Typed by Susie Koehrsen.
SETTLEMENT OF THE CITY OF WHEELING
The Early Pioneers of This Region - Fort Fincastle - Ebenezer, Jonathan and Silas Zane, the First White Settlers on Present Site of Wheeling - Their Tomahawk Claims Marked Out - Mrs. Ebenezer Zane - Arrival of Other Settlers - Friendships with Indians - Tranquility of the Region Interrupted - Massacre of Indians at Yellow Creek - Dunmore's War - Fortification of the Settlement at Mouth of Wheeling Creek - Description of the Fort.
The great Clock of Time has sounded the knell of a departed century in measured cadences while the swing to and fro of its mighty pendulum, constant as ever, passes not to remark its flight, and we are only made aware of its passage by the indications of the mighty hand which marks upon its dial-plate the record of yearly revolution. A new century draws upon us, filled with problems of its possibilities and expectations, and we dwell upon its expectations with the assurance that the future contains in store much more than is contained in the record of the past, that which will make for our prosperity. The vanishing form of the last century is growing less as it disappears in the distance, hastening to take its place beside its fellows in the fast receding and dim galleries of the past.
The farewell to the old century and the greeting of the new are so simultaneous in point of time that the “good bye” to the one and the welcome to the other seemed to mingle just as in the sweetest strains of music there is always mingled a monotone of sadness.
As we bid the old century farewell, let us in the very briefest manner recall some of its memories which pertain to us as a village, town and city.
We are wont to dwell with deep and earnest interest upon the heroic deeds of valor and prowess, which history records as having been enacted by the mailed warrior upon the battlefield, or the gallant knight in the tourney’s lists, and there is a fascinating power which surrounds the names of Richard Coeur de Lion, Peter the Hermit, Henry of Navarre and Saladin, as well as others whose names stand out prominently in equal conspicuity with those we have mentioned. But these men and their compeers were urged to the accomplishment of their purposes by the inspiriting reflection that the gaze of an admiring world rested upon them, which animated them with the hope of glory and inspired them with the promptings of ambition.
But the pioneer of this Western world accomplished feats and performed deeds which, though uninspired by the hope of glory or promptings of military ambition, are inferior in lustre to none which have been traced by the pens of history.
The lonely struggles and unselfish sacrifices of these modern heroes laid deep and lasting the permanent foundations of a mighty empire in these wilds which they cemented with their blood and hallowed by their deeds.
Alone and unaided, the pioneer penetrated the intricate mazes of a labyrinthine forest his keen sight and acute hearing alone being his safest and surest guides. At night he would make his couch upon the green sward beneath the overhanging branches of some friendly forest tree, his sole companion his trusty rifle, and the stars looking down upon him from their azure heights as his solitary sentinels. Far removed, not only from all the comforts and conveniences of civilization, but severed also by wide-extended and far-stretching wilderness from the sympathy and companionship of his fellows, his life was one if struggle and trials - of constant surprises and hair-breadth escapes.
From the very surroundings of his life, much that would have commanded the admiration of the multitude, and have awakened the wonder and interest of his fellow men, perished with its birth, never to be resurrected; and I take it that the unwritten and the lost abounded as much in the heroic and sublime as the little we have been able to rescue from the waters of oblivion.
Surrounded as they were by perils, and exposed to most trying privations, they were never disheartened under the most discouraging circumstances, but with an unflagging spirit, a stern resolve and a reckless courage, they pressed forward in the face of difficulties and with a persistent perseverance overcame all obstacles. The jealousy and vindictiveness of the savage was not only aroused but intensified by this stubborn determination which characterized the white man, manifested among other ways by the new clearings made by the keen edge of his ringing axe, by the notched and girdled trees and by the surveying parties who with pole and chain would suddenly arrest the attention of the roving red man in the secret haunts of the forest.
These and similar things excited upon their part on implacable hatred toward the white man which found vent in the acts of cruel barbarity and revengeful conduct. As a consequence, an anger as bitter and hostile was enkindled in the heart of the pioneer. It needed, therefore, but a sight of each other, and they rushed to the fatal conflict and the death grapple.
It was during such times, amid such scenes, and surrounded by such influences as these that there appeared upon the stage such worthy and prominent characters as the Shepherds, the Bradys, the Boggs, the McCollochs, the Wetzels and the Zanes - classic names in the early settlement of West Virginia, and who planted the germ which has since grown and expanded into the present city of Wheeling.
In the year 1770 Colonel Ebenezer Zane, the son of William Zane, then residing on the south branch of the Potomac, found his way to the banks of the Ohio. He was a young man fond of adventure, bold and athletic, and at the period which we refer was about twenty-two years of age. It was in the month of September in the year last named that his enraptured gaze was fascinated by all the richness of life and luxuriance of vegetation which marked the spot where now the busy hum of the city’s industry has banished forever the silence and solitude of the forest. So pleased was he with the spot that he at once and without delay took up his “tomahawk right”, which was effected by notching and girdling certain trees and carving his name on one or more of the same. Sometimes these tomahawk claims included a thousand aces and the claims thus made were always respected by the backwoodsmen, so much so that they were frequently the subject of purchase and sale among them. Young Zane did not linger long in his new found El Dorado, but hastened to return and make the necessary preparations for a final settlement in his new home.
He returned in the spring of 1770, and with his brother Silas and John Caldwell made a clearing just above and at the mouth of Wheeling Creek. About this time they were joined by the McCollochs, Wetzels, Biggs and Shepherds, with a few others whose names we have been unable to ascertain. These we have mentioned were the original settlers of the present city of Wheeling and formed the nucleus of the community which subsequently formed its population.
