Henry W. (Henry Wharton) Shoemaker.

Juniata memories; legends collected in central Pennsylvania online

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not brought news that some members of a tribe from
the Susquehanna Valley were already at work slaugh-
tering the bison, the exodus to Aughwick Valley might
not have been so general. This was the final straw,
every Oneida able to stand the journey broke for the
eastern gates with unwonted alacrity, bowling the gate-
keepers aside with coarse jests or imprecations. Some
were able to procure canoes and barges for the journey,
while others rode on hurriedly constructed dog-rafts,
or raced along the banks. It was a frenzied, reckless
crowd that followed the course of the Juniata that
night !

The next day was the first day of the New Year,
when the ceremonies at the Standing Stone were al-


ways held. The morning dawned clear and cool,
without a cloud in the sky, but not a male Oneida ex-
cept the tiny boys and palsied old men remained in the
castle. Many women came out of their houses, as-
sembling in little groups, expressing surprise that the
time-honored ceremony was not taking place. But as
the day wore on, more of them discussed the prospects
of the buffalo hunt than the discarded religious exer-

Night fell, and the New Year had been ushered in
without the pageant, which after all no one missed. A
few of the very old feeble Indian braves, too decrepit
to leave their cabins, bemoaned the changed order, but
they were not worth listening to, so the young folks

At the hunting ground the Oneidas had arrived soon
enough to put the marauders from the Susquehanna to
rout before they had killed many bison. Before they
began the big slaughter, they killed many of the in-
truding Indians and burned their bodies in a heap.
Then they began the butchery, killing the buffaloes
right and left. This slaughter continued until they had
put an end to all the mature bulls and cows and a
goodly proportion of calves. The rest were let go to
carry on the race for the next years' hunt. Then came
the carnival of skinning, of drying the hides, of curing
the meat. It went on while the creek ran red with the
drainage from the gory work.

Weeks passed before the last Oneida was back at
the castle and took up the thread of the old existence.


The ceremonies at the Standing Stone were forgotten,
life went on for a time as if there had never been such
a sacred rite. But there soon set in a marked moral
deterioration, life without religions could not be other-
wise than unmoral. Justice, truth, honor, became mis-
nomers. Disease and degeneracy v/ere everywhere
apparent. Pleasure and indolence became the only
gods. Many manly pastimes fell into disrepute, even
the chase was considered too great an effort.

It was on the first anniversary of the abandonment
of the sacred exercises at the Standing Stone that a
terrible pestilence broke out among the Oneidas. It
was a vile skin disorder like a leprosy, and no medicine
man in the tribe was able to cope with it. The Indians,
old and young, "died like flies," yet no one thought to
seek divine interference. So great was the power of
caste and clannishness that none of the redmen cared
to bury the dead. The putrifying corpses lay about in
the basilica and alleys, or were piled against the stock-
ades. Vast flocks of buzzards, ravens and other
noxious birds feasted off the remains, the air resound-
ing, especially in the night time with their weird cries.

Among the handful of Indians who managed to
escape the plague was one very young brave, of no
particular elevation of birth, named Wahoorah. Bom
in an obscure corner of the Juniata country, he some-
how or other held firmly to the old ideals and religious
practices of his race. He was able to witness the
failure of medicine and black art in curing the awful
scourge, he saw the danger of the quick extermination


of his people, he reasoned out but one cure, a return
to the ancient landmarks. Yet his counsels were
brushed aside, even by dying men. The course of the
tribe was forward, through different channels, the past
was dead, the Standing Stone superfluous, all held.
But Wahoorah felt that he had a mission, he must save
his race at any cost.

Gathermg together a fragment of the tribe, mostly
aged men, old women, young women and children, he
persuaded them to arrange for the removal of the
stone to a new locality to the north. Though he held
no official position in the tribe, and was lacking in in-
fluential friends, there was no one who interposed any
objection to his proposal to carry the stone away.

