Typed by E. J. Heinemann.
Indian Depravations - Murders and Incidents
One of the most atrocious murders ever perpetrated by the savages in Ohio county was that on the family of a gentleman by the name of Purdy in the year 1789, who with his wife and four children had but a short time before settled in the county. It had been at least a year since any Indians had appeared in that portion of the county where they resided, and hence a degree of confidence prevailed which led to the belief that they had entirely abandoned the section, and this caused a feeling of security which under other circumstances would not have obtained. In the spring of this years, just after dark one night, a band of five Indians suddenly broke down the door, forced their way into the cabin of the family and mercilessly butchered the husband and attacked the wife, whom they left lying senseless, supposing she was dead, tomahawked one of the boys, and dashed out the brains of another. Two daughters were made prisoners and carried away captives. After plundering the cabin they hastily quitted the neighborhood and made with all possible speed for the river, which they crossed and successfully made their retreat.
Mrs. Purdy, who had only been stunned by the blow she had received soon recovered from it effect, but, apprehensive that the Indians were still in the vicinity, secreted herself in a thicket near at hand until morning, when she went to the settlement at Wheeling and gave the alarm, but too late to pursue the murderers. The girls were detained by their captors for a period of ten or twelve years before they were released, having in the meantime been well treated.
In the summer of the year 1791 a band of Indians entered the cabin of a person by the name of Martin, who was settled on a clearing near Wheeling, and murdered him and his family and burnt his cabin. When the news of murder reached Wheeling a party of eight or ten men, commanded by one Howser (a private in Captain Grant's company ), started in pursuit of the Indians. They had traveled a few miles without discovering any signs of the savages, when the espied a girl at a short distance from them descending a hill in their front. Howser promptly halted his men and made sign of amity to her, which appeared to assure her. Upon his approaching her she took from her bosom a small strip of paper which she threw toward him and then bounded away into the forest. He advanced and picked it up, and found written upon it the following warning: "Make your escape; the Indians are following and are on your trail." Howser and his men paid but little attention to the kindly warning, but continued their march in the direction of Baker's Fort, a few miles below Grave Creek. Before reaching it they were overtaken and fired upon by the savages. The sudden attack upon them produced some confusion in their midst, but they soon rallied and made a successful stand by keeping up a well-directed fire, which finally caused the Indians to retreat. On arriving at Baker's Fort they related the circumstances attending the reception of the note and the skirmish. It was subsequently learned that the note was written by a white man of the name of Watson, who was with the Indians, and by him given to the girl, who under his instructions proceeded to advertise the whites of their danger. It was generally believed at the time by those who were cognizant of the affair that the girl was a daughter of a Delaware chief friendly to the whites.
Among others who had settled on the waters of Wheeling Creek was a family of the name of Grindstaff, the head of which was a worthy person who by his industry and energy had converted a portion of the wilderness into a well-improved farm, the same known as the Buchanan farm, situated above the "forks of Wheeling." When the frequent incursions of the Indians in the neighborhood occurred he took the precaution to remove his family to Shepherd's Fort. He himself, however, from time to time, almost daily visited his farm to look after his improvements and to exercise supervision generally over his property, but at night always returned to the fort. In accordance with his usual custom he one day set out upon one of these visits, and remained later than usual in the day when he started on his return. No indications of the presence of Indians were visible, but he had not proceeded far when he was attacked by a party of Indians, lying in ambush, by whom he was killed and scalped. The firing attracted the attention of the inmates of the fort, a few of whom left to discover the cause of the alarm. They had not proceeded far in their search before they came across the body of Grindstaff lying in the trail where he had fallen. They took up the body and bore it to the fort, where it was interred the following day.
One of the most terrible murders perpetrated in this neighborhood occurred on the 1st day of May, 1791. Four sisters of the Crow family left home on the morning of that day with a view of visiting a couple of aged people who lived some eight miles further up Wheeling creek. Their brother was the father of the late Michael Crow, who resided on the farm of his father, which farm is still in possession of descendants of this family. He was a boy of fourteen. Prior to his sisters leaving home he had been sent up the creek on an errand, and as he was returning homeward, having performed his mission, he met his sisters, named respectively Elizabeth, Susan, Catharine and Christina. They were then not more than a mile from home. Halting his horse, he held a brief conversation with them, and urged Christina, the youngest of the sisters, to mount behind him and return home. She declined, and insisted upon accompanying her sisters. Finding that he could not prevail on her to abandon her sisters, he parted from them and the two parties pursued their different journeys. As soon as young Crow had gotten out of sight and hearing two Indians and a renegade white man by the name of Spicer sprang from behind a rock, where they had been lying concealed, and arrested the sisters, at the same time informing them that if they gave an alarm or attempted to attract attention by any demonstration they would meet with instant death.
Ascending the hill at the base of which the capture had occurred, a distance of some 200 yards, they compelled the girls to seat themselves on a fallen log, while they seated themselves beside them and plied them with questions as to their knowledge of the means of defense in the neighborhood, the number of effective men, etc. An Indian sitting between two of the youngest girls had a tight grasp on the wrist of each. From their significant gestures and looks and their conversation carried on in the Indian tongue, the girls gathered that they were discussing the disposition to make of their prisoners. The girls realized that no mercy was to be extended to them, that their deaths were determined upon, and that the result was imminent.
Christina, the youngest, a sprightly girl, formed a resolution that as death was to be her doom, she would at the first propitious moment make a break for liberty. Hence, while her captors were engaged in the heat of the discussion, and the vigilance of the Indian who had hold of her wrist was somewhat relaxed, with a sudden effort she withdrew it by a dexterous twist of her arm, and springing to her feet, bounded away, but she had taken but a few steps when she received a blow on the back with the butt end of a gun which her captor had snatched from the ground where he had laid it. The blow prostrated her, but for a moment only, when, promptly recovering herself, she sped down the hill to the bank of the creek and with swift feet hastened to her home.
As soon as she communicated the news of the capture and her extraordinary escape, the family made a hasty departure from their home and fled to Findley's Block House for shelter and protection. It being late in the evening when they arrived, no efforts were made that night to overtake the captors and their prisoners, but with the first streak of dawn on the following morning a party of rescue set out. Upon reaching the spot where the capture had occurred they followed the trail of the Indians for a short distance, when to their horror and dismay they found that the tragedy they apprehended had been accomplished. The oldest girl, Elizabeth, was still living, but was fatally wounded. A short distance from where she lay writhing in her pain were found the dead bodies of the two other sisters, Catharine and Susan. Elizabeth retained sufficient vitality to give an intelligent account of their surprise and capture, together with the details of the affair subsequent thereto, and the treatment which had been accorded them by their captors. She survived until the third day after the rescue, when she expired. The remains of the three sisters were buried on the farm hereinbefore mentioned.
Several years after the happening of this occurrence the renegade Spicer and one of the same Indians who was an actor in the cold-blooded murder of these unfortunate females, one day stopped at the house of the father of the murdered girls. The family had just sounded the horn for the noon repast and the father and several neighbors who had been engaged with him in felling trees were leisurely strolling toward the house, when an Indian and white man, each of them on horseback, passed them and reaching the house in advance of them, dismounted and requested a drink of milk. Christina, who at the time was busy in the kitchen lifting the dinner, heard the request, and looking in their direction caught sight of the visitors. At once she rushed after her mother, crying in anguished tones, "They are two of the men who killed my sisters; don't give it to them." Upon hearing which, the two quickly remounted and left before the men reached the house. Upon their arrival Christina related the circumstance and assured them that she knew Spicer and his companion and that she could not be mistaken.
