People Shamokin Folklore

The Tragic Death of Martin Gross

Martin, son of Ludwig Goss, was a stout handsome man, full of fun, who lived in Gosstown (Uniontown) halfway between “Spook” bridge and the Rock Cut.  His life had seen no great feats unless you consider raising six sons and several daughters in a log cabin an accomplishment.  His eerie death accomplished what his life could not; he became a celebrity.

The social event of the year for these pioneer folk was a frolic on the first day of January 1830 at the house of Mr. Dunkelberger in West Shamokin.  People came in two-horse wagons, carts, and some even came riding oxen.  At such frolics, an abundance of coarse victuals and applejack, which all imbibed freely, was served.  Usually fiddling and dancing continued past midnight.

Upon getting dark on the night referred to, Martin Goss being about 75 years old, insisted on going home.  His wife being years his junior, declined to go.  So the old man left alone and, in order to save distance and time, traveled over the footpath that ran through present-day Uniontown.  This compelled him to walk over a makeshift footbridge near his home.  This temporary bridge was made of slab benches.  In crossing these slabs, he slipped and fell, face down, into the rushing water of Shamokin Creek. 

Soon after, his body was discovered and the word was relayed back to the house of mirth.  Everyone there left immediately for the scene of the tragedy.  They sent someone several miles for the acting coroner, who later reported as follows:  “When I came I found the woods illuminated by the bright blaze of log heaps that had been put together and fired, and the dead man still lying in the water.  I ordered him brought out to the bank of the creek, but no one would obey.  I then repeated my request but no move was made and all stood as quiet as a Quaker meeting.  I then walked along the slabs to where the dead man lay and took hold of the collar of his coat.  As soon as this was done, a dozen man rushed into the water, without regard to cold or wet, and carried him out where we held the inquest.  I then asked some of them why they left him lay in the water for so long and refused at first to take him out.  Their answer was that if they had touched the dead man before the magistrate did, he could spook them throughout their lives.” 

Thus, from this accident, the red bridge erected near the point of the drowning some years later was called the “Spook Bridge.”  It was said that for many years afterwards, older residents could not be induced to cross the bridge after nightfall.