Friday, July 26, 2019

This Blog Is Not For the Faint Of Heart
 "The plants in our gardens and the flowers in the landscape were nourished by the soil of the earth, the rains from God and the blood of the frontiersmen who gave us this land we call our home."

How Dangerous Was the Ohio Frontier?

That question is best answered by a statement from Mrs. General Web, a Kentuckian, who said this in an interview circa. 1800: 

"In early times the people were honest to each other.   If a man did wrong, they set him across the Ohio.

Think the early Ohio frontier was like the old Westerns we used to watch on TV; programs like Davey Crockett, Gunsmoke and Bonanza?  Think again.   In previous blogs I've purposely avoided writing too many gruesome details of what life was like on the frontier, particularly in the Ohio and Kentucky territories thinking it really served no purpose.  That all changed after reading a book called "Frontier Memories II," a collection of interviews by Rev. John Dabney Shane as compiled in the Draper manuscripts."  Through his interviews, with early settlers Shane helps dispel the perception that life was like a typical romanticized Daniel Boone movie, when in fact it was anything but. It was a brutal existence where life was cheap and death waited just outside the cabin door.

I've included a few of the hundreds of the first hand interviews. and They are written exactly as stated in the interview and written with no corrections for grammar or spelling.

Note:  While the interviews were conducted with white people, it should be remembered that while the brutality and savagery of the Indians mentioned in the interviews below, actions perpetrated by whites on the Indians were often equally savage and in some cases, far more horrendous. 

Family Murdered

"It was the morning just after breakfast. The Indians were at the door before we seen them. The dog baked and I went to the door with the child in my arms, and as soon as I came out, one Indian took hold of me and another pulled the child from me and took it by the legs and knocked it's brains against the wall and then went into the house killed my mother and two other little children and after taking all out of the house they wanted to carry with them, and they stripping all the clothes off my mother and the children they killed, they then drew the dead bodies out of the house and set it on fire and it was burnt."

A Captive

Washington County, Ohio. Mrs. Cunningham who was taken captive, when her house was raided by Indians, and several family members killed and scalped, stated upon her return from captivity that for ten days all she had to eat was the head of a wild turkey and three paw paws. That the skin on her feet was scalded by the frequent wading of the streams and upon arrival at a Delaware village, when she removed her stockings and shoes her skin and nails came off with them.

Dog Food
In 1778 Nicholas Dyfert was made a prisoner and given to an old squaw to replace a son that had been killed. He suffered severely from hunger on his way to Canada. One day when almost famished, he observed his new mother make several attempts to eat a hot dumpling, which she could not master for the want of teeth. After rolling it around her mouth for some time, she cast it to her dog; but hardly had the animal seized it in his teeth, when Dygert caught him by the ears and after a long shake he forced the dainty morsel from his jaws and transferred it to his own. The inference of her son with her will displeased the old woman and seizing him by his ears, which freedom he dared not resist, she shook him until he restored the dog with his dinner.

Using the Child As Bait

Miss Noaks went out to her brother's cabin, all within a few yards of each other, she went into her brother's cabin, her brother had gone to bed, his wife and child with him. She sat down on the bedside and was relating something that had happened in the other cabin. When she came in she had neglected to, as was customary, to bar the door,. An Indian slipped up and put his gun through, leaning against the chink of the door Miss Noak's turned her eye and seeing it screamed. Her brother raised up to get his gun, just over where he lay, and the Indian fired. The ball passing through his sisters arm, and killing the brother. They then rushed into the house and scalped the brother, jerking his head upon a chest that set there. The sister scuffled under the bed and while they were trying to get her out (she clinging to the bed stock behind as they tried to drag her out, the bed would still drag). the old man came out and fired and they ran out. The child lay all the while in the bed. How the wife escaped we know not. There were 1/2 dozen Indians. When the gun fired they thought there was an alarm and they did not know the real strength of the Indians. A man, George Trumbo and wife (they were not man and wife, he was under age and his father wouldn't let him marry, they had a child however and when he got of age he married her) ran out of their cabin. The man couldn't run the fastest, 2 Indians saw them and took after them by moonlight. She saw they were gaining on her and dropped her child which was about 6 months old, and she hid in the bough of a tree that had fallen. The Indians stopped and tried to make the child cry, to get her to come back and then they killed it and passed on. They were followed the next day about 30 miles but were not overtaken, they were Cherokees and this was at Hartgrove's Station a a collection of farms.

