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History of Butler County Pennsylvania - 1883

Chapter 2 -- The Region Prior to 1796

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Transcribed by Sherry Chestnutt. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.





[pg. 11]

A glance at the map of Western Pennsylvania will immediately suggest to the thoughtful reader the fact, and the reason for the fact, that the region now known as Butler County was not the theater of any of those great actions of an early day which aided in shaping the destiny of the Great West, and, indeed, of the entire national domain.

The chief villages and strongholds of the Indian tribes who dwelt in Western Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century were upon the larger water-courses, and, when European adventurers came into the county, they followed these same natural highways of the wilderness. Travel by any other means was slow, difficult and dangerous. It thus resulted in this region, as in all others settled before the era of railroads, that the earliest homes of the white men and the scenes of the operations, whether of military or other nature, were upon the streams which were navigable by the canoe, pirogue, or similar light craft of the Indian, explorer, trapper, trader, soldier or emigrant.

It will be seen, by reference to the map, that the Allegheny upon the east, and Beaver Creek and the Ohio upon the west and south, inclose Butler County in an irregular oval. In the interior of this almost entirely stream-surrounded expanse of country are only small tributaries of the rivers, which were not navigable even for the small boats of pioneer commerce.

Hence, during the period of French occupation of the Ohio, during the long contest of the English for dominion, and during the Revolutionary war, when stirring events of far-reaching effect, were occurring at the site of Pittsburgh, when forts were built on [pg. 12] Beaver Creek and the Allegheny, and later, when the banks of these streams were settled by the hardy frontiersmen, the region between the streams was an unbroken wilderness, which the foot of the white man seldom trod.

It was the wild retreat of the Indians, who fell upon the outposts of civilization to the eastward and southward.

Originally, or at as early a time as we have knowledge of the country, the Delawares held possession of Western Pennsylvania, and, indeed, of the lands which form the whole State. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, various tribes were represented in the western part of the State. Among them - their relative numbers being as in the order named - were Delawares, Shawnees, Senecas and Muncies. They had large towns upon the Allegheny, the Ohio and Beaver Creek, which were maintained for long periods, and smaller villages, less permanently occupied, on the tributaries of these streams, several of them located within the present limits of Butler County.

Although the streams afforded the principal means of communication for the Indians (and for the few whites who ventured into the wilderness in the last century), there were numerous trails crossing the country. The great "Kittanning path," which led westward from Philadelphia to the Indian town of Kittanning on the Allegheny, was continued through what is now Butler County, passed the site of the seat of justice, and thence probably led to Beaver Creek or the Ohio, or merged with other trails which extended to those streams. There is traditionally evidence that an Indian path, well defined when the county was settled, extended from the site of Butler in an almost straight line to Pittsburgh. In Buffalo Township, a trail has been identified which ran in a north and south direction. It probably extended northward a considerable distance, and again approached the Allegheny River near the northeastern angle of the county, cutting off the big eastern bend of the river.

There were other trails, however, compared with which those we have alluded to were mere by-paths.

The lands which now form the western part of Butler County were traversed by two Indian trails, of which very distinct traces remained when the first settlers came into the county in 1796, and which, indeed, can be identified in some localities at the present day. The more important of these was the trail from the forks of the Ohio (the site of Pittsburgh) to Venango, an old Indian town at the mouth of French Creek, on the Allegheny River, where is now the town of Franklin. The old Pittsburgh and Franklin road, as originally laid out, closely follows the ancient path of the red men. Entering the present limits of the county on the south line of Cranberry Township, the trail extended almost directly northward.

It can still be detected on the lands of Christian GOEHRING and Israel COOKSON, in Cranberry, and it is probable that, after passing northward into what is now Jackson Township, it bore slightly eastward, following a small run to Breakneck Creek, which it must have crossed very near Evansburg. From this point it extended northward through Forward and Connoquenessing, Franklin, Brady and Slippery Rock, and so onward to Venango. It is highly probable that it crossed the lands upon which the village of Prospect has been built, and it was doubtless at that locality that the trail from Logstown* intersected it. This latter trail is supposed to have traversed the sites of Zelienople ** and Harmony.
*Logstown is variously located by different writers. It was an Indian (Shawanese) town upon the Ohio near where is now the village of Economy. It is said by some to have been upon the left or southwest bank, but nearly all of the old authorities place it upon the right or northeastern bank. ALLBACK, in his "Western Annals," says it was "seventeen miles below the site of Pittsburgh," but the distance was hardly so great.
**On the land owned by Dr. Amos LUSK, of Zelienople, and within a few rods of his residence, is a slight depression, extending in a general southwest to northeast direction, which has every appearance of having been a much traveled trail or path.. Along its line have been picked up a large number of flint arrow heads, objects which we may remark are very seldom found elsewhere in the vicinity. Within a short distance from the trail, is an unusually strong and cold spring of water.

Another Indian trail crossed the lands now embraced in Cranberry, from the northwest to the southeast, running in a line approximately parallel to Brush Creek. This connected "the forks," or the site of Pittsburgh, with the Indian village of Kosh-kosh-kung.* David GARVIN, a settler of 1796, is authority for the statement that for many years this ancient pathway could be distinguished upon the farm now owned by J. DAMBACH.
*Kosh-kosh-kung was on Beaver Creek, seven miles south of the site of New Castle, Lawrence County, about where Newport now stands.

In the year 1753, more than two-score years before there were any white men resident in Butler County, no less a personage than George WASHINGTON traveled on foot throughout the wilderness along the trails between "the forks" and Venango, and between Logstown, on the Ohio, and the site of Prospect.

