by Scott Powell, 1925
Contributed by Linda Fluharty.
THE WETZEL FAMILY Pages 47-69.
THE WETZEL FAMILY
Of the many names of early settlers in the Upper Ohio Valley none is more familiar than WETZEL.
JOHN WETZEL settled on the waters of Big Wheeling Creek in what is now Marshall County at an early day and soon became identified with the stirring events of the times. He was of German descent. It is not known from what colony he came. Some say from Pennsylvania and others from Maryland. He seems to have known the Zane family before he started in search of a home in the Ohio Valley. He had five sons and two daughters. The names of the sons were Martin, Lewis, Jacob, George and John. The daughters were Susan and Christina.
Wetzel took up a claim about fourteen miles from the mouth of Wheeling Creek and improved it and also took up land elsewhere. When the Indians became hostile a fort was built at the forks of Wheeling Creek on the land of David Shepherd and was known in history as Shepherd's Fort, and as a place of refuge for the settlers at and above the forks of Wheeling Creek in time of danger until abandoned the twenty-seventh of September, 1777, and burned by Indians later. After that they went to Fort Henry at Wheeling until about the year 1785 when Shepherd rebuilt the fort, when they left the fort at Wheeling and returned to the fort at the forks of the creek which was much nearer their improvements and more convenient.
John Wetzel took up a claim on Middle Island Creek and was on his return from it that he lost his life.
In the summer of 1787, as he and a companion were returning to Wheeling Creek from his improvement on Middle Island Creek, he was killed by Indians. They were paddling up the river on the west side and were nearly opposite Baker's Station when some Indians on the west or Ohio side of the river ordered them to land. This they did not do and the Indians fired upon them and shot Wetzel through the body. Realizing the nature of the wound, he ordered his companion to lay down in the canoe while he plied the paddle and got out of range of the guns of the Indians. They landed at Baker's Station where Wetzel died shortly after landing. He was buried at what has long been known as Grave Yard Run, a short distance below Captina station on the Ohio River Division of the B. & O. Railroad. Until the past few years a grave marker of common sandstone marked the place where the body lay. On it was the simple inscription, J. W., 1787. The stone has been broken and carried away until none of it remains to mark the spot where he was buried. The largest piece of it known is now said to be in a museum at Philadelphia.
JOHN T. WETZEL gave the following account of the Vetzel family, which has been handed down as tradition and adds somewhat to the history of the members and supplies a missing link in the history of the family.
He said that John Wetzel, Sr., lived at Oldtown, Rockingham County, Virginia, at an early day, and that his grandfather, Martin Wetzel, was born there and he thinks some of the other children were born there. From Oldtown he removed to Pennsylvania and lived for some time not far from Wills Creek, then a frontier settlement and became acquainted with the Zanes, Shepherds and Earliwines and came with them when they came to Wheeling Creek in search of homes in the forest of Northwestern Virginia.
Wetzel and Earliwine settled in what is now Sand Hill District, Marshall County, and Shepherd settled below on another branch of the creek.
The elder Wetzel spent much time in taking up and im proving tomahawk claims, other than the one taken up on the waters of Big Wheeling Creek. He took up claims down the river and he was on his way home from working on one of his claims when he was killed.
He had taken up a claim on Middle Island Creek and had been there at work in the summer of 1787 and was returning with his sons, Martin, Lewis and George and a man by the name of Scott. A dog belonging to him was also in the canoe with them. When they reached a point almost opposite Baker's Station in Cresap's Bottom, they were attacked by some Indians concealed on the west side of the river. The elder Wetzel was killed and his son George was shot through the body. The bullet that went through the body of George killed the dog that lay in the canoe. George told the others to lie down in the canoe and he would paddle them out of danger, as he was already fatally wounded. Martin and Scott did as directed but Lewis did not; he loaded his gun and fired at the Indians till out of range of them.
George died that night and was buried on the banks of Grave Yard Run beside his father, both in coffins made of hickory bark. This account was given by Martin Wetzel and preserved traditionally by his descendants and clears the mystery of what became of George, whose name is never mentioned in the many stirring events of the bloody Indian war that broke out in the year 1777 and closed with the Battle of Fallen Timber in 1794.
In June of 1778, Martin Wetzel was out one day hunting and John was on an errand and the rest of the family were at work in a field cultivating corn. Lewis and Jacob were working in a distant part of the field from the others. They were working very quietly and industriously when suddenly the crack of a gun and the yell of Indians broke the stillness of the valley. The bullet struck Lewis in the breast giving him a slight wound. The father, mother and other members of the family in that part of the field hid in a thicket near them and remained there until the Indians had been gone some time. The Indians, with the two boys, started for the river and reached it not far from the mouth of Bogg's Run and crossed to the mouth of McMahon's Creek and camped for the night. The second night they camped at a place called Big Lick in what is now Goshon Township, Belmont County, Ohio. The boys appeared cheerful and the Indians did not take the precaution to tie them or guard them at night. The moon was full and the night was very bright, all lay down and were to all appearances sound asleep. Lewis kept awake and thought that now was their best opportunity to make their escape. He aroused Jacob and they quietly stole away from the camp and sat down on a log a short distance from it to decide what to do. Lewis said, "We can not go home barefooted. You stay and I will go back and get some moccasins." He soon returned with them and said to his brother, "We ought to have a gun. I will go and get one." He soon returned with a gun. When he was at the camp to get the gun one of the Indians raised up on his elbow and muttered, rolled over and lay down. Lewis stood over him with a tomahawk that had dropped from the belt of the Indian, ready to strike if he attempted to arise to his feet, but the Indian lay down and saved his life.
