O Shenandoah! Holler Notes

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Holler Notes

The Legend of Wizard Clip
By Don Silvius

In 1729, John Smith founded a village known as Smithfield near the Opequon Creek in present-day Jefferson County. Smith built a hemp mill and appointed a council. Lots were laid out, and if the recipients of these lots failed to build on them within three years, their rights to those lots were forfeited. The town was built at the intersection of two Indian trails and for years was visited by stage coaches and covered wagons. Smithfield's population may have been as high as 2500 at one time.

In 1794 Ada Livingston came from Pennsylvania to the lower Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He settled on Turkey Run, near where it enters the Opequon Creek, at Smithfield. He received a grant of seventy acres from Gov. Gooch and later bought adjacent tracts.

creekA few years after he had built his log house, a stranger came to his door and asked for a night's lodging. Livingston, who was a Christian of the Lutheran faith, gladly received him and provided him accommodations. During the night, the stranger became very sick and begged his host to send for a Catholic Priest to come and perform last rites for him. Livingston was very intolerant and said that no Catholic would be allowed to enter his house. The sick man's pleading fell upon deaf ears. He died that night in the Livingston house.

Jacob Foster, a neighbor, came in to keep wake to the corpse. As he entered the room, the tallow- dip went out. Other candles were brought in and lit, but they, too, went out when they were lit. Foster became scared and left. They buried the stranger the next day. As night fell, unusual things began to happen. Horses were heard galloping around the house, but when the door was opened, nothing was seen. The following week, Livingston's large barn burned and all the cattle and horses perished. Crockery tumbled and broke. Furniture danced around the room. Coals from the fireplace popped out and ricocheted off the walls. Shears were heard clipping, and sheets, blankets, boots, clothing and saddles were found clipped into the shape of a crescent.

These acts of an unseen spirit were driving the Livingstons crazy and keeping them from sleep. A lady from nearby Martinsburg, who had heard about the "clipper" came to visit the house. She was determined to test the demon that was causing so much trouble. She wore a silk cap and that night she wrapped the cap in heavy cloth and concealed it in the pocket of her coat. The next morning, she found the cap cut full of little half-moons.

In desperation, Livingston called in several conjurers and finally a witch. None of them could stop the horrifying antics. As soon as the sun would go down, the clipping would begin, the horses would start galloping, the fire would start popping and the tallow-dips would go out.

mountainLivingston had a dream about a mountain, and a man came walking toward him. The man wore a black robe. As he thought about the dream, he recognized the man as a priest he had seen in Winchester. He rode to Winchester, and located the Episcopal priest, Alexander Malmaria, and asked him to come and drive out the demon. The minister explained he had no such powers.

It was not until then that Livingston realized that this demon was in some way connected with the poor wayfarer to whom he had refused the ministering of the Catholic priest. He found a Catholic family who directed him to Shepherdstown to Father Dennis Cohill. Father Cohill made a trip to Smithfield. He tried sprinkling Holy Water, but it would not quiet the demon. He said a mass and the ghost was exorcised. The disturbing antics were never seen nor heard again.

riverLivingston was so relieved to be freed from the demon that he deeded a tract of land to the Catholic Church. To this day, they own the forty acres that run down to the Opequon Creek. There is a retreat built on the site today called Priestfield. The town of Smithfield eventually came to be called Middleway. Middleway is located in Jefferson County, West Virginia, in the northern Shenandoah Valley. The town sometimes known as Wizard Clip is very well preserved today by the Middleway Historical Society.

Questions? Comments? Email dsilvius@tlcdelivers.com .

notes Don Silvius works as a computer programmer/technician and has followed an avocation for genealogical and historical research during the past five years. As a musician, he played keyboards with "Nightwave," a Valley band, and has written over 150 songs, including all of the music for his wedding. A descendant of three families (Silvius, Campbell and Mowery) who have been in the Valley since at least the early 1800's, Don lives with his wife and two children near Inwood, WV, on part of the property once owned by his great-grandparents. He's a chemistry graduate of Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, WV, and is active in his local Little League Baseball organization. Don can be reached by e-mail at dsilvius@tlcdelivers.com .

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Holler Notes Don Silvius, 1997. All rights reserved.