Early Indian Troubles - Places of Refuge - Forts - Stockades - Block Houses - Cabins - Indian Stories
It must always be remembered that the English soldiers and the Indians were not the only enemies the Westmoreland pioneers had to contend against. They were harassed on all sides by the Indians, who were urged on by the English who formed alliances with them in every section possible. This may have been considered legitimate warfare, on the theory that anything which would weaken and sap strength from the enemy was legitimate. It is probable, also, that the English government at home never knew the inhuman results of their alliances with the Indians. The idea that the Crown authorized or knowingly sanctioned the butchery of innocent women and children, in that age of the world, is abhorrent to human reason, and, indeed it is at war with the established reputation of the English people.
In addition to these enemies were a few disreputable white men who allied themselves with the Indians and became leaders more brutal than the most savage of their tribe. These men left civilization, joined various tribes, and adopted their mode of life and warfare. What induced them to do this, can never be definitely known. In some cases it wis known that deserters from the American army who were afraid to return, and being like-wise outcasts from their home communities, went over to the English, or, perhaps, to the Indians. But most likely their actions were mostly due to the alluring rewards offered on the part of British officers for scalps. At all events they were more dangerous to the white settlers than the Indians, because they knew the weak points of the settlement, knew the territory, and knew more about the individual bravery or weakness of the settler, than the Indians did. When, therefore, a band of Indians under the leadership of one of these infuriated wretches actuated by their inborn hatred of the American pioneer, came down upon a settlement, it was indeed a most formidable and blood-thirsty onslaught. The white leaders, moreover, had great power over the Indians, more indeed than Indian leaders generally had themselves. They could, with a word, release a prisoner at the stake, around whose naked limbs the fire was slowly creeping, or could have him stripped, tied to a tree, and slowly tortured to death, as they wished or ordered. The Indians cared little for the gold of the English, but they were willing to commit any outrage for bright beads, blankets, and rum, while the renegade whites cared nothing for these, but took the English gold as their share of the booty. A great deal of our trouble in Westmoreland county was traceable to these outlaws. Their names for generations have been held in abhorrence by the pioneers and their decedents.
There were three conspicuous men among these outlaw leaders who surpassed all others. They were Simon Girty, Alexander McKee and Matthew Elliott, and by far the most inhuman of these was the former. Though one hundred twenty-five eventful years have passed since his evil deeds were perpetrated, yet his name is still a name of infamy. He had adopted the life of the Mingoes, with whom he generally associated, though he associated with other tribes, and wherever he went he was a leader. He knew the Westmoreland people, its houses, strength, places of refuge, etc., as well as any one in the county, and was therefore not likely to lead the Indians into a stronghold where they might be captured. He had been a trapper, and later a trader among the Indians of the Ohio valley, and mention is made of him in some of the early writings in this capacity as early as 1749. He was a shining light in the bandit gang knows as "Dunmore�s Army" and at Hannastown was second in command after Connolly. He led the gang to Hannastown when the jail was opened and the prisoners released. He worked all over Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, and led more incursions in Westmoreland county than any other. He was utterly without feeling of pity. When Colonel William Crawford, our first judge, was being burned at the stake, the Indians having first cut off his ears and nose, he saw Girty, whom he knew quite well, among his tormenters. In the agony of despair he cried, "shoot me, Simon: shoot me, to end my sufferings," and Girty tauntingly replied, "I can�t, I have no gun," though he held a gun in his hands all the time. McKee operated less here than Girty, and Elliott less than either of them. Neither of them was as brutal as Girty. McKee had formerly acquired land in the region of Pittsburgh, and was then a man of average standing in the community. He had been a justice of the peace and of our early courts when the county was formed, and for some years was a respectable member of the court and of society. He forsook the white race and, like Girty, committed acts of brutality which have forever consigned his name to infamy.
These briefly referred to border troubles made it necessary for our western people to protect themselves by garrisons and militia, and often to call for aid from the Colonial army. They explained why the county, large as it was then, furnished so few troops for the main army, in comparison with the same population in the New England states. When the family of a settler needed his daily protection at home, he could not be expected to leave them and enlist in the general cause against Great Britain. It explains also why it was necessary to build and repair our forts during the Revolution, though the real field of the revolutionary was several hundred miles from us. These forts and the armed soldiers within were indispensable. When a foray was made by the Indians into any settlement, the people ran for their lives to the nearest blockhouse, or fort. Even though they were able when within a blockhouse to defend themselves, starvation would soon have compelled them to surrender. But a swift riding messenger could soon communicate with the nearest garrison, whose soldiers were ready at all times to hasten to their relief. This was done times without number, as the reader will see later on. Without these garrisoned forts to draw upon our early settlements would have been literally devastated, and our people either murdered or driven east of the Allegheny mountains. And it must also be remembered that these garrisons were weak, and at best but poorly equipped, though they were as strong as the new government, struggling for its first foothold, could afford.
Blockhouses were often constructed by the neighbors, who went together, felled the timber, and thus erected a place of public safety. They were not built strong enough to resist an attack made by an enemy with heavy guns. They were easily a splendid barrier against the Indians, whose implements of warfare were almost exclusively confined to muskets or rifles, bows and arrows, tomahawks and scalping knives. The English government generally built forts, and most of them were stockade forts. They were more substantially built than blockhouses, and were strong enough to resist an attack of the heaviest guns, as heavy guns were then. They would, of course, be mere kindling wood as against the heavy guns of today.
All forts or blockhouses or stockade forts built by the English were constructed under the supervision of their best engineers, according to the methods laid down by the best authorities on military tactics, or the best that were practicable in a new country. Accurate drawings and pictures of these fortresses were made by the engineers and sent to the war department of England and carefully filed away. The same methods as was afterward pursued by the Colonial army, so that we have in the English and American archives accurate drawings of these structures. The stockade of a stockade fort surrounded the fort, or blockhouse proper. All in this section were made of logs.
