Thursday, August 7, 2014

The True Legend of Julia Legare- Fact vs Fiction

Way down south on Edisto Island, South Carolina you can find so much history just bursting from the seams every where you look. The aging antebellum mansions, the winds blowing the weeping willows and even the creaking doors at the old cemeteries have a story to tell you, if you are willing to listen.
From Pinterest

LOCKED IN, ALIVE 

One urban legend that surrounds this island is the tale of Julia Legare. The story that has been regurgitated for over a 100 years is that Julia, who is always described as a young girl or pre-teen, became ill with diphtheria while visiting family. Although it appeared as if she died, she actually fell into a coma. Believing that she had died, her body was interred into the family crypt. Locked and sealed inside the family mausoleum, this terrible mistake sealed her fate as well.

The story goes on to say that when her brother passed away 15 years later, they opened up the sealed crypt to find her bones pressed against the crypt door, her fingers damaged from scratching on the doors and floor of the vault. Many websites even claim that the scratches she made are still inside the crypt if you go look.

This has all the ingredients to a perfect scary story to tell while visiting the Presbyterian Church Cemetery there on Edisto Island, but the real story seems to be much different. In fact, Julia's story, or may I say her family's story, is much more interesting.

SEABROOK PLANTATION

The story begins here at Seabrook Plantation, just three miles from the Presbyterian Church Cemetery where Julia is buried. You see, the Seabrook Plantation is where Julia grew up. She was the daughter of Captain William Seabrook, one of the richest cotton men in all of South Carolina.

William Seabrook was born on Edisto Island on February 15, 1773. His parents were John Seabrook and Sarah Lawton. By the age of 17, William had taken charge of his mother's estates and managed the properties so well that they made a great deal of money off of them. It was said that he was one of the very first plantation owners to cultivate sea-island cotton (or black seed) successfully. He was also one of the first to use salt mud as fertilizer for his crops. Besides owning several plantations, William had a very prosperous ferry-boat business, running a steamboat line. It was called the Edisto Island Ferry, and it went between Charleston and Savannah and all the other island areas.

One of the last standing pieces of his legacy, the William Seabrook House, was built in 1810. Choosing only the best of the best, William picked the architect who designed the White House, James Hoban.


William had been married and had several children from his first marriage, however it was his marriage to Elizabeth Emma Edings that brought Julia into the world.  Julia had several brothers and sisters through this marriage as well.  The eldest was Robert Seabrook who was born in 1821, sadly he passed away 6 months after Julia, in October of 1852. Then there was Joseph, he was born in 1823 but died in an ill fated accident aboard the SS Pulaski which sunk on June 14, 1838 off the coast of North Carolina after an explosion in the boiler room. Julia also had three sisters, Carolina, who was born in 1825, and later married James Hopkinson. She died in 1878. Martha, who was born in 1828. and whom married Ferdinand de Lasteyrie. She outlived Julia as well. Then the last of her sisters, Julia's baby sister Emma, who was born in 1831 and died in 1834 at the age of 3.

As for Julia, she was born Julia Georgiana Seabrook, on November 18, 1829 and passed away on April 15, 1852.  There are several books that state that Julia actually died in 1862, however the inscription inside the family crypt plainly states 1852.

LIFE AT SEABROOK

Library of Congress/Seabrook Plantation
If you haven't seen the William Seabrook Plantation, I suggest you do a quick search or even click on the link here to see some of the most beautiful shots of this lovely home and the land surrounding it. To think that Julia walked up and down those stairs, played outside in the yard or wandered down that beautiful alley of oak trees, gives her story a little more sentimental meaning for me. It is wonderful to see that the home has been preserved over all these years.

As most children do, eventually, Julia grew up. She did not die a young girl or even a teenager, who was buried alive, as the urban legends claim. No. In fact, Julia went on to marry John Berwick Legare (pronounced La-gree) as a young woman.

MARRIAGE TO LEGARE

I appears that Julia married John Berwick Legare around 1848 at approximately 18 years of age. In all of the books I have found that list William Seabrook's children and how they died, Julia's death is never mentioned. I could not find a newspaper clipping or any sort of record of how she died at all so the cause of her death, although many state was Diphtheria, is still undetermined. I also could not find any evidence that mentions the discovery that she had been buried alive.

The claim that she was interred by her family, just laying her body down and locking it inside is ludicrous. Besides, have you seen the inside of the crypt? It is not that big, there wouldn't be a lot of room to just lay someone down and leave them.

Normally, family crypts have spaces in the walls to have your coffin placed and then sealed up into the wall. Or sometimes family crypts go below the ground into chambers where the family are then interred and the another door is sealed at the base. The inside of the crypt is bare, meaning they must be buried in the walls or below the crypt itself. There are three people buried in that family crypt and none of their bodies are laying out in plain sight. They wouldn't have left her in there and then buried her in the wall or in the ground later, that wouldn't make any sense.

Another thing that doesn't add up is the part about her brother dying. When her brother Robert died six months later, not 15 years, he was not buried in that crypt. The crypt Julia was buried in was the Legare crypt, not the Seabrook crypt. No. Instead, he was given a beautiful monument in the cemetery. (Click here to see his memorial) . So that theory of opening the sealed doors to find her bones didn't happen with her brother's death because he wasn't buried in that crypt.

Upon my research into this story further, I did find something quite odd though. You see, the stones in the Legare family crypt are enscribed for John Berwick Legare, Julia and their son, Hugh Swinton Legare, who died at the age of 6, in December of 1854. What is strange is that old books about the history of Edisto Island state that the couple never had any kids, dying childless.  So who is this little boy who was buried in the crypt with John and Julia? And how did he die at such a young age?

I came across the 1850 Census, which lists John and Julia as having not one, but two sons. More than likely the author of the book that states the history of Edisto Island, forgot to the turn the page of the census record book, as Hugh and little Joseph were mentioned on the next page. In 1850, Hugh was noted as being 2 years old, while Joseph was only 6 months old.
 
1850 Census, page 15
More recorded facts I found also state that Julia and her husband were the owners of the Berwick Legare plantation. And that John had the plantation split into a double plantations, the eastern section was to be called "Berwick" and the western section was to be called "Legare."  It was stated that no one had any idea why this was done, but that by 1852 the U.S. Coast Survey mapped the western half as being the property of Mary Seabrook, who was said to be an unmarried half-sister of Julia's.

1850 Census, page 16
It seems quite odd that the property would be divided into two, and the same year that Julia died her sister took ownership of the other half. Maybe Julia was just being a kind sister, letting her older unmarried sister have some security since she didn't have a husband to take care of her.

Mary Ann Seabrook was one of the older daughters of William Seabrook's first marriage to Mary Mikell. She was 46 years old in 1852, the same time that Julia died. Perhaps John turned half of the property over to Mary as a final wish to his wife before she died? Maybe she was left to care for Julia's two young sons after their mother's tragic death?

Julia died in 1852, Hugh died in 1854 and finally John passed away in 1856. All three of them are buried or entombed together in the Legare family crypt. Sadly, I could find no record of what happened to their youngest baby, Joseph. Did he die, too? Or was he raised by a family member?