The boys started on the trail back towards the river as rapidly as they could go. The Indians awoke and found that the boys had escaped and started after them. The boys noticed them as they kept a careful wacth on the movement behind them and went into a thicket and remained hid until the Indians had passed. They soon returned and the boys by the same movement hid from them again. The Indians then went back to the camp and got their horses and again started after the boys, and again the boys slipped aside in a thicket and escaped them. The Indians gave up the pursuit and the boys hurried as fast as they could travel and on the next evening reached the Ohio River opposite lane's Island and constructed a raft and crossed it, and to the surprise of their parents reached home the fourth day after they were captured. It is said that Lewis was fourteen and Jacob twelve. It was their first experience with the Indians.
In the summer of 1780 Indians stole some horses from settlers on the upper waters of Wheeling Creek and a party of whites started in pursuit of them. They passed the Wetzel farm and found Lewis at work cultivating corn and asked him to join them in the pursuit but he refused, stating that hios father had gone from home and had requested him to stay at home and cultivate the corn and he did not like to go without his father's permission. They continued their persuasion; he unhitched his father's favorite mare and with his gun joined the party in pursuit of the Indians. The Indians reached the river somewhere near the foot of Boggs Island and crossed it. The whites pursued the trail and soon found them encamped thinking they were out of danger of pursuit. They were lying down near a spring and the horses were hobbled and grazing near them. The Indians, three in number, fled leaving the horses grazing. The whites decided to take the stolen horses and leave the horses they had rode to graze and rest a while and left three men to bring them when rested. The Indians soon made their appearance between the men and the horses and the white men took to their heels and soon joined those who had started to return.
Now Wetzel's troubles commenced. He said that he had left home without the consent of his father and had brought his favorite mare and she had been left for the Indians to take away. Lewis is said to have both loved and feared his father and it might be added that he was an obedient son. He asked the men to return with him and get the horses. None were willing to return and it is said that he used all manner of persuasion and all kinds of argument but none would agree to return and attempt to get the horses and he finally said that he would go by himself if no one would go with him. He said that he would prefer to go home without his scalp and with the mare than to go with his scalp and without the mare. At last two men most to blame for his leaving home without permission agreed to return with him and get the horses if they had to fight it out with the Indians. They started back to the spring where the horses were and arranged their line of operation.
It was arranged that Wetzel should go first and when they passed three trees all were to tree and open the fight. Wetzel reached his tree and looked around to see if the other two men were at their posts ready for action, but instead of being in line as agreed they were out of gunshot and running at the top of their speed. He was now in a critical situation, three Indians and a boy only sixteen years old, very unequal forces. He took in the situation in a moment and decided that as the odds were against him some strategy must be used or both scalp and mare would be lost.
The Indians were treed and had been since they discovered the approach of the whites. After some hesitation he put his hat on the ramrod of his gun and gradually exposed it as if he was quietly attempting to get sight of the Indians. His scheme succeeded and all three Indians fired and the hat fell riddled. He let the hat fall as if it had been on his head and he had been shot dead. All three Indians threw down their guns and with a yell rushed to the fallen hat thinking to tomahawk and scalp him. Young Wetzel jumped from behind the tree and shot the foremost Indian dead. The other two sure of killing him rushed at him and he started to run with a fleetness of a dear and soon had his gun loaded and wheeled around and one more Indian was killed. The other now sure of the scalp of the boy rushed at him with his tomahawk raised but in a short time the boy wheeled around as he was about to throw it and fired a bullet through him that ended his life and the unequal conflict.
Wetzel scalped the Indians, loaded his gun, got the mare and soon overtook the men who were too cowardly to stand by him when they got him into trouble and danger of his life.
This was the first fight he had with Indians and the matter soon brought him into prominence, for his courage and also the fact that he had learned to load a gun while running at full speed, and which proved of great value to him afterwards in many instances when he was pursued by Indians.
The second thrilling encounter Lewis Wetzel had with Indians was in the summer of 1782 when he was eighteen years old. The incident was related by an eye witness, who was himself a participant in the race for life.
Thomas Mills, a straggler from the army of the unfortunate Colonel Crawford, was making his way home near Wheeling, and reached Indian Springs about a mile east of where St. Clairsville, Ohio now stands. His horse was so tired and worn out with the trip from Sandusky Plains that he decided to leave it and make the rest of the way home on foot and after resting he said he would go back and get his horse.
His cousin Joshua Davis, a boy a little past fifteen years old, insisted that he wait till Lewis Wetzel return from a scout and get Wetzel to go with him. To this he consented. Lewis came in that night and when young Davis asked him to go he readily consented to it. Davis now asked permission to go with them but as he had done little scouting, Mills refused to let him go. The boy insisted upon going and finally Wetzel said: "Josh'll make a scout; he's got metal."
All things were arranged to start the following morning. Soon after daylight they crossed the river just below the point of the island and went up the hill and followed the ridges. It was a hot June day ahd near noon they arrived near the spring. Wetzel who was in the lead turned around and said: "If there are any Indians we had better know it. They will be at the spring at this time of the day or near it." They stopped and Wetzel said that he would go first and Mills after him and Davis behind. They moved cautiously till the first two reached a thicket on a bank just above the spring. The crack of guns and yells of Indians and the scream of Mills broke the stillness of the forest.
Wetzel came back on the trail running at full speed, loading his gun. Davis shot at the first Indian he saw and started back as fast as he could run. Wetzel soon overtook him, running in a long dog-trot, which was his usual gait when pursued by Indians. He said to young Davis: "Don't run, Josh, trot, it'll not tire you so much." The Indians, thought to be fifty or more from the noise they made, were jumping as they ran and yelling at the top of their voices.
