Saturday, May 17, 2008

Omens, Signs and Auguries

by Donna Gloff

"The solitude of the wilderness was productive to mystery. It engaged in the untutored mind of the Indian and the woodsman a belief in the supernatural. That which could not be readily accounted for by natural deduction appealed strongly, and intuitively it was associated with the occult. He was guided by omens, signs and augurys."
author Lucullus McWhorter of Buckhannon Run off Hackers Creek
The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia. 1915. Pg 449.
"The Blakes, some of them was very superstitious; believed in witches and ghosts."
lumberman and family historian Lee Washington Blake of Clover Fork
The Blakes and Riffles Back Seven Generations

The following story of the Skinner/Posey family takes place in the later pioneering days of Oil Creek, maybe the 1830s or 1840s. The story repeated by author Lucullus McWhorter was originally told by an old man, about 80 years old, one Isaac Posey of the upper West Fork. (We know nothing about Isaac Posey yet.) He visited his Posey cousins on a hunting trip to Sand Fork, which is just over the ridge from Posey Run. Catherine (Scott) Skinner Posey would have been the aunt. Isaac's hunting partner could have been any of her younger boys: William, Benjamin, John, Alfred, or Thomas.
The Phantom Deer
"When I was about eighteen years of age, I crossed over to one of the upper branches of the Sand Fork to visit friends and hunt where the game was more abundant than nearer to my home. The next morning, with a cousin younger than myself, we started out the hunt. When leaving I told my aunt that we would come back with a deer and would have venison for breakfast. But the old lady shook her head and replied, ‘No Isaac, you will see no deer today.’ Not withstanding the augury, we struck out with glowing anticipation, though we knew the old lady was generally regarded as a witch. Strange to say, though sign was abundant, we tramped all day through the snow without seeing a single deer.
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"Next morning I determined to go home. My aunt told me it would be best but added, ‘You will see a deer today.’ ‘Well, I replied, if I kill one before I cross the ridge I will come back and we will have our venison yet.’ ‘Never mind coming back, but you will see a deer today and it will be a big one,’ was the answer. I left and on approaching the gap in the ridge a magnificent buck stood before me, not fifty yards distant."
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"Well, did you get it?" the listener asked as Posey hesitated.
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"These things make a body feel mighty queer. I just shook all over. I could hardly hold the gun in my hands. For an instant I turned my head away and when I looked again it was gone. I never felt like hunting in them woods any more."
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This story is on page 449 in The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia by Lucullus McWhorter, first published in 1915.

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