Sullivan County Indiana

County History - Chapter II


The Indian Occupancy—The Dudley Mack Massacre—Narrative of Mr. Tubman—Saved by Prayer—Lieut. Fairbank's Defeat—Lieut. Morrison's Defeat—Conflicting Accounts—Additional Incidents —Block-Houses—Prehistoric Earthworks—Sepulchral Mounds —Fort Azatlan—Detailed Description—Advantage of Location —The Depressions—Contents of the Mounds—Intrusive Skeletons—Other Evidences.

The Indians that occupied Sullivan County previous to its settlement, were nomadic parties from various tribes. The tribal district on the north was that of the Miamis; on the east, the Delawares and Shawanese; on the south, the Pecankees and Piankeshaws; and on the west, Mosquitans, in Illinois. There were no permanent villages, as this locality was a common hunting ground for various tribes.   The early settlers found game in abundance for their subsistence, and so much so that sometimes venison hams with other produce were taken from Bubs pro n Creek by flat-boats to New Orleans. There were various moving parties of other tribes passing through this section on their way to the Indian Territory. The war of 1812 and the early treaties with the Indians took place about the period of the early settlement of this county. It is very difficult now to obtain the full particulars and dates of noted events, incidents or encounters that took place between the early pioneers and the red men of that period. What tribes were engaged in those affrays in this county are not now certainly known.


There was a block-house on Gill's Prairie, three or four miles from New Lebanon, and nearly the same distance from Carlisle, built on the Webb farm; north of that house, one day in 1813 or in 1814, two men, Dudley Mack and Collins, were watching to kill wolves that would come to eat of a dead horse, a quarter or a half mile north of that house. The Indians came upon them. Dudley Mack was shot and killed, and was the first person buried in the Webb Cemetery. There were two boys, Edwards and Campbell, that were also taken from Gill's Prairie and never heard of more. Madison Collins was shot and fell from his horse, badly wounded, but managed to get on again and make his escape. This happened west of Carlisle, at the Lisman ford on Busseron Creek, about a mile below the iron bridge. There are various legends or traditions in regard to their encounters and con-tests with the Indians handed down to us from the early pioneers, but lack in the particulars mentioned. Mr. James B. Mann, son of Josiah Maun, says there was a fort or block-house in 1SI0. built on Section 20, Township S, Range 11. and this was the only fort till Fort Harrison, and that Mr. Benjamin Turman was the first settler in this township, and the township was named after him.


Mr. William H. Turman says that. " The Indians would sometimes come to the house, and Grandmother Turman would give them bread and meat, or anything to eat One time they came and were very much dissatisfied, and this was just before the war of 1812. Among them was one Indian that was distinguished in some way, as he wore a silver band on his forehead. He was more impudent or saucy than any of them. He stepped up to my Aunt Mary Bryant, and took her by her left hand and raised it up over her head and brandished a war-club with his other hand, doing this twice before Grandfather Benjamin Turman did anything. At the second time he raised her hand, then Mr. Turman jerked the club out of the Indian's baud, and struck him so hard over tho head that he mashed the silver band into his forehead, and the Indian fell down apparently dead. Grandfather then took him up by one of his hands and feet, and pitched him out of the door, and be was bleeding very much. Tho other Indians ran off to their camps and gave the news to tho rest, and in a short time a number of them, probably forty or fifty, came with their faces painted red, and hallooing at the top of their voices at every step they made. The old man then told the boys that they would have to prepare to tight them. Besides grandfather, there were four boys, a Methodist preacher, and grandmother. They set the table nut in the middle of the house, and each boy placed a pile of ballets on it and had his gun leaded also. They gave the preacher a broadax, and grand-mother took tho foot-adz. Grandfather stood at the door with a musket having a bayonet on it, and said that none of them mint shoot till he did. When they came up they came with a rush against the door, but did not get it open. After a little while they pressed the door open eight or ten inches; then grandfather put the muzzle of the musket almost against an Indians breast, and then they gave back a little; and at that time the Indian that bad been struck and was supposed to have been dead began to show signs of life. The Indians then all turned their attention to him, and he soon got revived so that he could sit up. Then they all got in a better humor, and proposed as a compromise that if grandfather would give them a fat hog and something else that was provisions, they would go away, which lie did. and that ended the difficulty at that time, without any more bloodshed."