After running almost a mile, Wetzel looked back and said: "There's only four Indians after us now; I'll try a pop at the foremost one." He did so and the Indian fell to the ground dead.
Wetzel soon had his gun reloaded and as they made a turn an Indian who had cut across came out beside them. As Wetzel attempted to shoot, the Indian caught hold of the barrel of the gun, but Wetzel was too quick for him and jumped to one side and brought the gun to the breast of the Indian and shot him dead in his tracks.
He said to the boy: "Josh, at the next turn there's a thicket just over the bank; hide in it and the Indians will follow me. I'll meet you at the creek." At the turn the boy jumped over the hill and laid down in the thicket and soon the foremost Indian passed and bang went the gun of Wetzel and another Indian was killed. The other stopped on the bank near the boy and took a look at Wetzel and said, "Whew, no catch him, gun always loaded," He started back as fast as his legs could carry him toward the spring.
The two met at the creek and went leisurely home. A few days later some men went to bury Mills and found that the bullet had broken his ankle.
In the summer of 1786 Indians were troublesome about Wheeling, especially in the Short Creek settlement, and some murders were committed by them. The Indians all seemed to escape. At last the settlers concluded to make up a purse and offer a reward for an Indian scalp. A purse of one hundred dollars was made up and a party of twenty men gathered on the fifth of August at Beech Bottom in command of Major McMahon. They went towards the Muskingum Valley. Five men were detailed as scouts and were sent some distance in advance of the main body. Lewis Wetzel was one of the party. The little army proceeded along their way without anything to interrupt their quiet peaceful march in quest of Indians until it reached the valley.
One day the scouts returned to the main body and in- formed the men that they had found a camp of Indians containing a large number. A consultation was held and as the number at the camp was reported too large for this force to attack it was decided to retreat.
While the controversy was in progress Lewis Wetzel sat on a log with his gun laying across his knees. When a retreat was ordered Wetzel was asked if he was not going along, to which he answered "No." He said they were out there in search of Indians and now since they had found them he saw no use in leaving without scalps. He said that he would get a scalp or lose his own.
The party started home; Wetzel started in a contrary direction. He saw no signs of Indians that evening but was determined to find a small number of them before he gave up the hunt. The night was cold and it was necessary to have a fire, and he knew such a thing would invite destruction. He built a hut of bark something like a charcoal pit and covered it with dirt and leaves, leaving an airhole here and there in it. He got into it and with his blanket drawn around him, spent the night quite comfortably and said it was as warm as a stove room.
The next day he saw a smoke and found a camp with two blankets and a small kettle, which he knew belonged to two Indians who were hunting. He hid near the camp and spent the day waiting for the Indians to return. About sundown the two Indians arrived at the camp and built up a fire and prepared their supper, after which they amused themselves for some time telling stories and singing songs.
About nine or ten o'clock one of the Indians took a firebrand and wrapped his blanket around himself and left the camp. He evidently intended to watch a deer lick, as deer are not afraid to approach fire.
Wetzel waited impatiently for the Indian to return, but he remained away until the birds began to give notice of the approach of daylight. He stealthily approached the sleeping Indian and with one thrust of his knife stopped the throbbing of the heart of the Indian forever. He took his scalp and started home and arrived one day later than the others of the party. He claimed and received the reward for the taking of an Indian scalp.
Louis Wetzel would take what he called a fall hunt in the Indian country. It was at the season of the year when he could expect to find small parties of Indians hunting. On one of these hunts for Indians, he went into the Muskingum Valley. He spent some time before he found an Indian camp but finally he discovered a camp of four. He saw that the camp was rather large for one man to attack in daylight but he could not think of leaving and not attacking it, so he awaited until late in the night when the hunters were sound asleep.
Carefully and cautiously he emerged from his hiding place near the camp and with his gun in one hand and tomahawk in the other and his hunting knife between his teeth he approached the sleeping hunters. There they lay in the dim light of the camp fire with their swarthy faces turned up to the sky, some of them sleeping a sleep from which they never awoke.
He set his gun against a tree and with tomahawk in one hand and knife in the other he commenced the work of destruction. One after another sank beneath the hatchet of the infuriated hunter till three lay lifeless near their camp fire. His blows were quick and accompanied with the most furious yells. One jumped to his feet and took to the forest followed by Wetzel. He succeeded in eluding the hunter who scalped the three warriors and returned home with the scalps. When asked what luck he had, he replied. "Not much; I treed four but one got away."
Lewis Wetzel roamed the forest and took many hunts and scouts on the north side of the Ohio River. Returning from one of his trips into the Indian country, he saw an Indian standing with his gun ready to fire. Wetzel jumped behind a tree, the Indian doing the same. They stood there for some time.
Wetzel did not relish the idea of spending the day there awaiting the darkness of night to give him an opportunity to get from behind the tree. He decided to try stratagem, so he placed his bearskin cap on the ramrod of his gun and gently pushed it out from behind the tree as if trying to get sight of the Indian and not expose his body in doing it.
The Indian was caught with the scheme of the hunter and and raised his gun and fired at the cap piercing it with a bullet. He imagined that all he had to do now was to scalp the hunter and make his way home to some of the Indian towns in the interior of what is the State of Ohio. Wetzel, to the surprise of the Indian jumped from behind the tree and shot the Indian. He took his scalp and made his way back to Wheeling Creek.
FORT HARMER was erected by the United States Government in the year 1786 on the point below the mouth of the Muskingum River and garrisoned with regular soldiers; and two years later the first legal settlement was made in what is now the State of Ohio.