The Fort was erected in the spring of 1774 on a plan submitted by Colonel Angus McDonald and was erected under the supervision of Gen. George Rogers Clark by the land jobbers, settlers and surveyors and was called at first Fort Fincastle in honor of Lord Dunmore, then the royal governor of Virginia, whose title was Viscount Fincastle. In 1776 the name was changed to Fort Henry in honor of Patrick Henry, the first colonial governor of Virginia at the time of the Revolution.
It stood on the brow of a bluff which in late years has been greatly reduced by grading, just above the present corner of Eleventh and Main streets, and on the west side of the latter street next to and overlooking the river. A few years after the establishment of Fort Henry two blockhouses were erected at the mouth of Wheeling Creek, one on either side of the same. The first mention we find of this fort is in the proceedings of the Virginia convention is a report made by a committee of that body on the 25th day of July, 1775, recommending “that two companies of 100 men each, besides officers, ought with all convenient speed be stationed at Fort Pitt, one other company of 100 men at Point Pleasant, 25 men at Fort Fincastle at the mouth of Wheeling Creek and that 100 men be stationed at proper posts in the county of Fincastle for the protection of the inhabitants on the South-western frontiers, exclusive of the lower parts of the country.”
In the year 1776 the convention ordered the garrison at Fort Henry to be increased to 50 men, but neither of these orders, so far as we have been able to discover, were ever complied with.
The fact is, except the forts located at Redstone, Pittsburg and Point Pleasant, which last named was erected in the summer of the year in which the fort at Wheeling was built, there were no other regularly garrisoned forts on the frontier. The defense of the fort at Wheeling, with one or two exceptions, was left to the settlers who under Providence always proved competent for the emergency in the faithful discharge of their responsibility. The ground occupied by the fort in subsequent years was known as “Zane’s Reserve.”
After the defeat of the Indians by Colonel Boquet in the year 1764 and the prevalence of the peace which ensued, the inhabitants living east of the mountains in the colony of Virginia began to turn their attentions to the western borders of the colony and more particularly to that portion of the colony bordering on the waters of the Ohio and Monongahela as offering superior inducements for such as were seeking new locations.
The planting of the germ of a community which subsequently developed into a town and then into a city known as Wheeling is mainly due to three brothers, viz: Ebenezer, Jonathan and Silas Zane, with a few others who were their companions, whose names have unfortunately not been preserved.
On the late fall of the year 1769 the three brothers, together with Isaac Williams, two persons of the name of Robinson, and probably one or two others, all of whom were characterized by a like adventurous spirit and bold daring, set out from their homes on the south branch of the Potomac with the intention of settling and locating on some of the more western and fertile domains of the colony concerning which they had heard crude and indefinite reports through conversations in their neighborhood, obtained from chance parties who occasionally passed through their settlement, which aroused their curiosity to see and explore for themselves. Therefore the Zanes and their companions commenced their perilous journey which was to lead them over mountains and streams and through trackless forest in search of the new El Dorado which their imaginations clothed with all the charms of romantic interest. An early winter setting in, their progress was impeded by heavy snowfalls, which in the mountains had accumulated to such a depth as to almost retard their further progress, which was painfully slow and tedious. This, together with the bitterly cold weather which had set in, caused the members of the party to suffer severely from exposure and the hardships which they had to undergo.
One of the members of the expedition, Robinson - one of the brothers of that name, - was reduced to such extremity by reason of the violence of the weather and the scarcity of provisions (it being difficult for the reasons given to secure game) that with a view of preserving his life, as well as to recruit their own exhausted frames, they reluctantly determined to retrace their steps and return for the time being to their respective homes, which they succeeded in effecting, but too late for the health of poor Robinson, who shortly after their return succumbed to an exhausted nature owing to exposure and the want of necessary sustenance.
Far from being discouraged by reason of the experiences they had passed through in the preceding winter, in the spring of the following year Ebenezer Zane, accompanied by his two younger brothers, Jonathan and Silas, resolved to renew the effort which in the end proved more successful than did the venture of the preceding year, which had proven so disastrous to at least one of the party.
Taking the old trail followed by the settlers and traders as well as by the Indians, they arrived in course of time at Redstone Fort (where Brownsville, Pennsylvania, is located). This fort had originally been erected as a storehouse by Captain Trent in the year 1754 for the supplies and munitions of the Ohio Company.
In the latter part of 1759 Colonel James Burd had been sent out with 200 men, by order of Colonel Boquet, then commanding the King’s troops at Carlisle, to open and complete the road, which had been opened by Braddock, to the Monongahela River, at or near the mouth of Redstone, and there to erect a fort. The great object of Colonel Burd‘s expedition was to facilitate communications with this important fort from Maryland and Virginia by using the river. It was named Fort Burd, but in common, or even official, designation this title could never supplant the name of Redstone Fort.
After remaining here for a time, which was spent by them in prospecting in the country adjacent and discovering that it did not wholly fulfill their expectations, the Zanes resolved to prosecute their investigations still further.
Influenced by the encouraging reports brought in by the friendly Indians and traders who visited at the fort of a beautiful country bordering the waters of the Ohio River, the virgin soil of which had never been upturned by the ploughshare, and the solitude of whose wilderness recesses had never been disturbed by the sound of the woodman’s axe, the pioneer spirit of these young men in the recklessness of its adventurous activity would not permit them to rest until they had penetrated its untrodden aisles, and with their own eyes verified the glowing reports they had heard of its wonderful possibilities and promises.
