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The Legend of Legalities and the Devil's Due
(The Legend of Judge Reddick and his tomb)
by Denver L. Walton
Courtesy of Little Beaver Historical Society

And then there's the story about the Beaver Countian who made a bet with the devil and lost, but shrewdly managed to avoid the payoff. So help me! It involved a man named John Hoge Reddick, who was one of the first judges in the Beaver County Courts. (He served from 1804 to 1830).

Judge Reddick was evidently a man of means, and in addition to his judicial duties, he busied himself with raising horses. At his farm in Hanover Township, he had constructed one of the finest racetracks to be found anywhere in the newly settled west country, and fellow horse breeders would travel great distances to try their luck against the Judge's stable. Usually, the legend tells us, they lost.

The Judge was reportedly not a modest man, and his continued success at the track led to frequent immodest boasting about the speed and stamina of his stock. In fact, the reputed abilities of the Judge's favorite horse, a big white stallion, reached the ears of Satan, who was not at all unfamiliar with the world of racing.

Devil that he was, Satan recognized a sure way to capitalize on the Judge's overconfidence. He dispatched one of his ablest lieutenants to approach the Judge and negotiate a wager. The terms were simple, but the stakes were high.

Against the Judge's famed white stallion, the demon would ride a nag of his choice, on the Judge's. own track or anywhere he preferred. The Judge, if the winner, would receive the power to accumulate fabulous wealth over the balance of his natural life. If he lost, the Judge was required to surrender soul immediately..

Judge Reddick insisted on fair terms for the race and received assurances that his mount would not be tampered with before or during the race. Confident that the white stallion could not be excelled on the track, the Judge eagerly accepted the bet.

Unfortunately, Judge Reddick overlooked the possibility that the demon's horse might have unnatural talents. At the time of the race (at midnight, of course) the Judge was totally unimpressed by the competition, for the demon showed up riding an old black mare that looked as if it had just been resurrected after a long rest underground.

The Judge was not motivated by the prospect of winning great riches nearly so much as the chance to beat his rival in a race, so he was eager to begin. As the race started, the mounts were about evenly matched, with the demon's nag showing surprising vigor.

But as the Judge attempted to pull ahead, the black mare snorted a breath of fire at the Judge's horse, and the stallion reared up and nearly threw his rider. This happened again and again, and though the white stallion was clearly superior in racing ability, the Judge just could not pass the black mare with its fiery breath, and the race was lost.

His heirs felt that the Judge merely wanted to pass eternity in both of the states he loved so well.: Virginia, the land of his birth, and Pennsylvania, where he led a busy successful life.

But the Judge had other ideas. When the soul collector showed up, Judge Reddick demanded the proper extradition papers be filed. When this legal, formality had been resolved in the Pennsylvania courts and the devil again appeared to get his due, the Judge had crawled over into the Virginia side of his tomb. Only temporarily thwarted, the devil then filed papers in Virginia, only to find the Judge safe and secure in Pennsylvania. Legend has it that the judge kept this up until the statute of limitations on the original agreement had expired, and old Satan never did collect his soul. It's possible that the devil may have tried to get the Judge by extra-legal means, but I'd be willing to bet that the man from Beaver County finally won.

All of this story is absolutely true, of course, but the only part I can verify is the tomb, which may still be seen. Despite the Judge's elaborate precautions and the devil's evil (and hopefully unsuccessful intentions, both of them should be amused at the curious end of this tale. After the Civil War, when West Virginia had become a state and was our new western neighbor, the state line was re-surveyed. Visitors to Judge Reddick's tomb today will find it nearly intact, but fully ten feet east of the state line marker established by the later, more accurate survey.

(The tomb may be found a few hundred yards south of the road leading west from Kendall, on Pa. 168. It is made of cut sandstone and is about ten feet square.)

This tomb, with its legend, is one of many sites in Beaver County which have served as burial grounds in our two hundred year history. A few other single burials are known, while some larger cemeteries number their burials in the thousands. Over a hundred locations exist with visible headstones, but many more have been effaced by time and vandalism, and remain only in someone's memory.

As a spare time project, I am engaged in cataloging all of the burial sites in the county. In 1936, a listing of 125 known sites was prepared. I have been able to expend the list to include 163 sites, but I am convinced that there are many more.