Early Indian Troubles - Places of Refuge - Forts - Stockades - Block Houses - Cabins - Indian Stories
Fort Walthour was one and a half miles west of Adamsburg, and was properly a blockhouse, built by the surrounding neighbors for temporary safety. It was in the midst of a Pennsylvania Dutch settlement, and clustering around it were the cabins of the settlers. For some weeks the settlers had been stopping there at night and going to their fields to labor in the daytime. The account of the killing of the Willards is well authenticated. Captain Willards, his daughter, a young woman well grown, and two sons, were working in the fields near the fort, which stood on Walthour's land. One morning in 1786 there suddenly appeared a small band of Indians who began firing on them. The Willards seized their guns and ran toward the blockhouse. The daughter was overtaken, but the father and sons fired as they retreated, and, when very near the fort, the old man was killed by a shot from an Indian at close range. The Indian ran up, placed his foot on the prostrate man, and was just about to scalp him, when a shot from the fort hit the Indian in the leg or hip; with a frightful yell he fled to his companions, but it was noticed that he limped at every step. He was pursued, but succeeded in hiding himself among the bushes and thus evaded his pursuers. There he lay for three days, until the citizens had given up finding him. Then he crawled out and secured a long stick which he used for a cane or crutch. Living on berries, roots and bark, and traveling mostly at night, he approached Turtle creek, where there was a garrison. It is probable that he would have given himself up had the soldiers at the garrison been regulars, but they were militia, as he noticed, and they were much more severe on Indians than regulars were. They had no sympathy for an Indian, and would have made short work of him. For thirty-seven days after the killing of Willards this wretch had wandered over the hills, creeping most of the time, and having nothing to eat except what he could find in the woods. At length he reached Pittsburgh and practically gave himself up. He was a mere skeleton, so weakened that he could only ask for milk. When he was partially recovered after considerable beating about, he practically admitted that it was his party who and attacked the Willards, and related the circumstances as given above.
After the Indians were driven away from Fort Walthour, a party pursued them to the Allegheny river, but could not follow them beyond that. On their way they found the body of the daughter who had been captured. She had been killed with a tomahawk and scalped. This still further aggravated the feelings of the community towards the Indians, and when at length it was learned that the limping Indian was a prisoner in Pittsburgh, an new party was organized to bring him to justice. This was headed by Mrs. Williard, widow and mother of the victims of the recent incursion. They went to Fort Pitt, and asked that the Indian be given to them that they might do with him as the relatives of the Williards thought proper. He was accordingly given into their custody. The Indians did not carry on war according to any recognized methods of warfare, and hence were not supposed to be entitled to the protection of the law when caught. There was, furthermore, a feeling in the Walthour community that the Fort Pitt authorities should have killed him at once.
When the Indian was delivered to them he was put on a horse and brought to the Walthour blockhouse. The Williards were deservedly very popular. The old man was remembered with that high esteem which usually surrounds those whose advancing years have been years of usefulness. The young girl was just blooming into womanhood and had as many friends and as bright prospects as any maiden in the neighborhood. Here then was the opportunity to avenge their cruel murder. The entire populace was aroused. The Indian and his guard arrived late in the afternoon. To add to the occasion, it was determined that he should have a trial by jury, and should suffer the penalty which they by their verdict decreed. It is probable that the jury would not have been entirely unprejudiced, for to be an Indian alone was sufficient to condemn him to death. The prevalent opinion was that he would be burned at the stake, which was the Indian method adopted a short time before in disposing of Colonel Crawford and many others. But a night must elapse before an impartial jury could be summoned. A deputy was sent out to procure a jury for the trial the next day. Others were detailed to cut and carry wood to the place where the old man Williard had fallen. This, in our highly censorious modern age, might have been considered as unduly presumptive of the verdict, but firewood of a good dry quality could be used for other purpose if not needed in carrying out the mandate of law.