BACK TO THE STORY

So why do people keep perpetuating the story that Julia was buried or sealed inside the family crypt, alive? There hasn't been any sort of documented evidence put out there that I have found that proves this. I find it interesting how the stories always say she was a child or a young girl, when in fact she was a married woman when she died, more than likely from natural causes. Had it been some scandalous death or even such a fiasco as finding out she had been buried alive, you would think there would be some sort of record of that.

As far as the scratches on the door, floor and walls...the crypt is made of stone so this is unlikely. If there are scratches they were probably caused by sharp objects scraping against it over the years. Fingernails do not cut granite, marble or stone. The softest stones are at the lower end of the Mohs scale when it comes to stone work. Fingernail scratches can be done on stones that are soft, but not marble, granite, sandstone, limestone or slate that are on the higher end of the Mohs scale. I doubt they used the soft stone for something like a family crypt that is meant to endure throughout time to hold the deceased. No, I find it unlikely that any scratches you find being from a human beings nails.

What about the door? Why does it keep coming off? Who knows...maybe vandals who are curious about the story would like to break in to sneak a peek inside? People have been curious of cemeteries for many years, this isn't some new fad. It could be something so simple as the construction of the crypt itself cannot hold the heavy steel framed door due to weight issues and thus threshold cracks under the pressure? I think maybe that is an answer left for someone who knows more about the construction of stone mausoleums to answer that for us.


Epitaph for Mrs. Julia G. Legare

How do we know that this door story is even true either? I've already debunked the fact Julia wasn't a child when she died and that the scratches couldn't have been made by her either. Perhaps this added rumor about the doors is just that, a rumor. Just a made up story to add to the mystery of the whole tale.

When someone finds the smoking gun evidence that states as a fact that Julia Seabrook Legare was actually buried alive in that crypt, then I will believe it. Otherwise, I feel this is just another one of those over embellished urban legends that become too good not to tell. With age the story becomes more and more real to people, and the legend and lore become larger than life.  Sadly, most of the time these stories have little to no truth to them.

Take the story of Corinne Elliot Lawton, for example. For over 100 years people have been flocking to Bonaventure Cemetery to hear the tale of her tragic death. Yet, the urban legend around her story is just a fabricated tale as well.  What about Anna Corbin and how she was found in a locked cupboard in the kitchen of the Preston School of Industry, bludgeoned to death? Yes, she was murdered, but she was not found where everyone thinks she was found, yet people continue to perpetuate the myths because to them it's more exciting. And finally, what about the story of Bathsheba Sherman? Lorraine Warren and Andrea Perron have spun one yarn of a tale about her life and death, which never happened the way they claim. You see, it's easy to believe the stories you are told, or even the ones you read, watch on tv or in the movies....but that doesn't mean it's true.  You must do your research and find the evidence first, don't just go blindly believing things without being shown proof.

Just like the three other women I have mentioned, Julia Legare's story is one that is shrouded in mystery, but not facts. I haven't seen any factual evidence that say she was actually buried alive, and there is no proof that the doors mysteriously come off or that she left scratches in the floor with her bare fingernails. These are just over embellished stories added to Julia's factual death. Maybe there is a record out there that will put this myth to bed once and for all, how she really died and where this "buried alive" story came from.

If there is evidence that she was buried alive, I would love to see it. If someone out there has it, post the documents online for the world to view it. I am all for that, but until then I will have to remain skeptical about that part of the story.  What does pique my interest is finding out just what happened to baby Joseph? To me, that is a mystery worth solving.

(Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio)

Early Generations of the Seabrook Family,
(Compiled by Mabel L. Webber).
Descendants of William Lawton.
Edisto Island: 1663-1860- Charles Spencer.
South Carolina- Historical Magazine, 1916.
Seabrook Family Genealogy.
Findagrave
U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The People's press, and Addison County Democrat., July 03, 1838.




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Real Bathsheba Sherman- True History vs. "Conjured" Fiction

In my work as a historian and history writer/reporter, I have written for newspapers, magazines, personal blogs and I have also published a book. I have become, what I would like to call - "a voice for those who no longer can defend themselves." Since those dearly departed can no longer shed light on their real stories and tell us themselves, it is up to the historians, who are basically history detectives, to do the work and use some "elbow grease" to dig for the answers and tell the stories for those who are no longer here.

I have become strongly attached to many of the stories of those people that I have investigated over the years. In many cases, I set the facts straight in stories that may have been gossiped about for so many years, that the tales have become a well spun tapestry of fiction rather than fact. In other cases, I have written about people who have never been written about before, finally giving their stories a chance to be told, so they are not forgotten. I am a strong believer that no one should ever be forgotten, and that everyone deserves for their story to be told.

In an earlier blog that I posted (nearly two years ago), I mentioned a movie "Preston Castle," that was filmed at the historic Preston Castle in Ione, California. Being that I actually researched the history of the Preston School of Industry which Preston Castle was constructed for, and I published a book on its true history and some of the forgotten events that took places there, I was very upset to hear that the movie promoted itself as "based on true events" when in fact there was nothing "real" about the film or their so-called historical facts. In fact, the information they provided in the movie, only made it worse for people to separate fact from fiction in regards to the history of the school, due to the many errors and history revisionism in the film.

What upset me even more than the fact they used Preston's name in their film and made up false history, they used the name of the head housekeeper (Anna Corbin) who was murdered there and added additional erroneous information to the movie in regards to Anna. Just as the Ghost Adventures episode that made allegations that Anna's spirit was there and would haunt the castle and even allegedly "possessed" the lead investigator on the show, this movie also disrespected Anna's memory and personal character.

It just seems that there is no end to the lengths in which Hollywood, or people in general, will go to make a buck these days. So many times they take the story of a real person and desecrate their memory, completely disrespecting the person, knowing all too well that the person or persons they are attacking cannot speak up about it.  As upset as I was about Hollywood ruining Anna's memory, I have become just as upset, if not more so, about the character of Bathsheba Sherman in the movie, "The Conjuring."

WHAT DID THE MOVIE CLAIM?

The movie, "The Conjuring," is said to be "based on a true story" which was documented in the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, although Andrea Perron (the daughter of the family the movie is depicting) has written three books on her experience in the home as well.

In the movie, Bathsheba Sherman was said to have been a witch who worshiped the Devil, sacrificed her baby to Satan and then hung herself from the tree in the back yard.  In the movie, her spirit allegedly terrorizes all who live in the home, also causing all the different tenants over the years to kill their own children and allegedly possessing Carolyn Perron.


None of the information in regards to the history of Bathsheba is true.  History is history, and the facts are the facts. The stated history that has been thrown around over the last 40 years is not real, and it appears to me that the tales have been "conjured" from someone's overactive imagination rather than uncovered from actual historic files or archives as claimed.

I am not saying the home isn't haunted, honestly I don't know, and I don't care about that. I care about facts and historical evidence, and there is not one single piece of evidence to corroborate with the Perron family or Lorraine Warren's allegations as to the history of Bathsheba Sherman, the property or the many unexplained  deaths or "fatal events" they claim took place on the property.