Hence in the early part of the fall of this year they turned their backs on Redstone Fort and entered the mazes of the forest which spread out before them in lengthened distance and pushed forward in the accomplishment of the end which they had in view. They had prepared themselves with such provisions as they could conveniently carry, but which were necessarily limited in quantity. They were, therefore, compelled to depend more particularly on their guns and the dogs by which they were accompanied, for a more extended and varied supply, for in those days the deer, bear, wild turkey and smaller games abounded in great profusion.
At this time Ebenezer was about 22 years of age, Jonathan about 20 and Silas about 18 or 19. After the lapse of some days, worn with constant travel and fatigue they had undergone (they journeyed on foot), they reached the waters of Wheeling creek, where they had a consultation between themselves and decided to follow the waters of that stream with a view of ascertaining where it debouched, feeling confident that it must flow into a larger one and probably, as they hoped, into the Ohio River, whose shores they were particularly anxious to reach.
After a brief respite they resumed the course of their journey, which they continued until reaching a point from which the creek made a detour to the south. They climbed the adjacent hill, whose bold front opposed them, with the intention of saving time and distance, wisely reasoning that from its summit they could obtain a more extended view.
Arriving at the summit, the view which presents itself to the gaze of the young woodsmen was simply grand and overpowering. For a time there were mute with astonishment as they looked upon the lovely panorama which nature unfolded to their enraptured vision. Here they unanimously agreed to look no further for a location, as this was to them the Ultima Thule of their hopes and wishes, and here they located their claims.
Before doing so it is said they descended to the shore of the river and, making a raft, visited the opposite shore, which at first they deemed to be a portion of the mainland of the Ohio side of the river, but in this they were soon undeceived. A brief exploration revealed to them their mistake and they found they were on an island which like an emerald rested upon the bosom of the waters. Having completed their exploration, they returned in the same manner in which they had crossed.
Upon returning to the main shore they marked out their claims in the usual manner of the early settlers. Ebenezer’s included all that portion of the present city extending from what is now known as Tenth Street to the waters of Wheeling Creek on the south and bounded by the river on the west and the crown of the hill on the east. Jonathan’s claim included the territory north of Tenth street, extending up the river northwardly as far as Jonathan’s ravine (which took its name from its proprietor), while Silas made his claim at the “Forks of Wheeling”, including a portion of what has since been known as the Cruger, or sometimes it is called the Shepherd, estate. For some reason he appears never to have followed up his claim, which appears to have been covered by the warrant issued to Joseph Tomlinson, assignee of Edward Miles.
After erecting a rude cabin and fully satisfying themselves of the advantages of the different spots chosen by them, they laid their plans and made their arrangements for the future, when they should return to remain permanently.
There is a tradition in the Zane family (for entertaining which, however, we have failed to find any reasonable ground) that it was decided that one of their number should remain to look after the improvements which had been made and to see that the tomahawk rights they had made were not interfered with by other white men who might wander into the region.
It fell to the lot of Silas, the youngest brother, to exercise this supervision while the two - Ebenezer and Jonathan - returned to Redstone Fort. In this, it is said, he readily acquiesced, receiving the assurance of his brothers that they would return in the course of a few weeks and bring the family of Ebenezer, consisting of his wife and young son, and such implements, utensils and provisions as were necessary for the successful inauguration of the new settlement. Leaving with Silas a necessary quantity of ammunition and sharing with him their provisions, retaining only a bare sufficiency for their sustenance on their return journey, the brothers parted company.
At the time of which we write the peace between the whites and the Indians was one rather in name than in fact, for each was apprehensive of the other and neither was disposed to place confidence in the professions of the other.
Under this condition of affairs it was no pleasant duty which devolved upon Silas, the more so from the fact that this was one of the points where the Indian trail crossed the river, and over which roving bands of Indians, intent on hunting, plundering and rapine, where accustomed to pass. It, therefore, required great caution and the exercise of constant skill and ingenuity upon his part to elude them. These considerations influenced him to remove his place of shelter for another which was not so exposed, and, abandoning his cabin, he removed to a more secure one up the creek to its forks, some five miles distant.
In the course of a few weeks Ebenezer, with his family and brother Jonathan, together with his household outfit and agricultural implements, left Redstone, embarking in pirogues, on which enclosures had been erected to protect the occupants from the night air and the inclemency of the weather, and which were constructed of rough lumber, and commenced their uneventful journey to Wheeling.
On their arrival at this place they at once proceeded to the place of rendezvous which had been agreed upon between the brothers prior to their separation, which was opposite the mouth of Coal run, an insignificant stream, about half a mile above the mouth of the creek.
Upon inspecting the vicinity and thoroughly examining the adjacent country without discovering any signs of Silas, their fears were awakened that he might have fallen a victim to the savages, for there were signs which assured them that Indians had not long since been in the neighborhood, as was indicated by the dying embers of a recent fire and the imprint of footsteps on the bank of the creek. They, therefore, determined to follow up the creek for a few miles in the hope, if he still survived, of discovering his hiding place. Acting upon this resolution, they set out upon their search; arriving at the “forks” they unexpectedly came upon him. Great was the joy of the brothers greeting the lost one, as they supposed. Silas recounted to them the toils and privations which he had suffered and the adventures he had encountered during the interval of their absence, and how, apprehensive of the wandering bands of savages, he had selected, as being more secure than the cabin, his present retreat, which was in the decayed trunk of a sycamore tree which had been leveled by the storms and which stood upon the bank of the creek, and which in falling had its roots partly submerged in the waters. He had scooped out a hole in its roots sufficiently large to admit the body of a man, into which he crawled for safety. He reached and left his hiding place on occasion by wading through the waters so that all evidences of his trail might be obliterated.
