Chapter XXVIII - Indian Depredations

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 2 County History
Pages 334-343

Elsewhere in this volume will be found chapters dealing with Indian wars in general, as they affected the state. The present chapter will be devoted to depredations which took place within the limits of Hampshire county, or near its borders. No tribe of Indians occupied and claimed this part of West Virginia when it first became known to white people; but large and small parties of the aborigines frequently occupied it temporarily, and no doubt sometimes remained for a considerable time. Indians from Pennsylvania on the north, North Carolina on the south and Ohio on the west often hunted along the South branch and over the neighboring mountains, and also in the valley of Virginia. And in time of war Indians from these same localities made incursions into Hampshire and adjacent sections, often murdering many people. These war parties usually came from Ohio and western Pennsylvania. A complete record of their murders does not exist, but a conservative estimate of the number of persons killed by the savages in Hampshire county from 1754 to 1765 would reach one hundred, and in addition to these, many were carried into captivity and never returned. There is no lack of evidence that the valley of the South branch was once the. home of Indians. Their numerous graves attest this fact. Flint arrowheads in abundance were formerly found, usually on ridges overlooking the valley, and in the vicinity of springs where villages were probably located. Excavations in the graves a century ago. occasionally revealed bones or entire skeletons in a tolerable state of preservation. This was proof that no great time had passed since occupants of the graves had been laid to their final rest. Under favorable circumstances a skeleton may lie in a grave one hundred years, or probably longer, without total decay. There are accounts of skeletons and bones of giants dug from some of these graves, but these stories should be accepted with caution. That there have been giants in the world is well known, but authentic history records no race of giants. Individual Indians may have been abnormally large, the same as individuals of other nations, but doubts may well be entertained whether so many of them existed in the vicinity of the Potomac as old stories relate. It is said that a jawbone was plowed up near Moorefield which would pass over the outside of a common man's lower jaw; that it contained eight jaw teeth on either side, and that they sat transversely in their sockets. A bone of that size would have belonged to a man eight or nine feet high. That there were eight jawteeth on either side may safely be set down as a mistake. Another jawbone of enormous size is recorded as having been discovered near Martinsburg. The skeleton of a giant is said to have been dug up near the Shannondale springs. On Flint run, in Shenandoah county, the thigh bone of a giant is among the discoveries claimed. It was three feet long. This would indicate that the owner, in life, was fully nine feet high. The catalogue of large bones might be continued almost indefinitely, but they do not deserve a place in history because of the element of exaggeration attending their description.

It is claimed, and is probable, that the occupants of the South branch and surrounding country were exterminated or driven off by other Indians about the time of the earliest settlements by Europeans in Virginia. A date more definite cannot be given, because no man knows. The sole evidence is tradition supplemented by a study of the ruins found on the sites of former villages, their decay, and the probable length of time which has passed since they ceased to be occupied. There was a tradition widely believed among the early settlers that a fierce battle was once fought at Hanging Rocks, on the South branch, a few miles north of Romney, between Delaware and Catawba Indians. According to this tradition, the Delawares had invaded the Catawba country, in the vicinity of western Carolina, captured a number of prisoners and retreated northward with them. When they reached Hanging Rocks, they stopped to catch fish. At this place a narrow strip of land is enclosed between the river and the cliff. The pursuing Catawbas came up unobserved, threw a detachment across the river, another in front of the Delawares, then advancing, made the attack from three sides, killing all or nearly all of the Delawares. A row of graves extending sixty yards or more, on the bank of the river, was early pointed out as confirmatory evidence of the slaughter of the Delawares. The tradition is given for what it is worth, but the reader is cautioned that the evidence of such a battle at Hanging Rocks is very unsatisfactory. The fact that there are graves at that place is about the strongest evidence, and that, in itself, is of little value. It is stronger evidence that an Indian village was somewhere near, and that this was the grave yard. That the evidence was unsatisfactory to the early inhabitants is proved by the fact that the battle field was located at two other places, one on the Opequon, several miles northeast of Winchester, and the other on Antietam creek, in Maryland. There was evidently a tradition of such a battle somewhere, and the earliest inhabitants began to hunt a suitable location for it. Without question, the Hanging Rocks would have been an admirable field for such a battle.

There is evidence, if not positive proof, that there was an Indian town two miles below Hanging Rocks. Of this Kercheval says, writing early in the present century: "About two miles below Hanging Rocks, in the bank of the river, a stratum of ashes, about one rod in length, was some years ago discovered. At this place are signs of an Indian village and their old fields." The most permanent remains of Indian towns are the beds of ashes left by their fires. Their frail wigwams fall to pieces in a short time, but the ashes remain for ages, covered with a greater or smaller accumulation of soil, depending upon the length of time and the surrounding conditions. The "Indian Old Fields," in Hardy county, so called to this day, are without doubt the site of an Indian settlement. When the country was first explored by white men these fields were bare of trees, evidently having long been under cultivation. The Indians who occupied the South branch, as well as those who lived in the valley of Virginia, probably of the same tribe, were farmers as well as hunters, as is shown by the extent of their old plantations. That portion of the valley of Virginia lying between the Blue Ridge and Little North mountain, about twenty-five miles wide and fort3Mave long, was nearly all cleared of timber when first visited by white men. Agricultural Indians had no doubt lived there for ages.