This blog is to share with the world the "TRUE FACTS" regarding the history of Bathsheba Sherman and a few other interesting facts about Burrillville, Rhode Island's history.

THE ACTUAL TRUE FACTS ABOUT BATHSHEBA

c/o brianz190
I have been spending a lot of time researching the history of Burrillville and any historic information regarding the life of Bathsheba Sherman. I have found some amazing facts that will totally conflict with the alleged history that Lorraine Warren and Carolyn Perron claim to have found.

Bathsheba Sherman was born in 1812 to parents,  Ephraim Thayer and Hannah Taft. Ephraim's first wife was named Bathsheba Pain, so it seems that his daughter was named after his first wife. She was NOT an Arnold as Andrea Perron claims in her book, she was a Thayer (and a Taft). Bathsheba never worked on the property of the Old Arnold Estate, nor did she care for a child that died on the property.

Bathsheba married rather late in her life according to the time period, as she was in her early thirties when she took her wedding vows to Judson Sherman.  According to my research, Bathsheba had four children, but three of them died very young. Given the time period, this is nothing abnormal, as many died from childhood diseases back then. Their only surviving son, Herbert Leander Sherman was born in March of 1849.

Census records from 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880, show that Herbert was still living with his parents. In the 1880 Census, it also shows that a 15 yr. old girl named Charlotte Talbot was living in the home as well. Herbert's first marriage was to a young lady named Georgianna. Sadly, the marriage didn't last long, as she died at the young age of 22. She is buried with the rest of the Sherman family at the Harrisville Cemetery. Her headstone epitaph reads:

"Why should we grieve for one so pure,
 Our loss to her is gain,
 Her happiness is now secure,
 Our sorrows still remain."--
 
Herbert married for a second time, to a Miss Anna Jane Phair on December 4, 1880. The pair had two sons, William (born 1881) an Fred (born in 1883). Sadly, William died in 1900 at the age of 9.


ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BATHSHEBA

For the record, there have never been any sort of records or historic documentation that I could locate in regards to any child of Bathsheba's having died from a knitting needle to the head,  being sacrificed to Satan, or any sort of scandal in the community placing blame on her. There are no records of any strange deaths or alleged wrongdoing of any type either. The three children of Bathsheba and Judson Sherman who died are buried right across from Bathsheba and Judson in the Harrisville historic cemetery.

  • Do you really think that the townspeople would have allowed Bathsheba to be buried in the cemetery next to her husband and children if they thought that she was a witch?
  • Do you think that the church would have given her a funeral or even mentioned her in the obituary of the newspaper had she been so hated in the community? 

From my research in various stories, it is not uncommon that when someone died, that any sort of scandalous events or even rumors that took place in one's life would be mentioned in their obituary, that was sort of expected. If she had committed such atrocities you would think that it would have been mentioned, but there was none.


If you research the property maps of the area, the 1895 map shows the land and the properties broken up by each family that owned all the land in the area.  The names Sherman, Arnold, Taft, Mowry, Germain, Aldrich and others can be seen all over the map. You see, in that small town area, most of these people were related to one another.  The town was also very Christian, having established not one, but several churches in it's early years: The Freewill Baptist, First Baptist, Episcopal, Berean Baptist and the Laurel Hill Methodist churches.  This close-knit community where many were often related to one another, was full of God fearing people and the Shermans were one of the larger families in the area. In fact, Sherman Farm Road still exists today and is one of the larger roads that goes through town.

When Bathsheba died on May 25, 1885, the Rev. A.H. Granger (a Baptist minister), gave the eulogy and even the newspapers mentioned her passing, which by the way was caused from paralysis due to a stroke. There was never a note on her death certificate making any sort of claims that she turned to stone. As far as the respectful obituary in the newspaper, that is not something you would think a Christian community would do for someone they suspected of being a witch that murdered and sacrificed her own children to the Devil. No, Bathsheba was not a witch, nor was she a murderer and it is very shameful that anyone would say such things, which constitutes slander.

When she died, she was interred next to Judson who had preceded Bathsheba in death several years earlier. She had remarried, this time to Benjamin Green, although when she was buried she was put with her first husband and children in the cemetery at Harrisville. Being buried with your first wife or first husband was a common practice and still continues to this day in many cemeteries.

In her will, Bathsheba was adamant that along with giving her son a small amount of money, that the property would be used to educate her grandson and that when he reached the age of 21, and that the balance of the monies left would be turned over to him. It appears as if she had her will drawn up before the birth of the second grandson.

  • Does that sound like a mean or wicked person to you? A grandmother who wanted her grandchild to have the best education and inherit her money?

One thing I would like to clarify, if you hadn't realized this yet, the Sherman property is NOT the same property that the Perron family purchased (The Arnold Estate) on Round Top Road. Bathsheba never lived on the Old Arnold Estate. The Sherman property, if you look at the map to the right, was southeast of the Arnold Estate.




WERE THERE ANY SUICIDES OR MURDERS  AT THE OLD ARNOLD ESTATE?

Unfortunately, I don't believe so as there is NO evidence to support those allegations whatsoever.  The information on the deaths that Andrea Perron's mother, Carolyn claims to have uncovered did not happen on the property at all.  There has never been any documentation proving that any sort of murders, suicides, hangings or drownings took place on the property.

Some of the people that have been mentioned as having died on the property, such as John Arnold or even his wife Susan who hanged herself, didn't actually happen on the property.  Susan's death, happened in 1866 at their home. According to the newspaper clippings, Susan had been planning the act for some time. When her husband was visiting with a neighbor, she went upstairs, locked herself inside the room and hanged herself from the hook in the wardrobe by a thin cord. The article also mentions that she had a loaded gun, a knife and even a vial of mercury. What caused her to take her own life? Who knows. But the point is that none of those events occurred at the Arnold Estate on Round Top Road.

Dexter Richardson House, Uxbridge, Mass.
Other allegations that have been mentioned by Lorraine Warren, was the story of a girl who was murdered in the pantry of the Farmhouse named Prudence Arnold. The facts are that she was killed by a man known as William Knowlton, but it was not on the property either. The facts are that Prudence died at the Dexter Richardson House in  Uxbridge, Massachusetts, not the Arnold Estate in Burrillville, Rhode Island. In fact, Dexter Richardson never lived on the property in Rhode Island at all. That is pure fabrication. It is said that a family known as the Richardson's lived on the property as the first family who built the home in the late 1700s, but it was not Dexter Richardson.

Edwin Arnold, the owner of the Arnold Estate, froze to death while walking home on Sherman Farm Road in the cold winter. He was found by a hunter on Smith Aldrich's farm. (if you look at the old map again you will see that the Aldrich farm was nowhere near the Arnold Estate as it is in the lower right corner, and the Arnold Estate is in the upper left corner). It was said that his body wasn't found for nearly three months, but again, it was not at the house, nor was it a murder or suicide. The other was a man by the name of Jarvis Smith, who fell asleep in a barn and died allegedly somewhere on the property. It was stated he came back from the bar, more than likely he was intoxicated and fell asleep and succumbed to the elements.