On the second anniversary of the abandonment of
the ancient rites he appeared before the stone, accom-
panied by his devoted little band. Somewhere he had
found the hammer and chisel which the priests of old
had used to carve the records of the tribe on the sacred
stone. Watched only by his followers, he boldly pro-
ceeded to cut the following records on the shaft. First
he carved, "Year of the abandonment of the sacred
rites. Result: Pestilence, Deterioration, Sorrow."
"First anniversary of the abandonment of rites. Death
rate growing steadily higher." "Second anniversary,
Wahoorah and his followers remove stone to the

So absorbed were the tribesmen in their own petty
concerns that no one except his followers took the
trouble to read the new carvings, which were in hiero-


glyphic form, the Oneidas having no written language.
After the signs had been placed on the stone, Wahoo-
rah signaled to the most agile of his disciples to pry the
stone loose from its foundations. Crowbars and picks
were used with a will, with the result that the huge
shaft was soon swaying in its gravelly foundations.
Wahoorah held the stone in place while his followers
got ready to drop it into a net basket in which it was
to be dragged overland to the north. While so en-
gaged he failed to notice the approach of the titular
chief of the Oneidas, young He-Hu-Ti-Dan. Aroused
from a sick bed by the noise in the market place, he
had dragged his corruption-covered body to the scene
of Wahoorah's activities. With a voice cracked and
broken, in a high falsetto key, he ordered the saintly
Indian to let the sacred stone alone. His queer voice
shrieking from the silence so suddenly caused Wahoo-
rah to turn his head. As he did so his hands slipped
and the Standing Stone, loose at its foundations, fell
to the earth with a crash and was shattered into a hun-
dred pieces.

This was too much for He-Hu-Ti-Dan. Raising
his staff, he sought to smite Wahoorah and send him
reeling among the wreckage. But the young warrior
dodged the blow, and the chieftain plunged forward,
falling in a heap in his long gown like a bag of old
bones. There he lay until Wahoorah turned him over
on his back, finding him dead. Kicking him out of the
way as he would a mass of filth, Wahoorah ordered his
followers to gather together the pieces of the sacred


stone and place them in the net. Then he told his band
that he was ready to start to the north, to a new land;
that all who wished to leave behind the enervation and
sinfulness of the castle and help carve out a new des-
tiny could do so.

Every member of his party old and young elected
to go with him, and toward the mysterious north they
wended their way that day at sundown. They had
barely disappeared into the blackness of the forest
when a band of hardy Tuscaroras from the South en-
tered the castle gates. They had heard of the plight
of their relatives, had come to their assistance, bearing
supplies and accompanied by wise men and medicine
men. They were shocked to find the Standing Stone
gone and the town depopulated except for a few sick
men. From a dying savage they learned the story of
the ravages of the pestilence, of Wahoorah's fruitless
efforts to effect a renaissance, of his tragedy and de-
parture. Despite valiant efforts, the proud castle of
the Oneidas became a city of the dead in a few days.
The medicines and spells of the Tuscaroras availed
not, for every Oneida passed away.

The Tuscaroras decided not to remain in the fair
valley of the Juniata. They feared they might become
afflicted with the foul malady. Thus the site of Stand-
ing Stone Town remained untenanted save for the tem-
porary^ camps of wandering hunters for two centuries.
At length a permanent settlement of Tuscaroras was
made on the spot, and one of the first acts of these
settlers was to hew out a new Standing Stone, to con-


tain their sacred records. With reverent hands it was
erected on the site of the ancient stone, and for years
it recorded the worthy annals of a noble race. As if
to atone for the remissness of their relatives, the Tus-
caroras tended this stone most tenderly. And in so
doing they won for themselves prosperity and happi-
ness. And they m.ight have remained indefinitely at
their beautiful home had it not been for the news of
the arrival of a white-skinned race of people in their
neighborhood. With this news came a vision to their
wisest man, old Pa-Tek-Kwa, that they must remove
the stone and migrate to the north. In this vision was
portrayed the greatness of the remnant of the Oneidas
who had long before followed Wahoorah out of the
Juniata country; this destiny would follow the Tusca-
roras on their northerly pilgrimage. Abundance would
be theirs in the North.

So carefully, fully as carefully as they set it up, the
chiefs and wise men took down the Standing Stone,
and followed it to the North. In order not to arouse
too much curiosity from the white men the stone was
taken down at night, and the northerly journey com-
menced, unlighted even by rays of the moon.