Soon after General Harmer took command of the Western Department he sent notice to the Indians that he desired to make peace with them and issued a proclamation warning the whites to cease hostilities so that a peace could be arranged with the Indians. Notwithstanding his efforts to make peace in the West with the Indians, they continued murdering settlers along the Ohio River and also in interior settlements.
In the year 1789 Lewis Wetzel and Veach Dickerson went on a scout on the Ohio side of the river and reached the Muskingum River near Fort Harmer. They watched a path some time and while there an Indian came down the river towards the fort riding a horse in a gallop. They called to the Indian but he did not halt and it was thought that the noise made by the catter of its hoofs on the ground prevented him from hearing them. When he was almost out of range of their guns both fired at him without any apparent effect as he did not change his speed. They returned home and when asked about their scout and seeing Indians they said that they only saw one Indian and shot at him and thought that they had both missed him. They had not missed him as they thought they had but had shot him through the hips and he died that night at the fort.
General Harmer became much enraged and soon after the death of the Indian, a rumor reached him that Lewis Wetzel had shot the Indian. Soon after he heard this he learned that Wetzel was at the cabin of Hamilton Kerr who had made an improvement on an island above the mouth of the Muskingum River. He sent a file of soldiers to the island in the night and arrested Wetzel on the charge of murdering the Indian. He placed Wetzel in chains and in close confinement. Wetzel did not deny shooting the Indian. He proposed to General Harmer that he give him a tomahawk and let him and the Indians fight it out but the General would not listen to any proposition as he was determined to maintain the dignity of his high position.
Soon the close confinement began to seriously effect Wetzel who had been accustomed all his life to freedom in the open air. He told General Harmer that he could not stand such close confinement and an officer was instructed to take the hunter out each day for exercise. His shackels were removed but his handcuffs remained on him. He would run and jump and caper like a young colt that had been confined in a stable for some time and then turned loose in a pasture. He soon regained his usual vigor.
One day he was taken out for exercises as usual. He would run quite a distance, whirl around and return until he felt his usual strength return when he made up his mind to make a run for liberty or death. He got some distance before the guards suspected an attempt to escape. They fired their guns at him but missed him. He had entered the forest and knowing the country, he made for a thicket about two miles from the fort. He reached the thicket and found a tree that had fallen across a log under which he squeezed himself and was concealed from view by underbrush so completely that it would be very difficult to find him without very close inspection.
Soldiers and Indians were started in pursuit of Wetzel and passed through the thicket and two of the Indians stood on the log for some time. Wetzel said that his heart beat so violently that he was afraid that they would hear it. They soon left the thicket and Wetzel was alone in the forest. While he lay under the log he could hear the soldiers and Indians yelling as they searched the forest for him. Late in the afternoon the search was abandoned and the soldiers and Indians returned to the fort. Wetzel crawled from his hinding place when he was satisfied that there were none of his pursuers near him.
The thicket was on the Muskingum River and by a circuitous route he reached the Ohio River about three miles below the fort knowing that they would watch for him wherever they knew of a canoe. He knew a friend by the name of Isaac Wiseman who had made an improvement on the Virginia side and he reached the river opposite it. He saw Wiseman in a canoe fishing on the Virginia shore. He was afraid to make a noise and being handcuffed he could not make a raft nor cold he safely attempt to swim the river, although he was an expert swimmer. He waved his hat but Wiseman did not see him. He made a splash in the water which caused Wiseman to look towards him and he waved his hat and in a short time he was safely landed on the Virginia shore.
With a file and hammer in the hands of his friend the handcuffs were removed and he was again free. He was furnished with a gun, blanket and other equipments by his friends and was ready for other adventures. Wiseman was not in a hurry to tell of his part in the escape of Wetzel until after General Harmer had returned to Philadelphia after an inglorious defeat by Indians.
General Harmer heard that Wetzel was at Mingo Bottom and sent Captain Kingsberry with a squad of soldiers with orders to bring him back dead or alive.
He proceeded to Mingo Bottom but it happened that the day he was due to arrive there most of the settlers of that section were at a shooting match at the bottom, Wetzel among them. When they heard of the intentions of the Captain they decided to waylay him and his soldiers and make targets of them. Major McMahon requested them to do nothing until he could see Kingsberry and return to them. He told the Captain that it was absurd to arrest a man for killing an Indian when they were killing whites almost every day. Further, it would be impossible to take Wetzel from that community and stated that an attempt to take him would result in the death of every man in the squad. The Captain, knowing what was the best course to pursue, quietly withdrew and returned to Fort Harmer without Wetzel.
Wetzel thought now that it was at an end and continued to roam up and down the Ohio River. Soon after this he met Captain Kingsberry at Fort Randolph but they passed and each man went his way. In the meantime General Harmer removed his headquarters from Fort Harmer to Fort Washington where Cincinnati now stands.
He offered a large reward for Wetzel, dead or alive. One day Wetzel was sitting in a tavern door at Maysville, not thinking of any danger. Lieutenant Lawler landed with what was usually called a Kentucky boat, with a load of soldiers for Fort Washington and seeing Wetzel, returned to the boat and with a file of soldiers, returned to the tavern and arrested him and pushed off from the shore and landed him that night at the fort where he was again placed in irons.
It was well for Lieutenant Lawler that he made the speed he did for if the settlers had got word of the act in time there is no doubt that he would have received a different kind of reward than that offered by General Harmer.
The news spread like wild-fire and the anger soon reached a white heat, so indignant were the settlers. Petitions were sent to General Harmer from the settlements along the Ohio River asking for the release of Wetzel. All the leading citizens asked for his release but he paid no attention to their petitions. Seeing that petitions were of no avail they started a different kind of movement. They started to gather a sufficient force of men to release him if they had to kill General Harmer and all the troops at the fort. This decided the case as the General saw that the settlers were all in sympathy with Wetzel and determined that he should be released and very wisely set him at liberty to molest him no further.
