Welcome to Pennsylvania Genealogy Trails!


THE MOUND BUILDERS-INDIAN TRIBES AND CUSTOMS—PIONEER SETTLERS—INDIAN DEPREDATIONS—massey Harbison's story—captain Brady's fight—ministerial defenders

History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, Smith, Robert Walter, Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883

Transcribed by Janice Rice

The history of this county may be divided into three great periods: The aboriginal, or period of the Mound Builders; the savage, or Indian period; and the civilized, or Caucasian occupation. No history, written or graven, can be discovered that will tell us of the Mound Builders, although the remains of their activities are to be seen all over this continent. Particularly are their earthen records to be found in Armstrong county, but none has ever been found that gives a ray of light upon their origin and object. Many the mounds, embankments and other earthworks that our forefathers ploughed over and destroyed in the past, thinking that they were simply Indian fortifications- or graves, so we have little but tradition or memory to depend upon in attempting to unravel the maze of fine spun theories regarding the races that peopled our country previous to the Indian tribes. We simply know that the Indians were not in the habit of erecting earthworks or mounds, and from the few relics to be gathered in these mounds it is judged that their builders were of far greater capacity and cunning in working stone and copper than their red successors. The Indians gave the name of "Allegewi" to these races that they drove out of this country, and thence arose the name Allegheny.

They were said to have been a large and athletic race of men, but the overwhelming numbers of the Indians soon drove them farther south. The Mound Builders erected several kinds of earthworks, but only one of these, the circular or elliptical fort, is to be found in this county. Many of them are invisible at this date, but tradition has given us the location. One of the most noted and largest was the circular embankment between Kittanning and Ford City, near the run that was named "Fort" by the early settlers. It was about an acre in extent, with a wall five feet high and a moat of the same depth around it. This was used as a protection from the Indians by the settlers of that section, so it served its purpose as a fort for at least two widely differing races. At a point in Boggs township was an earth- work that undoubtedly was used as a fort, as it was situated in a location favorable for defense. Other remains were found in South Buffalo, on the banks of the Allegheny, and some interesting relics were discovered in digging into them. Other relics were excavated in Washington township in 1843.


The different tribes of Indians who later inhabited this valley were said by Heckewelder to have been the Lenni-Lenape, or Delawarcs, Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, Onondagas and Senccas. Of these the Delawares were the more permanent residents of the portion of country now "included in the boundaries of Armstrong county, although many of the others were frequently seen on hunting trips through the country, traveling by way of their well-worn paths. These paths were well known to the early settlers and were, in fact, their only routes for many years after the settlement of the country. One of these paths crossed the Allegheny at Nicholson's run in South Buffalo, another extended from the region near Putneyville to the Indiana line by way of Dayton, while a third crossed the Kiskiminetas not far from Apollo. By this latter trail came Post, the missionary, in 1758, who made several expeditions to deliver conciliatory messages to the different tribes in the days before settlement was made. Blockhouses were generally built by the settlers as soon as they arrived in the country, for protection and shelter until their permanent habitations were constructed. Of these one of the first was the Claypoole blockhouse, on the Allegheny, near Fort run, now within the limits of Ford City, built in 1790. About the same time another was built on the same river, at the mouth of Nicholson's run in South Buffalo. Another was located in 1785 at the point now called "Idaho," in South Bend township. The Indians had several villages in this section when the settlers came, even occupying them some years afterward. Besides the famous one at Kittanning, there was another at "Old Town," in Red Bank township, known to have been a large settlement in 1770. Another was said to have been situated at the mouth of the Mahoning, one at Brady's Bend and another at Bull Lick, on Pine creek.


The costumes and customs of the Indians are familiar to most of the readers of history, so an extended description is unnecessary. Before the advent of the whites the arms of the Indians were the tomahawk and bow and arrow. Most of the arrowheads were obtained from the tribes north and west of this county, as flint rock is not found in the section of Pennsylvania of which we are writing. How- ever, there was in early times an arrowhead factory in the northern part of Red Bank township, on Mudlick creek, where fragments of rock and finished and unfinished implements and arrowheads were found.

