Saturday, August 23, 2008

Polly Williams and White Rock

moon

Near Fairchance, in Fayette County, there's a precipice called White Rock. It's a lover's leap where New Salem's 18 year old Polly Williams met her doom in 1810, according to centuries-old local lore.

The story goes that a neighborhood rich dude, Phillip Rodgers, had promised to take her as his wife, but kept putting her off. Wanting to become an honest woman, Polly pressed the issue. He finally told her to see him at the top of White Rock late one night.

It was their favorite meeting spot, but when their last conversation there was overheard, in bits and pieces through the evening breeze, it wasn't lovers cooing, but an argument about their wedding.

Some versions say that the debate ended when he pushed her to her death; others claim she jumped in frustration at Rodger's betrothal betrayal. Deep scratches in the stone from her fingers supposedly remain along the edge of the sandstone cliff.

The next day, her father found her body on the rocks of White Rock Hollow below, shattered after plunging 60 feet through the air. Rodgers took off and joined the army.

But he returned to the scene of the crime after the war, according to one version, and filled with remorse over William's fate, took the leap himself as told in Charles Skinner's Myths and Legends of Our Own Land.

In Ceane O'Hanlon-Lincoln's yarn, written up in County Chronicles, the cad Rodgers was tried in court and found innocent, since no one could prove whether he actually did the dirty deed or she leaped to her own demise.

Her grave is located in Little White Rock's Methodist Cemetery on Hopwood-Fairchance Road, and its epitaph reads:

"Polly Williams 1792 - 1810

Behold with pity you that pass by
Here do the bones of Polly Williams lie
Who was cut off in tender bloom
By a vile wretch, her pretended groom."


Not much doubt about which story the locals bought into, hey? But the tale wasn't quite over. It's said Polly still haunts the cliff, searching for her lover, through its fog and mist. Even in the afterlife, she won't rest until she's wearing that diamond ring.

A reader posted that "White Rocks is now owned by the Pennsylvania DCNR. It is State land open to the public. There is an access gate across from the Little Whiterock Church. No parking though, so park across at the cemetery, and you can also see Polly's gravesite."

White Rock has always ben a fairly popular site for rock hounds & hikers, so feel free to take a climb and see if Polly is still looking for love.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Many people travel to White Rocks where Polly Williams died. You do not have to ask for permission to go there! It is a wonderful walk and worth the trip!

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks for the heads-up on the visit. I've heard that it's a popular and scenic hiking spot, though I haven't had the chance to stop by yet. It could be that just the cliff climbers need the owner's OK; I got that info from a rock-hound site.

Anonymous said...

I did not know there was a river below I played there as a kid

Ron Ieraci said...

Anon - I didn't mean to imply there was a river under the rocks. A couple of sources said it was by the Cheat River, and I added that just to help fix the site. You're probably right that it's confusing; I'll just take it out. Thanks.

Ron Ieraci said...

Anon - I assume you mean Polly William's "jumping off" spot, not Duffy's Cut. I've completely eliminated Cheat River from the tale. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

I was born in Fairchance and my greatgrandmother lived across the road from the little whiterock church. I spent a lot of my youth hiking in those mountains. Lots of time on top of "the rock". Miss those days.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, anon, it sure seems like Polly hasn't scared anyone away, lol! I guess she just adds to the mystique.

Anonymous said...

White Rocks is now owned by the Pennsylvania DCNR. It is State land open to the public. There is an access gate across from the Little Whiterock Church. No parking though, so park across at the cemetary, and you can also see Polly's gravesite.

susan37 said...

I lived right across from the cemetery..who was ur great grandmother?

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Cooleytown---anyone now where that is? :-]

Anonymous said...

Being from Fairchance of course i know cooleytown. live in colorado now but still miss the old home town. spent many a day climbing the white rocks!!!!!

Reid Abel said...

Isabel rankin

Anonymous said...

I used to live just below cooleytown on peach street. My friends and o used to walk up to white rocks. The image of the view from a top white rocks will never leave my mind. Simply amazing. I would love to go back up there sometime. We also used to go to what I knew as "rabbit rocks". There are Indian head carvings as well as other images carved into the rocks. These rocks are located at the top of center st. Last time I was there houses were just being built around the rocks. Are these rocks still there?
Sincerely Mark Stoy

Anonymous said...

My family has a private group of plots near to Polly's grave. I started last year to plant in our area as well as Polly's. The things I planted last year are starting to take hold and I added a large hosta plant yesterday. I grew up going to visit our family and kind of adopted Polly as well. RIP Polly.

Anonymous said...

Any descendants of Owen Hugh,tax assesor for Fair chance in late 1800's? One of his sons married Armeda Cooley, daughter of Eliza and William Cooley. Family grave sites are located in Maple Grove Cemetery. Found flowers on grave of Eliza this past Memorial day. Thought it strange that there were any of her decendants still around. Any info?

Anonymous said...

hi I have been a member of Little White Rock Church since i was a baby. this much i know that it is Not a methodist church.

Anonymous said...

There are some cooley's in my family tree.

Anonymous said...

My family has different plots in the cemetery. 2 generations not far from Polly's

Anonymous said...

My greatgrandparents lived across the road Rank8n

Reid Abel said...

maybe you knew my greatgrandparents William and issabel rankin

Reid Abel said...

maybe you knew my greatgrandparents William and issabel rankin

Chris Lutz said...

Is the gravestone pictured the original one? I visited her grave many years ago and I remember it being very old, long, square and tall with an inscription on top about her? I have not been back there for many years. Was the old one replaced at some time recently.