Fort Ligonier was the first fort built by the English west of the Allegheny mountains. It was built, as has been seen by Forbes� army, in 1758. Its construction was determined by Colonel Henry Bouquet, and superintended by Colonel James Burd. It was not completed at that time by the English, but was subsequently finished after the manner designed by them by our early military forces. The place of its location was well selected, since there was on the south side a rocky bluff, or almost perpendicular wall of projecting rocks between the fort and the Loyalhanna creek. This afforded a natural barrier against any approach from the south. The fort at its highest point was ninety-four feet above the water of the creek. It was also fortified to a great extent on the north side, for there lay a deep ravine from a strong spring to the east. These natural fortifications are yet visible. The stockade was in he main about one hundred feet square, with large diamond shaped extensions on each corner, so that, through loop-holes, a soldier within the enclosure of the stockade could fire on an enemy who might be attempting to scale the stockade. The stockade was made of logs from ten to twelve feet long, and set firmly in the ground. These logs were generally split and the flat surface turned outward. These were called palisades, and were set in the ground so closely that they touched each other. They were reinforced by others which were set so as to close the spaces that might be made by the logs not fitting together exactly, and, to add strength to the structure. Strong timbers were fastened to the palisade near the tops, and these were thoroughly pinned together. Int that part of the fort which was most likely to be attacked, this horizontal log was reinforced by others, all thoroughly braced and held in place by strong brace timbers reaching to the ground. On the outside earth was thrown up against these posts, and this made a ditch which practically gave an additional height to the stockades. The enclosure thus made was a space over one hundred feet square, while the circumference made by the palisades was over five hundred feet long, this being due to the projecting corners. Within this enclosure were the officers quarters, while outside were the soldiers� cabins. In time of a siege, which frequently happened at Ligonier, soldiers, settlers and officers were all within the stockade. At each angle of the stockade were mounted cannon. Within the stockade were also the storerooms, powder magazines, etc. A covered way led from the east side of the fort to the spring, and the ravine was marked as crossed by a foot log. This covered way was made of shorter logs, and was necessary in times of a siege. It gave rise to a popular belief that there was a tunnel extending down to the Loyalhanna. There has never been any evidence of a tunnel discovered, save a few cavities in the rocks overhanging the creek and these extend into the hill but a few feet. It is not supposed that an underground tunnel would be made and not reported or outlined on the map or plan, for the English did not generally report less than they did. There was also a gate, made of strong logs, like the posts of the stockade, firmly fastened together, and hung on immense iron hinges. This in times of danger was kept closed and bolted. The gate was on the east side. For many years it was kept up by the English army, and when Independence was declared in 1776, the Colonial army took charge of it, and it was yet a place of safety to all the surrounding settlers.
There was also a new fort built at Ligonier during the Revolution, when the old one was badly decayed. It has been called Fort Preservation and was down by the bank of the creek, for the accounts of it represent that a canal from the creek filled the ditch surrounding the fort with water. It was a small affair compared with the old fort and even its exact location is not known. It was probably built entirely by the pioneers of that locality and hence we have no draft of it.
The garrison was very useful indeed indispensable, to the early settlers of the valley. Those who lived near enough to the fort could at anytime call the soldiers of the garrison out to protect them, by blowing on large horns. These, when properly winded by the settler or his wife, could be heard two miles or more. With the first sound of a horn the mounted soldiers hastened to their relief. In this way many Indian raiders were frightened away, or deterred from committing depredations and many a family was protected.
Perhaps a still more common method of defense was in what was called blockhouse cabins. Sometimes they were called stations, and perhaps sometimes forts, or blockhouses, but they were properly neither. They were strongly built log houses, with heavy doors, and heavy covering for the windows, which could be put up and barred from the inside. In the gables were cracks which admitted light and air. When built after the fashion of the pioneer, they could withstand a long siege from the Indians on the outside. There were rifle holes on every side, and the Indian who thought he could approach them with any degree of safety was generally a dead Indian before any damage was done. Two or three dozen people could be reasonably secure in one of these cabins, and armed with a few flintlock guns, were easily able to cope with twice their number of savages.
Hannastown, though in Hempfield township, where the settlers were nearly all Pennsylvania Dutch, was settled by Robert Hanna and his friends, and they were nearly all Irish or Scotch-Irish. In 1774, the first year after it became the county seat of the new county, Hanna and his neighbors joined together and hurriedly put up a fort. This was necessary not only through fear of the Indians, but through fear of Dunmore�s marauders as well. It was a large two-room log house, with only one door, and no windows whatever in the upper story. The only light came from small holes in the upper story, through which the barrel of his musket could be aimed at an Indian. It had a flat or nearly flat roof to prevent the Indians from firing it from the outside. It was additionally strengthened by palisade which surrounded it, made after the fashion of the one above described at Fort Ligonier. The upper story was higher than the tops of the palisades, so that they could be defended from the inner fort. The structure of 1774 was but a temporary affair, but in 1776 it was greatly strengthened, and was of great service. Its construction was superintended by David Semple, and for this service the minutes of the supreme executive council show he was paid twenty pounds. After its extension and improvement it included a store-house where the private property of the frightened settlers could be stored. It will be remembered that this fort was half way between Fort Ligonier and Fort Duquesne, and in transporting provisions, ammunition, etc., from the east, it became a very important stopping place. From 1776 it was very frequently filled with families of the neighborhood, who were thus forced to take refuge from the Indians. It was not for several years attacked, for the reason of the strength of its garrison. During all these years there were either soldiers of the Continental army or militia stationed there all the time. This was, however, a force not by any means sufficient for the preservation of peace, as may be seen from a letter fromCol. Archibald Laughry to President Reed, of the supreme executive council. In it he says that "the savages are continually making depredations among us; not less than forty people have been killed, wounded or captivated this spring, and the enemy have killed our creatures within three hundred yards of this town." This is dated at Hannastown, May 1, 1779. On June 1, 1780, he wrote to President Reed saying, "I have been under the necessity of removing the public records from Hannastown to my own plantation, not without the consent of the judge of the court."
