By William Dean Howells
Copyright, 1897, by American Book Company.
XIV. LATER CAPTIVITIES.
The Indians seem to have kept on carrying the whites into captivity, to the very end of the war, which closed with the Greenville treaty of 1795. As they had always done, they adopted some of them into their tribes and devoted others to torture. Nothing more clearly shows how little they realized that their power was coming to an end, and that they could no longer live their old life, or follow their immemorial customs.
The first captive in Ohio, of whom there is any record, was Mary Harris; she had been stolen from her home in New England when a child, by the French Indians, and was found at White Woman Creek in Coshocton County, about the year 1750. When the last captive was taken is not certainly known, but two white boys were captured so late as 1791, and one of these was adopted by the Delawares in Auglaize County. His name was Brickell, and he was carried off from the neighborhood of Pittsburg when nine years old. He wrote a narrative of his life among the Indians, and gave an account of his parting with them which is very touching. After the first exchange of prisoners Brickell was left because there was no Indian among the whites to exchange for him, but later his adoptive father went with him to Fort Defiance, and gave him up. Brickell had hunted with the rest of the children, and shared in all their sports and pleasures, and they now clung about him crying, when their father told them he must go with him to the fort. They asked him if he was going to leave them, and he could only answer that he did not know. At the fort, his Indian father, Whingy Pooshies, bade him stand up before the officers, and then spoke to him.
"My son, these are men the same color as yourself, and some of your kin may be here, or they may be a great way off. You have lived a long time with us. I call on you to say if I have not been a father to you, if I have not used you as a father would a son."
"You have used me as well as a father could use a son," said Brickell.
"I am glad you say so," Whingy Pooshies returned. "You have lived long with me; you have hunted for me; but your treaty says you must be free. If you choose to go with the people of your own color, I have no right to say a word; if you choose to stay with me, your people have no right to speak. Now reflect on it, and take your choice, and tell us as soon as you make up your mind."
Brickell says that he thought of the children he had left crying, and of all the Indians whom he loved; but he remembered his own people at last, and he answered, "I will go with my kin."
Then Whingy Pooshies said, "I have reared you; I have taught you to hunt; you are a good hunter; you are better to me than my own sons. I am now getting old and I cannot hunt. I thought you would be a support to my old age. I leaned on you as on a staff. Now it is broken; you are going to leave me; and I have no right to say a word, but I am ruined."
[Illustration: Brickell leaves his Indian Father 133]
He sank into his seat, weeping, and Brickell wept too; then they parted and never saw each other again.
One of the later captivities was that of Israel Donolson, who has told the story himself. The night before he was captured, he says that he dreamed of Indians, and took it as a sign of coming trouble; but in the morning, the 22d of April, 1791, he went prospecting for land with another young surveyor, named Lytte, and a friend named Tittle. They worked together along the Ohio River in Adams County till they came to one of the ancient works of the Mound Builders. The surveyors were joking Tittle, and telling him what a fine place that would be for him to build his house, when they saw a party of Frenchmen in two canoes. The Frenchmen turned out to be Indians, who landed and instantly gave chase to the white men. Donolson tripped and fell, and three warriors were quickly upon him. He offered no resistance; they helped him up, and had leisure to secure him in full sight of the blockhouse on the Kentucky shore, where they could all see men moving about, but Donolson could not call to them for help. His captors pushed off with him northward. The next morning it rained, and one of the Indians took Donolson's hat; he complained to a large warrior, who gave him a blanket cap, and helped him through the swollen streams. When they killed a bear, and wanted to make their captive carry the meat, he flung it down; and then his big friend carried it for him.
One day an Indian, while they were resting, built a little fence of sticks, and planted some grains of corn inside of it, saying, "Squaw!" as a hint to Donolson that he should be put to work with the women. When they got to the Shawnee camp, they dressed his hair in Indian fashion, and put a tin jewel in his nose, and upon the whole they treated him kindly enough. But almost every day he saw war parties setting off for Kentucky, or coming back with scalps and horses, and he was always watching for a chance to escape. One night he encamped with two guards who had bound him as usual with a rope of bark. He gnawed at it all night long, and just at daybreak he freed himself. After his first dash he stopped to put on his moccasins, and knew that he was missed, by the terrific yells that the Indians were giving. He ran on, and to hide his trail kept as much as he could on fallen trees. At ten o'clock he hid between two logs and slept till dark; then he started again, and passed that night in a hollow tree. The day following he came to the Miami River, and tried to drift down its current on a raft which he made of logs tied together with bark, but he was soon forced to the shore again. He broke his long fast on two eggs he found in a wild turkey's nest; they proved to have each two yolks, and he made them last for two days. In the woods he caught a horse and tried to ride it with a bark halter; but the halter rubbed a sore on its lip, and the horse threw him, and hurt him so badly that he lay insensible for a time; then he rose up and pressed on, but very slowly, for his feet were full of thorns. The twelfth day after his capture he heard the sound of an ax, and found himself in the neighborhood of Fort Washington, or Cincinnati.