Owing to the enforced confinement be had become greatly reduced in flesh, as he was afraid to shoot game lest the report of his rifle should attract the notice of the red men, and hence his subsistence for many days had been on roots, berries and fish such as the stream afforded. Together they returned down the creek, where the two brothers had left the family of Ebenezer, and found them in the same condition in which they had been left when they set upon their search for their missing brother, anxiously awaiting their return on account of their protracted absence.
It was a trying experience for a young and refined woman like Mrs. Zane to be called upon to pass through - to sever the ties of home and kindred - to forego all social pleasures and advantages and be deprived of most of the comforts and conveniences of settled life and to plunge into the depths of the wilderness, the abode of savages and wild beasts. It was no wonder, therefore, that on landing in these rough scenes and wild surroundings that her heart should at first revolt and that her tears should flow as she contemplated the situation, as she contrasted the present with the past. But it was of short duration, for with brave resolution she quelled all vain regrets and, quenching her tears, she determined unflinchingly to do her duty and discharged faithfully the new responsibilities imposed upon her in her new position. And that resolve of hers was never broken, and when she died she left behind her a memory which her children regarded as their proudest heritage.
This lady was said to have been the first convert to Methodism in Ohio County, which was introduced here in the year 1780 by Rev. Wilson Lee, a member of the Baltimore conference, who was then stationed on Redstone circuit, with headquarters at Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Her consistent walk and godly conversation was proverbial and her zeal kept pace with her piety. In the days of which we write it was deemed no hardship to travel long distances for the purpose of enjoying and participating in the ordinances of religion and these meetings were attended by the old and young, and not the least important and enjoyable portion of them was the service of praise, in which all were accustomed to unite, as they had no paid choirs in those days.
On one occasion at one of these meetings held at West Liberty, there was no one present able to start the tune. There were any number present who could carry it after it was raised. In the midst of the dilemma appeared Elizabeth Zane, who upon being informed of the difficulty which beset them, stated that although she was acquainted with the tune yet she was unable to start it, but she proposed to whistle it, while such as could sing were to catch it up and carry it along. The proposition was accepted as the best that could be done under the circumstances and it was caught up by the chorus of voices who successfully accomplished the undertaking, making the echoes of the forest ring with sweetest notes of melody.
To return to the order of events as they transpired after the brothers had succeeded in discovering Silas. They returned to the cabin which had been erected for the shelter of Silas during their absence, and making it as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, proceeded to make a considerable clearing. In a few months others of a like daring and adventurous spirit with the original settlers attracted to the place, bringing with them their families and possessions.
Among those who arrived and joined the nucleus of the original settlement were the founders of many of the families whose descendants are at this day among the worthy and influential citizens of this county and city, such as the Caldwells, McMechens, Woods, Bonnetts, Wetzels and others. Thus the little community gradually increased in numbers and strength, and for a time in the main flourished. Incursions were occasionally made by the savages, but nothing more serious occurred for some time than the running away of horses and cattle, and some petty thefts by them in the absence of the men in hunting or their necessary absence from the settlement on calls of business. It was the policy of the settlers, and in general it was successful, to cultivate friendly relations with the Indians and thereby to imbue them with a spirit of confidence. And in some instances their efforts were not put forth in vain, for attachments were formed between certain individuals and their red allies which continued unbroken through all the vicissitudes of their subsequent lives. A notable instance of this kind was manifested in the case of Jonathan Zane, who had erected a log house for a dwelling, which was situated on the east side of Main Street and near the corner of Eighth street, nearly opposite to the present residence of William S. Goshorn, Esq. Jonathan and likewise Ebenezer had a large acquaintance among the Wyandot and Delaware tribes of Indians, with whom they frequently hunted, fished and traveled, and the brothers would frequently entertain at their homes members of these respective tribes, who freely came and went when they chose; one in particular, a member of the Delaware tribe, - a noble specimen of a savage warrior - was greatly attached to Jonathan, between whom and himself there existed a strong intimacy. Captain John, the name of the savage, was next to White Eyes, regarded as the greatest warrior of the tribe. He was a man possessed of an herculean frame, lithe and active, with strongly defined features, the most prominent of which was his large Roman nose. One day just as the sun was setting, Captain John stalked into the kitchen where Mrs. Zane was engaged in preparing the evening meal, and sat himself down in stolid silence, refusing to utter a word when spoken to, and acting in a manner entirely unusual for him. Mrs. Zane, with a large butcher knife in her hand, proceeded to slice some venison for her Indian visitant, which upon being offered to him he refused by a sign. Her husband then handed him a pipe to smoke, which he put away from him. This last refusal at once excited the suspicions of Jonathan, who, by means of signs, communicated his apprehensions to his wife, and signalled her to secret the knife under her apron or beneath her garments, keeping his eye earnestly fixed upon his guest. His loaded rifle hung upon a pair of buck’s horns immediately above the mantel, and Jonathan maintained a position in juxtaposition to it, so that at any hostile movement of the savage he might be in a situation to secure it. After all means had been exhausted to ascertain from him a reason for his strange conduct, after the lapse of a short time he voluntarily broke his silence in substance as follows: “Mr. Zane, I have eaten salt in your house , and laid beside you at night in the forest, and I could not see you and your family killed in cold blood without making an effort to save you.” This was all he said at the time, but it was sufficient to convey to the quick sense of the backwoodsman a feeling of insecurity and the assurance that danger was not distant. It seems that a number of Indians had set out from their village in the Tuscarawas country with the intention of taking the lives of the family and committing plunder, but Captain John, who had started with them, had not proceeded far before he made some excuse for leaving the main body, and hastened on ahead, while the Indians loitered on their way, thus affording him an opportunity of reaching the settlement in advance of them a sufficient time to communicate the intelligence and thus warn them to make due preparation to save themselves. After having thus unburdened himself, he ate a few hurried mouthfuls of the venison, which had been provided for him, took up the pipe and gave two or three hasty whiffs, and then suddenly throwing up his arms exclaimed in tones of earnest command: “Run to the Fort.” Without stopping or standing upon the order of their going, but gathering up some few necessary articles at hand as they made their exit from the house, the family took its flight. And they left not a moment too soon, for they had not accomplished more than half the distance between the house and the Fort, when on looking back they saw the lurid flames with fiery tongues darting upward in the fast gathering darkness of the falling night. The morning light disclosed the dying embers and the desolate hearthstone of what twenty-four hours before was a happy homestead, - the dwelling place of a happy family.
