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Massacre - Pigeon Roost, IN - 1812

Extracted from the account of John Dillon. History of Indiana, 1859
pp492-494 and "Pigeon Roost Massacre" by Lizzie D. Coleman 1904. As
printed in "The Collings, Richeys and The Pigeon Roost Massacre"
compiled by Constance A. Hackman, Leona M. Lawson and Kenneth Scott.
Used by permission of Constance Hackman and Alice Scott.

In the afternoon of the third of September, 1812, Elias Payne and a man whose name was Coffman were hunting for "bee trees" in the woods about two miles north of the Pigeon Roost settlement and were surprised and killed by a party of Indians. This party of Indians, which consisted of ten or twelve warriors, nearly all of whom were Shawnee, then attacked the Pigeon Roost settlement about sunset and, in the space of about one hour, they killed one man, five women and sixteen children.

"Jeremiah Payne (who lived near the fort at Vienna, but seven miles north from Pigeon Roost) was warned of danger when his cows, bellowing very loud, came running to the house with spears and arrows stuck in their sides. Taking his wife and only child, Lewis, to the fort at Vienna, the father started on foot to warn his only brother, Elias (who lived five miles away), of their threatened trouble. He ran in a "turkey trot", as he called it - but too late. He found that the Indians had been before him and already done their deadly work. The wife and seven children of his brother had been massacred - parts of their bodies cut into strips and strung around trees...."

"Another unprotected woman, Mrs. Richard Collings, and her seven children (Mr. Collings being away in the service of the government), are soon in the thralldom of the savage mob in their own home. Their lives are soon taken."

"Going southwest from here, they met Mrs. Rachel Collings (wife of Henry) who had just returned home from Payne's where she had been to get spools for warping. Words are inadequate for describing the barbarity of results here. Mrs. Collings was pregnant at the time and after having been made the victim of the Indian mob, the child was taken from the womb and scalped.Afterwards they found the body of the baby laid on the bosom of the woman. The incentive to such a diabolical deed was the five-dollar British reward offered for each scalp."

They next approached the home of William E. "Longknife" Collings. "In the Collings home on this memorable afternoon was the aged father William, Lydia and Captain Norris, an old Indian fighter, who had engaged in the battle of Tippecanoe and was here now to warn the settlers of their threatened danger." He "had come to confer with them concerning the need of a fort."

"The Captain and Collings had been talking but a short time, perhaps no more than an hour." "...Captain Norris espied the Indians approaching." Collings said they should go into the cabin and fight and he handed one gun to Captain Norris. Norris had been severely wounded at the battle of Tippecanoe and couldn't easily handle the heavy gun. After some discussion they decide to try and hold off the Indians and try to escape after dark. While William was shooting, daughter Lydia was molding bullets in the cabin.

"William E. Collings, espying a big Indian standing in the doorway (at Henry Collings house)....takes aim, fires, and the force of the murdering foe is reduced." "One Indian assumes the appearance of a woman, having decked himself in Mrs. Henry Collings' shawl, and while thus plotting he falls a victim at the hand of the matchless marksman."

"In the meantime John , aged thirteen, had caught a horse and was ready to go after the cows when he saw an Indian approaching. Dropping the rein, he fled, but was pursued. He realized that the savage was gaining on him when he heard the report of his father's rifle;... glancing back he saw the savage fall with the blood streaming from his breast. Now he knew that he was saved and quickly made his way to the house."

When darkness fell, they knew the Indians would fire the house so they made their way from the house to the corn field nearby. As William passed the corn crib, an Indian, hiding behind it, fired. "Collings raised his gun to return the shot when he found that the savage, in missing his aim, had broken the lock of his wonderful gun. "He called for Norris to send back the other gun but Norris either couldn't hear or didn't hear the request and Collings was left alone to meet the enemy. "When they came too near he would raise his flintlock and pretend that he would fire and thus frightened them." They knew his abilities with a rifle so for "Collings, the useless gun was his salvation." By "early next morning he was sheltered at his son Zebulon's blockhouse about five miles south of Pigeon Roost. Captain Norris and the children also made it to the blockhouse safely.

"Henry Collings, who was at work in the field, was wounded in the head by an unexpected missile. He cautiously made his way to an old shed and concealed himself under a pile of flax. Here he was found a day or two later ...." He told the others that "I went to jump the fence and Little Kill Buck shot me." Henry died of the wounds received that day.

About sundown, Jane Collings Biggs had taken her children, one just a baby, with her to bring up their cow. Returning to edge of the woods, she saw Indians surrounding her house. Jane hastily retreated into the woods to hide and save her children. The Indians fired the cabin and took to the woods hunting for the occupants. Jane could hear the footsteps and voices of the Indians. In the midst of this danger the baby began to cry and Jane reportedly covered its mouth to prevent it from giving away their position. [ Many reports of the day, as well as later ones, reported that the baby had smothered and died. Direct descendants of Jane Collings Biggs have reported that this report was in error.]

After the Indians had passed by, Jane and her children turned their footsteps to her father's house for help. Leaving the children hidden near the road, she went to the house and found the door partially open. Smelling gunpowder she hurried back to road with her children and started for the blockhouse at her brother Zebulon's five miles away. She and the children arrived safely at the blockhouse in the morning. How she escaped the Indians at her father's house remains a mystery.

Dr. John Richey and Sichey Collings were the first couple married in Scott Co. in 1810. They lived in the area of the settlement to the southwest. Dr. John was working in the field when he heard shots and saw smoke rising from the homes of the settlement. Realizing what was happening, he took Sichey upon his back and fled through the cornfield. They hid in the woods until dark and then laboriously made their way to Zebulon's blockhouse the following morning. Sichey delivered their first child shortly after the massacre.

"... the Indians managed to steal and carry away captive a little girl, Ginsey McCoy, three years of age. She was a relative of Mrs. Jeremiah Payne and at the time was making her home with Mrs. Payne. Some fifteen years later she was reported seen with the Indians along the Kankakee River. These Indians migrated to Kansas where Rev. Isaac McCoy, uncle of Ginsey, doing missionary work there among the Indians, found the lost child. Through the years she remembered her name, but now was the wife of an Indian chief with a family. Rev. McCoy persuaded her to return on a visit to Indiana..." "Not being contented away from her family, she returned to her tribe and children and spent the remainder of her life with them."

"After the time of the Pigeon Roost Massacre, many of the settlers on the northern and western frontiers of Clark, Jefferson, Harrison and Knox counties lived in a state of alarm until the close of the war in 1815." Mr. Zebulon Collings, who had the blockhouse within five or six miles of the Pigeon Roost settlement says: "The manner in which I used to work in those perilous times was as follows: On all occasions I carried my rifle, tomahawk, and butcher knife, with a loaded pistol in my belt. When I went to plow, I laid my gun on the plowed ground and stuck up a stick by it for a mark so I could get to it quickly in case it was wanted. I had two good dogs. I took one into the house, leaving the other out. The one outside was expected to give the alarm, which would cause the one inside to bark. I would then be awakened, and my guns were always loaded. I kept my horses in a stable close to the house, which had a porthole so that I could shoot to the stable door. During the two years, I never went from home with any certainty of returning - not knowing the minute I might receive a ball from an unknown hand; but in the midst of all these dangers, God, who never sleeps nor slumbers, has kept me."

In 1904 the State of Indiana erected a monument as a lasting memorial to the massacred pioneers.

Some descendents of massacre suvivors