THE FIGHT AT JOHN KILBURN'S FORT.
Referred to on p. 74.
No one who loves to commemorate and record the deeds of his ancestors, can withhold his tribute of approbation from those who were instrumental in consecrating a monument to the memory of their worthy progenitor, Col. Benjamin Bellows,
140 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.
at Walpole, New Hampshire, on the 11th of October, 1854. From the valuable address made by the Rev. Henry W. Bellows, D.D., on this, occasion, which has since been published with other, information in a memorial monograph of 125 pages, the following minute account of the transactions referred to in the text is taken:—
"Colonel Bellows's fort . . . was situated a little north of his dwelling-house (built in 1762 and still standing), just on the brow of the terrace overlooking his magnificent meadows. It was shaped like an L, about a hundred feet long in the arms, and twenty feet broad, built of logs and earth, and surrounded by an outer palisade. Although a private garrisoned house, it was yet of such importance as to be named among the fortresses maintained at the public expense, at Fort Dummer, Westmoreland, and Charlestown, being No. 3 in this chain of defences. The royal government supplied each of these forts, with a heavy iron gun, for the public protection."
Apprehensive of danger, Colonel Bellows and John Kilburn took every precaution which their limited resources could command, to insure the defence of their own and the neighbouring settlements. The necessity of this course was soon after made fully apparent.
"Two men, by name Daniel Twichel and John Flynt, in the summer of 1755 (somewhere between the third Wednesday in March, 1755, when Daniel Twichel was appointed select-man, and the 17th of August, when the Kilburn fight took place, but probably in August), had gone back to the hills, about a mile and a half northeast, on what is now the Drewsville road, to procure, some timber for oars. Here they were shot by the Indians. One of them was scalped, the other cut open, his heart taken out and laid in pieces upon his breast. This was the first Christian blood spilt in Walpole. The bodies were buried on the spot, which, is accurately pointed out at this day. This event made a solemn impression on the, settlers. They imagined that Twichel's spirit continued to hover over them, warning them of the wiles of the savages, and crying for vengeance on them. A remarkable rock in Connecticut river, where he used to fish with unfailing success, was for a long time held in religious veneration; and anglers are still tempted to Twichel's Rock, as to a place where their luck is under the propitious influence of his memory.
Shortly before this, an Indian by the name of Philip had visited Kilburn's house in a friendly way, pretending to be in want of provisions. He was supplied with flints, flour, etc., and dismissed. Soon after it was ascertained that this same Indian had visited all the settlements on the river, doubtless to procure information of the state of their defences. Governor Shirley about this time sent information to all the forts in this region, that five hundred Indians were collecting in Canada, whose aim was the butchery and extinction of the whole white population on the river. Greatly alarmed, the sparse population, unwilling to abandon their crops, had strengthened their feeble garrisons, and bravely determined to stand by their rude but promising homes.
"Col. Benjamin Bellows had at this time about thirty men at his fort, about half a mile south of Kilburn's house, but too distant from it to afford him any aid. About noon on the 17th of August, 1755, Kilburn and his son John, in his eighteenth year, a man by the name of Peak and his son, were returning home to dinner from the field, when one of them discovered the red legs of the Indians among the alders, 'as thick as grasshoppers.' They instantly made for the house, fastened the door, and prepared for an obstinate defence. Kilburn's wife Ruth and his daughter Hetty were already in the house. In about fifteen minutes, the savages were seen crawling up the bank east of the house, and as they crossed a footpath, one by one, one hundred and ninety-seven were counted. About the same, number, it afterwards proved, had remained in ambush, near the mouth of Cold river, but joined the attacking party soon.