Now the Indian had fallen from the horse in bringing him from Fort Pitt, and had apparently rebroken or badly injured his lame leg. Therefore the guard which was detailed to keep him in the blockhouse over night did not watch him as closely as they should have done. He climbed up the logs of the building to the place where the second story projected and was left open to shoot down on Indians who might try to break in below. From there he climbed down the outside and was gone. In the morning a jury was present: the populace, women and children, had come from long distances, the firewood was ready, in fact they had every thing for a first -class trial and immolation except the Indian. After the outbreak of feeling against the guards had passed, a most exhaustive search was instituted. This extended in every direction and lasted for two days, yet it failed to reveal the whereabouts of the prisoner and his hiding place is to this day a mystery. On the fourth day after the escape of the Indian a lad in the community near by was looking for his horses when he saw an Indian mounting one of them with the aid of a pole and a fallen tree. The Indian had made a bark bridle, and at once set off towards the frontier at a rapid gait. The boy was afraid to claim the horse, but hurried home and gave the alarm. A searching party was collected and set out in pursuit. They followed his tracks till darkness compelled them to lay by till morning came, when the search was again resumed. The Indian frequently rode in the middle of streams, or turned the wrong way, to mislead his pursuers. They traced him to the Allegheny River, a distance of about ninety miles, where they found the horse with the bark bridle. The horse was yet warm, the sweat not having dried on him, and it was evident that the Indian had left him but a short time before.
Across the river the country was entirely unsettled and belonged to the Indians, so it was useless to follow him further. With the hope that he had drowned in the river, or famished in the wilderness, or that this would had wrought his death, they returned and nothing definite was ever heard of the lame Indian.
The murder of the Francis family was one of the most inhuman and barbarous incidents in border warfare. The family resided two miles or more east of Brush Creek. There had been no special alarm on account of Indians for some months, and their usual vigilance was somewhat relaxed. On the day of the murder they did not have their cabin barricaded, and a party of Indians therefore very easily gained access. Two of the family were killed at once, and the remaining members were taken prisoners. One was a young girl who lived to return to the settlement, where she was married and had left descendants in Hempfield township. Her brothers and sisters were divided among several tribes represented among the captors. Those who were killed were scalped and their bodies were found near the ruins of the cabin the day following. They were buried in the garden a custom then prevalent among the pioneers, and which lasted till regular cemeteries or graveyards, as they were called, were established.
In the fall of 1795 Captain Sloan, John Wallace, his nephew, and two neighbors named Hunt and Knott, all citizens of Derry township, and near neighbors on the banks of the Loyalhanna, concluded to make a trip to the west. All were expert woodsmen, and were perhaps somewhat tired of their monotonous home life. Their objective point was the Miami Valley, in Ohio. They did not go to fight Indians, but went thoroughly armed for self-protection. They took with them two horses which carried an abundance of provisions. They rode the horses time about, particularly after the store of provisions was somewhat lightened. Their first point of destination was Cincinnati which they reached without noteworthy adventure. After leaving there they camped at night on the banks of the Big Maumee. The next morning Knott and Sloan were riding and were fired on by a large band of Indians who were concealed near by. Knott was killed at the first shot, and Sloan was shot through his left side. Hunt was captured after a very short run but Wallace continued to run, and gained on his pursuers until his foot caught in a root and threw him violently to the ground. In his fall he also lost his gun. Sloan, though wounded, managed to capture the frightened horses and rapidly galloped after Wallace. When the latter fell, Sloan stopped both horses, but Wallace was so weakened he could not mount. Sloan then dismounted to assist him and this delay gave their pursuers time to almost overtake them. They were again fired at but not wounded, and the frightened horses soon galloped far away from the Indians. They knew that Fort Washington was the nearest place they could secure a surgeon, yet they went to Fort Hamilton first, to warn them of the Indians presence. There they remained till morning but as they were about to ride out by break of day they found the fort entirely surrounded by Indians. There were several hundred Indians, and only a small garrison of about fifteen men, under the command of a young officer of little or no military experience. The Indians knew this and demanded a surrender. The young officer favored a surrender but told Sloan he should take the forces and make a defense if he thought proper. Sloan held a conference with their leader from the top of the fort, and told them of their provisions and that they expected reinforcements. After considerable conversation through an interpreter he refused to surrender.