Miller�s Station, sometimes erroneously called Miller�s Fort, was another very important one to this region. It was located about three miles south-east from Hannastown, and one mile west from the present George station, on the Pennsylvania railroad. It was named after Captain Samuel Miller, a farmer who had taken up land there and was one of the leading men of his limited section. He is mentioned hereafter as one of the captains of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment. With his regiment he came here from Valley forge in February, 1778, and was killed by the Indians July 7. His house was a plain substantial log house, and, being strongly built, became a rendevous for the surrounding neighbors in time of danger. It was probably only resorted to by those who could not reach strongly fortified places. Gathered there from time to time were men of daring courage who were able to resist any attack on the part of the Indians unless they were greatly outnumbered. It was a two-roomed log house, and was a fair specimen of the blockhouse cabin.
Often when Indians had been seen lurking in the community, or perhaps when a false alarm had been spread through the country, the inhabitants would gather at these cabins and spend the night, resuming their work the day following in the fields. Their protection depended more in their united strength than on the strength of the cabin in which they were collected. Men, women and children were from time to time collected in these places of refuge. The women of that day were enured to the hardships of frontier life, and in these times of danger readily performed very important services.
They could, from much practice, dress the wounds of those who were shot, and knew the herbs of the fields which would, when brewed, cure or allay the suffering of their injured defenders. They could stand guard at night, and give the alarm if a stealthy foe approached. They could make bullets, cut patches and load muskets.
We shall learn later that the Eighth Pennsylvania regiment was raised in Westmoreland county exclusively for border defense, and that in an emergency it was ordered to New Jersey. After its removal in January, 1777, the whole western frontier was laid open to the most violent Indian depredations. The militia was called out, but they were poorly drilled, poorly equipped and if paid at all it was in depreciated continental currency. In �77 and �78, therefore, there were numerous depredations all along the border. Indians under the leadership of Simon Girty, or other of like character, seemed lurking in every place of concealment. The dangers of this community from ambushing red men, are illustrated in Captain James Smith�s narrative, which has been previously referred to. About this time he marched a regiment to the Allegheny river region to chastise the Indians. In his notes he says they marched in four columns, forty rods apart, with scouts posted on the flanks of each column. The men of each column marched one rod apart. In case of an attack each man was to face out and take to the nearest tree. This was to keep the Indians from surrounding them, and to prevent them from shooting more than once without exposing themselves. At night they encamped in a hollow square, each line being about a quarter of a mile long. Guards were placed outside to watch for the approach of an enemy and to guard the cattle which were taken along for meat for the army.
These were dark years indeed. The Continental Congress had no way of raising money sufficient to carry on the war except by promises to pay in the future. These promises were based on the credit of the country, and depended entirely on the success of the Colonial army. Every one knew that if the cause of the Colonies failed, their promises to pay would be worth nothing. No man who entered the service after 1778 expected to be paid in continental money, for it had then depreciated until it was almost worthless. For the few expenses of the army which must be paid Congress depended on private subscriptions. Soon the depreciation was so great that they ceased sending it out as soldiers� pay. Under these difficulties Colonel Broadhead marched out with the Eighth Regiment in the summer of 1778 and did great service against the Indians up the Allegheny. His regiment cut off a party of about forty savages on their way to raid Westmoreland county. Both Colonels Smith and Lucre accompanied the expedition. It had a salutary effect upon the peace and good order of Westmoreland, but they returned exhausted, for, serving without pay, and clothing themselves, they had nothing wherwith to recuperate unless their work at home went on while they were gone. Thus were difficulties without limit heaped on the pioneers of our county, and they were all thoroughly understood by the enemy. Finally, the supreme executive council issued a proclamation encouraging young men to turn out to fight the Indians in small parties, and in a manner somewhat after the Indian style. This proclamation had good effect. There was an adventure in it which was very attractive to small parties of energetic young men. These parties were called "Rangers,"
Prominent among the Rangers were David Shaw and his brother the Brownlees, Colonel Wilson the Barrs, the Wallaces, Captain Brady, Captain Van Swearingen, Samuel Shannon, William Cooper, Joseph Erwin, Michael Huffnagle, James Guthrie, Matthew Jack, James Smith, Thomas Stokely and others. These were all bold young rangers, any one of whom might have figured as a character in the inspiring novels of Sir Walter Scott; might have taken the place of Bois Gilbert, or Ivanhoe, or of bold MacGregor, with his foot upon the heather of his native land, and his eye on the peak of the much loved Ben Lomond. They went forth dressed in homespun garments, each armed at his own expense, and comparatively well armed for that day, for each had a rifle or a musket a knife and a hatchet. They acted together, or each set separately, as the occasion demanded. They stood together for protection, and they were frequently neighbors and well acquainted friends who would not stop at any danger to rescue a companion from a difficulty. They had officers whom they obeyed, whether they were in small parties or engaged in a general turnout for public defense. More than all this, they were at home in the woods, and upon any sign or news of distress they knew how to travel by the shortest route to the place of need. They could soon spread the news of the presence of Indians over an entire community, and they very rapidly gathered the women and children to the nearest blockhouse or place of safety. From long experience in the woods they could travel the almost trackless forest on dark nights with unerring certainty. Their faculties of hearing and of sight were sharpened to such acuteness by constant use that the slightest movement in the bushes was noticed by them, and sounds which fell on deafened ears of others were distinctly heard and understood by them. They could endure long tramps through the woods and over mountains, without food. They were rapid runners, and so expert in the use of a rifle that whether moving or standing they rarely ever failed to hit the mark. From places and difficulties in which capture seemed almost inevitable, they freed themselves by a display of nerve and strength which made even the hardened Indian marvel and fall back. All these qualities were bred and born in them from their youth, and were, in hundreds of instances, necessary for self-preservation. Much perception, unerring judgment and boldness of execution, scores of times saved their lives. For years they were the salvation of our pioneer homes, and to them we owe every possible meed of praise. Nor were the women of that age less heroic, and it is not our intention to pass them and their deeds of heroism unnoticed.