There is a rich reward for those who will systematically seek for Indian relics along the streams of the county, even after the years that have elapsed since the red man departed. For the benefit of those who have read this sketch of the savages we will give a few rules to observe in seeking for relics. Many a person has paced across a point of land, where he had been told that an Indian camp had existed, until he was dizzy, without finding anything to reward his search. But arrowheads, like evil deeds, sink in. To find the arrowheads look along the caving edges of the embankments and bluffs until a black spot is seen in the gravel and sand. This is the remains of the camp fire, where generations of Indians had stopped to eat clams or prepare a meal. Many of these clam shells will be found in this spot, generally partially burned. Bring a sifter with you and a spade, and dig all around these ancient camping grounds, and you will be richly rewarded for your labor. Here around the camp fire the arrowmaker may have been located, but there are always arrow points to be found, and especially bits of the crude clay pottery marked with rough geometrical designs. By taking out a couple of spadefuls of earth at a time and putting it through the sifter, and carefully examining all the things that remain, the searcher will be rewarded by a number of pieces. Sometimes exceedingly rare points of obsidian, milky quartz, jasper and iet will be found, along with the rougher points of gray flint, feldspar and such minerals. If the searcher is really interested in such a collection he should not toss aside anything he is not sure about, but secure a handbook on the subject and study the illustrations. The skin scrapers, the hammers and many other objects appear to the untrained eyes to be merely natural stones. The same opportunity is offered on the banks of the larger inland rivers. Look in the ploughed furrows on points of land extending into a river or lake, for the Indians always camped on such places, as they offered a vantage point for them, enabling them to note the approach of an enemy on all sides. One of the enthusiastic collectors of Indian relics for the past twenty years is Capt. James M. Hudson, of Kittanning. who owns one of the most complete cabinets in the State. Some of the settlers used to claim that the Indians had found deposits of lead ore in this section, but geological surveys have proved this untrue. They probably bartered for the ore. with other tribes, and afterwards removed it from their hiding places when wanted to trade for powder or whiskey.


Their summer homes were the skin tepee, but their winter habitations were more elaborate. An early writer says he saw a cabin erected when he was captive among the Indians along Lake Erie. "They cut logs," says he, "about fifteen feet long, and laid them upon each other, and drove posts in the ground at each end to keep them together; they tied the posts together at the top with bark, and by this means raised a wall fifteen feet long and about four feet high, and in the same manner they raised an- other wall opposite to this, at about twelve feet distance; then they drove forks in the ground in the center of each end, and laid a strong pole from end to end on these forks; and from these walls to the poles they set up poles instead of rafters, and on them tied small poles instead of laths; and a cover was made of lynn (linden) bark which will run water even in the winter season. At the end of these walls they set up split timber all round except a space at each end for a door. At the top, in place of a chimney, they left an open space, and for bed- ding they laid down that kind of bark, on which they spread bearskins. There were fires along the middle from one end to the other of the hut, which the squaws made of dry split wood, and stopped up whatever open places there were in the walls with moss which they collected from old logs; they hung a bearskin at the door. Notwithstanding our winters here are hard, our lodging was much better than I expected." Perhaps the Indian houses in Kit- tanning, especially that of the chief, Captain Jacobs, were somewhat better and differently built. From these rude dwellings our forefathers developed their log cabins, improving in many points upon the crude construction of their savage instructors. In many ways the settlers patterned after the Indians; in their mode of dress, methods of hunting, travel and the cultivation of the products of the soil native to this country, and in most cases with profit to themselves. The Indians had developed their customs and mode of life by years of experience and necessity, and had probably settled upon the most satisfactory way of living in the wilderness, so that settlers did well to emulate them until they could by experience improve upon their methods.