In 1793, the year before Wayne's victory, Andrew Ellison was taken by the Indians in a clearing near his cabin in Adams County, and was hurried off before his family knew that anything had happened. They roused the neighborhood, and the Indians were hotly pursued, but they got away with their prisoner, and made swiftly off to Upper Sandusky, where they forced him to run the gantlet. He was a heavy man, not fleet of foot, and he was terribly beaten; but he got through alive, and at Detroit a British officer ransomed him for a hundred dollars. By that time prisoners must have been getting cheap: it was perhaps more and more difficult to hold them.
Two boys, John Johnson, thirteen years old, and Henry Johnson, eleven, were captured in 1788 near their home at Beach Bottom in Monroe County. They were cracking nuts in the woods, and when the Indians came upon them the boys thought that they were two of their neighbors. They were seized and hurried away, one Indian going before and one following the boys, who told them their father treated them badly, and tried to make their captors believe they were glad to be leaving home. The Indians spent the day in a vain attempt to steal horses, and stopped to pass the night only four miles from the place where they had taken the boys. After supper they lay down with the prisoners between them, and when they supposed the boys were asleep one of the Indians went and stretched himself on the other side of the fire. Presently he began snoring, and John rose, cocked one of the guns, and left it with Henry aimed at this Indian's head, while he took his station with a tomahawk held over the head of the other. Henry fired and John struck at the same time; neither Indian was killed at once, but both were too badly hurt to prevent the boys' escape, and the brothers found their way to the settlement by daybreak. The neighbors who returned to their camp with them found the body of the Indian who had been tomahawked, but the other had vanished. Years afterwards a skeleton with a gun was discovered in the woods, where he must have crept after he was shot.
In the autumn of 1792 Samuel Davis and William Campbell set out from Massie's Station, now Manchester, to trap beaver on the Big Sandy. One night as they lay asleep beside their camp fire they were roused by a voice saying in broken English, "Come, come; get up, get up!" and they woke to find themselves in the clutches of a large party of Indians returning from a raid into Virginia. The Indians bound their captives and started, driving before them a herd of stolen horses. They crossed the Ohio country, and pushed on toward Sandusky, for they were Shawnees. At night they tied each prisoner with buffalo thongs and made these fast to the waist of two Indians, who lay down one on either side of him, and quieted him with blows if he became restive. At daylight the captives were untied, but they were warned that they would be instantly killed if they attempted to escape. Davis was in dread of being burned at Sandusky, and as the Indians, encumbered with their booty, made only ten or twelve miles a day, the terror had full time to grow upon him. At last one morning just before dawn he woke one of the Indians beside him and asked to be untied; he was answered with a blow of the savage's fist. He waited a moment, and then woke the other guard, who lifted his head, and seeing some of his people building a fire, released Davis.
It was still too dark for any of them to get a good shot at him if he made a dash from their midst, and Davis decided to try for life and liberty. He knocked a large warrior before him into the fire, bounded over him, burst through the group around him, and before they could seize their rifles, which were all stacked together, he had vanished in the shadows of the forest. They followed him, whooping and yelling, but none could draw a bead on him, and not a shot was fired. One Indian was so near that Davis fancied he felt his grasp at times, but he fell behind, and Davis kept on. When he had distanced them all, he stopped to tear up his waistcoat, and wrap his feet, naked and bleeding from the sharp stones which had cut them in his wild flight, and then hurried on toward the Ohio. Three days without food or fire, in the cold of the early winter, passed before he reached the river, eight or ten miles below the mouth of the Scioto. He then saw a large boat coming down the stream, but his troubles did not end with this joyful sight. One of the dreadful facts of the dreadful time was the frequent deception of boatmen by Indians and renegades who pretended to be escaping prisoners, and who lured them to their destruction by piteous appeals for help. The boatmen now refused to land for Davis; they told him they had heard too many stories like his, and they kept on down the stream, while he followed wearily along the shore. At last he entreated them to row in a little nearer, so that he could swim out to them. They consented to this, and he plunged into the icy water, and was taken on board just as his strength was spent.
In 1782, John Alder, then a child of eight years, was captured in Wythe County, Virginia, by a party of Min-goes, who at the same time wounded and killed his brother. They already had two prisoners, Mrs. Martin, the wife of a neighbor, and her little one four or five years old: it proved troublesome, on their rapid march across the Ohio country to their village on Mad River, and they tomahawked and scalped it. The next morning little Alder was somewhat slow in rising from his breakfast when bidden, and on the ground he saw the shadow of an arm with a lifted tomahawk. He glanced upward and found an Indian standing over him, who presently began to feel of Alder's thick black hair. He afterwards confessed that he had been about to kill him, but when he met his pleasant smile he could not strike, and then he thought that a boy with hair of that color would make a good Indian, and so spared him.