In the southern end of the valley those who had carved out little farms along Indian Creek and on the headwaters of the Four Mile Run had built a good strong blockhouse on the land taken up by a farmer named Williams, and this they called Fort Williams. Both the settlers from Indian creek and from the Four Mill Run valley had access to this fort. It was on the west side of the main road leading from Ligonier to Donegal. Here they gathered in times of danger, for they were too far from Fort Ligonier to go there. When the Indians had satisfied themselves and left the community the settlers gathered up their scattered live stock and went back joyfully to their cabins.
Among the early settlers were the Harmans, the Williams and the Hayses.
Some of them came as early as 1776 or 1778, and perhaps earlier, but they are known to have been there then. They had all settled in violation of the law, which forbade the settlement of a section until it was first purchased from the Indians. They were a brave, daring class of people, and doubtless cared very little about the original rights of the Indian race, less, at all events, than did the Penns.
The progenitor of the Harman family came from Germany, and brought with his family a very scanty supply of this world�s goods. Tradition says that they had little else than a rifle, an ax and a mattock, and that the first summer they lived in a hut built against a rock and covered with bark. Around the hut he began to clear away the trees so that his crops might grow. No one can now appreciate the hardships of these people. They could not transport grain from the east for bread, for they were right glad, indeed, if they could get enough for seed. Necessarily they had to live on the scanty product of a new garden, wild berries, and on game, with which the woods abounded. Most of them saw no one save the members of their own families for months, or even for a year after their arrival. This and much more fell to the sad lot of the elder Harmans.
When more neighbors came the dangers increased, for, while one man or a family could live in a lonely valley unmolested by the Indians, he could not expect to do this when his flocks had so increased and his neighbors become so numerous as to tempt the greed of the red men. It was, at best, a continuous warfare for life, not only as against the Indians but as against the wild and stingy soil as well.
Harman lived about midway between Stahlstown and Donegal, though not on the present main road, but near Williams� blockhouse. In 1777 he, with three of his neighbors, were returning from a sale north of their place. As they rode along the path all were fired on by concealed Indians and killed. One of them lived long enough to throw his arms around his horse�s neck and be carried away. The Indians did not get his horse nor his scalp, for he was found the day following with the faithful animal standing by his side. The others fell where they were shot, and were buried there the day following. To this day the neighbors point out the place of their graves. Harman�s widow was left with his land on Four Mile Run, which included the mouth of Laurel Run. She had three sons � Andrew, John and Philip, of whom Andrew was the oldest, a lad of fourteen years. They removed to the blockhouse over winter, and when spring opened up they were compelled to resume their work on the "clearing." One morning the widow saw some neighbors� horses in a field of growing grain near the curve of the stream, and she sent the two oldest boys to drive them off. Three hostile Indians were hidden behind the roots and ground of a large tree which had been uprooted by the storm, lying in wait for the boys to come near. They readily captured John, but Andrew ran towards their cabin. He was soon overtaken by an Indian with a tomahawk raised over his head, and was taken back to where his brother was held captive by the other two Indians. Both were made to understand in the broken English of the Indians that if they made any outcry they would be killed at once. All of them first went up a steep hill beyond Four Mile Run, from which they could see the log cabin and hear their widowed mother calling for them, but they dare not answer her. The Indians asked them if there were men at the cabin, and Andrew told them there were. Had not the precocious youth thus deceived them, they would doubtless have killed and scalped their mother, and taken their other brother and such property as was useful to them. Then they started on their journey down the Four Mile Run, and soon came across two horses belonging to a neighbor of Harman�s named Johnson. One horse was unable to travel, and they cut its throat so that it might not annoy them when the other was taken away. They took the young horse and made him carry some skins, a kettle, etc., which they had with them. That day they killed a deer and cooked some of the meant over the coals of a fire, giving the prisoner boys all they wanted. The first night they spent not far from Fort Ligonier, near enough to hear some noises there, to which the Indians listened very cautiously. The gave the boys deer skins to sleep on, and made them each a pair of moccasins from the same material, for they were barefooted when they were captured.
On the journey one of the Indians showed the boys a pocket wallet which they recognized at once. When asked where they had procured it they said they had taken it from a little old Dutchman they had killed the year before. It was the pocket wallet of their father, and at least one of the Indians had been among the awaiting party which killed him and his three neighbors while returning from the sale. When they came to the Susquehanna river they had great difficulty in crossing. They had a canoe, but could not propel it and lead the horse. At one time in the passage the boys and the guns were on one side of the river and the Indians and the horse on the other. The boys were probably afraid to shoot and try to make their escape. They finally reached the Seneca tribe. These were known generally as the Cornplanters, and Cornplanter was the name of their chief. They had a reservation in northern Pennsylvania and New York, were partly civilized, and many of them could speak English. The boys were adopted as members of the tribe and were treated kindly. The year following their capture was one of great sickness among the Indians. Many of the tribe died, and among others John Harman. Andrew was attached to a prominent chieftain of the tribe who had a son about his age and the boys became great friends. By the Indians he was called "Andus" and was liked very much, because he readily fell into their habits. He was treated by them as one of their own tribe, nor would they allow him to be ill treated. He was among them when General Broadhead took the Eighth Regiment up the Allegheny to lay waste their habitations. The tribe suffered greatly from this expedition. The following winter was severe and they were almost entirely without provisions; moreover, the snow was deep and all kinds of game were scarce. They contemplated killing Andrew so that they would no longer have to feed him. One day his master sent his son and Andrew down the river on the ice to another Indian town to procure some provisions. The master told his son to put Andrew under the ice when a good opportunity was presented, but the boy overhearing it, was told that it was the old dog that was to be put under the ice. The young warrior did not make the attempt. At another time he accompanied his master on a hunting expedition. Three deer had been killed and carried to one place, the master leaving Andrew to watch two of them while he carried a third to his house, telling the boy that he would soon return. It was very cold and he did not return. So the boy hung the deer so they would be out of the reach of wolves, wrapped himself up in skins, and was soon sound asleep. The master came the next morning and found him covered with snow, and supposing him to be frozen to death, he kicked him to ascertain his condition and found the boy in perfect health. After that they never attempted his life.