Young Boys Out For A Ride
Bob & Nathan MC Clure & John McClure and John Ping and three others, seven in all pursued seven Indians that had killed a boy. Two boys were going to English Station, probably from Hartgrove's and were on a horse. The Indians had waylaid the trace they were on and shot. The horse was shot and killed and when it fell confined the leg of the foremost boy. The Indians ran up, killed and scalped him. The one behind was loose and made his escape. They were cousins neither had been touched by the shot. In the pursuit the Indians passed on and turned back and way laid the trail and fired. They fought three hours with the scouting party, trying to get the advantage over each other. Nathan McClure was wounded as were two of the Indians. Both mutually withdrew. That night they left Nathan MC Clure in a sink and were to return the next morning with a horse. In they morning they found his gun and a dead wolf, but his body was torn all to pieces. They pursued further but never met with the Indians any more.
A Nasty Indian Game
His captors had tied his wrists together and drawn them over his knees after which a stick was passed under his knees and over the wrists and a rope tied to it between them then thrown over a limb of a tree. His tormentors then drew him up a distance and let him fall by slacking the rope; continuing their hellish sport until the concussion extinguished the vital spark
(in other words, they pulled him up and kept letting him fall on his head until he finally died.) 
A Rather Grotesque Kid's Game
The carcass of the Indian, a remarkably large fellow was left unburied for a time and the boys about the fort took turns in playing Indian, so they termed it, and with the tomahawk of it's former possessor; each running up and giving the head a hack with a tiny war-whoop. Such were some of the juvenile pastimes on the frontier.  
If it had hair, it became a target
During the 10 year period 1780 to 1789, Indians, with the help of their British allies had murdered over 1500 settlers in Kentucky and along the north side of the Ohio River. In a letter dated, May 7, 1782, a British officer sent a letter and eight packages to Col. Haldiman, British Governor of Canada containing the scalps of 983 men, women and children the Indians had murdered on the frontier. The inventory of scalps is shown in the table below

May it please your excellency,

At the request of the Seneca Chief, I hereby send your Excellency, under the care of James Hoyd, eight packages of scalps, cured, dried, hooped and painted with all the triumphal marks of which the following is the invoice and explanation:

No. 1. Containing forty-three scalps of Congress soldiers, killed in different skirmishes. These are stretched on black hoops, four inches in diameter. The inside of the skin is painted red with a small black spot to denote their being killed with bullets; the hoops painted red, the skin painted brown, and marked with a hoe’ a black circle all around to denote their being surprised in the night; and a black hatchet in the middle, signifying their being killed with that weapon.

No. 2. Containing ninety-eight farmers killed in their houses; hoops red, figure of a hoe, to mark their profession; great white circle and sun, to show they were surprised in the day time; a little red foot to show that they stood upon their defense and died fighting for their lives and families.

No. 3. Containing ninety-seven of farmers; hoops green to show they were killed in the fields; a large white circle with a little round mark on it , for a sun to show it was in the daytime; black bullet mark on some, a hatchet mark on others.

No. 4. Containing one hundred and two of farmers, mixture of several of the marks above; only eighteen marked with a little yellow flame, to denote their being prisoners burnt alive, after being scalped; their nails pulled out by the roots and other torments. One of these latter being supposed to be an American clergyman, his hand being fixed to the hook of his scalp. Most of the farmers appear, by their hair, to have been young or middle aged men, their being but sixty-seven very gray heads among them all, which makes the service more essential.

No. 5. Containing eight-eight scalps of women; hair long, braided in Indian fashion, to show they were mothers; hoops blue, skin yellow ground, with little red tadpoles, to represent by way of triumph the tears of grief occasioned to their relatives; a black scalping knife or hatched at the bottom to mark their being killed by those instruments. Seventeen others, hair very gray, black hoops, plain brown colors, no marks but the short club or castete to show they were knocked down dead, or had their brains beat out

No. 6. Containing one hundred and ninety-three boys scalps of various ages. Small green hoops, whitish ground on the skin, with red tears in the middle and black marks, knife, hatchet or clubs as their death happened.