APPENDIX E. 741
"The savages appeared to have learned that Colonel Bellows and his men were at work at his mill about a mile east (on what is called the Blanchard brook, near where it is crossed by the Drewsville road, it being built at that distance from the fort on account of the convenience of a waterfall), and they intended to waylay and murder them before attacking Kilburn's house. Colonel Bellows and his men were now returning home, each with a bag of meal on his back, when the dogs began to growl and betray the neighborhood of an enemy. The Colonel, knowing the language of the dogs and the wiles of the Indians, instantly adopted his policy. He directed his men, throwing off the meal, to crawl carefully to the rise of the land, and on reaching the top of the bank, to spring together to their feet, give one whoop, and instantly drop into the sweet fern. This manœuvre had the desired effect to draw the Indians from their ambush. At the sound of the whoop, fancying themselves discovered, the whole body of the savages arose from the bushes in a semicircle round the path Colonel Bellows was to have followed. His men improved instantly the excellent opportunity for a shot offered by the enemy, who were so disconcerted, that without firing a gun, they darted into the bushes and disappeared. The Colonel, sensible of his unequal force, hurried his men off by the shortest cut to the fort, and prepared for its defence.
"The cowardly savages had, however, no intention of coming again into the range of his guns. They determined to take their vengeance out of a weaker party, and soon after appeared on the eminence east of Kilburn's house. Here the same treacherous Philip, who had visited him and partaken his hospitality so short a time before, came forward under shelter of a tree and summoned the little garrison to surrender. 'Old John, Young John,' was his cry, 'I know ye. Come out here. We give you good quarter.' ' Quarter!' vociferated old Kilburn, in a voice of thunder. 'You black rascals, begone, or we'll quarter you.' It was a brave reply for four men to make to four hundred! Philip returned, and after a short consultation the war-whoop rang out, as if, to use the language of an ear-witness, 'all the devils in hell had been let loose.' Kilburn was lucky and prudent enough to get the first fire, before the smoke of the battle perplexed his aim, and was confident he saw Philip himself fall. The fire from the little garrison was returned by a shower of balls from the savages, who rushed forward to the attack. The roof was a perfect 'riddle-sieve.' Some of the Indians fell at once to butchering the cattle, others to a wanton destruction of the grain, while the larger part kept up an incessant fire at the house. Meanwhile, Kilburn and his men — aye, and his women — were all busily at work. Their powder they poured into their hats for greater convenience; the women loaded the guns, of which they had several spare ones — all of them being kept hot by incessant use. As their stock of lead grew short, they suspended blankets over their heads to catch the balls of the enemy, which penetrated one side of the roof, and fell short of the other. These were immediately run by these Spartan women into bullets, and before they had time to cool, were sent back to the enemy from whom they came.... Several attempts were made to force the door, but the unerring aim of the marksmen within sent such certain death to these assailants, that they soon desisted from their efforts. Most of the time the Indians kept behind logs and stumps, and avoided as they best could the fire of the little Gibraltar. The whole afternoon, even till sun-down, the battle continued, until, as the sun set, the savages, unable to conquer so small a fortress, discouraged and baffled, forsook the ground, and, as was supposed, returned to Canada, abandoning the expedition on which they had set out. It is not unreasonable to suppose that their fatal experience here, through the matchless defence of those Walpole heroes and heroines, was instrumental in saving hundreds of the dwellers on the frontiers from the horrors of an Indian massacre.
"Seldom did it fall to the lot of our forefathers to win a more brilliant crown than
742 HISTORY OF EASTERN VERMONT.
John Kilburn earned in this glorious exploit. Peak got the only wound of his party, receiving a ball in the hip, from exposure at a port-hole, which unhappily, for lack of surgical care, caused his death on the fifth day. The Indians never again appeared in Walpole, although the war did not terminate until eight years afterwards. John Kilburn lived to see his fourth generation on the stage, and enjoying the benefits of a high civilization on the spot he had rescued from the savages. He possessed an honest heart, lived uprightly, and died in peace. A plain stone in Walpole burying ground thus commemorates his departure, and speaks his eulogy in a brief, expressive phrase:
Who departed this life for a better
APRIL 8, 1789,
In the 85th year of his age.
He was the first settler of this town in
"In 1814, his son, young John, last visited the scene of his youthful exploits He died among his children, in Shrewsbury, Vermont, in 1822. One of his sons died in this town only a year or two since.
"What amount of destruction Kilburn made among the savages it was impossible to tell, as it is well known they carefully carry off and conceal their dead. It is said that Indian graves have been dug up at Cold river, and on the line of the railroad in that neighborhood, and six graves were found on the site of the Island House at the Falls, in 1833, which may possibly have been those of victims in this fight." — Historical Sketch of Col. Benjamin Bellows, pp. 24-29.