I take no credit for the authenticity, accuracy, nor authoring any of the following, which I found on the internet and post here only for your entertainment value:http://home.earthlink.net/~ctmjr/kerrmass.htm
quoted from the website above:
republished from the "Rockbridge Citizens" publication of January, 1872:
I am reminded of a promise, made some time since, to prepare for your paper some account of that bloody tragedy, which at an early day, laid desolate the settlement of Kerr's Creek in this county.
It is a matter of surprise that no account of this awful scene has ever been published. Thus a full and satisfactory history of it has been lost. I have often heard that the late Dr. Campbell had prepared an account of it, but, if so, it has never been published, and after much inquiry, I have not been able to find any paper of his on this subject.
The effort which I now make to preserve from total loss this interesting event in the history of my native county, is drawn from notes which I gathered more than twenty years since, from the most authentic sources to which I could find access, namely, conversations with aged people living on the creek and elsewhere, a number of whom were descendants of those who suffered I will state as fact only such matters as were related to me as such. If any of the aged people of this county who feel an interest in preserving the history of this event, find any mistakes in this statement, or know of additional facts, it is hoped they will correct the mistakes and furnish such facts through the columns of your paper. I will only add here that there were two massacres on Kerr's Creek by the Indians, a fact which is not generally known. And in the traditional account, it is not always possible to say whether the things related occurred at the first or second massacre. The persons stating the facts were not themselves always certain. This, however, is a matter of little importance as the two invasions were so close together in point of time.
The settlements on Kerr's Creek were made by white people soon after the grant of lands to Borden in 1736. It was, in common with the rest of this part of the valley, principally settled by Scotch Irish; and being land of desirable quality, quite a number of families were soon located upon it, with their characteristic industry and enterprise in clearing and cultivating their new homes,. and thought themselves away from the danger of more exposed parts of the county. The following is a very imperfect list of the families then located on the creek and in its vicinity: Cunninghams lived at the "Big Spring," where S. W. McKee now lives: McKee where Laird now lives: Hamilton where Dunlap now lives: Cunningham where Harper now lives. There were also Dales, Stilsons, McConnels, Blacks, Logans, Irvins, and others, some of which families became extinct by the massacre.
I am able to fix the precise date of the first invasion from an entry in the old family Bible of J. T. McKee's grandfather, as follows: His wife Jennie died July l7th,1763. She was killed in the first invasion. The second visitation of the savages was a little more than. two years after the first, on the tenth of October, 1765. The number of Indians in the first visit was twenty-seven, as counted by Robert Irvine, who was on a bluff near the road at the head of the creek. Both invasions were of the Shawnee tribe, who, most of all the savages, harassed the whites. The first band of these blood-thirsty warriors who visited Rockbridge in 1763, I think I have satisfactorily ascertained, were a part of a much larger company who had been on a war expedition against the Cherokees or Catawbas of the South, and were then on their return to their towns north of the Ohio River. They came up byway of the Sweet Springs and Jackson's River. Some knowledge of their approach had been obtained, and they were met by a company of men under the command of Capt. Moffit, at or near the mouth of Falling Spring Valley Allegheny County. The Indians, who were aware of the approach of the whites, had posted themselves in ambush, behind the comb of a ridge along which Moffit's men were moving, and suddenly their whole force opened fire from their concealed position. The whites were taken by surprise, thrown into confusion and a total defeat followed. A number or men were slain, amongst whom was James Sitlington of Bath County, an uncle of the families or that name, at present living in that county. He was a recent immigrant from Ireland, and was highly esteemed and useful, on account of his intelligence and exemplary life. After the rout, all of the Indians went some miles down Jackson's River, and came up the valley of the Cowpasture. On the plantation owned by Colonel Thomas Sitlington, there lived a black-smith by the name of Daugherty. He and his wife barely made their escape to the mountains with their two children. The house and shop were burned, with all their contents, except a flax hackle, which the Indians took out of the house and laid on a stump. Daugherty removed to the South, and in after years rose to considerable distinction. In one of General Jackson's military reports, he is favorably mentioned as the "Valuable General Daugherty." After the burning of his house, the Indians came up on the river where Old Millboro now stands and where they divided their company, the larger part setting out for the Ohio River, and the smaller one of twenty-seven turning their faces for the destruction of the peaceful settlement or Kerrâ€™s Creek.