A friendly Indian, a few years afterward, told the friends of Grand-father Truman that on the night before the massacre of the Hutson family, the party that killed them went close to the house in which the Turman family lived with the intention of killing them, but when they had cautiously crept up to the house, they listened and heard some one. as they thought, talking to the Good Spirit! "Big medicine man talking heap big talk to Good Spirit! " They then went away without disturbing them, and that night crossed the river, and the next day killed the Hutson family and burned their house. The person they heard talking to the Good Spirit was the Methodist preacher, who was related to Mr. Turman. engaged in prayer, as is customary with that society, and no doubt they were kept from harm that time by an All-wise Providence, who protects those that trust in Him.


The traditions in regard to the massacre of Lieut. Fairbanks, from whom that township and the village of Fairbanks is named, and also the stream named Wagoner's Defeat, are substantially as follows: About the close of the siege of Fort Harrison in 1812, Capt. Taylor sent two men to Vincennes for supplies, and to inform Gen. Harrison of that eventful crisis.    Lieut Fairbanks, with a squad of soldiers, was sent to guard a wagon drawn by a four-horse team, and loaded with flour and meat, driven by a wagoner named John Black.   On their way up, at a place not far from the narrows of the Wabash River, and about three miles west of tho Tillage of Fairbanks, in this county, they were suddenly at-tacked by the Indians, and all killed but three, who managed to escape. One soldier by the name of Ingram, who was detailed from Capt Albright's company at Fort Knox, fought bravely, and with desperation stood his ground and hallooed to his companions to stand and fight but could not rally them.   At last after having killed two or three Indians, he fell a victim to savage fury, being overpowered by numbers. Lieut Fairbanks was killed, and he, too, is supposed tn have fought with desperation.    His sword was found a few years ago, stuck in the ground by a log. It was richly ornamented with silver mountings on the handle, and a tine silver chain attached to it but the wood was totted off the handle. This relic was sent to the State museum at the city of Indianapolis. Mr. Purdue, another soldier, One of the guards when the fray began, shot at the Indians and ran off. loading his gun as he was running.   Three Indians started after him, and he shot at them, and one less came after him every time he fired.    At last there came only one Indian, and running till ho came to a bank, while he was loading his gun or Using to shoot, the Indian ran away and left him.    Purdue was shot several times, but only slightly wounded.    He escaped, and the wounds healed without the bullets being taken out    He came back and lived in this county several years afterward.   When the tiring began. John Black, who was driving the team, tried to stop the horses, but the leaders broke loose and ran off. He then Trent to get his gun out of the wagon, and by the time he got it out tho Indians had unhitched the wheel-horses, and had mounted them and were riding off.   He shot at them, and then ran away and hid between two logs covered with grape vines.    The Indians came down to where he was concealed, and sat on the horses and talked, but hearing squalling and hallooing, they went back to the wagon.   When they were gone a short time, they came back again, but did not find him. and after talking a little while, they went away again.   He afterward said he thought be could hear his heart beat when they were looking for him.    He laid there till after dark, and then slipped out and disguised himself with mud. and then started back, and reached Fort Knox in safety.   There was another bloody massacre in Sullivan County that was called Morrison's Defeat


This took place about four miles north of Sullivan, and about two miles southwest of Shelburn, on a point of land about seventy rods south of the corner of Sections 8 and 4, Township S north, Range 9 west. Lieut. Morrison and a squad of men were marching on foot on their way to Fort Knox from the battle of Tippecanoe." guided by a friendly Indian, whose name was Little Eyes. Some one of the party had shot a deer that day. in the evening, a little before sundown, and the guide told them they would be attacked by Indians, and when they camped he would not stop with them, but hid in a hollow log awhile, and then went on that night to Fort Knox, getting into tho fort a little before sunrise. When the Indians came to them that night, they came making a grunting noise, in imitation of hogs, and when they got close enough to Morrison's men. they tired upon them, and four men fell instantly dead, and one who was also shot ran some distance and fell dead in a hazel thicket and was found shortly afterward.

An old man by the name of Ledgerwood came to this county in the year 1S60, and visited that place where this incident mentioned occurred, and as lie came out into the county road he met Mr. Lewis Grigsby, and told him he was one of the survivors of that massacre, and had just been looking at the place where that disastrous affray took place, and gave him the above account of the attack. Mr. Levi Maxwell says he remembers when he was a boy of seeing two of the men who escaped from this bloody affray, late in the afternoon the next day after it took place. Busseron Creek was very high, and they had swum it and came to their house very wet They were given something to eat. and after drying awhile they went on to Fort Knox, and the next day two or three wagons came, and they all moved into or near th" blockhouse at John Ingles, about half a mile east of tho old Fort Ledgerwood. near whore Carlisle is now. He says the Indians that attacked Morrison's camp were Pottawatomies. When his folks first came to Sullivan County, they forted at the block-house, not far from Carlisle, at the Ledgerwood Mill, which was then Morgan Eaton's mill: after they had stayed there a few months, they moved onto land that George Boon entered, and after the Morrison defeat bin father hired two men to help in his clearing, and also to help guard his family. Among tho early pioneers to this county wore Richard Davidson. Christian Canary and John Rabbins.


