Ravenwood, Chapter 3 [fiction]

Official Town History:

In 1702, French fur hunters and trappers who traded with Native Americans and settlers migrating west along the Allegheny valley constructed a trading post in Pennsylvania called Amity. The village remained a trading post until 1747.

On March 12, 1800, the state formed Myers County from parts of Allegheny County. Frank Wood renamed Amity to Raven Wood in 1829 after his mother’s lineage: Raven and his father’s lineage: Wood.

Raven Wood grew into a sizable railroad town soon after the discovery of oil in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1859. On May 27, 1861, tracks owned by the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad intersected with those of the Sunbury and Erie Railroad and called the “Atlantic and Erie Junction.” Frank Wood owned land at the junction and sold a portion to the Atlantic and Great Western in October 1861. The railroad constructed a ticket office at the junction and named it for Raven Wood, but through a misspelling, it became Ravenwood.

The combination of railroad growth and the discovery of oil in northwestern Pennsylvania contributed greatly to Ravenwood’s development. The town went from a population of six hundred in 1861 to nine thousand in less than six months. Many surrounding forests were stripped of almost all of their valuable hardwood. Mills and farms sprang up on almost every conceivable spot.

The state recognized the boomtown as a borough in 1863 and designated it as a city in 1865.

Ravenwood’s Strange Lights:

Small, airborne green and yellow bumblebee-type creatures appeared in 1745, back when the town was  Amity. On the night of July 7, the glowing creatures swarmed over the town, hovered in the sky for an hour, then turned into thick, black ash that fell and settled on the town like tarry soot.

During cleanup, fever, madness and death seized most of the three-hundred-and-fifty townspeople. For five days, many of the afflicted suffered slow, agonizing deaths. Of the few who lived outside of town and were not afflicted, one was 19-year-old Ezekiel Wood. He recorded a grisly account about a fur trader who murdered his wife and two children while they slept, and then stuffed their corpses inside the belly of a slaughtered cow. Ezekiel also wrote of lunatics setting fire to the town. Nearly all the homes had both dead and living inside. Ezekiel, who was attending the sick, managed to escape the inferno by submerging himself in the local river. He was the only known survivor of the blaze, and he became great-grandfather to Ravenwood founder, Frank Wood.

No one has seen the lights again.

Every town has its urban legends and Ravenwood is no exception. There are the fabled cries of help from dead school kids who were on a bus that sank to the bottom of Three Mile Swamp, the lunatic with a hook for a hand who escaped from the prison at nearby New Cambridge, and Norman Myers’s ghost on Myers Ridge.

These stories and more crop up every Halloween.

Coming soon: More about Vree and other Ravenwood characters.

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