At the time of which we write, the encroachments of the French on what was regarded as English territory - the Ohio Valley - created much agitation in the colonies, and especially in Virginia. The purpose of the French to establish a military cordon around the English settlements, and thus prevent their extension beyond the mountains, was clearly seen, and it was feared that this purpose was but the first of a series of measures planned to bring the whole of the North America under the dominion of France. The region now known as Western Pennsylvania was then supposed to be within the limits of Virginia, and the colonial ruler, Gov. DINWIDDIE regarded it as his [pg. 13] duty, in conformity with instructions from the crown, to watch the movements of the French, and make preparations for supporting the British claims. He resolved to send out a messenger to make observations, and to demand of the chief French officers, an explanation of their designs. For this important, arduous and perilous undertaking, Maj. WASHINGTON, then only in his twenty-second year, was selected. "His knowledge of the Indians, his practical acquaintance with the modes of living and traveling in the woods, acquired in his surveying expedition, and the marked traits of character which he had already displayed," says his biographer, SPARKS, "were doubtless the qualities that recommended him for the delicate mission." Gov. DINWIDDIE gave the young man a letter of instructions, dated "at the city of Williamsburg, the seat of my Government, this 30th day of October, in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of His Majesty, George the Second, King of Great Britain, etc., etc., Annoque Domini, 1753" and WASHINGTON set out upon his journey the same day. He employed a French interpreter, and, upon the 14th of November, arrived at Will's Creek, where he engaged Christopher GIST,* one of the most noted pioneers and woodsmen who appeared upon the stage during the troublous times from 1750 to 1783, and also four others, the latter as servitors. The excessive rains and vast quantities of snow prevented the little company from reaching Mr. FRAZIER's at the mouth of Turtle Creek, until November 22. From there they went to "the forks," and WASHINGTON spent some time in viewing the rivers and the land between, which he thought "extremely well situated for a fort," as it had the absolute command of both rivers. From the site of Pittsburgh, WASHINGTON and his companions went down the Ohio to Logstown, arriving there on the twenty-fifth day after leaving Williamsburg. Upon the 25th of November, TANNACHARISON, or the Half King,** came to town, and WASHINGTON learned from him many facts concerning the French and the route he must pursue to meet their commandant. After several days had been spent among the Indians at Logstown, WASHINGTON and his attendants, accompanied by the Half King and several other Indians, started, upon the 30th of November, for Venango, where they arrived upon the 4th of December, "without anything remarkable happening but a continued season of bad weather." "This is an old town," says WASHINGTON in his journal, "situated at the mouth of French Creek upon the Ohio, *** and lies near north about sixty miles from Logstown, but more than seventy the way we were obliged to go." They found the French colors hoisted at a house from which they had driven John FRAZIER, an English subject, and WASHINGTON immediately repaired there to learn where the commander resided. There were three officers there, one of whom was said to have command of the Ohio, but they told the English Commissioner that there was a general officer at the near fort (Fort LeBoeuf, now Waterford, Erie County), and advised him to apply there for an answer to his inquiries. "They" (the officers at Venango) "told me," writes WASHINGTON, "that it was there absolute design to take possession of the Ohio. and by G - d they would do it; for that, although they were sensible the English could raise two men for their one, yet they knew their motions were too slow and dilatory to prevent any undertaking of theirs. They pretend," continues the journal, "to have an undoubted right to the river from a discovery made by one LA SALLE, sixty years ago, and the rise of this expedition is to prevent English settlement on the river or the waters of it."
*Christopher GIST was a very prominent character of his time, and his life was crowded with adventure. He was a native of England, and first became known in North Carolina as a good surveyor, a bold and skillful woodsman, and an intrepid explorer. As agent for the Ohio Company, he made a journey to the wilderness west of the Alleghanies in 1759, penetrated Ohio to the Scioto and the Miamis, and went down the Ohio River nearly to the site of Louisville. He was the first explorer of Kentucky. In 1754, he was again with WASHINGTON in the Fort Necessity campaign, and was chosen by BRADDOCK as chief guide for his expedition. In 1756, he was sent South, and succeeded in enlisting the Cherokees in the English interests. He was appointed Indian agent for the South, and endorsed by WASHINGTON who said: "I know of no person so well qualified for the position." He died somewhere in the South, but the place and time of his death are unknown. He had three sons who were men of note, one of them a Colonel in the Revolutionary army.
** The Half King was a good friend of the English, but unfortunately he died at Harris Ferry, (Harrisburg) in October, 1754. Had it not been for his untimely death, it is conjectured by CRAIG and some other historians, BRADDOCKs' overwhelming defeat might possibly have been averted.
*** It appears from this that the Allegheny was then called the Ohio.

WASHINGTON journeyed on to Fort Le Boeuf; arrived there on the 11th of December and remained there until the 16th, holding an unsatisfactory conference with the commandant, Legardeur LA PIERRE. On the 22d he reached Venango. The horses had now become very weak, and it was doubted whether they could perform the journey to "the forks." WASHINGTON and all of the others except the drivers, who were obliged to ride, gave up their horses, that they might be made to carry packs. The horses became daily less able to travel, the cold increased, and the trail became much worse because of a heavy fall of snow, and therefore, as WASHINGTON was anxious to make report of his proceedings to the Governor as early as possible, he "determined to prosecute his journey the nearest way through the woods on foot."

Here we will quote literally from his journal:

"I took my necessary papers, pulled off my clothes and tied myself up in a match-coat. Then, with gun in hand and pack upon my back, in which were my papers and provisions, I set out with Mr. GIST, fitted in the same manner, on Wednesday, the 16th. The day following, just after we had passed a place called Murdering Town (where we intended to quit the path and steer across the country for Shannapin's Town),* [pg. 14] we fell in with a party of French Indians who had lain in wait for us. One of them fired at Mr. GIST or me, not fifteen steps off, but fortunately missed. We took this fellow into custody and kept him until about 9 o'clock at night, then let him go and walked all of the remaining part of the night without making any stop, that we might get the start so far as to be out of reach of their pursuit the next day."
*Hannapin's Town was an Indian village, situated on the east side of the Allegheny, extending from the two-mile run down towards the forks. -- N. B. CRAIG

The incident to which WASHINGTON casually alludes is narrated at length by his companion, GIST, who also kept a journal. As it relates to an occurrence the scene of which was undoubtedly in Butler County, and throws much light upon the character of WASHINGTON, we reproduce the entire paragraph:

"We rose early in the morning and set out about 2 o'clock and got to the Murdering Town, on the Southeast Fork of Beaver Creek.* Here we met an Indian whom I thought I had seen at Joncaire's, at Venango, when on our journey up to the French fort. This fellow called me by my Indian name, and pretended to be glad to see me. I thought very ill of the fellow, but did not care to let the Major know I mistrusted him. But he soon mistrusted him as much as I did. The Indian said he could hear a gun from his cabin, and steered us more northerly. We grew uneasy, and then he said two whoops might be heard from his cabin. We went two miles farther. Then the Major said he would stay at the next water. We came to water; we came to a clear meadow. It was very light, and snow was on the ground. The Indian made a stop and turned about. The Major saw him point his gun towards us, and he fired. Said the Major, 'Are you shot?' 'No,' said I, upon which the Indian ran forward to a big standing white oak and began loading his gun, but we were soon with him. I would have killed him but the Major would not suffer me. We let him charge his gun; we found he put in a ball; then we took care of him. Either the Major or I always stood by the guns. We made him make a fire for us by a little run, as if we intended sleeping. I said to the major, 'As you will not have him killed, we must get him away, and then we must travel all night,' upon which I said to the Indian, 'I suppose you were lost and fired your gun." He said he knew the way to his cabin, and it was but a little way. 'Well,' said I, 'do you go home, and as we are tired, we will follow your track in the morning, and here is a cake of bread for you, and you must give us meat for it in the morning.' He was glad to get away. I followed him and listened until he was out of the way, and then we went about half a mile, when we made our fire, set our compass, fixed our course and traveled all night. In the morning, we were at the head of Piny Creek."
*The southeast fork of Beaver Creek," was probably the Connoquenessing. Traces of an Indian village were plainly visible upon this stream in the vicinity of Buhl's Mill, Forward Township when the country was settled, and many years later.

WASHINGTON and GIST, as has been heretofore stated, when they journeyed northward to Venango, started from Logstown. Their route must have led by the site of Zelienople. Upon their return, they directed their steps as directly as possible toward "the forks," and must have passed very near the location of Evansburg. Breakneck was undoubtedly the "water" to which the travelers came just before the Indian treacherously fired at them. The head-waters of Pine Creek (GIST's Piny Creek), which WASHINGTON and his companion reached in the morning, are in Franklin Township of Allegheny County, about half a mile west from the Pittsburgh plank road. The distance from Evansburg is just about that which two tired men could walk during the night in snow of considerable depth.

The Indian who shot at WASHINGTON may have lived at a village only a short distance from the scene of the occurrence. A cluster of wigwams was discovered by Thomas WILSON, a pioneer, in 1796, on the farm now owned by Robert ASH, and situated on the south side of Breakneck Creek, a mile and a half from Harmony, on the Harmony and Evansburg road.

It thus seems a fair inference that it was upon the waters of Breakneck that WASHINGTON's life was imperiled upon the 27th of December, 1753. His escape was doubtless a narrow one. Upon the 16th of January, 1754, he arrived at Williamsburg and presented to the Governor the letter of the French commandant, and so was concluded the first important public service of George WASHINGTON.

All doubt as to French claims and intentions were removed by WASHINGTON's visit. Gov. DINWIDDIE, in order to arouse the colonies, had WASHINGTON's journal published far and wide, and reprinted in England. This led to very important and immediate action, since it was the first positive intelligence of the views and designs of the French.

In 1758, another eminent man, whose name is frequently to be met with in the pages of early Pennsylvania history, passed through the country, which, forty-two years later, was included in the bounds of Butler County. This was Christian Frederick POST, an unassuming, honest German, a Moravian, who spent the greater part of his life in preaching to the Indians of Pennsylvania and Ohio. While at Bethlehem, he was prevailed upon to carry an important message from the Government of Pennsylvania to the Delawares, Shawanese and Mingo Indians, settled on the Ohio, the object of which was to prevail upon them to withdraw from the French interest, and thus prevent an attack upon the advancing columns of Gen. FORBES.

[pg. 15] POST's journal possess a peculiar interest from the fact that it contains the earliest known mention of the Connoquenessing, by name, by a white man. The missionary started from Philadelphia for the Ohio July 15, 1758, and arrived at Fort Venango upon the 7th of August. From Venango, POST and his companion, and Indian chief named PESQUETUM, set out for Kosh-kosh-kung (or, as he spells the name, Cushcushkunk). They started southward upon the 8th of August, and upon the 10th discovered that they were lost. They imagined that they were near Cushcushkunk, but met an Indian and an English trader, who informed them that they were within twenty miles of Fort Du Quesne. They "struck out of their road to their right, and slept that night between two mountains." The next day they killed two deer, which POST and PESQUETUM roasted, while the Indian and the trader "went to hunt for a road, to know which way we shall go" The journal reads; "One came back and found a road, and the other lost himself." Under date of the 12th of August, POST made the following entry: "We all hunted for him, but in vain. We could not find him, so concluded to set off, leaving such marks that if he returned he might know which way to follow us, and we left him some meat. We came to the River Conaquanosshan, an old Indian town. We were then fifteen miles from Cushcushkunk."

The point at which POST saw the "Conaquanosshan" was probably about where Harmony now stands, as this village is just fifteen miles in a straight line from Newport, which occupies the site of Cushcushkunk, or Kosh-kosh-kunk. If this supposition is correct, there must then have been, in the year 1758, "an old Indian town" upon or very near the ground on which Harmony is built.

Subsequent to WASHINGTON's visit to the site of Pittsburgh in 1753, and prior to the opening of the Revolutionary war, many momentous events occurred there. Great Britain, France, Great Britain again, and the colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania, were successively in possession. The site of Pittsburgh was captured by CONTRECOEUR in 1754, and by FORBES in 1758. In 1763, the town and fort was besieged by Indians, and in 1755, BRADDOCK's terrible defeat occurred upon the Monogahela. Upon the 8th of September, 1756, the Indian village of Kittanning, on the Allegheny (upon the site of the present town) was destroyed by Col. John ARMSTRONG, after whom Armstrong County was named. The stroke was one of the severest the Indians received.

But these events, the most important of the period in Western Pennsylvania do not properly belong to the history of the narrower field which is the province of this volume. We simply refer to them to remind the reader of the history of the times, and hasten on to the chronicling of those affairs which, although less important in themselves, may more appropriately be treated in these pages.

