Along the Way: Legend of the Sulphur Spring

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The Sulphur Spring, Loganton

Please note: This story was first recorded by Henry Shoemaker, so take it as you will. Though this story may have very well originated from his mind, it has become a part of regional lore. Also, the Indian names he uses are italicized in the story.

Henry Shoemaker had a story for almost every place in Central Pennsylvania and if he couldn’t find one, well he could always create one. In his collection More Pennsylvania Mountain Stories, Shoemaker tells the story that reveals the origin of the Sulphur Spring near Loganton. The Sulphur Spring Shoemaker talks about exists along Route 477 (North Mill Street) as the traveler enters Loganton from the north. Located on the east side of the road, the spring is marked by a pavilion with the name Sulphur Spring atop it.

According to Shoemaker, at one time this spring produced the best water in all of Sugar Valley, if not the entire region. Supposedly, no other water tasted as good as the water flowing from this spring, bringing people from miles away to enjoy the cool, refreshing waters.

Shoemaker’s story of how the best tasting waters turned bitter revolves around the Indian princess Flower of Mirth, who was the daughter of Golden Treasure, the king of the Indians of Sugar Valley. Flower of Mirth was originally betrothed to Red Panther, but after he was struck down by lightning, she caught the eye of the Indian brave, My Hills and Valleys.

One year a great comet filled the sky (a comet that Shoemaker identifies as Halley’s Comet) and Flower of Mirth would walk each evening to the spring to sit and view the celestial visitor. With the arrival of the comet came a stranger to their lands. One evening a strange Indian appeared from the hemlocks near the spring. While not handsome, his appearance was striking, yet unusual, for he was short in stature but squarely built. Despite his appearance, Flower of Mirth was fascinated with the stranger and together they climbed to the top of the mountain to watch the comet.

Over the course of the evening, the stranger explained that he had the power of second sight and had been driven away by an evil sorcerer from his tribe in the far west. The two spent the remainder of the evening watching the great comet, huddled together on the mountaintop. Finally they came back down the mountain and he explained he had discovered the meaning of the sign from the heavens. No harm should come upon her father or the Indians of Sugar Valley. However, the comet meant her father’s downfall and ruin.

For ten nights Flower of Mirth met the stranger at the spring before they climbed to the top of the mountain to watch the comet. On the eleventh night as the stranger waited with gifts of flowers for Flower of Mirth, she arrived at the spring with My Hills and Valleys, his father, and her father, Golden Treasure. As the stranger attempted to give her the flowers he picked, he was struck by My Hills and Valleys and fell to the ground.

As the stranger lay there, he began to transform into another creature. His body elongated and took a greenish tinge; his hair fell out and his skin turned to scales. Long fangs filled his mouth and yellow eyes filled with hatred replaced his kind, caring ones. The terrible beast spit venom everywhere, cursing the ground it fell upon. As Flower of Mirth fell unconscious due to shock My Hills and Valleys attacked the creature. His attempt to kill the monstrous snake failed. My Hills and Valleys missed it with his swing and the monster snake disappeared into the rocks surrounding the spring.

The once pure waters were now sulfuric from the venom that mixed with them. According to Shoemaker, when Halley’s Comet fills the night sky, the giant serpent comes out of the rocks and haunts the area around the spring.

According to Shoemaker, My Hills and Valleys and Flower of Mirth eventually married and as they left the encampment of Golden Treasure, they were ambushed and killed near the spring. I have heard a couple retellings of this legend with an addition to the ending provided by Shoemaker. According to this addition to the legend, the spirits of the two lovers still the area surrounding the spring.

Legends set aside, it is known that a number of Indians thought that the spring had healing abilities and would often stay here. Chief Logan often rested near the springs and the town of Loganton was named in his honor.

I’ve stopped a couple of times to enjoy a picnic lunch on my way through the area. In the center of the pavilion is an opening for the Sulphur Spring. A pipe comes out of the concrete into the hole before exiting a small hole in the opposite side. Whether the water was good to drink or not I would personally pass drinking the water because usually the small pit has trash in it.

Though I highly doubt Shoemaker’s story, his story for the Sulphur Spring, like many other stories, brought people to Central Pennsylvania to see the places he wrote about. His story made me want to visit the site and I must admit, a visit to the spring makes an enjoyable side trip. It is located a short distance off Interstate 80 at the Loganton exit and serves as a nice break on journeys east and west across the state.

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