Mary "Mollie" Derry told the locals their fortunes, removed hexes and curses while casting her own curses. It is believed that in Mollie's early days, the young wife and mother lived an enchanting life filled with magic that quickly made her become known as a witch to all who encountered her and became familiar with her strange powers of healing and seeing the future.
Historic Fayette County, located in western Pennsylvania is rich with stories of folklore and legends that include ghosts, haunted locations, unexplained events, strange creatures, and a witch or two. One of the most famous witches of Fayette County is Mary "Mollie" Derry, who along with her husband, Hessian soldier, Valentine "Felty" came to America with the British Army at the time of the Revolutionary War. Mary "Mollie" Derry was born in Germany in 1760, and came to the Americas sometime during the Revolutionary War, settling in Harper's Ferry, Loudoun County, Virginia for a brief time. The couple later moved north, making the long trip over the rough terrain of the Allegheny mountain pass to Somerset County, and eventually settling in Georges Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The area is located approximately five miles south of Uniontown.
It is believed that in Mollie's early days, the young wife and mother lived an enchanting life filled with magic that quickly made her become known as a witch to all who encountered her and became familiar with her strange powers of healing and seeing the future. Farmers turned to the witch for advice on how to best treat their sick animals. Young women turned to her for love spells, and the town depended on her for the prevention of diseases and death when loved ones became gravely ill. Mollie Derry always appeared in good health so the towns people felt that they were in good hands with her herbal cures and sound advice.
The records show that Valentine and Moll had seven healthy children over a period of two decades. The oldest child, Bazil, was born in April of 1793. His birth was followed by Jacob, who was born in 1795. Three years later, a daughter, Barbara joined the small family in 1798. Four more children added to the growing clan with Phillips birth at the turn of the century, Jeremiah, born just two years later, followed by a second daughter, Rhoda, born in 1804 and lastly, the baby, sweet Mary who completed the family later in 1811.
Mary "Mollie" Derry told the locals their fortunes, removed hexes and curses while casting her own curses. The witch was quick to help anyone in need, but damned those who dared to cross her. Word spread throughout the area as Moll soon became the most well-known witch in western Pennsylvania.
She was capable of telling fortunes and misfortunes, casting spells and a few even believed that she could fly. The active images of the witch as she grew more powerful around the area sometimes caused a stir with those people that feared her. For those who believed in her magical cures, considered her a saint. Sick and troubled people would flock to see her, praying for an answer or cure for whatever ailed them. She was becoming a legend, so much so that anyone who had been touched or phased by the witch referred to her as the ‘Fortune Teller of the Revolution’ or the ‘Witch of the Monongahela.
Many wondered about her past and where she may have acquired such powers and it is believed that they derived from the traditions that she was taught in her home country of Germany. History tells us that since the ancient times, Germanic tribes relied on their many customs that included faith healers, mystics and brauchers when health issues became problematic to those who needed treatment. These immigrant brauchers flocked to the New World with various Germanic religious sects where they felt it only natural to share these beliefs and traditions, so when these gentle folks moved into Pennsylvania, it soon became necessary that these ancient traditions were practiced during a period when there were very few doctors, and people were forced to rely on traditional healing and herbal cures due to no other alternatives. Like many other traditions, the ancient custom slowly died out in the early 1900’s when people turned to modern medical care.
Mary "Mollie" Derry was a force to be reckoned with when the 'good' advice she handed out was ignored or she felt that you were not of moral-being. Stories of affliction, misery and sickness fell upon the people with cruel intentions or to those who angered and tormented the witch. Much of this anger was directed towards the farmers whose animals became sick. Despite her aiding them, they were hateful to Mollie Derry and unappreciative of her good will.
Three particular farmers continued to mock and anger the witch and soon encountered death by hanging as she predicted would happen if they did not stop their senseless and inhuman treatment to her character. It is believed that she cursed the men, but nobody really knows for sure. Moll Derry was known by her kind acts as well. One well known legend of the witches kindness involved the dire warning to Polly Williams to beware of her fiancé's plans to kill her by throwing her over the White Rocks located in Fairchance, Pennsylvania. The lovely young distraught woman ignored the advice of the witch, and not long after the warning her body was discovered at the bottom of White Rocks.
The witch of Fayette County eventually earned the title of "Old Moll Derry" due to her age old wisdom that included the power and knowledge of prescience and her ancient traditions that healed so many people over the years. She is a big part of the history of both Fayette and Somerset County. Her legend still lives today possibly because she touched so many people over the span of a half a century. Anyone who knew Mary "Mollie" Derry, knew that she was content in the lush countryside of Pennsylvania and remained in Georges Township most of her life, up until she succumbed to death due to old age in the spring of 1843.
Learn more about Sherri Granato below:
Mary "Mollie" Derry told the locals their fortunes, removed hexes and curses while casting her own curses. It is believed that in Mollie's early days,