N. C. District: No. 3 [320193] Field Worker: Esther S. Pinnix Word Total: 3,199 Editor: P. G. Cross Subject: "Negro Folklore of the Piedmont". Consultants: Mrs. P. G. Cross, Miss... Read more of Betty Cofer at Martin Luther King.caInformational Site Network Informational

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The Isle Of Pines

For many years there lived near the town of Gallipolis, Ohio, an old
man named Herman Deluse. Very little was known of his history, for
he would neither speak of it himself nor suffer others. It was a
common belief among his neighbors that he had been a pirate--if upon
any better evidence than his collection of boarding pikes,
cutlasses, and ancient flintlock pistols, no one knew. He lived
entirely alone in a small house of four rooms, falling rapidly into
decay and never repaired further than was required by the weather.
It stood on a slight elevation in the midst of a large, stony field
overgrown with brambles, and cultivated in patches and only in the
most primitive way. It was his only visible property, but could
hardly have yielded him a living, simple and few as were his wants.
He seemed always to have ready money, and paid cash for all his
purchases at the village stores roundabout, seldom buying more than
two or three times at the same place until after the lapse of a
considerable time. He got no commendation, however, for this
equitable distribution of his patronage; people were disposed to
regard it as an ineffectual attempt to conceal his possession of so
much money. That he had great hoards of ill-gotten gold buried
somewhere about his tumble-down dwelling was not reasonably to be
doubted by any honest soul conversant with the facts of local
tradition and gifted with a sense of the fitness of things.

On the 9th of November, 1867, the old man died; at least his dead
body was discovered on the 10th, and physicians testified that death
had occurred about twenty-four hours previously--precisely how, they
were unable to say; for the post-mortem examination showed every
organ to be absolutely healthy, with no indication of disorder or
violence. According to them, death must have taken place about
noonday, yet the body was found in bed. The verdict of the
coroner's jury was that he "came to his death by a visitation of
God." The body was buried and the public administrator took charge
of the estate.

A rigorous search disclosed nothing more than was already known
about the dead man, and much patient excavation here and there about
the premises by thoughtful and thrifty neighbors went unrewarded.
The administrator locked up the house against the time when the
property, real and personal, should be sold by law with a view to
defraying, partly, the expenses of the sale.

The night of November 20 was boisterous. A furious gale stormed
across the country, scourging it with desolating drifts of sleet.
Great trees were torn from the earth and hurled across the roads.
So wild a night had never been known in all that region, but toward
morning the storm had blown itself out of breath and day dawned
bright and clear. At about eight o'clock that morning the Rev.
Henry Galbraith, a well-known and highly esteemed Lutheran minister,
arrived on foot at his house, a mile and a half from the Deluse
place. Mr. Galbraith had been for a month in Cincinnati. He had
come up the river in a steamboat, and landing at Gallipolis the
previous evening had immediately obtained a horse and buggy and set
out for home. The violence of the storm had delayed him over night,
and in the morning the fallen trees had compelled him to abandon his
conveyance and continue his journey afoot.

"But where did you pass the night?" inquired his wife, after he had
briefly related his adventure.

"With old Deluse at the 'Isle of Pines,'" {1} was the laughing
reply; "and a glum enough time I had of it. He made no objection to
my remaining, but not a word could I get out of him."

Fortunately for the interests of truth there was present at this
conversation Mr. Robert Mosely Maren, a lawyer and litterateur of
Columbus, the same who wrote the delightful "Mellowcraft Papers."
Noting, but apparently not sharing, the astonishment caused by Mr.
Galbraith's answer this ready-witted person checked by a gesture the
exclamations that would naturally have followed, and tranquilly
inquired: "How came you to go in there?"

This is Mr. Maren's version of Mr. Galbraith's reply:

"I saw a light moving about the house, and being nearly blinded by
the sleet, and half frozen besides, drove in at the gate and put up
my horse in the old rail stable, where it is now. I then rapped at
the door, and getting no invitation went in without one. The room
was dark, but having matches I found a candle and lit it. I tried
to enter the adjoining room, but the door was fast, and although I
heard the old man's heavy footsteps in there he made no response to
my calls. There was no fire on the hearth, so I made one and laying
[sic] down before it with my overcoat under my head, prepared myself
for sleep. Pretty soon the door that I had tried silently opened
and the old man came in, carrying a candle. I spoke to him
pleasantly, apologizing for my intrusion, but he took no notice of
me. He seemed to be searching for something, though his eyes were
unmoved in their sockets. I wonder if he ever walks in his sleep.
He took a circuit a part of the way round the room, and went out the
same way he had come in. Twice more before I slept he came back
into the room, acting precisely the same way, and departing as at
first. In the intervals I heard him tramping all over the house,
his footsteps distinctly audible in the pauses of the storm. When I
woke in the morning he had already gone out."

Mr. Maren attempted some further questioning, but was unable longer
to restrain the family's tongues; the story of Deluse's death and
burial came out, greatly to the good minister's astonishment.

"The explanation of your adventure is very simple," said Mr. Maren.
"I don't believe old Deluse walks in his sleep--not in his present
one; but you evidently dream in yours."

And to this view of the matter Mr. Galbraith was compelled
reluctantly to assent.

Nevertheless, a late hour of the next night found these two
gentlemen, accompanied by a son of the minister, in the road in
front of the old Deluse house. There was a light inside; it
appeared now at one window and now at another. The three men
advanced to the door. Just as they reached it there came from the
interior a confusion of the most appalling sounds--the clash of
weapons, steel against steel, sharp explosions as of firearms,
shrieks of women, groans and the curses of men in combat! The
investigators stood a moment, irresolute, frightened. Then Mr.
Galbraith tried the door. It was fast. But the minister was a man
of courage, a man, moreover, of Herculean strength. He retired a
pace or two and rushed against the door, striking it with his right
shoulder and bursting it from the frame with a loud crash. In a
moment the three were inside. Darkness and silence! The only sound
was the beating of their hearts.

Mr. Maren had provided himself with matches and a candle. With some
difficulty, begotten of his excitement, he made a light, and they
proceeded to explore the place, passing from room to room.
Everything was in orderly arrangement, as it had been left by the
sheriff; nothing had been disturbed. A light coating of dust was
everywhere. A back door was partly open, as if by neglect, and
their first thought was that the authors of the awful revelry might
have escaped. The door was opened, and the light of the candle
shone through upon the ground. The expiring effort of the previous
night's storm had been a light fall of snow; there were no
footprints; the white surface was unbroken. They closed the door
and entered the last room of the four that the house contained--that
farthest from the road, in an angle of the building. Here the
candle in Mr. Maren's hand was suddenly extinguished as by a draught
of air. Almost immediately followed the sound of a heavy fall.
When the candle had been hastily relighted young Mr. Galbraith was
seen prostrate on the floor at a little distance from the others.
He was dead. In one hand the body grasped a heavy sack of coins,
which later examination showed to be all of old Spanish mintage.
Directly over the body as it lay, a board had been torn from its
fastenings in the wall, and from the cavity so disclosed it was
evident that the bag had been taken.

Another inquest was held: another post-mortem examination failed to
reveal a probable cause of death. Another verdict of "the
visitation of God" left all at liberty to form their own
conclusions. Mr. Maren contended that the young man died of

Next: A Fruitless Assignment

Previous: Two Military Executions

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