In the beginning of the year 1774, the tranquility which had prevailed during the interval between the years 1765 and 1774, by virtue of the treaty heretofore mentioned between Colonel Boquet and the savages, was now interrupted. Prior to the year 1774, a goodly number were induced to seek homes in these Western wilds where lands were so easily acquired, many of which, indeed almost all of which, were held by no other title than “tomahawk rights.” The right of such to vote for delegates to the convention of 1775 was recognized by the Twelfth section of the ordinance passed by the Virginia convention in July, 1773. The ordinance was entitled: “ An Ordinance for regulating the election of Delegates, and also for ascertaining their allowances, and for regulating the election of Committeemen in the Several Counties and Corporations with this Colony and for other purposes herein mentioned.”
In the section mentioned it was provided that the inhabitants of the county of Fincastle, and the district of West Augusta, “not withstanding they had not obtained patents for their lands, yet where for one year preceding a free white man at the time of such elections shall have been in possession of 25 acres of land, with a house and plantation in said county or district, claiming an estate for life at least, in the said land in his own right, or in the right of his wife, shall have a vote or be capable of being chosen at such election respectively, although no legal title in the land shall have been conceded to such possessor, &c.”
A number of “land jobbers” so styled appeared in the settlement and took up large quantities of land, amounting in the aggregate to many hundreds of acres. This led the early settlers to appropriate all available land with a view to its ultimate increase in value.
With this in view Colonel Zane, in company with a few others, had gone down the river as far as the mouth of the Big Sandy for the purpose of selecting and taking up additional lands. While thus engaged, news reached them that hostile acts were being committed by the Indians against the settlers in the way of thieving, robbing and plundering them. This induced the immediate return of Colonel Zane and his party to the settlement before the accomplishment of their purpose. Upon their return, they were beset with exaggerated stories, doubtless born of their fears, concerning the hostile attitude of the Indians. Many expressed their belief that the savages would soon gather in force and treacherously fall upon and slaughter them. Some advised that they should anticipate them, and gather a force and at once destroy all within reach by attacking their towns, thinking it probable that such sudden and unexpected action upon the part of the whites would strike terror to the foes and preclude them from their purpose. But others again, and among them Colonel Zane, counselled moderation and prudence and against hasty action, and wisely sought to restrain the more thoughtless from precipitate measures.
In the midst of the agitation, information was received that two Indians and some traders were on the river a short distance above the settlements. Capt. Daniel Greathouse proposed to intercept the party and destroy them. To this Colonel Zane objected as it would be the perpetration of a most glaring wrong, as well as an act of injustice and inhumanity, and argued that the result would be baneful in the extreme and would lead to a rising of the savages along the entire frontier and produce a brutal and merciless Indian war.
His advice, his counsel and his arguments all proved abortive and made no impression on Greathouse. In opposition to the efforts made to restrain him from his sanguinary purpose, Greathouse and his followers accomplished their design. On their return from their expedition, their replies to the inquires made of them as to what disposition they had made of the Indians were evasive and unsatisfactory, but subsequently upon examining their canoe it was found to be splotched with the stains of blood and riddled with bullets.
The wise and discreet among the settlers had no hesitation in condemning the act as a wanton outrage, and manifested their disapproval by their outspoken expressions as well as by their subsequent acts and conduct toward the perpetrators. No doubt these manifestations upon the part of the innocent settlers, instead of mollifying the tempers and dispositions of those who had taken part in this affair, served only to exasperate them, for upon the evening of the same day this same party, having been made aware of the fact that a party of Indians were encamped at the mouth of Captina Creek on the Ohio side of the river, 16 miles below Wheeling, at once, on receiving the intelligence, started down the river to the place designated, and early on the following morning fell upon and killed several of them. In this affair one of Greathouse’s party was severely wounded. This attack on the Indians was made on the 28th day of April. There has been some confusion of dates as to the time of this occurrence, some fixing it in April and others in the latter part of May, but the weight of evidence seems to preponderate in favor of the date given above. The confusion of dates, however, does not affect the fact and is more a matter of idle curiosity than one of substance. There is nothing in which the memory is more treacherous than in the matter of dates. About the time of the occurrence of this attack at Captina, or shortly after, transpired the massacre at the mouth of Yellow Creek, a stream emptying into the Ohio River on the Ohio side about 42 miles above Wheeling.
At this period there existed along the whole line of the frontier a nervous feeling of apprehension and dread of a subtle and indefinable character, which though felt could not fully be explained. The settlers felt that they were standing upon the edge of a crater, which was liable at any moment to burst forth in volcanic eruption, spreading death and desolation around.