For several years subsequent to 1779, the Upper Allegheny was the scene of strong offensive operations against the Indians. From their villages on the river, the Muncies and Senecas had made frequent forays in the white settlements, and, by the year above mentioned, their outrages had become so alarming that it was decided to retaliate upon them the injuries of war, and to carry into the country occupied by them the same system with which they had visited the settlements. An adequate force of men, under the command of Gen. BROADHEAD, proceeded up the Allegheny, and met a large war party near the locality now known as Brady's Bend. Capt. Samuel BRADY and a company of rangers, or scouts, who were in advance, relying upon the ability of the main body, under Gen. BROADHEAD, to force the Indians to retreat, allowed the enemy to proceed without hindrance, and, making a short detour, reached the river at a point above where there was a narrow pass. BRADY reasoned that the Indians would retreat by the same route upon which they had advanced, and that he and his companions could pour upon them a deadly fire. It was as he anticipated. The soldiers under BROADHEAD drove the savages swiftly back. They pressed on to gain the pass, that they might there resist and turn the tide of battle, but found it occupied by their relentless foe. BRADY and his rangers fired volley after volley from their rifles upon the hurrying horde.

"At once there rose so wild a yell
Within that dark and narrow dell,
As all the fiends from heaven that fell,
Had pealed the banner cry of hell!
Forth from the pass in tumult driven,
Like chaff before the winds of heaven,
The Indians appear.
For life! for life! their flight they ply-
And shriek, and shout and battle cry
Are maddening in the rear."*
*From SCOTT's description of the battle of "Beal Au Daine," with a slight change.

The fire was very destructive. Many were killed upon the bank, and many more in the stream, where they plunged to escape. BALD EAGLE was of the number slain. CORNPLANTER, afterward the famous chief of the Senecas, and the friend of the whites, then a young man saved himself by swimming.

In 1780, another engagement, in which BRADY figured conspicuously, occurred at the site of Mahoning, in Armstrong County.

The injuries inflicted by Gen. BROADHEAD's troops, quieted the country for several years, but spies were kept out for some time to watch the movements of the Indians [pg. 16] and to guard the settlements from sudden attacks. Foremost among them in wood lore and knowledge of the red man's ways, as well as in coolness and bravery, was Capt. BRADY, to whom the French Creek region was assigned as a special field of duty. He had command of a small party of rangers, who were constantly engaged in scouring the woods.

One of Capt. BRADY's characteristic adventures with the Indians occurred within the northern part of Butler County, probably in 1781 or the following year.

"The Captain," says an early historian, "had reached the waters of Slippery Rock, a branch of Beaver, without seeing signs of Indians. Here, however, he came on an Indian trail in the evening, which he followed till dark without overtaking the Indians. The next morning, he renewed the pursuit, and over took them while they were engaged at their morning meal. Unfortunately for him, another party of Indians were in his rear. They had fallen upon his trail and pursued him, doubtless with as much ardor as his pursuit had been characterized by; and at the moment he fired upon the Indians in his front, he was in turn fired upon by those in his rear. He was now between two fires, and vastly outnumbered. Two of his men fell; his tomahawk was shot from his side, and the battle-yell was given by the party in his rear and loudly returned and repeated by those in his front. There was no time for hesitation; no safety in delay; no chance for successful defense in their present position. The brave captain and his rangers had to flee before their enemies, who pressed upon their flying footsteps with no lagging speed. BRADY ran toward the creek. He was known by many, if not all of them, and many and deep were the scores to be settled between him and them. They knew the country well; he did not; and from his running toward the creek they were certain of taking him prisoner. The creek was, for a long distance above and blow the point he was approaching, washed in its channel to a great depth. In the certain expectation of catching him there the private soldiers of his party were disregarded, and, throwing down their guns and drawing their tomahawks, all pressed forward to seize their victim.

"Quick of eye, fearless of heart, and determined never to be a captive to the Indians, BRADY comprehended their object, and his only chance of escape, the moment he saw the creek; and, by one mighty effort of courage and activity, defeated the one and effected the other. He sprang across the abyss of waters, and stood, rifle in hand, on the opposite bank in safety. As quick as lightning (says my informant) his rifle was primed, for it was his invariable practice in loading to prime first; the next minute the powder-horn was at the gun's muzzle, when, as he was in this act, a large Indian, who had been foremost in pursuit, came to the opposite bank, and, with the manliness of a generous foe, who scorns to undervalue the qualities of an enemy, said, in a loud voice and tolerable English, 'BLADY [sic] make good jump!' -- It may be doubted whether the compliment was not uttered in derision, for the moment he had said so he took to his heels, and, as if fearful of the return it might merit, ran as crooked as a worm fence -- sometimes leaping high, at others squatting down; he appeared in no way certain that BRADY would not answer from the lips of his rifle. But the rifle wasn't yet loaded. The Captain was at the place afterward, and ascertained that his leap was about twenty-three feet, and that the water was twenty feet deep. BRADY's next effort was to gather up his men. They had a place designated at which to meet in case they should happen to separate, and thither he went, and found the other three there. They immediately commenced their homeward march, and returned to Pittsburgh about half defeated. Three Indians had been seen to fall from the fire they had given them at breakfast."*
*"History of Western Pennsylvania" (Appendix), "By a Gentleman of the Bar."

The Indians who had been allies of the British during the Revolutionary war, after its close still continued to harass the white settlers along the Ohio and Allegheny frontier, and so great were their atrocities and depredations that the Government, in 1790, again inaugurated hostilities against them. During the period from this date until WAYNE's decisive victory in 1794, and even after that until the treaty of Greenville was made in 1795, numerous murders were committed, and many persons taken prisoners. Along the Allegheny (very near the boundaries of the territory of which it is the especial province of this volume to treat), a number of outrages were committed in 1791. In March, a Mr. Thomas DICK and his wife, living on the southeast side of the river, near the mouth of Deer Creek, were captured, and a young man who lived with them was killed and scalped. Four days afterward, at the house of Abraham RUSS, about two miles above the mouth of Bull Creek, a band of Indians, who came to the house with protestations of friendship, and were given food, massacred four men, a woman and six children. Several persons escaped, and the startling news of the slaughter was quickly carried through the scattered settlements, and the inhabitants, taking with them only such articles as could be hastily gotten together and easily carried, fled to James PAUL's on Pine Run. By sunrise on the 23d there were between seventy and eighty women and children collected at this retreat, [pg. 17] and all but four of the men had left in pursuit of the Indians.

