10 Years Ago
Week of July 5, 2012
THE PENDLETON PAST
by Harold D. Garber
I hope that you’ve been waiting on the end of your seat for this installment about Pendleton County’s legendary Snallygaster, a topic which I introduced last week. Having contacted the brothers who wrote the original story so well, I have received permission to quote the article which appeared on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008.
Matthew Burns’ blog is entitled “Appalachian Lifestyles,” sub-headed “Stories, tales, lies, musings and daily life in the mountains of central Appalachia…dedicated to the education of the American people on the unique culture of Appalachia.” The text which Matthew included, and which I began last week, is written by Jason Burns who has his own website, West Virginia Spectral Heritage.
The Burns article continues:
“The beast got its name from German immigrants who settled in the region. ‘Snallygaster is a corruption of the German word ‘schnellgeiste’ which means ‘quick spirit.’ The Snallygaster evidently had many frightening attributes, which included its dragon wings, poison breath, toothy beak and tentacles and its penchant for sucking blood. The monster is said to have been one of the reasons behind the ‘seven pointed stars’ and hex signs that were painted on barns and houses in the area. Apparently these worked as magical charms that kept the Snallygaster away.
In Pendleton County, the beast’s rampage lasted from 1935 to 1941. Its first appearance was reported in the Hopewell section of The Pendleton Times newspaper in March of 1935. Hopewell is a tiny community near the Bland Hills in the North Fork area of the Germany Valley, near a holler named Monkeytown. According to the newspaper article, the Snallygaster was terrorizing the family of Kennie Bland on March 1, 1935. Bland was ‘left high in the air’ by the monster, presumably referring to Bland being treed by the beast.
Two months later the Snallygaster was again noticed in Hopewell. This time the beast reportedly roared and ‘snarled’ on May 10, 1935. That day being Sunday, the locals stated that the beast was attempting to prey upon those who were less than pious. The Snallygaster also allegedly spewed forth a ‘poison vapor’ wherever it went. However, it did not attack anyone that night, because all those who witnessed it stayed inside their homes until it departed.
Following these two occurrences, the Snallygaster was not seen in Hopewell for nearly six years. Presumably it had moved into another area of the country, probably terrorizing people in Maryland or Pennsylvania. However, the beast returned to the Hopewell community on St. Valentine’s Day, 1941. Apparently the beast had been spotted in the area prior to that report. ‘Old Dog Blue,’ a hound that had been paralyzed through a previous battle with the Snallygaster, first noticed the beast in the area and set up a howling chorus to warn the neighborhood of its approach. The people of the town escaped to the safety of their homes, but not before they witnessed the Snallygaster’s large ‘fiery’ eyes, large tail, and monstrous-sized teeth.
The beast’s last recorded appearance in the Hopewell community was recorded on July 11, 1941. Apparently it came upon the town rather quickly, surprising the populous and causing them to run for any safety they could find. The people were able to find shelter in homes and other places, and all of them survived except for Old Dog Blue, who was last seen trying to evade the Snallygaster.
The Snallygaster was not reported until June the next year. On June 29, 1945, The Pendleton Times reported ‘the howl of the dreadful Snallygaster’ was heard in the Hopewell community again. The dogs of the area hearing its scream, hid from the beast in any place they could. One dog was deaf, however, and was killed by the Snallygaster because he did not hear it. Some local women hid in their attic to get away from the Snallygaster, but one lady was so scared that she fell into the slop barrel. She was rescued by her husband, and they sought safety together.
Then suddenly the Snallygaster tale took a turn. It seemed to be breeding. In April, 1946, a coon hunter in Doddridge County found what was thought to be a Snallygaster cub. The hunter dug it out of a hole in the ground after seeing this dog retreat from it. The animal, still living, was examined by a group that included two Salem College professors and a representative from the State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The Snallygaster cub was about the size of a half-grown rat, and it was colored light blue with a light yellow face. Its eyes were close together and near the end of the nose. Its ears were attached low on its head near the jawline, and it had cat-like claws. In addition, it was covered in a fine-textured fur. The group decided to raise the cub to see what it turned out to be, but whether or not they succeeded is unknown.
Later that month, ‘The Pendleton Times’ reported that the towns of Hopewell and Monkeytown were in the process of installing electric lights, and when that occurred, the Snallygaster would probably ‘wind his way into darker corners’ in order to prey upon the area’s population. Whether it was the electric lights or not, the Snallygaster was not reported in the area news again.
Events related to the life of the Snallygaster continued, however. In the 1960s, the Pepsi Company paid tribute to the beast when it introduced a drink named ‘The Snallygaster,’ which was composed of Mountain Dew and vanilla ice cream. The last event in the long, frightening history of the Snallygaster was in 1976, when the ‘Washington Post’ funded an expedition to find the beast. Nothing was ever found—no eggs, tracks, or any other evidence. Despite this, the state of Maryland placed the Snallygaster on the Endangered Species list in 1982.
Well, that’s it. You now know everything I’ve read about this exceptional creature. Just how the yarn ever got started, I’m not sure, but “The Times” must have played along good naturedly about reported sightings.
