Friday, April 23, 2010

The Legend of Betty Knox

Dunbar Creek image from High Country Fish

Between Ohiopyle and Dunbar in Pennsylvania's Fayette County lies the Dunbar Mountains, and that's where Betty Knox and her legend originate.

Betty was born in 1842 on a farm at Kentuck Knob atop the Great Gorge of the Youghiogheny (now Ohiopyle State Park). Her mother died when she was three, and her father raised her as a son. She did all the hard work of a nineteenth century farmer, clearing, plowing, planting, weeding, and reaping. In between, she raised the cattle, cut the wood, drove the ox teams, and of course cooked the meals.

When she was seventeen, her father died, and she was left to her own devices. Betty, despite the hard work, had turned out to be a beautiful, flaxen-haired girl, and had no shortage of suitors, being lovely, single, and a property owner. But she spurned all the locals and lived a solitary life.

Knox earned her daily bread by hauling grain to Ferguson's Mill near Dunbar, powered by her oxen, and returned with flour, a day-long, twenty-five mile trek. In fact, she traveled such an undeviating route that she carved her own trail through the forest.

Where her journey crossed Dunbar creek is still known locally as Betty Knox Park, along with the fresh water spring that she lined with stone.

One evening in 1862, while on the way home from the mill, she found a badly wounded soldier, who told her he had deserted from the Union Army. Betty took the soldier home, hid him from the Army, and nursed his wounds. She became smitten by her soldier, but despite long months of Betty's TLC, he finally died. Knox, although heartbroken, returned to her routine.

Years later, Betty Knox, who had never missed a day of work in her life, suddenly quit showing up to collect the farmer's grain. Alarmed, the neighbors went to her home to see if she was sick, but the house was empty. Search parties swept the forest and retraced her trail, but found not a sign of her.

Theories concerning her disappearance abounded. Some claimed that wolves or a panther had attacked her, while others darkly speculated that a rejected lover had ambushed her, or perhaps a gang of thieves.

Others thought that she had never gotten over losing her soldier and plunged to her death in the Youghiogheny River. It may have been that she was just tired of her life in the woods, pulled up roots, and found a new home. To this day, no one really knows.

The following spring some children found the skeleton of an ox chained to a tree near Betty's spring; odd, because that very trail had been scoured by her search party without finding the ox, and also because Knox never used a chain on her animals. Still, that didn't explain what happened to Betty Knox.

But one thing is certain - Betty Knox is still around, at least in spirit.

Young couples out for a late night drive claim to hear the mournful lolling of oxen miles from the nearest farm. Park visitors report hearing her sobbing. Sportsmen tell of a pale feminine form that flickers through the trees before daylight. Others report seeing a woman leading an oxen team along the trail. And on some dark nights, the pained voice of a young man can be barely heard whispering "Betty Knox, Betty Knox."

(As a footnote, you may not have to worry about running into Betty's ghost. An enterprising local claimed to have captured it in a mason jar, and sold it on eBay for $2.51. Now there's a legend for you, and at a blue light price!)

If you're curious, Betty Knox Park is now part of the State Gamelands, located off Dunbar - Ohiopyle Road about three miles from Dunbar. Look for a Game Commission building on the right at a sharp curve. The gravel road to right of the shed (called "Betty Knox Road" but without any signage) will take you along Dunbar Creek to where Betty's oxen were found.

H&H rummaged through several sources for this post, but the best tale by far is told on the Connellsville Ghost Stories site.


Unknown said...

I've been looking for supernatural experiences that occured around the area where I am from, which is Mt.Braddock (a few minutes drive from Betty Knox) and came across your site. Betty Knox has definitely provided my friends and I with quite a few nights of scaring each other, but never quite encountering anything. In fact, I have never actually heard anyone who has a story of seeing anything in this area. Although the area is super creepy, with a thick, dense forest and a road that is so narrow along it's 3 mile or so reach that a car can not turn around without going the length of the road and reaching a gravel parking lot/round about.

