Dyer’s Mill Forest and the ghosts of Silver Run

Lights in the forest

Lights in the forest

Telling tale tales about spooky happenings are always fun this time of year. The Huffstutter family’s residence at Dyers Mill Forest in the Silver Run Valley of Maryland when the now legendary occurrences related below first happened adds a bit spice to the retelling.
My attention was drawn to a legend of hauntings at Silver Run mentioned in an article written Linda Morton for the Dec/Jan 2007 issue of Carroll Magazine. Ms Morton wrote: “As the story goes there is a lost silver mine on Silver Run. An early German silversmith who was friendly with the Susquehannock Indians learned the location of this mine with the stipulation he must never tell anyone about it. Among the items the silversmith created from his secret silver stash was a beautiful brooch given to his daughter on her thirteenth birthday. She was so delighted that she begged her father to show the location of the secret mine. Unable to refuse her wish he blindfolded her and took her to the mine. Along the way she broke branches to leave a trail and later returned to the spot with a friend. The Indians felt betrayed and killed both the German silversmith and his daughter. Their ghosts still wander the valley and the legend says they will continue until three persons have died looking for the mine. Thus far two have died in the search. There are many theories for the mines location but it remains a mystery to this day.”
Other accounts, in particular a children’s book by Lois Szymanski, called “Silver Lining” mentions a German settler on Silver Run named Ahrwed and his beautiful daughter Frieda. This account embellishes the story with the additional fact that when the Indians found out Ahrwed told the location of the mine to Freda and she in turn took her friend to the mine they became hopping mad. Not only did they bury the mine thus hiding it forever but Ahrwed along with Frieda and her friend were never seen again.
The legend continued to be retold as over the years a mysterious lantern light was reported gleaming eerily near Rattlesnake Hill, a local landmark where many people believed the mine was hidden. Some residents talked of headless bodies wandering aimlessly in the area.
Local newspapers have also kept the legend alive.
April 25, 1883 Hanover Spectator added more material to the legend.
“….A light, as of a lantern carried by someone was said to have often been seen moving across the hills toward the mine, which, if followed, would disappear; this light always moved in a uniform course, and was never seen to pass beyond the mine. A well authenticated story comes from a man who must have seen Old Ahrwud himself. This man was one night walking along a post fence, not far from the mine, when he noticed a stranger just on the other side of the fence, wearing a long gray beard, a big broad-brimmed hat, and carrying a lighted lantern. The stranger moved quietly with him until they reached a cross fence bounding the next field, when the stranger passed through the fence without raising his lantern and vanished. When this man was asked why he did not talk with the stranger, he answered, “He didn’t look as if he wanted to talk!” A farmer who lived near the mine said that he often saw this light and that he was one night coming down the Hanover road with his team when, at a point in the road where the woods reach from the road to the mine, his horses stopped and refused to go a step. He got off the saddle horse, and went forward, but could find nothing in the road; he then whipped the horses, without making them move, until he felt a breath of cold air across his face, after which the horses moved on as if nothing was wrong. He did not see anything himself, but the horses snorted as if in great fright. Another person spoke of a time when he was a boy, and was one night going near by the mine with his father…when his father with a sudden start said: “Did you see that woman without a head? She was nearly as tall as the trees!” The boy did not see the headless woman, but said that he saw a big fire burning on the top of the trees that same night.”
This article appeared in the February 7, 1885 issue of the American Sentinel
“The famous Myers’ District silver mine, about a mile and a half east of this place, was reopened a couple weeks ago by a young German who has only been in this country two months. The vicinity of the mine still sustains its reputation for queer appearances. The miner says that on Friday morning, 30th ult., at nine minutes past eleven o’clock, the hour the moon fulled, three curiously clad Indians carrying a lantern, appeared on the hill by him and disappeared in the woods beyond. One evening while he was digging by moonlight, they also made their appearance.–T.”
The (Silver Run) News, May 9, 1885. “Monster Seen”
“A Pennsylvania chap, whose sweetheart lives near Rattlesnake Hill, was wonderfully frightened one night a few weeks ago by seeing a large white fiery-eyed monster near the haunted silver mine in this district”.
What’s the truth behind the legend? One source hints that a family kept their savings safe from creditors in a chest buried on Rattlesnake Hill, scaring people away from the real treasure by using ghostly charades. While no ghosts have been reported prowling the haunted silver mine for a hundred years or more it is fun to ponder this old legend attached to the area where our ancestor Ulrich Huffstutter lived. You can’t help wondering if Ulrich and his family told the tale around the campfire one dark Halloween, long, long ago.