The Indians then fired on the fort and set up a war whoop which meant that no quarter was to be shown to those in the fort should they be overcome. The fort had been built by General Arthur St. Clair, only four years previous and was yet strong enough to resist their firing. The firing continued all day but the Indians were at a safe distance from the fort, and likely but one of them was killed. At night they tried to burn the fort, but this attempt was also unsuccessful. Near the fort was a stable where the horses were kept and where their cattle used as beeves were fed. Projecting past the corner of the stable was a corncrib. An Indian concealed himself behind this corncrib and watched the openings of the fort very closely firing now and then at the port holes. It was discovered that the Indian was anxious to leave his place behind the corncrib, and feared to do so while the upper porthole which commanded his retreat was occupied. Sloan it was who was watching him. His wounded side bothered him a great deal, so that he had others load his gun for him. Intending to deceive the Indian, he fired at the point of the gun which the Indian was exposing for the purpose of drawing Sloan's fire. When Sloan fired the Indian came out in full view and started to run to his associates, for he supposed that Sloan could not fire again till he reloaded his gun. But Sloan had two guns, the second to surprise the Indian with should he appear after the first fire. The Indian ran but a few steps in view until a shot from Sloan's second gun laid him cold in death. Another Indian took Sloan's horse from the stable and, putting on Sloan's cocked hat, which was lost the day before in the chase, rode round and round the fort but at a safe distance from it. Finally the whole band went away after killing all the cattle and taking all the horses belonging to the garrison and both of Sloan's as well. The dead Indian at the corncrib was left behind for no one would venture near enough to take his body. The band left, it is presumed, because they feared the arrival of reinforcements. Sloan and Wallace went to Fort Washington where a surgeon treated the captains side, but, though it was temporarily healed up, he suffered with it till the day of his death. Hunt was never heard of again. Sloan and Wallace returned to their more peaceful homes on the Loyalhanna, and spent their lives here in our county. Sloan was elected sheriff of Westmoreland county. Before leaving Fort Hamilton he scalped the Indian he killed at the Corncrib, and for many years afterwards the scalp was on exhibition at gatherings in Sloan's section of the county.
After the close of the Revolutionary war and after the burning of Hannastown in 1782, there was really but little mischief done by the Indians in Westmoreland county as it now exists, or rather, we should say, little in comparison with what was done before. Often a stray Indian or even a band of three or four came through to steal horses, capture settlers and secure scalps, but these incursions were so few and far between that the general fear of the Indians on the part of our settlers had almost subsided. This was due largely to the return of our soldiers from the revolution, who were now sufficiently strong to thoroughly defend the western border and to deter the Indians from attempting to overrun this section.
But in 1790 the Indians in Ohio succeeded in badly defeating the army of General Harmar, and the following year achieved a still greater victory over the army of General St. Clair. These victories inspired the Indians with confidence, and they began a series of incursions which were only stopped when General Anthony Wayne won a signal victory over them at the battle of Fallen Timber, in 1794.
