The locale of this tale is the very southern end of Perry County, just a little south of New Germantown, in an area known as “The Kingdom”, a sort of wild and desolate place. But MARSHALL CREAMER took a liking to The Kingdom. He played there as a boy, and told himself that when he grew up he was going to move on down there and build himself a place of his own. When he got old enough to fend for himself, he did build a nice little house over there. After a year or two, Marshall set off to find himself a wife. But every girl he asked turned him down. “No thank you,” they would say. “I don’t have a hankerin’ to live in The Kingdom.”
One day Marshall was in town at the post office and a girl by the name of JESSIE THURLOW came up to him and asked, “How come you’ve never asked me to marry you? You’ve asked about everyone else.”
“I ain’t?” asked Marshall. “No you ain’t,” Jessie replied, “and I’m feeling pretty hurt about it too.” “Well no offence meant. I was sure I’d asked you,” Marshall told her. “No, you ain’t.” “Well in that case, do ya want to get married?”
“Sure enough,” Jessie told him, and so married they got! They moved into Marshall’s little house in The Kingdom and things were mighty happy and good. Eventually several LITTLE CREAMERS came along. Life was very good. Marshall and Jessie got along find with one little exception. Jessie just used up way too much stove wood to Marshall’s way of thinking, and since he was the one that chopped the wood, he felt he had every right to point this out. He was a right good turn with an axe, but too much was too much. He tried several times to explain about the damper on the stove, but Jessie just wouldn’t listen. Said Marshall was just picking on her. She would just keep that stove fire a roarin’.
Finally Marshall got tired of it and put her on a wood ration. Marshall would cut the wood into four foot pieces, too big to fit in the stove. Then every night after supper, he would take his old bucksaw and cut Jessie just exactly one wheelbarrow of stove wood for the next day. He would bring this over to the kitchen door and leave it for Jessie to bring into the house the next morning. She could burn all that wood up right quick, or she could make it last the day. Sometimes it got cool in the evening and they would have to go to bed early to stay warm, but Jessie couldn’t touch that next wheelbarrow load until morning.
Well picking on her about the stove wood eventually led to Marshall and Jessie picking about other things as well. Not really fighting, just pick, pick, picking. I imagine some of you married folks know what I’m talking about here? One big thing they picked about was eating between meals. Marshall thought that three meals a day plus an extra lunch before bedtime was all the eating anybody ought to have to do, but Jessie liked a little something in between meals. One day Marshall caught her in the pantry eating cookies before supper, and so he took her teeth away. He would give ’em back to her at mealtime. And they picked on each other about other things too!
Another time Marshall caught Jessie just gummin’ up a piece of cake right after dinner. That was the last straw. He never said a word, but he just up and moved on out of the house. He took some boards and fixed him up a little room up above his woodshed. Got himself a little airtight stove and was just real cozy. He never set foot in the house again except a meal time. But every night he would saw up a wheelbarrow of stove wood and park it by the back door, just like he always had.
Well the two of them got along right well this way – no more picking – for quite a few years. One night Jessie woke up from a sound sleep. She thought she heard something. Sounded like a long sigh, like when a light wind brushes through the tree tops. Well as it turned out this noise was the passing of the mortal spirit of Marshall Creamer. Jessie suspected as much, but she wasn’t sure. The next day she went on to town and got one of their daughters to come out and look into Marshall’s little room above the woodshed. But it was empty. He wasn’t there. Nobody ever found out what happened to Marshall Creamer.
But about three nights later, his ghost came back. Jessie could hear the sound of someone cutting wood, could hear the pieces falling to the ground from the saw. The wheelbarrow would be left full by her back door, just like always. Then Jessie would hear the sound of footsteps going up to the room above the woodshed, and soon she would see a lamp come on in the room. After a few days she and her daughter creeped up the stairs and went into Marshall’s room. He still wasn’t there, and there was no lamp either.
Jessie lived on for quite a few years, never wanting for stove wood. Finally she too passed away. The problem was nobody knew how to tell the ghost. The night of her wake the wheelbarrow of wood was put by the door. The next day when she was buried on the knoll behind the house the ghost still didn’t notice, so the wheelbarrow was dumped and filled up again. The house was empty for quite a while, and someone had to come everyday to take care of that wood. By the end of the summer there were 22 cords of wood stacked up in the house. It was then that Jessie’s daughters sold the farm.
A man named Parsons from over the ridge bought the place. He never thought he wanted to live in The Kingdom, but when he heard about the ghost he hurried up and made an offer and closed on the deal. He wanted that ghost. He made the family include it in the deed that the ghost went with the place. Mr. Parsons was not fond of cutting firewood, but with the ghost he didn’t have to. He even put in a new fireplace to use some more of it up, and occasionally if he got a little ahead, he would sell a load or two.
Even Mr. Parsons is long gone now, but the ghost of Marshall Creamer still remains. Mr. Parsons’s grandson lives on the place now. Every once in a while he takes a file and sharpens up the axe, and touches up the bucksaw. I hear he even put a new wheel on the wheelbarrow a year or so ago.
[ Truth be told, this story is found in folktale literature with settings up and down the mountains. It is told above in a Perry County, Pennsylvania, locale. ]