Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 1979 Volume 17 Number 4, Pages 99–102

Five Tales for All Hallow's Even

Rob Goshorn

Page 99

A number of communities and areas have their ghosts and their haunted houses — but in how many other places have the ghosts actually been seen or heard or otherwise experienced by some of the area's best-known residents?

The colonial soldier who, at midnight on the anniversary of the Paoli Massacre each year, rides silently on a white horse through Paoli, for example, was seen several times by Dr. Anthony Wayne Baugh, among others. A lifelong resident of this section (the Baugh family had lived in the Paoli-Howellville area since 1743), Dr. Baugh was surgeon for the Pennsylvania Railroad, had served for two terms as a School Director in Tredyffrin Township and was also the school physician, and had been a sergeant-at-arms at the Republican National Convention. Well-known and respected as a pragmatic phy­sician, he had a reputation for little, if any, faith in the occult.

Yet Dr. Baugh is reported to have seen the ghost rider not just once, but on several occasions, each year going out at midnight to look for the soldier during his annual rounds.

The soldier is dressed in the military blues of General Washington's army, according to the legend. He is one of the detachment which was encamped near to the Paoli in September, 1777, under the command of General Anthony Wayne, to watch the British army and report any indications of movement to cross the Schuylkill and advance towards Philadelphia. As the home of the soldier was nearby, he was frequently given a pass to visit his home and wife. (It made one less to feed with the limited rations.)

Page 100

One night he woke suddenly from a dream; in it his fellow soldiers were being attacked by the British. Going back to sleep after a few minutes, he soon awoke a second time, having again dreamed of the slaughter of his comrades in their camp. Disregarding his wife's protests, he got up, dressed, and returned to the outpost — to find many of the American soldiers lying dead, cut down by the bayonets and sabres of the British. Awe-struck, before he could turn away he too was beheaded by a sabre.

On the anniversary of the Massacre, each year after that fateful night, he rides silently from the campsite down through Paoli. The hooves of his mount make no sound as they strike the ground. And if one should happen to approach the noiseless figure too closely, the colonial midnight rider, it is claimed, will remove his once-severed head and hand it to the over-curious spectator. It is a sure sign that the intruder will not live out the year.

A glare of light near the rider, however, is said to cause him to disappear, a condition which obviously makes it more difficult to see him now than it was only a few years ago.

Somewhat better known is the spirit of Prissy Robinson, in the Blue Ball Tavern on Old Lancaster Road in Daylesford. While Mary Crossdale, who lived in the old inn for almost 58 years, in her history of the tavern in an early Quarterly (Vol. II, No. 2) made reference only to the inn's "reputation for being haunted", she is also reported to have admitted in conversation that on occasions she had heard the sounds of the opening and shutting of bureau drawers on the upper floors. She and later residents of the house, including Paul and Elinor Warner and, more recently, Dick Ferguson, also have variously reported hearing a knocking on the doors or windows, usually in a series of three raps; finding books fallen from the book shelves; seeing curtains rustle on a still afternoon or evening, presumably as Prissy Robinson passed by; and even feeling the grasp of an unseen hand on the arm or shoulder. Dick Ferguson has reported that his pet cat, too, has sensed her presence.

Mary Croasdale, incidentally, was the first Republican comitteewoman in Tredyffrin Township, served for many years as township secretary, and was later Director of the County Department of Public Assistance; both the Warners were active in newspaper work; Paul McCurdy Warner as the editorial page director of the Philadelphia Inquirer; and Dick Ferguson is a dealer in fine arts.

For fifty years Priscilla Robinson, whose temper and tongue were well known and respected locally, was mistress of the Blue Ball Tavern. The trade of the tavern at that time was mainly with drovers, who led their sheep or cattle or other livestock (and, occasionally, even droves of turkeys) along the Lancaster Pike from the farmlands to the north and west into the markets of Philadelphia. The "Ball" was also at a convenient distance from the city for the drovers to stop for the night on their homeward trip, their pockets by then filled with gold and silver and currency from the sale of their stock.