It would occupy too much space to detail all the harrowing experiences of the settlers in their wars with the Indians, so we will only touch upon the most famous of these inci- dents. Many of the settlers were captured and tortured, but occasionally, through superstition or whim, their lives would be spared and they remain captives for years. In one instance a son of David Shields, of Red Bank township, was recaptured by his father, but the lure of the forest life seemed to draw him away and he soon returned to his savage friends. Fergus Moorhead owed his life to the savages' reluctance to shoot over three times at a person, they believing that the Great Spirit wished his life spared. Joshua Spencer, who lived on Crooked creek, was captured and made to run the gantlet, and escaping the ordeal unscathed, was adopted into the tribe. One of the peculiar customs of the Indians was to spare those with black hair, and to this Ezekiel Lewis, of Captain Orr's command, owed his life in a battle with them.


Not all of the Indians were bad, however. One of the strong friends of the whites was Cornplanter, who on several occasions hastened to warn the settlers of uprisings of other tribes and prospective attacks. This distinguished Indian chief was born at Conewagus, on the Genesee river; his father, a white man, was said to be a resident of Albany, N. Y. After the war of the Revolution he was an unswerving friend of the whites, and performed some valuable services for them, for which he received grants of land in various localities. The fact that he and some of his people once resided at and near the mouth of Cornplanter's run. in South Buffalo township, where they raised corn, has come down from early explorers of and settlers in this region. It was related by Charles Sipe, Sr., who fished and hunted along these streams in and after 1796, that he and his sons could see the rows of cornhills on a parcel of about three acres opposite the mouth of Cornplanter's run and on another parcel on the west side of the creek about half a mile up. It does not seem improbable that John O'Bail, as Cornplanter was also called, derived his Indian name, Ki-en-ttva-ka, from those cornfields. Cornplanter had two sons, Charles and Henry, who survived him. He and one or the other of them, and others of his people, occasionally passed down and up the Allegheny, stopping sometimes at Kittanning, whom Philip Mechling and some others of the oldest citizens living in 1875 remembered having seen. He died at his home on his long-loved Allegheny, in Warren county, March 7, 1836, in or about the one hundred and fifth year of his age.


The settlement of this county was delayed by the rival claims of the French and Eng- lish to the lands. The Indians soon took sides in this division of their property, and their alliance was courted by both of the opposing forces. The French built a line of forts down the Allegheny to control the country, and in many instances winked at the ravages of their red allies. England sent Braddock to capture the Ohio valley in 1755, but his ignominious defeat is a matter of familiar history. The next year oc- curred Armstrong's famous raid on Kittan- ning, an account of which will be found in the sketch of that borough. The capture of Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) in 1758 by Gen. John Forbes completed the conquest of this country from the French. Then came the Revolutionary war, in which many of the settlers of Armstrong county took part. After the termination of that conflict the first of the expeditions of the colonists against the Senecas and Munsees by Col. Lioniel Brodhead, in 1779, up the Allegheny, resulted in a temporary tranquility to the settlers. An expedition was made in 1781 against the Indians of Ohio by Col. Archibald Lochry and Cut Robert Orr, but resulted in complete failure by their defeat at the mouth of the Muskingum river. Captain Orr was afterwards a settler of Sugar Creek township, and the ancestor of many of the prominent citizens o£ this county in later days. For a time after this the Indians were more than ever aggressive, and many of the outrages in this county occurred after that date. One of them was the capture of Massey Harbison in 1792, of which much has been written and told. From the many conflicting stories of different writers, as well as the woman herself, we gather the following facts.

Massey Harbison's  HIStory

John Harbison was a soldier in St. Clair's army. Having been wounded he was given the lighter employment of spy upon the movements of the savages. In the spring of 1792 his family resided in a log house near what is now Kiskiminetas Junction on the Pennsylvania railroad, at that time the site of the Reed blockhouse. While Harbison and William Hill, grandfather of Robert B. McKee, now editor of the Freeport Journal, were ab- sent on a scouting expedition, the Indians entered his house in sight of the blockhouse garrison and carried off Mrs. Harbison and her three children. Two spies, Davis and Sutton, had lodged that night at Harbison's house, and when the horn at the blockhouse was blown to notify them of an Indian attack they hurriedly left the house at daylight, leaving the door open. Several Indians, who had been skulking around the house, soon afterward entered, and drew Mrs. Massey (corrupted from Mera) Harbison and her eldest two children by their feet from their beds, the third or youngest one, about a year old, being in bed with her. While they were rummaging the house and scrambling to secure whatever each one could of her clothing and other articles, she went outdoors and hallooed to the men in the blockhouse. One Indian then ran up and stopped her mouth, another rushed toward her with his raised tomahawk, which a third one seized, calling her his squaw and claiming her as his own. Fifteen Indians then advanced toward and fired upon both the blockhouse and the storehouse, killing one and wounding another of the soldiers, one of whom, by the name of Wolf, was returning from the spring and the other either coming or looking out of the storehouse.