As there has no account ever been given in history of this part of the Indian warfare of our ancestors, it will not be deemed out of place for us first to follow the trail of the large party, and see what was their fate, as far as it can be now traced. After leaving Millboro they killed a man whom they met in the Narrows of the river bluff of the Cowpasture, at the Blowing Cave. He was on a rock at the edge of the water, and his body fell into the river. They crossed the Warm Spring Mountain where the toll gate now stands, and passing over to Back Creek, encamped on the land now owned by the Hickman family. A company of men had been hastily raised under Capt. Christian, and were rapidly in pursuit of the departing wing of the savages. When the company came to the encampment at Hicknan's, they found a rude bier on which a wounded Indian had been carried. Afterwards a grave was found in the vicinity where he had been buried. A part of this bier, which I have seen, is in the possession of the Sitlington family in Highland County. The party in pursuit hastened on and found the Indians in their encampment at or near the head of Back Creek. Being undiscovered themselves, their plan was formed to surround the encampment before the alarm was given, but while they were carrying this into effect, one of the men saw an Indian passing close to him and carrying a deer which he had killed into the camp. His shooting propensities became so strong that he could not resist shooting the Indian. This gave the alarm too soon, but the men, making the best of it, rushed upon the camp. The Indians were routed, a number of them were killed and nearly all the camp equipage was taken. It is not possible at this day to give the names of many who were in this encampment. Captain Dickinson of Bath County, the grandfather of John U. Dickinson, of Millboro, was one of the number, and was wounded. He is said to have been among the bravest. John Young, who resided in Hebron congregation in Augusta County, where he raised a large family, was another. He is said to have wounded an Indian, and in running up to dispatch him with his sword, the Indian threw up the barrel of his gun toward off the blow. Young, striking with great force, cut his sword deep into the gun barrel, which broke the blade. Exasperated at the loss of his sword, he literally hewed the Indian to pieces with the remaining part. Some of the brave Lewises of Augusta were also in the party of Christian.
Some of the trophies of their victory afforded a melancholy pleasure. They brought back a number of scalps, which were recognized by their friends; amongst the rest was the scalp of James Sitlington, known by his flowing locks of red hair.
The Indians who made their escape were again met by a company of white men coming up the South Branch of the Potomac, where a number were killed, and the remainder driven into the fastness of Cheat mountain.
Let us now follow the trail and mark the ravages of the band of painted warriors which visited the doomed valley of Kerr's Creek. (This I promise to do in another number.)
How do the exciting scenes of the past generation pass into oblivion? Who even of the citizens of Rockbridge, as they pass up end down the beautiful valley of Kerr's Creek, know or think anything of that dark and bloody day, more than a hundred years ago, when death and destruction in their most horrible form swept over its inhabitants?
There is reason to believe that the savages had, for some time, meditated a visit to this settlement. Some weeks before, two boys, James Teaford and his brother, were returning from school in the evening, when they saw a naked man near their path, standing behind a tree, and trying to keep the tree between him and them. Not knowing what it meant, they were alarmed, and running home told what they had seen, but it was not thought much of until after the massacre, when it was believed that the person seen was one of their spies, sent to examine the condition of the settlement.
The party of Indians which separated from the main body, at or near Old Millboro, Bath County, made their way directly over Mill Mountain, about two miles north of where the turnpike now crosses it, at a low place still called the Indian Trail, and falling over on the waters of Bratton's Run, they crossed the North Mountain where the road now crosses it leading from Lexington to the Alum Springs, and where a large heap of stones is still seen, touching the road, evidently put there by the Indians of some time, probably as a landmark between their tribes. I do not think it a stretch of the imagination to suppose that these painted warriors made a pause on their rude pile of stones, perhaps the landmark of their fathers. Here they had a full view of the valley of Kerr's Creek. They could see the smoke of the white man's abode, and mark the encroachment upon what they claimed as their hunting ground, given them by the Great Spirit. With passions thus excited, they were prepared for the deeds of blood before them that day. Hastening down the mountain they were soon on the head waters of the creek - twenty-seven warriors marching in Indian file as seen by Mr. Irvine. Their determination seemed to be an indiscriminate slaughter of all who fell in their hands, and a general burning and destruction of property. No prisoners were made by them on the first visit. All who were made prisoners were taken in the second massacre, two years afterwards.
