by Scott Powell, 1925
Contributed by Linda Fluharty.
ISAAC & REBECCA WILLIAMS Pages 75-80.
ISAAC & REBECCA WILLIAMS
ISAAC WILLIAMS, the hunter, scout, and one of the early settlers of the Ohio Valley, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in the year 1737. Soon after his birth they removed to Winchester, Virginia, then a frontier settlement. While Isaac was young his father died and his mother married a man by the name of Buckley.
Isaac, in his youth, took to the forest as a young duck does to water, and he did not abandon the pursuit of hunting and trapping and taking up land until he had passed the prime of life. At the breaking out of the French and Indian War in 1755, he was employed by the colonial government of Virginja as a scout and spy. He was then only eighteen years old, yet he was one of the best scouts of the day. He served in that capacity under General Braddock and was with him when his army was almost annihilated near the head of the Ohio River. He served in the campaign against the French and Indians in 1758 under General Forbes, and was with the army when it captured Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio. He was one of the guards that convoyed the first train of supplies and provisions to Fort Pitt for the garrison after the French had been driven out from the Key to the West. The road followed, or rather the path, followed by the pack train was through a country covered with thickets and in many places it followed ravines where Indians had the best of opportunities to attack the convoy. The supplies were then, and for many years after, carried on pack-horses. Isaac Williams was a scout and spy in the service of Lord Dunmore of Virginia in the campaign against the Indians in 1774.
After the peace made with the Indians by Colonel Bouquet in 1765, settlers from the east of the mountains began to settle on and along the waters of the Monongahela River. It is said that he was with Ebenezer and Jonathan lane when they visited the country about the waters of Wheeling Creek previous to settling there.
In the fall of 1767 he and two companions visited the regions of the Ohio River and spent some time trapping and started for their homes on the east side of the mountains late in December, and while passing through the glade country in the mountains one of the terrible snow storms that are common in the mountains overtook them and they came near losing their lives in the snow. It fell to a depth of more than five feet and for weeks they had to subsist upon the skins and pelts they carried with them. They singed the fur from the pelts in the fire and then boiled them in water made by melting snow, and subsisted upon this unpalatable food but it was that or death for the snow was too deep to hunt. One of the men sickened and died from exposure and bad and insufficient food. The weather became extremely cold and the other companion of Williams suffered from the cold and his feet were so badly frozen that his toes came off and he lay there two months before he was able to travel.
All the long and trying winter of storms and starvation, Williams exerted himself to obtain fuel and cared for his unfortunate companion. It was with the greatest difficulty that the dead man was buried beneath the snow. Williams would not leave the disabled man and make his way to a settlement lest the wild beasts would devour the man or he would die before he could hope to return. At last he recovered sufficiently to start home and with the greatest exertions they reached a settlement in a terribly reduced condition from the effect of exposure and starvation. Williams was so reduced that it required several months for him to regain his former strength.
In 1768 his parents removed to the waters of the Monongahela River under his guidance. They settled not far from Redstone Old Fort. His parents remained there and he continued in his favorite pursuit, hunting and trapping. He located some land on Buffalo Creek near where Bethany now stands.
He was one of the venturesome trappers and it is said that he, at the early date of 1770 descended the Ohio and ascended the Mississippi River as far as the mouth of the Missouri River and spent one winter trapping on a branch of it, returning in the spring with a valuable lot of furs.
He took up claims under what was known as tomahawk rights and made what was called a tomahawk improvement on the claim. The claims were often sold at a price amounting to less than ten cents per acre.
In the spring of 1775 he married Mrs. Rebecca Martin, widow of John Martin, a trader among the Indians, who was killed by Shawnee Indians on the Big Hockhocking River in 1770. Mrs. Martin's maiden name was Rebecca Tomlinson and a sister of the Tomlinson brothers who made the first Isettlement at the Flats of Grave Creek. In the latter part of the summer of the bloody year of the three sevens, as the old settlers called the year of 1777, he and his wife, with her parents, removed to Redstone, now Brownsville, Pennsylvania, and remained there until about the year 1785, or perhaps a year later, and then returned to their former home at Grave Creek, and it is said that the following year they removed to Wheeling to Fort Henry as it was not deemed safe to remain at their improvement at Grave Creek as there were many Indians prowling through the country and committing many depredations.
It was while his family was at Wheeling that he and Hamilton Kerr and Jacob, a German, came down to Grave Creek to visit his home and notice conditions that they were attracted to the mouth of Big Grave Creek by a shot fired by an Indian which killed one of William's hogs and resulted in the death of three Indians and the rescue of John Wetzel from captivity.
After Fort Harmer was built at the mouth of the Big Muskingum River and garrisoned with soldiers, he decided to remove his family to a tract of land belonging to his wife, on the east side of the Ohio River opposite the fort.
In the spring of 1787 he removed to the land, having previously visited it and erected a cabin. Considerable land had been cleared but it was then grown up with saplings and bushes but it was not long until he had quite a nice farm cleared and in cultivation. He gave up his favorite pursuit of hunting and trapping and spent the remainder of his life improving and cultivating the farm and enjoying the home life of peaceful pursuits. Their only child, a daughter, married a man by the name of Henderson, and died at the age of twenty leaving no issue. Mr. Williams died September the twentieth, 1820, at the age of eighty-three, respected by all who knew him. The city of Williamstown commemorates his name.