No. 7. Containing two hundred and eleven girls, scalps big and little, small yellow hoops, white ground tears, hatchet and scalping knife

No. 8. This package is a mixture of all the varieties above mentioned to the number of one hundred and twenty-two, with a box of birch bark, containing twenty-nine little infants scalps of various sizes; small white hoops with white ground.”

 While Indians did on occasion kidnap children and raise them as their own, as this list shows, that wasn’t always the case, and because a scalp meant bounty money, if it had hair it was scalped regardless of age.
The Brutality of an Indian Attack
And if you're wondering what a attack by Indians looked like, turn up your sound, click on the link below, put on full screen and you'll see. It is by far the best presentation I've found on what the battle at Fort Recovery, Ohio may have looked like on Nov. 4, 1791 (30 miles southwest of Lima).
Note:  The person who posted it on Youtube titled it incorrectly.  It should be "St. Clair" not "Sinclaire."
The battle, known as St. Clair’s defeat, has gone down in history as the worst defeat of a United States Army at the hands of Native Americans. Nearly one-quarter of the entire United States Army had been slaughtered in a single three-hour battle. While the exact number of killed will never be known, the best estimates are that 632 officers and soldiers were killed outright or died on the battlefield and another 264 were wounded. Of the nearly 200 camp followers, children and contractors, nearly all were slaughtered. Indian losses that day were estimated at only twenty-one killed and forty wounded. Of St. Clair’s 920-man force, only 24 men returned to Fort Washington unharmed. The Army’s casualty rate (killed and wounded) was a staggering 97% while the casualty rate of the Indians was less than 5 percent.

What was it like to be there?  
Turn up your sound, put on full screen and click on the link below. 

In February 1792, nearly 3 months after the battle, General Wilkinson, ordered Captain Robert Buntin to assemble a detachment of men and return to St. Clair’s battlefield to look for salvageable materials and to bury the dead, or at least what remained of them. In his report to Wilkinson, Buntin wrote:

In my opinion, those innocent men who fell into the enemy’s hands with life were used with the greatest torture, having their limbs torn off; and the women have been treated with the most indecent cruelty having stakes as thick as a person’s arm driven through their bodies.  The first I observed when burying the dead and the latter was discovered by Col Sergeant and Dr Brown.  We found three whole carriages (cannon); the other five were so much damaged that they were rendered useless.  By the general’s orders, pits were dug in different places and all the dead bodies that were exposed to view or could be conveniently found (the snow being very deep) were buried.  Six hundred skulls were found and the flesh was entirely off the bones and in many cases the sinews yet held them together.

Accompanying Buntin was a man named Sergeant who wrote in his report:

“I was astonished to see the amazing effect of the enemy’s fire.  Every twig and bush seems to be cut down, and the saplings and trees marked with the utmost profusion of shot.”

To paint early frontier life in frontier Ohio as a peaceful, Walt Disneyish type of environment, does our forefathers little justice.  They stayed, they fought, they starved and died and we live in places where some of those things happened.  As I've stated many many times, I do not like historical fiction in any form as it tends to avoid reality for the sake of entertainment.  Almost 1000 men, women and children died along the Ohio River in 10 years, and a United States army was decimated in 1791.  My point is if we're to honor our forefathers, the least we can do is tell their story as they lived it.  Sugarcoating it only trivializes their sacrifices.


If you would like learn more about Fort Amanda and the patriots who served there, these books can be purchased locally, on the net or by contacting me at

                 $20                                                              $15

Available at;
Readmore's Hallmark stores in Lima, Ohio (E. Elm st., Eastgate and Flanders ave.

Casa Chic (109 W. Auglaize st)  in Wapakoneta, Ohio

The Allen County Museum (620 W. Market st) in Lima, Ohio

If you'd like a signed copy email me at and I'll send you the details.

If you're looking for a speaker related to this subject for  your group, simply email me at
   or l 614-747-3082. I do not charge speaking fees.