NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. I, No. 1, February, 1945
THE COOPER COUNTRY
Wheaton P. Webb
THE SCHENEVUS is a narrow valley that winds through
Otsego County’s gentle hills and disappears into the wide
plain of the Susquehanna at Colliers. It was during a six-year
period, 1937 to 1942, while I was living in the valley at
Worcester, that I stumbled on a body of witch lore which had
survived the skeptical temper of our own time. You can seldom
improve a tale which has been repeated for generations, and I had
the privilege of writing down verbatim the witch tales of the old
Our people have always lived close to the land — sturdy, freedom-
loving, thrifty farmers, who in their youth spent three months
learning to read in a McGuffey reader and to cipher by the rule
of three, thereafter knowing enough not to spoil their eyes on
books. They would have liked that pithy proverb of an older
I deem sodding
An honest Godding,
Bone and muscle
In mundane tussle.
Yet our people, from the time of the first English, Palatine, and
Irish settlers, have lived “for lights beyond the prison of the five
senses,” and have kept an ear cocked for three rappings on a fast-shut
door, and an eye peeled for those dark spirits that shape our
ends, roughhew them how we will.
It ought to be said that our witches are partial to descendants
from the old “Schoharie Dutch” families; but you take a good, active witch, and she won’t let her racial preference spoil her arts
on any stray rump-fed runyon or other luckless wight. It would
pay you to know a trick or two with sympathetic magic before you
visit our valley.
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