It is said that one year he raised quite a large and fine crop of well matured corn, while the crop was generally a very poor one and of very poor quality, the result of which was that good corn commanded an unusually high price, and he was offered some very high figures for what he had to spare from his abundance, but he refused to accept it, and gave as a reason that he did not intend to profit by the misfortune of his neighbors, showing that he was entirely devoid of any selfishness. He died beloved by his many neighbors who loved him for his many manly qualities.
Mrs. Rebecca Williams, nee Rebecca Tomlinson, daughter of Joseph Tomilson, Sr., and sister of Samuel, James and Joseph, the three brothers who made the first settlement at the Flats of Grave Creek, one of the most beautiful spots in the Ohio Valley, reflects honor on womanhood.
She was born at Wills Creek, Maryland, in the year 1754, and was a widow at the age of seventeen. She married John Martin while very young. Martin was a trader among the Indians and was on the Big Hockhocking with a man by the name of Harkness and two men from Pennsylvania in the year 1770, when they were attacked by Shawnee Indians. Martin and Harkness were killed by them while the two men from Pennsylvania were spared. The recollection the Indians had of William Penn saved their lives, so great was the respect for the memory of Penn and the Quakers.
When her parents and brothers removed to the Flats of Grave Creek she came with them and it is said that she was housekeeper for her brothers, Samuel and James, until she married Isaac Williams in 1775. While keeping house for her brothers she was often alone for weeks at a time while they were hunting and taking up claims. For keeping house for them they gave her four hundred acres of fine river bottom land opposite the mouth of the Big Muskingum River, where she spent many days of her useful life. Williamstown now stands on part of the tract of land.
In the summer of 1774, while her home was near the mouth of Big Grave Creek, an Indian entered the cabin one morning while she was blowing some coals to kindle a fire. She heard his steps as he entered the cabin and looked up and saw the warrior shake his tomahawk at her to keep silent. She apparently paid no attention to him and made no noise. He looked around the room for some time as if looking for something, when he took Samuel's gun from the hooks above the fireplace and went out of the cabin and left. She left the cabin and hid in a cornfield until her brother returned home a few hours later.
The same spring she visited her sister, Mrs. Baker, at Baker's Bottom, opposite Yellow Creek, not long after the murder of Logan's family. When the time came for her to return home after her visit, she stepped lightly into a canoe one afternoon, took up the paddle and started for Grave Creek. She paddled along till darkness settled down on the beautiful waters of the Ohio, when she paddled to the shore and tied her canoe to a willow and jumped to the shore and lay down in a thicket to await until the moon arose and cast her light over the slumbering waters, which would give here notice to resume her journey. The water being shallow at the shore she had to wade some distance to get her canoe clear of the shore, when the moon arose, so she could resume her journey. When she had cleared the shore and was about to step into the canoe her naked foot came in contact with the body of a dead Indian. She stepped into the canoe, took up the paddle and at an early hour the next day arrived home, having pad- dled the canoe about fifty miles from the middle of the afternoon of the previous day. In speaking of the Indian, she merely remarked that she was glad it was not alive.
Mrs. Williams was one of the women of the day who aided in fighting the great battles which were common to the early settlers. During the long and bloody war commencing in 1777 and not ending until the victory of General Wayne at Fallen Timber in August, 1794, women shared equally in the hardships with the men. In all the sieges of the different forts they did their part as well as the men. They engaged in moulding bullets, cooling and loading guns for the men and in not a few cases did they load them and shoot at the enemy with telling effect. Others were equally useful in caring for wounded and among those expert in caring for wounded, Mrs. Williams could be consistently numbered. One case is men- tioned in history when she and Mrs. Ebenezer Zane saved the life of a wounded man who was thought to have been! beyond the reach of medical skill.
While Mrs. Williams and her husband were at Fort Henry after they had returned from Redstone to their former home in the Flats of Grave Creek, on account of the presence of Indians; four men from the fort were up the river fishing one night; one of the party, Thomas Mills, was riddled with bullets. He was standing in front of the canoe holding a torch while two men were spearing fish and the other man was paddling the canoe. They were about a mile above Wheeling when some Indians fired at them, or rather at Mills, and fourteen bullets struck him. It was thought the amputation of a lower limb was absolutely necessary. There was no surgeon at hand nor within fifty miles of Wheeling at the time. One arm was also broken besides a number of flesh wounds.
Mrs. Zane and Mrs. Williams went to work and fairly encased him in poultices of slippery elm bark, which were frequently removed and the patient given a bath of hot towels just wrung out of hot water and the poultices renewed. Mills' life was not only saved but both his arm and leg, through the skill and persistency in the work. A physician afterwards, in speaking of the case, said that if Mills had been in the regular service he would most likely lost both of the limbs if not his life, and spoke very highly of the success of the two ladies.
Their treatment of gunshot wounds and similar injuries were to give the wounds frequent towel baths with hot water to reduce the temperature and apply poultices of slippery elm bark or jimson and change them frequently and keep them damp at all times to prevent irritation and keep the wounds clean so that nature could get in its work.
After ten years of exciting scenes of Indian war and almost thirty years of wild and exciting border life her husband thought that they would seek quietness from bloodshed and strife. They settled on her land opposite Fort Harmer and spent many years there surrounded by friends whom they drew to them by their amiable qualities and died surrounded by loving friends.