One of the most remarkable and best authenticated narratives of adventure and suffering among the Indians of Western Pennsylvania is that which has been related by a woman, Massy HARBISON.* The story of her captivity and escape, thrillingly interesting in itself, has an especial claim to a place in the history of Butler County, from the fact that it was near the present limits of the county that this pioneer wife and mother was made a prisoner by the Indians, and within its limits that she made her wild fight for freedom, with a babe at her breast.
*Massy WHITE, daughter of Edward WHITE, a Revolutionary soldier, was born in Amwell Township, Somerset Co., N.J., March 18, 1770. After the establishment of peace in 1782, the family removed west and settled on the Monogahela at Redstone Fort (now Brownville). In 1787, Massy WHITE was married to John HARBISON, with whom she removed two years later to the headwaters of Chartiers Creek.

Mrs. HARBISON with her two children, were among the number who sought safety at James PAUL's, on Pine Creek, after the perpetration of the murders on the night of March 22, 1791, above the mouth of Bull Creek. From Pine Creek these people proceeded to a point on the left, or eastern bank, of the Allegheny, a mile below the mouth of Kiskiminetas (opposite the site of Freeport), and there erected a block-house, to which all to which all the families who had fled from the neighborhood returned within two weeks. Here they remained in safety during the summer, although several atrocities were committed along the river, and David MCKEE and another young man were killed and scalped within seven miles of the block-house. Soon after the several families were provided for at the block-house, which received the name of REED's Station, the husband of our heroine, John HARBISON, enlisted in the six-months' service, in Capt. GUTHRIE's corps, and went out in the expedition against the Indians, commanded by the unfortunate Gen. Arthur ST. CLAIR. He did not return until the 24th of December, and brought home a memento of ST. CLAIR's defeat in the shape of an ugly wound. On his recovery from this wound, HARBISON was appointed a spy, and ordered to the woods on duty in March, 1792. The inhabitants, having great faith in the spy system as a protection against the Indians, moved out of the block-house in which they had been so long confined, and scattered to their own habitations. Mrs. HARBISON lived in a cabin within sight of the block-house, and not more than two hundred yards distant from it. The spies, in their long detours through the forest, saw no Indian signs, and nothing to alarm them. They frequently came to the HARBISON cabin to receive refreshments and lodging. Mr. HARBISON came home only once in seven or eight days.. On the night of the 21st of May (1792), two of the spies, James DAVIS and a Mr. SUTTON, came to lodge at the HARBISON cabin, and, at daybreak on the following morning, when the horn was blown at the block-house, they got up and went out. This was the morning when Mrs. HARBISON's terrible apprehensions were to be realized. She had long been fearful that the Indians would come upon them, and had entreated her husband to remove her to some more secure place. She was awake when the spies left the cabin, saw that the door was open, and intended to arise and shut it, but fell asleep again. While she slumbered, DAVIS and SUTTON returned, and, after fastening the door, went to the block-house. The woman awoke to find herself in the hands of a band of savages. She was aroused by their pulling her by the feet from the bed. In her narrative,* she says: "I then looked up and saw the house full of Indians, every one having his gun in his left hand and tomahawk in his right. Beholding the dangerous situation in which I was, I immediately jumped to the floor upon my feet, with the young child in my arms. I then took a petticoat to put on, having only the one in which I slept; but the Indians took it from me, and as many as I attempted to put on, they succeeded in taking from me, so that I had to go just as I had been in bed. While I was struggling with some of the savages for clothing, others of them went and took the two children out of another bed, and immediately took the two feather beds to the door and emptied them. The savages immediately began their work of plunder and devastation. What they were unable to carry with them they destroyed. While they were at their work, I made to the door and succeeded in getting out with one child in my arms and another by my side; but the other little boy was so much displeased at being so early disturbed in the morning that he wouldn't come to the door."
*"A narrative of the Sufferings of Massy HARBISON from Indian Barbarity," communicated by herself, and edited by John WINTER; first printed in 1825; fourth edition in 1836. The truthfulness of the narrative has been attested by many who were familiar with the contemporaneous history, and who well knew Mrs. HARBISON's reputation for truth and veracity. Robert SCOTT, a pioneer of Butler Borough, who was upon the Allegheny in 1790 and subsequent years, strongly certified the correctness of the story as published.

"When I got out, I saw Mr. WOLF, one of the soldiers, going to the spring for water, and beheld two or three of the savages attempting to get between him and the block-house; but Mr. WOLF was unconscious of his danger, for the savages had not yet been discovered. I then gave a terrific scream, by which means Mr. WOLF discovered his danger, and started to run for the block-house. Seven or eight of the Indians fired at him, but the only injury he received was a bullet in his arm, which broke it. He succeeded in making his escape to the block-house. When I raised the alarm, one of the Indians came up to me with his tomahawk, as though about to take my life; a second came and placed his hand before my mouth and told me to hush, when a third came with [pg. 18] a lifted tomahawk and attempted to give me a blow; but the first that came raised his tomahawk and averted the blow, and claimed me as his squaw."

The Commissary and his waiter, who had been sleeping in the store-house, near the block-house, being aroused by Mrs. HARBISON's scream and the report of the Indians' guns, attempted to make their escape. The Commissary succeeded in reaching the block-house amidst a rain of bullets, one or two of which cut the handkerchief which he wore about his head. The waiter, on coming to the door, was met by two Indians, who fired at him and he fell dead. "The savages then set up one of their tremendous and terrifying yells, and pushed forward and attempted to scalp the man they had killed," but they were prevented by the heavy fire which was kept up through the port-holes of the block-house.