Ulrich Huffstutter at Dyer’s Mill Forest

The Christopher Erb House is a stone house finished in 1799. It stands in Silver Run on a 38-acre property, and borders Big Pipe Creek. The house is historically significant as an example of Pennsylvania German architecture and reflects the influence of Pennsylvania Germans in Carroll County.
The Christopher Erb House is a stone house finished in 1799. It stands in Silver Run on a 38-acre property, and borders Big Pipe Creek. The house is historically significant as an example of Pennsylvania German architecture and reflects the influence of Pennsylvania Germans in Carroll County.

What did Ulrich do after he arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1749?
While this time period of his life is very sketchy we can surmise that by the mid 1750’s he joined other Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants as they moved into the then undeveloped areas of what is today Carroll County, Maryland. Since his first marriage occurred about 1757 he was probably hoping like many of the settlers to lease land from Lord Baltimore for one cent an acre, clear and plant crops and eventually purchase a small farm for his growing family. The first record we have for him is in 1766 when he purchased 100 acres from Joseph Dyer. This acreage was part of a tract of 1,169 acres called “Dyer’s Mill Forest” patented to Joseph Dyer in 1763. Several German families resided on portions of “Dyer’s Mill Forest”. They included the Bankert, Yingling, and Leman families. We can speculate because settlers often traveled in closely related family groups that one or all of them may have been related to Ulrich either from Switzerland or through his first wife whose surname, regrettably, we do not know. Our best guess then is that between 1749 to 1766 Ulrich was working hard, clearing land for a farm and beginning a family.

The tiny community growing up on Dyer’s Mill Forest took its name from  a creek that flowed through it called Silver Run. Social activities revolved around common interests and  included gathering in homes to worship God although several different denominations were represented.  As they grew the lack of a local church was remedied in the autumn of 1761 when a small log building was erected along Silver Run using 15 acres from Dyer’s Mill Forest deeded to the “Dutch Congregation of Silver Run” by Joseph Dyer. The church, called St. Mary’s, was known as a Union Church because it served two different congregations, Lutheran and Reformed. The crude log structure was well built and survived for almost 60 years until 1821 when replaced by another building. While there is no evidence Ulrich Huffstutter ever belonged to a church we can be certain he participated in community activities around Silver Run and in the log church thus providing a small insight into his life during this time.

Continuing with the research clues provided by a study of Dyer’s Mill Forest it is good to examine old maps showing the patent tract names for surrounding farms.  Close by was the adjoining tract called “Lewis’ Luck” just to the northwest of “OHaras Inheritance”. They were near “Youngblood’s Choice” which has a date of 1743, and “Resurvey on High Germany” 1752/53. Further details of the surrounding tracts are given by a deed made in 1837 when Abraham Koontz sold real estate to Joseph Warner for $1,188.77. The land in this sale included tracts totaling over 172 acres neighboring each other. These included Dyer’s Mill Forest, part Shumaker’s Lot, part Brown’s Neglect, and part Lewis’ Luck. Also mentioned are a boundary corner of St Mary’s Church [sic Silver Run] and lines running  to the beginning of Bell’s Choice. Another detail was  a stone on the south side of the turnpike leading from Westminster to Littlestown. [Carroll County, Maryland – Land Record Abstracts Liber WW-1 – 1837-1838 243].  The land tracts offer an interesting clue to Ulrich’s background by studying the owners surnames. For example “Brown’s Neglect” was owned by Daniel Brown who died and left a will in Frederick County, Maryland.  Witnesses to Brown’s will included, Henry O’Hara, George Koontz, Mathias Snyder and Jacob Yingling who was named executor.  Looking more closely a consideration of the possible Brown inter-connections reveals  Henry OHara Jr., b.1767, married  Margaret Brown, the daughter of Henry Brown, born circa 1740. Henry's sister was Rachel Brown, b. l742, who married Capt. Michael McGuire discussed in a previous blog on this site. It was to Michael McGuire that Ulrich Huffstutter sold his acreage in Dyer's Mill Forest.

These families were neighbors of Ulrich providing more names to consider for kinship to Ulrich, his first wife as well as a glimpse of how he may have met his second wife Mary Baxter, whose mother was a Brown. Perhaps, through learning more about the “neighborhood” of Silver Run we can discover the details of Ulrich’s personal life between 1749 to 1766.