened when I was six years old. My father
worked in the mines, and was on ‘night shift.’ Mother locked the doors
and we all went to bed. Mother’s room adjoined mine and my sister’s.
After we were in bed for some time, but not yet asleep, a man–he seemed
to be black–came to the door which led from mother’s room to ours, and
smiled at us. He drew back, re-appeared and smiled again, or rather
grinned, showing his white teeth; it was a peculiar smile.
“I wanted to call mother, but sister, who was eight, said I must not
speak, I must keep very still.
“Next morning we asked father what time he came home, and he said ‘not
until morning.’ We told our experience, but father and mother seemed to
think we had only imagined it.
“But two persons do not imagine the same thing at the same time.
Besides, we were not afraid. I have often wondered what it was. My
sister died shortly after that. Could it have been a ‘warning,’ I
“The pretty milliner’s story was even more startling and unusual. She
declared that her grandmother’s ghost had come to her bedside every
night since she was a small child. She said that she never feared it,
but took it as a matter of course. I think that these nightly
visitations took a whole lot out of her. I can see her yet running down
the steep, narrow stairs in the mornings to the shop where I was
working–I was always an early riser–her face looking as if it had been
whitewashed, more so perhaps because her hair and eyes were so dark.
“She was often nervous and irritable, and I laid it all to the vital
force which the ghost must be drawing out of her to materialize, but she
said it was only her liver which made her so dauncy. I begged her to let
me sleep with her, that I did not think that the ghost would come if I
was present, and if it did it could draw on some of my vitality, as I
was a big, strong, hearty girl. She would not let me sleep with her,
saying that she had gotten used to the ghost.
“One evening Miss Knecht and I were invited to a chicken and waffle
supper at the home of old Mrs. Eilert, wife of the potter, whose house
was the last one in town. In those days there was quite a distance not
built up between the potter’s home and the rest of the village. The
holidays were approaching, and we were getting ready for the Christmas
trade, consequently stayed later in the shop than we had expected.
“As I said before, Mrs. Eilert lived at the extreme end of town. When we
were a few squares from home we noticed a woman dressed in mourning who
seemed to be following us, or at least going in our direction. She was
an entire stranger to us, and we wondered where she could be going; so
each house we came to I would look back to see whether she entered. When
we were half a square from where we were going, we passed a house which
stood back pretty far from the road. There was considerable ground to
the place, and a high board fence all around. After we passed the gate I
turned, as before, to see whether this woman would enter. She did not. I
watched her until she was past the gate quite a ways. I turned and told
my companion she had _not_ entered, and immediately turned to look at
her again, and she was gone!
“Where could she have gone in those few seconds in which I was not
looking at her? Everywhere there was open space–nowhere for her to hide.
Had she jumped the fence she could not have gotten out of sight in those
few seconds. I have often wondered since what it was.
“When we reached the Eilert home I noticed that Miss Knecht was in a
highly unstrung condition, more so than I had ever seen her before. We
told the story, and the old potter smiled grimly, saying: ‘You surely
have seen the ghost of the landlord’s daughter who disappeared, all
dressed in black, after being jilted by the robber.’
“Emilie shook her pretty dark curls, muttering that she feared it was
something worse. She was afraid to go home that night, and we spent the
night with our friends; yet she would not remain unless given a room by
herself. In the morning she was in a most despondent mood; she had not
seen her grandmother–what could it mean?
“The woman in black must have been her ‘familiar’ leaving her, warning
her to that effect, and not the ghost of the landlord’s daughter after
all, she maintained. I tried to reassure her that she would see her
grandmother once she was in her own room, but next morning brought the
tidings that the faithful spirit was again absent. This continued for a
week, my friend becoming more nervous and despondent.
“One morning she did not come downstairs, so at eight o’clock I went up
after her, to see if she were ill. The bed was empty, and had not been
slept in. I searched the house and found her lying dead on a miserable
cot in the cellar–beautiful in death–which an elderly Dutchman sometimes
occupied, when cutting wood and taking care of the garden for us. She
had drunk a potion of arsenic that she had bought some months before to
poison rats which infested the cellar, but her lovely face was not
“I left town shortly afterwards, and have never been back until
The burly commercial traveler who had started the general conversation
stroked his long black beard.
“I guess it is time for all of us to retire. I don’t think we need to
ask this lady again, ’Do you believe in ghosts?‘”