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Gravestone might be that of Muncy’s John Sanders

By Staff | Jun 9, 2016

Local experts are researching a stone etched with a deep inscription that could be authentic evidence of a more dangerous time.

During the morning of Jan. 3, Richard Miller and his wife were digging a grave for their dog when they found what appeared to be an ordinary stone.

They initially thought nothing of it, other than that it was big enough to place on top of the grave as a marker.

“We were digging at the 3-foot level when we hit something,” Miller explained. “We worked it out and thought it would be a good stone to keep animals from digging at the grave. We had no idea that it had an inscription on it.”

Six weeks later, the melting snow and rain washed dirt off of the stone, revealing a potentially huge historical find.

They noticed an interesting inscription that read “John Sanders Killed by Indians during Attack Lycoming County T.T. 1763.”

The rock now is with Thomas Baird, president of Northcentral Chapter 8 for the Society of Pennsylvania Archaeology.

“We were so excited to see something like this,” he said.

According to Baird, even though they aren’t sure if it’s authentic yet, experts observed that the lettering on the stone has aged along with the rest of it. There’s also a shovel mark from where a person hit it into the ground. “If it’s a fake, it’s a very old fake,” he said.

Baird and the rest of the specialists have more reasonable evidence to keep digging for the truth about the stone and about what happened on that day.

“We do know there was a John Sanders in Muncy born around 1719, but the stone was found in Williamsport,” he said. “It was also found at Miller’s home on Overhill Road in Williamsport. Many of the attacks occurred closer to the valleys and the rivers.”

The experts researching the stone know that the Sanders’ living in Muncy around that time had a son, also named John, who was born in 1743. Baird said that if the stone belongs to the John Sanders of Muncy, one theory is that his son placed it as a memorial marker.

According to Baird, Lycoming County wasn’t established until 1795, 32 years after the inscription said John Sanders was killed. His son placing the stone as a memorial rather than a gravestone would explain why it says “Lycoming County” and why the marker would be on a hill rather than near the river.

In 1763, the area still was Native American land. Even though it wasn’t an official settlement, there still were people here, Baird said.

“During 1763, we had just gotten through the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s Rebellion was underway,” he said. “The tribes in the area were mostly with Pontiac and this is literally their backyard. We endured a lot of action in this part of Pennsylvania. It was a very dangerous time. Many historical accounts tell us there were many people killed here during attacks and often times were unnamed. So, could someone have been killed in an attack in this area in 1763? Absolutely.”

The area historical experts are researching ancestry reports, archaeology and historical background to determine whether or not the stone is authentic and are also hoping someone who knows anything more about it will come forward with more evidence, Baird said.

“This could very well be a family story,” he said. “I’m hoping we find someone who will reach out with expert knowledge or any stories that could help us. This could be one of Lycoming County’s biggest finds, but we’re just at the start of figuring this thing out.”

Anyone who has any knowledge that would help with the research may contact Baird at 570-244-6153 or tbaird424@comcast. net.