A few days afterward when a party of white sur-
veyors reached the site of the town they were surprised
to find it deserted, and strangest of all to find the stone,
which they had marked as a "corner" in their note-
books, chief among the missing. But they pitched
their cam.ps where the ancient relic had stood, and
among themselves resolved to erect another stone in its


place as a permanent "corner." One of their number,
Andrew Clugage, was able to hew out of the stiff flint
a "stone" which seemed the counterpart of its prede-
cessors. And when it was being put in place some
wandenng Indians appeared on the scene, Indians of
venerable mien, who had retentive memories, and they
retailed the history of past Standing Stones. And they
made the prophecy that as long as a stone stood on
the spot and was treated with respect, prosperity and
happiness would fall to the lot of all who dwelt near
at hand. For was not the first stone the gift of the
Gitchie-Manitto himself?

And for some reason there always has been a stone
on view at Huntingdon, the Standing Stone Town of
romance and history. There is one now in a small
public park near the center of the town. Nature has
truly lavished all her gifts upon those who have lived
near it, prospent}', happiness, contentment, and power
have all been dealt out with a bountiful hand, and the
old story stretching back into the vistas of dim antiquity
has not been forgotten. The historian, the poet, the
orator, as well as the humble narrator of legends have
all faithfully striven to keep its memory green.




MANY have been the explanations advanced for
the name "Warrior's Ridge," that bold, cren-
elated range which bisects the "Blue Juniata"
below^ Petersburg. All of the reasons adduced are more
or less true, for it was the home of a warrior race for
generations; its whole formation suggests the camp;
the famed "Pulpit Rocks" are like the battlements of
some ancient fortress. But the Indian with whom the
mountain range was most intimately connected in the
early settler days was Iron Elk, or He-Ha-Ka-Maza,
a Shawnee of matchless courage, rare audacity, and
deepest cunning. It was he who announced one after-
noon, while standing on the highest point of the ridge,
that no white settlers or traders should dare penetrate
further west; Warrior's Ridge would be the barrier
between the two races.

For several years he managed to make good his
threat, and many were the scalps he accumulated while
so. doing. His reputation for bravery becoming spread
about by the savage gossips, it was not long before he
was followed by a band of bloodthirsty young Indians,
who emulated not only his deeds, but his very gestures


and tone of voice. He practiced his cruel acts so
stealthfully, and in so many divergent localities along
the barrier ridge that the crimes were not attributed to
one band by the authorities at Philadelphia and Harris'
Ferry. A trader could not be murdered one night
near McConnellstown and a family butchered a few
hours later at the head of Shaver's Creek by the same
band; it was a physical impossibility, declared those
in control. But nevertheless it was Iron Elk and his
cohorts who committed each and every foul deed, run-
ning like wolves through the night along paths only
known to themselves, which connected the entire range
by a network of communication. Many a murder at-
tributed to other bands of Indians was in reality the
work of Iron Elk or his followers; history has slighted
this notorious redskin as an arch-murderer. How long
he would have continued his wicked course, or the
awful total of scalps he might have collected, is a mat-
ter of conjecture, had not a strange thing happened
to him.

Hardened wretch that he was, foe of the white race
that he professed to be, he fell in love with a settler's
daughter. This pioneer, whose name was Jasper
Troxel, had migrated from the Blue Mountain coun-
try, from the banks of the Ontelaunee, to try his for-
tunes on a triangular plot of ground which lay between
Muddy Run and Laurel Run, near their confluence,
in what is now Huntingdon County. He was not
afraid of Indians, and as proof of his courage had
brought his wife and ten children — nine of them were


girls — as his companions in the wilderness. He was
able to make his clearing, build his house and plant his
first crop of buckwheat before he saw his first redskin
— and that one came on a friendly errand, at least so
he thought.