Convinced by the positive assurances of the girl, on whose memory was photographed with fearful distinctness the identity of the actors on that occasion, the father and a person by the name of Dickerson left the table and withdrew to consult. The result of their deliberations was soon made manifest. Being well acquainted with the country, they determined to pursue them at once and took a route along the summits of the hills, by which they could gain both in time and distance and soon overtake them unless they had ridden at an unusually rapid pace. This they had done, for, being apprehensive that they would be pursued, they had pressed their animals to their highest speed. The pursuit was therefore lengthened to a greater distance than had been anticipated. But the spirit of revenge had been awakened in their pursuers, who determined not to give up the chase until all hopes of overtaking them had fled. Continuing on their course, they took advantage of every short cut and followed them to the dead of Wheeling Creek, where they discovered their fresh trail, which they followed down Dunkard's Creek to near the waters of the Monongahela. Here they lost the trail in the darkness, and camped for the night. On the following day, on returning along the stream, they found the lost trail of the night before, on exploring which they found where the pursued had camped the night before. Our informant states that they succeeded in eluding their pursuers and that nothing was ever heard of them more. But from another source, esteemed to be perfectly reliable and which we are disposed to accept as correct, comes the information that they did not effect their escape, for when Crow and Dickerson returned from the pursuit, when asked as to the result of their expedition, their replies were so formulated as to convey the impression that the pursuit had not been unattended with satisfactory results, and when pressed they would say in guarded terms that they were satisfied that "they will not trouble this section any more." The general opinion among their acquaintances was that they had succeeded in overtaking them, and that both Spicer and the Indian slept their last sleep, from which they would only awake at the sound of the resurrection trump. At all events, they were never seen or heard of more in that neighborhood or elsewhere, so far as any information at the time or since could be obtained.
The following account of the killing of William Cochran was furnished the writer by a gentleman cognizant of the facts. Cochran had settled near West Liberty on lands now owned by S. S. Jacob. It was customary to keep horses hobbled or belled. One morning, failing to hear the sound of the bells, Cochran sent one of his sons to the Block House at West Liberty, and two others of his sons were started out in search of the horses in one direction, while the father took a different one. This arrangement that they should pursue different courses was according to a plan understood between them. The boys soon discovered signs which led them to believe that the horses had been driven off by the Indians, and they at once started on the nearest route to the Block House, upon reaching which they gave an alarm.
It appears that the Indians had captured the horses and, wrapping moss around the bell clappers, had led them to a distance, but had placed six of their number in ambush to prevent pursuit by the whites. Not finding the horses, Cochran had started on his return toward the Block House, passing in the neighborhood of his house in the expectation of meeting with his sons on the way. Certain indications in the vicinity indicated to his practiced eye as a woodsman that Indians were in the neighborhood, and he started for the Block House at the top of his speed. The Indians started in pursuit of him, but he, being swift of foot, was rapidly distancing them, when a half-breed of the name of "Dolway Jim" suddenly dropped on his knee, and taking fatal aim, shot him while he was crossing a piece of rising ground. His remains were found and buried by a party from the Block House on the spot where he fell, about two miles south of West Liberty. His scalp had been taken by the Indians to their town, where it was flaunted in the face of "Billy" Boggs, who at the time was a prisoner. Boggs, having run the gauntlet successfully, escaped from his captors, and it was from them he learned the particulars of Cochran's murder, as narrated herein.
As indicating the views entertained by the settlers of that portion of the county known as "Middle Wheeling," we submit a copy of the original paper in its style and orthography:
Thomas Orr, David Hosack, Thomas Hosack, Samuel Moore, William Morrison, James Hosack, James McDonald, Andrew Hannah, Samuel Holmes, George Whitehill, William Bohanon, Robert McCoy, Ferdinand Moore, Thomas Harpon, William Hults, Andrew White, Devet Howell, William McCaskell, Robert Pendergast, George Knox, James Knox, James Steter, Hilian Sleater, Hugh McCutcheon, John Brice, William Porter.
During the same year Colonel Shepherd reported to Colonel Beard concerning Indian depredations in his vicinity, as appears in the following letter:
Sir: Last evening two Indians shot at a man with in one mile of my
house (at the Forks of Wheeling) and snapped at another in the night.
They have also taken two boys, sons of James Behanis living on Middle
Wheeling, one of which they have killed, the other has got in though he
is scalped and badly tomahawked. The spies inform me that there is
great signs of them on Captina and Stillwater. We expect nothing else
but a general onset: our people are generally moving to the forts, and
seem to be in great confusion. I shall give you every information as
early as possible, and am with respect your humble servant.
Col. Beard (Signed) David Shepherd
(Colonel Beard was lieutenant commandant of Washington county, Pennsylvania.)
During the spring of 1792 a scout by the name of Parron, who "forted" at Fort Vanmetre, on Short Creek in Ohio county, in company with his son-in-law, Abraham Cuppy, started on a scouting expedition on the Ohio side of the river: when overtaken by night they went into camp at the mouth of a run known as Parron's run, and which empties into Big Short Creek, camping under a large elm tree. During the night a party of Shawnees on their way to make an incursion into the settlements on the Virginia side of the river were attracted by the light of the white men's camp fire and surrounded them while they slept, and commenced firing upon them, with the result that Parron was shot in the hip, which disabled him to such an extent as to prevent him from making an effort to escape, and hence resulted in his capture. Cuppy, however, was more fortunate, and succeeded in making his escape by secreting himself beneath the roots of a large sycamore which grew upon the bank of the run. His hiding place was near enough for him to hear the conversation which occurred between Parron and his captors. The Indians were acquainted with his ability and courage as a scout, and determined that he must die, the majority favoring death by burning. Parron reminded them that he had always been an honorable enemy, and as a favor asked them to give him the tomahawk; whereupon his captors held a council, and after a lengthy deliberation concluded to grant his request, when the leader stepped toward the prostrate man and tomahawked and scalped him as he lay upon the ground unable to rise. They then continued their journey without making any search for Cuppy. He remained in his concealment until sufficient time had elapsed to place many miles between the savages and himself, when, venturing from his hiding place, he hastened with all speed to make sure his providential escape, hastening to Fort Vanmetre, where he made known the tragedy of Parron's death. The commandant of the fort instructed Cuppy to return to the scene of the killing with a sufficient number of men for the purpose of recovering and burying the body of his late companion. This they successfully accomplished.
Some eighty or ninety years subsequent to this event, some of Parron's descendants disinterred his bones that they might be interred in a more desirable resting place; upon examination they found the bullet which had disabled him imbedded in the hip bone. The ball is in the possession of one of his grandsons, who also possesses the buttons that were on his coat.
Some time during this year (1792) three young men, one of whom was the son of Capt. Van Swearingen, started on a hunting expedition. Crossing the river at a point opposite to the mouth of Short Creek, they went up the valley of the creek, hunting as they journeyed. For a long time no depredations had been committed by the Indians in the vicinity, and a feeling of security induced them to believe that no harm could befall them. It was a day full of sunshine, and Nature was arrayed in her loveliest garb; the woods were alive with the warblings of feathered songsters, it being a day which speaks in its quiet calm of peace and joy. But the soothing influences of the scene and hour were rudely disturbed and the fair picture was speedily changed into one of blood and death. They had penetrated along the banks of the creek but a short distance, when they were suddenly surrounded by a party of Indians, who fired upon them in rapid succession. The result was the killing of Van Swearingen outright and so disabling the others that they were dispatched with the tomahawk. Their friends subsequently recovered their mutilated bodies and gave them decent sepulture.
The following account of an attack by the savages on a party of residents of Ohio county, who had gone to Fishing Creek on a hunting expedition for elk, was obtained from one of the descendants of the Crow family, who lived on Big Wheeling Creek, and who a few years since resided on the farm occupied by his ancestor and his descendants for more than a century. In August, 1789, Frederick Martin and John Crow, in company with a person of the name of Davis, left their homes and journeyed to the proposed hunting grounds. Having reached their destination, they at once went into camp. On the evening of the second day, as Frederick and Martin, who had been out in search of game, were returning to camp, they were suddenly attacked by Indians. Frederick was shot in the left breast, the ball passing through his arm and severing the artery near the shoulder. At the same time Martin had a portion of one of his ears shot off.
