A slim 184-page book has achieved almost cult status among historians and those seeking out old stories and lore about southeastern and east central Ohio, including Newcomerstown.
"Tales of the Buckeye Hills," written by Rev. Lonzo S. Green, with a copyright of 1963, has what he called "hill-country stories. They have a way about them and a flavor as distinctly their own as anchovies or blueberry pie."
Green wrote that he heard these stories from his earliest memories, sitting by firelight or lamp-oil light listening to relatives recounting the tales of the Buckeye Hills.
Those stories include the strange and wonderful tale of the Newcomerstown area Earley Church, desecrated by three drunken ruffians in 1863 or 1864 who killed a lamb inside the church and let the blood run onto a Bible on the altar of the church.
Green spoke to a Mrs. Manson Castor of Newcomerstown, 90-years-old, who remembered the church and the events passed down to her by her family.
According to Green and an old church record, the young man at the pulpit was "struck numb and stone blind. He could neither stand nor speak and had to be carried to his home." Another died blind a few years later at an infirmary and the father of one, who was one of the three, died later, with Mrs. Castor saying it was told to her that "it was so awful a death that he kicked the bed clear down as he was a-dyin."
The blood-stained Bible still exists and has been on display at various locations, including the Olde Main Street Museum in Newcomerstown.
Another of the stories presented by Green is "A God Comes to Leatherwood Country," which he said is an area near Salesville in Guernsey County.
The original story was put on paper in 1869 by Atty. Richard H. Taneyhill of Barnesville for The Barnesville Enterprise, writing under the name R. King Bennett. The story was also printed by William Dean Howells of Martins Ferry.
In short, the legend recounts a story from approximately 1828 in which a man, Joseph C. Dylks, claimed to be God and actually attracted a small following, with stories of his battling Satan.
Another of the stories recounted by Green is the "Postboy Murder" which occurred just south of Newcomerstown on what is now known as Postboy Road.
In approximately 1825, a postal carrier was shot and killed by John Funston, who was convicted of murder and is believed to be the only person executed (by hanging) in Tuscarawas County.
But "The Tales of the Buckeye Hills" isn’t only about crime.
There is a chapter about the hill-country fiddlers, including a list of some of the tunes they played, including "Arkansas Traveler," "Old Dan Tucker," "Little Brown Jug," and many more.
Another talks about a country fair and the horse racing that took place there. Yet another discusses the various "Mills that have Ceased to Saw and Grind."
A chapter gives the story of Morgan’s Raid into Guernsey County during the Civil War, including a long excerpt from the diary of Ida Hamilton.
One of the last chapters is a collection of "Haunts, Spooks and Signs," or psychic phenomena passed down through the years about various ghosts or strange happenings in "The Buckeye Hills." It also has a rather lengthy list of "signs and tokens," such as "Always place the head of your bed to the east or you will have headaches."
The final chapter includes reminisces of churches and cemeteries, including this story of one gravesite in Harrison County.
Green writes, "While perhaps inappropriate that a sense of humor should pervade the sacred precincts of the burial ground, yet one can hardly miss the realistic symbolism of this one in a cemetery at little Smyrna, Harrison County. It is not uncommon to see early markers bearing in bas-relief or fully sculptured the image of a hand with the index finger pointing hopefully upward. Whether the sculptor was drunk, the family extremely honest or what may have been the reason for it, there is stands — a stone which was erected in 1870 in the ancient Smyrna Quaker graveyard and on which the symbolic index finger points downward!"