avid Barge was born in Lancaster County in December 1838.
When he enrolled in the 1st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Light Artillery in September of 1861 he became part of a group of soldiers who saw some of the worst fighting of the Civil War. Among the bloody battles in which this regiment fought was the second Battle of Manassas where Barge himself was injured in 1862.
A young and brave man, Barge completed his term of duty and retired to Lawrence County (on the Ohio border) to take up farming.
We do not know if Barge was a church-goer before the war, but afterward he apparently attended the Savannah Methodist Episcopal Church several miles north of New Castle. One cool evening in November 1869 he arrived at the church to open it for a prayer meeting. He waited for attendees to arrive, but it soon became evident that no one was coming. As he turned to leave he caught sight of something that rattled the veteran so badly he leaped over the closed church gate and ran the entire one-mile journey home.
At first Barge did not speak of his encounter. Like most people he feared ridicule or the loss of the trust of his family and friends. Eventually, however, he recounted the tale of how he had been approached by something not human near the church cemetery - a hazy white figure that came from the graveyard.
Barge's 18-year-old nephew Eli Gaston believed his uncle's story to be silly fiction. So, the next night, Eli and his brother visited the church fully expecting nothing to happen. Like his uncle, however, Eli met the apparition - and both he and and his brother sped home to confirm Barge's story.
Eli Gaston, being an obstinate sort, decided he would return to the church one more time - with a fourth witness. Like clockwork the ghost appeared, but they resisted the urge to flee. "What do you want?" one of them asked - but the apparition only groaned and glided to the rear corner of the church where it stopped beside a small tree. From the tree the men heard scratching which they described as similar to the sound a cat makes when it sharpens its claws.
As the night went on the spirit would disappear from the cemetery only to reappear in an adjoining meadow. Back and forth it came and went with no sound - although the men could clearly hear their own footsteps in the frosted grass.
In response to the news of these strange experiences in the Savannah Methodist Episcopal Church graveyard, a crowd of locals carrying firearms and farm implements took up guard and waited for the ghostly visitor.
Perhaps the spirit was frightened by the size of the crowd or its weaponry. Perhaps it simply tired of the nightly visits. Whatever the reason, the ghost did not appear and has not been reported since.
David Barge died in May 1918 at the age of 80. Interestingly, rather than Savannah Church he chose Oak Park Cemetery as his final resting place. [Editor's note: there is a David Barge buried in the Savannah Methodist Episcopal Church graveyard, but he is not the subject of this piece.]
Barge's nephew Eli Gaston - who also died at age 80 - likewise chose Oak Park for his burial site.
We can only wonder if they were ever properly introduced to their "ghost in the graveyard" somewhere in the great beyond. 💀