Whether other family members over the 8 generations of people who have lived in the home have died from sickness, natural causes or old age, that is an entirely different story. The odds are that people have died in the home at some point, but there are no documents of murder, suicide or drownings at the home or on the property.


 OTHER RANDOM STORIES-- COULD THERE BE A LINK?

To the west, going towards the edge of the state, there is a private cemetery in Buck Hill that holds four graves. Many in the area claim it is the grave of a woman named Laura Sherman. Again, this is NOT on the Arnold Estate or the Sherman Farm Estate either.

During my research of the history of Burrillville, I found the story of another interesting tale about the Old Paul Place or "The Old Paul House." It was said to be in ruins even at the time the book "Burrillville: As It Was, As It Is" was written in 1856. The home, or "castle" as it was referred to as, was said to have been originally built and lived in by the Ballou family. Years later, Paul Smith and his family took up residence on the property.

" Not far from the center of the town, is a house, fast crumbling down, which has long been known as the above title ("Old Paul Place"). It was originally the residence of an ancient family of Ballous, a common name in this town.  A little to the east of the old castle are four graves where they were buried.

It was afterward occupied by Paul Smith. The old man met with many misfortunes which gives the place a romantic interest. His wife was insane for many years. She was confined in a lonely room, and with none of the appliances with which modern science and philanthropy soothe and improve the stricken mind, she sank into hopeless idiocy. One of the sons, an athletic young man,  was engaged in a foot race in Slatersville, when he burst a blood-vessel and died in a short time.

Several families have resided there since Paul Smith died, but the edifice is at present forsaken,  the moss-grown roof has partly fallen, the massive chimney is breaking down,  and the wild wind shrieks through the crazy fabric like the pitiful wail of its ruined mistress.  The forest is growing up all around it,  and timersome ( meaning: easily frightened) do not like to frequent the place after nightfall. The raven croaks hoarsely from the open gable,  and the twilight bat flits undisturbed through the forsaken and desolate apartments."---- "Burrillville: As It Was, As It Is" (Horace Keach, 1856)

Could this story have inspired part of the idea of the Bathsheba tale? Quite possibly. Not only does it speak of the mistress of the house becoming insane, but it speaks of the fact that many in the area were easily frightened by old, scary houses. This old tale could have been passed down through the years and perhaps parts of that, mixed with the old tales of the four Sherman graves on Buck Hill, those details could have made for one big ghost story.


WHAT DOES THE OWNER SAY?



Norma Sutcliffe, the owner of the home on Round Top Road, has been living in the home for nearly 30 years.  I found a video of Andrea Perron and Norma where they speak of the haunting of the house, although at the time Norma seemed unaware of a detailed history of Bathsheba. She comes across as if she agrees that the home is haunted, and that she had experienced paranormal incidences, but later she posted her own video on youtube, claiming that the home is not haunted and stating the research she has done and documentation to back up her argument about the history of the home.

Arnold Farmhouse (1880s)
Why she went along with the "haunted" aspect of the house in the beginning and then back pedaled her story, we may never know. Perhaps, once she saw the attention the home was getting, she regretted speaking about it and wanted her privacy back. I don't know, and honestly, I don't care.  It does take away from her credibility about whether the house is or isn't haunted, but that doesn't change documented evidence that disproves the "witch" theory.

Like I said, this blog isn't to investigate whether this 300 year old home is haunted or not, it's about the history.  I have to give Norma credit for searching for the history of the home, and showing her research on Bathsheba to set the story straight with documented facts.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps the Perrons experienced something paranormal at that home. We cannot say for sure, because only they know the truth to that. I have had my own frightening experiences in my lifetime, and I know many people who have experienced such terrifying experiences of living in a haunted home.  This blog is to prove the true history of Bathsheba Sherman and set the record straight about her story and the stories of alleged deaths and suicides on the property that have been attached to the home.

I am not interested in the paranormal aspect of the home in any way. The home could be haunted, it is very old, but the Perron family could have also brought something with them when they moved in, or picked up an item that was "attached" to a bad spirit. Either way, again, I am not here to get into all that. I am here to state the facts on the history of the property, and the history of Bathsheba.

When examining this story there comes a point where you must use common sense and draw your conclusions based on factual evidence, not just the history that someone hands to you and says is factual. You have to verify that the information they are giving you is in fact, real. So I say to you, check this information out, do your own research on the story, search for the documents, the evidence, find the truth.


The facts that I found:
  • Bathsheba was NOT a witch. (there is nothing documented that even mentions it.)
  • Bathsheba was NOT a baby murderer. (again, no such documents exists.)
  • Bathsheba DID NOT live on the property at any time. (records do exist that prove she never lived on the property.)
  • Bathsheba DID NOT hang herself from tree, in a barn, in an attic...anywhere! (and records do exist that prove that she did not commit suicide, but instead died of paralysis from a stroke at the age of 73.)
Anyone who speaks badly of this woman, a person who cannot defend herself, should be ashamed of themselves. These fabricated stories are the reason Bathsheba's headstone has been destroyed by vandals who now believe she is an evil entity possessing mothers to kill their children, and terrorizing the house.  Most of the blame also should fall on the shoulders of  those who blame all these paranormal experiences on Bathsheba in the first place, and any and all who continue to perpetuate the erroneous information that continues to defame and slander Bathsheba's name. She was just a regular person. She never even lived on the property, yet she will forever be tied to the false history of the home in urban legend and folklore that made a lot of money to those telling the story.

  • How would you like it if your great grandmother's story was randomly picked from an old directory and a huge elaborate and slanderous story was conjured up to ruin your family name and disrespect her memory? Well that is exactly what happened to Bathsheba. 
  •  How do you think her family must feel? Stop and think about that for a second and really let that sink in. 
  •  What if a hundred years from now, someone decides to write about you, and makes you out to be an evil spirit possessing people, someone who committed atrocities against your own children...would you like that? I don't think so.  
What has been done to Bathsheba and her family is wrong and it must be fixed. That is why I am writing this blog. I know that I will not reach everyone out there, but I know that my blog gets a lot of traffic, so I know it will make its rounds through the internet and Bathsheba's name shall be vindicated.
For all of those people who will dismiss this article and blindly believe the information in the movie, I say to you, show me ONE piece of evidence that proves she was this horrible person, that she was a witch. You can't, because no such evidence exists. Some people might enjoy a scary story, but you have to take them with a grain of salt. Most often than not, the stories aren't true, no matter how intriguing they are.

As far as Bathsheba's grave, I was very upset to learn that her headstone was destroyed by vandals in 2013, and it infuriates me to no end that ignorant people would go all the way to her grave and desecrate it based on false information. Remember, believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.  In reality, 9 times out of 10, the stories you read or hear will not be accurate. It is up to you to find the truth. Please do your research before believing things you see in a movie or read in a book. If they aren't citing their sources from actual documents that really exist, then there is something wrong and the information cannot be deemed as credible. Be smart, do your homework, and then once you have all the cards on the table come to your own conclusion. Remember, fact is often better than fiction.

