Bloody Knox Cabin- Clearfield County, PA

November 22, 2022

Pennsylvania is rich in history and particularly in history pertaining to the American Civil War. From Gettysburg and the Mason-Dixon line to Underground Railroad museums ( lists 8 of them), there is plenty of civil war history here and I doubt that many native Pennsylvanians escape childhood without being exposed to quite a bit of it. I was, therefore, amazed recently when I was introduced to a previously unconsidered aspect of that history.

In Knox Township, Clearfield County, along State Route 453, about 7 miles south of Curwensville, there is a log cabin that is owned by the Clearfield County Historical Society. It stands on the site of an armed conflict of the civil war that was far removed from any front line fighting.

I’d always thought of conscripted military service and opposition to war in terms of more recent events like the Korean war or Vietnam but it turns out that, during the American civil war, both the northern & the southern armies were largely populated by draftees.

Resentment of the draft was high, especially among the poor who could not simply buy their way out of enlistment and, in those days, Clearfield County had a reputation as a hideout for both draft dodgers and deserters from the union army.

So it was that, at this site just outside of what is now Kellytown, PA, on December 12, 1864 a Union army detachment crashed a party at the home of Union army deserter Thomas Adams (who, being married, would not have been drafted so he must have enlisted voluntarily). With the house surrounded, Adams shot and killed 18 year-old Edgar L. Reed of New Hampshire and was then killed himself when he ran from the house. The Union soldiers demanded that all remaining persons stand down and 18 deserters and draft dodgers were arrested.

The original cabin was torn down sometime later and, after the Clearfield County Historical Society acquired the land, they moved a very similar cabin to the site and there is quite a bit of informational signage around the property.

There is a spring house and a few outbuildings surrounding the cabin which are there primarily to support an annual fall festival which is held here. (FYI: the dilapidated-looking outhouse is not operational so you might want to go easy on the cider)

The historical society has pictures of the original cabin and offers a booklet telling the whole story of the event at a very reasonable price. It can be ordered from their website.

There is, reportedly, not much unique on the inside of the cabin but the grounds are open year-round for the public to visit and I’m going to try and remember to watch for the festival dates in the early part of next October.