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November 19, 2019

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Once upon a time in Ada

October 1963 - Human Hair Found In 4-Foot Oak at John Atha Sawmill

By Leland Crouse
John Atha’s loggers cut down an old white oak four feet in diameter on the James Motter farm northwest of Ada last Friday, and came up with a mystery- human hair stuffed into a hole that had been bored about seven inches into the tree.

The tree was down a mud road along Hog creek, northeast of the bridge on what once the old Turner farm, owned by Motter’s grandfather. The sawmill crew had slabbed one side and cut off five or six inches when the thatch of hair pulled out of the log and wrapped around the big saw. A check showed the strands of hair to be about 12 inches long, apparently brown at one time. However, it could have been almost and shade before the acids of the green oak sap did their job.

The one-inch hole in which the hair was found had been plugged with a piece of silver maple with white bark, driven into the opening.

Questions raised by Lily Atha are: Did an Indian scalp someone, then hide the hair? It was not an Indian custom.

Did some pioneer want to save the pony tail of his beloved wife or daughter and keep it forever on the farm? Was the hair burial some form of witchcraft? Maybe.

John and Lily are investigating. In the meantime, lumber cut from the mystery log was delivered to a Findlay buyer.

Human Hair In Tree Was Pioneer “Cure” Recalls McBride

Several Herald readers have suggested that the lock of human hair found plugged into an old oak tree by John Atha’s sawmill crew was not the work of a maniac, a remorseful Indian, a witch doctor, or even a maiden. It was a treatment for throat and lung trouble used by the pioneers, explained Bert McBride. When a lad of five years had a bad case of whooping cough and it left him with a throat infection or “phthisic.”  He recalls that his Aunt Jane bored a hole in the door jamb just above his head, cut a lock of his hair and inserted it, then plugged the hole carefully. “Did it cure your cough?” the reporter asked Bert. “Well I got over it,” he replied, with a grin (He is now in his eighties).

Another Herald reader, Mrs. Frank Miller, reported hearing of a “doctor” in Marion who used to prescribe the same treatment for throat and lung trouble. But Dr. Hildred Jones says it was a custom in some Pennsylvania Dutch communities for a wistful maiden to place a lock of her hair in the trunk of a tree and seal it to make sure she would meet the right man of her dreams.