 (Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio)-- Dreaming Casually Publications

Thank you to Norma Sutcliffe for her most invaluable research on the history of her home!

Thank you BrianZ190 for photos of Bathsheba's grave and related family members, (findagrave contributor).

Sources:
Various newspaper clippings
Marriage, Birth, Death records
Census Records (1850,1860,1870,1880,1900)
FamilySearch.com
"Burrillville: As It Was, As It Is"- Horace Keach (1856)
--info from "Black Book of Burrillville" (from Norma Sutcliffe's youtube video.)
Findagrave.com
U.S. National Register for Historic Places




Saturday, April 19, 2014

Burning Love - The Tragic Story of David and Rebecca Schneider

On January 23, 1922 at 3:30 a.m., the lives of newlyweds David and Rebecca Schneider of the Bronx, in N.Y. would be forever changed. Only just married two weeks prior, the happy couple had just moved in and furnished their 5-room apartment on the top level floor (4th floor) of their apartment complex at 749 Tinton Ave.**

After going to bed for the evening, David Schneider woke up to realizing that the oil heater in the living room had been left on and it tipped over spilling and igniting oil all over the floor. In an attempt to put out the fire, David became severely burned on his arms and face. David screamed out, alerting his neighbors who then called for help. The fire quickly spread downward and through out the apartment building, forcing the panic stricken tenants of the building to flee in the frigid streets in the early hours of the morning.

Many of the tenants were not sure where the fire was so they attempted to make way to the roof of the building, hoping to climb down the fire escapes but found themselves trapped even more. One of the young teenagers from the 2nd floor, Henrietta Koser, was rescued by Police Officer Eugene Bacaglini who found her in a frantic state and completely helpless.

Police Officers Gordon Guderman, William Kelly from the Morrisania Station as well as Fire Truck No. 19, Lt. Hamilton Rider, Battalion Chief White and Deputy Chief Carlock came to the rescue as well. As ladders were set up to allow the tenants to escape the fiery inferno, the other officers and fireman risked their lives to go back into the burning building to save the Schneiders.

While the rescue efforts were going on outside and they were attempting to make their way inside and up to the 4th floor, David Schneider attempted repeatedly to run through a wall of flames that separated the living room, where he was, to the bedroom where his wife was. He kept trying to get through, only to be thrown back by the flames and continually burnt. Sadly, by the time the fireman reached him, they refused to allow him to continue, dragging his body outside while he kept screaming that he needed to save his wife. Sadly, Rebecca was not saved. By the time they broke their way into the bedroom it was apparent that she had already expired. They found her body laying on the bed, almost consumed entirely.

Hopefully she did not feel anything, as more than likely he had succumbed to the smoke inhalation before being burned. Nevertheless, a young bride, barely 18 years of age, died so tragically that early morning on January 23, 1922.  Her husband tried and tried to reach her, but was not able to save his bride.

David was taken to Lincoln Hospital where doctors treated him for bad burns all over his body. They suspected that he would not survive his wounds, however I could not find his death in the New York Times Index, where I did confirm Rebecca's death. It seems he recovered physically, but there is no telling if he ever recovered emotionally from that tragic night.

In my search to find Rebecca's headstone, I found two different cemeteries with interments of a Rebecca Schneider who died on January 23, 1922.  One of the cemeteries was Mount Zion Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens County, New York. The other cemetery was Washington Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. I am uncertain which of the two is her grave. Hopefully one day I will  be able to find out.

Rest In Peace Rebecca Schneider-- Never Forgotten!!

(**Note: If you go to google maps, I have figured out that the building no longer stands today, but it appears as if it may have once stood where the basketball court for the South Bronx Academy for Applied Media stands today.) 

(Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Mystery of the Two Mrs. Renders- Tempe, Arizona

While researching for an historical piece to write about in Maricopa, I stumbled upon a newspaper article in the archives that caught my attention. I was also planning to look into the history of the old Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad, when I found the story of a woman who committed suicide on the railroad tracks in 1906.  As I researched further, I found the story not only to be very tragic, but one that had me asking many questions. So being the "digger" that I am, I decided to keep digging around and I attempted to find the answers.

The newspaper article I found was dated January 3, 1906 and it spoke of an apparent suicide that took place a day earlier in Tempe, Arizona. According to the report, a woman who was going by the name of Mrs. Renders committed suicide at the train depot by throwing herself across the railroad track just as the train was coming into the station. She waited until the "train was too near for the engineer to reverse throttle", she then dropped the satchel she was carrying and threw herself across the tracks, falling in front of the oncoming train, causing her body to be cut in two! She died instantly.

old postcard of a train in the early 1900s
As gory a sight one could imagine, the mystery surrounding why she did it escaped attention in the papers. As soon as the suicide was reported, it was instantly forgotten and not one more mention I could find. According to the paper, it also mentions that "nothing of her identity could be confirmed" but then it states that the few people who were interviewed, claimed that Mrs. Renders was in very ill health. Others claimed the woman they knew as Mrs. Renders was actually Mrs. or Miss Morgan and that she was perfectly healthy. It also states that she had recently had a baby a few weeks earlier, and that she had left it in the care of a Mrs. McVey in Tempe. The lady who jumped onto the tracks of the Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad had purchased a ticket to Maricopa, but of course her final destination proved to be elsewhere.

Going over the newspaper article over and over, I had to wonder why some people said she was Mrs. Renders while she was actually Mrs. or Miss Morgan? I also had to wonder who the father of the child was that she left in the care of Mrs. McVey in Tempe? I also had to wonder why she would kill herself if she had in fact given birth to a new baby just a few weeks earlier?

I did some research into the Arizona Death Index records and looked for a Mrs. Renders, but what I found shocked me. You see, I found a death record in 1906 for a Mrs. Renders (the death certificate misspelled it Render), but the date of death was not January 2, 1906 and cause of death wasn't suicide by train. No, I found Mrs. Renders death to be on September 29, 1906, by Tuberculosis. It all started to swirl around in my head, becoming even more intriguing by the minute.

Now, remember this woman was going around saying she was Mrs. Renders, but was reported to actually be named Morgan. She had a child (possibly out of wedlock?) and left the child in the care of someone before committing suicide. Now this is just speculation but could it have been possible that this woman was seeing a married man? Perhaps her child was the product of an affair, and when she realized (after giving birth) that the married man was not going to leave his wife, that she then took her own life? It has been done before, so it's possible. I have no proof of this theory, but I cannot deny that it does sound possible to me.

The woman who died in September was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Phoenix. Her headstone reads "Mrs. Alb. Renders." The engraving was damaged or decayed over the years so you cannot read the entire date of death but you can make out the numbers 28th or 29th, 1906. According to death records, a Mrs. Cora Renders died on September 29th, 1906 from Tuberculosis.  Now that had me thinking again. If she was married to Albert Renders (as the grave notes), and she died from an illness, perhaps the news around town of  a Mrs. Renders being ill was true. It was just that the people who had heard of Mrs. Renders ill health had mistook the suicide victim for Mrs. Renders because she was going around using the same name.