Resulting from the boldness of the Indians brought about by the success of 1790 and '91, our people suffered in several sections, and the raiders came so near Greensburg that a blockhouse was built there in 1792, though the other forts and blockhouses in the county were rapidly going into decay. Several white settlers were captured, some horses were stolen, and one or two citizens were murdered. The only instance of these incursions after 1791, and indeed, the only one after the burning of Hannastown, of which we have any definite information, is that of the capture and murder of the Mitchell family in Derry township. They had come here in 1773 and purchased lands on the banks of the Loyalhanna, east of the present town of Latrobe. Their house is said to have been two miles east of Latrobe, on the line of the Ligonier Valley railroad. The family in 1791, consisted of the mother and two children, Charles and Susan, aged respectively seventeen and fifteen years. The husband and father had been dead some years, and his defenseless family was living alone. A band of four Indians approached the house while Charles and Susan were in the stable. They noticed the Indians approaching, and Charles tried to escape by running toward the Loyalhanna. They all ran after and soon captured him. While this was going on Susan hid herself under a large trough used in feeding horses, where she remained quietly, and though the Indians all looked for her they failed to discover her hiding place. They then captured the lonely old mother and started hurriedly away to the north, for they knew that their depredations would soon be generally known, and that a party of rescuers much larger than their band could soon be raised to follow them. They soon found that Mrs. Mitchell was too old to keep up with them in their hurried trip north. To turn her back would be but to give assistance to the pursuers in following them, yet it appeared that they did not want to kill her in the presence of her son. So two of them pushed on with the son, and it being about dark, they kindled a fire. The other two loitered behind with Mrs. Mitchell. While the advance party were standing around the fire the two who remained behind came up. One of them was carrying the bloody scalp of the prisoner's mother. He proceeded to stretch it over a bent twig and dry it at the fire in presence of the boy with as little compunction as though it had been the scalp of a wild animal. In Armstrong county they came upon the tracks of two white men. Both Charles and the Indian who was guarding him saw them at a distance, and young Mitchell recognized them as Captain Sloan and Harry Hill, both of whom were neighbors to the Mitchells on the banks of the Loyalhanna. The ground was covered with snow, and Sloan was a large man with very large feet, so his tracks in the snow were so unusually large that the Indian measured them with a ramrod. His exclamations of surprise led Charles to tell him that it was the track of the big Captain Sloan, the great Indian fighter. The band concluded from this not to try to capture them but pushed on in another direction. Later in the day Sloan and Hill discovered the tracks of the Indians, and also that they had a white prisoner, judging from his tracks. They concluded that to run them down would insure the death of the prisoner, and therefore, with no fear for themselves, they wisely determined not to pursue. The boy was taken to the Cornplanter tribe and there adopted by a squaw who had lost her own boy in the war. He was compelled to obey her as though he had been her son. They made him hoe corn and do all kinds of work which usually fell to the hard lot of a squaw. After three years he escaped from them and returned to his old home, where he was afterwards married and there remained till he died, at a good old age. He often told how a band of Indians crossed a large swollen stream when they had no canoes. They cut a long slender sapling and placed it on the shoulders of two of their tallest and strongest men, one at each end. The smaller men and squaws held on to the pole, their places being between the two men at the ends. If one should slip he could draw himself up by the pole, for it was not likely that all would be carried down at once.
While the efficient Lieutenant Blane was commander of Fort Ligonier in 1763, several parties of Indians claiming to be friendly visited the fort, and were always treated kindly by the lieutenant and his forces. On one of these visits, at least, they were accompanied by a young warrior named Maidenfoot. While there a pioneer named Means, with his wife and daughter, the latter a young girl of eleven years, also entered the fort. Maidenfoot was greatly pleased with the young girl. From her he learned that she lived about a mile south of the fort, and on leaving her he gave her a string of beads, which as an Indian he must have valued very highly. It was noticed, too, that in talking to the girl he seemed very sad and heartbroken, as though her bright young face touched a tender place in his memory. The beads were preserved by the girl as an Indian present, and often worn as ornaments, which were somewhat rare in the new settlement.