Frederick, being seriously wounded and bleeding profusely, started to run, being closely pursued by the savages. He had covered a distance of three or four hundred yards, when, on looking back, he found that his pursuers were rapidly gaining upon him. Without hesitation he plunged into the water of the creek, which were waist deep, and waded through them to the opposite bank. Instead of following him they paused for a time at the water's brink. On reaching the opposite shore he looked back to see if they were following him, when one of the savages hurled his tomahawk at him, which came in unpleasant proximity to his head. Their guns having been emptied at the time of the attack, in their haste to follow him in his retreat they had failed to reload. However, during their brief pause one of them embraced the opportunity to reload, and they recommenced their pursuit, tracking him up the stream, the course of which he closely followed, to a point extending from the south side of the creek, with which they were familiar and where they confidently expected to cut him off and effect his capture. In this they were disappointed.
As the wounded man ran, he gathered the leaves of the sassafras, which grew in abundance, which he chewed into a mucilage and pressed into his wound, thereby stanching the flow of blood, the loss of which was beginning to enfeeble him. Upon again turning to look upon his pursuers he discovered a savage with a gun to his shoulder in the act of firing at him, but he eluded the deadly messenger by throwing himself upon the ground. Jumping to his feet, he picked up his rifle, and realizing that it was a race for life, he bent all his energies to the occasion, and in the rapidly gathering darkness he succeeded in eluding his pursuers and made good his escape.
Frederick and his companions had agreed upon certain signals to be used by them in case of emergency;---such as the hooting of an owl or the howl of a wolf,--by means of which they discovered each other, and together made their return to their home, except John, who, being absent at the time of the attack, is supposed to have hastened to the camp to learn the cause of the firing, and so became a target for the Indians. His body was afterward found, showing where five musket balls had entered so close to each other that the wounds could be covered with a palm of the hand. The third day after he was killed he was buried by a party of his neighbors under a beech tree, which served to mark his grave and on which in rude letters was cut his name, age and the date of his death.
Another incident of local character occurred shortly after the defeat of General Crawford in his unfortunate campaign against the Indians of the Northwest, which demonstrated the dexterity and skill of that famous Indian scout and ranger, Louis Wetzel. Both Wetzel and Capt. Thomas Mills, the latter living on Wheeling Creek, had accompanied Crawford on his disastrous campaign. On his return Mills had left his horse on the west side of the Ohio River near the present site of St. Clairsville, in Belmont county, distant about 11 miles from the present city of Wheeling. Securing the aid of Wetzel, Mills and his companion left Fort Henry to get his horse and bring the animal home. When within a short distance of St. Clairsville they came upon a band of 40 or 50 Indians, who were roaming through the country in search of stragglers from the army of Crawford. The Indians and white men discovered each other at the same time. Wetzel fired first and killed one of the savages, which shot was promptly returned by one of the latter. The Indians' fire struck Mills and wounded him in the foot, which prevented him from escaping, and the enemy soon overtook and killed him. Four of the Indians then threw down their guns and pursued after Wetzel, who at first succeeded in keeping quite a space between him and his pursuers. He was an expert in loading his rifle while running, and on this occasion this accomplishment served him well and was the means of saving his life. After running some distance one of the Indians was considerably in advance of his companions and was gaining on the scout, when Wetzel suddenly wheeled round and shot him down, turned and kept on in his flight, loading his gun as he ran. After running some distance further, a second Indian came so close to him that as he turned to fire the Indian clutched the muzzle of his gun and a tussle ensued for the possession of the same, in which Wetzel came off victorious and succeeded in killing his opponent. The pursuit was continued by the two remaining Indians, who now exhibited greater caution, for when Wetzel would turn to fire they would seek the cover of a tree. This continued for some time, when Wetzel determined to practice a piece of strategy, and made for a small piece of comparatively open ground. The Indians were not far behind him, as he had slackened his pace, when he suddenly wheeled and stopped with a view of shooting the leading Indian, who promptly jumped behind a small tree, which failed to cover his body, leaving a small portion of it exposed. Wetzel shot and wounded him in the thigh, which put a stop to further pursuit on his part. The last of the Indians gave a yell and exclaimed, "No catch dat man-gun always loaded!" and gave up the chase.
It was during the summer of this year that two boys residing at Fort Henry were sent out for the purpose of finding and bringing in some stray cows. For some reason they concluded that the cows had crossed the river to the west side. Jumping into a canoe, they paddled across and commenced a search for them. While so engaged they were surprised by three Indians, who in hiding had been watching them and by whom they were taken prisoners. The Indians at once set out on their journey, compelling each of the boys to carry a large bag, of which they had several in their possession. The bags were so heavy that it was with the greatest difficulty the boys kept pace with their captors, who would suffer no lagging on their part. From the weight of the bags the boys thought they were filled with gold. Urged as they were to their utmost speed, one of them at every chance opportunity would break off twigs to mark the way in which they traveled in case an opening should offer for their escape, and thus be enabled to find their way back. When night came on the Indians selected a camping place, and preparing to rest, first tied the hands and feet of the boys with strips of bark. They were then required to lie down between two of the Indians, who stretched a blanket over the bodies of the boys, upon the sides of which they laid themselves down, while the third Indian seated himself upon a fallen log to keep watch. Deering, the elder of the two boys, who was about fifteen, managed to disengage his hands from the thongs, and slyly drew a knife from the belt of one of the sleeping Indians, with which he succeeded in loosening his feet. Overcome with fatigue, the third Indian had braced his back against the trunk of a friendly tree, with his legs astraddle of the log upon which he sat. Whispering to his companion to lie perfectly quiet, Deering sundered the thongs which bound him. One of the Indians in his sleep had rolled over off the side of the blanket. With great caution they quietly arose, and Deering took the loaded rifle of one of their captors, and, placing it on a log in line with the head of one of the sleeping savages, gave it in charge of his companion, who was but thirteen years of age, and instructed him not to fire until he gave him the signal. He himself took a tomahawk and quietly approached the sleeping Indian who had been placed on watch; raising his tomahawk he buried it in the Indian's brains, then rushed to the two sleeping Indians, at the same time giving to his companion the signal to fire, and again wielded his tomahawk, striking it deep in the skull of his sleeping victim. The Indian at which the youngest boy had fired sprang to his feet, howling with rage and pain. The boys at once took to their heels, following the trail over which they had passed the preceding day as nearly as they could in the darkness, and succeeded in reaching the fort in safety, to the great surprise of their friends, who had given them up as being completely lost.
The relation of this adventure by the boys seemed to be so incredible that several of the scouts determined to ascertain the truth or falsity of it, and made preparations to visit the scene of the tragedy. A hunter who was present and heard the recital given by the boys, who stated in their narration that they believed the bags contained gold, was shortly afterward missing. This individual's conduct in the past justified a belief among the settlers that he was dishonest. The scouting party set out, and from the description given by the boys found no difficulty in locating the spot. There were found the bodies of the two Indians who had been tomahawked, and in pursuing their investigations they found concealed in an old hollow tree the third Indian, whose entire lower jaw had been shot away. He was barely alive when discovered, and they dispatched him. They then commenced a search for the bags, but an investigation of two or three hours failed to reveal them. On their return to the fort they found that the suspected hunter was still absent, which confirmed the belief that he had anticipated the visit of the scouts, and reaching the place ahead of them had secured the plunder and hidden it. At all events, some years later he became one of the largest land-owners and wealthiest settlers in this section of the country.
During the summer of the year 1783 we record the death of a noted Indian spy and hunter, John Neiswanger, a brother of Peter Neiswanger, one of the defenders of Fort Henry when it was besieged by the British and Indians in September, 1782. He had settled quite early on the waters of Little Wheeling Creek, having taken up a tract of 400 acres of land, now, or lately, owned by a family of the name of Stewart. At first he had erected a cabin on the north side of his land in close proximity to his boundary line, and had cleared two or three acres of timber in the immediate vicinity. When the troubles on the border increased, and danger became imminent, he resolved to change the location of his cabin, which he accordingly did, to the opposite side of his land. Under the shelving rock of a water-fall, in a ravine near his new location, he improved a natural cave, in which he "forted" in times of danger.
