|Newry, PA as it appeared in 1909|
In October of 1929 the old Weaver homestead near Newry in Freedom Township was put up for sale at public auction after the death of its owner, Francis H. Weaver. Weaver was a veteran of the Civil War and, for many years, served as an army chaplain. His father, George Weaver, purchased the property in the early 1830s, back when Blair County was a rugged wilderness. It was also, by all accounts, a bastion of lawlessness and mayhem. George Weaver had the unenviable task of serving as the region's justice of the peace during this period.
With the construction of the Old Portage Railroad came roving gangs of immigrant laborers, and since there was little law and order to be found in those wild and violent days, most of these laborers were fond of taking matters into their own hands. George Weaver was often called upon to settle disputes among the railroad laborers and the canal-drivers, and bloody battles between laborers from Northern Ireland and their countrymen from the south were frequent.
According to George D. Weaver, son the army chaplain, the Weaver property contained lands that had once been part of the John Malone farm, and it was said that one night, sometime in the 1830s, a mysterious murder was carried out in Malone's Woods, and the victim of this heinous crime was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on the property. As the story goes, there was a witness who not only saw, but recognized, the two men while they were in the process of burying their victim.
This witness was Nancy Conoway. Described as a rather colorful pioneer character, Nancy was fond of walking through the forest late at night, unattended, after visiting nearby friends and neighbors, guided only by the light of a candle.
One night, while returning home from visiting a neighbor, Nancy came upon two men in the forest who were busily engaged in digging a grave. She quickly extinguished her candle and, unknown to them, observed their actions. Though it was dark she recognized the two gravediggers, but she did not know the identity of the dead men at their feet.
Believing that it was a wise policy to "let sleeping dogs lie", she never divulged the identities of the midnight murderers, and she kept the affair a secret until she was on her deathbed, when she confessed the sight she had seen many decades earlier. However, she thought there was no point in identifying the killers after so many years had gone by, and so she went to her death without revealing the names of the murderers.
The identity of the unfortunate victim also remains a mystery. There are no records of anyone missing in the area and, after Nancy's death, it was speculated that the victim was probably a cattle driver who was passing through the vicinity and killed for his money. Cattle drivers returning west in those days frequently had large sums of money secreted on their persons.
When the old Weaver homestead was sold at auction in October of 1929, the buyer knew that he would be getting a fine parcel of farm land for an unbeatable price-- but he probably didn't know that the sale also included an unmarked grave containing the remains of an unidentified murder victim.