One Indian who was a very successful gardner raised a great many early squashes. The boy had grown tired of dieting on smoked venison and corn all winter and helped himself to some squashes. For this the Indian who had raised them fell on him and beat him severely, in fact would probably have killed him had not Andrew�s friends interfered.
Gradually the boy became very like an Indian, adopting their habits and learning their language. Gradually, too, the memory of his home almost faded away, and he had abandoned ever seeing his people again. After two years he was sold to a British officer for a bottle of rum. The officer took him to England and kept him as a servant in London for two years. When the Revolutionary War closed he was exchanged and sent to New York, and from there came to his home in Ligonier Valley. In the meantime his mother, through many privations, had remained in the old cabin, and her third son was well grown to manhood. She had long since ceased to look for the return of her long lost son. Without a moments warning he walked into her cabin. A neighbor woman who chanced to be in the Harman cabin at the time, related the circumstance. The boy had grown to manhood; the mother was prematurely aged with hardships and sorrow. When she recognized him she was overcome with joy, and fainted in his arms. The news of his return was rapidly spread through the valley. The following Sunday the cabin was crowded all day with those who had come from near and far to see the returned captive. Men, women and children came, many not believing the story until they saw and recognized him. For many years he and his mother lived together on the old homestead, the scene of so much sorrow to her. Andrew never ceased to be a woodsman. He loved to hunt, and with the gait of the Indian, which he acquired in captivity, and which he kept even till old age, he was never happier than when traveling through the wilderness. He, moreover, always spoke kindly of the Indians, remembering the good and not the evil they had done him and his family.
In Ligonier Valley there was almost a constant warfare between the settlers and the Indians from the earliest settlement till 1792. It was, as we shall learn later, the first stopping place west of the Allegheny mountains in our county for those who were journeying towards the setting sun in quest of new homes. The first log cabins were erected very near the fort, mostly east of it, in the region now traversed by East Main Street, Ligonier. Gradually these cabins spread out, generally locating as near the Forbes Road as possible. These settlers made frequent journeys to the fort. Even in times of safety, for there were kept all supplies that could not be raised by the farmer - such as powder, lead, flints for their guns, as well as firearms. These were sent out from the east and kept at the garrison. In return they gave potatoes, grain, and such other products as the garrison stood in need of.
The valley was also a favorite place for Indian depredations, on account of its topography. They could readily approach it unheralded, for it was almost surrounded with uninhabited mountains. When they had captured families, taken scalps and stolen horses, they could readily pass out northward, crossing the Conemaugh or the Kiskiminetas, and almost at once enter an unbroken forest which practically extended to New York state. This is the reason why the northern end of the valley was more harassed by the Indians than the southern end.
It has been extremely difficult in dealing with the Indian outrages on our early settlers, to sift the really authentic from the improbable. Of many of them all that can be found is a reference in a letter from some prominent man to the council, giving the number killed or carried away, but nothing of the circumstances surrounding the affair. There were no newspapers then to publish such news, and our ancestors had more important matters to attend to than to describe their enemies. There are many traditions which, if only the romantic was sought, would interest the reader, but most of them are not sufficiently substantiated by surrounding well known facts to be included here. The years of their greatest trouble with the Indians were those of the Revolutionary War. The danger then was so great that families very rarely remained in their houses all year. With the first warning of the presence of Indians, even in the remotest section of the community, they came to the fort or to cabins near it, and remained there till the storm had blown over. From there the husband and sons went daily to their labor on their farms, with their scanty enough lunches tied in a homespun cloth, but they rarely ever went alone. They united, and, from five to twenty, sometimes more, went to one place one day, and to another the next, and so on till the crops were planted or harvested at each place. In this way their force was more formidable than though they had gone each to his own work. This custom of labor held sway long after the Indians were forever banished from this section, and was not uncommon even in the middle of the last century. In the early days, it is needless to say, they always took their guns with them, and they often appointed one or more to keep a lookout for an approaching enemy. Their farms were called "deadnings," or "clearings." The first name indicated that the trees of the original forest had been deadened by cutting a ring around their trunks, near the ground, of sufficient depth to prevent the sap from supplying the tree. The trees thus treated made but little shade, and the crop grew among them comparatively well. When the trees had been largely cut down and destroyed, the land was called a "clearing," a term still in use in some sections of our county. The first clearings were made near the fort, then they reached up and down the Loyalhanna and up Mill Creek and up the Four Mile Run, so named because it�s junction with the Loyalhanna was about four miles from the fort.
Even in times of peace, when these settlers remained in their houses, the bolts, bars, window shutters, etc., with which to barricade the cabin, against the Indians, should they appear suddenly, were always kept in order. So, too, the house-wife kept a store of provisions against a siege, and, with that in view, many of the old houses were built not near but actually on springs, so that water could be had from a spring in the cellar, in times when all outside communication was cut off. A family thus barricaded could often withstand an attack of three or four Indians, till aid would come to drive them away. Many a red-skin had bitten the dust from the shot of a farmer or his wife through a loophole made for that purpose. The following incidents of Indian warfare do not depend on tradition alone, and can be taken as actual happenings.