Such was the state of the public pulse when the treacherous and murderous assault and destruction of human life took place at Yellow Creek, which was one of the most inexcusable, as well as one of the most unjustifiable acts ever perpetrated by those engaged in it and the reflex influence of which the whites suffered severely. It appears that in the latter part of April, in the year 1774, a large body of Indians was encamped just above the mouth of Yellow Creek, on both sides of that stream. A person of the name of Daniel Baker, who had been in the habit of selling “fire water” to the Indians, resided on the Virginia side of the river. Under the pretext of protecting Baker and his family, one Daniel Greathouse, in command of some thirty odd men, went to his relief. Upon arriving in the vicinity of Baker’s house, he placed his men in ambush, and crossing the river under the pretense of friendship, visited the Indian encampment with a view of ascertaining their strength and position, and to determine whether with his command he could successfully attack them. He was received on the part of the savages in the same spirit in which he professed to come, and spent some time in mingling with the savages and watching their movements. Returning to his command he reported that by reason of the number and position of the Indians and the weakness of his command, they could not openly attack them and proposed to effect by stratagem what he could not accomplish otherwise.
It was therefore arranged between Baker and himself, that the former should furnish such Indians as might cross the river as much “fire water” as they could drink and thereby get as many of them drunk as possible. In this Baker acquiesced, and in a little while several Indians came over and were plied with drink until they became hopelessly intoxicated, in which condition they were attacked by Greathouse and a few of his party, and put to death. It is a redeeming trait in the character of the large majority of those who engaged in this expedition that they refused to lend themselves to the accomplishment of the base artifice which had been adopted by their commander. Not more than six or eight out of the whole number were actors in the foul conspiracy and the remainder stoutly protested against it. The massacre occurred on the 30th of April, 1774. The firing attracted the attention of the Indians who were in camp, and accordingly they sent over two or three of their number in a canoe to ascertain the cause of the alarm, but these latter had no sooner placed foot upon the shore than they were ruthlessly and mercilessly shot down. Thereupon another and larger canoe was promptly manned with a number of armed Indians, who essayed to reach the shore, but were prevented from so doing by a well directed fire which proved to be so effective as greatly to cripple them and they were compelled to return. Shots were then exchanged across the river between the parties, but these did but little if any execution, the distance being too great. Among those killed were the brother and sister of the famous Logan, the Cayuga chief, who, with himself, were the only remaining members of the family. Prior to this time, Logan had been a firm friend and an unflinching alley of the whites, but this disastrous event aroused all the frenzy of the savage within his breast and his implacable hatred of the whites thereafter became as bitter as his devotion to them had been unswerving. Accordingly in July, 1774, he retaliated in a measure by an attack upon a band of settlers on the Monongahela, which proved to be successful. Prior to this attack by Logan it had been ordered by the authorities of Virginia that a force should be raised in the district of West Augusta with the purpose of making an inroad into the Indian country, with a view of calling off the straggling bands of predatory Indians who had now begun to infest the neighborhood of the frontier settlements. Accordingly in June, 1774, Col. Angus McDonald, to whom had been confided the raising of a necessary force, appeared with a force of 400 men at Wheeling, whence he took up his line of march and penetrated for some distance into the Indian country, being accompanied by Jonathan Zane and two others as guides through the difficulties of the intervening wilderness. They were successful in a measure, that is to say in delaying the movements of the savages against the frontier and in securing certain chiefs as hostages. But their provisions fell short and the difficulty of supplying this desideratum compelled their return, without effecting anything more important than the occupying of one of their towns, which had been deserted by the savages. The hostages, which had been secured, on the return of the troops to Wheeling were sent on to Williamsburg, where they were retained until the treaty of Dunmore secured peace in the following fall, when they were released.
Shortly after these events occurred was inaugurated the war known as Dunmore’s war, and which was concluded by the defeat of the Indians at Point Pleasant by Gen. Andrew Lewis on the 10th day of October, 1774. General Lewis and Lord Dunmore had arranged that the former was to raise a force of volunteers and by draft from the southeastern portion of the colony , and the latter was to raise a similar force for the same purpose from the northern and western portion of the colony. The force of General Lewis was appointed to rendezvous at Camp Union in the Greenbrier country, while the forces of Lord Dunmore were to rendezvous at Fort Pitt, and thence descend the river until they reached the mouth of the Great Kanawha, where Point Pleasant is located, where the two forces were to unite, and from which point they were to proceed against and attack the Indian towns on the Ohio side.
Upon the arrival of General Lewis at the place designated, finding that Lord Dunmore had not arrived, he felt chagrined and manifested surprise at the non-arrival of Dunmore, and hence determined to send scouts to Fort Pitt to ascertain the cause of his delay. Before the scouts had started on their mission, a communication was received from his Lordship, changing the whole plan of the campaign which had been arranged between him and General Lewis, without giving any reasons or explanations for so doing, which communication informed General Lewis that he intended to cross the river and proceed at once in the direction of the Shawnee towns, and at the same time ordered him to move with his force and form a junction with his force at the point designated by him near the enemy.
General Lewis had arrived with his army about the same date that Lord Dunmore with his arrived at Wheeling, to-wit, the 1st of October, 1774. On receiving the dispatch from Lord Dunmore, General Lewis immediately set about making the necessary arrangements to obey the orders which were disapproved of by a number of his men. But early on the morning of the10th of October and before the necessary preparations for crossing the river had been completed, an attack was made upon his forces by a large body of Indians, who had quietly secreted themselves behind the logs and fallen timber which abounded in this vicinity. The suddenness and severity of the attack which followed was unparalleled, and victory for a time hung evenly in the balance. But at length the pluck and superior discipline of the whites turned the balance in their favor and the Indians were badly worsted, but at the cost of many brave and useful lives.