When Mrs. Harbison told the Indians who remained with her that there were forty men in the blockhouse, each having two guns, those who were firing were brought back. Then they began to drive her and her children away. Because one of her boys, three years old, was unwilling to leave and was crying, they seized him by his feet, dashed his brains out against the threshold of the door, and then stabbed and scalped him. Her heart rent with agony, almost bereft of sight and all her other senses, still keeping her infant in her arms, she gave a terrific scream, and for that one of her savage captors dealt a heavy blow on her head and face, which restored her to consciousness. She and her two surviving children were then taken to the top of a hill, where they all stopped, and while the Indians were tying up their booty she counted them, their number being thirty-two, among whom were two white men, painted like Indians. Several of the Indians could speak English. Mrs. Harbison knew three or four of them very well; two were Senecas and two were Munsees, whose guns her husband had repaired almost two years before. Two Indians were detailed to guard her, and the rest then went toward Pucketv. When she, her children and their guards had advanced about two hundred yards, the latter caught two of her uncle John Currie's horses, and then placing her and .the youngest child on one and one of the guards and the remaining child on the other, proceeded toward the Kiskiminetas to a point opposite the upper end of Todd's island, where in descending the steep river hill the Indian's horse fell and rolled more than once. The boy fell over the horse's back, receiving a slight injury, and was taken up by one of the Indians. On reaching the shore the horses could not be made to swim, so the Indians took the captives across to the head of that island in bark canoes. After landing, the elder boy, five years old, complaining of the injury he had received from his fall and still lamenting the death of his brother, one of the guards tomahawked and then scalped him, the other guard having first ordered the mother to move on ahead of them, actuated, perhaps, by a slight assertion of humanity, to save her the pain of witnessing the murder of another of her children. When she beheld that second massacre of her off- spring she fell senseless to the ground with her infant in her arms beneath her with its little hands about her head. She knew not how long she remained in that insensible condition. The first thing she remembered on recovering her consciousness was raising her head from the ground and being overcome by an extreme, uncontrollable drowsiness, and beholding as she looked around the bloody scalp of her boy in the hand of one of these savages. She then involuntarily sank again to the earth upon her infant. The first thing which she remembered after that was the severe castigation that her cruel guards were inflicting upon her, after which they aided her in rising and supported her when on her feet.

Why they did not massacre her she attributed to the interposition of Divine Providence in her behalf. There must have still been a little streak of humanity lingering in their ferocious breasts, for they concealed the scalp of her boy from her sight. Having restored her dormant senses by leading her knee-deep into the river, all proceeded to a shoal near the head of the island, between it and the mainland or "Indian side of the country," where her guards forced her before them into and through the water breast deep, she holding her child above the surface, and by their assistance she with her child safely reached the opposite shore. They all moved thence as fast as they could across the forks to the Big Buffalo, which, being a very rapid stream, her guards were obliged to aid her in crossing. Thence they took a straight course toward the Connoquennessing creek, the very place where Butler now stands. Thence they advanced along the Indian trail to the Little Buffalo, which they crossed at the very place where B. Sarver's mill afterward stood, and there ascended the hill. Having become weary of life she fully determined to make these savages kill her, to end her fatigue and the prospective miseries and cruelties which she conceived awaited her. They were then moving in single file, one guard before and the other behind her. She stopped, withdrew from her shoulder a large powder horn which, besides her child, they compelled her to carry, and threw it to the ground, closing her eyes and momentarily expecting to feel their deadly tomahawks. But, contrary to her expectations, they replaced it on her shoulder. She threw it off a second time, expecting death. But they, looking indignant and frightful, again replaced it. She threw it down a third time as far as. she could over the rocks. While the one that had been engaged in that little contest was recovering it, the other one who had claimed her as his squaw, and who had witnessed the affair, approached and said: "Well done, you did right and are a good squaw, and he is lazy: he may carry it himself."

