TRAGEDIES OF THE FOREST

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EVERY COUNTRY has its unexplained tragedies, and Brady Township was no exception. How and when these tragedies occurred was never explained, and they were only known when the skeletons were found.

Some time after 187o, a human skeleton was found buried in the woods on Luthersburg branch near the Thomas Keene farm, by men building a log road. The only answer was, “he must have been a peddler murdered for his pack.” Another skeleton was found up Pentz Run at the root of a stump, about three and a half miles from DuBois. Of course this was an unsolved mystery. Later, in the vicinity of Troutville, the bones of a human being were found.

A Coroner had been elected from DuBois, and he did not propose being in the same class with the man who had been elected many years before, who wrote a lawyer in Clearfield as follows “Dear Sir: I have been elected Coroner of Clearfield County and I wish to know what the emoluments and honors of the office are.” The lawyer wrote below “emoluments nothing, honors a damned sight less.” The Coroner immediately got some of his friends from DuBois for a jury, and called them into the woods below Troutville to view the skeleton. Of course the only verdict of the jury could be that it was the remains of an unknown human being, and no way to account for the death. But the poor Coroner, when he tried to collect his costs for himself and his jury from Clearfield County, bumped up against a set of hard headed County Commissioners who refused to pay, and he likewise found “the emoluments of the office as nothing.”

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CHURCHES

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The first known religious services held in Brady Township took place in the bar room of the tavern of Lebbeus Luther, at Luthersburg, probably about 1825. To now speak of a religious meeting being held in a bar room is somewhat shocking, but it must be remembered at that time the manufacturing and dealing in liquor had not become an unethical occupation. Beer in this locality was not known, and the sale of hard liquor was limited. It was a great disgrace to become drunk, and throughout Brady Township there were but two known “topers”, who were looked upon with contempt and pity in not being able to control their appetite. Again, the bar room was a public institution for all kinds of meetings.

At this time, hymn books were unknown, and Bibles were very scarce. The minister had to be able to lead the singing, and he used the “lining system” for hymns, that is, he would read two lines, or maybe a verse of four lines of the hymn, which would be sung by the congregation, and then another “lining” until the hymn was completed. This was before the age of clocks and lights. All evening meetings were announced for “early candlelight”, and when a meeting was held in the evening, the patrons usually carried tallow candles with them for lighting purposes.

As before stated, the first building for public purposes was a log building erected in the cemetery at Luthersburg.

The Sunday School is usually the forerunner of churches. The first Sunday School held in the Beightol School House, or “sheep pen”, was organized in the spring or summer of about 1860, and Samuel Postlethwait was the superintendent. A Sunday School did not exist in winter. The school building would be cold, and it required the wading through the snow long distances for the children to get there.

After John Rumbarger became the purchaser of the David Heberling farm, in 1865, a Sunday School was opened in the old school house at the south side of the city.

It was related that in the whole neighborhood, no one was found capable of making an audible prayer. The people of the time were deeply religious, and a leader of a Sunday School must be able to pray. They searched the community, and finally discovered Mr. A. J. King, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Luthersburg, who lived about three miles from the school house, who was interviewed, and agreed to take charge of the Sunday School. Mr. King could neither read nor write, but he was a fervent member of the church, and all he was asked to do was to do the praying. This Sunday School was organized and carried on in the summer time for several years.

The first church building was erected in 1874 or 1875 at the corner of East Long Avenue and Church Street. Reverend Dunlap, of Brookville, a minister of the Evangelical Church, held meetings, and out of those meetings came the church. This building was a one-story structure probably twenty feet wide by thirty feet long, set on posts for a foundation, the lower side of which was over two feet from the ground. It is related that in the summertime the sheep from the neighborhood, in the heat of the day, to avoid flies, gathered under the church, and these sheep in shaking their heads and bumping around to get rid of flies, bumped the floor of the church and greatly interfered with the services. This church acquired two lots, one on the east side of Church Street, upon which a parsonage was built, and one upon the west side, upon which the church stood.

This church was turned into a dwelling house, and thus remained for years after it was abandoned as a church.

Later the Evangelical Church acquired its present location on East Long Avenue. Mr. John Rumbarger donated two lots at the corner of West Long Avenue and Franklin Street, upon which a Methodist Episcopal Church was erected between 1870 and 1880. This building was destroyed by the fire of 1888. The First Presbyterian Church was organized on the 9th of May 1876 in a barn standing at the rear of the Rumbarger house. From that time on, various other religious denominations entered the city and erected their church buildings until, at this date, there are more than seventeen denominations represented within the city limits.

