The Legend of Murder Creek
In the Village of Akron Falls, in Western New York State, a small stream named "Murder Creek" runs through an idyllic glen in Akron Falls Park. The tall shade trees there form an envelope of peaceful green above and along side the running water. At the head of the creek, a damn forms a small lake that children while away the hours fishing in during the Summer Months. It is a portrait of a bucolic Americana that Norman Rockwell might well have wanted to capture on canvass. Those who picnic here are blissfully unaware of the legend of brutal treachery that occurred here so many years ago.
In the 1700's, Western New York State was the far frontier of an infant nation. The Tuscaroras and the Senecas peopled the heavily forested Lake Erie plains, camping along the many creeks that provided drainage runoff to the hilly regions Southeast of here.
Along one of these small streams, later named "Murder Creek" by white settlers, a band of Tuscaroras had made their encampment. The forests were full of deer and wild life and the water was fresh and sweet. The glen sheltered them from the winds and the rains that swept across the lake regions with great ferocity. The tribe was happy here and prospered. They traded with the Senecas to the Southwest and even had commerce with the occasional French trapper rash enough to risk life and limb to wander the wilds of Western New York from their trading bases across the Niagara River in Upper Canada.
The chief of this band was a renowned warrior named Manateway or "he who weathers the storm." The old man had seen much in his 45 seasons on this earth. War with the hostile Hurons to the North and Eries to the East had taken many of the tribes young warriors in battle. The harsh Winters had taken many of the remainder of his older contemporaries. Manateway was the oldest of the tribe and failing physically. He could no longer run or hunt with the young men of the tribe. He had to content himself with sitting by the fire at night and holding forth with stories of war and great feats of remembered courage for the younger members of the encampment.
The one consolation Manateway had, in his late years, was his beautiful daughter Mentawny "she who is favored." The young maiden was fair of face and beautifully formed. Her mother had also been a great beauty, whose passing Manateway still mourned. The girl did everything she could to please her aging father and make his life easier. She was the shining jewel of his life and he treasured her above all else. Their relationship was loving and happy. Happy that is, until a young warrior named Penescote "swift of foot” started to express an interest in the beautiful Mentawny. The interest both confused and flattered her at first. She was unaccustomed to attention from the men of the tribe. Most had not wanted to risk the ire of her powerful father.
Penescote was different. He was young and proud and wanted to prove himself. Feats of hunting and athletic prowess were performed for the young maiden to watch and admire. He brought her fresh deer meat and tried whenever possible to attract her attention and speak with her.
Manateway viewed this pursuit with suspicion. The girl was his pride and joy and he thought the young warrior not of suitable standing to court his daughter. He frowned at Penescote's efforts and spoke shortly to him when they encountered each other in tribal council.
Penescote was not to be deterred and pressed his suit daily, hoping to win the girl's affections even in the face of her father's disapproval. He scoffed at the old chief privately, thinking him a "bull without horns" and an old man suitable only for talking around the fire. He was rash enough to repeat some of these comments to others in the tribe and the jeers drifted back to the old chief, who clenched his jaws and kept his own council.
Mentawny herself was torn between love for her father and this strange new and exciting feeling she felt for the persistent Penescote. It was a conflict that she could sense was escalating to a level that she could neither prevent or resolve.
The old chief was not so hindered. He had faced many rivals throughout the years. None had withstood him. And in his mind's eye, a plan was taking shape. One that was dark and final.He began to ease his feelings towards the young warrior and welcome him to his lodge where both of the young people could talk freely and share the venison and squirrel that Penescote brought to them.
Manateway saw the joy in his daughter's eyes when Penescote came to visit and the feeling causes a terrible anger to begin smoldering within him. Had he not loved and nurtured this girl from birth? Was it not unreasonable to want her to care for him in his old age? And Penescote, he was the cause of this distress.
Late at night when she thought him asleep, the girl would slide out from under the deerskins and go off to meet the young warrior at a small sheltered place above the creek. Manateway knew this because he had followed his daughter there once and watched the two lovers eagerly embrace. His heart was heavy at the thought of his impending loss. And the anger grew in him, especially at the continued comments from the young warrior mocking his leadership and physical ability.
Finally one night late in the Summer season, Mentawny again crept off to meet her young lover. A tear rolled down the side of Manateway's aging and leathered face, as he watched her go off into the night. The deed must be done, he thought. He got up from the skins and armed himself with his hatchet and bashing club and with heavy foot set out into the night.
No one ever really discovered the events of that fateful evening in the late summer of the encampment. But the next day, the beautiful Mentawny and the ambitious young Penescote were found slain in the sheltered place above the creek, still wrapped in each other's arms. The old chief was never seen again in the land of the Tuscarora's. Some said that he mudered the pair in desperation, others that he fought off attackers and was slain himself. No one ever really knew. But the legend grew until like all legends, it assumed a shape and a direction that outsized any possible elements of truth that may have originally lain there.
And on the banks of Murder Creek, in Akron Falls Park, in Western New York, some say that on the rise of the full moon in late Summer you can hear the anguished howls of a father lamenting the death of his treasured daughter. And at other times, when the wind is right, you can hear the deeper and piercing screams of something much more terrible.
Joseph Xavier Martin