Legends of the Susquehanna: Frontier Narratives and the Folkloric Sense of Place

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Mark Sturges


This article examines two pieces of regional folklore set in the Susquehanna Valley during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the historical legends of Juniata Jack and Cherry Tree Joe McCreery. Taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines environmental history, folklore studies, and ecocriticism, I argue that these stories constitute a mythology of place that invites our critical attention. In effect, the collection of frontier narratives associated with Juniata Jack and Cherry Tree Joe McCreery has created an imaginary geography of the Susquehanna Valley, a storyline of tragic or heroic experience that combines landscape and narrative, connects the local residents to the past, and, in doing so, provides a point of access to the region’s fraught history of frontier conquest, racial violence, and resource extraction.

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