One day late in May or early in June, Mrs. Means, and her daughter started again to the fort, but this time to remain, for there was a rumor of Indians in the neighborhood. The girl, as may be supposed, wore her beads around her neck. When they were nearing the fort they were captured by two large Indians who took them into the woods a short distance and bound them to saplings with deer thongs. They were warned to keep quiet or they would be tomahawked at once. Very shortly after this they heard the report of many rifles from the direction of the fort, as though an attack had been made on it by a band of Indians. It was even so for Pontiac's Indians had arrived and were then making the first of their many assaults on Captain Blane and his limited force. The battle raged for several hours but the fortress was not injured. Late in the afternoon Maidenfoot appeared before the prisoners, sent perhaps to take their scalps. He recognized them at once, because of the string of beads, and unbound them. Then he conducted them in a roundabout way to their home, where they were met by their husband and father, Mr. Means. Maidenfoot told them that their only safety depended on their flight to the mountains, and pointed out to them, towards the south, a safe place for them to hide. He told them further, that the band would soon be gone, and that they need only remain there a short time. Mr. Means and his family lost no time in going to the ravine pointed out by Maidenfoot, and there remained till the Indians had passed on. Before he left them the young warrior took the handkerchief of the girl, and on it was worked in black silk her name, Mary Means.
Time passed on; the county was more thickly settled, and Mr. Means and his family removed to Ohio, where he purchased a larger tract of land not far from where the city of Cincinnati is built. There the father and mother of the girl died, and she grew to womanhood and was married to an officer of the Revolutionary period, named Kearney. They owned and tilled the land left by their parents. Kearney commanded a company under General Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timber. After the battle was over, as he and some of his soldiers were looking over the field, they came to an elderly Indian who, while sitting on a log, waved a white handkerchief over his head. Some of Kearney's companions would have shot him at once, but the captain interfered and approached him. The Indian told them that he had been an Indian warrior all his life, that he had fought at Ligonier, at Bushy Run, at Hannastown, at Wabash against St. Clair, and at Fallen Timber. Now that he was old he asked only peace; that he had buried the hatchet and would fight no more; that he had done his share of fighting in defense of his race, and thereafter meant to live at peace with all mankind. Search was made of his possessions, which revealed that he had in his bullet pouch a handkerchief with the maiden name of Captain Kearney's wife ("Mary Means") worked on it in black silk letters. The story of the beads, and how they saved the life of his wife when a child, had been often told to the husband. Upon learning that the Indian had once been known by the name of Maidenfoot, he took him to his home. His wife and the Indian recognized each other, though thirty-one years had passed since they had parted on that gloomy morning in Ligonier Valley. All these years the woman had treasured her beads because they had once saved her life, while the Indian had treasured her handkerchief from another reason, which he disclosed on further acquaintance. He said that but a short time before he met the young girl in the fort he had lost his sister, about her age and size; and readily adapted himself to the custom of his near friends. In about four years he died of consumption, and was buried with military honors in a little churchyard near Cincinnati. Over his grave was erected a marble slab with the following inscription:
"In memory of Maidenfoot, an Indian chief of the Eighteenth Century, who died a civilian and a christian."
Among the early settlers around Fort Ligonier was a farmer named Reed, whose family consisted of his wife and four children. His oldest child, a daughter named Rebecca, was a young woman in 1778, and his son George was a year or so her junior. Quite often it became the duty of the daughter to assist her father in outdoor labors, such as planting corn and harvesting crops. This gave to her physical system a strength and litheness unusual to her sex. In her old age she had a very attractive face, and those who remembered her loved to tell of the beauty and personal attractions of her youth. She was the pride of her parents, and her lovely character made her easily the favorite of the valley settlement. The Reeds had a comfortable log house, and while at first they were almost alone in the wilderness, other families gathered around them, so that their community was dotted all over with clearings, cabins and houses. Here lived then perhaps sixty families of fearless and happy people. During the winter they were not disturbed much by the Indians, but in the summer they were frequently compelled to seek refuge in the fort. Winter was a poor season for the Indians to make long journey on foot, for the reason that they always subsisted on the country through which they traveled. Further more the snows of winter made it easy for the settlers or the soldiers of a garrison to track them.