The guards having changed their positions,  the latter taking the rear probably to prevent the other from injuring her, they proceeded until they reached, shortly before dark, without refreshment during the day, the Salt Lick on the Connoquennessing, nearly two miles above the present site of Butler, where there was an Indian camp made of stakes driven into the ground sloping, covered with chestnut bark, long enough for fifty men, which appeared to have been occupied for some time, was very much weather-beaten, and from which large beaten paths extended in different directions.

Mrs. Harbison was taken that night from that camp into a large dark bottom, about three hundred rods up a run, where they cut away the brush in a thicket, placed a blanket on the round and permitted her to sit down with her child, which it was difficult for her to manage, as they had pinioned her arms so that she had but slight freedom of their use. There, without refreshment, thus pinioned, with those two savages who had that day massacred in her presence two of her boys, one of those guards on each side of her, she passed the first night of her captivity. The next morning one of the guards left to watch the trail they had traveled, and ascertain whether any of the white people were in pursuit. During his absence the other, being the one who claimed her as his squaw, and who had that day killed her second boy, remained with her and took from his bosom the scalp which he had so humanely concealed from her sight on the island, and stretched it upon a hoop.

She then meditated revenge, attempting to take the tomahawk which hung by his side, and deal a fatal blow, but was, alas! detected. Her dusky captor turned, cursed her, and called her a "Yankee," thus intimating that he understood her intention, and to prevent a repetition of her attempt, faced her. The feigned reason that she gave for handling his tomahawk was, that her child wanted to play with its handle. The guard that had been out returned from his lookout about noon, and reported that he had not discovered any pursuers, and remained on guard while the other went out for the same purpose. The one then guarding her, after questioning her respecting the whites, the strength of their armies, and boasting of the achievement of the Indians in St. Clair's defeat, examined the plunder which he had brought from her house, among which he found her pocketbook, containing $10 in silver and. a half-guinea in gold. All the food that she received from her guards on that Sunday and Monday was a piece of dried venison, about the size of an egg, each day, for herself and her child, but by reason of the blows which they had inflicted upon her jaws she could not eat any of it, and broke it up and gave it to her child. The guard who had been on the lookout in the afternoon returned about dark. Having been removed to another station in the valley of that run, that evening, she was again pinioned, guarded, and kept without either fire or refreshment, the second night of her captivity, just as she had been during the first one. She, however, fell asleep occasionally. Her ears were regaled the next morning by the singing of a flock of mocking-birds and robins that hovered over her irksome camp. To her imagination they seemed to sing, "Get up and go off!" One of the guards having left at daybreak to watch the trail, the remaining one appeared to be sleeping, on observing which she began to snore and feigned to be asleep. When she was satisfied that he had really fallen asleep, she concluded it was her time to escape. She would then have slain or disabled him, but for the crying of her child when out of her arms, which would of course awaken him and jeopardize her own life. She, therefore, was contented to take a short gown, handkerchief, and child's frock from the pillow case containing the articles which the Indians had brought from her house, and escape, about half an hour after sunrise. Guided by those birds, and wisely taking a direction from instead of toward her home, in order to mislead her captors, she passed over the hill, reached the Connoquennessing, about two miles from the point at which she and they had crossed it, and descended it through thorns and briers, and over rocks and precipices, with bare feet and legs. Having discovered by the sun and the course of the stream that she was advancing too far in her course from her home, she changed it, ascended the hill, sat down till sunset, determined her direction for the morrow by the evening star, gathered leaves for her bed, without food, her feet painful from the thorns that were in them, reclined and slept. About daybreak the next morning she was awakened by that flock of birds which seemed to her to be attending and guiding her through the wilderness. When light enough to find her way, she started on her fourth day's trial of hunger and fatigue, advancing, according to her knowledge of courses and distances, toward the Allegheny river. Nothing unusual occurred during the day. It having commenced raining moderately about sunset, she prepared to make her bed of leaves, but was prevented by the crying of her child when she sat him down. Listening she distinctly heard the footsteps of a man following her. Such was the condition of the soil that her footprints might be discerned. Fearing that she was thus exposed to a second captivity, she looked for a place of concealment and providentially discovered a large fallen tree, into whose thick foliage she crept with her child in her arms, where, aided by the darkness, she avoided detection by the Indian whose footsteps she had heard. He having heard the child's cry, came to the spot whence the sound proceeded, halted, put down his gun, and was then so near to her that she distinctly heard the wiping-stick strike against his gun. Fortunately the child, pressed to her bosom, became warm and lay quiet during the continuance of their imminent peril. That Indian in the meantime, amidst that unbroken stillness, stood for nearly two hours with listening ears to again catch the sound of the child's cry, and so profound was that stillness that the beating of her own heart was all she heard, and which seemed to her to be so loud that she feared her dusky pursuer would .hear it. Finally, answering the sound of a bell and a cry like a night-owl's, signals which his companions had given, and giving a horrid, soul-harrowing yell, he departed. Deeming it imprudent to remain there until morning, lest her tracks might be discovered in daylight, she removed her coat and wrapped it around the child, with one end between her teeth, thus carrying the child with her teeth and one arm. With the other she groped her way among the trees a mile or two, and there sat in the damp, cold air till morning.

