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Author Topic:   A seasonal silver story

Posts: 4121
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 10-11-2004 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was poking around the web looking for information on the silversmith Storrs Messinger of Esperance NY and ran across this, which seemed quite appropriate as we creep up on Allhallows Eve.

The Esperance Witch
An excerpt from a story published in the
Schoharie County Historical Review (Spring-Summer 1993)

The traditional story is that a Frenchman settled opposite the Village on the Duanesburg side of the creek with his family. Soon after this, the husband died and the widow was left to care for her children in her own frugal French way. Soon gossips spread word that she was a witch. Witnesses said they had seen her take off her apron, lay it on the creek, and pole herself across. She would later pick up the apron dry and put it back on. Other stories told of dying cattle and sick children that were blamed on her. The witch was also supposed to have caused the death of a Mr. McDuffie. When he was drawing a log for the new school building he suffered a crushed leg that had to be amputated, which eventually led to his demise. Sour milk and even a storm were blamed on her presence. The Town’s folk met in a solemn conclave to decide her fate. Some say they met in the 1824 stone church, others say it was at the 1814 schoolhouse. Never-the-less, a silver bullet was made from a silver spoon by Storrs Messinger, the local silversmith. The men went to the widow’s house and shot her. Different versions suggest she was shot through a window or while she was in bed or cooking with two small children on the floor playing beside her. Then they took her, put a stake through her heart and buried her on the opposite side of the creek to keep her spirit from crossing the water and revenging her death. Another story has her buried beneath pine or willow trees on the Conover Road so that the roots would keep her from rising from the grave. This story has been passed down from generation to generation. The source of the story appears to have been the silversmith himself, Storrs Messinger. Besides being a silversmith and jeweler, he was postmaster from approximately 1845-1885 and lived to be past 90 years of age. His grandson, Storrs Seeley remembered his grandfather telling it and was quoted by historian Archie C. Montayne. Mr. Seeley said that anyone who came into Town usually talked to his grandfather. He also remembered seeing the rolling machine the silversmith used to roll out the silver and the convex dies to form the spoons. While Storrs Messinger died over one hundred years ago, the story of the Esperance Witch survives and turns up now and again around Halloween as newspaper stories.

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iconnumber posted 10-11-2004 05:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An interesting story - it raises a number of questions:

I wonder if the silversmith marked the bullet?

I always wondered why the Lone Ranger used silver bullets - now I know! But why was his horse named Silver?

Was there a silver lining to the story -- i.e., did her demise end the town's misfortunes?

Was anyone tried for her murder, or was the town's reputation tarnished forever?

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 10-11-2004).]

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iconnumber posted 10-11-2004 05:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, the horse was "Silver" because his coat "flashed like polished silver" in the sun when first seen by the Lone Ranger and Tonto, who found him wandering the desert. The metal for his bullets came from a lost silver mine the pair discovered. An old miner they rescued worked the claim for them and processed the ore. No mention of who made the bullets.

Back to the story at hand, I also wondered if Messinger marked the bullet (sign of the cross?) and if he refined the metal to pure, sterling, or just coin standard. I'd think, taking no chances with the tool of Satan, he'd have gotten it as pure as he could.

I don't know about the town, but Messinger enjoyed a long and prosperous life, dying at 95, praised for both his business and civic activities.

[This message has been edited by wev (edited 10-11-2004).]

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iconnumber posted 12-18-2004 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for middletom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm rather surprised that the people in the early 19th century were afraid of witches to such an extent. That sounds more seventeenth century. Sounds like the story of Goody Cole in the town I grew up in. So much gobbledy-gook added on to a bit of truth.

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iconnumber posted 12-18-2004 05:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, I have a feeling it had more to do with the town wanting to expand into the large track of woodlands the 'witch' refused to vacate or some such. Happened several time around my parts.

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