Whatever happened to Hex Murder defendants, convicted in York County, Pa., 80 years ago? Part IV
Jeannette Harvey is a 90-something former teacher in York County, Pa. The Hametown resident’s long life reaches back to a night in 1928 when she observed three men heading toward Winterstown. They turned out to be the trio who slayed powwoww practitioner and suspect witch Nelson Rehmeyer in what became known as the Hex Murder Trial. Also of interest: Hames made in Shrewsbury Township’s Hametown fueled early American horsepower and The Susquehanna Trail: ‘Greatest highway in Eastern America’ and Trees commemorate World War I vets.
At one time, powwow doctors were easily found in many York County town.
Some believe Nelson Rehmeyer, victim of the Hex Murder, was just such a practitioner. But others believe he was a witch and that led to his death at the hands of three young assailants.
Are powwow doctors around today?
In a recent informal gathering of folks steeped in York County culture, none were aware of such current practitioners. But then again, such doctors would furtive in this day of litigation.
All this brings to mind a feisty former teacher who remembers the Hex Murder and, in fact, observed the three men on their way to their murderous act.
The York Daily Record/Sunday News (6/20/07) told her story:
Jeannette (Shank) Harvey, a 90-year-old former teacher who retired from Southern Area School District, lives in the house her father built in Hametown in Shrewsbury Township.
The location is important because she and her cousins believe they saw the three men who murdered Nelson Rehmeyer on Nov. 27, 1928, as they passed on the dirt road toward Winterstown.
“We would watch the traffic on that side road,” Harvey said. “Mondays we would stay home while our parents went to a meeting in Shrewsbury. We watched everything. We were scared. About 5 or 6 o’clock, we saw them walking down the side road. We stayed inside.”
A day or two later, a neighbor heard Rehmeyer’s animals making noise in the barn, walked over to check, and found Nelson Rehmeyer’s body in his house, Harvey said.
Harvey’s father took her to see his body at the mortuary.
“Oh dear,” she said. “I was only 11.”
Rehmeyer lived along the creek where, Harvey said, her grandfather had a mill.
“Nelson and my mother palled around together as children,” she said.
Her father invariably came to the road to chat with Nelson Rehmeyer when he came by with his horse and wagon, Harvey said. Both her parents were teachers.
“Nelson was self-educated and a good person to talk with,” she said. “He is a distant cousin of mine.”
Nelson Rehmeyer’s father had emigrated from Germany, bought some land, built a cabin and, one after another, his brothers joined him and built homes in what would become a virtual village in Rehmeyer’s Hollow, Harvey said. Their mother died at sea.
Harvey remembered the Rehmeyers’ grain mill, flour mill and shoemaker shop. They had little need to go to town.
She and her sister recently went into Rehmeyer’s Hollow and found it so grown up they could hardly locate the old homesteads.
Harvey said she is glad Rickie Ebaugh, the last of Nelson Rehmeyer’s kin, wants to open the house to the public to share the truth of powwowing and his great-grandfather.
“Nelson wasn’t what they said,” Harvey said. “Mom and Dad were disgusted when powwowing was used to excuse the guys who did the deed. Everybody around here felt so bad when that happened.”
Also of interest: What happened to Hex Murder defendants, convicted in York County 80 years ago? Part I and Part II and Part III and Part IV.
To see all Hex Murder posts/photos from the start, click here.
Or if you prefer, click on these individual links with their extensive collection of photographs:
Powwowing: ‘… It was here, and it had many adherents … , ‘Powwowing was done for good’, Hex headache cure: ‘Tame thou flesh and bone’, Relative: Evil in Hex murder came from outside, Hex murder fascinating tale of mysticism, occult: Part 1, ‘Trials of Hex’ makes sense of notorious murder case: Part 2 , Little-known facts about Hex murder trial emerge, Hex murder compared to O.J.’s, Anna Nicole Smith’s cases, Hex house visit offers surprises, Visiting the scene of the crime.