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The Legend of Gretchen's Lock

Sandy & Beaver Canal. Sprucevale, Ohio
Beaver Creek State Park

Gretchen Gill the daughter of Sandy and Beaver Canal engineer E.H. Gill has been the focus of a legend at Lock # ?? for many years.

I am including here several different versions of the story that persist even today.
From "The Sandy & Beaver Canal" by William H.Vodrey Jr. & R. Max Gard. 1952.

One such legend is of E.H. Gill, canal engineer and his daughter Gretchen. According to the legend E.H. Gill, his wife and daughter were traveling from Europe to the United States, his wife died on the way and was buried at sea. The grief stricken father and his little daughter, Gretchen, completed the journey. At the time the lock above Sprucevale was being built, Gretchen contracted malaria and died. A crypt was prepared in the masonry of the lock and Gretchen was entombed there for a while. When Gill resigned during the panic of 1837 and decided to return to Europe Gretchen's casket was removed from the crypt in the lock and taken aboard ship to be returned home for burial. On the trip, a storm at sea took the ship and all were lost. E.H. Gill and Gretchen joined their wife and mother in the waters of the Atlantic.

Chris Woodyard has written some very popular books called "Haunted Ohio I, II & III" and "Spooky Ohio". In these books she recounts the tales of ghosts and superstition from various areas throughout Ohio. Whilst these books are popular they are also a good example of how legends change and become entwined with others.

In "Haunted Ohio" she states concerning Gretchen's Ghost, " A network of canals built in the early 1800s opened up the Ohio Territory to commerce and statehood. At Beaver Creek State Park in Columbiana County there survives part of a lock and canal system from 1836.. One of the locks is names "Gretchen's Lock". A charming tribute to a family member, one might think, but the place has a macabre history.

Gill Hans, the engineer who built the lock, brought his family over from Holland. His young daughter Gretchen pined for the Low Country until, weakened, she contracted malaria and died August 12, 1838, raving about going home. Distraught Hans had Gretchen's coffin temporarily entombed in a vault within the lock's stone work until the family could return to Holland together. He made arrangements to sail; Gretchen's coffin was loaded onto the ship and the entire family sailed into oblivion. The ship went down in an Atlantic storm with all hands.

Yet even death could not take Gretchen home. On the anniversary of her death, the young Dutch girl can be seen walking along the lock that bears her name.

In the Chris Woodyard book you can read the story of Esther Hale, The Bride at the Bridge and see quite a few similarities between it and the legend of Gretchen's Lock.

Those who have studied the history of the Sandy & Beaver Canal have a completely different story to tell.

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