Robert Campbell lived with his parents in Fairfield, now Cook township, near the Pleasant Grove church. In July, 1776, he and his brothers William and Thomas were working in the harvest field and were unguarded, for there had been no rumor of the presence of Indians for some time. Suddenly a party of Indians swooped down on them. The lads started to run home, and this disclosed to the Indians the direction of their cabin, if they did not know it before. The boys being but half grown, were soon overtaken by the Indians, who then divided, one set of them guarding the prisoner boys, while the others went to the Campbell cabin. The mother, with an infant babe in her arms, started to run away, but she was soon overtaken and struck down with one blow from a tomahawk which crushed her skull. In falling she is supposed to have killed her babe. Both were found the next day and were interred in one grave. Both had been scalped. There were left in the cabin three girls, named Polly, Isabel and Sarah, all of whom, with Robert, William and Thomas, taken in the field, were taken away as prisoners. The Indians had stolen their horses and now rode them away. The boys were compelled to walk, but the girls were taken on the horses, each one riding behind an Indian. The youngest of the girls could not stay on the horse, so they killed her with a blow from a tomahawk and threw her body by the wayside, where it was found a few days afterward. This was about one mile north of their cabin. They traveled northward and crossed the Kiskiminetas below Saltsburg, and then went up through Pennsylvania to New York. There the children were separated. Thomas was sold to an English officer and was afterwards taken to England. The two girls were kept four years, and then released and returned to the valley. William came back at the close of the Revolution. While Robert was being taken north, he was in charge of a band of Indians who had a good many other prisoners with them. One night a prisoner, a half grown boy, escaped, but was retaken the day following. Shortly after that he again escaped and was again recaptured. The second attempt was not forgiven by the Indians. As soon as he was returned to camp all the prisoners were brought out and the boy was tied to a tree and gradually burned to death and to ashes. This horrible spectacle all prisoners were compelled to witness, perhaps to deter them from attempting to make an escape. After being six years in captivity Robert escaped and in 1782 reached his old home, where he lived the remainder of his days. He was known far and near as "Elder" Robert Campbell, to distinguish him from others of the same name who perhaps were less pious, for he was a leader in the Presbyterian church at Pleasant Grove. He was a most placid tempered man, and the progenitor of a large family which had since inhabited Cook and Donegal townships. He is buried in the little cemetery at Pleasant Grove.
During the war of the Revolution the Ulery family owned and lived on a farm about two miles south of Fort Ligonier, now owned by Mr. Isaac Slater. Like all other settlers in pioneer days, they stayed in the fort in dangerous times, but even then went out on every possible occasion to plant and harvest their crops. One day in July Abigail, Elizabeth and Juliann went to a meadow near their log house to rake some new mown hay. At that time there had been no recent word of Indian incursions in the community and therefore the Ulery family was at home and doubtless off their guard. Their house stood near the present Slater farm house. In the midst of their work in the fields the girls were suddenly surprised by Indians who had stealthily approached them under the cover of the woods beyond, and were nearly upon them before they were discovered. The three girls ran at once towards the house. Abigail, the youngest, was about sixteen years of age, while Elizabeth was eighteen, and the other sister about twenty. The two older sisters easily outran Abigail, but she followed as rapidly as possible. The other sisters doubltles thought she had been captured, for they mistook the sound of her footfalls behind them for those of an Indian pursuer, and put forth every effort to keep ahead of her. The two older girls reached the house, ran in and barred the door. When the younger sister reached the door she was unable to gain admittance, those in the inside thinking her to be an Indian pursuer. Without stopping and without making herself known, because of her frightened condition she ran around the house and up on the higher ground above the house. The Indians were almost withing reach of her when she ran from the door and they at once tried to break it in by pushing against it with their united strength. As they were doing this the father of the girls fired through the door and shot an Indian, most likely in the bowels, as he always thought. Being unable to break down the door, and perhaps fearing another shot the Indians left the house and followed in the direction the young girl Abigail had taken when she ran away. The door through which the Indian was shot is a heavy oaken one, and is yet preserved by the Slater family. The hole through which the Indian was shot is about in its center. The young girl Abigail ran but a short distance until she found a hiding place in a hole in the ground, made by a large tree having been blown out of root. In this depression were many leaves, dropped there by the wind, and with these and with tall weeds and grass she pretty throughly concealed herself. She lay there but a few minutes until the Indians came by and stopped to search for her, for they doubtless thought she would most likely hide herself in the branches of the fallen tree, and undoubtedly searched more thoroughly among the branches than at the root. She heard one of them say to another to look carefully, for she was certainly there, because he could smell her, and that they would scalp and kill her when they found her. Long years afterwards she told her grandchildren and many others that the greatest trial of her life had been to keep from jumping up and attempting to run away at this instant, which would of course have been fatal to her. She said also that she was in agonizing fear lest her hiding place should be discovered by the movement of the leaves covering her, occasioned by the violent beating of her heart.
But her rescue came from another source. Fortunately for the girl the wounded Indian was moaning bitterly, as though in great agony, and demanded a great deal of attention from his fellows. This undoubtedly saved her life, for her hiding place must necessarily have been discovered with but little further search. So they took the groaning Indian away, one on either side supporting him, and left the hidden girl to herself. She at once, when they were out of sight, ran rapidly to the cabin this time being received into the house and welcomed with open arms, for the family thought she was lost in captivity or death. The Indians with their wounded comrade went but a short distance till they passed over the brow of the hill and were out of sight of the house. There it has always been supposed the Indian died and was buried for a grave was afterward found there, and bones supposed to be Indian bones were dug up on the spot many years afterwards by Isaac Slater.
