Just the sound of Maggie Rose calling
The tale has been told on many an Ichabod Crane night, but I guess it won't hurt to tell it again.
It came to mind not long ago when I was heading out Rt. 13 toward Unger, where the buffalo used to roam in southern Morgan County.
I neared Pallet Factory Bridge, which is the official State Roads name for the first one lane bridge, the one soon after Harmison's Farm.
Once again I heard the low murmuring sound that so many people have heard as they approached the bridge. Some believe it is the hushed calling of Maggie Rose. Even in full daylight you can hear it.
Maggie Rose, or Magdalene Rosalie Kinder as she was christened, was born not far from that bridge more than 160 years ago. This was long before the present bridge was built, even long before the almost-forgotten factory that gave the bridge its name.
The Kinder family were poor dirt farmers. The struggles of day-to-day existence took all of their attention and energy, so they had little interest in the growing political tensions of the 1850s — the tensions that, in 1861, erupted into a Civil War.
Throughout the first year of the war, the Kinder clan tried to get on with life, though it was hard to ignore the activity around them since Confederate troops were in and out of southern Morgan County and, at times, occupied Berkeley Springs itself.
During this time, Maggie Rose started hearing stories about Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, the famous Confederate general. Maggie Rose, in fact, began idolizing Jackson and developing romantic notions about the Old South. She kept her thoughts to herself because her father let her know soon enough that he had no use for them.
Things had settled down a little by Christmas, 1861. Union troops controlled Berkeley Springs and few skirmishes were reported. What 15-year-old Maggie Rose and her parents didn't know was that Stonewall Jackson was planning an assault on Berkeley Springs and Hancock.
From his headquarters in Winchester, Jackson issued orders on New Year's Eve for his troops to head north in the wee hours of New Year's Day, 1862.
At first, the weather was so pleasant that it was downright balmy. Many of the Confederate soldiers left their winter coats on supply wagons at the rear of the column since they didn't really need them.
Unfortunately, it began to snow in the middle of New Year's Day and the storm continued for the next three days. A cold wind came up the valley, blowing sparks around the Confederate camp that first night, setting at least one soldier's blanket afire.
The next morning, with little or no breakfast because their supply wagons had bogged down, the Confederates trudged on. Things got so bad that Stonewall Jackson, a renowned teetotaler, fortified himself with whiskey, or so one of his officers reported.
By late on January 2, Confederate forces were spread out for seven or eight miles, with assorted units and groupings sloughing through the blizzard all across southern Morgan County.
Despite the terrible weather and against her father's wishes, Maggie Rose Kinder wanted to catch a glimpse of Stonewall Jackson when he rode past her house. As she tried to sleep that night, her romantic notions and dreams got the best of her. In the wee hours of January 3, during a lull in the whining storm, she crept from her bed and sneaked outside.
Wrapped in all the winter clothes she could gather, the teenaged girl made her way toward a clump of trees along the western bank of Sleepy Creek and hid there, waiting to spot her hero.
Soon she heard a contingent of Confederates coming. Then, more and more troops slowly moved toward her — cold, tired men wading through the snow and cursing the storm.
Shivering, Maggie Rose huddled in the bushes, hoping and waiting for her moment with the Great Stonewall.
It was mid-morning when a hungry gray-clad private thought he saw a rabbit or something that might be edible down near the stream bank.
He raised his weapon and fired, but before he could go in search of his game, an officer rode by and ordered, "Hurry! Move on!"
The soldier hadn't shot a rabbit, anyway.
Poor Maggie Rose collapsed in the snow and laid there, unseen by the grumbling troops passing by. She drifted in and out of consciousness. When she gathered the strength to call for help, no one heard her because of the noise of the cannons rolling by, the cannons that would later be used to shell Hancock, Maryland.
After looking for her for hours, her father found Maggie Rose's body that afternoon.
As the years went by, he noticed that whenever he approached the spot, it seemed as if there was a strange sound.
Was it a distant echo of cannons rumbling past, or was it horses neighing, or was it Maggie Rose moaning for help?
Whatever it was, whatever it is, some claim they still hear the same low sorrowful sound as they approach Pallet Factory Bridge, heading south.