The Great Serpent of Lexington

What do you call a person who studies monsters?  That would be a CRYPTOZOOLOGIST (from Greek—literally, one who engages in “Study of Hidden Animals.”) 

What do you call a person who believes in monsters?  That would be Mr. A.B. Beverstock of Lexington, Ohio in 1858.  That was the year he bought the great swamp in Lexington and insisted that the deed include title to the giant snake who lived there.

Just the Facts

There was no shortage of people in Lexington at that time who believed in the great snake.  Many claimed to have seen its 11” wide slithery tracks in the mud where it crawled across the road.

Dr. Carrigan saw it one day—saw half of it—in 1851 sunning itself on a big old tree that had been blown over into the swamp.  Only half of the snake fit on the old tree.

Some claimed to have heard the serpent.  This critter wasn’t known to make any ordinary snakey hiss, but rather a sort of roar—coming out of the swamp in the middle of the night.

In 1858 when the first documentation of its presence in Lexington appeared in print, in the columns of the Mansfield Herald, the serpent was 30 feet long.  It apparently fed on rumors and trepidation because by 1869, when the story came into print again, it was 40 feet long.

It ate whole sheep in a single gulp, and knocked down fences in its way—and then crushed the rails as it glided over them.

Eye Witness Accounts

According to a local journalist after the Civil War, the first sighting of the ‘Great Sarpent’ was clear back in 1816 when Amariah Watson, the founder of Lexington, encountered him in the wilderness.  In 1832 a traveler told his wide-eyed testimony of watching the snake showing off on the road to Mansfield.

By 1846 awareness of the snake in the village had grown so nerve racking that a posse of men armed with sickles, rakes, hoes and scythes assembled under the command of Capt. James McIntire to march into the swamp.  One account says 60 or 70 men, another says 100 men, because the dimensions always get larger with time.  The armed forces never encountered the wily serpent that day, so all the men came back alive.

These clippings are from the Mansfield Herald in 1858.  

Soothing the Beast

A.J. Baughman wrote a tale he heard of a young man in Lexington who fancied himself something of a snake charmer.  Apparently he took his fiddle out into the swamp to see if the old boy could be coaxed out with some heartening ballads.  Whether the snake was truly enraptured by his music, or perhaps just to put an end to the noise, the serpent appeared during the last verse of Oft in the Stilly Night and the young violinist quit suddenly in the middle of his cadenza so he could flee for his life.

Most of the rattlesnakes in the county were a northern variety called Massasauga Rattlesnakes, pictured here.  They are also called Swamp Rattlers…which is certainly appropriate for Lexington’s famous reptile.

The Deed

In the 1850s the great swamp of Lexington was owned by the Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark Railroad, and they decided they didn’t have much use for it so it went up for sale.  There really weren’t a lot of takers for land that couldn’t be put into crops, but Abraham Beverstock stepped up and said he would buy the swamp—provided he got the snake with it.

A special clause was written into the deed to that effect—making sure the fabled reptile belonged not only to Mr. Beverstock, but also to his heirs and assignees as well, forever.  The document, in the bound volumes of deeds in the County Courthouse, was subsequently not only duly notarized and sealed, but decorated as well, with a charming portrait of the legendary town monster.

It has been known ever since as The Snake Deed.  You can walk into the Recorder’s Office and ask to see The Snake Deed and they will all know exactly what you’re talking about.

Richland County’s famous Snake Deed, dated November 21, 1859.

In Search of the Great Swamp

Today most of the Great Swamp of Lexington is covered with grass in low lying fields, and the only time it looks appealing to swamp monsters would be when summer cloudbursts swell the Clear Fork enough to flood the parks and ball fields.  That is the only time it looks like what Mr. Beverstock had in mind when he purchased the monster’s lair.

There is a small remnant of marsh, however, near the Cemetery, that is still black-bottomed with a stagnant glaze over the murky waters.  It is nowhere you want to go unless you don’t mind ravenous mosquitos.  There are no signs of human presence there at all.  I’m sure that’s why the great snake likes it so much.

Remnants of Lexington’s great swamp.

Cryptozoologists in the 21st Century tend to believe that the Great Serpent of Lexington abandoned the village swamp several generations ago when the land was mostly drained for farming purposes.
It seems most likely that today he resides upstream in the Clear Fork Reservoir,  built in the 1940s.  So far, all sightings have been disregarded by authorities who fear publicity will only attract more cryptozoologists.

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