At daylight the next morning, wet, hungry, exhausted, wretched, she advanced across the headwaters of Pine creek, not knowing what they were, and became alarmed by two freshly indented moccasin tracks of men traveling in the same direction that she was. As they were ahead of her she concluded that she could see them as soon as they could see her. So she proceeded about three miles to a hunter's camp at the confluence of another branch of the creek, in which those who preceded her had kindled a fire, breakfasted, and, leaving the fire burning, had departed. She afterward learned that they were spies, James Anderson and John Thompson. Having become still more alarmed, she left that path, ascended a hill, struck another path, and while meditating there what to do, saw three deer advancing toward her at full speed. They turned to look and she, too, looked intently at their pursuers, and saw the flash and heard the instantaneous report of a gun. Seeing some dogs start after the deer, she crouched behind a large log for shelter, but fortunately not close to it, for, as she placed her hand on the ground to raise herself up, that she might see the hunters, she saw a large mass of rattlesnakes, her face being very near the top one, which lay coiled ready to strike its deadly fangs into her.

With a supreme effort she left that dangerous spot, bearing to the left, reached the headwaters of Squaw run, which, through rain, she followed the rest of the day, her limbs so cold and shivering that she could not help giving an occasional involuntary groan. Though her jaws had sufficiently recovered from the pain caused by the blows inflicted upon her by the Indians, she suffered from hunger, procuring grapevines whenever she could and chewing them for what little sustenance they afforded. Having arrived at evening tide within a mile of the Allegheny river, though she did not know it, at the root of a tree, holding her child in her lap and her head against the tree to shelter him from that night's drenching rain, she lodged that fifth night since her capture.

