Chapter XXV
The Wounded Indian


Striking characteristics of border life during the Revolution were exhibited in the episode of the lame Indian. This was a Delaware warrior, wounded during a raid on a settlement, who surrendered at Fort Pith to escape starvation and was afterward given up to a band of frontiersmen for execution. His story is rather an interesting one.

The settlement attacked was Walthour's station. It was a small stockade surrounding the log house of Christopher Walthour, on an elevated spot south of Brush creek, about a mile and a half east of Irwin. It was the chief rallying place for the Brush creek settlement, composed almost exclusively of German families, whose descendants are still numerous in that neighborhood. The Indian raid took place in April, 1782. Depredations by the savages had already been committed in several parts of Westmoreland county and the families of the farmers were gathered for refuge in the stockades scattered about the frontier. From these stockades the men issued in small parties, well armed, to perform the necessary work of planting the crops. Near Walthour's station half a dozen men were at work in a field. Among them was a son-in-law of Christopher Walthour, of the name of Willard, whose daughter, i6 years old, was also with the party, probably for the purpose of carrying water to the men.

The workers were surprised by a band of Delawares, who captured the girl. The laborers seized their guns and made a running fight as they retired toward the fort in the face of superior numbers. Two of the white men were killed. One of them, Willard, fell not far from the stockade. An Indian rushed out of the bushes to scalp Willard, and was just twisting his fingers in the white man's long hair when a rifle bullet, fired from the fort, wounded the savage severely in the leg. The Delaware uttered a howl of pain and limped away into the thicket, leaving his gun behind him, beside the body of his victim.

As soon as a considerable band of frontiersmen could be collected, pursuit of the savages was undertaken. Their trail was followed to the Allegheny river, over which they had escaped into the Indian country. It was almost two months afterward when hunters found the decomposed body of the girl in the woods, not far from Negley's run. The head had been crushed with a tomahawk and the scalp was gone.

One evening, 38 days after the attack on Walthour's station, a lame Indian hobbled into the village of Pittsburg and made his way to the porch of one of the houses. He walked with the aid of a pole, and was, in appearance, a living skeleton. A young woman stepped forth to see him. He asked, feebly, for a drink, and she gave him a cup of milk. It was evident that he was nearly starved. After he had eaten ravenously of the food given to him, he told the members of the family, in broken English, that he had been hunting on Beaver river with a Mingo, who had quarreled with him and had shot him in the leg.

Word was sent to the garrison, and the Indian was taken down to the fort. There he was recognized as Davy, a Delaware sub-chief, who had often visited the fort. The surgeon discovered that the Indian's wound was an old one, and the officers told Davy that his story about the Mingo was plainly a lie.

After being treated tenderly and having recovered somewhat from his fatigue and hunger, the Indian confessed that he was the man who had killed Willard and had been wounded while trying to take the scalp. The shot had broken the bone of his leg and he was unable to keep up with his comrades when they fled. He had dragged himself into a dense thicket, where he lay in one spot for three days. During that time the settlers were scouring the woods and the wounded man was afraid to stir. When the pursuit was given up Davy crawled forth and sought for food. He found nothing but berries and roots and on such articles he lived for more than five weeks. They barely kept soul and body together and he was also weakened by the loss of blood from his painful wound. He made progress slowly toward the Allegheny river. He came within sight of a small stockade on Turtle creek and for a long time lay on a hill, meditating surrender. He finally satisfied himself that the garrison of the little fort consisted of militiamen and he knew that surrender to them meant death. The Indians were well aware of the difference between militia and regulars and knew that from the buck-skinned frontiersmen they could expect no mercy. Davy hobbled onward until he reached the Allegheny river.

On the bank of the river the wounded Indian lay for many days, finding scanty food while he watched for some of his countrymen. No one came and no possibility offered of his being able to cross the stream. Driven to desperation by hunger, he decided to make his way to Fort Pitt and give himself up to the regular soldiers.

Davy was confined in the guard house in the fort, in the expectation that opportunity might offer to exchange him for some white person held prisoner by the Indians. The news of his capture and his identity reached the settlement at Brush creek and caused considerable excitement there. The kindred and neighbors of the victims of the Indian raid were hot for revenge and now the chance for it was presented. Mrs. Mary Willard, the widow of the man whom Davy had killed, went to Fort Pitt in company with a party of neighbors and asked General Irvine to give up the prisoner, that he might be "properly dealt with" by those who had suffered.