In the summer of 1778 nearly all outdoor work was done in common, and they rarely ever worked without a certain number of them standing guard at the edge of the fields. The men went out from the fort almost daily, for they were compelled to look after their crops or face hunger in the following winter. The women were cooped up in the fort very closely during the dangerous period of the year. A favorite rural sport and exercise for the young men and women in the fort was foot racing between the two extremes of the stockade. Among all the young women who entered the contest, Miss Reed was the fleetest of foot. Indeed, she could outrun most young men in the fort. A young man named Shannon, of noted athletic power, often contested in races with her, and it is said felt a special thrill of joy when either through his gallantry or her fleetness, she came out victor. The summer of 1778 was a gloomy one in all parts of our county, for the Indians were lurking in almost every defile, and rumors of depredations came almost daily to the garrison. One afternoon Rebecca Reed and her brother George, in company with a young man named Means and his sister, Sarah, left the fort to gather berries in a clearing about two miles away, where they were reported to be most plentiful. Their way as they neared the clearing led them through a thick growth of underbrush which almost arched over the narrow road they were walking along. While passing through this narrow way they met Major McDowell returning on horseback from the farms beyond and unconcernedly carrying his rifle on his shoulder. Suddenly the little party was fired on by Indians who were lying in ambush near by. George Reed and young Means were in front. Reed was mortally wounded, but ran a short distance into the bushes. Another ball struck McDowell's rifle, shattered the stock, and forced splinters of it into his face and neck. The young man with Reed ran back towards the girls, perhaps to protect them, but was almost instantly surrounded by Indians who ran from the bushes, and made a captive. The girls started to run towards the fort and the Indians pursued them. They soon caught Miss Means, who was holding to Miss Reed's arm, and when they caught her were so close to Miss Reed that an Indian grasped at her clothes, but failed to stop her. Now that she was freed from the other girl she bounded off like a deer. The savage who had grasped for her was determined to catch her, and a most novel race ensued. The Indian doubtless expected an easy victory, but was very soon mortified to find himself losing ground. This continued, and then he began a series of terrific yells so well known in Indian warfare and calculated to confuse or unnerve the girl. But instead of being intimidated or overcome as he hoped the fiendish yells had the opposite effect on the brave girl, as she often afterward related. She now put forth additional energy, and by straining every nerve accelerated her speed. She was clearly in the lead and by every step was increasing the distance between her and her pursuer. The Indian kept up the pursuit, doubtless with the hope that his great power of endurance would yet enable him to capture the rich prize flying before him, and thus preserve his good name among the tribe.
In the fort the noise of the shooting and the yells of the Indian were distinctly heard. Knowing that a party of four had gone out in that direction a relief party sprang for their rifles and hurried to the rescue. Shannon headed the party, and the fact that Miss Reed was among those in danger was sufficient to call forth his best energies, if, indeed, a loyal frontiersman needed any stimulant when pursuing Indians. But at all events he soon left the rescue party in the rear by the fleetness of his movements. When he had gone about a half mile from the fort he saw Miss Reed flying along the path towards him at a greater speed than she ever ran before, and the Indian several rods behind her. But the quick eye of the Indian caught sight of Shannon perhaps before Miss Reed saw him. Noticing also the rifle in his hands, the Indian stopped at once and turned into the bushes. A few steps brought Miss reed to Shannon who assisted her to the fort, while the rest of the rescuing party ran to the locality hurriedly pointed out by Miss Reed. She was very nearly exhausted, and it was doubtful whether, without the interposition of Shannon and his trusty rifle, she could have held out in her terrific speed long enough to gain the fort. The rescuing party found the lifeless body of Reed, but he was not scalped. Perhaps that was left for the Indian who pursued Miss Reed to attend to on his return, but he did not return that way. They found the body of Miss Means, who had been tomahawked and scalped. The Indians made good their retreat with young Means, as a prisoner. Shannon and Miss Reed were married shortly after the Indian troubles ceased, and lived most happily on a farm in Ligonier Valley until both were bowed with weight of more than four-score years. But a vastly different fate awaited the Indian who was defeated in the race with Miss Reed. Three years later, when the captive Means returned home, it was learned that the Indian was disgraced forever among his people because he had been fairly distanced in a race with a "white squaw." He was a splendid specimen of his race, and been the accepted suitor of a chieftain's daughter, the belle of the forest. But ever after this, to him, unfortunate episode, she treated him only with feelings of scorn and contempt. For three years at least, that is, while the prisoner Means remained with the tribe, he was little more than a slave to the other Indians, performing only the meanest drudgery incumbent on these natives of the forest.
