Who Haunts Sliding Hill?

Salt furnaces. Coal mines. A beautiful river. And a murder.

Sliding Hill, located in Mason County, West Virginia, has been the site of all of the above.

Sliding Hill is located between the towns of New Haven and Mason, not far from the community of Hartford. Today it is a quiet little place; most residents of the area probably work at the nearby power plant. But in its heyday this stretch of the Ohio River was teeming with people and excitement.

The towns of New Haven and Hartford were named, as you may have guessed, by settlers and entrepreneurs who came to the valley of the Ohio from Connecticut, and named the new settlements after their old homes. In 1856 salt works were built in the area. 

photo of the Jackson Salt Works, from http://www.wvgenweb.org/mason/hartford/hart.html

Processing the salt required coal to fuel the furnaces, so coal mining also became a big industry. With the location of Mason county on the Ohio River, shipment of the salt via steamboat was an easy affair, and the coming of the railroad in the 1880's expedited exports even more. Dairy farming became a growing industry in the rich river bottoms as well. 

In 1774 a major battle in Lord Dunmore's War occurred at Point Pleasant, VA (now West Virginia). This battle officially drove the Native Americans back across the Ohio River, although raids continued for years after the Treat of Camp Charlotte was signed. 

One of the stories about the haunting of Sliding Hill is loosely connected to the fort at Point Pleasant (Fort Randolph). According to this story, an army paymaster was making his way along the river to the fort, carrying with him a quantity of gold with which to pay the soldiers at the fort. A gang of robbers set upon the paymaster and killed him. Hearing soldiers approaching, the thieves quickly left the area, after first hiding the body and burying the gold. Legend has it that the gold was never recovered, and that the area is haunted by the ghost of a man walking along the road.

A dark spot along the road. "Perfect place for a murder," was Jared's comment.
Sliding Hill Creek, a little muddy after all the recent rain.
Two things in this story seem odd to me: first, that the paymaster should have been traveling alone. Surely in those dangerous times, when attacks by Indians were common and the route was a lonely one, there would have been at least one other man with the paymaster. Second, how in the world would there have been time to hide a body and bury the gold? Why would they have buried the gold anyway, if they had time enough to get away? 

The second story of a haunt in the Sliding Hill area was reported in this old newspaper article:

This version, the murder of early settlers who were traveling by canoe and stopped to camp on the riverbank, makes more sense to me, although the statement that they had "much gold" with them seems odd. Why would one carry a lot of gold into the wilderness? Still, it could have been true. It seems unlikely, however, that the robbers would not have come back for the rest of the gold. With so few people in the area, what would have prevented them from recovering it? 

Whichever version is the true story, the belief that an area along the road by Sliding Hill is haunted seems to have been well established. And the sightings reported sound frightening indeed. I suppose we will never know the truth of the story, who was killed and when or by whom.

I wonder, are the ghosts described as horrific haunts on Sliding Hill still wandering, or have they settled gently into their graves after all these years? 

I suppose I will never know the answer to that, either. Only the river would know, and she's not talking.

Thinking of Christmas

We may be sweltering in August heat, but Christmas is on my mind. I even ate some of last year's incredible fruitcake last night! But I am already thinking and planning stories for the upcoming holiday season. 

Consider hosting a house concert as a different form of entertainment for your holiday guests. How about a presentation of carols and songs about the folklore and history of the season's greenery? Or a family-focused program of memories of a childhood growing up with an English mother who brought her traditions to America with her? Or perhaps stories about the "other" Santa Claus figures? Contact me and we'll get to work planning something special!

New CD Now Available!

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest CD, Idy Mae's Full Moon and Other Stories and Songs.

The CD has stories from my husband's childhood in a West Virginia coal camp along with tall tales and songs. It's guaranteed entertainment for the whole family.

You may buy directly from me, or wait a few days and it will also be available on CDBaby and Amazon. Price is $15.00 (with free shipping if you buy from me!) Just click on this link to my other blog, Granny Sue's News and Reviews, and click on the Buy Now button on the right, or email me at susannaholstein@yahoo.com and I can send you particulars.

Another CD of ghost stories is in the works and should be ready for release in about 6 weeks, so stay tuned!

Appalachian Ohio Storytelling Workshop

Mix a quaint little community with a bunch of storytellers and what do you get? A fun, entertaining, and exciting opportunity to learn and meet others with like interests!

Register now for Saturday, April 7, for the Appalachian Ohio Storytelling Project's Storyteller's Workshop. I'll be there presenting a session called Developing Your Story for the Stage. 

If you have wondered what it takes to move confidently in front of an audience with a story you really want to share, this is for you.

If you've been telling a long time and feel the need to recharge, this is for you.

If you make presentations to groups, this is for you.

If you've never told a story, this is for you.

