The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

August 28th, 2013

Aug. 5, 1937The Springhill Record

The House of Mystery – by M.R. Herrett, Springhill

     Now, in the following story, the writer would not wish to renew the superstitions of our forefathers, or in the rising generation of the present day, but undoubtedly our forefathers were deeply religious, also very suspicious, and in what to us today might be more easily understood, to them seemed superstitious.  Thereby this “House of Mystery.”

     Going back to the early days of Springhill, in the year of 1865, the Grand Mining Association had acquired coal areas now operated by the present Company.  A number of capitalists known as the American Exploration Company acquired the right to search for coal outside the already acquired areas.  Springhill, at that time composed of a number of farms now occupied by the descendants of the earlier pioneers, was practically a wilderness.  And where the present town stands, composed of three farms, were occupied by Nathan Boss, Thomas Boss, and Amos Mills.

     To the westward and southwestward which is today known as Herrett Road and Athol Road, were two farms owned by James Gilroy and Ludwick Hunter.  The farms of Boss, Hunter, and Gilroy, overlying the Grand Mining Association area, were purchased by the coal company.  Hunter and Gilroy left the district and went to the Province of Ontario, while Boss resettled on what is known as the Rodney Road, still occupied by his descendants.

     It is not the purpose of the writer to write the history of Springhill, for this has been ably done by the late Daniel McLeod and by Miss Bertha Scott.

     The Gilroys:  Some years before, the Gilroy’s sold their property and built a new house for themselves.  This was situated on the road known as the Black River Road, and will be known today as the Commons Road, leading from the west end of the Herrett Road Corner and connecting with the Athol and Mountain Roads.  This house with the rambling structure, was called in that day a dove-tailed house, built of hewn timber and sealed with pine lumber.  The upper chamber, as usual, was unfinished.

     In the early spring of ’66, which will be remembered as a matter of history, the country was much agitated by the Fenian invasion of Canada.  Early in the year there arrived in the community, a man, for obvious reasons, I will call Parks, accompanied by his wife.  He had obtained work with the Americans, and as the Gilroy house was without a tenant, obtained permission to occupy it.  It was noted by the people that he did not make it known as to just where he had come from.  This caused some comment, but it had partly been forgotten, until one morning in the early summer, when he arrived at the home of Joseph Herrett, before the family had sat down to their breakfast.  He seemed very much excited, rushing in saying – “Did you folk hear anything last night?”

     They assured him that nothing had occurred to disturb them.

     “Why? They asked.

     He said “I’m sure the Fenians must have landed in Parrsboro last night, for the house I live in shook and rumbled a good part of the night, and I’m sure it was the roar of their guns.”

     They told him that he must have been mistaken, as they had heard nothing, but he still persisted that it was so, and that the Fenians were in Parrsboro.

     Nothing further was heard from him for some time, when he again returned saying: “It was not the Fenian guns that I heard, but the very Devil himself is in that house and he come regularly every night.

     They laughed and made light of it, saying that such could not be so, for nothing had ever occurred in the house before.  He still persisted, and asked them to come and hear it.  To satisfy themselves as to the truth of Parks’ story, the heads of the different families  gathered in a mass at Parks’ home, determined should anything occur, to find out what was the cause and lay the ghost if possible.  Now those men grew up here in a wilderness country, and were not to be deterred or frightened of anything they could see or understand.  Their names were Henry Smith, George Smith, Daniel McNutt, Thomas Boss, Nathan Boss, and Joseph Herrett.  Those men were the grandsires and grandparents of a large number of citizens of our town today.  What happened was told to the writer by one of the above named men, who was present at that time.

     They sat, talked and smoked until the early evening was growing toward midnight.  Nothing yet had happened, and beginning to tire, they said to Parks: “I guess your ghost will not come tonight.  We will go home.”

     He replied.  “No don’t go.  Stay.  It will be here at midnight.”

     As he was so persistent, they stayed.

     At last one of the Smiths got from his seat, started towards the door saying:  “Come on home, men.  There is nothing here.”  It was at that moment it was as if  someone had dropped a heavy iron ball on the chamber floor above their heads, which made the house resound, and the whole building rumbled and shook until the glass rattled in the windows.

     At once they noticed that Parks seemed to lose all sense of their presence, addressing apprehensively and cursing it, saying, “Here you are again, you old Devil to harass me”, while his wife cowered and trembled in her chair.

     They rushed up to the chamber but could not see or find anything that would cause the disturbance.  They searched the cellar and all parts of the house, but nothing could they find.  On leaving, they were almost convinced there must be something superstitious in that house, and it was a very much talked of thing for some time.

     Shortly after Parks wife told a neighbour woman.  “It was all right for him to say the Devil was in that house, but it follows us wherever we go.”

     Late in the fall of the same year, someone going by found that Parks and his wife had gone, left apparently in the night, and to this day, it was never known where they had come from nor where they had gone, and as to the ancient proverb, “They had folded their tent and departed by night.”

     Now, as unreasonable as this tale may seem, it was told in good faith by men we would believe to be truthful and honourable in their convictions, and they were fully convinced that there was something supernatural, and that this man had done something which caused the Evil One to pursue him. 

     Nothing was ever heard in that house after the departure of the Parkses, and some years later it was torn down.  Today nothing remains but the imprint of the cellar and its tradition as a “House of Mystery.”