When he went on hunting or scouting expeditions he was accustomed to dress in complete Indian costume. One day, in company with one Joseph Heffler, an efficient and successful scout and hunter, he started down the Ohio River on a hunting excursion. Starting down the river in a canoe in the evening of the day they put into the mouth of Little Grave Creek with the intention of camping. A party of concealed Indians, who had been watching the movements of the two, during the night made an attack upon them. Neiswanger, who at the time was in the canoe, was killed outright, but Heffler succeeded in eluding the pursuit of the savages, with the loss of two fingers shot away at the time of the a ttack. While in pursuit of Heffler the canoe had become detached from its fastening and was swept into the stream by the current and floated down the river, and the savages lost the opportunity of scalping their victim. After the lapse of some weeks the canoe containing the remains of Neiswanger and also his gun were found lodged on the head of Captina Island, some miles distant from the scene of the catastrophe.
On a beech tree which grew about a half mile distant from the cabin of Neiswanger, which was cut down a few years since, there was plainly carved in a rude manner the initials "P.N.," with the date, together with the representation of a gun, a tomahawk and a pipe. They were doubtless carved by Peter, a younger brother of John Neiswanger, the same who, as before stated, was one of the heroic defenders of Fort Henry at the siege which it suffered in 1782.
A blood-curdling and harrowing incident which occurred during this year was the cold-blooded murder of the wife, the infant child and a daughter fifteen years of age, all of the family of John Van Meter. The wife and child were butchered in the door of their dwelling. The savages were probably aware of the absence of the husband and father at a house-raising. The girl was engaged in washing clothes at a spring a little distance from the house, and had on a sunbonnet, which prevented her from seeing the approach of the stealthy savage who tomahawked her while she was in the act of bending over the spring. When the Indians gathered around her prostrate form lying there in the rigidity of death, and gazed upon her mute but lovely countenance, even their stern hearts relented and lamented the sad result, saying, "She would have made a pretty squaw." The information of this expression of their regret at her taking off was communicated by the renegade Simon Girty, who was one of the party, to a prisoner, who, after his exchange, told it to the father.
Three of Mr. Van Meter's children-sons ---aged respectively eleven, eight and six years, were at the time playing in a field near the house, but discovered the Indians in time to attempt an escape, in which two of them succeeded, but John, the youngest, not being so active as his brothers, was overtaken while in the act of mounting a fence, and carried away by them. While these events were transpiring Mrs. John Spahr, a niece of Mrs. Van Meter, was on her way to visit her aunt. Upon nearing the house she observed the air to be filled with feathers, which aroused her suspicions that something was wrong, which were confirmed by closer observation, and convinced her of the presence of Indians. At once she grasped the clapper of the bell fastened to the neck of her horse, while she urged the animal to its utmost in an opposite direction, and was the first to convey the intelligence of the presence of the red men. After securing a quantity of bed-clothes and other articles they set fire to the house and departed with their plunder toward the river, and were safe upon the opposite side before any organized pursuit could be made to overtake them. The locality of this tragedy was on the farm now owned by Eugene Ridgely, situated on the waters of Short Creek, some four miles south-west of West Liberty.
Some time in the year 1803 a party of Wyandot Indians from the northern part of the state of Ohio were on a trading and hunting expedition to the southern part of the state, when they stopped at a trading post of which Isaac Zane was the proprietor, in the neighbor-hood of Columbus. Mr. Zane had for a number of years been a prisoner among the Wyandots and was versed in their languages and customs. While engaged in conversing with some of them in their own language, he was addressed by one of their number in broken English, who said, "Me John Van Meter." Upon inquiry by Mr. Zane an Indian volunteered to give information concerning him and to relate the circumstances attending his capture. After a time they left and pursued their journey. Mr. Zane was acquainted with the Van Meter family, and communicated with them, giving an account of the strange meeting with John Van Meter, for it was no other person than he, who had been captured by the Indians at the time of their murderous attack on the Van Meter family in the year 1873. He stated to them that the Indians contemplated returning in about six weeks, and they could meet him then at his post. Mr. Van Meter the father, was still living but was in a condition which prevented him from undertaking the journey, and he also entertained doubts whether it was really his son. So at the time the Indians were expected to return to Mr. Zane's he sent his two sons, with instructions that if it was their brother they were to urge him to return home and take up a civilized life. If they could not prevail upon him to return and remain permanently, they were to persuade him if possible to visit his old home. They arrived at the post about the same time that the Indians did, and saw John and were convinced of his identity, while he was convinced of the identity of his brothers, but it was with great reluctance and hesitation that he could be induced to accompany his brothers on their return. They represented to him that their father was a cripple, but that he was young and strong and could go to him. Moreover, they portrayed to him the pleasure it would give his aged parent to see him again. The efforts made by the brothers were seconded by Mr.Zane. As we have indicated, he finally consented. In the company were six or seven squaws, one of whom was john's wife, who when John's decision was made known to her, opposed it most strenuously until she was informed that she could accompany him, when her opposition was withdrawn. aCcordingly, they started for Virginia, John, his wife and two brothers. At night they went into camp, but on arising in the morning one of their number was missing. John's wife had decamped in the night. He was exceedingly vexed. The brothers urged him to continue on without her, but he sternly refused until he had practised an Indian formula which consisted in his collecting a bunch of twigs from wild spice bushes, sticking the twigs in the ground in the form of a circle, and kindling a fire within it ; then taking a pouch from his person which, he said, contained a powerful medicine, he sprinkled some of the powder in the flames, indulging in mysterious mutterings the while, accompanied by strange movements and gyrations during all the time hovering over the flames, while his dilated eyes appeared to burst form their sockets. Suddenly, assuming an erect posture and straightening himself to his full stature, he announced that his wife would reach her party in safety, but that her feet would be very sick. After this mysterious performance he announced his readiness to proceed, and in company with his brothers cheerfully continued the remainder of the distance without further reluctance. His visit to his father extended over a period of several weeks, but he resisted all appeals to abandon his savage life.
While he seemed much gratified in meeting his father, and apparently enjoyed his visit, yet his restlessness and anxiety became so pronounced that he could not longer restrain his instincts, but, yielding to their influence, he surprised them all one day by suddenly exclaiming "Good-by," and bounded away at the top of his speed. In two or three years after his unceremonious departure he made another visit to his early home, remaining on this last occasion five or six weeks, at the end of which time he again took his departure in much the same manner he did on the first occasion. In the interval of these visits his father had died. This was his last visit, for shortly after his return to his tribe he also died.
Several years after the murder of his wife, John Van Meter, Sr., married the widow of Mr. John Beckey, an early emigrant from New Jersey to this portion of Virginia, Mrs. Beckey had four daughters by her first marriage, namely: Mary, Marcy, Jemima and Susan. Mary, the eldest, became the wife of Maj. John McColloch, a brother of Maj. Samuel McColloch, the border scout and hero of the famous leap. Marcy, the second daughter, married Col. Harmon Greathouse, a noted frontiersman, and resided in Lexington, Kentucky. Susan, the third daughter, married John Rolland, who resided at West Liberty, Ohio county, Virginia. Jemima, the fourth daughter, married Rev. Joseph Doddridge, the celebrated author of "Notes of Western Virginia." One child was the issue of Mr. Van Meter's second marriage, whose name was Sarah,--she married the late Robert Patterson, of Wheeling Virginia.
