Armchair Explorer: Fishing Creek’s Murder House

After writing a story about a headless singing ghost rumored to haunt Fishing Creek, several people reached out with other tales of the macabre from Drumore Township. To be clear, I am unsure how the physics for a crooning beheaded spirit works.

One story involved a “murder house.”

Here’s what the reader had to say:

To add to your fishing creek stories—my family has property just north of the foundation you have pictured. Just up the trail, another foundation (on the conservancy property line) has always been known as the “murder house.” Supposedly an old black man lived there and was murdered. We have found many neat relics over the years there.

This tidbit definitely piqued my interest, and I wondered if there could be any truth to this Haunted Lancaster tale. A Google search didn’t produce more beyond the previously mentioned 1905 edition of the Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society. In it, local historian Samuel Sener wrote about various Lancaster County superstitions. One story involved Prawl’s Hollow in Drumore Township. Here’s what Sener wrote:

“Prawl’s Hollow,” a lonely place in Drurnore township, this county, is haunted by the spirit of a peddler who was killed there.

From the 1904-1905 ‘Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society;’ v. 9, no. 8.

That’s a vague description, and I could not make any connection between the alleged murder house and the killed peddler.

Next, I turned my attention to the Lancaster Newspaper’s digital Ancestry Archives. It includes every edition between 1796 and now, plus it is entirely text-searchable. It’s definitely worth the monthly subscription.

The closest match I could find came from an October 10, 1854 issue of the Lancaster Intelligencer. Here’s what the brief article said:

Murder.—A colored man was imprisoned, on Thursday last, charged with having committed a murder, in Drumore township, on the previous day.

From the October 10, 1854 edition of the Lancaster Intelligencer newspaper.

Later a metal detector enthusiast commented on Facebook and added the following detail, “I heard a black man killed his wife there.”

Fortunately, with the aid of LiDAR scans, locating the ruins proved easier than finding additional information on the parcel’s morbid history.

According to the onX Hunt app that highlights property lines, Lancaster Conservancy and private ownership split the stone ruins in half. So one dreary after, I headed over to Fishing Creek to see what was visible. Update: According to the current property owner, the OnX Hunt’s property lines are incorrect and the foundation is entirely on private property. That information turns this Side Quest into an Armchair Explorer which needs no visiting.

After a brief but steep hike up from Fishing Creek Road, I located the structure. There wasn’t much to see. In fact, the stone foundation proved to be relatively small. More in line with a modern-day garden shed than an old house or cabin.

Numerous large slate shingles, old bricks, and broken glassware littered the ground inside the foundation.

Update: January 9, 2022

After publishing the article, I was contacted by the property owner who in addition to clarifying where the correct property lines were also provided some additional details on the structure’s history.

The house was still standing and under roof when my father was younger in the early 1970s or late 60s. When I was a kid I remember there was a wood stove and old metal bedframe there that have since been taken. Most of the slate from the roof has also been taken too

The story of the place has always been unclear to me. I’ve heard people say different things but from what I have heard in the 1800s an African American man murdered a family there. I’m not sure if it was his own family or not. It was at one point in the 1800s an African American schoolhouse. My father always thought that it was involved with the underground railroad.

Please Note Well

The foundations are on private property so you will be unable to visit without securing permission from the owner. If you have any information about the “murder house,” I would love to hear it. Comment below or email me at adam@unchartedlancaster.com.

Read More

Resources

1864 Map of Drumore Township.

One thought on “Armchair Explorer: Fishing Creek’s Murder House

  1. Good sleuthing, Adam. There seems to have been more than one version or edition of the 1864 Bridgend Atlas. I’ve seen one that shows “African Church” in addition to “African School” in that area of Fishing Creek. Anyone else?

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