At that time it was not known that Mrs. Willard's daughter had been killed by her captors and the prospect was presented to the woman that Davy might be traded for her daughter. In the hope of such an arrangement Mrs. Willard consented that the Indian should remain some time longer at Ft. Pitt. But when the mutilated body of the girl was found, the people of Brush creek demanded the life of the captive savage. A mass meeting was held and a committee was chosen to go to Fort Pitt and renew negotiations with General Irvine for the surrender of the Indian. The members of this delegation were Joseph Studebaker, Jacob Byerly, Francis Byerly, Jacob Rutdorf, Henry Willard and Frederick Willard. The last two were probably brothers of the man who was slain.

Having many other things to worry him at that time, General Irvine yielded to the pleadings of the committee and surrendered the prisoner; but he compelled the delegates to agree to a method of procedure, which he hoped would save the Indian from abuse and torture. Here is the order of General Irvine given to the six frontiersmen:

"You are hereby enjoined and required to take the Indian delivered into your charge by my order and carry him safe into the settlement of Brush creek. You will afterward warn two justices of the peace, and request their attendance at such place as they shall think proper to appoint, with several other reputable inhabitants. Until this is done and their advice and direction had in the matter you are, at your peril, not to hurt him nor suffer any person to do it. Given under my hand at Fort Pitt, July 21, 1782.

"William Irvine."

At the same time the general sent a letter to Mrs. Willard, urging her to do nothing rashly in retaliating her vengeance on the prisoner and not to permit him to be put to death until after "some form of trial."

With great glee the borderers set their prisoner on a horse and conducted him to Walthour's. There preparations was made to burn him on the very spot where Willard died. The frontiersmen felt sure of the acquiescence of the two justices, for all through the settlements there was but one opinion as to the proper way to deal with Indians. Davy was placed in a log blockhouse for two or three days and nights, while word went out for the assembling of the magistrates and the settlers on a certain day. Then a form of trial was to be gone through with and the fiery execution was to be witnessed by the multitude.

On the night preceding the great day the young men who were stationed outside of the blockhouse to guard it all fell asleep. The one who first awoke in the morning peeped in to see if the prisoner was still there. The blockhouse was empty! The guard aroused his companions and an investigation quickly established the fact that Davy had actually escaped. The great door had been securely locked. No human being could go through one of the loopholes. There was but one way for escape, and that was through the narrow space between the over jutting roof and the top of the wall. It seemed almost impossible for the crippled savage to have climbed up the wall and squeezed through that opening, but there was no other way out of it.

Great was the disappointment and rage among the assembled settlers when they learned that their prey had escaped. In all directions eager searching parties ranged the country, but found not the wounded Delaware. For two days the hunt was maintained, but Davy had left no trail.

On the third day a lad who had gone into the wood to bring in some horses, ran almost breathless to Walthour's station and said that an Indian had stolen a gray mare. He had discovered the savage, who seemed to be crippled, mounting the mare from a large log. The Indian got astride, belabored the beast with a stout stick and went cantering off toward the Allegheny river.

Then the pursuit was taken up by a large body of men. The trail of the horse was followed with some difficulty. The Indian had ridden along the beds of shallow streams and on hard, stony places where the footprints were faint. But the tracks were followed patiently until they approached the river near the mouth of the Kiskiminetas. There the gray mare was found, covered with sweat, cropping grass in a glade near the water's edge, but no trace of the Indian was discovered. The river bank was searched for miles, up and down, but the frontiersmen were forced to return home empty handed.

A few years later, when peace had been restored, inquiries were made of members of the Delaware tribe concerning Davy's fate. He had never returned to his home. He had either been drowned while trying to swim the river, or had starved to death in the forest wilderness.(1)

1 Frontier Forts, vol. n., pp. 361 to 870; Washington-Irvine Correspondence, p. 884.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 170-175: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (

Westmoreland County Genealogy Project Notice:

These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format, for any presentation, without prior written permission.


Return to Westmoreland County Home Page

(c) Westmoreland County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project