The Deformed Of Zoar

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The valley of Zoar, in western New York, is so surrounded by hills that

its discoverers--a religious people, who gave it a name from Scripture

said, This is Zoar; it is impregnable. From her we will never go. And

truly, for lack of roads, they found it so hard to get out, having got

in, that they did not leave it. Among the early settlers here were people

of a family named Wright, whose house became a sort of inn for the

> infrequent traveller, inasmuch as they were not troubled with piety, and

had no scruples against the selling of drink and the playing of cards at

late hours. A peddler passed through the valley on his way to Buffalo and

stopped at the Wright house for a lodging, but before he went to bed he

incautiously showed a number of golden trinkets from his pack and drew a

considerable quantity of money out of his pocket when he paid the fee for

his lodging. Hardly had he fallen asleep before his greedy hosts were in

the room, searching for his money. Their lack of caution caused him to

awake, and as he found them rifling his pockets and his pack he sprang up

and showed fight.

A blow sent him to the bottom of the stairs, where his attempt to escape

was intercepted, and the family closed around him and bound his arms and

legs. They showed him the money they had taken and asked where he had

concealed the rest. He vowed that it was all he had. They insisted that

he had more, and seizing a knife from the table the elder Wright slashed

off one of his toes to make him confess. No result came from this, and

six toes were cut off,--three from each foot; then, in disgust, the

unhappy peddler was knocked on the head and flung through a trap-door

into a shallow cellar. Presently he arose and tried to draw himself out,

but with hatchet and knife they chopped away his fingers and he fell

back. Even the women shared in this work, and leaned forward to gaze into

the cellar to see if he might yet be dead. While listening, they heard

the man invoke the curse of heaven on them: he asked that they should

wear the mark of crime even to the fourth generation, by coming into the

world deformed and mutilated as he was then. And it was so. The next

child born in that house had round, hoof-like feet, with only two toes,

and hands that tapered from the wrist into a single long finger. And in

time there were twenty people so deformed in the valley: The crab-clawed

Zoarites they were called.