In all parts of Hampshire county, but especially on the bluffs overlooking South branch valley, Indian arrowheads have been picked up since the country was first occupied by civilized man. These flints formed the tips of their arrows, both for the chase and in war. The notion that the Indians were accustomed to dip their arrows in rattlesnake poison, to make them more deadly, is erroneous. They did so at times, but it was not the usual practice. It is believed that the flint from which they made their arrowheads was carried from Ohio. It is not found in this part of the country; but in Ohio old quarries have been discovered which seem to have been worked from time out of mind. The flint bears evidence of having been blasted by means of fire, being broken into fragments by heat.

When the French and Indian war broke out, and during Pontiac's war, a period extending from 1754 to 1765, the people of Hampshire county, in common with those of other parts of the frontier, built forts as places of refuge from the savages. These forts were usually large log houses, but sometimes consisted of a number of cabins enclosed by a stockade of log's planted on end, side by side in the ground and rising eighteen or twenty feet. There was a fort seven miles above Romney, but its name and its exact location are now forgotten. Fort Edward was on the Capon river, near where the road from Romney to Winchester now crosses. Eight miles below Romney was another fort, the name of which is not remembered. Fort William was a short distance below Hanging Rocks, and Furman's fort was some distance above Hanging Rocks. Ashby's fort was at Frankfort, on Patterson creek. Fort George stood near Petersburg, in Grant county, and Fort Pleasants, near Moorefield, in Hardy county. These were all small forts, but a number of formidable fortifications were built during those troublous times, not within Hampshire county, but so near that many Hampshire people found refuge in then. Fort Cumberland stood where the town of Cumberland, in Maryland, has since been built, about twenty-eight miles from Romney. Fort Frederick was also in Maryland, about twelve miles from Martinsburg. It was built of stone, walls twenty feet high and four and a-half feet thick. It is said to have cost more than three hundred thousand dollars. Fort Loudoun, near Winchester, was very strong, and at one time five hundred families fled there for refuge. The fort was planned and built by Washington, who superintended it in person. It was erected immediately after Braddock's defeat, 1755, and no doubt was meant as a stronghold to withstand the attacks of the French and Indians should they advance and destroy Fort Cumberland. Fort Loudoun mounted twenty-four cannon, of which six were eighteen-pounders, six twelve- pounders, six six-pounders, four swivels and two howitzers.

When the French and Indian war broke out, Hampshire, lying on the exposed western frontier, soon felt the effects of savage warfare. The county at that time included Mineral, Hardy, Grant, Pendleton, part of Morgan, as well as much territory lying westward. In speaking of Indian depredations, the present limits of the county will be chiefly considered, but events near the borders will not be omitted. It will be observed that the Indians, made hostile inroads into Hampshire from 1754 to 1765, eleven years, never before nor after. One of the most noted Indian chiefs whose presence added to the horrors of the savage warfare in the South branch valley was. Killbuck, a Shawnee from Ohio. He was well acquainted with the people along the South branch before the war. His invasion of Pendleton, Grant and Hardy counties is spoken of elsewhere in this book. When the war broke out, Killbuck led some Indians to Patterson creek and killed a man named Williams after Williams had killed five of the savages, firing on them from his cabin as they attempted to break into it. Procuring a larger band of followers, Killbuck became ambitious of conquest, and led his men against Fort Cumberland, where Cumberland, Maryland, now stands. Not being strong enough to capture it by assault, he resorted to deceit, and sent word to the commandant, Colonel Livingston, that his intentions were honorable and his desire was for peace. He wanted to visit the fort with his Indians. But Colonel Livingston suspected his design, and when Killbuck and his principal chiefs were inside, the gate was closed. The commandant charged him with treachery and drove him out in disgrace. No attack was made on the fort at that time. The experience which the savages had gained in attacking Fort Cumberland a short time before had taught them the perils of the enterprise. A high knob on the Mainland side of the river overlooked the fort, and Indians in considerable numbers amused themselves by taking position on the summit of this knob and firing into the fort. They did little damage, but the practice was annoying. One night while the savages were firing into the fort, and making the hill hideous with their yells, seventy-five soldiers surprised them and killed all but a few. For years thereafter the knob was called Bloody hill.

