Kentucky, and Meade County especially, are some of the oldest inhabited parts of the Americas. From its protection during the ice age to its stubbornness to be settled, this dark and bloodied ground seems to hold secrets.
There is a place called Lapland, where the sun seems to be dimmer and the animals a little quieter. For generations, there have been strange legends of creatures that seem not to belong and stories of women that could wield the powers of nature.
Our tale is of one such woman and although she was only in Lapland for 2 years, her story is still told in hushed tones today. This is the story of Leah Smock, the Battletown Witch.
Leah had the terrible misfortune of being both intelligent and beautiful in 1840 Kentucky. She could also heal with herbs, could predict the future, and was whispered to be a witch. Leah finished school early because she learned all that the teacher knew. She went on to learn from everything around her. How if you kill the weeds near a pond, cows can still die because the poisonous roots are still touching the water. Oh, she tried to warn those around her, but they were either too stubborn or too proud to listen. She still had her companions, even close friends. It has been rumored that she was in love in the later summer of 1840.
Leah was the oldest of three children and had dark hair and dark eyes. She spent her days helping her father make barrels or trapesing through the dark woods of Lapland. She carried a walking stick that was made by her Native American friend Jim. It had the head of a snake coming out of the wood at the top. There is some irony in that, you will find out more about that later dear reader. Leah learned from the Cherokee that remained in the area after the Indian Removal Act of 1830. But times were tough in 1840 and her Daddy was in a land dispute with one of the neighbors. It was no fault of his, some big-city huckster by the name of Hardin sold their land twice. Leah had been making herself known more and more with the neighbors and rumors had been swelling for the entire 2 years they had come to know those parts. In that late August Leah had been accused of curing a horse that she wasn’t allowed to pet and causing its death. She also wanted to hold a baby and wasn’t allowed. The baby passed the next day and everyone just assumed it was Leah. What is beside the point is that infant mortality rates were not even calculated at that time due to them being so high and nothing resembling a doctor being around for miles.
In times of hardship, people turn their ire on what they do not know and this time, their scrutiny became increasingly trained on Leah.
On August 21 of 1840, John and Margaret Ann Smock left to visit the nearby town of Staples. They took two of their three children with them. Why they left their third child home on that day is a question that remains to be answered. When they left, John and Margaret were unaware this would be the last time they would see their daughter Leah.
So on that late summer day, unknown neighbors tied the 22-year-old’s arms and legs and hauled her out to the family’s smokehouse. These men, brimming with superstition, stood outside and struck a match. They felt justified as they bore witness to the flames until only silence came from the structure. They left, but that is not the end of Leah’s story.
If you would like to learn more about the legend of Leah Smock stay tuned for part 2 coming next week.