There is a version of this story which says that Miss Reed was carried to the fort on the horse behind McDowell, and that with his assistance she sprung to the horse's back while at full gallop. This is unlikely, and moreover is not true. The circumstances exactly as above detailed were gotten by the writer from one who had them directly from Mr. And Mrs. Shannon in their old age.
Jacob Nicely was one of the last boys captured by the Indians in Westmoreland county. This took place in 1790, or perhaps a year later. The circumstances surrounding it are all well authenticated. He was the son and perhaps the youngest son of Adam Nicely, who lived on the four Mile Run, about two miles from its junction with the Loyalhanna.
One bright morning the Nicely children were out in the meadow picking berries, when the little boy Jacob started to the house. The mother was baking, and giving the child a warm cake, told it to rejoin the other children. But the child came back, saying the cake was too hot, and the mother poured some cold water on it and again the child went away. These little journeys were closely watched by a party of Seneca Indians concealed near by. They captured the boy on his way back to the meadow. His capture, his struggles to free himself, and his cries, were seen and heard by the other children, who ran home and reported it to their parents. The father raised a company of willing neighbors who pursued the Indians with all possible speed. They traced them to the Kiskiminetas river, but in the wilderness beyond their track was soon lost. The father and his neighbors then returned to the heartbroken mother.
The captured boy was about five years old, and was at once adopted into the Seneca tribe. He rapidly forgot almost all he knew about his home and people in the lonely valley of the Loyalhanna. He readily acquired the habits and customs of the Indians, and was to all intents and purposes a member of the Seneca tribe. He learned to speak a new language, and forgot the few words taught him in childhood by his mother. He even forgot his own name, and could not pronounce it when he heard it. He spoke the Seneca language as though born in the wilderness, and spoke his mother tongue haltingly as did his Indian associates.
Many years after, a trader, perhaps a fur dealer, who lived near the Nicely family on the four Mile Run, chanced to be among the Senecas and saw this captive, now grown to manhood. The traveler was so impressed by the resemblance of the man to the Nicely family, whom he knew well in Ligonier Valley, that he made inquiry, and learned that the man had been captured when a child in Westmoreland county. The traveler came home and reported this to the Nicely's in 1828, nearly forty years after the capture. The father of the boy had long since died and his mother had passed her three-score years and ten. A brother of the captured boy decided at once to visit the Indian tribe and see the long lost captive. Neighbors spoke dissuadingly of the project, but he was determined, and after a short preparation mounted a horse and rode away to the northern tribe. He made the journey in safety and found his brother. There was no doubt of the identity in the minds of either of them. The captured brother had been married to a squaw, and had around him a family of Indian children. He was prosperous for his surroundings, and had about him plenty of land, horses and cattle, and was well supplied with hunting and fishing implements. When his brother was in his house he sent out to procure a white woman as cook, for the Indian manner of preparing meals was not supposed to be palatable to white people. There is a tradition in the family that the captured brother had visited Westmoreland prior to this, trying to locate his people and his home, and that, mispronouncing his name, he could not find them. At all events, Jacob arranged with his brother to visit his mother and relatives the following year. He also accompanied his brother part of the way home, made him a present of a rifle, etc. But the captive son and brother did not come as he promised. Perhaps he died before the following year, which was the time set for his visit. At all events, he was never heard from again. When the aged mother spoke of him, which was very often as the years advanced, she always called him her "Jakey," and with her eyes filled with tears. After a while the family ceased to look for him, but his mother never gave up the idea that he would return to her. Her hair grew gray in fruitless longing for a sight of her long lost child, and this yearning only ceased when her whitened head was pillowed in its last and sweetest sleep.