When the Indians once raided a community they did not generally visit the same place again for some time, for the result of an attack was to arouse the neighborhood thoroughly. For their own safety, therefore, the Indians usually skulked away to a new locality where their presence was unheralded. Relying on the expected immunity from other attacks, the family very soon resumed their usual work. Most likely the day following, the two girls, Elizabeth and her older sister, went out to work in the same fields again. Fields were small then, and were skirted with large trees and underbrush. Concealed in this way two Indians approached the cabin and managed to get between it and the girls in the field, thus effectually cutting off their retreat homeward and precluding the possibility of an escape such as they had made the day before. Only two of the girls were in the field the second day, their sister Abigail not yet having recovered from her experience of the day before. Elizabeth and Juliann, thus cut off from a place of safety to which they could fly, were easily captured by the Indians. They took them with them at once, going to the southeast, or towards the present location of Brants� school house. The young women were overcome with grief, and were literally dragged along for about a half a mile. The Indians tried to have the girls accompany them willingly, and held out every inducement in the way of promises of kind treatment and safety if they would do so, then threatening them with instant death if they did not accompany them more cheerfully. The Indians probably thought it necessary for them to get out of that community with their captives as soon as possible, lest they be followed by a rescuing party. But the threat of death had less horror to the average pioneer woman than captivity among the savages, and their flight from the community was still retarded by the struggling women. It is probable that both of the girls were barefooted when taken as prisoners, for shoes, in that early period, were rarely ever worn by either men or women when about their work in the summer-time. At all events, the girls soon complained that the thorns and briers were hurting their feet. The Indians then, to make peace with them and to facilitate their journey, gave them each a pair of moccasins. When they were near a rivulet which flows past Brant�s school house and thence into the Two Mile Run, the captors became truly savage at the way their progress was delayed by the struggling women, and again asked them to choose between captivity or death. This had probably no effect upon the heart-broken girls except to add to their shrieks of horror and to increase their efforts to escape. The Indians then tomahawked and scalped them both, and left them lying on the hillside in the woods. It is probable that they were impelled to do this because of their fear of pursuit by their father or other rescuing parties of greater strength. The Indians hurried on, but were gone but a short time when they returned, having forgotten to take their moccasins from the feet of the girls. Neither of the girls had been killed by the blows given them, nor by being scalped. When the Indians returned Juliann was lying on the ground as they had left her though she was conscious of her surroundings. Elizabeth had unfortunately so far recovered that she was sitting up and leaning against a tree. She was killed at once by the Indian sinking his tomahawk through the top of her head. Juliann lay quiet, and heard the one Indian advise the other to make sure of her death by sinking the tomahawk into her brain too, but with the reply that she was as dead as she would ever be, they procured their moccasins and hastened away.
Not long after their capture their father missed them and turned to search for them. There were not found until the day following. The dead girl was buried perhaps near where the tragedy took place. Juliann was as tenderly cared for as possible at her home and at Fort Ligonier and finally recovered. Her scalp wound never healed over entirely, though we believe that after a year or so it gave her no pain. She was never healthy, but lived most of her life with her sister, Abigail, who at the close of the Revolution, was married to Isaac Slater. Abigail was the grandmother and namesake of the mother of the writer, as well as the grandmother of Mr. Isaac Slater, at present a citizen of Ligonier borough. From them the writer secured this story. They had heard their grandmother tell it many times. She lived more than three-quarters of a century after she made her marvelous escape from the Indians, and until her oldest great-grandchildren were nearly full grown, and died October 29, 1855.
Of the capture of Charles Clifford we have a very good account both by tradition and by various writings which confirm it. He resided on Mill Creek, a tributary of Loyalhanna, two and one-half miles northwest of Fort Ligonier. In winter time he and his family stayed in or near the fort, and in the early spring they resumed their work on their clearings. On April 27, 1779, he and two sons went to their land to do some work preparatory to planting their spring crops. When they reached the place of their work they could not find their horses which they had left there the day before to graze overnight. The boys set to clearing up the land, and the father went to look for the horses. He first went up to some newly deadened timber tracts near the present town of Waterford, for there he had found them once before when they strayed away. Not finding them there he continued the search, and finally reached the Forbes road leading to the fort, perhaps between Waterford and the present town of Laughlinstown. Still he could not find his horses, and so concluded to abandon the search and returned to the fort by this road. He had gone down the road but a short distance until he was fired on by five Indians who were concealed behind a log lying by the wayside. One of the balls wounded him severely, though one of them splintered his gunstock and thus cut his face, which bled profusely, though it was only a flesh wound. The Indians ran up to him, wiped the blood from his face, and seemed very glad he was not injured. They told him he would make a good man for them, and that they would take him to Niagara. They took from him his hat, coat, vest and shirt, allowing him to retain his trousers and shoes. One of the Indians cut away the brim from his hat and amused his fellows very much by wearing the crown. Another wore his shirt and another his vest. They gave him his coat to put on, but to this he objected unless they gave him his shirt also, saying he could not wear a coat without a shirt under it. But they did not take his suggestion kindly, and he was forced to submit, and told to hurry up as they must hasten on their journey. On the long march they treated him much more kindly than one might expect. The whole race was superstitious, and when five of them shot at him at once and failed to kill him, they concluded that he had some power to ward off dangers and might be very useful to them. They did not tie his arms, as was their universal custom even among half-grown boys. At night he slept between two Indians, with a leather strap across his breast, the ends held firmly by the Indians lying on them. As soon as they lay down they slept, but Clifford had too many things to think of to sleep so readily. Gently he drew the one end of the strap from under the Indian by his side and sat up. The moon was shining bright, but there sat an Indian on a log, whose turn it was to watch the camp and keep up the fire. The watch sat silent and motionless as a statue, but the prisoner knew he was awake and would probably make short work of him if he attempted