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Wabash County, Illinois

The Cannon Massacre


These are three different accounts of what is known as the “Cannon Massacre

"Another family that came about the same time but not from the same place, and settled on the West Fork, was that of William Shaw. At an early day he built a horse-mill on his place, which was resorted to from far and near. He had two sons, James and William, twins, and four or five daughters. The Shaws came from South Carolina. George Shaw, a grandson, still lives at the old place. William Cannon, a Carolinian, came about 1790 also, and located on the East Fork of Little River, about one mile north of Benjamin Earned. He remained till about 1812, when he and his family removed to the Wabash country, where, shortly after, he and his son Isaac and his son-in-law John Starks, were murdered and scalped by the Indians, and his wife and two daughters carried into captivity. Mrs. Cannon and her two daughters, after suffering many indignities and cruelties, were upon the conclusion of peace ex-changed and restored by the Indians to their friends."  [From “The History of Christian County, Kentucky”]  

"It was in the year 1815, that John Cannon, his three sons and his son-in-law, John Starks, crossed the river at Campbell’s Landing, and built a home on the site of the old Painter graveyard in Section 26-2-S-14-W.  It was late in the afternoon when the Cannon family took possession of their new home.

Two of the sons were to return across the river to Indiana, and went that afternoon, as far as Samuel Campbell’s.  The father, mother, their daughter, and son Samuel, their son-in-law and an aged lady remained and spent the approaching night at their house. Next morning they went out to cut a bee-tree they had discovered a short time before, and were attacked by the Indians.  Cannon was murdered on the spot, and the rest of the family, except Samuel were made captives.  The latter ran and leaped from a rock, or bluff, clear across the Bonpas Creek, landing in soft mud.  His body was found headless and bereft of the collar bones, and the lower portion of the body  left sticking in the mud.  The bodies were wrapped in a horse skin and buried with a coffin in the first grave dug in the Painter graveyard.  This is now known as the Cannon massacre."  [From “Historical Sketch of Wabash County, State of Illinois,” B.A. Harvey.]

B.A. Harvey, the author of this sketch of the history of Wabash County, is the great grandson of Augustus Tugas (or Tougas), the first settler of the county and a grandson of Beauchamp Harvey, one of the first settlers of the town of  Mt. Carmel.


"The account of the sad affair as related by one of Mr. Cannon’s daughters a few years ago, is substantially as follows:  Mr. Cannon and his sons came across the Wabash from the Indiana side, and constructed a cabin near Campbell’s Landing in the Coffee precinct, on the ground where the Painter grave-yard is now located.  No sign of Indians were seen while they were engaged in the work, and they supposed they had all left.  After completing the cabin, they crossed the river to bring over the family.  Late in the afternoon of the same day, they all moved over and settled in their new home.  While building their house, they had found a bee-tree, and after becoming fairly settled, the men went into the timer to cut it.  While thus engaged a band of Indians suddenly fell upon them. Mr. Cannon was instantly killed, and overtaken and dispatched by the murderous foe.  They cut off his head and otherwise mutilated the body, leaving it where he fell.  Mrs. Cannon, a daughter, and a son-in-law by the name of Starks, were captured and carried off by the Indians.  They were, however, subsequently ransomed.  Mr. Cannon and his son were buried by two neighbors, Samuel McIntosh and Henry Gambrel.  They were wrapped in a horse skin and placed into one grave.  This was the first interment made in the Painter burial ground." [From “The History of Edwards, Lawrence and Wabash Counties, Illinois”]