Richard Davidson says that he and old man Corban once saw a camp of Delaware and Pottawatomie Indians about where the court house now stands in Sullivan; he smoked the pipe with them, but Corban was afraid of them. There were other block-houses built at different places in the county. Those houses were built of heavy logs, with the top rounds built three or four feet out from the rest to that an opening would be left to shoot down upon an enemy coming to enter them.    Mr. William Crow, in Turman Township, says there was a block-house built on his land in the fall of 1813, and the parties that wintered in it were the families of Johnson, John White, McGill and Henderson and Thorny Lester.

The ground where Morrison's camp was made is now inside a cultivated field, and should be bought by the State, and properly fenced, and a monument erected thereon, and also the ground where the Fairbanks massacre took place should be carefully designated in the same way.

In a few more years, if nothing is done, these places as well as these circumstances will only be preserved in conflicting traditions, and the names of those heroes of that eventful period will become unknown, and they will be unhonored, unwept and unsung. The early pioneers and heroes of those times deserve the grateful remembrance of succeeding generations for their arduous toils and self-denying sacrifices. May it ever be awarded to them!   Peace to their ashes.


The following is an extract from Indiana Geological Survey. 1870, page 237: " When first explored by the white race, this county was occupied by savage Indians, without fixed habitations, averse to labor, and delighting only in war and the chase. Their misty traditions did not reach back to a previous people or age. But numerous earthworks are found in this region of such extent as to require for their construction time and the persistent labor of many people. Situated on the river bluffs, their location combines picturesque scenery, susceptibility for defense, and convenience to transportation, water and productive lands. These are not requisites in the nomadic life of the red men, and identifies the Mound-Builders as a partially civilized, agricultural people.


" On the Hunt farm, Sections 6 and 7. Township 9, Range 10, conical knolls of loess have been artificially rounded, and used for sepulchral purposes. One of these contained at the summit, seventy feet above its base, a burial vault 'three stories high;* on each floor from five to seven human skeletons were found. On M. Drake's land. Section 19, same township, are two large mounds, one 200 feet in diameter, and eighteen feet high; the other twenty.eight feet high,covering an elliptic base 180 feet wide, and 350 feet long. The contents of the two mounds amount to nearly 30.000 cubic yards, and at present contract prices for earth work, their erection would cost $5,000. Another group on Turman's farm, Section 15, Township 8, Range 11, has been partially explored, exposing human and animal remains, pottery variously ornamented, flints, and stone implements. The 'pit-holes' accompanying these mounds and a rectangular excavation will reward future explorers.


" The ancient works near Merom. I have, with the citizens of that town, christened "Fort Azatlan,' in honor of the kind memories with which the people of Montezuma reverted to their old home in ' the valley of great lakes and rivers.1 On three sides, tho fort is defended by the precipitous banks of the river and of ravines, in front by an earth (or adobe) wall, and incloses an area of about three acres. Explorations made by a cut traversing the largest mound from northeast to southwest, discovered relics of stone and flint, shells of the Unio, Helix and Paludina, and of the river turtle, bones of many other animals, and twelve human skeletons. These last present anomalous forms of high interest to the anthropologist, and the section across the mound developed the following arrangement: At the bast, ashes and mineralized bones of the Mound-Builders; near the surface, remains of the savage Indians; and, between these two, intrusive graves of an intermediate race—fishermen, who prepared vaults for their dead. The degree of civilization attained by the latter may be inferred from the faith in immortality exhibited by the deposit of food for the departed; from the careful preparation of their sepulchers, and especially from tho respectful burial of children— not the habit of Mound-Builders. In illustration of the last fact, a small stone vault near the brow of the hill was opened. It contained the bones of two babes who had been tenderly laid to rest ornamented with a child's treasure of shell beads. All the mounds which have come under my notice are located so as to secure an outlook toward sunrise, confirming the belief that the fires of the sun-worshipers have blazed upon every mound capped eminence in the great valley of the continent" The following sketch was written by Prof. F. W. Putnam in 1871:


"The 'fort' is situated on a plateau of loess, about 170 feet in height above low water, on the east bank of the river. On the river side, the bank, which principally consists of an outcrop of sandstone, is very steep, and forms the western line of the fortification, while deep ravines add to its strength on the other sides; the weak points being strengthened by earthworks. The general course of the work is from the north, where it is very narrow (not over fifty feet), owing to the formation of the platean, south along tho river bank about 725 feet to its widest portion, which is here about 375 feet east and west From this point it follows a deep ravine southerly about 460 foot to the entrance end of the fort The bank traversed by the entrance road is hero much wider than at other portions, and along its outer wall, running eastward, are the remains of what was evidently once a deep ditch. The outer wall is about thirty feet wide, and is now about a foot and a half high: a depressed portion of the bank, or walk way, then runs parallel with the outer wall, and the back is then continued for about twenty feet further into the fort, but of slightly less height than the front. Through the center of these banks there are the remains of a distinct roadway about ten feet in width.
"From the northeastern corner of this wide wall the line continues northwesterly about 350 feet along the western ravine to a point where there is a spring, and the ravine makes an indenture of nearly 100 feet to the southwest. The mouth of the indenture is about seventy-five feet in width, and the work is here strengthen oil by a double embankment. The natural line of the work follows this indenture, and then continues in about the same northerly course along the banks of the ravine, to too narrow portion of the plateau. about 550 feet to the starting point. There is bus a continued lino, in part natural and in part artificial, which, if measured in all its little ins and outs, would not be far from 2,450 feet. Besides the spring mentioned as in the indenture of the eastern ravine, there is another spring in the same ravine about 175 feet to the north of the first, and a third in tho southwestern ravine about 125 feet to the west of tho southwestern corner of the work.


" Looking at all the natural advantages offered by this location, it is the one spot of the region, for several miles along the river, that would be selected to-day for the erection of a fortification in the vicinity, with the addition of the possession of a small eminence to the north, which in these days of artillery would command this fort. Having this view in mind, a careful examination was made of the eminence mentioned, to see if there had ever been an opposing or protective work there. but not the slightest indication of earthwork fortification or of mounds of habitation was discovered, though some five or six miles up the river on the Illinois side, at Hutsonville. a large group of some fifty-nine mounds of habitation were investigated. The interior of this fortification contains much of interest, and its history may yet be in part made out by a more extended examination than it was possible to make during the few days given to its exploration. On crossing the outer wall, a few low mounds are at once noticed, and all around are seen largo circular depressions. At the southern portion of the fort these depressions, of which there arc forty-five in all, are most numerous, thirty-seven of them being located near together

" These depressions vary in width from ten to twenty-five or thirty feet, and are irregularly arranged. One of the six depressions opposite the indenture of the eastern ravine is oval in shape, and is the only one that is not nearly circular; the others vary but a foot or two in their diameters.


" Two of these depressions were dug into, and it was found that they were evidently once large pits that had gradually been filled by the hand of time with tho accumulation of vegetable matter and soil, which had been deposited by natural action alone. In some instances, large trees are now growing in the pits, and their many roots make digging difficult A trench was dug across one pit throwing out the boil carefully until the former bottom of the pit was reached at a depth of about five feet On the bottom, ashes and burnt clay gave evidence of an ancient fire, and at a few feet on one side several pieces of pottery, a few bones of animals and one stone arrow-head were found. A spot had evidently been struck where food had been cooked and eaten, and though there was not time to open other pits, there is no doubt but that they would tell a similar story, and tho legitimate conclusion to be drawn from the facts is that those pits were the houses of tho inhabitants or defenders of the fort, who were probably further protected from the elements and tho arrows of assailants by a roof of logs and bark or boughs. The great number of the pits will show that they were for a definite and general purpose, and their irregular arrangement would indicate that they wore not laid out with the sole idea of acting as places of defense, though those near the walls might answer as covers from which to fire on an opposing force beyond, and the six pits near the eastern indenture, in front of three of which there are traces of two small earth walls, and the two commanding the entrance of the fort, would strengthen this view of tho use of those near tho embankment

"In many of the ancient fortifications that have been described by Mr. Squier and others, pits have been noticed, but they have been only very-few in number, and have been considered as places for tho storage of food or water. The great number in this small earthwork, with the finding that one at least was used for the purpose of cooking and eating food, is evidence that they were for some other purpose here, though some of the smaller ones may have answered for storehouses.


"The five small mounds were situated in various part* of the inclosure The largest was nearly fifty feet in diameter, and was probably originally not over ten feet in height It had been very nearly dug away in places, but about one-fifth of the lower portion had not been disturbed. From this was exhumed one nearly perfect human skeleton, and parts of several others that had been left by former excavators. This mound also contained several bones of animals, principally of deer, bear, opossum and turtles; fragments of pottery, one arrow-head, a few dint chips and a number of thick shells of unios, two of which had been bored near the binge. From this mound a number of human bones have been taken by Dr. H. Frank Harper.