In the spring of the year 1785 the settlers were seriously menaced by the Indians, who made their incursions much earlier than was their custom. Many of the settlers with their families resorted to the fort at Wheeling and the private forts above and below that post for greater protection. Others, however, remained on their clearings, prepared at the first alarm to vacate them. It was in the spring of this year that two boys went out one morning for the purpose of catching horses which were needed at Shepherd's Fort. One of the boys was John Wetzel, aged about seventeen years, the son of John Wetzel, Sr., and brother of Lewis Wetzel. The other was a lad slightly younger than John Wetzel. One of the animals they were instructed to bring in belonged to a sister of young Wetzel, and was a mare with a young foal. This foal she had given to her brother some time prior to this. While engaged in their search for the horses they ran into the midst of a party of Indians who had captured the horses and placed them in a thicket, expecting that the sound of their bells would attract the attention of their owners, whom they would then ca pture. The boys were attracted by the tinkle of the bells to the place where the Indians lay concealed, rejoicing that they had experienced so little difficulty in finding the horses, when they were at once seized by the Indians. John, however, made some resistance, in which he had succeeded in breaking away from his captor, and was making his escape, when he was shot through the arm and was retaken.
The party directed its course to the Ohio River. John's companion indulged in such grievous crying, and was so loud in his lamentations and groanings, that the Indians tomahawked him and left his body where it had been stricken down. This was not the first time John had been taken a prisoner by the savages. Once before he had been captured, but had succeeded in making his escape. His wounded arm caused him great pain, yet he kept up his spirits and wore an air of cheerfulness which was apparently approved by his captors. About noon of the same day they reached the river at a point near the mouth of Grave Creek, and but a short distance from the cabin of Mr. Tomlinson, which at the time was deserted on account of the unsettled and threatening condition of affairs on the border, Mr. Tomlinson with his family having removed to the fort at Wheeling for the time being. Here finding some of Tomlinson's hogs straying about, they killed one of them and put it into a canoe which they had secreted when they crossed the river on the occasion of their raid on this side. Three of the Indians, together with their prisoner, got into the canoe, while the other Indians engaged in swimming the stolen horses over the river.
On that day three individuals, viz., Isaac Williams, Hamilton Carr and a German by the name of Jacob, were looking after the stock which had been left at the deserted settlement, having journeyed from Wheeling for that purpose. While at the mouth of Little Grave Creek they heard the report of a rifle, when Williams exclaimed, "Dod rot'em, a Kaintuck boat has landed down there at the creek and they are shooting my hogs." Quickening their steps, in a few minutes they reached the vicinity of the creek, when they heard a horse whinney. Carr, who was a much more active and younger man than Williams, was some distance in advance, when, on looking down the creek, he saw three Indians in a canoe, one in the stern, one in the middle, and one in the bow. On the bottom of the canoe were four rifles and a dead hog. A fourth one was swimming a horse across the river and was but a short distance from the shore. The Indian in the stern of the canoe had just put his paddle in the water to shove the canoe further out into the river, and when he made the movement Carr drew his rifle to his shoulder and shot the Indian, who fell overboard into the water. Just as Carr fired, Williams reached his side, and shot the Indian in the bow of the canoe, who also fell overboard. Jacob, the German, then came up, and Carr, handing his empty rifle to Jacob, took the German's and shot the third Indian, who occupied the middle of the canoe. In falling overboard he grasped with one hand the side of the canoe as he arose. So astonished was the last Indian at the fate of his companions that in his dazed condition he did not attempt to take up one of the rifles lying in the bottom of the canoe by way of defense. The canoe, being now caught by the current, was carried out into the river and floated some distance below the mouth of the creek. Carr observed another person lying in the bottom of the canoe, and, having loaded his gun, raised it and was about to fire when the recumbent individual arose and cried out, "Don't shoot: I'm a white man." He was told to loosen the grasp of the Indian's hand, and replied that he could not, as his own arm was broken. The current bore the canoe near some rocks not far from the shore, on which he jumped and then waded to the land. Carr now took a shot at the Indian on horseback, who by this time was quite a third of the way across the river. The shot struck near, splashing the water over him. Seeing the fate of his companion, and recognizing the fact that his own life was at stake, he slipped from the back of his horse and bravely swam toward the abandoned canoe, in which were the four rifles. The white men were on the upper side of the creek and the canoe was below. To cross the creek the white men would have to go some distance up the same to find a fording place, which would consume time. The Indian gained possession of the canoe and succeeded in reaching the opposite shore, when with a wild whoop and a yell of defiant anger he made his escape into the forest. The canoe was turned adrift by him, and was not caught until it had floated 200 miles below the scene of this affair. When found the carcass of the hog was still in it.
In the early spring of 1789 two Indians suddenly appeared at the cabin of a Mr. Glass, who resided in that part of Ohio county now included in Brooke county, the first discovery of the red men being made by a negro woman, who in great terror ran into the cabin, where Mrs. Glass was engaged in spinning, exclaiming, "Indians! Indians!" Mrs. Glass promptly jumped up, and running to the door was met by an Indian with his gun leveled at her. She grasped the muzzle, and pushing it to one side, plead with him not to kill her. Entering the cabin, he was joined by the other Indian, who had the negro woman and her son, four or five years of age. Selecting some articles of clothing, they departed with their prisoners-Mrs. Glass and her little boy, two years of age, the negro woman and her boy and her infant child. They had proceeded but a short distance when they stopped and held a consultation. From their gestures and their continual pointing toward the children, it was evident that they were deliberating about them: where-upon Mrs. Glass placed her little boy in front of them and asked that his life might be spared, and added: "He will make a fine Indian chief after a while." With a motion they waved her to one side, and one of the Indians struck the negro boy on the head with the pipe end of his tomahawk, knocking him down, and with his tomahawk gave him a blow across the back of the neck, and after scalping him left him lying there. On reaching the river they raised a sunken canoe, which had been concealed by them, and after emptying it of water, got into it and paddled to the mouth of Rush run, about five miles below Wellsburg, on the opposite side of the river, where they landed and went up the run and encamped for the night. During the entire night the black woman bemoaned in audible tones the death of her child, which so exasperated the savages that they threatened, if she did not desist, that they would dispatch her also. in the early morning they hurried off with their prisoners, halting in the afternoon on Short Creek about 25 miles from the mouth of Rush run. Here was a depot of articles which they had carried away from Van Meter's, the members of whose family they had so ruthlessly murdered. This plunder had been deposited in a hollow tree. This spot had before this been used by them as an encampment, and was in the midst of a grove of sugar trees. Here they built a fire and put on a kettle, in which they placed a turkey killed by them on the way. Tapping the sugar trees, they filled the kettle with the sap and proceeded to boil the turkey.
At the time of the appearance of the Indians at his cabin, Mr. Glass was absent with a companion in a field a half mile distant from his cabin, and knew nothing of what had transpired until his return home at the noon hour. Unable to account for the absence of the family, he visited several scattered cabins in search and then went to Wells' Fort, where he secured ten men to aid him in his search. Early on the following morning, having satisfied himself that the depredators were Indians, he discovered the tracks where they had embarked. The track of his wife was discovered by her husband from the impression made by her shoe, the point of its high heel identifying it. Crossing the river, they followed the shore until they came to the mouth of the run up which the Indians had proceeded. Some of the party, as they had failed to discover any signs of Indians, proposed to turn back and cease to prosecute the search farther. The importunity of Mr. Glass, however, prevailed upon them to go as far as the mouth of Short Creek, which was but a few miles away. Upon reaching the mouth of the run they found the canoe in which the Indians with their prisoners had crossed the river. This fact was established by the precaution which had been adopted by Mrs. Glass. An Indian had carried from the cabin papers belonging to her husband, which on the way down he threw into the stream. Some of these were picked up by Mrs. Glass under the pretense of giving them to her child to amuse him. These had been carelessly dropped in the bottom of the canoe. These dumb witnesses gave evidence that they were on the right track, and, searching the ground in the vicinity, they soon discovered the trail of the savages. Within an hour or so Glass and his companions sighted the camp. Their object was by a sudden attack to surprise the Indians and thus prevent them, by a prompt move, from killing their captors. Hence, approaching stealthily until within a few yards of the camp, they concealed themselves.
