Since it's almost Halloween and the stone house in this legend is the inspiration for my new book, The Stone House Legacy, I thought I would republish a blog from November 4, 2013. Hope you enjoy it.
The farmhouse where I grew up was built of native limestone quarried right on the property. The walls were two foot thick and the glass in the windows was clouded and wavy. High up in the eaves of the house were holes just big enough to sight a rifle barrel so the home's original owners could fend off Indian raids. Limestone was the building material of choice because the stone lay close to the surface and was easy to quarry. It was also soft enough to shape into building blocks when it was first unearthed, but it dried as hard as cement after being exposed to the air. The cornerstone on our house was crudely carved with the words "The summer of 1857 was dry."
Although the house had been added onto over the years, the footprint of the original stone house remained. There were two rooms downstairs and one large room upstairs that my sister and I shared. The shadow of a fireplace, long since cemented in, remained in the kitchen where the original settlers must have cooked and warmed the house. We had running water and electricity, but never got around to installing a bathroom so we used the outhouse until it blew over in a storm. After that, we simply squatted in the bushes.
Although I often lay awake at night listening to the sound of rats scurrying across the attic floor above me, I was never afraid of the house. It was an impenetrable fortress against the storms that had buffeted it for over a century. No it wasn't the house that made me uneasy, it was the legend around it.
The house was once part of an early settlement called Neosho City, founded by a group of religious zealots from the East who bought the land on speculation and offered the lots to anyone willing to follow the charter rules they set out. The settlement was to be a "city of no sin" and the inhabitants were to follow a strictly vegetarian diet. They were to eat nothing they couldn't grow themselves and they were not to use any medications to cure or prevent illnesses. Death was simply God's will and they were not to interfere. The women were to tend the fields while the men attended religious meetings and prayed for God's blessings upon the community. This, they believed, would ensure their prosperity. But Mother Nature didn't get the message. A few summers into the settlement a severe drought ruined the crops and left the settlement to suffer through one of the hardest winters on record with no food. Starvation and sickness descended upon them and the aged and the children were the first to feel the effects.
The settlement was built on an octagonal plat with the church and cemetery situated in the center and plots of one hundred and sixty acres spanning out from the center like the spokes on a wheel. The remnants of a livery stable still stood on the far edge of the property, but a small cemetery overgrown with brambles and weeds remained within sight of the stone house. The cemetery was filled with ornate limestone headstones carved in the shape of cradles and cribs bearing the names of children, most under the age of two. The sayings carried the grief of the parents from the past into the afterworld with their children..."beloved son...infant child...precious gift..."
The settlement disappeared after that winter and nothing remained except the old livery stable, the stone house and the little cemetery. And sometimes at night, when the wind howled through the chinks in the stone house, I thought I could hear children crying.