About the year 1790, or a year later, Lewis Wetzel arrived from a stroll in Kentucky and was hunting on the waters of Wheeling Creek and met a young man who lived on the branch of Wheeling Creek formerly called Dunkard, but is known at present as Crow's Creek, the south fork of Wheeling Creek. The young man and Wetzel were acquainted and it has been stated that they were cousins. The young friend invited him to go home with him and visit the family, which invitation he accepted. They started up the creek towards the young man's home hunting; they traveled along; being in no hurry, they prolonged the journey some time, not thinking of harm to anyone or need of haste in getting to the end of their journey. When they arrived at the home of his friend Wetzel found, instead of a family ready to greet him kindly, that Indians had been there and murdered the family and burned the house. Wetzel examined the trail and found that the party consisted of three Indians and a white man and further examination revealed the fact that five persons left the cabin and from the tracks it was decided that a young woman the family had reared was one of the number and was a prisoner in the hands of the Indians and white renegade. The rest of the family had been murdered and their bodies burned in the cabin which was now burned to the ground. No time was to be lost if anything was to be done towards the rescue of the young woman. The matter was left to Wetzel to direct and lead a rescuing party. Wetzel said that they would attempt to overtake them before they reached the Ohio River. It was late in the day and movements must be made quickly as they had considerable start of them and were well on their way to the river. Caution had been taken to conceal their trail but the quick eye of the hunter soon detected it.
They followed the trail like a hound follows that of a deer or fox until Wetzel was satisfied at about the point at which the party would reach the river. He then changed his plan and took the most direct route to the river at the point at which he was sure they would reach it to cross. He was sure they would reach the river at the mouth of Big Captina and for that point he directed their course. They followed their course with the object of overtaking them before they reached the river and to that end hurried as rapidly as possible, taking the shortest routes in all cases and avoided long winding paths around knowls by going over them and thus gaining time. They found a deer path in the direction they wished to go and followed it till late in the night, only stopping a short time for supper, after which they resumed their pursuit. About midnight a heavy cloud overcast the sky and they were for the time compelled to give up the pursuit and lay down to await the coming light of day. With the first light of morning they were again in pursuit of the murderers at their utmost speed. The knowledge Wetzel had of the country enabled them to save distance and the desire to avenge the murder of the family animated them and the young man was very anxious to rescue the young woman. In the afternoon they left the ridge and traversed a small valley where it appeared that man had never trod. They crossed a small stream and on the margin of it they detected the impression of a heel of a shoe that was identical with the one they found at the cabin and which had left it with the three Indians and the white man. The freshness of the track was sufficient to satisfy Wetzel that they were gaining on them. Late in the evening they reached the river at Hog Run, nearly opposite the mouth of Big Captina and found that the murderers with their captive had reached the river first and were now on the Ohio side of it. Wetzel was not in the least discouraged but confident of overtaking them and rescuing the captive. They went a short distance down the river and swam it. By the time the pursuers were ready to start in pursuit of the murderers on the west side of the river darkness had settled down over the forest but they were ready for a night's travel. They were not destined to such hardship, as they found them encamped only a short distance from the river.
The Indians and white renegade were lying near the fire and the young woman securely bound and tied to a small tree. She was moaning and bewailing her misfortune, not thinking that friends were close at hand. The young man was in favor of attacking the camp immediately, but Wetzel would not listen to it, but said, "Wait till daylight." All night long they heard the girl moaning, not thinking that daybreak would end her captivity.
The first streaks of gray dawn in the east found Wetzel and the young man ready for action. Wetzel desired daylight that he might the better do the work he so much desired, kill all of the four murderers. He wanted to give no opportunity for any of them to escape. The Indians and white man arose and were standing about the fire when the stillness of the morning was broken by the report of two rifles and the white man and one Indian were shot dead. The two remaining Indians ran into the forest to ascertain the strength of the attacking party, closely followed by Wetzel. He failed to draw their fire so he fired his gun at random and succeeded in getting them after him. They dropped their guns and with their tomahawks took after the hunter. This was their last race, as Wetzel had the game just as he wanted it. He soon had his gun loaded and one of the Indians was shot dead but the other pursued Wetzel vainly thinking to kill him and get his scalp, but soon the mysterious gun was loaded and the last Indian was killed and with the other two, scalped.
The young man sprang to the captive and cut the cords binding her as soon as the first two fatal shots were fired, leaving Wetzel to deal with the two Indians much to the delight of the hunter who had taken the choice of the Indians leaving the young man to shoot the white renegade.
Once when Lewis Wetzel was scouting near Fort Henry a stormy night overtook him near a deserted cabin. He concluded to spend the night in the cabin, and gathered some clapboards and made a place on the joist to sleep and had not been there long until six Indians entered it and prepared to spend the night. They built a fire, cooked their supper and lay down and went to sleep.
When they entered Wetzel grasped his hunting knife and determined that if he was found by them that he would attempt to escape by jumping into their midst and fighting his way to the outside of the cabin to freedom.
The Indians were soon sound asleep, not even dreaming that a white man was so near them. Wetzel quietly descended and left the cabin and hid behind a log to await developments. Morning came and one of the Indians arose and walked to the door and stretched himself and gave a hearty yawn, taking in a full breath of inspiring air, not thinking it would be the last for him. Bang, went the gun of the hunter and the Indian fell dead at the door. Wetzel started in a run and was soon out of the reach of the Indians in the cabin.