I even participated in what is one of the most elaborate practical jokes. Myself dressing up in an antique victorian wedding gown and waiting in the woods at Betty Knox to frighten friends who we had convinced on checking out the place for a scare. I will never forget their face as I emerged from the woods and let out a shriek (mean I know, but also quite funny!) (and don't worry everyone involved is fine and counts this among one of their favorite anecdotes).

So I'm not too convinced that their really is anything at Betty Knox, except the environment to tell a good ghost story in. I was hoping you might be able to direct me to any information regarding sightings/experiences around Mt.Braddock, Lemont Furnace, or Jumonville Glen. i have definitely had my own experiences and want to see if anyone had experienced anything similar.

Thanks and sorry about the long post!

Ron Ieraci said...

Lisa - no such thing as a too-long post. Sorry, I can't help with any local sightings; maybe readers from the Uniontown area have heard tales and you guys can compare notes. But I'll take a look over the weekend and see if I can come up with anything for the spots you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

The 4th house on the right in piper hollow is in fact haunted. I should know, I lived there for 23 years. We moved in, in October 1968. We would be watching TV and you could hear people walking around upstairs. My furniture use to get moved around and fires built in the furnace

Unknown said...

Once my dad, about 23 years ago, was walking in Ohiopyle at night. He claims he heard the sound of hooves, like oxen, behind him.

Ron Ieraci said...

Cheyenne - thanks; that's one of the more reported phenomena, along with sobbing and her whispered name.

Anonymous said...

Dear lisa or anyone else, Im a super natural person and i got the site of the third eye if you ever need help finding or contact the things that is't there txt or call me sometime. I been being haunted since from a younge age and see and talk to the dead i been helping so many spirts move on but some just dont want to.

Sincerly The Angel Of Death! :/

Anonymous said...

The Angel Of Death!
my Cell Is 724-425-6160

Anonymous said...

The Angel Of Death!
I was born with a scare the is invisable now but it was the portal of ol halloween the symbol to let the dead come back

Anonymous said...

My mom was raised in that area and my parents took us to Betty Knox many times in our youth. I had never heard the story told here. Thank you so much

Anonymous said...

Not sure about the Young couples out for a late night drive claim to hear the mournful lolling of oxen miles from the nearest farm. Because there are several farms near betty knox including mine and actually one shares a property line with betty knox has a donkey and horses I've lived a few minutes from betty knox my whole life and have went horse back riding there alone countless times and I have never heard or saw anything but maybe my horses hooves walking on the ground has scared quite a few lol

Anonymous said...

There are a set of graves across the creek that if you are close to late at night you can hear a lady sobbing its really creepy

Anonymous said...

I use to live up past the state game shed and can say the woods around there do give off some crazy vibes.Theres also a indian burial ground not to far from there.and some caves u can get in to if u know where to look.The woods around there in some places gets very thick and is easy for people that dont know the area to get lost and turned around.And iv seen a few bears wile going there never fun when u are walking or on a bike .And 2 years ago the last time i went biking back there on my way out i ran in to a pack of wild dogs about 10-15 of them a few did try tobite me.So when going back there be safe great place
Also there are myths about skin walkers and the devil being seen

Anonymous said...

I have had an experience while fishing on Dunbar Creek. I was the only person down there one day. I was standing in the water and I thought I heard someone walk up behind me in the water. I turned around thinking it was going to be another fisherman asking me if I caught anything, but when I turned around, no one was there. I didn't think anything of it. Just thought that the stream flow made the noises and I was hearing things. So I continued fishing further upstream almost to where the big parking lot is and I was standing in slow shallower water that was not moving, and the same thing happened to me again. Same footsteps and I turn around to no one there. Then I hear someone or something walking on the hill across the stream right above me. The noise was coming from no more than 20 ft away and I saw nothing. It freaked me out and I got out of there. It was one of the weirdest experiences that I ever had. Another friend of mine that has fished down there has had the same experience too. Very creepy.

Unknown said...

Bigfoot is in that area! Truly, they are there! There have been Many sightings! Google it!

Unknown said...

I have heard her scream