One evening in the first part of September, after a
busy day's work, the pioneer sat with his family on
the doorstep, resting and reflecting over the day's
labors. Such was their feeling of security that the
rifles and muskets were left inside of the house. It was
a quiet evening, warm for that time of the year, and
the sun lingered on the white trunks of the girdled yel-
low pines in the valley seemingly longer than usual.
The thoughts of the entire family were far from In-
dians, consequently great was their surprise to see a tall
redskin, attired in a scarlet cloak and a red cap, emerge
from the forest on the eastern. side of the tiny clearing.
As if trying to prove the innocence of his intentions, he
carried no gun, his long arms waved idly at his sides
from under the vivid-hued cloak. He advanced toward
the frontier family seated on their doorstep, a smile
playing about his wide, thin-lipped mouth. Though
the younger children had never beheld an Indian be-
fore, for some unaccountable reason they were not
afraid, but open-eyed watched his approach.

Jasper Troxel could not understand the reason for
the redman's visit, and would have been more amazed
had he known that the stranger was none other than
the murderous Iron Elk. Yet less than twelve hours
before this same Indian had approached the little clear-


mg with murder in his heart. With primed rifle he
had neared the edge of the farm intent on shooting
down the hardy pioneer as he toiled in his field. But
he had paused before making his desire a reahty upon
seeing the settler's eldest daughter, pretty little Carrie
Troxel. The sight of this girl of eighteen had changed
him in an instant from a would-be murderer to an ar-
dent lover, determined to win by fair means rather than

He had dismissed his henchmen, retired to his fa-
vorite cave for meditation, and then sallied forth in
the late afternoon to make the acquaintance of the
Troxel family after the manner of a gentleman. In
order to explain his presence he said that he had sev-
eral knives which needed sharpening, and that he un-
derstood there was a good grindstone at the farmhouse.
He gave his name, He-Ha-Ka-Maza, which conveyed
nothing to the settlers, whereas all would have shud-
dered had he announced himself as Iron Elk. He
spoke Dutch like a native, and soon was able to in-
gratiate himself into the confidences of the family.
Tall, lithe, with keen grey eyes that were larger than
those of most Indians and possessed of a winning smile,
there was nothing about him that suggested the ma-
rauder or murderer.

He sat with the family until dark, artfully managing
to direct most of his conversation to the pretty daugh-
ter Carrie, who was self-possessed and much older in
manner than many of her age. Then he left, after
promising to return the next day with his knives. He


made such an excellent impression that the almost in-
evitable family council of war was not held after his
departure; nothing sinister was suspected of him; he
was declared to be a "friendly Indian," and an un-
commonly attractive one.

The afternoon following, true to his promise, the
strange Indian returned with his packet of knives.
Carrie was so little afraid of him that he contrived to
have her turn the grindstone, for in a family where
there were so many girls, all were used to various kinds
of work. And as he polished off the blades of his
knives, knives that had reeked in human blood, he all
the while smiled down at the pretty little pioneer girl
with her big blue eyes, her fine aquiline nose, her plump
face framed with wavy ash-brown hair, her graceful
and winsome figure. Unconsciously the girl felt an
attraction for the big savage, such as she had never
known for any man before. In fact in her isolated life
she had previously only known one man whom she
cared to meet a second time. This man was Jimmy
MacGiffert, a young Scotch-Irish boy with grey eyes
and a shock of stiff red hair, who lived at the foot of
the mountains east of McAlevy's Fort, and who occa-
sionally visited the Troxel clearing. But he was a shy
lad, had never made decided advances, or showed that
he preferred her to her sisters; he was merely a pass-
ing admirer, she thought. But the Indian in fluent
Pennsylvania Dutch complimented her, a thing that
had never been done to her before, as in the stern life
on the frontier no time was wasted in any household


on "soft speeches." She had heard herself called
pretty for the first time in her life, and it sounded good
to her empty soul. Intensely grateful was she to the
Indian for making her feel that she was of some con-
sequence, that apart from her ability to perform her
share of the family tasks, some one cared for her. She
liked the redman immensely by the time the last knife
was sharpened. And with the sharpening of that last
knife Iron Elk felt that he had ground away all traces
of his sanguinary past. He might have murdered all
the Troxels except Carrie, and carried her off into the
forest; it would have been easy, yet somehow the sight
of her had aroused emotions so different that he scarcely
recognized his old self. After promising to return with
some beaver and otter hides as payment for the favor
accorded, the big Indian took his leave, regretted by all
the family, who at supper unanimously resolved here-
after not to believe all the bad they heard of the sav-

The next evening at sundown Iron Elk was back
again with a big pack of hides, which he threw down
on the doorstep unconcernedly, and chatted with all
the family until dark, when he took his departure.
After that he visited the i roxel family every few days.
He became on easy footing with them all, was allowed
to talk freely with Carrie, and even to take little walks
with her to the spring, which was in the forest just
beyond the edge of the clearing.