The first house reached by them was that of Charles Daugherty ,where they murdered the entire family. They then proceeded down the creek to Jacob Cunningham, where W. Moore and C. Harper now live. Cunningham was from home. His wife was killed, and daughter about ten years of age was struck down with the tomahawk. Thinking her to be dead, they scalped her. She revived after they left, and lived, but was destined again to fall into their hands, on the second invasion, two years afterwards, when she was taken prisoner and carried to their towns in Ohio, where they put on her head what they gave her to understand was her own scalp, and with great mirth and rejoicing danced around her. She was afterwards redeemed and brought back by her friends, and lived for forty years and eventually died from the effects of the scalping. Her head had never properly healed, and turned to a cancerous affection. These strange facts I learned from her niece twenty years ago.
The Indians next came to the house of Thomas Gilmore, being where his great grandson, Captain W. C. Gilmore, now lives. The old man and his wife were just starting from the house to visit a neighbor. They were both killed and scalped, and the house burned. The rest of the family
escaped at that time. The alarm had now spread through the neighborhood and the inhabitants were flying in every direction. The house of Robert Hamilton - he lived on the place now owned by M. Dunlap, was reached next. This was a large family of ten members and one-half of them fell victims to the fury of the savages. For some cause, not known, the main body of the Indians went no farther at this time than the house of Hamilton. Perhaps their thirst for the white man's blood was satisfied for the present, or, what is more probable, as the alarm was now spreading rapidly, they feared to venture farther with so small a band of warriors. There may have been more, but it is not certainly known that more than one Indian pushed on to the house of John McKee, where J. H. Laird now lives. McKee had recently come to the creek from Pennsylvania. From some alarm that had been given - probably the naked man who had been seen - he had sent his six children to the house of a friend on Timber Ridge, intending to follow with his wife. When the alarm reached him, he and his wife fled down the creek for about a mile. Their aim was to gain a thick growth of bush, where they could better conceal themselves. When passing through an open space, they saw one Indian following them in swift pursuit. An old colored woman was trying to flee with them and being behind, she was screaming to them not to leave her. This is thought, led the Indians on their trail. When they discovered the savage, they were ascending the hill near where Dr. Hamilton now lives. Seeing that they would soon be overtaken, Mrs. McKeeâ€™s condition impeding their flight, she besought her husband to leave her to her fate and make his own escape, if possible. This he refused to do, when she appealed to him for the sake of their children to leave her. If he stayed, being unarmed, they should both be killed, but if he escaped, their young children would still have a protector. Can we conceive a more trying condition for a husband? He yielded to her entreaties, a husband and wife parted to meet no more on earth! His last words were, "God bless you, Jennie," as he bounded forward at the top of his speed. After running a short distance, he looked around, and saw the tomahawk descend on the head of his wife, and she sank to the ground. The Indian made but the one blow, and without halting, sprang forward to overtake McKee, who being in the prime of life exerted every nerve to reach the brush on the top of the hill, and having gained it, he ran a short distance into the thicket and then made a short angle and so continued to run, varying his course for some time, and then concealed himself. He heard the Indian searching for him for some time, but at last he gave a whoop as they usually do when giving up a chase. McKee lay close until the dusk of evening, when he cautiously crept out and came to the place where he saw his wife fall. After looking for some time, he found her. She had crept down into a sink in the ground, had taken a handkerchief from her neck and bound up the wound on her head, and was cold in death. There was only the one wound, made with the pipe end of the tomahawk. She was not scalped, the Indian not having found her on his return. She was buried where she was found and there her sleeping dust rests to this day - in a sink in one of Dr. Hamilton's fields. Her husband lived to rear a numerous family. Many of the descendants are still living on Kerr's Creek, and many are scattered far and near over the western country; others were killed on the memorable and melancholy day, whose name and other particulars we cannot now give.
The savages did not stay but a short time in this invasion, but hurried off, loaded with scalps and plunder, unencumbered by any prisoners. Perhaps they were in haste to overtake their companions with whom they parted at MilIboro. If so, perhaps they shared their fate. As soon as it was thought to be safe, those who had escaped turned to perform the melancholy duty of burying the dead. Their bodies were in such condition that they were generally buried at, or near, the place where found. In recent years bodies have been dug up in making or repairing the roads.
