Hexie and the Library Ladies
Yesterday I participated in one of the most unusual library programs I've been involved in. I found myself in Lower Turkeyfoot Township, at 1818 Humbert Road, by the entrance to PA Gamelands #111, for the dedication of a historical marker. The marker is part of the "Legends and Lore" historical marker program funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Center for Folklore at Penn State.
The marker notes the legend surrounding Hexebarger, AKA Hexie or Witches Hill. What a perfect subject for a marker dedication the week before Halloween! A total of 25 people gathered to witness the dedication and share stories about the area.
So how did a bunch of library ladies come to be involved in commemorating the Hexie legend? Last year, this Library Lady learned of a grant opportunity from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation to fund Legends and Lore historical markers. Being a fan of folklore, I pointed it out to library archivist, Jennifer Hurl. She, in turn, brainstormed with library volunteer Linda Marker about what legend might be a good fit for the program. Linda suggested the Hexie legend. Jen did some research about the legend, submitted an application to the Pomeroy Foundation, and the grant was awarded! The marker was ordered from Sewah Studios, which manufactures all the Pomeroy Foundation historical markers. When it arrived, it was installed by Terry Hackney and Jodi Burnsworth of Lens Creek Studios, (pictured below unveiling the marker) who donated their efforts to the project.
Why Hexie? Linda's mother grew up in Hexie, so Linda was very familiar with the legends. While Lower Turkeyfoot Township is actually in the Somerset County Library's service area (Upper Turkeyfoot is in ours), we are the designated local history/genealogy library in the Somerset County Federated Library System. The Turkeyfoot area is a part of the county that hasn't gotten a lot of attention from us, so it seemed appropriate to do a project there. Also, the legend fit the requirements for the grant, as there was adequate documentation that people had been sharing the story for years.
So what is the legend? For many years, there was a belief that witches were casting spells in the area. Many of the legends named Prissy Rugg as a reputed witch. Apparently Prissy was a nonconformist as far as women at the turn of the 19th century, dashing about on a white horse when most women would have been home doing housework. People believed that she was casting hexes as she rode. There were a number of factors that set Prissy apart from her neighbors as an "outsider," and therefore a target of suspicion. The legend says that after her death, mysterious horse hooves were heard when no horse was visible.
When we planned and announced the dedication, we had no idea what to expect in terms of whether people would come. We'd like to give a shout-out to Sandra Lepley of the Daily American, as several people who attended said they found out about the dedication from the article she wrote about it that was printed in the October 25 issue. In all, there were about 25 attendees, including several descendents of Prissy Rugg, including those pictured with the marker in the photo below.
It was a gorgeous October afternoon to be out in the country discussing the old legend, and other bits of area history with people who had ties to Hexie. Jennifer presided at the ceremony. She invited attendees to comment, and learned some new stories about the Hexie area. I recorded the dedication for our YouTube channel. You can view the event here: https://youtu.be/-BZjLFJwRs8
All in all, it was a great afternoon for Hexie and the Library Ladies and all who attended! (I can't help thinking, "Hexie and the Library Ladies" would be a dynamite name for a rock group!)