"The second mound, which was partly opened, was some twenty five feet in diameter and a few feet in height though probably once much higher. In this a number of bones of deer and other animals were found, several pieces of pottery, a number of shells and a few human bones. The other three mounds, one of which is not over ten or twelve feet in diameter and situated the furthest to the north, were not examined internally.


" The position of all the mounds within the inclosure is such as to suggest that they were used as observatories, and it may yet be questioned whether the human and other remains found in them were placed there by the occupants of the fort, or are to be considered nuder the head of intrusive burials by a later race. Perhaps a further study of the bones may settle the point. That two races have buried their dead within the inclosure is made probable by the finding of an entirely different class of burials, at tho extreme western point of the fortification. At this point.Dr. Harper, the year previous, had discovered three stone graves, in which he found portions of the skeleton's of two adults and one child. These graves, the stones of one being still in place. were found to be made by placing thin slabs of stone on end. forming the aides and ends, the two being covered by other slabs, making a rough stone coffin in which the bodies had been placed. There was no indication of any mound having been erected, and they were placed slightly on the slope of the bank. This kind of burial is so distinct from that of the burials in the mound, that it is possible that the acts may be referred to two distinct races, who have occupied the territory successively, though they may prove to be of the same time, and simply indicate a special mode adopted for distinctive purposes."


In this county, are frequently found other evidences of the existence of a extinct race of people, viz., stone axes. Hint arrow and spear heads, and other stone implements of various forms and size*. Having sent some of these to the Smithsonian Institution at Washington City. I was requested to make some explorations in the mounds of this county, by the Secretary. Prof. Joseph Henry, but only examined a few: went to those on the Hunt form, but was not permitted by the owner to open them; and those on the Drake farm I found to be too large, and thought best to obtain some assistance. Examined one on Turman's farm, but did not complete the excavation of a ditch Across the largest one. A thorough examination of one of tho ' pit-holes' resulted in finding a wonderful bank of ashes, in which were a great quantity of fish bones, broken bones of various animals, such as deer, buffalo; the teeth, claws and bones of the bear: the bones of the raccoon, opossum, turkey bones in abundance: the bones of the squirrel and a few of the skulls of squirrels were found whole, but were generally broken; the bones and teeth of the beaver; many pieces of the bones and shells of turtles. There was a quantity of mussel shells of various kinds, some varieties of which were not found in several miles' travel along the Wabash or any other streams in this county, bat were found in abundance on White River, in Greene County. Fish bones seemed to be in the greatest abundance, particularly in certain places. A great many pieces of pottery were found, and seemed to have been made of clay, sand and mussel shells pounded fine, and forming a cement that had been dried in the sun or baked. The most of the pieces found showed that the heat applied in their preparation was not sufficient to effect the sand, or in any manner injure the shells, or the original condition of the vessels. No glazing appeared on the pottery, and yet it was a very hard, firm and durable substance, impervious to water. Some pieces were four or live inches long, and two or three inches wide, and some were of an irregular shape; at one point they seemed to show that they were parts of a wide-mouthed vessel, and evidently about two inches less in diameter at the neck than at the top. Judging from the arc described by some of those pieces, the neck of those vessels must have been at least eighteen inches in diameter, though the curvature of many pieces showed that they were parts of vessels of much smaller diameter. Several pieces showed a nice little ear, with a hole through it, about a quarter or half inch in diameter, and the edges being notched, showed that they were pieces of the rim of the vessels to which they belonged. There were also parallel lines running about in an oblique direction to their curvature: but in some of the pieces, the lines were horizontal or parallel with the tops of the vessels, when whole, which had, evidently, been made by some blunt instrument pressed into the clay, leaving little ridges between each impression of the instrument, probably about the eighth or sixteenth of an inch thick. In some of those pieces the little ridges seemed to have been crossed at right angles, with a sharper or smaller instrument.


Some pieces showed that the rim above was quite flaring, and the rim was ornamented by diamond shaped figures, made by those lines or ridges crossing each other obliquely. From the smoked and blocked appearance of the curved or concave sides of those pieces, and the fact that no signs of pre-marks were to be seen on the outside or convex sides, it may be readily inferred that those vessels were used for holding fire for some purpose, or little fires were made in them for a purpose which will be presented shortly. Those ' pit holes' and the rectilinear excavation were, probably, shallow excavations, with a bank around their edges and covered, by standing poles around them fastened in the center, and then covering those frames thus made with the bark of trees or the skins of animals, such as the deer or buffalo.   It is a well-known fact that gnats   

History of Greene and Sullivan Counties, Chicago: Goodspeed Bros. & Co., 1884.


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