A great deal of mystery surrounds this massacre. According to the British-Indian plan of the campaign it would seem that this attack was aimed at Fort Vallonia. The Delaware Indians living in the vicinity of Vallonia seemed to know that the raid was being executed but claimed they did not approve of it and laid the blame on the Pottawattomies. The whites who went in pursuit of the marauders seemed to be afraid to follow them. A party from Vallonia fell in with the retreating savages but were unable to stop them. No satisfactory account of the raid has ever been written and perhaps never will be. No record seems ever to have been made by any one who knew the facts from the Indian side.
Within the present limits of the county of Scott, there was, in 1812, a place that was called the "Pigeon Roost" settlement. This settlement, which was founded by a few families, in 1809, was confined to about a square mile of land, and it was separated from all other settlements by a distance of five or six miles. In the afternoon of the 3rd of September, 1812, Jeremiah 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 Shawnees, then attacked the Pigeon Roost settlement, about sunset, on the evening of the 3rd of September; and, in the space of about one hour, killed one man, five women, and sixteen children. The bodies of some of these victims of savage warfare were burned in the fires that consumed the cabins in which the murders were perpetrated.
The persons who were massacred at this settlement were Henry Collings and his wife, Mrs. Payne, wife of Jeremiah Payne, and eight of her children, Mrs. Richard Collings, and seven of her children, Mrs. John Morris, and her only child, and Mrs. Morris, the mother of John Morris. Mrs. Jane Biggs, with her three small children, escaped from the settlement, eluded the vigilance of the Indians, and, about an hour before daylight, on the next morning, arrived at the house of her brother, Zebulon Collings, who lived about six miles from the scene of the carnage. "William Collings, who had passed the age of sixty years, defended his house, for the space of three-quarters of an hour, against the attacks of the Indians. In this defense, he was assisted by Captain John Morris. There were two children in the house. As soon as it began to grow dark, Mr. Collings and Captain Morris escaped with the two children (John Collings and Lydia Collings), from the house, eluded the pursuit of the Indians, and, on the morning of the next day, reached the house of Zebulon Collings. A number of the militia of Clark County immediately proceeded to the scene of the Pigeon Roost massacre, where they found several of the mangled bodies of the dead, surrounded by the smoking ruins of the houses. These remains of the murdered persons were brought together, and buried in one grave.
On the afternoon of the 4th of September, about one hundred and fifty mounted riflemen, under the command of Major John McCoy, followed the trail of the Indians about twenty miles, when "the darkness of the night" compelled them to give up the pursuit. A small scouting party under the command of Captain Devault discovered and made an attack upon the retreating Indians, who, after killing one of Captain Devault’s men, continued their flight through the woods, and eluded the pursuit of the scouting party. On the 6th of September, the militia of Clark county were reinforced by sixty mounted volunteers from Jefferson county, under the command of Colonel William McFarland; and, on the evening of the 7th, about three hundred and fifty volunteers from Kentucky were ready to unite with the Indiana militia of Clark and Jefferson counties, for the purpose of making an attack on the Delaware Indians — some of whom were suspected of having been engaged in the destruction of the Pigeon Roost settlement.
It seems, however, that a spirit of jealousy, which prevailed among some of the officers, defeated the intentions of those who, at that time, proposed to destroy the towns of the friendly Delawares, who lived on the western branch of White river. 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 lived within 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 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, by which I would be awakened, having my guns always loaded. I kept my horses in a stable, close to the house, having 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, that God who never sleeps nor slumbers, has kept me.”
Source: From A History of Indiana, by John Dillon 
Contributed by James VanDerMark
BACK -- HOME
© Genealogy Trails