60 Years Ago
Week of July 12, 1962
100 YEARS AGO
Morgan and Forrest Raise South’s Hopes
By LON K. SAVAGE
Editor’s Note—The following is one of a series of articles on the Civil War. Each weekly installment covers events which occurred exactly 100 years ago.
“I…am filled with gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all the mercies He has extended to us,” Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote in a letter to his wife 100 years ago this week.
“Lee’s gratitude was caused by events at Richmond, where Gen. George B. McClellan’s siege had been lifted and where McClellan’s army had been driven away from the Confederate capitol. But before the week was out, Lee would have still more reason for gratitude.
For that same week, two of the Confederacy’s greatest guerilla fighters, Bedford Forrest and John H. Morgan, went on the warpath in Kentucky and Tennessee with results that would spread consternation among the federals all the way to Washington.
At daybreak on July 9, the same day that Lee wrote his letter, Morgan rode into the little village of Celina in north central Tennessee with 1,000 men to begin his series of raids. Four days later, Forrest, with 2,000 cavalrymen, moved at a trot into Murfreesboro, Tenn., to battle with the federals there.
Forrest’s attack was the more sensational. After capturing the pickets outside Murfreesboro, he sent a troop of Georgians dashing into the town where they captured federals on the streets and most of the federal supplies. A Texas unit charged into one of the federal encampments, shooting and yelling over the tents, and a battalion of Tennesee and Kentucky soldiers captured a Pennsylvania cavalry unit, then circled to the rear to prevent a federal retreat.
The fighting continued into the afternoon, until Forrest demanded surrender “or I will have every man put to the sword.” The threat brought about a capitulation, and Forrest captured, in all, 1,700 troops, about 600 horses and mules, four pieces of artillery and a quantity of government supplies.
Morgan’s attack at Celina was of little consequence, in itself, but it began a series of raids that would have important results. At Celina, he attacked 240 Pennsylvanians, driving them off and taking a score of prisoners.
That night, Morgan and his men crossed into Kentucky for 19 days of raiding through the Cumberlands, and when he was through he was able to report: “I have traveled over a thousand miles, captured 17 towns, destroyed all the government supplies and arms in them, dispersed about 1500 Home Guards (and captured) and paroled nearly 1,200 regular troops. I lost in killed, wounded and missing, of the number that I carried into Kentucky, about 90.”
There was another development that week in the federal army that would work for the good of the Southern cause.
In Washington, Gen. John Pope, the federal general who had captured Island Number 10, was getting off to a bad start in organizing the government’s new Army of Virginia in northern Virginia. On June 14, Pope issued an order telling his troops, “I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies.” The order, instead of inspiring his new troops, made them angry. It was the first of many mistakes for Pope in his new command, but it would not be the worst.
Next week: Halleck Made Commander-in-Chief.
70 Years Ago
Week of July 10, 1952
Smoke Hole Cave
Gets Writeup By
PETERSBURG—Smoke Hole Caverns, eight scenic miles west of this South Branch Valley town on State Routes 4 and 28, are located in the heart of what many term the “Little Switzerland of America.”
The cave is right across the road from the North Fork of the South Branch River in a neat valley surrounded by granite-topped mountains. The stream, with its cold water, is a fine spot for trout fishing.
The entrance walk to the cavern parallels a cold spring that flows continuously from the cave. This cool water stays very close to 57 degrees, indicating that a visit inside can be very pleasant on a hot day.
In one hour in Smoke Hole, it is said, nearly everything can be seen that is offered in the hundreds of other caves in this country. The world’s longest ribbon stalactite, the second highest room (104 feet) in any known cavern; limestone coral, a rare formation found only in one other cavern in the world, and another formation that resembles an Alaskan glacier can be viewed in a short time from safe, clean walks. The ribbon stalactite is four and one-half million years old and it takes 150 years to add each cubic inch.
Also of keen enjoyment to many people are the formations that resemble carved statues of well-known individuals. Among these deposits, building down from the ceiling and up from the floor, are those resembling a cliff dwelling man, wife, and child; the capitol dome in Washington, and the Virgin Mary holding her Child.
At this point in the cavern, when the lights are very dim, gentle organ music seems to come from the very walls of the cathedral-like room. At this instant lights arranged on pure white calcite are increased in intensity, making it resemble an Arctic glacier under the midnight sun.
Fishermen will be interested in the Crystal Pool in the room of a Million Stalactites. There rainbow trout ranging from 12 to 14 inches are kept all summer and released only before spawning time.
Ever since opening, the cave has been in a continuous state of development. Soon a new set of steps will be completed and a circle tour can then be made of a huge new section of the cave. Plans have been made to open a large undeveloped lake, the edges of which can be seen now in two places from the main entrance hall.
There are picnic grounds and safe drinking water adjacent to the cave. Meals are served, or travelers can bring their own. There is also plenty of room for off-highway parking. During the summer season, guides are at the cavern seven days a week for conducted tours.
When Smoke Hole was first opened much evidence was found indicating that the Indians used it even before the Revolution. According to Leon R. Grover, one of the well-informed guides, the remains left behind by the red men indicate they smoked and stored their meat there. Legend also implies that the Confederates stored a large amount of gold in the cavern. At that time the cave was well hidden and the small valley was easy to defend.