Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Siren Of The Loyalsock

Legend has it that along the Loyalsock Creek  near Williamsport, if you look to the trees, you may spot a young Indian girl.  Beware, and do not be lured in by her beautiful voice, for she is responsible for the deaths of many who have attempted to raft the waters.
As the legend tells, she was murdered by early settlers along the creek, and has sought justice ever since.  Or at least, that is the modern version.

Henry Shoemaker records the much older tale of the Loyalsock Siren in his book, Tales of Bald Eagle Mountain.  [I've summarized it here, but the entire text is at the bottom of this post]

Just one family from the Mingo Indian Tribe remained in the area.  That family had  nine children - 8 girls, and one unhealthy boy - living  in a cabin hanging out over the river, at the area later known as Sylvan Dell.

The father was a basket maker, and he sold his baskets at some of the early Williamsport markets.  One of the daughters, Sweet Cicely, was extremely enchanting.  When a young Indian boy by the name of Willian Winters came to the area to work on a nearby farm, Sweet Cicely and William soon fell in love.  She would wait for him each evening, on the rocky ledge overhanging the creek, singing in her beautiful clear voice.

Raftsman would pass Cicely each evening, as they looked for a place to tie up their rafts for the night before going on to Williamsport the next morning.  The men all loved hearing the young girls voice.

One evening William was late returning from work, but in the twilight, seeing another  approach, Cicely began singing her songs of love and longing.  The man on the raft followed her voice.  When he approached, Cicely realized her mistake, and fled from him, but the raftsman, angry at her rejection, squeezed her by the throat until she was still.
Thinking he had killed her, and hearing William approach, the raftsman fled over the mountain.

William and his friend rushed to Cicely's side, and found that although her windpipe was crushed, she was was not yet dead. She died in her lovers arms as darkness fell.
He carried her body to her parents home.  The next day, Cicely's father went to Williamsport with the raftsman's belongings, but the sheriff refused to help, and threatened the Indians, telling the father that he was no longer welcome in Lycoming County.

The Powderhorn family, afraid every person  in Williamsport was as unjust as those at the courthouse, packed up and left the area, returning to their tribes reservation.
But Sweet Cicely remained on the banks of the Lycoming Creek.  For many year after her murder, as rafts swept down the creek in the spring floods, Cicely's voice could be heard from the ledge above the creek.  At the sound of her melodies, the pilots would lose control of their rafts, many crashing into the rocks and breaking their necks, the same as Cicelys neck had been broken all those years before.

The accidents continued for many years, until one man came up with the idea to bury the latest crash victim alongside the Powderhorn family's deserted cabin, where Cicey had been buried years before.  

As the grave was covered, the crowd that had gathered swore they heard the high sweet voice singing, one last time.   Cicely was never heard along the Loyalsock again.
As legends often do, this one changed with the times, and when the canal came to the area, Cicely's story was adapted.  

During the days when the canal was being built, Cicely sat along the banks and sang as the canal workers worked.  The men all adored and revered her, as her voice broke the monotony of thier work and made their days more pleasant.
One day, a man with poor intentions assaulted the young girl, and when she fought back, he killed her.

The canal workers tracked her assailant, and lynched him.  And those who work along the creek today, can still sometimes hear her sweet singing.

Our Loyalsock Siren is likely a descendent of the Sirens Homer wrote about in 7th century BC.  It was during this time that writing was becoming more common in Greece, and its widely accepted that that many of the poems in Homers writings were stories passed down orally for centuries before.

In The Odessey, Homer tells us of the Sirens who enchant all who come near them.  These two monsters pretend to be beautiful women with melodious voices entertain and lure in the sailors passing their island.  

"First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song.

There is a great heap of dead men's bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men's ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must lash the rope's ends to the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you faster."

The Siren
(Story Of The Loyalsock Mountain)
As recorded by Henry Shoemaker

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