Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Woodbridge Letter

The Marietta Intelligencer, April 8, 1858

Chillicothe, April 3, 1858.

William R. Putnam, Esquire, and others of the committee:

Gentlemen - Your invitation to the celebration of the seventieth anniversary of the landing at Marietta has served to revive memories of the past, which had slept for years.

My earliest recollection is of becoming lost in the thicket of bushes and grape vines that then covered the "Point," a brother two years my senior, and myself having wandered a few rods from our cabin.

Some eleven years later, the native growths of the soil had given place to the varies materials used in ship building; the point was no longer a forest, but a ship-yard, where was built the brig St. Clair, and from whence she sailed under the command of Commodore Whipple, freighted with some of the surplus of land, cleared and cultivated for the most part, with rifle in hand, giving thus a foreshadowing of the energy and enterprise which have ever characterized the inhabitants of that place -- astonishing the commercial world by an arrival from a town scarcely if at all, heard of, and by a route not yet dreamed of.

After the Commodore's return, he was heard to say that he had achieved two things that no man could again do - fired the first gun, on shipboard, of the revolutionary war, and navigated the first sea vessel down the river Ohio.

My intervening memories are fraught with incidents, some sufficiently startling at the time, others ludicrous.

The surrounding country was traversed daily by spies.  This dangerous duty was undertaken by volunteers, going usually two together.  When signs indicated the presence of Indians, timely notice was given, sometimes by the discharge of a gun, that all occupied abroad might retire within the pickets.  These alarm guns were sometimes heard in the night, when the women would dress hastily, and the children were hustled up, preparatory to taking refuge in the blockhouses.  At other times, when all else was still, the calls of the sentinels were heard during each hour of the night - "look out sharp," with the response, "All's well," from the guard houses, one on the bank of each river, the other at the inner angle of the picketed enclosure.

Several lives were lost in broad day, notwithstanding this vigilance.  Robert Warth was killed whilst working in his "truck patch," on the Fort Harmar side.  Those who sallied out at the report of the Indian's rifle, reached the field in time to see the Indian leap the fence on the opposite side, having secured the scalp of his victim.

Rogers, one of the spies, was shot down by the side of his comrade.  Henderson, after discharging his gun, with what effect was not known, had no chance for his life but to flee.  In doing so he vowed to avenge his comrade by taking the scalp of one of their enemies.  This he accomplished, and it was borne in triumph through the streets, followed by a numerous procession.

The death of Mr. Carr was attended with yet more aggravating circumstances.  He was quite old and was, at the time, on the island, safe, as was supposed, from his insular position.  He was, however, approached, so stealthily as to be overtaken and tomahawked, no gun being fired, but his cries were heard, and the Indians were seen to escape to the main land in a canoe.

His son, Hamilton Carr, at once offered his services as a spy, or ranger, as they were sometimes called, and that he might be the sole avenger of his Father, he insisted on going alone, although the greater hazard of doing so was strongly urged in opposition.  He succeeded, and not satisfied with the usual trophy, he bore the head home with him, and that too, elevated on a pole, was the ghastly processor of the triumphal march.

It is known that Indians will hazard their lives to conceal their slain, saving the scalp being with them a point of honor.  Hence the whites, long engaged in Indian warfare, scalped the slain, not to secure a trophy, but as a means of striking terror into their savage enemies.  I am not informed whether the practice obtained precedence on either side in the Indian wars of New England.

Mr. Coquet, a Frenchman, excited, no doubt, by the acts of bravery, and hair-breadth escapes that were so frequently occurring, to become himself the hero of some adventure, was seen running at full speed, hat in hand, from an improvement near the first run below Fort Harmar.  A crowd soon gathered around him, to whom he exhibited his hat, perforated in the crown by a bullet from the gun, as he said, of an Indian.  Congratulations for his narrow escape were poured in upon him under great and increasing excitement, when an elderly person, who was cool, examining the hat, asked Mr. Coquet to put it on.  To the astonishment of all, the holes were found to be a considerable distance below the top of the head!

The men of that day, the actors in those scenes of toil and danger, have no doubt passed away, and I could hardly hope to meet those who in childhood had set foot on the soil so early as the spring of 1789.  Even St. Clair Kelley, to whom was donated a hundred acre lot in honor of his being the first born male, is said to be no more.

There are, however, many friends and acquaintances of later years, whom it would afford me great pleasure to meet, and by whom I hope still to be held in remembrance.

Trusting that the celebration of this year will be so pleasant as to be long remembered.

I remain, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
J. Woodbridge.

 

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