Among those who fell was Colonel Charles Lewis, a brother of Gen. Andrew Lewis, a person greatly beloved by his troops, and endeared to all who had the privilege of his companionship and acquaintance. In honor of his memory, the legislature of his native state, Virginia, named the county of Lewis, now in West Virginia, after him.
The conflict between the white and Indians commenced at sunrise and continued with fluctuating fortunes between the belligerents until sunset. The Indians were commanded by Cornstalk Sachem of the Shawnees and who was also the head of the Northern Confederacy, one of the most influential and intelligent chiefs of his race.
After the battle, General Lewis crossed the river with the remainder of his force and pressed forward to form a junction with Dunmore, but before he had proceeded far into the enemy’s country he was met by an express from Dunmore to return at once to the mouth of the Great Kanawha. But disregarding the order, he persisted in his advance until he overtook Dunmore, who informed him that he was negotiating a peace which would avoid the necessity of a further advance, at the same time reiterating the order for his return. This order was received by his followers with loud murmurings and expressions of discontent, and they reluctantly obeyed and turned their backs upon the enemy.
These occurrences transpired at a time when the jealousies between the mother country and the colonies were daily growing more and more embittered and men‘s minds were being wrought to a high state of exasperation. The destruction of the tea in Boston harbor had occurred in the preceding month of March. The Boston Port bill, the primary cause of conflict between the mother country and the colonies, had been received by the House of Burgesses of Virginia, in May, and they had issued a recommendation that the 1st day of June following, the date when the bill was to become operative, be observed “as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer imploring the Divine interposition to avert the heavy calamity, which threatened destruction to their civil rights, and the evils of a civil war.”
It was on account of this action of the House of Burgesses that Gov. Dunmore prorogued the General Assembly. On his way down the river from Fort Pitt, Dunmore stopped his army at Wheeling, and while stopping there he received dispatches from the British government, but what the tenor of these were we are unable to state, but it is certain that the plan of campaign outlined between him and General Lewis was changed upon their receipt, without waiting to advise Lewis of the fact. It would not, however, be a violent conjecture, under all the circumstances, and in view of his dissolution of the Assembly, and the sudden change made by him in the plan of campaign while at Wheeling, to conclude that his government had instructed him to take steps to secure, if possible by treaty, the Indians as allies of Great Britain in the apprehended conflict which began to loom up in the near future. At all events it is certain, that under questionable circumstances he entered into a treaty with the savages.
While Logan, the great Mingo chief, assented to this treaty, he indignantly refused to be present at its consummation, but sent inclosed in a belt of wampum his famous speech with which every schoolboy is familiar, and which was first given to the public by Thomas Jefferson. Shortly after its publication by him, attempts were made to cast doubts upon it as being the production of a savage, and by some it was declared to have been the coinage of Mr. Jefferson’s brain, which he emphatically denied in the appendix to his “Notes on Virginia.” The most prominent among these was the able, eloquent and distinguished Luther Martin, a son-in-law of Colonel Cresap, who pronounced it a sheer fabrication. A long and bitter controversy ensued which was participated in, not alone by the immediate persons interested therein, but by others not directly interested. Jefferson, however, came off victor, as is now generally admitted, he having produced evidence of a documentary character which if it did not silence cavillers, it did his opponents.
But to return from the digression which we have made, but one which we deemed necessary as being indirectly connected with our subject, we will now resume the thread of our narrative. That the Dunmore war was precipitated by the massacres in the vicinity of Wheeling by Cresap, Greathouse and others we think there can be no doubt and that such was the opinion of contemporaries we have evidence. The following letter of Colonel Zane to Hon. John Brown, senator in Congress from the state of Kentucky, and bearing date Wheeling, February 4,1800, we think is convincing. It reads as follows:
“I was myself with many others in the practice of making improvements on lands upon the Ohio, for the purpose of acquiring rights to the same. Being on the Ohio, at the mouth of Sandy Creek, in company with many others, news circulated that the Indians had robbed some of the land jobbers. This news induced the people generally to ascend the Ohio. I was among the number. On our arrival at Wheeling, better informed that there were two Indians with some traders near and above Wheeling, a proposition was made by the then Capt. Michael Cresap to waylay and kill the Indians upon the river. This measure I opposed with much violence, alleging that the killing of those Indians might involve the country in a war. But the opposite party prevailed and proceeded up the Ohio with Captain Cresap at their head. In a short time the party returned, and also the traders in a canoe, but there were no Indians in the company. I enquired what had become of the Indians and was informed by the traders and Cresap’s party that they had fallen overboard. I examined some bullet holes in the canoe. This fully convinced me that the party had killed the two Indians and then thrown them into the river.
“On the afternoon of the day this action happened a report prevailed that there was a camp or party of Indians on the Ohio below and near Wheeling. In consequence of the information, Captain Cresap, with his party, joined by a number of recruits, proceeded immediately down the Ohio for the purpose, as was then generally understood, of destroying the Indians above mentioned. On the succeeding day Captain Cresap and his party returned to Wheeling, and it was generally reported by the party that they had killed a number of Indians. Of the truth of this report I had no doubt, as one of Cresap’s party was badly wounded and the party had a fresh scalp and a quantity of property which they called Indian plunder. At the time of the last mentioned transaction it was generally reported that the party of Indians down the Ohio were Logan and his family, but I have reason to believe that this report was unfounded.
