Located just south of the present site of Petersburg is a hollow where the ghost of a headless man walks… a lingering spirit born of tragedy that occurred here long ago.
George Van Meter’s small farm was located in Dorcas Hollow, just five miles from where Petersburg is now located. Van Meter was a carpenter who had come to America from Germany and had settled in Dorcas Hollow when there were only fifteen other families in the entire county. The cabin that Van Meter constructed was isolated, far away from any neighbors, and it was too late when he learned that several other settlers had been killed in the valley by Huron Indians.
On July 4, Van Meter was working in the fields near his cabin with his son, David. The rest of the family was in the house preparing to travel to a nearby settlement to join in a celebration around this new day of independence. Van Meter and his son had just stopped to rest when a small band of Indians came running out of the forest. He told his son to run toward the cabin and take the family to the settlement. Van Meter planned to fight the Indians long enough for his family to make it to safety.
That was the last time that anyone ever saw him alive.
David made it to the settlement with his family and he warned the men of the Huron. A group formed to go back and rescue Van Meter but when they got to Dorcas Hollow, they were greeted with a terrible sight. The livestock had been butchered and the cabin had been burned to the ground. Only two stone chimneys remained when the house had once stood.
Van Meter’s body was found a few feet away from the cabin. His head was severed from his body and although David and the men searched the entire area, it was never found. Finally, they gave up and returned tot he settlement to prepare for an attack by the Huron raiding party.
The Indians never showed up at the settlement… but Van Meter’s head did. On the day after the raid, a cooking pot was found at the settlement. When it was opened, George Van Meter’s head was staring up at them. The Indians had boiled his head and then left it at the settlement to find.
For years after, no one would go near the Van Meter farm. It was said that the headless ghost of George Van Meter had been seen there, walking about the remains of the farm as though searching for something. Perhaps his missing head?
Today, the two stone chimneys of the house can still be seen in Dorcas Hollow if you travel along Route 220 from Petersburg. Few still remember how they came to be there… but Dorcas Hollow is still a place that is best to be avoided.