She was unable for a considerable time the next morning to raise herself from the ground. Having, with a hard struggle, gained her feet, with nature so nearly exhausted and her spirits so completely depressed as they were, her progress was very slow and discouraging. After proceeding a short distance, she struck a path over which cattle had passed, following which for about a mile, she reached an uninhabited cabin on the river bottom. Not knowing where she was, and overcome with despair, she went to its threshold, having resolved to enter it and then lie down and die. But the thought of the suffering to be endured in that event nerved her to another desperate effort to live. Hearing the sound of a cow bell, which awakened a gleam of hope in her extreme despondency, she followed that sound until she reached a point opposite the fort at Six-Mile Island, where, with feelings which can be more readily imagined than expressed, she beheld three men on the left bank of the river. They appeared to be unwilling to come for her when she called on them, and requested her to inform them who she was. When she told them that she was the one who had been taken prisoner up the Allegheny on the morning of the 22d and had escaped, they requested her to walk up the bank of the river for awhile that they might see whether or not the Indians were making a decoy of her. When she told them her  feet were so sore that she could not walk, James Closier came over for her in a canoe, while the other two stood on the river bank with cocked rifles, ready to fire in case she proved to be a decoy. When Closier approached the shore and saw her haggard and dejected appearance, he exclaimed: "Who, in the name of God, are you?" So great was the change wrought by her six days' sufferings that he, one of her nearest neighbors, did not recognize either her face or voice. When she arrived on the other side of the river she was unable to move or to help herself in any way. The people at the fort ran to see her. Some of them took her child and others took her from the canoe to Mr. Carter's house. Then, all danger being passed, she enjoyed for the first time since her capture the relief which comes from a copious flow of tears. Coming too suddenly to the fire and the smell of the victuals, she fainted.

Those hospitable people might have killed her with their exuberant kindness, had not Major McCulley, who then commanded the line along the Allegheny river, fortunately arrived. When he saw her situation and the bountiful provisions those good people were making for her, he immediately ordered her out of the house, away from the heat of the fire and the smell of the victuals which were being cooked, and prohibited her from taking anything but the whey of buttermilk, in very small quantities, which he himself administered. By that judicious treatment she was gradually restored to health and strength of mind and body. Sarah Carter and Mary Ann Crozier then began to extract the thorns from her feet and legs, to the number of 150, as counted by Felix Negley, who watched the operation, and who afterward resided at the mouth of Bull creek, Tarentum. Many more were extracted the next evening. Some of the thorns went through and came out on the top of her feet. The skin and flesh were excruciatingly mangled and hung in shreds to her feet and legs. So much exposure of her naked body to rain by night and heat of the sun by day, and carrying her child so long in her arms without relief, caused much of her skin to come off so that nearly her whole body was raw, and for two weeks her feet were not sufficiently healed to enable her to put them to the ground to walk. The news of her escape spread rapidly in various directions, reaching Pittsburgh the same evening of her arrival at the fort at Six- Mile Island. Two spies proceeded that evening to Coe's—now Tarentum—and the next morning to Reed's station, bearing the intelligence to her husband. A young man employed by the magistrates at Pittsburgh came for her to go thither for the purpose of making before one of them her affidavit of the facts connected with her captivity and escape, as was customary in early times, for publication. Being unable either to walk or ride on horse back, she was carried by some of the men into a canoe. After arriving at Pittsburgh she was borne in their arms to the office of John Wilkins, a justice of the peace and a son of the late Judge Wilkins, of the United States court, before whom she made her affidavit, May 28, 1792. The facts which she thus stated, being circulated, caused a lively sensation in and for twenty miles around Pittsburgh. Her husband arrived there that evening, and the next morning she was conveyed to Coe's station. That evening she gave to those about  her an account of the murder of her boy on Todd's Island, whither a scout went the next morning, found and buried the corpse, which had lain there unburied nine days. From her affidavit and a subsequent and more elaborate narrative, prepared from her statement by John Winter, the writer has condensed the foregoing facts, credited by the early settlers who were her neighbors, and which were made during those six terrible days of her life. She resided during several subsequent years at Salt Lick, a mile and a half north of Butler, on the Connoquennessing, at or near the site of the Indian camp mentioned in her affidavit and narrative. The last years of her life were passed in a cabin on the lot on the northeastern corner of Fourth street and Mulberry alley, Freeport, opposite the Methodist Episcopal church, where she died on Saturday, Dec. 9, 1837. By an act of the Legislature in 1828 she was granted a donation of $100 as full payment for relief as the widow of a soldier of the Revolutionary war.

Robert B McKee of  Freeport is a relative of Massey, his father's sister having married her son James. The site of the house from which she was captured is part of the property of Andrew Carnegie, directly across the river from the mouth of Buffalo creek.