Killbuck continued to annow the settlements until the close of the war. He then repaired to his home in Ohio, and occasionally visited Wheeling. Subsequently he became blind, but lived to be more than one hundred years old. A companion of Killbuck, named "Crane," because of his unusually long neck and leg's, was a great nuisance along the South branch, but not much record has been found of his doings. In that day he was considered nearly as dangerous as Killbuck.

A party of Indians appeared before a fort about seven miles below Romney, perhaps in the year 1757, and a number of men unwisely sallied out to fight them; but they were compelled to retreat to the fort with the loss of several of their party.

In 1757 a large body of Indians invaded the country, separated into small parties and murdered many people. About thirty of them approached Fort Edward, on the Capon, about three-quarters of a mile above where the road to Winchester now crosses. The Indians decoyed the garrison into the woods, Captain Mercer being in command. The savages waylaid them and killed thirty-four. Only six escaped to the fort. This party had previously killed two men in that vicinity, making a total of thirty-six.

Isaac Zane, well known in the annals of Indian warfare, was a resident of the South branch, but was taken prisoner when quite young and was carried to Ohio where he grew up with the Indians, married a sister of a Wyandott chief and lived near Chilicothe. During the revolution when the Indians were waging a relentless war against the frontier, Isaac Zane on more than one occasion secretly sent warning to the settlements, informing them of intended Indian raids, thus saving many lives. It is not improbable that he at one time saved Wheeling from surprise and capture. He never forgot the English language. His childhood home was in the present county of Hardy.

Very early in this war Michael Cresap, then a youth, but afterwards a brave soldier, distinguished himself in an Indian fight near Old Town, in Maryland, near the mouth of the South branch. An Indian had shot a settler and when in the act of scalping him, was shot by Cresap who was armed with only a pistol. The aim was good and the savage was killed. During that Indian war there were unprincipled white men who went about the settlements disguised as Indians, for the purpose of robbing the houses, after frightening the people away. In 1758 two such men were killed by settlers in Berkeley county.

In 1764 a party of Delawares invaded the South branch valley and hid near Fur man's fort. William Fur man and Nimrod Ashby left the fort to go to Jersey mountain to hunt deer and were both pursued and killed. The Indians prowled around other settlements several days, taking a number of prisoners, and with them returned to the South branch. While crossing that stream near Hanging Rocks, one of the prisoners, Mrs. Thomas, was carried away by the swift current, but fortunately escaped drowning. She escaped from the Indians and reached Furman's fort in safety.

Logan, the famous Mingo chief, from whom both Logan and Mingo counties, in this state were named, began his career of blood in the South branch valley, killing Benjamin Bowman, taking prisoner Humphrey Worsted, and stealing a number of horses. Logan's principal achievement was the killing with his own hand of thirty or more settlers, chiefly women and children, during the Dunmore war in 1774. He has also received considerable notoriety on account of a speech attributed to him which was read at Dunmore's treaty with the Indians at Camp Charlotte, 1774. But Logan was not the author of the speech, and perhaps never saw it or heard of it. In that speech he is made to say: "During the course of the last long and bloody war Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate of peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed and said, 'Logan is the friend of the white men.'" This, in itself, is reasonably conclusive proof that some one wrote the speech who was not acquainted with Logan's murdering and horse stealing expedition to the South branch a few years before. Michael Cresap, who was charged in the speech above referred to, with being the cause of the Dunmore war, but which charge was groundless, was well known in Hampshire county, although a citizen of Maryland, just across the Potomac. The accusation that Cresap murdered Logan's relatives near Wheeling in 1774, is now known to have been false, although long reiterated in histories, even by George Bancroft the most eminent historian of the United States. Captain Michael Cresap was on the Ohio river when the war of 1774 began. He returned at once to the Potomac, raised a company of volunteers, mostly in Hampshire county, and within seventeen days from his departure from the Ohio he had returned almost to that place when be was ordered to dismiss his men by John Connolly, of Pittsburg. Cresap did so with great reluctance. Connolly was. a willing tool of Dunmore's in his conspiracies against the American people, and when the patriots of Virginia shortly afterwards drove Dunmore out, Connolly fled also. More than a century has passed, and in the light of history Cresap stands out as a patriot, while Dunmore and Connolly are convicted by their own acts of conspiring against the Virginians who were fighting for liberty at the opening of the revolution.

When Fort Henry, at Wheeling, was threatened and besieged by an Indian army in 1777, Captain Foreman with a company of Hampshire volunteers marched with all speed to help save the settlements along the Ohio. Before his arrival the Indians had been compelled to retreat from Wheeling, but twelve miles from that place Captain Foreman fell into an ambuscade and himself and twenty-one of his men were killed at Grave creek. In every danger, in every call for help, the men of Hampshire have been found among the first to respond.

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