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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Colonel Louis Drake Ranks With Boone And Kenton

Dallas Bogan on 26 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Louis Drake was another gentleman who settled in Warren County and had an impressive life. He was born in New Jersey, June 5, 1765, the son of Joseph Drake, a Revolutionary War participant.
Louis was too young to take an active part in the War, but he suffered many hardships because of it. As the battle of Trenton was being fought, not far from his home, he slipped away on his father's horse and he, hiding the animal from view of the encounter, headed toward a ravine to get a good look at the battle.
While in observance, he suddenly felt the sharp sting of a switch on his back; his father had unexpectedly ventured that way while on scout duty. The lad was swiftly ushered home.
A few days later Louis again journeyed to the battle area. While removing the booty from the battleground, he once more was caught, this time by the provost guard. He was given a good kicking and ordered to leave the field or else be shot.
While away in his search, a British raiding party had broken into the house and had overturned the heavy bed where his weakened mother lay. Louis entered the house and quickly released her from the overturned structure. From this precarious condition she never recovered.
The second battle of Trenton was fought seven years later. Louis, now age seventeen, along with his sixteen-year-old cousin, Patterson, who was a rather large boy for his age, was gathering the prizes at the battle site.
The two were caught, marched two miles down the coast and placed on a prison ship. All prisoners were to be transported to an English man-of-war that was to be sent to New York. Louis, because of his rather small size, was thrown overboard, while Patterson was kept and afterward died on board the ship.
Louis always slept in a trundle bed, and while asleep one night, a British soldier who mistook him for his uncle discovered him. Learning of his mistake, the soldier grabbed Louis by the feet and ordered him shot.
While in this predicament, an Irish captain appeared and stopped the entire procedure. He stated that the British were there to fight men and not to slaughter helpless women and children.
The British soldier abruptly threw Louis to the floor, from which he sustained a back injury that remained with him for the rest of his life.
Louis, in 1784, was now nineteen and walked west, traveling through Pennsylvania to Blue Lick Springs in Kentucky. Here he spent the winter and trapped with Simon Kenton. He also met Daniel Boone and defeated both in a rifle shooting match.
He was gifted in the ways of the rifle. He defeated noted Indian chiefs and received the name "White Eyes" because of their different colors; his right eye was grey and his left blue. The Indians credited his shooting skill to this peculiarity.
In the spring of 1788, Kenton and Drake journeyed to Fort Washington, now the site of Cincinnati, where they sold their furs.
Because of his backwoodsman skills, Drake, the same spring, was asked to deliver important papers to Washington. His travels kept him far down into Kentucky in order to avoid the Indians. His proposed route was by way of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He made his camp at night by digging holes in the ground from which he cooked his meals.
The first morning he lowered himself from a tree and back tracked himself for half a mile. He cut down a small sapling and used it, while swinging and jumping to-and-fro for a distance, to break the trail of some following Indians.
The second morning the same steps were repeated.
The third morning he found he had successfully avoided all contact with the Indians, and so the papers were successfully delivered.
Drake returned to the west in 1798, three years after the Indian Peace Treaty, bringing with him his family. (He had married Elizabeth Russell, a native of Wales, in 1790.)
They arrived at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) where they constructed a flatboat for the purpose of descending the Ohio River. Others requested passage on the craft and fourteen families in all made the trip. Fort Washington was reached in safety, although the Indians tried numerous means to lure them to shore.
At this site he traded one of his guns for 80 acres of prime land, now the heart of Cincinnati. He later sold this in the spring of 1800 for $600.
Colonel Drake and family made their home at Fort Washington. John Cleves Symmes, the noted land entrepreneur, employed him as a land surveyor.
The Colonel was sent north, along with one of his associates, to select land for themselves. They journeyed up the Little Miami to Loveland, and then blazed their route to Waynesville. They had first intended to reach Lebanon, but failed in this attempt. Colonel Drake bought 160 acres near Genntown, paying only 12 1/2 cents an acre. A portion of the land, with the help of neighbors, was cleared during the winter months. In just two years he had cleared several acres and built a log home, into which he moved his family on April 1, 1800.
(While loading his provisions to relocate in Warren County, he was offered forty acres, along what is now Vine Street, for a saddle, which his wife's father had sent her as a wedding gift from England. He could not understand why he should be offered such inferior hills for a good sidesaddle.)
Shortly after settling into his new home, the Colonel was returning from a deer hunt. He had hung his kill, two saddles of venison, in a thicket near his clearing. He surveyed the area to see if any Indians were present. His mind wandered to the effect that what if the Indians had broken into his house and murdered his family.
