Chapter 1 Unexplained Farm Mischief
Part of the organic inspector’s duties is to do farm visits. This year, I visited several organic dairy farms located in Somerset county, of southwestern Pennsylvania. And on one of these farm visits, I encountered a first-time experience hearing about what could be called paranormal activity. The farmer’s story went something like this. We have had some unexplained activity in the calf hutch area, that just started earlier this week. We set up our calf hutches, and when we returned we found that the pen fencing panels were moved, and the door latches on the hatches were unlatched and the doors were opened. No one had been around the area to do this, so we are not sure what is happening to do this. We have since tied the latches with strings, to keep them closed. This area, was recently cleared of some old unused farm equipment that had accumulated over the years. Once cleared and cleaned up, it made a nice area for the placement of the calf hatches. So, because of the reoccurring activity, we did some research at the local historical society, and found out that this is a very old farm, and the original farmstead dated back to early 1800’s. At that time, it was not uncommon for the families to have their own private burial plot. And, this calf housing area was once a family burial plot. The records showed that the tombstones were all removed many years ago, but the old graves were not moved. So, we cleared the area on September 30th, 2017, and set up the calf hutches. The records showed that one of burials was on September 30th, 1830.
Could it be that the unexplained activity was the work of restless spirits from the old burial site? My job as an inspector was to assess the potential injury risk to the livestock. My conclusion was that the unexplained activity seemed more like mischievous pranking, at worst and didn’t appear to be meant as harmful in it’s nature. So, it wasn’t an issue of concern.
Chapter 2 Whispering Echoes
This farmer’s story prompted me to do some of my own research. Let us dash to an earlier time, occurring not long ago; in fact, just a brief journey not much more than 200 years ago. And interestingly this nearby juncture, when measured as a trip in mileage, is just over 200 miles away from the nowadays abode. It was then and there, that Elizabeth (Betsy) Leichliter was born on the 14th day of June in 1813 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania and was the first daughter born to Jacob Leichliter. Daniel Williams was born about then, however a few years earlier, on the 12th day November in the year 1803 in Upper Turkeyfoot, Somerset, Pennsylvania. And, destiny came to intervene, and they were married on the 31st day of March in 1831. And, to them were born eleven children as blessings of this union.
- Jemima Williams b: 1832
- Mary Ann Williams b: 30 Jan 1834
- George B Williams b: 14 Nov 1835
- Elizabeth Williams b: 1838
- Jacob I Williams b: 03 Nov 1839
- Thomas L Williams b: 30 Jun 1842
- Amanda Williams b: 05 Oct 1844
- Lewis Marshall Williams b: 30 Sep 1847
- John M Williams b: 21 Jan 1850
- Martha Williams b: 28 Jan 1852
- Levi Campbell Williams b: 08 May 1855
Their last child, Levi Campbell Williams of Upper Turkeyfoot, Somerset grew to be a young man, and married Druscila B Koontz and they had children born to them.
- Arthur B Williams b: Dec 1885
- Ralph J Williams b: Aug 1882
- Joseph A Williams b: Apr 1884
- Stanton K Williams b: Jan 1888
- George E Williams b: Apr 1892
- Carrie Williams b: Aug 1894
- Celia Williams b: Mar 1897
A line of descent traces to a grandfather on mother’s side, George E Williams born April of 1892 in Somerset County. And this relationship goes back to a place, where the farms of rolling fields adjoin the forests, called the Williams-Firestone Cemetery located along the Hexie Road, that whispers distance echoes from a quiet hillside in Upper Turkeyfoot Township, Somerset, Pennsylvania.
Going further, “John Leichliter was the first family to arrive in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. He married Lydia Green in 1784. They had children: Jacob, David, John, Sarah, Margaret and Samuel. John died at the home of his son Jacob in the Hexeborger Hills. His burial place is unknown.
Jacob Leichliter was born August 11th, 1788. John, his father, located in “Jersey” of Somerset County, then a dense forest, and endured hardships and privation at the beginning. Robert Hare, nearest neighbor a mile a-way. Often relieved wants of the then little family. Jacob was then a little child, crying for a morsel of corn-bread with no other drink than water. Hare’s kindly sent milk, soon a cow was brought home.
Jacob grew with sterling qualities, marrying Jemima Campbell about 1812, to whom were born sons; R. Campbell, Thomas, John, Levi and Samuel C.; Elizabeth, married Daniel Williams; Mary A. to Jacob Crossen; Lydia died young. The two eldest sons died young. John and Levi were ministers. Mr. Jacob Leichliter was father of 19 children, some born in this county where nearly all the family have made their home.”
Chapter 3 Wrapping it Up
The precise grave site for John Leichliter remains unknown to this day and most likely still lays somewhere in that previously dense primeval forest once known as the Jersey of Hexeborger Hills but now is known as Somerset, Pennsylvania.
My own research showed that I indeed have family roots in Somerset County. The old Williams-Firestone Cemetery is located along the Hexie Road, and it is a private cemetery, not all that much different than the one that was discovered at the farm. The tombstones are in bad condition, but still mark this location though.
I must admit, that I did have a bit of that feeling of déjà vu while on assignment in Somerset County. It was a very fascinating phenomenon. It can only described as a slightly eerie feeling, but was not scary in any way, and simply put a moment of not being unable to fully differentiate the past from reality.
We are grateful for the time that we were given to visit in these old farmlands that in many cases are being restored into productive fields that have already given us so much bounty.