O.B. Mayer and his folk tales


By Liesha Huffstetler - For The Newberry Observer



NEWBERRY COUNTY — O.B. Mayer was a Newberry physician, a professor at Newberry College, a historian and the author of folk tales told of the customs and culture of the Dutch Fork area.

One story, printed in the Newberry Herald in 1891, was called “Aberhot Koselhantz, The Wizard Gunsmith” and had its origins in his childhood.

While listening to his grandmother, Eva Margaret Summer, talk with her friend Amy Lohner late into the night, one of the stories was of a man who could “arrest motion completely in human beings.”

In the 1891 article, Mayer recalled that one night the ladies didn’t speak in German, but in English. Amy Lohner narrated a story of “Old Setzler,” a gunsmith.

This could be John Adam Setzler who arrived in the Dutch Fork in 1766 from Ober-Sensbach Germany. Setzler’s occupation was a gunsmith.

The Wizzard Gunsmith is a cute little story about “Aberhot, his wife and daughter Betsy. Aberhot could cast spells” on people, “freezing them” like stone statues.

In the story, some boys were caught stealing apples from his orchard, and he “froze them,” then fussed at them and “unfrozen them” to help them learn a lesson.

The main plot involves a troop of British soldiers who come in his yard and demand a pig, chickens, bread and a meal. Their pet turkey attacked the leader and a scuffle ensued. The pet turkey died, and one of the soldiers kissed the daughter Betsy.

Aberhot Koselhantz cast his spell and “froze them.” The wife had the first “promptings of humanity” on the poor frozen soldiers and told her husband to free them. She fixed a huge meal and they enjoyed a huge container of homemade whisky.

One of the Hessian soldiers ended up marrying the daughter and life continued on in the good ole’ Dutch Fork.

The folk tale of the Two Marksman on Ruff’s Mountain is a story of two sons that have a talent of marksmanship, one with a gun and one who can throw anything and hit its mark.

In a tale rich in adventure, outlandishness and folk tale humor, this Dutch Fork story includes Faustus Wolfram, his sons Barthlamy and Billy, and a fair maiden named Katarina of Rosemary Breath.

The story also includes the camp of the British commander Lord Rawdonen, and Colonel Green of the Continental Army.

Some of the characters are real historical figures and some appear to be fiction. But who knows? Some Dutch Fork natives have a “Festus Wolfram” or one of his sons in their family lineage.

The story starts in 1870, with O.B Mayer sitting on Little Mountain, also known as “Ruffs Mountain.” He is looking at the remains of a hand-hewn log cabin that has bloodstains in the middle of the almost rotted floor and near the stone fireplace.

Mayer is reminiscing about the time he visited an older couple in the area and the story about the cabin.

It all begins with a Faustus Wolfram, an immigrant who was a miner from the Harz Mountains in Saxony Germany. He had come to the mountain to find gold but found a lead sulfide instead.

Much to his neighbor’s annoyance, he kept the location of the mine a secret from his neighbors. Lead sulfide had to be melted to make the bullets.

When Faustus would melt the lead sulfide, the smell of “burning brimstone” went drifting out into the neighboring community and the neighbors thought he had sold his soul to the devil for a “bushel of bullets.”

He had two sons. The oldest was tall and thin with blonde hair and blue eyes and named Barthlamy. The other son, Billy, was short, with bow legs and and black curly hair.

Barthlamy was an excellent marksman with his rifle and could hit anything with “those magic bullets” his father made. Billy had the uncanny ability to throw rocks of any size and hit his target. Both of these men were the “two marksman of Ruff’s Mountain.”

A man named Hefting had a daughter named Katarina. One day while walking home, Katarina saw two British soldiers dashing by her on the road. Katarina of the Rosemary Breath’s beauty caused one to almost turn around.

This close encounter with these British officers would take this story to a level of folklore silliness, and adventurous absurdities.

The sight of the two British soldiers alarmed the neighbors, and they all got together to discuss the meaning of this in their secluded community. That night, they all woke to a voice shouting from the top of Ruff’s Mountain, “Friendts and napors! Hurry up here and look at de sight dat I sees, and tell me wat is de meanin’ of it!”

One of the neighbors thought that old Faustus Wolfram was in his secret lead sulfide mine and had lost his mind.

While Faustus was still yelling for them, the men ran up to the top of the mountain. What they saw rendered them speechless.

They saw the camp of British General Rawdon who had come up from Charleston to help British General Cruger, who was besieged at Fort Ninety Six by Patriot forces, led by General Greene.

Faustus continued: “Dat is trums and fifes wat you hears, I had heardt dem a many a time wen I was a boy in the faderlandt wen Fredrick the Great marched trou’ our town.”

The occupants of Ruff’s Mountain were very alarmed.

The next day, Billy Wolfam was carrying a sack of rye on his way to the mill when he heard screams from Walter Hawberman’s house. He heard the old man’s voice begging for mercy and Katarina’s voice screaming for help. Billy rushed to the window and saw a sight that “aroused him to ten fold manhood.”

Mr. Hawberman, was on the floor, bleeding. The British soldier, had his sword in the air ready to strike for a second time. Katrina was in the process of being kidnapped by the other soldier.

She broke free and grabbed the kidnapper by the hair, and shoved him against the wall. Billy picked up a large stone and threw it at him, killing him. The other soldier escaped out the door of the cabin, and dashed away on his horse.

When the news of the murder and almost kidnapping reached the community, the little valley around the mountain “resounded with lamentations.” Everyone was stunned and heartbroken. Barthlamy was enraged that someone would try to kidnap his bride to be, and wanted revenge so he and Billy set out on a journey to find the soldier that got away.

While the community buried Mr. Hawberman and the dead British soldier, the Wolfram brothers packed for their journey. The brothers had found the gun of the soldier that died, and gave it to Katarina to help defend herself against any further kidnapping attempts.

They also found out the name of this British Soldier was Captain Cyril Ponsonby.

After a couple of days travel, they found General Greene’s Patriot army. General Greene and the two marksman of Ruff’s Mountain became best friends. Billy and Barthlamy fought with the Patriots and helped them defeat the British at Eutaw Springs.

In another battle, they hid in the limbs of a downed pine tree, which was full of green pinecones. Billy gathered them in a large pile and threw them in the face of those unsuspecting British soldiers with his precise precision.

This pelting of green unripe pinecones helped the British Army to retreat and therefore helped the Patriot Army win the battle.

Even in the heat of this unrecorded pinecone pelting battle, they were looking for Cyril Ponsonby. After this battle was over, everyone gathered around the campfire. Billy got a standing ovation for his skill with his pinecone ammunition.

They tracked poor Cyril Ponsonby to a house, and when this unsuspecting British Captain had an unfortunate pause in front of a widow, Barthlamy aimed his rifle and satisfied his anger and vengeance over the almost kidnapping of his beloved Katarina of Rosemary Breath.

Back at the camp of the Patriot Army, the brothers reported what had happened and that they were going to leave for home in the morning.

General Greene asked them to stay and continue to help fight the British. The Wolfram brothers told him they could not, because the wheat had to be planted and the sheep had to be sheared. They returned to find that the good people of Ruff’s Mountain had planted their wheat and sheared their sheep.

In the end, Barthlamy married Katarina and life was good.

By Liesha Huffstetler

For The Newberry Observer

comments powered by Disqus