At the outbreak of the French and Indian war a Scotch-Irish settlement had been made in what is now Fulton county, Pennsylvania, at a place known as the Big Cove. The Quaker government of Pennsylvania had refused to give these people land except within the area that was then open to settlement, and they had therefore gone farther west and taken up land on their own account. The state authorities, fearing that this movement would exasperate the Indians of the west, tried to prevent this settlement, but failed to do so as the settlers promptly returned to their lands when the officers who had been sent to eject them, left. Among these pioneers was John Martin, the ancestor of the Martin family of Western Pennsylvania. Following the disastrous defeat of general Braddock on the Monongahela in the summer of 1755, the Indians carried the war eastward across the Alleghenies, and on the first of November of that year a band of them suddenly fell upon the settlers at the Big Cove. Among the homes destroyed was that of John Martin, who at the time of the raid was absent on a trip to Philadelphia, having taken his horses with him. His oldest son, Hugh Martin, afterwards one of the most prominent men in the formative period of Westmoreland history, was then seventeen years of age, and hearing of the impending attack, started to warn his neighbor and arrange for the escape of the two families to a blockhouse somewhere in the settlement. He found his neighbor's cabin in flames, and, returning, saw the Indians sacking his own home, his mother, two brothers and three sisters, being prisoners. As he was unable to render assistance to the family he kept hidden from view until the Indians left, and then started eastward for help, traveling under cover as best he could. He met a body of armed men on the second day, and returned with them to the Cove, but the Indians had gone, taking their prisoners with them to their village on the Allegheny river, at or near the present site of Kittanning. The settlers dared not follow, being too few in number. John Martin returned from the east, and with his son Hugh rebuilt the home.
The Martin prisoners consisted of Mrs. Martin; Mary, aged nineteen; Martha, aged twelve; James and William, aged ten and eight respectively; and Janet, aged two years. Mary, upon her refusal to adopt the Indian life, was beaten to death by the squaws, and within a short time the mother was torn away from her children and carried to Quebec by the French. She worked as a domestic, and in time was able to secure her freedom. A French merchant of Quebec who was trading with the Indians along the Allegheny river, secured the little girl Janet and took her to his home. The mother had the good fortune to meet her child there, and, proving her claim, was allowed to redeem her. After a considerable period of time Mrs. Martin was able to take passage on a ship to Liverpool, and from there she sailed to Philadelphia, finally reaching her home at the cove with her young daughter after several years of trials. Martha, James and William Martin were held in captivity by the Indians for about nine years. They were carried along by roving bands of the Delaware and Tuscarora tribes over Western Pennsylvania and as far west as the Scioto Valley, in Ohio. They spent some time in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, the encampment being on big Sewickley creek, near the present site of Bell's Mills in Sewickley township. The Martin boys were attached to this spot, and after their release they returned in 1769 and took patent to two tracts of land there, where they continued to live during most of their lives. While there was no communication between the prisoners and their family at Big Cove, the latter had learned in some way that their lives had been spared, for John Martin had come as far as Fort Ligonier at one time to treat with the Indians for their ransom. He was not successful, however, and nearly lost his life in this attempt. After the notable defeat of the Indians by Col. Boquet at Bushy Run in 1763, the Indians agreed to give up their prisoners, and the Martins, along with others, were brought to Fort Pitt and surrendered to their friends.
The habits of life acquired by their long contact with the Indians never forsook the two Martin boys. Though they made permanent homes on land of their own, they had no inclination to labor or to improve, but spent their days in hunting or idleness. Their elder brother, Hugh Martin, while a young man, also came to Westmoreland county, and, as indicated above, became prominent in its early history. Later their youngest sister, Janet, captured as a child when two years old, came as the wife of John Jamison and settled on a tract of land on Dry Ridge, three miles southeast of Greensburg. She lived there many years until her death in 1839, and was the mother of a large family. She was the grandmother of the late Robert S. Jamison of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and of Margaret J. Jamison, to the latter of whom the author is indebted for this sketch.
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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