A turkey was often heard on the side of the hill across the creek from the village of Wheeling and it finally attracted the attention of Lewis Wetzel. One morning he started out and reached a point near a cave concealed by vines and bushes, suspecting that an Indian was concealed in it, as the gobbling had been heard at that place on several occasions. He awaited the appearance of day thinking that he would at least see what was there. Soon after daylight, when birds of all kinds were greeting the morning with songs, the turkey commenced gobbling. Wetzel saw the head of a warrior as he gradually arose from the cave and gobbled, thinking to attract the attention of some one from the village, whom he would shoot and scalp. Wetzel prepared to greet him when again he appeared. Soon the head appeared and the usual gobbling sound was made, the last for him. He would look around to see if anyone was approaching, gobble and drop back into the cave. This time when his head appeared Wetzel fired his never-failing rifle and down dropped the head with a bullet hole in it that forever put a quietus on that Indian. Wetzel added one more scalp to the number that he had already taken.
Lewis Wetzel was born in Old Town, Rockingham County, Virginia, in 1764, and brought by his parents to the wilderness in the district of West Augusta when about six years of age. He grew up to manhood in what is now Marshall County, where the howl of the wolf, the scream of the panther and blood-curdling yell of the Indian became familiar sounds to him.
The surroundings and necessities of the day made him one of the greatest scouts and hunters of the day. He could travel the forest and no Indian could long follow his trail. He was of a mild disposition and was kind-hearted except for his hatred for Indians, which was said to have been caused by the death of members of the family and friends by the hands of the Indians.
He had long black hair and it has been stated that when combed out to its full length it reached almost to his heels. P> It has been stated that he cut a notch in his gun stock each time he killed an Indian and that seventy-eight notches were cut in the stock, indicating that he had killed that number of Indians.
He died in the summer of 1808 at the home of a cousin by the name of Goodrich about eight miles back from Natchez, Mississippi, at the age of forty-four.
MARTIN WETZEL, the oldest of the Wetzel brothers, was one of the most efficient scouts in the Upper Ohio Valley and spent much time during the long and bloody Indian war in that capacity and rendered much service by so doing.
Once he was surprised and captured by one of the roving bands of Indians that were such a menace to the settlers, and taken to their town in the northern part of what is now the state of Ohio.
His genial disposition soon made him a favorite with his captors. Both old and young soon learned to like him as he would engage in all the frolic and fun with the Indians and take part in all their amusements. He danced with the young Indians and made himself so agreeable that he became to them an Indian by adopting himself to the surroundings. They soon learned to regard him as an Indian and appeared to have great confidence in him.
He was permitted to hunt around in the forest near the town and was so successful a hunter as to win their admiration. A successful hunter is highly honored by Indians and he soon proved himself worthy of this high honor.
While he was daily becoming more favorably regarded by his captors he was not losing any of his desire for his old haunts among the hills of Virginia. After spending almost a year with them and proving himself a hunter of the highest type for a young man it was his good fortune to be permitted to accompany three braves on a fall hunt on the headwaters of the Sandusky River. He had, by this time, so gained their confidence that he was without restraint.
When they arrived where they intended to hunt, a place was selected for a camp and Martin went to work to arrange it that they might have a pleasant camp for a resting place at night. When the hunt began Martin was always first to return to the camp in the evening and arrange for the night. He would gather wood, build a fire and prepare supper and do all the work, which was very pleasing to his companions, as Indian hunters are not noted for industry aside from the pursuit of game.
Soon he began to plan for escape. He was now away from all Indians except the three hunters and the only trouble was to get away from them.
After everything was settled down to everyday hunting, he made up his mind that he would make his escape from them. One morning he concluded to set to work with his scheme to get away from them. The hunters scattered about in different directions to cover as much ground as possible and this gave Martin an opportunity to carry out his scheme. He followed one Indian till late in the day when he shot him and hid his body in a hole made by a tree being torn out by the roots by a storm. He covered the body carefully with leaves and brush and in due time was at the camp and as usual had everything in order when the two hunters arrived. He asked about the other Indian and appeared very anxious about his safety and was assured by the other two that he would turn up all right in time. He might have gone farther than he intended and concluded to remain in the woods all night rather than walk so far after dark, or he might have wounded a deer and pursued it till too late to return, and as he was a good hunter he would return in due time. The Indians appeared to think it a matter of no importance, so he said no more about it. After supper they lay down, but Martin did not sleep that night. He had started and there was no way out but to go ahead and kill the other two and make his escape. He first thought of falling on them with his tomahawk and end the matter but concluded to take a more cautious course if it took a little longer. He decided upon a plan for the next day and put it into effect as contemplated.
The next morning he arose and prepared breakfast and was as pleasant as usual and soon the three were ready for their day's hunt. Martin resolved to complete the work undertaken and make his escape. He followed one of the Indians with the intention of killing him before returning to the camp. All day long he followed as a dog follows the trail of a deer and late in the afternoon he managed to meet him and engage him in conversation and getting his attention turned to something that caused him to turn his head, when with one stroke of his tomahawk he laid the Indian dead on the ground. He hid his body in a hole after scalping him and returned to the camp and awaited the return of the remaining Indian. Every preparation was made for the usual evening in the camp. The fire was built and wood gathered as usual so that nothing appeared out of the ordinary everyday life in the camp. He started supper and was doing his usual work when the last Indian arrived with a heavy load of game on his back. Martin, in his usual pleasant manner, approached the Indian to assist him in unloading his load and as he stooped down to give Martin a better opportunity to get hold of the load, he struck the hunter with his tomahawk and laid the last Indian dead on the ground. This completed the work so far as disposing of the three hunters was concerned. He was in no danger of pursuit. He selected what he wanted from the camp and with a good supply of provision, he started for Wheeling, where he arrived safely in due time.
