|JEREMIAH ARMSTRONG – HIS CAPTIVITY, ETC..
MR. ARMSTRONG, when but a youth, became one of the first residents of Franklin County. He grew up to manhood in Franklinton, and continued to reside there until after the town of Columbus was laid out. He then became one of the first settlers of the new town, of which he has continued a resident nearly all the time since. In the spring of 1813 he purchased from the proprietors his lot on High street, which he still owns, and on which he for many years kept a respectable hotel. His first sign was that of Christopher Columbus at full size, then the Red Lion. Some years since he retired from business with a competency, and is spending the evening of life in peace and quietness.
The following is a brief narrative of his captivity with the Indians. He says:
“I was born in Washington County, Maryland, March, 1785. I had a sister (Elizabeth) and three brothers, William, Robert, and John, older than myself. We moved to the Mingo Bottom and from there to Virginia,
opposite the upper end of Blannerhasset's Island. The Indians made frequent incursions into our neighborhood, and my mother was in constant dread of being killed by them; she seemed to have a presentiment that she would have the fate of her parents, who were both killed by them in Mifflin County, Penn. Some time in April 1794, (I perfectly remember the circumstances of that eventful night,) my brothers William and Robert had gone to a floating mill which my father owned on the Ohio, near the house; the younger children were in bed. Father went down to the river to examine a trot line; my mother stood in the door, holding a candle for him. I shall never forget her appearance; it was the last time I ever beheld her; she stood trembling like a leaf, so that the candle shook in her hand. I suppose that she was afraid of the Indians, for I then thought there was nothing else to fear. Father returned safe; barred both of the doors, as was his custom, and then retired. Elizabeth, John and I slept in the loft of our log house.
“About three o'clock, we were awakened by the barking of our dog. Father Sprang up, and without waiting to put on any clothing, unbarred one of the doors, and ran out and hissed [at] the dog; but in a moment he saw several Indians start from behind the trees, hallooed Indians, and ran into the house, barred the door, and caught up a gun. By this time the house was surround-
ed by twenty Wyandots. The poor, faithful dog had kept them off till he was disabled; they had cut him so badly in the mouth that his under jaw hung loose. As the savages approached the house, father fired the gun; then caught a bullet pouch, and sprang to the loft, put his bullet and powder into his hand, but in attempting to put it into the gun found (too late) that he had taken the wrong pouch, and the bullet was too large; so he threw down the gun, tore open the roof, and sprang to the ground, fully expecting to be tomahawked the instant he reached it; but fortunately he was not discovered, for the most of the Indians were already in the house. They commenced their bloody work by killing the three little ones. Mother attempted to escape through the chimney, but it is supposed that her clothes caught, for she fell, and (as the Indians afterward told me) in attempting to raise her they found she could not stand; her hip was broken. Had she been able to travel, they would not have killed her; but as she could not, they must have her scalp as a trophy. They also scalped the two oldest of the children, but from my mother took two.
“They dry these scalps on little hoops, about the size of a dollar, paint them and fix them on poles, to raise as trophies of victory when entering their villages. When seeing these so raised, I inquired why the took
two from mother? They said because the babe's hair was not long enough to scalp, they took one from its mother for it. After killing my sisters and brother below, they came up to us, and took us down. Oh! who can describe our feelings on entering that room of blood! I was led over the slippery, bloody floor, and placed between the knees of one of the savages, whose hands were still reeking with th blood of my dearest relatives.
“Mr. Misner, who lived about a hundred yards above us, hearing the noise, took a canoe and started for Belpre, to raise an alarm. When half way across the river, I suppose, he saw the Indians and my sister; she was standing in the door, and the house was lighted. Mr. M. called, ‘What is the matter?’ One of the Indians told her to say nothing, which she did, being afraid to disobey. After plundering the house, they, with their three prisoners, started south-west; they went rapidly for a mile or two, then halted, formed a ring around us, and lighted their pipes, and made several speeches, apparently in great haste. We watched their gestures, and listened anxiously. I was afterward told that I was the subject of their debate. They expected to be pursued by the people of Belpre, and thought me too young to travel as fast as necessary for their safety; so they proposed killing me; but a young Indian who had led
me and observed my activity in jumping the logs, said he thought I would make a pretty good Indian, and they might go as fast as they pleased, and if I could not keep up, he would carry me. So my life was spared, and we continued our journey at a rapid rate; he sometimes carrying me, and I sometimes begging my sister to carry me. She, poor girl, could scarcely carry herself. I was quite small of my age.
