LEWISTOWN - Unrequited love, infatuation inspiring poetry and a case of mistaken identity- the story of famous author Edgar Allan Poe's connection to central Pennsylvania has it all.
As the local tale goes, Poe first visited Mifflin County in 1839 when he stayed at a home along Honey Creek near the Alexander Cavern in Reedsville and present-day location of the home, Raven's Roost. Poe is said to have been visiting after the death of a relative. While in the area, he was supposed to have fallen in love with a local woman named Helen, who didn't return his affection.
A deeply depressed Poe traveled over the Seven Mountains and stayed for a time at the Eutaw House in Potters Mills, where some say he was inspired to write his most noted poem, "The Raven." Other versions of the tale say Poe wrote "The Raven" and another poem, "Lenore" while he was staying in Reedsville. The tale also makes an appearance in Belleville, where a grave marker for a James Poe can be found, believed to be Poe's brother.
But some local historians say that the account of a morose and melancholy Poe's journey to central Pennsylvania in the 1800s isn't exactly true.
Perpetuated in at least one noted historical account of the life of Poe, the story of his connection to central Pennsylvania for the most part has remained in circulation throughout the Juniata Valley and other places, said Forest Fisher, owner of Raven's Roost in Reedsville and editor of the Mifflin County Historical Society's newsletters.
Some attribute the naming of Poe Valley to the celebrated author of terror and fright, when in fact the area is named after another Poe with no proven familial connection to the author.
Fisher said the true story begins with James Potter, after whom Potters Mills in Centre County is named. Potter, who was a Revolutionary War general, was given thousands of acres of property, including some in the Big Valley area. It was at Potters Mills where he built the Eutaw House, named after a battle during the war. After Potter's death, his property, including the Eutaw House, which is still in operation today as a restaurant and bar, was passed on to Potter's daughter, Elizabeth - and her husband, James Poe.
It was James Poe for whom Poe Valley was named, Fisher said. As for the grave in Belleville- Fisher said it contains the remains of James and Charlotte Poe's son, also named James, and not the brother of Edgar Allan Poe. Fisher said Edgar Allan Poe's brother was William Henry Leonard Poe, who died in 1831 in Baltimore.
An additional debunking of the tale is that most historical accounts of Poe's life state he was living in New York and Philadelphia during the time he was supposed to have been in Central Pennsylvania, Fisher said.
The culprit behind the false tale?
Henry W. Shoemaker, a well-to-do son of an industrialist who dabbled in printing and owned several newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Fisher said.
Shoemaker was largely used as a source in biographical book on Edgar Allan Poe in the 1920s. in which Poe's alleged travels throughout Central Pennsylvania is mentioned, Fisher said. The book received wide circulation in the 1900s, spreading the false story farther than Pennsylvania, Fisher said.
Fisher also said Shoemaker was once known as Pennsylvania's first folklorist, but has more recently been dubbed a "fake-lorist," since many of Shoemaker's stories are proven false - including his account of Poe's visit to the area.
As for Fisher's own home, which sports the name Raven's Roost? Fisher said it was named by his grandfather and grandmother, Luther F. Kepler Sr. and Iva Kemrer Kepler, in 1945 after the family's pet crow whom they named Edgar Allan Crow.