to escape. They had journeyed nearly north from where they captured him. At a point where now the village of Fairfield is located, they were joined by fifty-two other Indians, whose general trend was northward. The chief, Clifford said, had his head and arms covered with silver trinkets. They tore down fences to roast meat, but warily marched a mile or so away from the smoke to eat and prepare a place to rest overnight. Clifford had great desire to see the other prisoners and to learn if his sons were among them. They had only one other prisoner, whose name was Peter Maharg. When Clifford found him he was sitting on a log much dejected, too much so to reply to Clifford�s salutation, and sat with his head down in perfect silence. As it was learned afterwards he had been taken the same day and while hunting his horses. Maharg had a small dog with him when looking for his horses. He had seen the Indians before they saw him, and was making his escape, but his dog running ahead of him, came running back to his master as soon as he saw the Indians. To the Indian this was all that was necessary. Maharg was taken at once. They further scoured the northern part of the valley for prisoners or booty, but finding nothing that was not guarded they left on the third day for their home, which was near the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, near the head waters of the Allegheny river. They had thus journeyed about two hundred miles and killed but two people and secured but two prisoners. On their long march homeward they marched by daylight, but always camped an hour or so before sunset. Eight or ten of them guarded the prisoners while the others hunted through the woods. At the camp they generally all met about the same time, and the hunters generally brought in venison, turkey or smaller birds. After the evening meal they lay down after the manner of the first night. After they crossed the Allegheny river the game became very scarce, perhaps because of the hard winter. They could not shoot even a squirrel. All the party from that time on suffered greatly from hunger. At one time for three days they had nothing to eat at all except the tender bark of young chestnut trees. This they cut with their tomahawks and offered it to their prisoners. Each of them refused, and received the consolation of "you fool; you die." They now sent out two swift Indians who went ahead and in three days returned with some other Indians, among them some squaws, and who had beans, dried corn, and dried venison. They gave the two prisoners a fair share of these provisions. The Indians then divided into two parties, and one of them took the dejected Maharg, while the other took Clifford. Maharg was treated most cruelly, most likely because he remained so morose and dejected, for this from the first disgusted them with him. They made him run the gauntlet, and pounded him so severely that he fell before he had passed the line. The beating he received did not stop when he fell. He never recovered from it, but bore marks from it on his body when he was laid down many years afterwards in his last sleep. Running the gauntlet consisted in passing between two lines of Indians stationed about six feet apart, and the lines the same distance apart. The Indians were provided with clubs, and each had a right to hit the prisoner as he passed. If the prisoner was strong and active he could sometimes escape pretty well, but it was at best a most painful and dangerous ordeal.
Clifford had been from the first under an Indian who claimed him as his servant. After he had become somewhat accustomed to traveling without a shirt, his Indian gave him a shirt and hat. The shirt was covered with blood and had two bullet holes in it, and was probably taken from one of the men whom they had killed. Before he was taken prisoner, Clifford while working among the bushes had badly snagged his foot, and this without care became very painful, and the long marches had brought about inflammation and swelling. On showing it to his particular Indian guardian, he examined it very carefully and then went to a wild cherry tree with his tomahawk and procured some of the inner bark. This he boiled in a small pot and made as syrup with which he bathed the foot, and after laying the boiled bark on the wound bound it up with pieces of a shirt. It very rapidly reduced the swelling and allayed the pain. They kept Clifford six weeks and then delivered him to the British at Montreal. He learned much about their customs and curious manners. And never failed to interest his hearers by a narration of his experience and observations among them. He saw four prisoners running the gauntlet, one of whom was killed. At another time, when a horse had kicked a boy, the animal was at once shot by the father of the lad, and the Indians ate the raw meat of the animal, which they thought very delicious. At Montreal he grew in favor with the officers of the garrison and fared much better than most prisoners. He procured from one officer a pocket compass which he gave to a prisoner named James Flock, who escaped, and by the aid of the compass, made his way back to Westmoreland county through an almost endless wilderness, finally arriving at his home long after his friends had given him up for dead. Clifford was in Montreal two years and a half when he was exchanged. He then made his way back to Ligonier valley, having been gone three years. He lived to be an old man and was respected by all who knew him. He is buried in the old Fort Palmer cemetery, one of the oldest graveyards in the county. He died in 1816. He was a soldier of the Revolution.
The year before the father Charles was captured, his son James left Fort Ligonier to hunt game, having with him a very sagacious and well-trained dog. The dog all at once showed sighs of scenting an enemy and came to his master whining and snarling as though something was wrong. He continued to advance along the path in the forest, but with a very watchful eye. In front of him stood a large tree with thick bushes growing about its stem. Behind these he saw an Indian crouching stealthily and waiting for him to come nearer. He saw instantly that to turn back or to stop would be to draw the Indian�s fire, and perhaps with a fatal result. So he walked on, whistling in an unconcerned way, but slowly fetching his rifle down by his side and cocking it.
When this was done he fired quickly at the Indian, thought almost entirely concealed by the bushes, then turned and ran for the fort, where he found his father and Captain Shannon talking about the noise of the firing. The captain immediately started out with a party of fifteen or twenty men to try to get the Indian, either dead or alive. They found that he had not been killed, but they tracked him by the blood on the ground, and found that he was twisting leaves and forcing them into the wound to stop the flow of blood. It was evident from the loss of blood that he could not survive long, but from his not being found it was surmised that he had not been alone, but had been carried off by others who were with him. Not long after this Robert Knox, Sr., one of the first settlers of the valley, had a conversation with a renegade who asked Knox who it was who killed the Indian, mentioning the circumstances. Knox told him it one of his neighbor�s boys. This shooting happened near Bunger�s spring, at Ligonier. The Cliffords are the ancestors of the well known Clifford family in Westmoreland county.
Source: Page(s) 79 - 115, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed March 1999 by Mary Kimpan for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Mary Kimpan for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
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