So if the real Mrs. Renders died from ill health in September of 1906, who was this lady who jumped off the platform at the train depot in Tempe on January 2, 1906 a whole eight months earlier? Why did she refer to herself as Mrs. Renders? And who was the father of her baby that she left in the care of Mrs. McVey?

I have not been able to trace this suicide victim any further. If her real last name was "Morgan", I haven't found any death record with that name in Tempe or in any Arizona death record either. I would really like to get to the bottom of this mystery and find out just who this mystery lady was. Who was this person who felt that there was no purpose left in life and chose to end it so tragically and so morbidly, by jumping in front of a moving train?

I checked the Census records for 1910, and located Mr. Albert Renders living in Jerome, Yavapai County, Arizona. He was living with a family, the Goodfellows, and was listed as a widower. I couldn't find any records that he ever remarried, but I found that he died on July 4, 1934 from heart problems and was buried in the Valley View Cemetery in Clarkdale, Yavapai County, Arizona.

The woman, Mrs. McVey, that was said to have been taking care the baby of the suicide victim, was my next search. According to the 1910 Census, the only female McVey I could locate was Mrs. J.A. McVey and she lived in Tempe, was widowed and living with an adult son. No records of a young child living with her. Perhaps if she did have the young lady's child, when she committed suicide, maybe Mrs. McVey returned the child to the woman's next-of-kin to be raised? There really is no way to know for sure, unless we find records to prove this.

So in ending, the mystery continues in the search of just who this Mrs. Renders (Morgan) was who fatally jumped in front of the train. Was she somehow connected to Cora Renders who died eight months later in nearby Phoenix? Was she connected to Albert Renders? The answers still elude us.


(Copyright- 2014; J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications) 

Sources:
US Census Records
Arizona Death Records
Family Search.com
Salt Lake Tribune (1/3/1906)
Spanish Fork Press (1/11/1906)




Friday, January 17, 2014

What Happened To Dorothy Waldrop?

If you have read my blogs about the murders of Vesta Belle Sapenter and Anna Corbin, then you know that the main suspect in both cases was Eugene Monroe. Monroe was a troubled young man, who seemed to have issues staying out of jail. He was described by those who had been around him, as a person with a terrible temper, "tortured eyes" and a scarred face. Out of the things he was arrested  and convicted of, I am afraid to think of the many other crimes (and possibly murders) he may have committed that we don't know about.

The M.O. used in both Vesta Sapenter's murder and Anna Corbin's murder, was strangulation with a hemp cord. In Vesta Sapenter's case, she was also raped and her lower garments of clothing had been ripped off of her. With Anna Corbin, although she was not raped, her lower clothing had been messed with, which leads me to believe the murderer was going to attempt to rape her but didn't have time or was worried he would get caught so he stopped.

In Anna's case, she was bludgeoned very badly, something that might happen in a severe struggle or out of anger from the assailant. In both cases, I think the victims may have been attacked from behind. Sapenter was hanging curtains in her room when she was attacked, whereas Anna Corbin was arranging flowers in her office when she was attacked. Both were strangled with hemp cords, in the exact same way. One newspaper article even mentioned the fact the very knot used to strangle both victims was placed in the exact same spot, pulled tight behind the left ear.

Although the main suspect in both crimes was never convicted, there were more than enough people who believed he was responsible for both murders. Upon his release from Preston, (which his original sentence there was for burglary charges), he went to Tulsa, Oklahoma into the care of his aunt. He was later arrested again in Tulsa, on indecent exposure and later robbery charges. While in jail, Monroe was caught passing a note to another inmate claiming he was the "hottest thing in town." He had also been bragging that he was a "sought after criminal" to another cellmate, when referring to a unsolved murder in the area. The murder he was bragging about was the death of a young pregnant wife, Dorothy Waldrop.

Who Was Dorothy Waldrop?

Dorothy Waldrop was a 22 year-old, former Dance Teacher at the Murray Dance Studio in St. Joseph, Oklahoma. She was also the pregnant wife of Robert Waldrop, a taxi cab driver in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  On the evening of Dorothy's murder, her husband said goodbye to her around 8:15 p.m. when he left for work. Upon arriving home at 1 a.m., Robert discovered the front door wide open and his wife missing. One of their neighbors was later questioned and she remembered hearing a scream around midnight, but it was quick and she didn't know what to think about it so she didn't bother to wake her husband and went back to bed.

Young boys discovered her body June 24th, 1951 on a grassy knoll just outside the apartment building where Dorothy lived with her husband. She had been strangled with a dirty handkerchief and raped (post mortem). The partial lower section of the venetian blinds from the Waldrop's apartment was later found in a clump of weeds outside the apartments, near where Dorothy's body was found. According to the authorities, they found Eugene Monroe's fingerprints on the blinds.

Two boys came forward and stated that the night Dorothy was murdered, they saw a man driving a car with California plates around the apartment building and the same vicinity where they later found her body.  Although the police questioned many suspects, including a four-time convicted rapist who had been in the area, all evidence was pointing to Monroe.

When Police Chief Fred Graves finally brought charges on him, they grilled Monroe for 11 hours. Eugene eventually admitted that he did kill Dorothy, and later on he added that he had help from a friend Odell McDaniel (some newspapers say his name was Eugene McDaniel). When he went in for arraignment, Monroe's public defender entered a not guilty plea, despite the fact the police had a written and signed statement from Monroe confessing to the murder. Monroe was faced with yet another murder trial, this time the odds didn't look good.

When it came time for his preliminary hearing, the prosecution had 13 witnesses, which included two African-American witnesses (Edgar Rouseau, a newspaper editor; and Jim Cooley, the Police Department Janitor) who testified that Monroe bragged to them about killing Dorothy. The defense had no witnesses to call.

There was an interesting twist thrown into the mix, when Defense Attorney Amos T. Hall questioned the Police Chief on the stand about Harold Beddoe, M.D., who had seen Monroe during his interrogation. Attorney Hall insinuated that he believed Monroe had been hypnotized into confessing. The Police Chief stated he knew nothing of the sort, and that he wasn't in the room during the time the doctor was seeing Monroe. Later the doctor testified on the condition of Dorothy's body from the murder. According to people in the courtroom when the Dr. Beddoe mentioned how Dorothy was murdered, Monroe "bent his head, covered his face with his left hand, wept, shoulders shaking heavily," and refused to look at Robert Waldrop's face when he testified.

The murder trial against Eugene Monroe began on January 21, 1952.  By April of that same year he had been convicted of the murder of Dorothy Waldrop and  sentenced to life in prison, after County Attorney Lewis Bicking joined defense counsel requested to spare Monroe from the electric chair. District Judge Eben L. Taylor imposed the life sentence for Monroe, sparing the death penalty. He was also given a 35-year sentence for armed robbery of a Oklahoma City Theater in a separate trial and conviction.