The son of Mrs. Glass had been engaged in trying to pour the water from a sugar trough, but she, perceiving his inability to do so without her aid, had gone to his assistance. The negro woman was sitting apart from her captors, who were curiously examining a garment they had stolen: upon turning their faces toward where the whites lay concealed, awaiting a favorable opportunity to attack them, the latter, supposing that they were discovered, at once discharged several of their guns, and, rushing upon the savages, shouted at the top of their voices. One of the Indians, who was wounded by the fire of the whites, fell, at the same time dropping his gun and pouch. Recovering himself, he ran a short distance, when a second shot brought him to the ground. Having accomplished their purpose, the rescue party started on the return, reaching the fort at Beech bottom that same evening. At the first fire the other Indian had run a short distance beyond where Mrs. Glass was standing, thus placing her in a direct line between him and the whites. His life was saved, as the white men could not fire at him without endangering the life of the woman.
Some time in the "eighties" information was received by James Marshall, lieutenant commandant of Washington county, Pennsylvania, of an apprehended attack by the Indians on Fort Henry. He deemed it sufficiently authentic to justify him in communicating the news to the military authorities of Ohio county, and therefore dispatched Henry Baker, Lewis Yoho and one Stalnaker to warn them to be on their guard. Proceeding on their mission, they had succeeded in reaching a point near the mouth of Woods run, about two miles from the fort, when they were intercepted by a party of Indians in ambush, who fired and killed Stalnaker. Baker's horse was shot under him, and in falling imprisoned his leg by falling upon it, he being unable to disengage his foot from the stirrup, and he was captured. He had, however, returned the fire of the Indians, killing a brother of the chief. Yoho succeeded in effecting his escape. The savages, exasperated at the killing of one of their number, sought to slay Baker, and would have done so, but the chief interfered and prevented them, claiming him as his prisoner. The chief spoke broken English. Baker was carried by them to Chippewa Plains, where they proposed to put him to the torture and burn him at the stake. In one of their raids the Indians had, a short time prior to this, captured nine Kentuckians.
A council was held to decide the fate of the prisoners, and it was resolved that one should be burned on each successive day until the whole of them were disposed of, reserving Baker to the last, he being the youngest. The programme was strictly followed and each day Baker saw one of the Kentuckians led to the stake and suffer the most horrible tortures which Indian ingenuity could invent, while the flames kindled upon their victim, the savages meanwhile dancing and yelling around him as the flames leaped in angry tongues over his body and licked the roasting flesh from his bones. Thus day by day he was reminded of his own end. The day for his immolation at last arrived, and he was required to prepare himself for death. As he was being led forward to the fatal stake, he saw in the distance a horseman advancing at rapid speed, whom, drawing near, he discovered to be a white man, and although it was not until the man arrived upon the scene that he identified the stranger, yet his despairing heart, for no other reason than that the one just arrived was a white man, began to have a faint hope, that throught the white man's instrumentality he might possibly be relieved from his perilous situation. Hence he lingered and delayed until the arrival of the horseman, who proved to be none other than Simon Girty. Baker was well acquainted with him, having met him often. On recognizing the prisoner, Girty at once interposed in his behalf, and for an hour plead with all his eloquence and used every argument he could command to save the life of the captive. His efforts were not in vain, and his influence preserved Baker's life. After the release of Baker he was closely questioned by Girty concerning points on the border, and in particular concerning Fort Henry, its condition means of defense, who was in command, and such information was sought as would prove most useful and important. He was retained as a captive about one year, when, owing to the influence of Girty, he was sent to the British commandant at Detroit, who retained him two years longer, when he was freed and permitted to return, making his way from Detroit to Fort Henry on foot. On the occasion of his return a number of settlers from the Virginia side of the river were gathered on the Island engaged in sugar making. As he was seen approaching, being clad in Indian costume, an alarm was given that the Indians were upon them, and without stopping to investigate they stampeded to their canoes and made for the opposite side of the river, where they aroused the inmates of the fort with the alarming intelligence. In the meantime Baker had reached the shore of the island, and was trying to reassure those on the opposite side by calling to them to come over and help him: that he was a white man who had been a prisoner at Detroit and was returning to his friends. Convinced that he was what he represented himself to be, they responded to his appeals and went to his aid. He died in the year 1847 or 1848, at his home opposite the head of Captina Island, at the advanced age of one hundred years, leaving surviving him six children, two girls and four boys, all of whom are now deceased.
After the defeat of General St. Clair, it was found necessary to organize another army to reduce the savages to submission. But it is not our purpose to give a detailed account of the events which followed this disastrous campaign, as to do so would be foreign to our purpose, which is to confine ourselves to the relation of events and incidents as connected with the history of Ohio county. As a matter of general history, however, we may be permitted to remark that the campaign conducted by Gen. Anthony Wayne ended in the complete overthrow of the Indian forces and the triumph of the American arms. The results of the victory were secured by the subsequent treaty entered into at Greenville on August 3, 1795, by which the Indians gaave up and extensive tract of country south of the Great Lakes and west of the Ohio River, comprehending in all about four-fifths of the present state of Ohio. This was the close of the Indian wars on our borders, and now for the first time this section really enjoyed peace and quiet.
THE BIGGS FAMILY
One of the notable families living here at the time was the Biggs family, in which were six sons, all of whom became distinguished for their brave and adventurous characters. They were named respectively Benjamin, William, Joseph, John, Thomas and Zaccheus. All of them were more or less known among the early settlers as Indian fighters and as bold and successful scouts. Benjamin was commonly designated as "General" Biggs. He had been a captain in the Revolutionary war, where he had won distinction by his courage and devotion to the cause of independence, and had been promoted at the age of twenty-three to the command of a company. After the close of the war he became prominent as an Indian fighter. He was in his seventy-first year at the time of his death, which occurred at West Liberty on the 2nd day of December, 1823. His remains were buried in the old cemetery of that town. His tombstone bears the following inscription:
Joseph, called "Captain" Biggs, was in command of Kirkwood's cabin when it was besiged by the Indians. This cabin was situated on the Ohio side of the river of that name. He defended it successfully against a large number of the savages, who attempted to destroy it by setting it on fire and driving out the inmates.
William Biggs settled in Illinois about 1787 or 1788, where he was taken prisoner by a party of Kickapoo Indians. After his capture he was adopted into the tribe, and was treated with great kindness and consideration. He remained with them for three years, when he was ransomed along with other prisoners at Detroit. At the time of his capture he was on horseback, and was journeying toward the French settlement of Kaskaskia. As he was pursuing his way a shot from the rifle of a concealed foe struck his horse, which was followed by three other shots in quick succession, all of which took effect on his horse, causing its death. At the moment of attack he was leaning forward, and as his horse fell he was thrown with great force, and for a moment was dazed by his fall, but only for a moment. On arising he lifted his overcoat, which had been slung across his saddle, and put it on, over it placing his powder horn. He then started to run, but finding his progress greatly impeded by the weight of his coat, he made futile attempts to remove it, which he was prevented from accomplishing by the belt of his powder horn. Seeing that the pursuing Indians were rapidly gaining upon him, and that all hopes of escape were hopeless, he resolved not to be slain while running; he suddenly stopped and prepared to meet the worst, but his life was spared. After his return from captivity he wrote an account of his experiences, which was published in pamphlet form, but none of the copies are now extant. One of these experiences was given to the writer many years ago by an old settler, who at one time had a copy of the same, which was substantially as follows: A young squaw became smitten with him, and so pronounced were her attentions that they attracted the notice of some of the members of the tribe. His captors proposed that he should take her to wife, but having one already, he declined the offer. When he was about to be removed from the village to another, the dusky ma iden protested against it. But his captors started with him at a rapid lope, followed by the squaw, who as she followed was provoked by the ridicule of the savages, which they continued until they reached their destination. That evening he found her at the door of his cabin, surrounded by the Indians, who were engaged in taunting and teasing her with her want of success. Notwithstanding he was urged by the warriors to take her to wife, he persistently refused to do so. She remained for several days and nights in the hope of overcoming his scruples and obtaining his consent to wed her, but in vain. He described her as a splendid girl, about eighteen years of age, with fine chiseled features, a full and rotund figure, and a complexion almost white.