 Such outrages were not calculated to make the early settlers merciful in their dealings with the Indians, and naturally their reprisals were as fierce and bloody as their savage adversaries. An example of this is shown in the story of the expedition of Armstrong against the Indian village of Kittanning, described elsewhere. Another case was the raid of Capt. Samuel Brady, of which the following is a condensation: About the 10th of June, 1779, three men. whom Colonel Brodhead had sent from Fort Pitt to reconnoiter the Seneca country, returned, having been closely pursued some distance below Kittanning, and nearly captured, by several Indian warriors who were descending the Allegheny in canoes. In a few days thereafter Capt. Samuel Brady obtained with difficulty, on account of the envy excited in some of his fellow officers by his previous brilliant successes, permission from the commandant of that fort to proceed with twenty men and a young Delaware chief toward the Seneca country, to catch the Indians. While he and his command were moving these Indian warriors advanced to the settlements. They killed a soldier between Forts Hand and Crawford, that is, between the mouths of the Loyal Hannon and Poketas creeks, and at the Sewickley settlement they killed one woman and her four children and took two other children prisoners, their father being absent. Brady and his party —they were all well painted like the Indians— crossed the Allegheny and advanced up its west side, carefully examining the mouths of all its principal, especially its eastern, tributaries, supposing that the Indians would descend it in their canoes. On reaching a point opposite the mouth of Mahoning, they discovered the Indians' canoes moored at the southwestern bank of the creek. Brady and his force then went some distance down the river, halted until dark, made a raft, crossed over to the east side, advanced along it to the creek, found the canoes had been removed to the opposite side of the creek, vainly attempted to wade it, then moved up along its left bank and shore a considerable distance.

brady's fight

After crossing the creek, a fire was made, their clothes dried, and arms inspected. They then moved down toward the Indian camp, which was pitched on what was then a second bank of the Allegheny, a short distance east of where the Pennsylvania railroad track now is. Brady posted his men on the first bank, which has since been worn away. He surrounded them as well as the situation would admit, and finding he was discovered by break of day, he attacked them. The Indian captain, a notorious warrior of the Muncy nation, was killed on the spot, and several more mortally wounded, but the woods were remarkably thick, and the party could not pursue the villains' tracks after they had stopped their wounds, which they always do as soon as possible after receiving them. Captain Brady, however, retook six horses, the two prisoners, the scalps, all their plunder, and took all the Indians' guns, tomahawks, match-coats, moccasins—in fine, everything they had, except their breech- clouts. Captain Brady and most of his men acted with great spirit and intrepidity, but it is stated that the young Delaware chief Nanowland, or George Wilson, distinguished himself in this enterprise. That camp-ground was in the northwestern corner of the tract subsequently called "Springfield," several rods east of what was still more recently the old steamboat wharf. The thicket into which the wounded escaped was on the hill still higher up the creek than the camp. The two prisoners that were here recaptured were Peter and Margaret Henry, children of Frederick Henry. They had been captives about two weeks before they were recaptured. Peter settled in Butler county, Pa., and was a member of Captain Brinker's company in the war of 1812. He was a farmer, raised a large family, and was highly respected. He died in his ninety-fourth year in 1858. Peter Henry, Jr., of Brady's Bend, father-in-law of Andrew W. Bell, was one of his sons. Margaret married and lived in Westmoreland county, Pa. An erroneous idea prevails among some of these captives' descendants that they were recaptured at Brady's Bend.


During the French and Indian wars along the frontiers of Pennsylvania, the services of everyone who could shoulder a musket were required. Clergymen of various denominations entered the ranks and fought bravely to protect their property and families. The Rev. Mr. Steele of Cumberland, Rev. Mr. Elder of Lancaster, Rev. John Conrad Boucher of Harrisburg, Rev. Richard Peters of Philadelphia, and Rev. Mr. Barton of York county, were all in active service at the time of Colonel Armstrong's campaign.

Back to Pennsylvania Trails History and Genealogy