Permanent link to this item
THE HERMIT OF SCIOTO., Auckland Star, Volume XVII, Issue 211, 8 September 1886
THE HERMIT OF SCIOTO.
btcry oi a Sts-anse Mane tiife lc Ohio.
tiie rjiirt bet-veuu Pe-ri»m>ath and Chillicothe, Ohio, about eleven miles south of the latter place, is what is known as tha cave of tho hermit of Scioto. The cave kan built many years u<<o, when the eurrouuding couutry waa an almost uninhabited wilderness. It is a rude-lookitg structure, formed by successive layers cf rough stone, under a projecting rock, which serves as a back and roof. Over the cave is a plain marble monument, now black with age, and on which appears tho following inscription : • WILLIAM HEWIT, : l The Hermit, : : Occupied this ckv« fourteen years, : : while all wae wilderness around : ; Wm. Hβ dieam 1884, aged 70 years. : But very little ia known of the life of Hewit. The old settlorc now living have no very distinct recollection of him, except that he occupied the earo above described for a number of years, and paid no attention to the other settlors. Ono pioneer, however, told me that he knew Hewit when he first came to that part of the country, and before he built the cave He said that Hewit had such a peculiar demeanour that he was inclined to regard him suspiciously, but afterwards found him much of a man. Hewit, it was thought, was a Virginian, and married early iv life into a family of much respectability. Returning from a journey rather unexpectedly one night he had ocular proof of hia wife's infidelity,killed her and her paramour, and instantly fled to the woods, never again to return or associate with mankind. Eventually fettling in tho Sciotic valley, he built this cave, where he p»ssed a life of absolute solitude, his rifle furaiehing him with food and clothing. Tne 1 ltter consisted of skinf, and lem told was as varied as Joseph's coat, giving him an extremely odd appearance. As the country gradually filled up and civilisation began to intrude on the solitude of bis surroundings, he became an object of curioeity to the settlers, who, in spite of his reticence and evasions, urged association with him. Occasionally he visited Chillicothe to exchange skins and fure £or ammunition. Hia singular appearanco attracted much attention and made him the unpleasant eubject of remark. He was a large, muscular man ; his beard was long and unshaven, and hia eyes wild and piercing. In passing from his cave to Chillicotho he always, took out of-the-way routes to avoid encountering any of his fellow-men. It i 3 said of him that while trading in Chillicotho one day he crawled into a large box, which was standing in front of one of tho trading posts, in order to aroid meeting a number of persons who were passing along the street. After murdering his wifo and her paramour in Virginia he seemed to possess an aversion to social associations of any kind, and would never speak to a man unless compelled to. Like "Johny Applessed," whose peculiarities I have described in a former letter, Hewit was an eccentric man, heeding the rights of others rather than his own. A physician passing that way one day in November, 1883, stopped at the hermit's cave out of curiosity, nnd pushing open the door found him lying on the ground.