Early in the spring of 1786, or a year later, settlers had left their homes and gathered at Shepherd's Fort for protection against the Indians. Two boys left the fort early one morning to hunt horses. They were John Wetzel and Frederick Earliwine. The former was about seventeen years old and the latter several years younger. John Wetzel was much interested in the hunt, as one of the animals wanted was a mare belonging to his sister and she had given a colt to him for caring for its mother.
The boys had not gone far when they heard the tinkle of a bell and they hastened to the spot thinking they would soon have the horses and be on their way home. The horses were in a thicket and the boys went into it to get them but to their surprise they saw four Indians. They tried to run and make their escape by flight but the Indians were too quick for them and fired at them and a bullet struck Wetzel's arm and confused him and he was captured. He seemed to see the situation clearly and when in their hands he became very cheerful and talked with them freely, but the younger boy cried and made so much noise that they tomahawked him. About noon they reached the Flats of Grave Creek. When they reached the mouth of Big Grave Creek they took a canoe from its hiding place and the Indians shot a hog that was roaming in the woods and placed it, their prisoner and guns in it and were ready to start across the river when the Indians were attacked by three white men and three of the Indians killed and the prisoner rescued.
Three men, Isaac Williams, Hamilton Kerr and a German by the name of Jacob, had gone down from Fort Henry that morning to look after some stock belonging to Isaac Williams, and when at the mouth of Little Grave Creek they heard the shot that killed the hog and Williams said that a Kentucky boat (an emigrant boat) had landed and were killing his hogs and they started in a run to get there before they got away with the hog. Kerr being the younger and swifter on foot, reached the bank of the creek a short distance in advance of the others, and to his surprise saw a canoe containing three Indians in the creek near the mouth of it. He shot the one in the stern as he dipped the paddle into the water to start the canoe out into the river from the shore. He fell into the water and at that moment Williams arrived and shot one standing in the bow, leaving one sitting in the center of the canoe. Jacob came rushing up and Kerr gave him his empty gun and took his gun and shot the Indian in the center of the canoe. In a moment their guns were reloaded and as the canoe drifted out with the current a man was seen lying in the bottom of it, a gun was raised when he called out, "Don't shoot, I am a white man." The last Indian was still clinging to the side of the canoe and he was told to loosen him. He answered that he could not as his arm was broken. The canoe drifted to some rocks just below the mouth of the creek and Wetzel waded to the shore but did not or could not draw the canoe to shore with him.
The white men did not cross the creek as it was too deep to wade without going up it quite a distance to find a shallow place and it was permitted to drift down the river.
The fourth Indian who was swimming the horses across the river had so far escaped their attention but was seen and one of the men shot at him. He was nearly half way across the river but the bullet splashed water on him. He saw the situation and slipped from the horse he was on and swam to the canoe that was floating down the river and paddled it to the north bank of the river and taking a rifle from it, he uttered a yell of defiance, mounted a horse and disappeared in the forest. Without the gun he would have had a good opportunity to have suffered hunger before reaching the Indian towns on the Muskingum River.
He shoved the canoe out into the river and it drifted more than two hundred miles with the three rifles and dead hog in it. It was found near Maysville, Kentucky.
In the year 1792, Indians became very troublesome in the Upper Ohio Valley, especially between Wheeling and Mingo Bottom. Numerous murders were committed and several families carried into captivity and many horses were stolen by them.
After one of their forays into the settlement in which a number of valuable horses were stolen, it was determined to pursue them and to make an attempt to recapture the horses and administer some punishment if possible.
A company consisting of John Wetzel, William McCullough, Joseph Hedges, Kinzie Dickerson, Thomas Biggs and William Lynn, with John Wetzel for leader, undertook the hazardous enterprise.
They crossed the Ohio River near where Steubenville now stands and proceeded in a northerly direction till they reached the old trail leading from Fort Pitt to Sandusky. They followed this trail past Fort Laurens till they reached an Indian town on Mohican Creek; there they saw the horses they were after. They lay hid all day and at night they got the horses and started home. They decided not to take the back trail as they feared pursuit, but turned to the southward and followed less traveled trails and crossed the Tuscarawas River at what is now Newcomerstown and reached Wills Creek, a branch of the Muskingum River near where Cambridge now stands.
The party reached this point in the evening of the second day after recapturing their horses. One of the men having been attacked with a sever cramp colic, they went into camp, as he could travel no farther at the time. A guard was detailed to watch the back trail as they were not certain that Indians had not followed them.
Late in the night the guard went to a brook near the camp and found muddy streaks in the water. He immediately returned to the camp and informed Wetzel of it. He was of the opinion that Indians were near but Wetzel said that raccoons or muskrats might have been wading in the water and caused the muddy streaks in it. Raccoons often travel along in the water in small streams in quest of crawfish which they eat and this was the reason Wetzel gave for the streaks in the muddy water. The guard was less vigilant after that and in less than an hour a volley was fired into the camp from behind the bank of the brook and the sick man was riddled with bullets.
The surprise was complete and the men ran from the camp without guns or blankets. In the attack three men were killed. They were Joseph Biggs, Thomas Hedges and William Lynn. The others made their way to Fort Henry suffering from fatigue and hunger.
Captain John McCullough, with a small force of men from the settlement at Wheeling, went to the scene of the disaster and buried the dead a few days later.
The Indians were a party of Munceys with some of the Moravians who had escaped murder ten years before and had joined the hostile Indians. They had been on an unsuccessful foray against settlements on the south side of the Ohio River and had accidentally stumbled upon the camp.
