It was good to see many of you at the York Daily Record’s Unraveling York County History event last week. For those of you who didn’t make it, the theme this year was “Weird York.” The YDR bloggers each did two stories.
My first tale was “The Ghost of Margaretta Furnace,” which I will recap here. My main source was a piece written by historian/covered wagon expert Howard C. Frey for The Pennsylvania Dutchman (later Pennsylvania Folklife) in 1953.
The Slaymaker family’s Margaretta Furnace, just west of East Prospect in Lower Windsor Township, started producing iron in the late 1820s. Besides the furnace and foundry, a village of workers houses, a store, a mill and even a church, were quickly established there. The large ironmaster’s house and two huge stone barns are about the only remnants today.
Many years later, after the Slaymakers were gone, a character by the name of Spoonie Gohn lived in the neighborhood. Spoonie liked to drink with his friends a bit and sometimes, on his way home, took a little nap by the bridge that crossed Ore Washer Run just to the west of the barns. That is where he encountered Slaymaker’s ghost, who was said to often have been seen traveling from a cave under one barn to another cave under the other. The ghost carried a big lantern with a foot-wide flame.
One night, Spoonie was startled by the ghost while he napped; he ran home leaving a large cheese he purchased at the local store behind. The next time Spoonie was ready, and when the ghost attacked him he slashed and slashed at it with his penknife. The next morning his brothers came along back to the spot, attesting that in the mud you could see marks made by Spoonie’s corduroy trousers as he struggled with Slaymaker’s ghost, as well as slash marks in the ground, surely evidence of the encounter.
Frey related that even much later, into the early 20th century, every now and then when a horse and buggy or a rider on a horse came to that little bridge, the horse refused to cross, resulting in long detours. So anyone passing by those barns, especially around dusk, should keep their eyes open for a big ball of fire—possibly Slaymaker’s ghost with his lantern with the foot-wide flame?
Watch for my new York Sunday News column for more on Margaretta Furnace.