MILK, SHEEP, AND SATAN

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One old settler relates that at his home in Dauphin County, before he migrated to the wilds of Brady Township, he knew a man who was considered a witch. One day this witch became very angry at one of his neighbors who lived some three miles distant. He declared to his friends that he would kill him. The witch entered his house, secured his rifle and brought it out in the presence of the company and began to wipe the interior of the barrel with the wiping rod. In a few minutes he pulled the rod out, which showed the color of blood on the wiping material and said, “I have fixed him.” It was noted afterward that the neighbor died about this time.

When anything happened to an animal, it was charged to the witches. In one instance this Dauphin County emigrant, after he had arrived in Brady Township, stated that he had a cow which gave bloody milk. Of course the cow was “hexed” by a neighbor, and the remedy was to milk the cow and put the milk on the stove, and after it evaporated the witch would be exorcised. He declared

in this instance that, while they were boiling the milk, they saw a headless sheep coming out of the woods a few hundred feet northeast of the house. The sheep seemed to be drawn toward the house where the milk was being boiled, and when it came within a few rods of the house, the sheep became very ill and lay down, and as the last of the milk evaporated the sheep died. Upon inquiry a few days later, he discovered that the witch, who lived over a mile away, had become very ill at about this time and the neighbors thought she would die.

In the vicinity of DuBois an unfortunate woman lost her reason. When some of her relatives claimed that she was “possessed.” This was proven by the visit of a young woman who lived some four miles distant. This young woman had a young horse which she had taught a number of tricks, and likewise a dog which she had taught to perform certain stunts. It was believed that this young woman had a copy of what was known as the “Black Art,” and the only reason that she was able to teach her animals was through the reading of this book. The “Black Art” was supposed to be a book written on a black page with the printing, or writing in white, and for one to possess this book and do the tricks one had to sell himself to Satan.

When the young woman visited her neighbor, it was on a rather cold November day, and she came on horse back. Other visitors declared that while this young woman was in the house visiting with the sick woman, a very large black dog peered into the window, and when the young woman mounted her horse to leave, this dog jumped onto the back of the horse, back of the saddle, placed his front feet on the shoulders of the young woman which caused the horse to try to run away.

At a later date the woman committed suicide in a piece of woods adjoining the property, and from this time on her ghost walked in this woods. One woman related that her father had frequently pointed out this woods and assured her that at a certain hour in the night a light was seen at the point at which the woman died.

There is a tradition that a ghost “walks” in the forest west of the Paul Bloom farm on the Lakes to Sea Highway in Bloom Township. It is believed that a peddler was killed and buried in this forest many years ago. On certain nights in the year a headless man is seen in the vicinity between Little Anderson Creek and the farm of Mr. Bloom. How true this story may be, it is yet a fact that persons have been known to be scared and run quite a distance to get out of these woods. As a rule, during the night there is generally a fog on this road and being rather a lonely place, it would not require much to fire the imagination of a nervous person seeing a headless man.

On the Chestnut Ridge Hill stood a house in which an old woman died and for several months the family refused to occupy the house on account of a ghost walking and it required several of the neighbors to sleep in the house some little time before any of the family would occupy it. The house has since been removed. No explanation was given of what caused this ghost.

EARLY SUPERSTITIONS

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A GREAT many pioneers believed in “visions, dreams and queer feelings” and to these beliefs were added certain signs. These traditions they brought with them into the wilderness of Brady Township.

The early settler did not worry about the fertility of the soil. The soil had the humus of centuries, in addition to the potash produced by the burning of the timber, and the fertility from the stumps left standing in the cleared land, but the signs for planting were a worry.

There were two signs, the “up-going” and the “down going.” If the crop to be planted were to root deep, it must be planted in the “down going” sign, so that the roots would penetrate the soil. If the crop were one that required the opposite, then it should be planted in the “up going” sign.

Marriages were always consummated in the increase of the moon. The moon largely controlled the signs of planting as well. If the new moon stood on its end, the weather would be wet; if the new moon lay on its back it would be dry; and if the new moon appeared far in the west or to the northwest, it would be cold.

One man stated that if there were three signs in the Fish, followed by three in the Waterman and three in the Crab, if the wind then blew from the south, it would rain. Others believed that if the wind was from the south on the first day of September there would be a mild open winter.

A wide belief in witch-craft existed. The community had a “hex doctor.” The hex doctor was a man about five feet five inches tall, probably weighing a hundred and fifty pounds, and past middle life. He wore his shirt open to the waist, exhibiting a breast covered with a heavy growth of hair. When called upon, he exorcised the evil spirits, and prepared an amulet, which was tied in a little bag worn over the heart. Curiosity led some one to examine one of these amulets one day, and found a grasshopper and a couple of peculiarly shaped stones in the bag.

Of course there were witches. There would have been no use for a hex doctor unless where were witches.

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