Chapter XIX

Manners And Customs.

 

atoned murder that nature would not permit to be effaced. Sometimes a swaggering braggart would declare that as he rode along the White Horse level, on the Queen's Highway, tbrough Ridley, he had encountered the ghost of Luke Nethermarke, who, about the middle of the last century, in galloping his horse at night amid the storm and the darkness as he hastened homeward, rode into a tree which had been blown down by the gale and was killed; while others would tell the story of the phantom sentinel, who, when an English vessel of war was lying off Tinicum during the British occupation of Philadelphia, was stationed to walk post over one of the boats sent ashore with a foraging party, was shot and killed by the Whigs in the neighborhood, and whose spectre annually reappears on the anniversary of the night on which he was slain. Sometimes the tradition was of Moggey,1 who refused to rest quietly in her grave; of the phantom white steed and rider, who dashed semi-occasionally on dark and stormy nights through the streets of Chester; of the murdered peddler at Munday's Run, who showed the ragged cut in his brawny throat; or the slain woman who made the archway of the old granary at Chester a spot to be avoided after dusk; while the mere school-lads in the vicinity of Chester would tell of the evil spirit, a caco-demon,2 who inhabited the cellar of the old school house at Welsh and Fifth Streets. swam across the river, and procured a gun and hid himself beside a log about a mile from the old ferry-house. His master, while hunting for him, approached his place of concealment and shot him, his blood bespattering the green leaves of a holly-bush near where he stood. The leaves of a holly-bush still growing there are flecked with crimson spots, as is alleged, from some supernatural cause. There is no doubt of the red spots being on the leaves of the holly-bush, but they are caused by some peculiarity of the soil in which it grows." - Johnson's History of Cecil County, Md., p. 200.

1 "The site of Knowlton, up to the year 1800, was a perfect wilderness. Near the head gates of the mill there was formerly the mark of a grave the occupant of which tradition named Moggey, and from that circumstance the crossing of the creek was named Moggey's Ford. As Moggey had the reputation of making her appearance occasionally, it required no little courage in the traveler in early times to cross the ford at night." - Dr. Smith's History of Delaware County, p. 399.

2 Sketches of Public Schools of Chester, by W. B. Broomall, Delaware County Republican.

Sometimes the stories would relate to money buried along the shores of the Delaware and its tributary streams by pirates, who had slain a comrade or a captive that the murdered man should guard the blood-stained treasure ever from all save the hands of those who had sold themselves to perdition for the accursed gold. I can remember as a lad how some of the old people told me as a truth the adventures of three men from the neighborhood of Chester, who strove to obtain a hidden treasure buried on the river-shore on Laws' or Jeffery's farm (I do not remember the exact location); how they dug in silence until the top of a large iron box thickly covered with bosses was uncovered; how one of the men in the exuberance of his joy spoke, and the box sank out of sight, amid heavy thunder, which growled and muttered overhead, and strange lights which flashed and danced through the darkness as the disappointed men hastened away. This was only one of the number of narratives of treasure-diggers in various locations, while along Chester and Ship Creek, Darby and Marcus Hook Creeks, many places were designated where treasures had been buried. The belief in witchcraft had not died out absolutely thirty years ago, for a case occurred in this county wherein charms were used to thwart the evil eye of an old woman, whom it was believed had cast a spell over the cattle of a person of the same township; and the myth of the divining rod was accepted as true by many persons. Samuel Breck, as late as 1820, states that Alexander Wilson, a Quaker preacher, was noted as possessing "the gift of finding water with a divining rod."3

3 Breck's "Recollections," p. 303.

Snake stories then as now were much relished by the rustic populace, and awakened general interest. William Moraley4 relates that "In a Wood near a Place called Ophoginomy (Appoquinimink, New Castle Co., Del.), I espied a Snake lying in a Pathway; endeavoring to shun it by going out of the Road, I accidentally trod upon another, which immediately twined itself about my Right Leg and squeezed it so hard that I was afraid it would have broken. After I had stood sometime, expecting to be bit, the snake dropped upon the Ground and I came off unhurt. I viewed it and found I had tread upon the Head, which prevented its Biting. I look'd upon this as a Mercy, and return'd Thanks to the Author of Good for my Deliverance. It was a Horn Snake, Six Foot Long."

4 "The Voyages and Adventures of William Moraley," written by himself. Newcastle (England), 1743.

The latter statement, of course, brings Moraley's adventure within the line of snake stories, for most persons of the present day would believe he saw a unicorn, if he said so, as readily as they do that he saw a horn (?) snake. But Capt. Heinrichs of the Yager Corps, in 1778,5 writing from Philadelphia to friends in Germany, records a snake story that fills the measure to overflowing. He says, "There is nothing more terrible than the big rattlesnake, which is from twelve to sixteen feet long, and which, as it is believed here, kills at its glance. A countryman in my quarters lost a relative of his in this way some years ago. He had gone hunting, and seeing a bear standing still, aimed at and shot it; scarcely had he reached the bear when he too was obliged to stand motionless, remaining thus awhile, fell and died; all this was caused by a rattlesnake, which was perched in a high tree."

5 Penna. Mag. of Hist., vol. i. p. 43.

Marriages. - Governor Printz recognizes the Biblical injunction in his report for 1647 6 to the West India Company, wherein he set forth the wants in the infant colony of certain skilled labor, adding, "All these are of great necessity here, and, above all, a

6 Ib., vol. vii. p. 276.

 

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