By 1976, Monroe had sought parole but was denied by the board although they had recommended reducing his sentence on his previous armed robbery conviction.  By April 25, 1981 Monroe was paroled and he returned to Los Angeles for the remainder of his life. He remained on inactive parole for many years until the Department of Corrections in Oklahoma assigned someone to look for him, being that he had been "missing" from their system. The officer assigned to track Monroe realized his age, being that he was born in 1931 and checked the Social Security Death Index. Sure enough, Eugene Monroe had died on October 3, 2007.

In ending, with Monroe dead and gone we may never know the exact details of the murders of Vesta Sapenter, Anna Corbin or Dorothy Waldrop. In all three cases, only in Dorothy's case was Monroe actually convicted, leaving us to never have full closure for the first two murders. We must never forget those four innocent victims (if  also counting the unborn child), and I often wonder in the back of my mind if they were really the only victims? Could there have been others? It is a very sad thought that there could be more stories like this that we will never have the answers to.

Rest in peace Vesta, Anna and Dorothy (and her baby too).---

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE STORIES, THEN READ- "Behind The Walls"

(Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio)


Sources:
Several archived newspapers and information sourced from book,
"Behind The Walls"- J'aime Rubio
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Additional sources:
Hutchinson News (8/4/1951, 6/26/1951)
Ada News Weekly (8/2/1951)
Daily Mail (6/26/1951)
Fresno Bee (4/24/1952,1/9/1952)
Lawton Constitution (1/19/1976)







Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who Was Vesta Belle Sapenter?

Vesta Sapenter
Not too many people know the story of Vesta Sapenter, but sadly her story is not a good one. On July 18, 1947, her body was discovered in her bedroom. She had been strangled with a hemp cord and raped.  In my book, "Behind The Walls" I discuss the murder of Vesta Sapenter, along with two other murders of a similar nature committed (or allegedly committed) by the same person of interest, Eugene Monroe.

To start off, Vesta was a 17 year-old, African-American honor student at Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles. On the afternoon of July 18, 1947, her 14 year-old brother Carlisle came home from playing with friends at the park only to find the body of his sister in her room upstairs. According to Carlisle, he had arrived home at 5320 Holmes Avenue, to find Eugene Monroe. At the time Monroe was was using his step-father's last name, Jefferson. Monroe seemed to be delivering furniture to the house, and asked Carlisle if he could use the restroom. Carlisle agreed, and Monroe headed upstairs.  When he came back he had asked if he knew where his sister was, and he replied, "she's upstairs."

After not seeing Vesta for awhile, Carlisle became suspicious and decided to go upstairs to check on her.  Monroe followed Carlisle upstairs to "check" on Vesta, when he realized the door to his sister's room was locked. Carlisle broke down the door, only to find the lifeless, half-dressed body of his sister. She had been hanging curtains in her room when the murderer came in and attacked her (more than likely from behind.)

Immediately, Eugene was taken in for questioning but the police couldn't hold him.  One of Vesta's friends, 16 year-old Benjamin Allen was also questioned and released. He was the only other person to see Vesta on the day she died, when he walked her home.  The detective on the case, R.R. Coppage claimed that he was certain that Eugene (Jefferson) Monroe was their guy, but because of no witnesses and lack of evidence they had to release him.

"I am certain this boy did the job, but we were just never able to prove it. He was the only one in the house at the time and had ample time to commit the act."-- Detective R.R. Coppage's statement.

Headlines of other Los Angeles Murders in 1947
The Los Angeles newspaper headlines at the time barely even mentioned this heinous crime, giving Vesta's story only two paragraphs in the paper. During a time when many murders in Los Angeles to young women was rampant and making daily headlines, (especially since the Black Dahlia case, which had only occurred six months prior to this),  sadly there was no more mention of it.  Vesta Belle Sapenter, died on July 18, 1947, and the main suspect of her murder got away with it. But this would not be the first nor the last time that Eugene Monroe would make headlines for being a suspect in a similar murder.

In fact, in 1950 he was arrested and tried three times for the murder of Anna Corbin, the head housekeeper at the Preston School of Industry, after being sent there on separate criminal convictions. After three trials, the first two ending in a hung jury and the last an acquittal, Monroe was again a free man. For someone to be a suspect in two very similar cases, it seemed that he was getting away with murder, but it wouldn't last for long though.

For more details of this story and Anna Corbin's story please check out my book, "Behind The Walls"


NEXT: ---- "WHAT HAPPENED TO DOROTHY WALDROP?"



(Copyright, 2014- J'aime Rubio)

Sources:
Archived Newspapers
Photo of Vesta from Pittsburgh Courier (8/2/1947)
"Behind The Walls"-by J'aime Rubio
And a big thank you to Larry Harnisch of the 1947project
for the additional information you provided me about Vesta!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

More Shawnee Attacks on Settlers- West Virginia History




In my previous article, The Clover Bottom Massacre, 1783, I touched on the terrifying account of when Mitchell Clay’s homestead was attacked by Shawnee Indians, ultimately leaving three of his children dead. What many don’t realize is that this was a regular occurrence during these times. People today seem to look at things from a one-sided perspective most of the time, and that is not right. They often go on and on about how the “White Man” was so evil and destructive, stealing the land away from the Native-Americans. What many don’t talk about is the fact that from the very beginning of Europeans stepping foot on this “new land”, the natives were far from friendly. If you were to go back even farther in history you would also see that the native people were not originally from North America, but migrated here over the Bering Strait anyways, so technically this land was not their land originally either. They came here and settled, just as later on the Europeans came here and settled.

It’s fair to say that both sides should take blame for much of the bloodshed equally, but did you know that many of the people who came to America did not want to, nor were they even aware that they would have to face, let alone fight or kill the natives? Many of them felt they were in the middle of something they didn’t want to be in. They had to face the dangers of living in the wilderness of a new land, yet they also had to obey the authority of the Governor who was greedy and didn’t really care about his own people or the natives. I will go into that subject later on in this article. 

Indian Massacre of 1622
First, I will briefly discuss several accounts of families being brutally attacked by the Shawnee Indians during a specific time period in West Virginia and Virginia territory.  These accounts need to spoken, because in the end you need to see that it wasn’t just the European settlers who brought death and danger, but the natives also struck fear in the settlers hearts and left a trail of blood and tears behind as well.

Long before the Clover Bottom Massacre, there had been numerous accounts of brutal attacks on settlers by the natives in this country.  One to mention of course was the Indian Massacre of 1622. Looking into the history of it, you would see that the Powhatan tribe of Indians came to the Colony of Virginia, bearing gifts of food but once in the colony they began a vicious attack, killing over 347 settlers. They then traveled up and down the river, burning the settlements and homes and killing settlers.  As I stated above, the people in charge of the colonies really didn’t have the best interest of their settlers or their safety at heart, thus putting them all in danger.

During my research into specific areas in West Virginia history, I found several accounts of brutal attacks on settlers who were not seeking out the native people, not torturing them, and certainly not attacking their villages or burning their homes like the native people did to the settlers. One account that took place, happened in 1777 ( six years before the Clover Bottom Massacre).  Colonel James Graham and his family had retired for the evening in their cabin when Graham heard a knock on the door. When he approached the door, he heard a voice in broken English muttering, “Open Door!”