This full day includes a session with storyteller Ken Bowald, certified interpretative guide instructor and storyteller, who was also named as 2012 Ohio Outstanding Educator by the Project Learning Tree (PLT) International Conference. Ken does living history characters, environmental storytelling and will share his knowledge of interpretive storytelling with attendees.

Two meals are included in the registration fee.

Here is the schedule for the day:

08:30 - 09:00 Registration, Coffee and Cinnamon buns
09:00 - 10:15 Interpretive Methodology for the Storyteller
presenter - Ken Bowald
10:15 - 10:30 Break
10:30 - Noon Developing Your Story for Telling, and Taking It To
The Stage
presenter - Granny Sue Holstein
Noon - 01:00 Lunch - provided
01:00 - 02:00 Promoting Your Event - Round Table discussion
led by Thomas Burnett of The Applachian Ohio
Storrytelling Project
02:00 - 02:15 Break
02:15 - 05:00 Rehearsal, Critique and Individual Coaching
Ken and Granny Sue
05:00 Supper - provided
Registration cost - $25
07:00 - 09:00 Open Concert of Tellers - included for workshop
registrants - $5 for public, kids under 12 free

Contact information:
2754 Lottridge Rd, Guysville, OH 45735
Contact us at (740) 331-0432

Registration form: https://goo.gl/forms/arTj7lCEnuQU2oDF2

Hope to see you there!

Celtic Stories: Coming Soon!

Image may contain: sky, grass, plant, outdoor and nature
Coming next week! 
Celtic legends and lore. Stories, songs, and folklore with me 

and fellow storyteller Judi Tarowsky. 

 Tales of ghosts,

Magical creatures,

selkies and sea people,

the folklore of stones,

tales of days of old,

 and more!

Many Appalachians trace their heritage back to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. 

Come listen to the stories and sing along with the ancient ballads that traveled across the sea with our forebears. 

Meet the Mari Lwyd, and go back to the time of selkies, fairies, broonies and more. 

Tuesday, March 20th, 6:30pm Parkersburg Public Library,3100 Emerson Ave, Parkersburg, WV.

The Great Bend of the Ohio River: Fact and Folkloremap from city-data

According to local lore and the State of West Virginia historical marker on Route 2, there is a perfectly good reason for the Great Bend in the Ohio River. It seems that Paul Bunyan, when faced with West Virginia's hilly terrain, decided to just give it a miss and stepped over the whole state. But he misjudged the distance and put his heel down at the western edge of the river, causing the Great Bend to form. And you know it's true because it's carved in cast iron on that historical marker.

Map from city-data.com

The Great Bend is not far from my home, about 10 miles, I'd guess, as the crow flies, and 16 miles by th shortest driveable route. There used to be a scenic overlook there but the undergrowth now blocks the view. I sure wish an Eagle Scout or civic group would take on the care of the site, because it really is a spectacular view.
George Washington camped just above the Great Bend at the present site of Ravenswood, and also a couple miles below the Bend, according to his journal. His description of this part of the river:
"29th.- The tedious ceremony, which the Indians observe in their counsellings and speeches, detained us till nine o’clock. Opposite to the creek, just below which we encamped, is a pretty long bottom, and I believe tolerably wide; but about eight or nine miles below the aforementioned creek, and just below a pavement of rocks on the west side, comes in a creek, with fallen timber at the mouth, on which the Indians say there are wide bottoms and good land. The river bottoms above, for some distance, are very good, and continue so for near half a mile below the creek. The pavement of rocks is only to be seen at low water. About a mile below the mouth of the creek there is another pavement of rocks on the east side, in a kind of sedgy ground. 
"On this creek are many buffaloes, according to the Indians’ account. Six miles below this comes in a small creek on the west side, at the end of a small, naked island, and just above another pavement of rocks. This creek comes through a bottom of fine land, and opposite to it, on the east side of the river, appears to be a large bottom of very fine land also. At this place begins what they call the Great Bend. 
"Two miles below, on the east side, comes in another creek, just below an island, on the upper point of which are some dead standing trees, and a parcel of white-bodied sycamores; in the mouth of this creek lies a sycamore blown down by the wind. From hence an east line may be run three or four miles; thence a north line till it strikes the river, which I apprehend would include about three or four thousand acres of valuable land. At the mouth of this creek is the warriors’ path to the Cherokee country. For two miles and a half below this the Ohio runs a north-east course, and finishes what they call the Great Bend. Two miles and a half below this we encamped."

So, How Did You Do?

Did you try yesterday's quiz? How well did you do?

Here are the answers, according to the Handy Book:

1. As poor as....a churchmouse
2. As thin as....a rail
3. As brown as....a nut
4. As stiff as...a board
5. As busy as..a bee.
6. As ugly as...sin
7. As red as...a beet
8. As bitter as...gall
9. As flat as...a pancake
10. As neat as...a pin.

There are many other fun word games in this little book, along will all kinds of games. I can imagine a teacher keeping The Handy Book handy on her desk for rainy days or those days when something new is needed to keep children interested.