By Cilla Daugherty
With Halloween soon upon us, I think its finally time to write to you about the Tyner Witch! We have to go back to the 1870’s, to a time when this entire area: Koontz Lake to Tyner city to Walkerton, Indiana was the Big Huckleberry marsh. Obviously, this was a time shortly after the civil War, a time when the USA as suffering from a post-war depression. So, many folks came to the marsh to pick the huckleberries (also called Whortleberries and similar to blueberries.) The people could make money picking the berries, if even for only a short period of time each year. Lots of people arrived, thousands, including one odd woman. She was an ex-rodeo gal, interested in starting a circus of “freaks.” She ran a hotel (brothel) and wanted to be the Huckleberry Queen. As she got older she became weirder and more demanding; often in trouble with the law. She was known actually go around whipping men and laughing about it. She’d been married and divorced several times. One of her hotels was in Tyner City, Indiana. It’s rumored that she buried lots of money somewhere in Tyner City, in a swampy area, before she died and put a curse on that land. Some folks called her a witch, because she was mean, often drunk, acted crazy, had her circus “freaks,” and practiced “strange medicine.” The Huckleberry Queen in life became the Tyner Witch after death. Her birth name was probably Molly Edwards. Many gypsies came to the area too. You know how legends go. After awhile, all the huckleberries were harvested. A massive many-acre fire destroyed most of the bushes. Folks left the area. The queen died, but her spirit still roams part of Tyner. Interestingly, Plymouth still celebrates the history of the huckleberry/whortleberry with its annual Blueberry Festival. Now that’s the background. Let me tell you about the personal side of events about the Tyner Witch. My son, Jesse age 19, has a friend Zach who lives down the road from us in Tyner, just out of the town proper, on over 40 acres of land; some swampy, some woodsy, some still with blueberry bushes. Jess said that ever since Zach’s Dad had moved there, strange things occur. You can see St. Elmo’s Fire (swamp gas) at night and hear strange scary high-pitched cackling some nights. They’ve ruled out owls, coyotes, bobcats, etc. They call the high-pitched laughter “ghostly female.” Even after becoming an adult Zach was advised NOT to come or go after dark; not to venture past the regular yard area directly around the house at night because there is something BAD lurking in the swamp and woods. Zach doesn’t try to scare or tease his friends, but to truly warn them. By the way I learned about the Huckleberry Queen after Jesse’s incidents. Let me tell you about them. Jesse went over to Zach’s Dad’s one afternoon back in July. They were to have a cookout, bonfire and sleepover late that night. After Zach fell asleep a few of the friends decided to go for a walk. They didn’t know about the warnings. They ventured well past the house. Suddenly, an eerie screaming began! Jesse said he could hear someone walk right behind him, but he knew he was the last person of the group. He looked; no one was behind him. Then, the first person felt a “whoosh” and was pushed by nothing and fell down. He didn’t just fall straight down, but landed backwards on his butt about 2 feet back! You don’t trip and fall like that! The moon was out, but it suddenly became darker. Nothing began pushing all of them! They ran back to Zach’s house. Later when Jesse told me he was still shaken by the ordeal! Another night at Zach’s, everyone gathered by the fire ring for s’mores. All who were there were accounted for. Scary laughter began and soon pinecones, small rocks and twigs were being thrown at them. They were all adults, but Jesse said they all yelled and began running to the house. Zach’s Dad wouldn’t let anyone go back outside. They all took turns being on watch that night. Ever since we moved to Tyner and folks learned that I enjoy taking strolls, I’d been advised not to walk east down 4B Road after dark. “Turn around at the Church; don’t venture past the Tyner Cemetery” We had not heard about the Tyner Witch until we actually moved to Tyner. My husband’s grandmother is about 3 ½ – 4 miles east and my sister-in-law, Sissy, lives about 3 miles west. Sissy actually lives within what used to be the “Stomping grounds” of the huckleberry marshes and harvest lands. She didn’t know about the Tyner Witch, nor the Huckleberry Queen until my husband told her. Maybe the Queen is trying to protect her buried treasures? When the kids and I first moved here, for several months on certain nights, we had a stalker. I don’t know who it was, nor why. And none of us like to venture into our far backyard at night, not alone. If my husband goes out there, he takes a flashlight and gun! You just feel weird and like you’re being watched. Is it the Tyner Witch? I don’t know. But Jesse won’t go to Zach’s Dad’s at night alone. We do drive along 4B at night and all is well. It’s not every night that something happens. Even so, that’s the story about the Tyner Witch. History made into legend and eeriness that still frightens adults. Don’t go looking for any hidden money around here and certainly stay away from the swamps! Research to verify what Cilla Daugherty wrote is true. The Tyner Witch and Huckleberry Queen was quite notorious: http://www.tyner.org/html/miscellaneous/huckleberryqueen1.html The Plymouth Democrat 31 July 1879 Thursday “The South Bend Tribune of Saturday has the following reference to the”Huckleberry Queen” The Queen, in times past, performed before a South Bend audience which contained among it some of our best citizens. She was known as the Woman with the Iron Jaw’ and traveled with Montgomery Queen’s circus. She is about 35 to 40 years old, good looking, graceful in her carriage, and ladylike in her demeanor when she chooses