September 2, 1909
The Elizabeth City Independent, Elizabeth City, NC
The closest creek to Buffalo City was Milltail Creek. There is a legend of a witch who lived in the woods near the creek in an area called Sandy Ridge until her death in 1909. Her story was printed in The Elizabeth City Independent, September 2, 1909:
STRANGE LEGEND A HALF CENTURY OLD POLLY, THE WITCH OF SANDY RIDGE IS DEAD! AT 105, SHE SAT DOWN WITH HER BACK TO THE WALL AND DIED
Polly Sanderlin is dead. No more will her shrill cry, "Blood!" re-echo through the forests of Dare by night; no more will she hold strange orgies with the owls and snakes and brew strange teas by the light of the moon; no more will she paddle her crude canoe in isolated places and prowl naked far from the haunts of men.
The death of Polly Sanderlin marks the passing of the maddest human being that ever lived in this country, and we read of her like only among the folk lore of witches in the black and superstitious days of long ago.
Polly Sanderlin was born and raised and lived her hideous life at Sandy Ridge, near East Lake in Dare County. She lived to the age of 95 it is certain. Some say she was 105 years old. Oldest residents remember her as a handsome woman grown to a dignified middle age when they were but children.
Polly was marked at birth by a queer bump at the base of her skull. A phrenologist of the olden days predicted insanity for her. And in 1844 she began to act queerly. Her father had been murdered and this helped to unsettle her mind. She told neighbors she was turning to soot and ashes. Other strange hallucinations troubled her. All at once she took an unusual liking to animals. Putting on her best black silk, she would go into the fields and sti for hours with the cattle and pretend to converse with them.
And then one night she went to the home of a neighbor. The neighbor was the father of Sam D. Smith, a septuagenarian who still lives at East Lake and who remembers distinctly every incident connected with this visit.
At the Smith home Polly acted queerly before retiring. She arose, dressed, called the family and asked for prayers. She had them send for a pious old man who lived far down the road. And even as he prayed, the thread snapped and Polly was a raving lunatic. She cursed those who prayed. She struck down a powerful man who attempted to hold her. A Negro slave was asked to hold her. She became more violent. Pointing her finger at the black, she shrieked: "It is written, it is written, it is written. No Negro shall touch the person of a white woman." And the story is told that the Negro was paralyzed with fright and fell into a swoon.
It is told that the mad woman then and there tore her clothing to shreds and cast it aside. Naked as when she was born, she plunged into the woods. For days there was no trace of her, and then she was captured near the Leigh farm in Perquimans County.
She was taken back to Sandy Ridge and put under lock and key. It is told that she would take neither food nor drink for eighteen days. But fasting tamed her and she was released. Free of her prison she drank a basin of water; her strength returned and she plunged again into the woods.
The story of her life would fill a volume. It cannot be given in detail here. Most interesting is the fact that she refused all civilized raiment from the days of her first insanity, and for more than sixty years she wore neither hat nor shoes, went clad only in a tattered skirt and shawl or not at all.
In 1872 they built her a little box-like shanty at Sandy Ridge. It was not furnished. She would not have it so. There was not so much as a bed in the place; for indeed, she would not sleep reclining as others do, but sat upright in a corner, her back against the wall. In this way she slept. And it was in this way that they found her lifeless body on the 29th day of July in the year of our Lord 1909.
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