At the Mingo village Alder was made to run the gantlet between lines of children armed with switches, but he was not much hurt, and he was now taken into the tribe. He was given to a Mingo family, and the mother washed him and dressed him in the Indian costume. They were kind to him, but for a month he was very homesick, and used to go every day to a large walnut tree near the town and cry for the friends and home he had lost. After he had learned the Mingo language he began in time to be more contented. He had no complaint to make of any of the family, except one sister, who despised him as a prisoner, and treated him like a slave. Another sister and her husband were his special friends, and he relates that when he used to sit up with the Indians round their camp fire, listening to their stories, he would sometimes drowse; then this gentle sister and her husband would take him up in their arms and carry him to bed, and he would hear them saying, "Poor fellow! We have sat up too long for him, and he has fallen asleep on the cold ground."
About a year after he was adopted, Alder met that poor mother, whose little one the Indians had cruelly murdered before her eyes. "When she saw me, she came smiling, and asked if it was me. I told her it was. She asked me how I had been. I told her I had been very unwell, for I had had fever and ague for a long time. So she took me off to a log, and there we sat down; and she combed my head, and asked a great many questions about how I lived, and if I didn't want to see my mother and little brothers. I told her I should be glad to see them, but never expected to see them again. We took many a cry together, and when we parted, took our last and final farewell, for I never saw her again."
Alder always remained delicate, and could not thrive on the Indians' fare of meat and hominy, with no bread or salt; of sugar and honey there was plenty; but he missed the things he was used to at home. When he grew older he was given a gun, and sent hunting, and whenever he came back with game the Indians praised his skill and promised him he should be a great hunter some day. He continued with them until the peace of 1795, which followed Wayne's victory, and even then he stayed for a time in the region where he had dwelt so long. He had married a squaw, and had become a complete Indian, so that the first settlers in his neighborhood had to teach him to speak English. But he did not live happily with his Indian wife; they agreed to part, and then Alder thought of going back to his own people. He reached the house of one of his brothers in the neighborhood of his old home, one Sunday afternoon, and found several of his brothers and sisters there, and his mother with them. They could scarcely be persuaded that it was their son and brother come back to them, and he had to tell them of some things that no one else could know before they would believe him. His old, white-haired mother whom he remembered in her youth with a "head as black as a crow," was the first to take him in her arms, and she said, as she wept over him, "How you have grown! I dreamed that you had come to see me, but you was a little _ornary_-looking fellow, and I would not own you for my son; but now I find I was mistaken, that it is entirely the reverse, and I am proud to own you for my son."
[Illustration: Alder returns to his Family 141]
In 1792, Moses Hewit was taken near Neil's Station, on the Little Kanawha, by three Indians, who at once pushed off with him towards Sandusky. They used him very kindly, and shared fully with him the wild honey which they found in the bee trees, and invited him to take part in their foot races and other sports. He found that he could outrun two of them, and he resolved to try for his liberty, though he kept a cheerful outside with them, and seemed contented with his lot. One day they left him tied hand and foot and fastened to two small trees while they went on a hunt, but he contrived to free himself, and made his escape with their whole stock of provisions, two small pieces of venison. He struck out for the settlements on the Muskingum, and the first night his captors passed so near him in pursuit that he might have touched them in the darkness. Nine days later he came in sight of a station on the Muskingum, so spent with hunger and fatigue that he could not halloo to the garrison. He had nothing on his wasted and bleeding body, which was all torn by briers and brushwood, except a cloth about his loins, and he was afraid of being mistaken and shot for an Indian. He waited till nightfall and then crept to the station, where his presence was unknown till a young man of his acquaintance caught sight of his face in the firelight, and called out, "Here is 'Hewit!"
Captain Charles Builderback and his wife were surprised by a party of Indians while they were looking for cattle in the Ohio country, near Wheeling, in 1789. Mrs. Builderback hid herself, but the Indians had captured her husband, and now they forced him to call out to her. She hesitated to answer, thinking of the children they had left at home in the cabin which she could see across the river, and knowing how useless it would be to give herself up. But he called again, saying that if she surrendered, it might save his life. Then she showed herself, and was seized and hurried away by one band of savages, while her husband remained with the others. A few days later these came up and showed her his scalp: he was one of the assassins of the Gnadenhiitten Indians, and he was doomed as soon as they knew his name. She was taken to their towns on the Great Miami, where she lived nine months, drudging with the squaws and suffering from the rude and filthy life of the savages, but not ill-treated. Then the commandant at Cincinnati ransomed her and sent her home to her two orphan children.
So lately as 1812 two little girls were stolen from their fathers' houses in Preble County by the Indians. They could not be traced, but twenty-five years later, one of them, named Parker, was found living with her savage husband in Indiana. She refused then to go home with her father, saying coldly that she should be ridiculed there for her Indian customs.
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Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Stories Of Ohio, by William Dean Howells