Thursday, March 31, 2011

Notes on the Settlement of the West

American Friend & Marietta Gazette, September 19, 1827

On the 30th day of July, in the year 1782, Henry Smith, Hamilton Kerr and Thomas Mills, went out from Wheeling Fort on a fishing party; they ascended the river about four miles, and coming within about forty paces of the Ohio shore, they were fired upon by a large party of Indians who were concealed in the grass and willows, and at the first fire Mills received eight balls, which made sixteen or seventeen wounds - fortunately, he fell in the canoe - a part of the Indians leaving their guns on the shore, attempted to board the canoe by wading, but the water being shoulder deep, Kerr kept them off with his fish gig; the Indians finding it very difficult to board in such deep water, returned to shore and commenced firing, which they continued until the canoe had got near the Virginia shore, poured a heavy fire at them, but seeing armed men on the point of the island, they proceeded no farther.  Hamilton Kerr got into the fort unhurt; Smith received a small flesh wound; and Mills, to the astonishment of all who saw him at that time, recovered, and is now upwards of sixty years of age, living in Monroe county, Ohio, enjoying tolerably good health.

There is no doubt (says Mills), but it was the deliberate courage and activity of Hamilton Kerr that prevented their falling into the hands of the Indians.  The same party, the next day, killed Major Samuel McColloch, while reconnoitering.  The loss of Major McColloch was considered a public calamity to the frontier settlement.

In the month of April in the year 1784, two Indians came to the flats of Grave Creek, where Joseph Tomlinson had come on with part of his family for the purpose of raising a crop of corn; when they came to a fence near the door, one of them hailed, and out stepped an old woman; one of them accosted her (to use her own language), "good morning mother! (and threw his filthy arms about my neck, and hugged me all the way into the house); mother, said he, what is in that bag?  It is flour, said she.  I must have some of it, said the Indian."  The woman then told the children to go and tell Joe.  The Indian forbid it under the penalty of the tomahawk.  He then took one of the old woman's petticoats, for which she contended, and told him "the shame a bit of it he should have."  The Indian then took some of the flour, in his blanket, and went to his companions, who were watching not far off, and then went off without committing any further depredations.  So far goes the old woman's story, which was not doubted.  The same Indians went from thence perhaps ten or twelve miles, to an old farm, known as Crow's Old Place, where they killed two men, to wit, Nathaniel Redford and Randall Death.  Death was an amiable young man - he received six wounds in one day in the revolutionary war, five of them with the bayonet; the writer of this was well acquainted with him.

In September, in the year 1787, two boys, John Wetsil and Frederick Erlewine, perhaps about 16 or 17 years of age, went out from Wetsil's fort on Wheeling creek, to hunt their horses.  They had not gone far when they heard the horse-bell, and going to the place found the horses tied in a thicket, and a party of five Indians watching them, who made prisoners of both the boys, and went off towards the Ohio.  The young Erlewine continued crying - after travelling about a mile, they silenced him with the tomahawk, and pushed with the other prisoner and the two horses until they came to the river at the mouth of Big Grave Creek.  Two of the Indians undertook to cross the river with the horses, while the other three with the prisoner, got into a canoe they found in the creek, and were paddling into the river, when three men, viz. Isaac Williams, Hamilton Kerr, and James Salter, hearing the snorting of the horses, hastened to the mouth of the creek, where they arrived undiscovered, at the moment the Indians were passing into the river - Kerr and Williams instantly fired and killed two - Kerr dropped his gun, took Salter's out of his hand and shot the third.  Thus were three Indians killed, and a prisoner liberated with the firing of three guns.  The other Indians, with the horses, gained the opposite shore and made their escape.

Sometime in September, in the year 1787, a negro man, belonging to Philip Whitten, Esq., while hunting bees on the waters of Wheeling, was surprised and taken prisoner by two Indians; they immediately pinioned his arms - put a very heavy rifle gun on his shoulder, and went off towards the Ohio.  When within about a mile of the river (it was nearly dark), they heard a bell, and one of them went off towards it, saying "now I get a horse;" the other, and the negro, sat for some time, the Indian telling him he would furnish him with a wife, &c. until his comrade gave a signal, by making a noise resembling that of a screech-owl - he then said to the negro, "now we go."  They had to descend a very steep hill - the negro, walking behind the Indian, had the advantage of the ground, and gave him a blow on the head with the gun the Indian compelled him to carry, which brought him to the ground.  He then squatting seized the Indian's tomahawk and struck it several times into his brains, and escaped; he had to go about two miles to Williamson's Block House, where he was unshackled, told his story, and a party of men went with him to the place where the Indian lay dead, and found all he had stated to be true.

The negro, after liberating himself from the Indians, thought proper to continue no longer a slave, and to effect his purpose, ran away from his master.  He was said to be living at Malden, Upper Canada, at the time of the last war.

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