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Flame Scalps of the Chartiers

Myths and Legends of Our Own Lands

Charles M. Skinner

Before Pittsburg had become worthy to be called a settlement, a white man rowed his boat to the mouth of Chartiers creek, near that present city. He was seeking a place in which to make his home, and a little way up-stream, where were timber, water, and a southern slope, he marked a "tomahawk claim," and set about clearing the land. Next year his wife, two children, and his brother came to occupy the cabin he had built, and for a long time all went happily, but on returning from a long hunt the brothers found the little house in ashes and the charred remains of its occupants in the ruins. Though nearly crazed by this catastrophe they knew that their own lives were in hourly peril, and they wished to live until they could punish the savages for this crime. After burying the bodies, they started east across the hills, leaving a letter on birch bark in a cleft stick at the mouth of Chartiers creek, in which the tragedy was recounted.

This letter was afterward found by trappers. The men themselves were never heard from, and it is believed that they, too, fell at the hands of the Indians. Old settlers used to affirm that on summer nights the cries of the murdered innocents could be heard in the little valley where the cabin stood, and when storms were coming up these cries were often blended with the yells of savages. More impressive are the death lights—the will-o'-the-wisps—that wander over the scene of the tragedy, and up and down the neighboring slopes. These apparitions are said to be the spirits of husband and wife seeking each other, or going together in search of their children; but some declare that in their upward streaming rays it can readily be seen that they are the scalps of the slain. Two of them have a golden hue, and these are the scalps of the children. From beneath them drops of red seem to distil on the grass and are found to have bedewed the flowers on the following morning.

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