“Within a few days after the transaction above mentioned a party of Indians were killed at Yellow Creek. But I must do the memory of Captain Cresap the justice to say that I do not believe he was present at the killing of the Indians at Yellow Creek. But there is not the least doubt in my mind that the massacre at Yellow Creek was brought on by the two transactions first stated. All the transactions which I have related happened in the latter end of April, 1774, and there can scarcely be a doubt that they were the cause of the war which immediately followed, commonly called Dunmore’s war.
“I am with much respect, yours, etc.,
At the time of the transactions referred to in the foregoing letter the only regular forts on the frontier were those which were located at Redstone and Pittsburg. There were a few private forts and block houses scattered here and there, but these were insecure and indifferent in their importance, not being calculated to withstand a prolonged contest or siege. When it became evident that a general Indian war would speedily be inaugurated measures were taken to advise the settlers of the impending danger, and Dr. John Connolly, the “Royal Captain Commandant of West Augusta,” who was at the time on a visit to Fort Pitt, sent information to the settlement at .....ing (word missing) and instructed them as a necessary precaution to cover the country with scouts until the inhabitants could fortify themselves. In accordance with these instructions, scouts and rangers were sent out in all directions and the erection of a means of defense, consisting of a stockade, was at the same time commenced by settlers, who labored with indefatigable energy in the accomplishment of their undertaking, so that on the arrival of Lord Dunmore in the following October he found a well constructed work of defence, which, though hastily erected, was well adapted for its purpose, as the sequel will show.
It was built under the supervision of Col. Angus McDonald, as we have heretofore mentioned, in the construction of which he was assisted in its arrangement and adaptation by Col. Ebenezer Zane and John Caldwell, Esq., the work, as stated having been performed by the settlers. Upon its completion it was named “Fort Fincastle”, in honor of the Earl of Dunmore, this being his second title, his full titles being “John, Earl of Dunmore, Viscount Fincastle, Baron Murray, of Blair, of Moulin and of Tillimet,” and being at the time the royal governor of the colony. Prior to the establishment of the fort the settlement was called “Zanesburg.” The name of Dunmore was not retained for any great length of time, but was changed to “Fort Henry” in the year 1776, in honor of Patrick Henry, the first patriotic governor of Virginia. The first mention we find made of this fort is in the proceedings of the Virginia convention of 1775 in a report made by a committee of that body.
It is a fact that with the exception of the forts located at Redstone, Pittsburg and Point Pleasant, which last named was erected in the summer of the same year in which the fort at Wheeling was erected, there were no other regularly garrisoned forts on the frontier. The defence of the fort at Wheeling was left entirely to the intrepidity of the settlers, who, under Providence, always proved competent in the faithful and successful discharge of that responsibility.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FORT
The fort was in shape a parallelogram, with wooden towers or bastions at each corner, which projected over the lower story and which were pierced with port holes for the use of rifles and muskets. In case of attack the fighting was carried on from these bastions almost entirely. Between these bastions was stretched a strong and closely connected line of oak and hickory pickets, surrounding the entire enclosure, within which were located a magazine for powder, barracks and cabins for sheltering those who sought refuge within the stockade, On the roof of the barracks was mounted a swivel gun captured during the French and Indian War by the British. There was also a well of water within the stockade. On the west side of the fort outside of it on the side of the bluff was a never failing spring of clear, cool and limpid water, which was accessible providing there was no opposition from the river. The main entrance was on the eastern side, which was closed by a strong wooden gate. The ground in the vicinity was cleared, fenced and cultivated, extending to the base of the hill on the east, about an eighth of a mile distant. From the bluff on the south side of the fort extended the bottoms to the bank of Wheeling Creek. This expanse of ground was a level stretch of land and was used for a cornfield. As late as the year 1810 it was occupied by no buildings of consequence.
To the southeast of the fort and distant from it about 70 yards stood the residence of Col. Ebenezer Zane, located on a level with the Fort, built of rough hewn logs and which at the threatened attack on the fort by the Indians in the year 1781, was burnt by them The owner subsequently rebuilt the same, and it was occupied and held by him with a force of five men at the siege of the fort in the year 1782. When rebuilt by him he expressed it as his avowed purpose that in the event of an attack of the savages he would defend it to the last extremity. Attached to it was a magazine where ammunition was stored for emergencies. His cabin was built of the staunchest materials, and somewhat in the style of a block house, and was provided with loop holes from which the inmates could fire upon an enemy without exposing themselves. His successful defence at the last siege contributed much to the relief of the fort and its inmates, it having proved itself to be an impregnable outpost. There were a cluster of cabins around the fort, the homes of the settlers, a store house, and a smith shop.
As already indicated, Governor Dunmore had dissolved the legislature of the colony in the spring of the year 1774 for reasons then stated. The differences between the mother country and the colonies continued to multiply and the breach between them became wider and wider. All hopes of a compromise or a satisfactory understanding between them grew less probable. In the year 1775 the quarrel had become so pronounced that the royal governor became alarmed for his own safety and that of his family. He abandoned the capitol, and shipped his wife and children to England, and himself took refuge on a British man-of-war, then lying in the waters of the colony, upon which he took up his residence and from which he fulminated his edicts and issued his proclamations, all of which proved to be futile and harmless.
In the meantime a convention of authorized delegates was called together, who met in Richmond on the 20th day of March, 1775, which enacted such legislation and exercised such executive control of affairs as the public safety and protection demanded.
One of the first things which appears among its proceedings was the reception of a request in writing from a number of the inhabitants of West Augusta, asking for the admission of John Nevill and John Harvie, Esqs., as delegates to represent that district, whereupon it was resolved that the request be granted, and that they be admitted to seats in the convention, and take part in the proceedings of the same.