Not long after the return of the ill-fated expedition after stolen horses, John Wetzel and Veach Dickerson started on an expediiton into the Indian country near the head of Sandusky River. They started with the avowed purpose of bringing a prisoner home with them. They were dressed in Indian attire, not omitting the usual paint, and as they could speak Indian language to some extent they felt certain of some success. They reached an Indian town and found a path that appeared to be traveled considerably, and they concealed themselves near it awaiting for Indians to appear. A number of them passed during the day but in too large parties for them to attack. Late in the evening they saw two walking leisurely, talking and laughing, and thought that this was their opportunity. They approached the Indians who never suspected them and walked up to the Indians and spoke in very good language and with one stroke of his tomahawk Wetzel killed one of them, and at the same time Dickerson grabbed the other and threw him to the ground. After securely tying the Indian and scalping the dead one, they started homeward. They did not travel long on the war path toward Wheeling Creek but left it and followed devious courses, keeping on hard ground to make as few tracks as possible in order to avoid pursuit. They made fairly good headway until they crossed the Muskingum River, when the Indian began to give them trouble. They tried to pursuade him to go with them, promising him kind treatment, but to no purpose. He had decided to go no further and they tried the effect of a good hickory but it was of no use as he had resolved to go no further. He said that he would rather die there than to be taken to the settlement south of the Ohio River and there be tortured for the amusement of a large number of people. It was in vain that they insisted that he would not be hurt. He bowed his head and said that they might tomahawk him at any time as he would go no further. They tomahawked him and took his scalp and proceeded home somewhat disappointed as they were very anxious to return with a prisoner.
Jacob Wetzel was not behind any of his brothers in any daring deeds and was always ready for any hazardous enterprise or undertaking that anyone might suggest.
Once when he was in Kentucky, he and Simon Kenton decided to take a fall hunt near the mouth of the Kentucky River. They started at an early date in the hunting season for the hilly country that they might have as much of the season to hunt as possible. The region was near the Ohio River and consequently not far from Indian towns in the western part of what is now the state of Ohio.
They deemed it advisable to ascertain if there were any Indians there before they began to hunt and discovered signs of their presence and later saw smoke and heard guns in the direction of the smoke. They quietly approached the smoke till they discovered the camp. They lay hid near it the greater part of the day awaiting the return of the hunters, and late in the evening five Indians arrived at the camp and prepared their suppers and spent the evening hours, as was the custom of both whites and Indians, in telling stories and singing songs, not for a moment suspecting that two of the most daring of the Long Knives were near them.
Quietly and patiently did the two hunters await the approach of day for their attack upon the camp. Daylight came and the two hunters were behind a log ready for the opportune time for an attack. The Indians arose. The two fired, each at a man and two Indians dropped dead. Wetzel had a double barrel rifle and a moment later one more was pierced with a bullet and lay dead on the ground, leaving only two of the hunters. They started to the woods followed by the white hunters, yelling like demons, close behind them, but did not follow far before they overtook them and killed and scalped them, completing the destruction of the entire camp of hunters.
In October, 1790, Jacob Wetzel was at Fort Was1;lington where Cincinnati now stands, and engaged in his usual occupation-hunting. The country was covered with a dense forest of beech and maple trees with an undergrowth of spice wood and grape vines, making a remarkably fine hiding place for lurking Indians as well as an excellent resort for deer.
One day Wetzel went out to hunt as usual accompanied by his hunting dog. The success of the day compelled him to return to the fort for a horse upon which to carry his game as it was too heavy a load for him to carry. While on his way he sat down on a log to rest with his dog lying at his feet. While resting there he heard a rattle of leaves which caused the dog to growl. He silenced the dog which seemed conscious of danger. He sprang behind a tree and looked in the direction the dog's attention had been attracted and saw an Indian a short distance from him partly concealed by the trunk of a tree. The Indian had his gun in his hands ready for any emergency and appeared to be looking for danger, probably having heard the low growl of the dog. The dog now saw the Indian and barked aloud, giving notice of the presence of Wetzel. Both now raised their guns and fired at each other at the same time. The Indians' gun fell from his hands, the bullet from Wetzel's gun had struck his left arm and broke it at the elbow, while Wetzel was uninjured by the bullet fired by the Indian. Wetzel now rushed upon the Indian with his knife. The Indian warded off the thrust with such skill and force that he knocked the knife out of Wetzel's hand and threw it thirty feet from him. Wetzel attacked the Indian although his adversary had his knife in his right hand. He caught him about the body encircling the right arm while the Indian still held his knife in his right hand. They engaged in a doubtful struggle apparently with equal chances. The Indian struggled to get his right arm from the grasp of Wetzel while the latter was endeavoring to prevent him. In their struggle their feet became interlocked and both fell to the ground, the Indian being uppermost, which released his right arm from Wetzel's grasp. He was intending to use the knife while Wetzel was forcing him over on his right side to prevent him from using it. The Indian, with a yell, and an exertion of all his strength, turned Wetzel under him and was about to plunge the knife into him when the dog, which so far had only been a silent spectator, sprang upon the Indian, seized him by the throat with such force that the Indian dropped the knife from his hand. Wetzel now threw the Indian from him and before he had time to recover from the attack of the dog, he seized his knife and firmly planted his foot on the breast of the prostrate body of the Indian and plunged the knife to the hilt into the body of the Indian. He gave a shudder and lay still in death at the foot of the white hunter. Wetzel got his gun and that of the Indian and started for the fort and had not gone far when he heard the whoop of several Indians. He ran to the river and found a canoe on the beach near the water and was soon out of reach of danger of the Indians. The Indian he had killed was one of their bravest chiefs.