to be. She left the show shortly after its first appearance here and settled in Tyner, a little village in Marshall County about three miles from the marsh. She joined the church there, was married, and for a long time led a decorous life. Three years ago she got pretty wild and when she went to the marsh her strength, dash and utter abandon won her, by common consent, the title of Huckleberry Queen’ and not one dare dispute it. She reigns supreme over the marsh. Schroeder himself, who leases what he does not own of the marsh, dares not dispute her sway. Schroeder lives in Chicago and buys most of the berries gathered at the stomping ground. The Plymouth Democrat 31 July 1879 Thursday Bourbon item – A Bourbonite was skilleted over the head by the Blueberry Queen Saturday. Esquire Shafer was awakened from his slumbers at twelve o’clock last Friday night by someone knocking at his office door and, upon opening it, he was confronted by the smiling countenance of the Huckleberry Queen’ and an eighteen year old boy named Falkenberry. The Esquire, being in a condition not fit to be seen by ladies, proposed to retire and don his clothing but the Queen insisted on his remaining, stating that they had come to get splice . The Squire invited them into his office, examined their papers and in less than a minute had tied the knot and the happy couple went away singing We held the fort Marriage records, Marshall County, IN. Book E, page 90 Mary L. Johnson – Jacob B. Falconberry, 7 Aug. 1879 The Plymouth Democrat 12 Jan 1882 The Central House, the only hotel here *(Tyner City) is occupied and managed by the notorious Huckleberry Queen and under her management the place has become a stench in the nostrils of every decent citizen. Why our citizens stand quietly by and allow this devilish and infamous nuisance to exist and flourish in our midst is a query not easily solved. The Huckleberry Queen One outstanding personality of the village was the Huckleberry Queen, Molly Edwards, who came to visit her father, John. Mr. Edwards, while intoxicated one time, tried to catch a ride on a freight train, fell and, as a result lost both his legs. The devotion and care of Molly to her father was remembered by many. Shorty, as Edwards was known around Wolf Creek, was a kind old man with a soft white beard but his daughter, the Queen had a bad temper which certainly distinguished her from her father. One man who knew her at the huckleberry marsh, located in Polk Township near Koontz Lake, said Molly was a pleasure to be with until she was liquored up and, when that happened, she was as tough and vicious as any man! From The Plymouth Republican, July 1, 1880, We gain further insight into her personality: The Huckleberry Queen has arrived at the marsh and established her authority on Sunday by whipping her husband and another man. The fact was that she did not restrict that kind of conduct to the marsh area. Once Gene Marshall, local jokester, played some prank on the Queen. Irate at what he had done, she made a fast trip to Marmont (Culver) where she found him standing on one of the streets. She walked up behind him, said Turn around and take off your coat, Gene. He turned-before he made another move-she laid her whip to him. The story of the notorious Huckleberry Marsh and its Queen will appear in future issues of the quarterly. Editor The Plymouth Democrat 25 Sept 1902 The death of the Huckleberry Queen, who has been residing in a little hovel near Valparaiso for the past twelve or fifteen years, recalls many interesting recollections in this part of the country. For years she was a famous outlaw and lived in a huckleberry marsh near Walkerton. She often came to Plymouth, generally on foot, following the Lake Erie track. Back in the seventies or eighties, her disturbances on the streets here was a regular week occurance. She would come to town early in the morning and begin imbibing bad boose until she felt like fighting a regiment. Then she would either be taken to jail or sent out of town. One day the town marshal found her dancing a jig on the scales at the old Wabash depot, now the Lake Erie. He tried to induce her to accompany him to jail and used every persuasive argument he could think of. The scales were elevated several feet and she said, If you catch me in your arms when I jump, I’ll go with you. Certainly, said the marshal and he held out his arms. Before he knew it, she had leaped to the ground to one side and landed him a blow below the ear that put him in bed for a day. Whenever she went to jail, it was always through the efforts of more than one officer. When the Queen’s father died, she was out on the road with a side show, swinging sledge hammers with her teeth and lifting big weights. She hastened home as soon as possible to attend the funeral but arrived too late. Going immediately to the graveyard, she found the sexton and a laborer at work on the grave. They were just rounding off the mound when she made her appearance. Flashing two guns, she made them dig down to the coffin again, and expose the corpse. After looking at it a minute, she walked away, leaving the men to readjust the coffin and grave as best they could. HAMLET CENTENNIAL BOOK Hamlet, Indiana 1863 – 1963 Excerpt from Page 51 Many interesting and conflicting stories are told about the Huckleberry Marsh near Koontz Lake. During the 4-6 week season, itinerant pickers lived in tent camps, providing their own eating and sleeping accommodations, groceries, saloons, and dance halls. Gamblers and thieves were numerous in this wide-open atmosphere. The only law was the law of the Huckleberry Queen, a former circus bareback rider who dressed like a man, carried a gun, and split the gambling and other profits with those who came to fleece the hundreds of berry pickers. A fire destroyed much of this marsh in 1892, and pretty well ended the great huckleberry harvests. What’s your opinion?