In the wink of an eye, an Indian of rare stature stepped from the door and immediately made signs of his friendliness, for if he had not, Colonel Drake's rifle was aimed point blank at him. Gesturing toward his camp, he motioned that his squaw and papooses were there, and also that he meant no harm.
Drake supplied the family with a saddle of venison and a peck of corn meal. After the meal was consumed, the Indian contested Drake to a shooting match. Drake, being cautious not to shoot first, which would leave him defenseless, told the Indian to go first. The Indian was soundly beaten and through this incident, they became close friends.
The Indian was a tribal chief from Michigan who regularly traveled through the area with his family on his annual trip to and from the South. (This was an established migratory path for the Indians until the War of 1812.) He had a string of pits along the way that he used for campfires.
Samuel Drake was the son of Colonel Louis Drake, and at the age of nineteen, he became a rifleman in Harrison's army. He was on duty at Detroit during the War of 1812, and during this tenure, he was asked by an officer if he knew of any ship carpenters. He replied that he knew of five such persons.
Samuel was immediately taken to headquarters where he named his father, Louis, and four other Warren County men, Moses Trimble, Jacob Trimble, Train Newport and David Williams.
The five men were requested by messengers to quickly travel to Detroit. They collected as many tools as possible and made the long journey.
Arriving at the site, the Warren Countians contacted William Henry Harrison, who immediately solicited the aid of 500 volunteers from his army for the purpose of shipbuilding.
They sawed and cut lumber in an old fashioned pit, one man in the pit working four hours and one man on top ten hours a day. They each received wages of 62 1/2 cents a day for their labor.
Ten gunboats were built. Commodore Perry offered a prize of gold for the first boat launched; Moses Trimble won the award. The Commodore was so pleased with the boat that he wanted it armed at once. He insisted that the guns should be loaded at the stern of the boat. Trimble disagreed. A large gun was brought up and loaded onto the stern. The boat abruptly tipped almost straight up. Trimble promptly ordered the workers to climb to the bow of the boat, it taking 56 men to right it. In essence, Commodore Perry agreed that Trimble knew more about loading guns than he did.
It took 40 days to complete the ten gunboats, and with this feat, Perry's fleet was soon completed. After completing their assignment, the five Warren Countians were anxious to return home. However, General Harrison ignored their homeward plea and refused even to arm them.
They then asked Commodore Perry to furnish them with provisions and arms. He immediately took action, supplied them with the necessities, and instructed them to follow the line of blockhouses that began at Detroit and ended at Troy.
Their food supplies were nearly exhausted near Salina. They were reluctant to use their firearms for fear of the woods being full of Indians. They came to a clearing with a small shack built upon it. Whether owned by an Indian or a white man, their suspicions caused them to surround the clearing and lay in wait for developments.
About 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a white woman appeared from the house for some water. Colonel Drake approached her, explained that they were from Harrison's army, and had had nothing to eat for a spell.
She invited them in and they basked in shelled corn prepared on a white oak stump with a spring pole. She made some johnnycakes and fried some side meat. The men in the meantime, near exhaustion, had all lain down on the floor to rest.
After feasting, they walked that day from Salina to Troy. The lady perhaps felt some feeling toward the men, for her husband and two sons were in Harrison's army.
In 1815, Colonel Drake's old Indian friend urged him to compete in a shooting contest with another chief, who was said by the Indians to have never been beaten. The target was a small spot on a beech tree, one hundred yards distant. The first three shots fired by each competitor hit the mark. The Indian, however, missed on the fourth shot, he shooting first. Drake hit dead center.
Hoping that Drake would miss the fifth shot, which was the limit in those days, the chief refused to shoot again unless Drake shot first. Shooting first, Drake hit dead center and the Indians shouted wildly.
Drake rose very early the next day in preparation for the trip homeward. As he was leaving the cabin he stumbled over his old Indian friend. The Indian said: "'White Eye' go back; it not safe for 'White Eye' out here."
Colonel Drake obeyed the wishes of his old friend and spent the night at the cabin.
The following day, as the Colonel and a companion were nearing Dayton, his faithful old friend suddenly appeared and said: "'White Eye' safe now; no more Indian here." The old chief had followed closely, sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other, always alert to the dangers that might be inflicted upon his friend.
The chief that Drake had beaten had been harassed and badgered by his tribal members. He had sworn that he would never again see his squaw and papooses.
Colonel Drake never again saw his dedicated Indian friend.
Colonel Louis Drake died of apoplexy at the old Drake farm in Genntown, on March 4, 1848. His many descendants can well be proud of this adventuresome pioneer.

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This page created 26 August 2004 and last updated 14 February, 2010
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