John Biggs was one of the guides and scouts who accompanied General Crawford in his unfortunate campaign against the Indians of the Northwest, and fell a victim to their savage fury at the time of that commander's defeat.
About the year 1832 Capt. John Biggs made his last visit to West Liberty. At the time he was a resident of Monroe county, Ohio. He came on a visit to his relatives and friends, and stopped at the house of Allen Biggs, who at the time kept an inn in the village, but who, on the occasion of his visit, was absent from home on business, having left the inn during his absence in charge of a young man whom Mrs. Biggs instructed to give to the visitant the best liquor in the house, and as often as he called for it, which instructions were faithfully followed by the young man. After indulging in two or three drams Biggs walked out to the front porch of the house, and shrugging his shoulders (a habit common to him and which he unconsciously indulged in at all times when speaking), he turned to the young man, and pointing in the direction of Wheeling, he remarked: "I have been in seventeen fights and engagements at different times between here and Wheeling." He then inquired for an old friend of his and the direction to his house, with whom he spent several hours in recalling past events and reviving old memories. He died in the year 1833 or 1834.
Thomas Biggs, another brother, was killed by the Indians on the Tuscarawas while engaged on a scout.
Zaccheus Biggs was in the employ of the government as a surveyor, and lived and died in Steubenville, Ohio. He surveyed the first quarter section of land in the present state of Ohio. It was made near to the present city of Steubenville, Jefferson county, Ohio. Before leaving Ohio county he entered one of the finest pieces of land in the county, which had escaped the keen search of his generally wide-awake neighbors, and which eventually proved to be quite a valuable "find." Some of the descendants of this remarkable family are still living in the vicinity of West Liberty.
THE SPRIGG FAMILY
The ancestor of this family, Zachariah Sprigg, was one of the early settlers of West Liberty and Ohio county, and was a man of prominence and influence in the affairs of the county. For several years he kept an inn at West Liberty, but after the removal of the county seat to Wheeling he removed to the same place and conducted a hotel on the site of the Windsor Hotel. The family originally came from Maryland, near the city of Baltimore. Zachariah had two sons, James and Samuel. James died in 1833, leaving no issue, we believe. Samuel Sprigg, the brother of James, was a man of medium height, weighing somewhere between 160 and 180 pounds, and had a sandy complexion, a reddish beard and light hair. He was strong and compactly built and was quite active and energetic, and of a highly nervous temperament. In disposition he was kind hearted and generous, and hence was very popular. He had studied the profession of the law, in the practice of which he was highly successful and occupied a distinguished position as an advocate. His sympathies in behalf of his clients were always fully elicited, and to so great an extent was this the case that his feelings frequently overpowered him during the trial of a case and he would give way to a flood of tears in the midst of his impassioned appeals. He died in 1843 from the result of a mistake in administering to him a wrong dose of medicine. It appears that he was suffering from an attack of influenza, then commonly known as the "Tyler grip," which in itself was then seldom of so serious a nature as to be fatal to those attacked by it. His physician had prescribed for him some ordinary dose, but by some inadvertence his attendants mistook the medicine and unwittingly gave him a dose of morphine, under the effects of which he slept his life away. At the time of his death he was sixty-odd years of age. According to our information, he left three children surviving him, all females, viz.: Amelia, Belle and Elizabeth.
Amelia married a gentleman by the name of Joseph Vance, a lieutenant in the United States army. During the exciting campaign of 1840 he with his father-in-law had gone on an electioneering tour in the eastern part of Ohio, andon their return, while descending a steep hill in the vicinity of Steubenville, he persisted in remaining in the carriage, against the remonstrance of Mr. Sprigg, who had descended from the carriage, when the horses, which were young and spirited, became frightened and unmanageable, and dashed down the declivity at the top of their speed, destroying the carriage and killing the lieutenant. Subsequently his widow married Dr. Campbell, a distinguished physician and beloved citizen, who held many honorable positions in public and private life, and who died a few years ago at a ripe old age, lamented by a large circle of friends and acquaintances. Belle, another daughter, married another gentleman bearing the name of Campbell, with whom she removed to the South. Elizabeth married a Dr. Chapline, a former citizen of Wheeling, now deceased.
Mr. Sprigg was an extensive land- owner, and among his other possessions owned a fine farm consisting of some 700 acres situated about four miles from Wheeling, on what is known as the Bethany pike, which was highly cultivated by him. He was a large sheep raiser.
Besides a few of the names already casually mentioned, there were others who, if our limits permitted, are entitled to more than a passing notice. Some among those who were pioneers in what is styled the "Short Creek" country, and who at an early day made improvements and opened farms in the section named, were Curtis Morgan, John Wilson, the McCollochs, Harrises, Hearts and Bairds. These persons located in the neighborhood at nearly the same period.
James Curtis improved what was subsequently known as the Hugh Mitchell farm, lately owned by William North, Sr., deceased, also the farm about two miles and a half east of West Liberty, on which he lived for a number of years, and where he died. He raised a family of ten children, namely: Salathiel, Susan, Fanny, Nancy, Rachel, Sally, Elizabeth, Alice James and John. Salathiel was one of the early lawyers who practiced in the courts of western Virginia. He was a man of fine intellect, and ranked high in his profession. He died at the age of eight-six, honored and respected by all who were privileged to possess his acquaintance.
About the year 1772 Samuel McColloch, a noted Indian scout, who "forted" at Fort Vanmetre, who was killed in the summer of 1782 while on a scout, and John Wilson each took up a tract of land lying on Short Creek. Mr. Wilson immigrated to this section from the state of New Jersey, his first visit being made about the year 1771, after which he returned to his home east of the mountains and returned with his bride, Rebecca. Before returning east he had erected a cabin as a home for the reception of his companion, who was a refined and gentle woman and unused to the rough life of the backwoods. When they arrived in sight of their home, in pointing it out to her, he remarked: "There, Beckey, is your future home." For a moment she felt a pang of keen disappointment, as the memory of her maternal home was pictured to her mind, but she made no reply nor manifested any regret, but with quiet resignation acquiesced in the lot which had been assigned to her. Her wifely devotion and heroic fortitude in the hour of peril and danger which she was called upon to encounter has embalmed her memory and kept it fresh and green throughout all generations of her offspring.
About this time Mr. Wilson planted a pear tree on his farm, which grew and flourished, and which for more than a century continued to bear fruit. It stood until a few years since, and its branches continued to be fertile and productive. But a few years ago an ignorant laborer ruthlessly cut it down, not being aware of its value and the interesting associations which clustered about it.
The tracts of land located by Maj. Samuel McColloch and John Wilson, as well as the tracts taken up by Abraham and John McColloch, are still owned and occupied by their descendants, and they are among the finest and most fertile and productive farms in the county.
James Baird improved where Bethany College now stands, and William Baird where Col. Alexander Campbell recently resided. Both of the Bairds subsequently removed to the state of Ohio.
Gen. Benjamin Biggs improved the farm situated on the hill to the south of West Liberty, now belonging to the heirs of Josiah Atkinson, and his brother, John Biggs, improved the farm west of West Liberty known as the Robert Bonar farm, the same where James Smith and Mrs. Julia Curtis resided. Shortly after opening this tract John Biggs was killed by the Indians at the time of Crawford's defeat, when it came into the possession of his brother Benjamin.
Robert Curvey improved where the late John Wayt lived, now owned by Theodore Wolf, and Benjamin, Pyatt the farm where James Wayt lived. Joseph Ogle improved where Alexander McCoy lately lived, one mile southeast of the town of West Liberty, on the road to West Alexander.
The farm owned by the late James McMurray was improved by Robert Agars, who was slain by the Indians on lands owned by Mrs. Howard in the year 1791. He was the last man to fall a victim to savage cruelty in Ohio county.
The farm owned by the Yates heirs was improved by Matthews Houston, who was also killed by the Indians. His brother, Robert Houston, improved the farm belonging to John Faris.
It may not be uninteresting to call attention to the longevity of some of these early settlers, whose names and memories alone remain and even these are being rapidly obliterated by the flight of time and the indifference of the present generation to preserve them unimpaired.