Near Rocky Fore, about four miles from Baiiibriclge, is another cave, which, through a natural one, has a history more interesting than that of tbe hermit. readore have forgotten the thrilling accounts of the daring and desporate deeds committed by Bob McKimmey, the notorions Western and murderer, and hie capture near Kocky Fork some years ago. McKimmey used all tbe natural recesses of Rocky Fork as places of refuge whun tho deteutives wero on hie trail. The cave to which I have referred bears the name of McKimmey's Cave. It is reached by cihnbiug down the precipitious sides of tho cliff in a beautiful and romantic portion of tho surrounding grove When a point fifty feet below the summit of the cliff is reached a huge rock is seen ; turning the corner of thia rock abruptly, amid waving evergreen?, mofa and ferns, a small hole in the rocks opens its dark throat to the sun. Entering, a pmall chamber in tho living rocks is discovered, to pas? through which it is necestary for ons to humble himeelt on his hands and knees. ■ Adjoining this ie a second and pitch daik chamber. In this chamber is a small natural ehnlf in the rocky eide of tho cavern, near the roof. Here a man could hold »n army at bay with the simplest weapon. The wretched McKimmey is said to havo lain here f-sr hours, while his pumiera were searching every foot of ground in the vicinity for him. The rude utensils with which McKimmey cooked his coarse food are still shown. lie was a member of one of the most daring bands of robbore which ever invested Ohio, with Allen Grandstafl", leader of the band. These desperadoes were a terror to a wide community, and many a ghastly tale of their deeds is related with a shudder by the side of the quiet fireplaces in the lonely cabins in tho mountains on winter nightc. Of McKimmey's final capture, a former Postmaster of Bainbridge gave mo cho following luioouut: "McKimmey wat raited in this vicinity," t-aid he, "but committed no crimes until be went Weet to WyomiDg and Colorado. While there ho became one of the most murdetous and daring outlaws in the whole West, bis deeds wore on every tongue : his murders made everyone shudder ut tho mention of his name. When he returned to Ohio he came back to the haunts of his boyhood and lost no time in joining a b/uid of cutthroats here. Many a hundred dollars has thit gang choked out of the farmers ir this vicinity. Their deeds finally became bo notorious und bold that i-ooiething hod to bo done. Detective Norris of Springfield undertook the job of breaking up the gang. Ho worked up the case in mnsterly stylo and finally compelled McKimmey to leave the cave. 1 remember his capture well. Oae Thanksgiving Day tbe word went round from farmhouse to farmhouse in the mountains that McKimmey was in Allen Gratdsrafi'e cabin, a lonely and desolate littla log house in a clearing in the hille. Nearly "200 farmers grabbed their guns and made up a party to capture him. Armed with every conceivable weapon, the members of the party formed a great circle Tound the cabiu and gradually closed in on it. When tlieyhadcotnpletelyflurroundedit McKimmey showed himself at the door. One of the party, a young man named Jones, who was intimately acquainted with Me \ Kimmey, volunteered to go and tell him how desperately email were his chances of iscape. All held their breath as the young man unlered tbe When he got fairly inside, McKimmey, with one of those in tuitioiiS, one of those flaehea of genius which criminals often have in critical emerger.cieF, suddenly seized him with a lirip oi iron and held him close tc hn own body. He then calmly walked out of tho door, holding fast to Jones, secure in the fact that no one would shoot for fear of hitting Jonep, He walked in this way eiowly towards the woods. The army of pursuers followed. In the course of the walk through the wood, a giant oak was ranched. As McKimmey and Jones reached thie tree, a number saw their chanoe for a shot Just as McKimmey was walking behind the tree, and while Jones was protected by its trunk, a number of rifles rang out. and McKimmey fell, struck by several bullets. He was soon bound and taken to the Hilleboro , gaol, and, after hie trial and conviction, sentenced to the Ohio Penitentiary for life, where he is now one of the most noted convicts."
THE HERMIT OF SCIOTO., Auckland Star, Volume XVII, Issue 211, 8 September 1886
Fairfax Media is the copyright owner for the Auckland Star. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Fairfax Media. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.
This newspaper was digitised in partnership with Auckland Libraries.
Papers Past now contains more than just newspapers. Use these links to navigate to other kinds of materials.
These links will always show you how deep you are in the collection. Click them to get a broader view of the items you're currently viewing.
Enter names, places, or other keywords that you're curious about here. We'll look for them in the fulltext of millions of articles.
Browsed to an interesting page? Click here to search within the item you're currently viewing, or start a new search.
Use these buttons to limit your searches to particular dates, titles, and more.
Switch between images of the original document and text transcriptions and outlines you can cut and paste.
Print, save, zoom in and more.
If you'd rather just browse through documents, click here to find titles and issues from particular dates and geographic regions.
The "Help" link will show you different tips for each page on the site, so click here often as you explore the site.