On one occasion Jimmy MacGiffert stopped at the
Troxel home for dinner. Shy as he was, he had al-


ways tried to talk with Carrie, but on this day she
seemed more distant than ever. Before he left he tried
to recall to her an incident when she had met him at
the spring, one day the year before, and had punched
the first syllable of his last name "Mac" with a sharp
stick in a big paw-paw leaf, and had thrown it in the
spring to float about like a little boat — the craft that
bore his happiness. But she seemed to forget about
this early act of sentiment and he went away heavy
hearted. Yet after he was gone, her love nature
awakened by Iron Elk, Carrie felt secretly elated
that she possessed a second lover. She now knew
that men cared for her, which made life well worth

Gradually the Indian lover became more personal
in his conversation. He was unfolding the story of
his love until he might come to the page which revealed
his hope to have her all his own One evening when
she had accompanied him as far as the spring, where
she was to get a bucket of water, the redman gently
enfolded her in his arms, and with a voice choked with
emotion told her the whole story in more or less co-
herent Shawnee and Dutch. Carrie leaned her frow-
selled tawny head against his capacious breast, affirm-
ing his love, yet fearful of the consequences. She was
anxious to marry him, yet dreaded to break the news
to her parents, who always regarded the Indian as a
"family friend." As a possible son-in-law he might
not be so acceptable. She was so slow in answering
that Iron Elk divined her reticence.


"Come with me now, to-night, then there will be no
explanations to make, no time lost."

In answer Carrie pressed her soft face close against
his breast. In another instant they were wending their
way together along the path which led m the direction
of the eastern mountains.

When, half an hour later, Carrie's absence was com-
mented upon, Jasper Troxel was equally decisive.
Bringing forth his brace of bear dogs, he strapped them
together, and holding them on leash, proceeded to fol-
low them into the wilderness. His only son, a boy of
ten years of age, bearing a torch of rich pine, followed
the procession.

As he parted from his wife at the spring he mut-
tered, "It was a foolish thing to let that Indian have the
run of this place, but mark my word, I'll have Carrie
back or Iron Elk's scalp on my belt by morning."

He presented a formidable appearance as, carrying
his rifle in his left hand and with the dogs dragging
him by the leash in the right, he disappeared into the
gloom. All night long he followed the trail, sometimes
seemingly coming very close to the runaways. At such
times his hopes ran very high. In the morning he ar-
rived at the Juniata — it was much swollen by the fall
rains — near where the city of Lewistown now stands.
There the dogs lost the scent at an old Indian landing.
It was clear to the distracted father that the girl had
boarded or been placed in a canoe, and taken away.
There was nothing left but to turn homewards, a sadly
disillusioned man.


While wandering along disconsolately whom should
he meet but Carrie's silent admirer, Jimmy MacGiffert.
Of course the heartsick pioneer unfolded his story to
him. Did the girl go willingly or unwillingly? Mac-
Giffert, his anger and jealousy aroused, was instantly
sympathetic. Leaning his rifle against a tree, he an-
nounced that he was ready to hunt down the villainous
Indian, and rescue the girl. As a hint for his speedy
departure, Jasper Troxel told of how suddenly the girl
had vanished.

"I am ready to go now," said MacGiffert, shoulder-
ing his rifle again. "I was starting for the East on a
moose hunt, but I much prefer trailing a low-blooded

A.S the young man knew the ways and the haunts
of the Indians, and was animated by malice and un-
requited love, he was just the person to start on the
man hunt.

"She will come back as my wife," said the youth
with a grim smile. "I don't think you would object
to me as son-in-law."

"Not in the least. You are just the man for her,"
replied Troxel. "I did not want the girl to marry for
a year or two, until I got my plantation cleared, but
since she seems determined to marry some one, she

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Online LibraryHenry W. (Henry Wharton) ShoemakerJuniata memories; legends collected in central Pennsylvania → online text (page 15 of 25)