"In this scene of horror and alarm," says Mrs. HARBISON, "I began to meditate on escape and for that purpose I attempted to direct the attention of the Indians from me, and to fix it on the block-house, and thought if I could succeed in this I would retreat to a subterranean rock with which I was acquainted, which was in the run near where we were. For this purpose I began to converse with some of those who were near me, respectiug [sic] the strength of the block-house, the number of men in it, etc., and being informed that there were forty men there, and that they were excellent marksmen, they immediately came to the determination to retreat and for this purpose they ran to those who were besieging the block-house and brought them away. They then began to flog me with their wiping sticks, and to order me along. Thus what I intended as the means of my escape was the means of accelerating my departure in the hands of the savages. But it was no doubt ordered by a kind Providence for the preservation of the fort and its inhabitants, for, when the savages gave up the attack and retreated, some of the men in the house had the last load of ammunition in their guns, and there was no possibility of procuring more, for it was all fastened up in the store-house, which was inaccessible.

The Indians, when they had flogged me away along with them, took my eldest boy, a lad about five years of age, along with them, for he was still at the door by my side. My middle little boy, who was about three years of age, had by this time obtained a situation by the fire in the house, and was crying bitterly to me not to go, and making bitter complaints of the depredations of the savages.

"But these monsters were not willing to let the child remain behind them; they took him by the hand to drag him along with them, but he was so very unwilling to go, and made such a noise by crying, that they took him up by the feet and dashed his brains out against the threshold of the door. They then scalped and stabbed him and left him for dead.

"When I witnessed this inhuman butchery of my own child, I gave a most indescribable and terrific scream, and felt a dimness come over my eyes next to blindness, and my senses were nearly gone. The savages then gave me a blow across my face and head, and brought me to my sight and recollection again. During the whole of this agonizing scene, I kept my infant in my arms.

"As soon as their murder was effected, they marched me along to the top of the bank, about forty or sixty rods, and there they stopped and divided the plunder which they had taken from our house, and here I counted their number, and found them to be thirty-two, two of whom were white men painted as Indians.

"Several of the Indians could speak English well. I knew several of them well, having seen them go up and down the Allegheny River. I knew two of them to be from the Seneca tribe of Indians, and two of them Muncies; for they had called at the shop to get their guns repaired, and I saw them there.

"We went from this place about forty rods, and they then caught my uncle, John CURRIES's horses, and two of them into whose custody I was put, started with me on the horses toward the mouth of the Kiskiminetas, and the rest of them went off toward Puckety. When they came to the bank that descended toward the Allegheny, the bank was so very step, and there appeared so much danger in descending it on horseback, that I threw myself off the horse in opposition to the will and command of the savages.

"My horse descended without falling, but the one on which the Indian rode who had my little boy, in descending, fell, and rolled over repeatedly, and my little boy fell back over the horse, but was not materially injured. He was taken up by one of the Indians, and we got to the bank of the river, where they had secured some bark canoes, under the rocks opposite to the island that lies between the Kiskiminetas and Buffalo. They attempted in vain to make the horses take the river. After trying for some time to effect this, they left the horses behind them and took us in one of the canoes to the point of the island and here they left the canoe.

"Here I beheld another hard scene, for, as soon as we landed, my little boy, who was still morning and lamenting about his little brother, and who complained that he was injured by the fall in descending the bank, was murdered.

"One of the Indians ordered me along, probably that I should not see the horrid deed about to be perpetrated. The other then took his tomahawk from his side, and, with this instrument of death, killed and [pg. 19] scalped him. When I beheld this second scene of inhuman butchery, I fell to the ground senseless, with my infant in my arms, it being under, with its little hands in the hair of my head. How long I remained in this state of insensibility I know not.

"The first thing I remember was my raising my head from the ground, and my feeling myself exceedingly overcome with sleep. I cast my eyes around and saw the scalp of my dear little boy, fresh bleeding from his head, in the hand of one of the savages, and sank down to the earth again upon my infant child. The first thing I remember after witnessing this spectacle of woe was the severe blows I was receiving from the hands of the savages, though at that time I was unconscious of the injuries I was sustaining. After a severe castigation, they assisted me in getting up, and supported me when up.

"Here I cannot help contemplating the peculiar interposition of Divine Providence in my behalf. How easily might they have murdered me! What a wonder their cruelty did not lead them to effect it! But instead of this, the scalp of my boy was hid from my view, and, in order to bring me to my senses again, they took me back to the river and led me in, knee deep. This had the intended effect. But 'the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.'

"We now proceeded on our journey by crossing the island, and coming to a shallow place where we could wade out, and so arrive to the Indian side of the country. Here they pushed me in the river before them, and had to conduct me through it. The water was up to my breast, but I suspended my child above the water, and, through the assistance of the savages, got safely out.

"From thence we rapidly proceeded forward, and came to the Big Buffalo.* Here the stream was very rapid, and the Indians had again to assist me. When we had crossed this creek, we made a straight to the Connoquenessing Creek, the very place where Butler now stands, and from thence we traveled five or six miles to Little Buffalo, and crossed it at the very place where Mr. B. SARVER's mill now (1836) stands, and ascended the hill."
*Buffalo Creek empties into the Allegheny just below Freeport. Its head waters are in Fairview and Donegal Townships, Butler County, but most of its course in Armstrong County.

[The foregoing paragraph is quite obscure and misleading. The Indians, of course, did not go to "the very place where Butler now stands," and then retrace their way to the Little Buffalo. They crossed the stream on their way to the Connoquenessing at the place where SARVER's' mill stood in later years, and where is now Sarversville. They undoubtedly crossed the Connoquenessing where the CUNNINGHAMS afterward built their mill, and where now stands the George WALTER mill. At this place the rocks originally projected far over the water, and the narrow chasm could be easily spanned by a log. The crossing was a favorite one with the Indians, and the rocks on either side of the creek bore hieroglyphic inscriptions.]

The journal continues: "I now felt weary of my life, and had a full determination to make the savages kill me, thinking that death would be exceedingly welcome when compared with the fatigue, cruelties and miseries I had the prospect of enduring. To have my purpose effected, I stood still, one of the savages being before me, and the other walking on behind me, and I took from off my shoulder a large powder-horn they made me carry, in addition to my child, who was one year and four days old. I threw the horn on the ground, closed my eyes, and expected every moment to feel the deadly tomahawk. But, to my surprise, the Indians took it up, cursed me bitterly and put it on my shoulders again. I took it off a second time and threw it on the ground, and again closed my eyes with the assurance that I should meet death; but instead of this, one of the savages again took up the horn, and, with an indignant, frightful countenance, came and placed it on again. I took it off a third time, and was determined to effect it, and therefore threw it as far as I was able to over the rocks. The savage immediately went after it, while the one who claimed me as his squaw, and who had stood and witnessed the transaction, came up to me and said, 'Well done; that I did right, and was a good squaw, and that the other was a lazy ---------; he might carry it himself.' I cannot now sufficiently admire the indulgent care of a gracious God, that, at this moment, preserved me amidst so many temptations from the tomahawk and scalping-knife.