“When we arrived opposite the mouth of Little Hocking, they found their canoes, which they had secreted in the bushes, got into them, and hastened across the river. When they gained the opposite bank, they gave a never-to-be-forgotten whoop, for they felt themselves safe. The next day they dined on a bear, which they had killed the day before. The oil of the bear was hung up in a deer skin; they gave us some of it to drink; we would not drink it. So they gave us of the bread and sugar which they had taken from my father's house – bread which our mother had so lately made. And where was she? Oh! my heart ached at the thought. They treated us kindly, and while our bread and sugar lasted, we fared very well.
“But to return to my father. When h jumped to the ground from the roof, he ran to the river, took a canoe and crossed over to the island, went to Mr. James's, then to the mill for my brothers, wakened them, and
with them returned to the house. What a horrible scene presented itself! There lay my mother and the babe on the ground. In the house the other two children were lying in their gore. The boy was still alive, and he asked my father why he pulled his hair.
“I saw Mr. John James (a resident of Jackson County) in Columbus some years ago. He said that he was one of the twenty that followed the Indians down the river, saw their canoes, and where they landed, and also discovered by the tracks that we were still alive. They were afraid, if pursued farther, the Indians would kill us to expedite their flight. They were not far behind – the water was still muddy – so they returned.
“After eating our dinner, we started again, and our next halt was near where Lancaster now stands. There we saw young Cox, a man they had taken from our neighborhood a few days previous. We spent the night there. In the morning two of the most savage of our party took John and myself and started for Upper Sandusky. I missed not only my sister, but the young Indian that carried me. I had already begun to consider him my friend, although I did not then know that he had saved my life.
“Our two conductors seemed to delight in tormenting us. They made us wade streams where the water
came up to my chin. Brother John being two years older than myself, and taller, would lead me. They would laugh at our fears. We had nothing but roots and herbs to eat. When we came near their village in Upper Sandusky, they stripped us of our clothes, and tied a small part around our bodies in Indian style. When I cried at the loss of my clothes, one of them whipped me severely with his pipe stem. The indian squaws and children came running from all directions to see, and we were no sooner in the house than the door was completely blocked up with them, which frightened me very much.
“A few days after our arrival, the party we had left behind came up, and I, when I saw them coming, ran to meet my friend, and was as glad to see him as if he had been my brother. My fondness, for him no doubt increased his for me.
“The next morning we started for Lower Sandusky. In passing through the Seneca nation, the pole of scalps was hoisted. A little Seneca Indian ran to us, took the pole from the bearer, and carried it to an old squaw, who was sitting in the door of her hut. She examined it, handed it back to the boy, and he returned it to the Indian, then knocked both John and myself down. It was a privilege they had, as they belonged to another nation. After leaving the Senecas, we came to
some of our own nation, that is, Wyandots. There they formed a ring before we ate, and a prisoner who spoke both languages, gave me a gourd with shot in it, telling me that I must say grace. So he put some Indian words in my mouth, and bid me go around the ring, knocking the gourd with my hand, and repeating the words, which I did as well as I could. But my awkwardness made them laugh; so I got angry and threw down the gourd. I thought to myself, it was very different from th way my father said grace.
“On arriving at Lower Sandusky, before entering the town, they halted and formed a procession for Cox, my sister, my brother and myself to run the gauntlet. They pointed to the house of their chief, Old Crane, about a hundred yards distant, signifying that we should run into it. We did so and were received very kindly by the old chief; he was a very mild man, beloved by all.
“I was then adopted by his family, the Deer tribe, my brother John into another, the Turtle tribe, and my sister into another; so we were separated. I was painted all over, and a broad belt of wampum put around my body. I was quite an important personage; and if my dear sister and brother had remained with me, I should have been happy; yes, happy, for I thought, not the Indians were my friends, I had nothing on
earth to fear. But my brother and sister were gone, and I was alone. I cried very much. An old prisoner tried to comfort me. He said I must not eat with the paint on me; if I did, it would kill me. It was the paint of my adoption, and I suppose that while it was on me, I was considered neither white nor red, and, according to their superstition, if I remained in that state, I should die. The prisoner took me to the river, and washed it off, then led me back to the house.
“John was taken to Brownstown, and Elizabeth to Maumee. I did not see either of them again for about four years, when my brother and myself regained our liberty. My sister remained with them but a few months. She was stolen from them by a gentleman in search of his sister, and taken to Detroit. As she had no means of returning to her friends, she went with a family by the name of Dolson to Canada, and married one of the sons. When I saw her next she had a family of her own.