R. Mazingo died at the age of ninety years and six months, and his wife at the age of eighty-seven years. J. Atkinson died at the age of eighty-seven years, Mrs. Wiedman at the age of eighty-nine, Mrs. Lewis at the age of eighty-three, Mrs. Armstrong at the age of eighty-five, Mrs. Taylor at the age of eighty-two, Mrs. Standiford at the age of eighty-nine, Thomas Martin at the age of eighty, William Martin at the age of seventy-nine, Mrs. Steele at the age of eighty, John Curtis at the age of ninety-three, Mrs. Bonar at the age of eighty-two, George Bonar at the age of eight-three, Susan Edgington at the age of eighty-one, Mrs. Smith at the age of seventy-nine, Mrs. Mitchell at the age of seventy-nine, and Jane, a colored woman, at the age of eighty-six. These are a few among many more which might be selected, but these are enough to establish the character of the country for health-fulness and longevity.
In the old cemetery of the town of West liberty there are 51 graves which we have selected at random, the occupants of which each lived until over eighty years of age, and 37 of them at the time of their death were between eighty and ninety years of age. Were "Old Mortality" to visit this ancient cemetery he would find ample scope for the exercise of his funeral talent.
The early settlers were a fun-loving and jolly set, as we shall see hereafter. They were fond of perpetrating jokes on one another and engaging in drinking bouts, and in the pastime of horse racing. The last named was one of their chief amusements. On court days nearly the whole country would gather at West Liberty, and frequently the crowd would amount to as many as 2,000 souls, as this day was looked upon by them as a gala day. Trials of speed between fast horses would be indulged in, and bets of larger or smaller sums would be wagered on favorite animals. So prevalent was the habit of betting on these occasions that some would even bet the clothing on their backs when they had no money to gratify their propensity. It seems almost incredible that some of the stories which have been recounted of the prevalence of this vice could be true, but being well vouched for we must accept them as correct. However, we will again refer to them more in detail.
At quite an early period a certain individual of peculiar characteristics had settled a few miles above the present site of the city of Wheeling on the shore of the Ohio River. As a proof that he settled there quite early, it is sufficient to state that he had an orchard bearing fruit several years before the commencement of the nineteenth century. When he immigrated to this section of the country he brought with him a quantity of apple seeds, which he planted, and from which he raised a flourishing nursery. When their growth justified him in doing so, he transplanted them and in the course of a few years he had an extensive orchard, which produced a quantity of excellent fruit for general use and the making of cider. He transported them to market on a sled, at that time the usual mode of conveyance then in use, for in those days and for many years subsequent wagons were a novelty in this portion of the country. About 1816 a more prosperous condition prevailed, until he was looked upon as a poor farmer who did not possess a wagon.
The individual to whom we refer was in the habit of taking his fruit to West Liberty during the meeting of court on a sled upon which set a body or box in which he carried his apples. Arriving at the county seat, he would select a prominent place and display his fruit in a tempting manner on a board laid across his box, which fruit he would sell for a penny an apple or a shilling a dozen. If a purchaser paid him a 12 ½ -cent piece, or what was in later days called a "bit" (an old denomination which several years since have passed into disuse, and has now quite disappeared), to make even change he would cut an apple into two pieces, giving one half to the purchaser and retain the other half for a similar emergency.
Thousands of fruit trees were taken from his nursery to Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, and from this source sprung many of the orchards which were afterward planted in these respective states.
He was a person of venerable appearance, soft in speech, shrewd, and withal quite covetous. In the days of which we write he was considered quite well off in this world's goods and prosperous. His storehouse always contained an ample supply of bacon and cured meat. Hence when his neighbors ran short in this respect, which was frequently the case, he did a lucrative business in supplying their wants. It is related of him that on one occasion, when provisions, and bacon in particular, had grown scarce in the neighborhood, he was called upon to supply the deficiency. At the time he was suffering from a lingering and serious attack of fever, from which it was doubtful he would recover. His shrewdness, however, did not desert him at this trying period, but he was keenly alive to driving a good bargain with such as came to purchase from him. Sometimes during his illness he would be much improved, and then again he would have a relapse of dangerous symptoms. His condition from time to time determined the standard by which he graduated his scale of prices. On the days when he was worse he would charitably reduce the tariff of his prices, but when better he would covetously increase it. On one occasion during his sickness it is said his wife entered the room and inquired of him, "Pap, what is the price of bacon today?" hesitating a moment, he replied, "Fifteen cents a pound, live or die."
A remarkable fact in connection with the early settlement of the county is that but few murders or depredations of any kind were committed by the Indians in the eastern portion of it, if we except a person by the name of Hawthorne, who was shot from his horse where Triadelphia now stands, and another named John Grist, who was taken prisoner by them at no great distance from the same place. Then we are aware of no more mischief done by them until we cross the Pennsylvania line near West Alexandria, where a Mrs. Ross was murdered by them.
There is a reminiscence in the Hosack family that on one occasion, when the husband was absent from home overnight and his wife and children were alone in their cabin, unprotected save by a dog, in the morning they found the tracks of Indians in the vicinity, but nothing was disturbed. The settlements in this region were composed almost exclusively of Presbyterians of the Scotch-Irish stock, who came to procure homes for themselves and children, and the majority of these families still have representatives among their descendants in the neighborhood. With a high sense of justice characteristic of their race, they refused to aid or countenance aggressive acts against the savages. There were no scouts or warriors among them, and but few of the lawless class, and they only acted on the defensive. From the light which has since been thrown on the character of Simon Girty, the renegade, it is not improbable that they were indebted for their immunity to a considerable extent to this strange and erratic individual, whom they supposed was their worst enemy. He was well acquainted with the character of the settlements and was thoroughly advised as to the conduct and movements of the inhabitants. If the exemption of these settlements was accidental, it was very singular that hostile Indians continued to pass on their raids through a settlement for twenty years without striking it any very serious blow, while they committed murders all around it. It is, however, but a further confirmation of the theory that had the Indians been dealt with justly it would have saved the writing of many a blood-curdling page of border history. There was one exception to the above, so far as is known, and that has been already adverted to, which was the case of John Neiswanger, who was an early pioneer and daring scout. He "forted" under a rock in a cave, one mile and a half above Triadelphia and a quarter of a mile north of the National road. He was killed by the Indians at the mouth of Little Grave Creek, when on a hunting expedition, in the year 1783.
Still there were some scares in the vicinity occasioned by moving bands of savages, notably as it happened in the case of Mrs. Lockwood, who lived just above the "forks" formed by the junction of the "Little Wheeling" and "Middle Wheeling" creeks, who was startled one morning by the cry of "Indians! Indians!" by a neighbor fleeing past her cabin. All the men were at the time absent from home, and the females and children of the neighborhood had fled for protection to Shepherd's Fort. A short time before she had been confined, but as soon as the alarm was given she left her bed, and dragging herself along she picked up an old musket, loaded it, and placed the muzzle between the chinks of the logs of her cabin, and resolutely awaited the coming of the savages, determined to have the first shot should they put in an appearance. But after long waiting, and hearing and seeing nothing of Indians, she became so weak from her exertions that she was unable longer to stand guard, and with difficulty again reached her bed, where she remained undisturbed, and suffered no serious effect from her fright.
Another instance was that of a young man who, having been to the mill some distance up "Middle Wheeling," was on his return shot at by a roving band of Indians from a hill just above him. Removing his bag of meal and throwing it upon the ground, he put his horse to his mettle and at full speed made for Shepherd's Fort, shouting at the top of his voice as he rode, "Indians! Indians!" so as to alarm the neighbors and give them the opportunity to escape. Mrs. Lee, the mother of my informant, was at the time preparing breakfast for herself and little ones and was engaged in baking griddle cakes. Upon hearing the alarm, she promptly discontinued her culinary operations, and snatching her two children and placing one under each arm, ran with them to the fort, which she succeeded in reaching in safety.