"The savages now changed their position, and the one who claimed me as his squaw went behind. This movement, I believe, was to prevent the other from doing me any injury; and we went on till we struck the Connoquenessing at the salt lick about two miles above Butler, where was an Indian camp, where we arrived a little before dark."

[This camp was in the ravine which opens into the valley near the KEARNS farm. The distance from Butler is considerably less than two miles.]

"The camp was made of stakes driven in the ground, sloping, and covered with chestnut bark, and appeared sufficiently long for fifty men. The camp appeared to have been occupied for some time. It was very much beaten, and large beaten paths went out from it in various directions.

"That night, they took me from the camp about three hundred yards, where they cut the bush in a thicket and placed a blanket on the ground, and permitted me to sit down with my child. They then pin- [pg. 20] ioned my arms back, only with a little liberty, so that it was with difficulty I managed my child. Here, in this dreary situation, without fire or refreshment, having an infant to take care of, and my arms bound behind me, and having a savage on each side of me who had killed two of my dear children that day, I had to pass the first night of my captivity.

"The trials and dangers of the day I had passed had so completely exhausted nature that, notwithstanding my unpleasant situation and my determination to escape if possible, I insensibly fell asleep, and repeatedly dreamed of my escape and safe arrival in Pittsburgh, and several things relating to the town, of which I knew nothing at the time, but found to be true when I got there. The first night passed away, and I found no means of escape, for the savages kept watch the whole of the night, without any sleep.

"In the morning, one of them left us to watch the trail or path we had come, to see if any white people were pursuing us. During the absence of the Indian, who was the one that claimed me, the one who remained with me, and who was the murderer of my last boy, took from his bosom his scalp and prepared a hoop, and stretched the scalp up on it. * * * * I meditated revenge! While he was in the very act, I attempted to take his tomahawk, which hung by his side and rested on the ground, and had nearly succeeded, and was, as I thought, about to give the fatal blow, when, alas! I was detected."

The Indian who went upon the lookout in the morning became Massy HARBISON's guard in the afternoon, asked her many questions concerning the whites and the strength of the armies they proposed sending out, and boasted largely about the Indians' achievements the preceding fall at the defeat of ST. CLAIR. He gave the woman a small piece of dry venison, but, owing to the blows she had received about the face and jaws, she was unable to eat, and broke it into pieces for her child. On the second night (May 23), she was removed to another station in the same small valley or ravine, and there guarded as she had been the night before. When day broke, one of the Indians went away, as upon the preceding morning, to watch the trail and the other fell asleep.

Then Massy HARBISON concluded it was time to escape. She thought of vengeance, but found it was impossible to injure the sleeping savage, for she could effect nothing without putting her child down, and she feared that if she did it would cry and defeat her design of flight.

She contented herself with taking from a pillowcase of plunder the Indians had stolen from her house a short gown, handkerchief and child's frock, and so made her escape. The sun was about half an hour high. She at first, to deceive the Indians, took a course leading in an opposite direction from her home, and then went over a hill and came to the Connoquenessing about two miles from the place where she had crossed it the day before with her captors, and went down the stream till about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, over rocks, precipices, thorns, briars, etc., suffering great pain, as her feet and legs were bare, but fleeing on unmindful of it, to put as great a distance between herself and the savage enemy as was possible. She discovered, by the sun and the running of the stream, that she was going from, instead of toward, home, and changed her course. She ascended a hill and sat there until the evening star made its appearance, when she discovered the way she should travel the next morning, and, having collected some leaves, she made a bed, lay down and slept, although her feet, being full of thorns, caused her much pain. She had no food either for herself or child. At daybreak, she resumed her travel toward the Allegheny River. Nothing very material occurred during the day.

"In the evening" (we again quote from Massy HARBISON's narrative), "about the going down of the sun, a moderate rain came on, and I began to prepare for my bed, by collecting some leaves together, as I had done the night before, but could not collect sufficient quantity without setting my little boy on the ground; but as soon as I had put him out of my arms, he began to cry. Fearful of the consequence of his noise in this situation, I took him in my arms and put him on my breast immediately, and he became quiet. I then stood and listened, and distinctly heard the footsteps of a man coming after me, in the same direction I had come! The ground over which I had been traveling was good, and the mold light. I had therefore left my foot-marks, and thus exposed myself to a second captivity. Alarmed at my perilous situation, I looked around for a place of safety, and, providentially, saw a large tree which had fallen, into the tops of which I crept, with my child in my arms, and there I hid myself securely under the limbs. The darkness of the night greatly assisted me, and prevented me from detection.

"The footsteps I heard were those of a savage. He heard the cry of the child, and came to the very spot where the child cried, and there he halted, put down his gun, and was at this time so near that I heard the wiping stick strike against the gun distinctly.

"* * * All was still and quiet; the savage was listening if, by possibility, he might again hear the cry he had heard before. My own heart was the only thing I feared, and that beat so loud that I was apprehensive it would betray me. It is almost impossible to conceive or to believe the wonderful effect my situation produced upon my whole system.

[pg. 21] "After the savage had stood and listened, with nearly the stillness of death, for two hours, the sound of a bell, and a cry like that of a night owl --signals which were given to him from his savage companions -- induced him to answer, and, after he had given a most horrid yell, which was calculated to harrow up my soul, he started and went off to join them."

After the retreat of the Indian, Mrs. HARBISON, concluding that it was unsafe to remain where she was until morning, lest a second and more thorough search should be made, which would result in her recapture, with difficulty arose and traveled on a mile or two. Then, sinking down at the foot of the great tree, she rested until daybreak. The night was cold, and rain fell.