Page 101

That some, after the night's stay at the "Ball" on their way home, never awoke on the following morning is also a part of the legend. And it is a fact that at least six skeletons, some of them with broken bones or cleft skulls, were found buried in a back room of the tavern. When Prissy Robinson roams through the house, opening bureau drawers, she is looking for clean night-clothes to wear in place of her blood-stained ones.

As further evidence that all these things happened, it has also been reported that, before she died, Prissy Robinson requested that her coffin be made of chestnut wood, so that when she went through the lower regions she would "go through crackin'".

Another ghost heard not long ago is that of Hannah Wayne, who lived in Waynesborough at about the time of the Civil War. It happened at a dinner party given by Orrin Wickersham June, shortly after he had bought General Anthony Wayne's birthplace from the Wayne family in 1965. June is known for his restorations of colonial and old homes; at the time he had just begun the restoration of Waynesborough.

During the dinner, the lady guests present heard a "terrible crashing of glass". June has recalled that it caused them "to throw up their hands". The men guests at the dinner table, on the other hand, heard nothing. A second shattering of glass soon afterwards sent the maids in the kitchen "scurrying" to find out what had happened. Despite the noise, nothing appeared to be broken.

When June afterwards asked the previous owner, William Wayne 3d, about the incident, Wayne's immediate reply was, "Ah, the women have heard her."

The sounds are heard only by the women, it was explained, because only women heard Hannah Wayne's unsuccessful struggle to save her life years ago. Climbing a ladder through a small trap door one day, to store some household goods in the attic, she became wedged in the small opening. When her candle tipped over, the flame set her clothing on fire. Struggling against the blaze, she frantically kicked at the windows, shattering the glass. The breaking glass and her screams for help, however, were heard only by the women in the rear garden, as all the men were working out in the fields and were out of earshot. No one could get into the house in time to save her.

And so, ever since, it is only the women who hear the crashing of glass by Hannah Wayne's ghost.

Page 102

There is also a ghost, perhaps the spirit of an elderly man named Brown, who is said to frequent the old Hammer Hollow area, between Conestoga and Pugh Roads west of Valley Road. Broun was the manager of a cigar factory located in the Hollow following the Civil War, a factory where cheap "Spanish cigars" were rolled and tied into bundles to be 'sold by the hundred'. Later in life, Broun became quite a religious fanatic.

One midnight, it is told, he climbed to the top of the factory's large mill wheel or water wheel to deliver a sermon. Shortly afterwards he crashed to the rocks below and was killed. Whether he fell or jumped from the wheel is not altogether clear, but his ghost, according to tradition, still roams the area.

In Franklin Burns' unpublished notes is a report of perhaps his most spectacular reappearance. Long after the water wheel had been retired from service, a dance was held in the old mill or factory building by the service personnel of the Devon Inn. The night selected for the affair was one on which the ghost "took shape and voice to walk and talk". The result was an abrupt termination of the festivities and a mass exodus; by midnight all concerned were not only willing but "anxious to concede the haunt undisputed possession of the premises".

In the West Chester Daily Local News of June 30, 1884 was a report of another haunted house in this area. It was located in Devon, "close to the Devon Inn, west of the station on the turnpike". The house was described as another former inn, with "out-of-the-way" closets and unexpected staircases that led to "labyrinthian regions".

The house was owned by an unnamed farmer who, for reasons not revealed, had not lived in the house for some time. Instead, he rented it out to others, though it was in quite dilapidated condition. "A number of credible witnesses," it was reported in the Local, "assert that the measured tread of footsteps throughout the night is unmistakable". One tenant was so harrassed by the sounds of the pacing that the family could no longer live in the house and was forced to move into another home.

According to the report, about thirty years earlier a peddler, "a small dark man, with a sallow face, and a pack on his back", had been murdered in a fit of jealous rage while in the inn. It is his "midnight perambulations" that are heard and that were the dread of people living in the house, tenants and servants alike. It was further reported that some persons had also seen, as well as heard, the poor, unfortunate peddler, going from room to room, his pack still on his back. The old house is no longer standing.

Where is the peddler now? Anyone who sees or hears him, at least, will be in good company!


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