When Graham refused to comply with the request, the Indians outside grew very angry and started shooting at the door. Grahams two children had fled to a detached cabin where the Indians managed to break into. They shot through the clapboards, injuring the boy with the gunshot, shattering his leg. They then proceeded to enter the dwelling, kidnapping both children. While traveling to their village the young boy’s condition grew worse and he was not able to walk, so the Indians bashed his head against a tree, smashing his brain. They kept the young girl, who was only 8 years old at the time. They held her captive for nearly 8 more years until her father was able to later ransom her and secure her freedom.
During 1777, the dangers of continuous attacks and murders of white settlers by the Indians during the Summer months, prompted many families to flee to forts for safety and remain there sometimes for the entire Summer. You see, the area in which these attacks continued to occur was what the Shawnee considered their "Summer Hunting Ground"- although their villages were all the way in Ohio.  So during the Summer months the threat of attack was far more severe than at any other time of the year.

In 1778, a massacre was averted thanks to the help of Captain McKee and his men. Over 200 Indians attacked Fort Randolph, but thanks to the garrison of  21 men defending the fort, they were able to thwart off the attack. When the Indians headed away in the direction of the Greenbrier settlements, McKee sent off two of his men who actually made it to the settlements first to warn them of the impending attack. Due to their quick thinking and diligence, they saved numerous amounts of lives and averted a massacre.

In the Spring of 1778, another brutal attack on a family homestead occurred on the mouth of Wolf Creek, on New River. The attack was on the McKensey family who lived in a house on the property near the creek. Mr. McKensey, his wife, children (sons: Isaac, Henley & daughters: Sallie, Elizabeth, Margaret, Mary Anne, a baby) lived on the property with a housemaid/hired servant, Ms. Estridge. It was said that the settlers did not have land that had boundaries or fences in which to allow their stock (cows, horses, etc.) to wander and graze so they would put bells on the animals and let them roam. Well, the horses wandered off into the woods. Mr. McKensey figured the horses meant to head back to the place from which they had initially travelled from, Walker’s Creek. So Mr. McKensey took his older son, Isaac with him to search for their horses to bring them back home. When Mr. McKensey and his son had made it all the way to the top of Big Hill, they heard the sounds of gunfire in the valley below.  His younger son, Henley had been on the hill looking for a spot to plant sweet potatoes when the attack ensued. 

Woodcut of Indians Raiding a Fort
The Shawnee had waited until McKensey and his older son had left the area when they began their attack on the household. They first shot Henley, killing him. Then they made their way to the house and tried to enter. Sallie and Mrs. McKensey had tried to barricade the door, but the Indians still managed to push their way through. The first one, squeezed his head and arms through the door, trying to wiggle his way in, while Sallie reached for an axe and attacked him, severely wounding him. While that was taking place, another managed to push the door open and attempted to take Sallie as their prisoner. She gave up a good fight with him and in the end he drove a knife through her chest, killing her as well as Mrs. McKensey.


The hired servant, Ms. Estridge took the little girl Mary Anne and tried to hide in the shed. However, upon the little girls crying and whimpering, Estridge became fearful that the little girl’s noises would give up their hiding place. Trying to save herself, Estridge let the little girl go, who ran off scared and the Indians grabbed her, bashing her head into a door frame and crushing her skull. The saddest part of this story is the fact the Indians took the nursing infant, who was barely crawling, and attempted to scalp it alive. The record doesn’t state if it was a girl or boy, but that upon finding the bodies of his family, McKensey found his infant child alive, scalped and trying to nurse on it’s mother’s bloody corpse.

Two of McKensey’s daughters were unaccounted for, being that they had been kidnapped. During this ordeal the Indians managed to kill Philip Kavanah whom they had ran into on their way out of the area,  and they also captured Francis Denny. They brought their captives back with him to their village where the two girls Elizabeth and Margaret remained for nearly 18 years. After being traded between tribes and forcibly raped by the Chief, who wanted her to marry him, Margaret refused and kept the hope of one day escaping her captors. At one point Margaret was able to get a horse and attempted an escape. Her foster sister in the tribe told her she would defend her with her life, when she was caught by the Chief. Not willing to let Margaret go, the Chief told her that if she didn’t marry him, he would kill her. Margaret fought with him over a knife, when her foster sister attempted to intervene and told Margaret to hide. The fight between the girl and the Indian was brutal, although no one died from the incident. The Chief later left with other Indians and was killed in Wayne’s Battle. Later Margaret and Elizabeth managed to get free and returned home, never forgetting the trials and tribulations they faced in their early life.

There are so many more stories just like these that happened too often back then. I haven’t even touched on the incident at the Davidson-Bailey fort yet, which I will go into further in my next blog. Not only did the settlers have to face attacks and murders of their own families, but the settlers had to deal with the fact the Shawnee often stole their horses and ran them up to Canada and sold them as well.

You may wonder why I am so interested in telling these stories. Well, I must be honest, I am a truth seeker. I don’t like half-truths. I don’t like society blaming the European settlers on all the bad that took place in our history’s past, because that isn’t accurate. I read a letter that was addressed to the authorities of the time by the settlers in regards to the conditions in which they were living in, in the late 1700s.

The letter showed that these settlers did not come to this country with the idea they would have to deal with or fight off Indians. They left their native country with the promise of peace and freedom of practicing their Christian faith without fear of any sort of persecution. It was obvious that the settlers were thrown in the middle of the Governor and his authority and the anger the Natives felt towards the new visitors. Most of the settlers wanted nothing to do with any sort of fighting and even mentioned that they adhered to “rational, constitutional principles, pacific (meaning peaceful), steady and uniform conduct.” They go on to mention that when they  “crossed the Atlantic and explored wilderness”, starting their new lives in a new land, it only led them to experience “savages.. insistently…committing depredations” on them since their first settling in the Country. “These fatigues and dangers were patiently encountered, supported by the pleasing hope of enjoying these rights and liberties which had been granted to Virginians, and denied us in our Native Country.” 

 Basically, they stated that they fled their previous homeland with the hopes and false promises of a peaceful new life in a new land,  that they were told they would be allowed to live on in peace. The settlers came here, tricked on false pretenses of being “free” in every sense of the word, but the Government who built the colonies didn’t have their people’s best interest at heart at all. Nor did they care about the natives either, but it wasn’t the settlers fault. They were just as naïve about what was happening as much as the natives who didn’t understand why or where these new people were coming from.

Honestly, I feel badly for the people who came to America looking for a new life because they have been blamed for most of the atrocities that their Government was actually at fault for. Then in turn, the atrocities the Indians committed on the people was directed at settlers instead of the ones running the Government which is unfortunate as well. In the end, it seemed that the settlers received blows from both ends and received a very bad rap.   

In my next blog I will go into further detail of the Incident at the Davidson-Bailey Fort.

(Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications)

Sources:
American Archives, 4th Series, 1st Volume, Page 1166

A History of Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory
By David Emmons Johnston