From one cause the lives of some were saved, no doubt. A number had gone that day to old Timber Ridge Church, where services were conducted by the Rev. John Brown, the pastor of that and Providence Churches. During the intermission, between the morning and evening sermon, some was given, but such reports were frequent1y started without foundation; therefore, not much attention was paid to it. The people all went into the church for the second sermon, when a messenger arrived with the sad tidings from Kerr's Creek. All was immediately confusion and dismay. The congregation was dismissed, and fled in every direction it was thought would afford them safety.
(The second and still more disastrous invasion remains to be noticed in another number.)
The second invasion of Kerr's Creek is thought to have been on or about the 10th of October, 1765. In the opinion of some, it was in 1766. The late John T. McKee, my author for the date, was very confident it was the former date. This also was composed of Shawanees, and no doubt composed, in part, of some who were in the first expedition. They would best know the condition of the settlement, and the fitting of the scalp to the head of Miss Cunningham, when they returned to Ohio, is a further proof of the same. The number of Indians in their second visit is not certainly known. They are generally estimated from forty to fifty.
The families and remnants of families left on the creek had, with characteristic energy, addressed themselves to the repairing of their losses. Rude cabins were built to take the place of their destroyed ones, and their domestic comforts were gathered about them. It is to us a matter of surprise that our frontier ancestors could so soon replace their losses and regain their cheerfulness. But their wants were comparatively few, and chiefly supplied by their energy and handiwork of both sexes. The heaviest part of their affliction was the cruel death of members of the family, and the dark uncertainty which hung around those in captivity.
For some time there had been vague reports of Indians, which arose probably from their depredations farther west, but still enough to produce uneasiness, even while there was a general hope of safety. At length the wild savages made their approach, but more cautiously than before. They crossed the North Mountain, and encamped at a spring where Andrew Hayslett now lives; a position which secluded them from the view of any one passing over the mountain, and from which they could send out their spies to mark the state of affairs on the creek. In this concealed position they remained for one or two days. Someone discovered their moccasin tracks in a corn field, and crossing up to the top of the hill, saw them in their camp. The alarm was given about the time they started out for their awful work. The inhabitants of the creek fled with all haste, and collected at the Big Spring, at the house of Jonathan Cunningham. The whole number gathered there is estimated at about one hundred men, women and children. They were packing their horses in great haste to leave for Timber Ridge. William Gilmore and another man started to walk up the creek to see if any danger was at hand. Some of the Indians, who had crept up very close, immediately fired on them, and both were shot down; and with a war whoop, the whole body of savages rushed on the promiscuous crowd. Two or three brave young men, amongst whom was one of the Cunninghams, advanced to meet them, and were killed. Then commenced a scene which beggars all description, the screaming of women and children, and the utter dismay which seized upon them all. This remarkable spring, with its pond, covers perhaps three acres of land, and was at that time surrounded with a thick growth of weeds and brush, in which many tried to hide themselves. A Mrs. Dale, who was a short distance off, witnessed the whole awful tragedy. She said the terror stricken whites ran in every direction, trying to hide, and the swift savages, each singling out his prey, pursued them round and round through the weeds with yells. Some threw up their hands for mercy. Some were spared their lives, but the most were struck down by the tomahawk. Any of the men who attempted resistance were shot down. They had but few arms, and in the circumstances, any resistance was in vain. The wife of Thomas Gilmore, standing with her three children over the body of her husband, fought with desperation the Indian who rushed up to scalp him. A second Indian ran up and aimed to dispatch her with his tomahawk, when the first one with whom she was contending threw up his arms and warded off the blow, saying she was a brave squaw, a trait which the Indian never failed to admire. She and her son John and two daughters were made prisoners. Cunningham, the owner of the house at the spring, was killed, and his house burned. The bloody work did not cease until all who could be found were either killed or taken prisoners. And by far the greater part of the slaughter, after the first onset, was with their favorite weapon the tomahawk.
Very soon the Indians made preparation to leave the bloody ground. The prisoners were gathered in a group. We can give at this date only a very imperfect list of their names. Among them were the following: James Cunningham, Archibald Hamilton, Marion Hamilton, Mrs. Jenny Gilmore, her son John and two daughters, Betsy, Henry and Margaret Cunningham, the girl who was scalped two years before. I may in this connection give the names, as far as I can, of those killed in the two invasions. They are as follows: The whole family of Daugherty; Mrs. Jacob Cunningham; five of the Hamiltons; Thomas Gilmore and Elizabeth, his wife; William Gilmore; and Jennie McKee.
