Yankee Classic: Ghost Town
The period I have in mind was the time when immigrants came into the valley and opened a vein of copper which extended back into the hills. There on the shores of a lake overgrown with brushwood, one may still see the workings with its piles of slag, and the deep surface pits from which this valuable metal was extracted. The mule trails are still traversed by the curious who have little faith in the superstitions
of the neighborhood. At the foot of the trail still stand the skeletons of more than fifty houses.
Officials of a mining company had sent their engineers in to select a site which would prove suitable for the erection of a town. Thousands of dollars were spent in laying out the project, and a small tram was
introduced for the twofold purpose of bringing out the ores to the river and for transporting the workers from the nearest ferry to the small municipality. A community store was stocked and everything was in readiness for the miners and their families to move in. There were two
hundred persons including the women and children.
Old records tell us, and ancient residents of the nearby towns have attested to the details, that while the preliminary surveys were getting under way, the construction was beset by many and unusual difficulties.
As the first foundations were being laid, an Indian was seen to be haunting the neighborhood by night. On the following mornings the excavations were found filled in. Though watchmen were set at night, no one was able to describe how the day’s work was undone. Later several Indians showed themselves in the workings by daylight.
In the wake of these strange visitations lumber would be found burning, and timbers split in manner unbecoming good building materials. At other times it was reported that kegs of nails and barrels of supplies suddenly would break themselves wide open and spread their contents upon the ground. What had been scheduled for completion in three months took the greater part of a year.
Finally, each night a roof would be removed from a finished house in the town; cleanly and completely it would disappear from over the heads of its tenants, leaving neither a splinter nor a broken slate to indicate in what direction nor by what forces it had been spirited away. One of my informants maintains to this day that he twice saw a huge black cloud gather on the horizon where the pine trees showed themselves
against the blue of the sky, and in the form of a great tawny hand pass its fingers down the valley until it engulfed the superstructures of a building.
Conditions grew steadily worse after the immigrants moved in, and the nocturnal visits occurred more and more frequently. Indians were seen here and there throughout the settlement with but one exception. There was but one place in the village where they never had appeared, and that was in the plot of ground occupied by the tiny church, perched on a slight rise of ground to the north of town.
The pastor of the little flock began to feel that he might be able to learn some things regarding these disturbances if he could meet one of the intruders, and he at once moved into the home of one of his parishioners who had reported these occurrences most frequently. He had not long to wait, for during his second night there a marauder entered the gate-yard and the pastor challenged him.
The exact words which were exchanged are not a matter of record, but the following day the minister had the church bell tolled and the people assembled. He said that the Indian explained the village had been built over an old burial ground of his tribe. In this cemetery there were the remains of many important chiefs who returned every night and sent him and other braves to warn the white man against building his “cave-of-many-rooms” over their sacred ground.
He said that he was told to advise the white intruders to take their town to another location lest the Great Hand of the Evil Spirit descend from the mountain where the sun rises and remove all who remained, even as it had taken the roofs from off their houses.