On the morning of the fifth day of her suffering and strange experience, Massy HARBISON, wet and exhausted, hungry and wretched, started again on her way toward the Allegheny. About the middle of the forenoon, she came to the waters of Pine Creek, which falls into the Allegheny about four miles above Pittsburgh. She knew not at the time what stream it was she had reached, but crossed it and followed a path along its bank. Presently she was alarmed at seeing moccasin tracks, made by men traveling in the same direction she was. After she had walked about three miles, she came to a fire burning on the bank of the stream, where the men whose tracks she had seen had eaten their breakfast. She was in doubt whether the men were white or Indians, and determined to leave the path. She ascended a hill, crossed a ridge toward Squaw Run, and came upon a trail. While she stood meditating whether to follow the path or seek her way through the underbrush, she saw three deer coming toward her at full speed. They turned to look at their pursuers. She looked, too, and saw the flash of a gun. She saw some dogs start after the deer, and, thinking that the chase would lead by the place where she stood, fled and concealed herself behind a log. She had scarcely crouched in her hiding place before she found that, almost within the reach of her outstreched hand, was a nest of rattlesnakes. She was compelled to leave, and did so, fearing that she would be apprehended by the hunters, whom she supposed were Indians.

The woman now changed her course, and, bearing to the left, came to Squaw Run, which she followed the remainder of the day. During the day it rained, and so cold and shivering was the fugitive that, in spite of her struggles to remain silent, an occasional groan escaped her. She suffered also intensely from hunger. Her jaws had now so far recovered from the blows of the Indians that she was able to eat food, if she could have procured it. She plucked grape-vines and obtained a little sustenance from them.

In the evening, she came within a mile of the Allegheny, but was ignorant of it. There, under a tree, in a tremendous rain-storm, from which she sheltered her babe as well as she could, she remained all night.

Upon the morning of the sixth day (Sunday, May 27) she found herself unable, for a considerable time, to arise from the ground, and when, after a long struggle, she gained her feet, nature was so nearly exhausted, and her spirits so completely depressed, that she made very slow progress. After going a short distance, she came to a path, which, as it had been traveled by cattle, she imagined would lead her to the abode of white people; but she came to an uninhabited cabin. Here she was seized with a feeling of despair, and concluded that she should enter the cabin and lie down to die; but the thought of what would then be the fate of her babe spurred her courage. She heard the sound of a cow bell, which imparted a gleam of hope. Pushing on with all of the strength she could command in the direction from which the sound came, she arrived at the bank of the Allegheny, opposite the block-house, at Six-Mile Island, and was safe. Three men appeared on the opposite bank, and, after some delay, caused by the suspicion that she was sent there as a decoy by the Indians, one of them, James CLOSIER, came over in a canoe and took her to the south side of the river CLOSIER had been one of the nearest neighbors of Massy HARBISON before she was captured by the Indians, but so greatly was she altered by the horrors she had witnessed, the cruelty practiced upon her, and by exposure, fatigue and starvation, that he did not know her.

When she landed on the inhabited side of the river and found herself secure, the brave woman, who had endured so much, gave way under the terrible strain, and was carried to the fort by the people, who came running from it to see her. During the terrible six days, in which she had seen two of her children murdered, had herself been severely beaten by the inhuman savages, and had suffered the keenest anguish and despair, she had not shed a tear; but now that danger was removed, the tears flowed freely "and imparted a happiness," reads her narrative, "beyond what I have ever experienced before, or expect to experience in this world."

After careful treatment, Massy HARBISON recovered her health and senses. Two of the women in the fort drew the thorns from her feet, and Mr. Felix NEGLEY, who had the curiosity to count them, found that 150 had been removed. Afterward, more [pg. 22] were taken out at Pittsburgh, At this settlement, Massy HARBISON made deposition, at the request of the magistrates, detailing the atrocities committed by her captors, and it was soon afterward published throughout the country in all the leading newspapers.

Mrs. HARBISON met her husband in Pittsburgh, and went with him to Coe's Station. After the lands northwest of the Allegheny were opened to settlement, they removed to Buffalo Township, Butler County, where John HARBISON carried on, for a number of years, a mill. The descendants of Massy HARBISON still reside in the neighborhood of her old home, only a few miles distant from the place where she was captured and her children murdered, upon the 22d of May, 1792.

Members of the same party of Indians who had taken Massy HARBISON captive and murdered her children committed other depredations in the neighborhood, of which she learned when she arrived among the whites. On Puckety Creek they attacked two families and took prisoner a Miss Elizabeth FLAILS, who was restored to her friends after sixteen months' captivity, and afterward lived for many years in Armstrong County, near the Butler County line. The Indians who conducted her away, while crossing through the wilderness which is now Butler County, came very near recapturing Massy HARBISON. It was one of this party who followed the fleeing woman, attracted by the crying of her child, and who was recalled by his companions with the ringing of a bell and the imitation of an owl's hooting.

The Indian camp by the salt lick in the ravine northeast of the site of Butler was visited by twelve spies and a company of 130 armed men soon after Massy HARBISON's return, the location being described by her. The scouting party was commanded by Maj. MCCULLY and Capts. GUTHRIE and STEVENSON. They explored the woods, and, after some difficulty, found the camp, but it was deserted. The Indians had doubtless apprehended that the woman's escape would lead to their detection. After ranging for ten days through the woods without seeing the Indians, the little army was re-assembled and marched back to Coe's Station.

In 1793, the Indians were so completely occupied by WAYNE's invasion of their country (that part which is now Western Ohio) that the frontiersmen of Western Pennsylvania, Virginia and Southeastern Ohio were generally free from their attacks. In 1794 and the following year, they were present in large force on the Ohio and Allegheny, and kept the inhabitants in a continued state of alarm. Several murders were committed, but none of which it is necessary or appropriate here to give an account.

[End of Chapter 2--The Region Prior to 1796: History of Butler County, Pennsylvania. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, Waterman, Watkins, & Co., Chicago, 1883.]

Chapter 01--Introductory and Descriptive
Chapter 03--Land Title, Survey and Sale
1883 Butler County History Contents
Butler County Pennsylvania USGenWeb Homepage

Edited 12 Nov 1999, 21:46