“After our adoption, the family to which I belonged came back to Columbus and camped near where the Penitentiary now stands. There we raised corn in what is now called Sullivant's Prairie. My home while with them was back and forth from there to Lower Sandusky. The first night I spent in Franklin, the Indians all got drunk. The squaws put me on a scaffold to
keep them from killing me. The squaws had sense enough to not taste the rum till the Indians were to drunk to harm them; then they too got drunk. And, oh, what a time for me for a few days, while the rum lasted; but when it was gone, they were very kind to me.
“After parting from my brother and sister, I heard so little of my own language that I forgot it entirely, and became attached to them and their ways. In fact, I became a very good Indian. They called me Hooscoatah-jah, (Little Head.) A short time afterward, they changed my name to Duh-guah. They often change their names.
‘In the month of August, 1794, when I had been a prisoner about four months, General Wayne conquered the Indians in that decisive battle on the Maumee. Before the battle, the squaws and children were sent to Lower Sandusky. Runners were sent from the scene of action to inform us of their defeat, and to order us to Sandusky Bay. They supposed that Wayne would come with his forces and massacre the whole of us. Great was the consternation and confusion; and I (strange infatuation,) thinking their enemies mine, ran and got into a canoe, fearing they would go and leave me at the mercy of the pale faces. We all arrived safe at the Bay; and there the Indians conveyed their
wounded—Old Crane among the number. He was wounded in the arm; and my friend, the one that saved my life, was killed.
“Wayne, instead of molesting us, withdrew his forces to Greenville; and we returned to Franklin, (that now is,) and encamped below the dam, where there is a deep hole, called Billy's Hole, from Billy Wyandot.
“The only war dance I witnessed, was near where the Penitentiary now stands, when a party of them were preparing to leave for Kentucky in a quest of prisoners and scalps. They returned with three prisoners and five scalps. Billy Wyandot and others were then preparing to leave for Greenville to form a treaty, (August, ‘95.) By that treaty a great part of the present limits of the State of Ohio was ceded to the whites; and the Indians were to give up all the prisoners in their possession, which was done were found and recognized.
“My brother and myself were still held in bondage, our friends supposing us to be dead. When the lands acquired by the treaty were being surveyed by Generals Massie and McArthur, Mr. Thomas, a former neighbor of my father's being with them, saw me and knew me. He sent word to my brother William, who was then residing in Kentucky. As soon as he heard that I was alive, he left Kentucky in search of me, with only
six dollars in his pocket. He expected to find me in Franklin. Not finding me there, he went on to Upper Sandusky. The Indians were on a hunting tour and I was with them. The corn was then in the silk; he was told that we would not be back until roasting ear time. So he went back as far as Chillicothe, where he remained until the time appointed. Then he started again and came to Lower Sandusky, where he found me quite happy, and so much of an Indian that I would much rather have seen him tomahawked than to go with him. Old Crane would not consent to give me up. He said according to the treaty they were not obliged to release any that were willing to stay. They agreed to go to Brownstown and examine the treaty.
“Brother William, knowing the uncertainty of the Indians, went to Detroit for assistance. He applied to Gen. Hamtramack, who gave him an officer and twelve men. With this force he came to Brownstown,sixteen miles. We were all there, and I had found my brother John, who was as unwilling to leave as myself. We were strutting back and forth on the porch. I had a large bunch of feathers tied in my hair at the crown of my head and rings in my ears and nose. I was feeling very large and defiant. When I was William coming I said the John, ‘There comes our white brother.’ He came towards us and put out his hand to shake hands,
but we drew ourselves up scornfully, and would not allow him to touch us. Oh, how little we knew or thought of the toil and suffering he had endured for our sake.
“We were both determined not to go with him; so they took us by force. William took one of us by the hand and the officer the other; they dragged us along to the boat. I well remember our setting one foot back to brace ourselves, and pulling with our might to get from them. But they succeeded in getting us into the boat and pushing off, leaving the old squaw who had the care of me, standing on the bank crying. There she stood, and I could hear her cries until lost in the distance. I cried to, till quite exhausted, and I fell asleep.
“John, being with a tribe that traded with the whites, did not forget his native tongue. Some days after we started, William related the story of our capture, the murder of our mother, sisters and brother. John repeated it to me. Oh, what a sudden change it wrought in me. It brought back the whole scene so forcibly to my recollection, that I clung to my brother with affection and gratitude, and never more had a wish to return to the red men.
“At Detroit we left our boat, and were kept in garrison four or five days, waiting for a vessel to take us to Erie, Pennsylvania. We went from Erie to Pittsburgh,
from there to our old home at Mr. Gillespie's, one of our old neighbors. We then changed our savage clothes, and after remaining several days, we left for Chillicothe, from thence to Franklin my present home.
“Columbus, April, 1858.”
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