Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Witch Gets Killed

This incident occurs in Wyoming County, West Virginia, near the mining community of Itmann. Jennie Bower is my great grand mother.

An incident that occurred on Still Run, a stream that enters the Guyandot near Itmann on Route 10, provided the basis of one of Wyoming's traditional witch tales. In February, 1872, Phillip Lambert, known as the "Red Fox of Pinnacle Creek" because of his love of fox-hunting, was hunting a deer on Still Run with a company of his friends. Lambert knew that George Webb, a preacher and supposed witch, lived at the head of the stream. It was said that Webb had the diabolical power to cast a spell over a hunting ground by walking around it, preventing other hunters from killing game within its bounds. When Lambert, a dead shot, fired point-blank at a large buck but failed to harm it, he fell into a rage and swore Webb was responsible for his ill luck, and that he intended to "fix old George Webb and break the spell."

Using his sharp hunting knife, Lambert carved a crude outline of a human body on a beech tree and labeled it "George Webb." Not having the requisite silver bullet as recommended by all authorities on witchcraft, he chewed an ordinary one until it was very rough. He then poured a double charge of powder down the muzzle of his gun. Placing the roughened ball on double-gum patching and thrusting it home with the ramrod, he tamped it thoroughly and placed a percussion cap on the gun tube. When all was ready, he took aim at his rude picture and, quoting appropriate scripture, fired.

John Workman, building his Aunt Jenny Bowers a kitchen, was whipsawing lumber for the loft, but, to his irritation, neighbors borrowed his boards for coffin wood as fast as he sawed them. On the day Lambert went hunting on Still Run, Workman, despairing of outdistancing his borrowers, had begun to place a temporary clapboard roofing on the kitchen in order to ceil it while there was still sufficient sawed lumber to do the job. Late in the evening, as he was congratulating himself that on the morrow he could complete the job, a neighbor came to inform his aunt that George Webb, the "witch-man," had died suddenly under very peculiar circumstances, and that Mrs. Webb wanted to borrow enough lumber to make his coffin.

This was to much for Workman. Cursing the fate that constantly deprived him of his ceiling boards, and unaware of the unusual events preceding Webb's death, he asked the world at large, "Why, in the name of hell and damnation, don't they make George Webb a coffin out of chestnut boards and let him go through hell a-poppin' and a-crackin'?"

The final touch to the tale was given that evening when Aunt Jenny visited the Webb's to offer consolation. Seeing that the room was bare of anything to cook, she asked Mrs. Webb about breakfast arrangements for the wake. Mrs. Webb replied that there was nothing in the house but a "poke of coffee and a keg of honey," which George kept under the head of his bed. She explained that she disliked using those for fear it might "cause George to wander." Aunt Jenny bristled in pioneer impatience with such impracticality and opined: "I'm goin' to have some of that coffee and honey for breakfast, and if George wants to wander, just let him wander. I'm not afraid of him."


Pineville - Where Wyoming Trails Cross

Number 9 - Folk Studies

November, 1940

Sponsored by
State Department of Education
W. W. Trent, State Superintendent of Free Schools
Co-Sponsored by
Wyoming County Board of Education
Wyoming County Court

1 comment:

Gina Draker Studio said...

This story is part of my family oral history, as George Webb is my GGGG-Grandfather of my mother's line and her maternal line. *He was first married to a Cherokee wife who died post-birth of her daughter, Rhoda Webb. George married again to a white woman who was a widow, Elizabeth Keller Perdew. However, he kept his Cherokee's wife's Indian ways. His land, Webb Flats, was once Cherokee Hunting grounds. He was a Christian Preacher and practiced the Cherokee medicine ways - of his late wife. Their only daughter, Rhoda Webb, married a Cherokee man, John Webb. He took her last name of Webb -( as in the Cherokee tradition the husband took the wife's family name). This Cherokee line continued with their daughter, Serilda Webb (sometimes also spelled: Surilda) - who married William "Bill" Running Bird Webb. They were all known to be "medicine men" or Cherokee Shamans. George Webb was the son of George Webb and they have English roots going back to arriving in American with William Penn and being related to the Boones of Kentucky (Daniel Boone's Aunt).
~Gina Draker