The most reliable account, which I could receive from aged people and from the descendants of the sufferers, states that in the two invasions from sixty to eighty persons were killed and from twenty-five to thirty were carried into captivity in the last invasion.
It is proper that we should follow this sorrowful company of prisoners in their wearisome march to the Shawnee towns north of the Ohio River, and near to where Chillicothe now stands. It is surely not imagination to say that with weeping faces they took their way up the valley of the creek, many or them never to look upon their homes again. Several mothers with infant children in their arms were amongst the number. No tongue can tell the bitterness of their agony as they took the last look at the mangled bodies of members of their families and friends who were to be left lying cold in death. And as they passed up the valley, they saw their homes which only the day before were filled with contented families. Now all was desolation.
The incidents which I will now give were related by captives who were redeemed by their friends and brought back.
Late in the evening of the day they reached their first encampment, which was one small flat of ground near the creek and just at the head of a meadow, now owned by Alfred Miller. Among the booty found at the Big Spring was a supply of whiskey. Mr. Cunningham kept a small distillery there. This fire-water they carried to their encampment and that night was spent by them in a drunken frolic, which they continued until the afternoon of the next day. The prisoners were hoping all night that a company would be raised and come to their relief, as they could have easily been routed in their state of intoxication and all the captives recovered. But there was a general panic all over the country, and those who might have gone in pursuit were hidden in the mountains and hollows. Some had fled as far as the Blue Ridge. The next day two Indians were seen to return to the spring. Their object was probably to get more whiskey or to see if any pursuit was likely to be made. They were seen by a Mr. Dale to shoot at a man who ventured cautiously to ride up the creek, and when he wheeled his horse to ride off, they clapped their hands and shouted after him. The captives related that the Indians took other persons as they passed on to the Ohio. These were probably taken on the Cowpasture River, as it is known some were captured there about that time.
At one of the encampments a child became sick and fretful, when one of the Indians took it from its mother and dashed it several times with great force against a tree, and then threw its bloody corpse over the neck and shoulders of a young girl sitting at the foot of the tree. This the prisoner interpreted as a signal that she would die next, and their foreboding was realized the next day.
Another mother who was carrying an infant became so much exhausted and worn down before reaching the Ohio River that she could scarcely drag along at the rate they were marching. She had been aided by her fellow captives, all that their trying circumstances would permit. The Indians at last becoming exasperated at their detention, one of them took the child and running ahead sharpening a pole with his tomahawk, laid the child on the ground, and running the pole through it, extended it in the air. As the mother and other persons passed under it, its little hands were quivering in death.
At one of the encampments, some of the prisoners found some leaves of a New Testament, and being anxious to preserve them, were drying them at the fire, when one of the Indians snatched them up and threw them in the fire, no doubt thinking they were some communication which they wished to send home.
Mrs. Gilmore had as fellow captives, two little daughters and her son John. After crossing the Ohio, they were doomed to part. The Indians separating into several parties, dividing the prisoners, Mrs. Gilmore and John fell to one party and her daughters to another. The last she ever heard of them were their heart-rending cries as they were torn from her. No intelligence was ever received in regard to their fate. After some time the mother and son were also parted. She was sold to French traders, carried to Fort Pitt, while her little son was left with the Shawnees. John was afterwards redeemed and brought back to Jackson's River by Jacob Warrick, where he remained until his mother was brought back, and mother and Son once more embraced each other at the old home, from which they had been ruthlessly torn about three years before. After passing through so many trying scenes, John settled, lived and died on the old homestead, where his son, William C. Gilmore, now lives.
A number of others were eventually sought out and brought back by their friends. Amongst the number was Mary Hamilton, who had a child in her arms when the attack was made at the spring. In trying to make her escape, she hid the child in a thick bunch of weeds, but she herself was captured. On her return, she went to the place where she had hid the child and found its bones.
The most or those killed were buried near the scene of action, and near to the creek, which in the long course of time has encroached upon the graves and washed a number entirely away. Some were buried where the old graveyard is near to McKees, and were the first to be laid in that depository of the dead.
One other touching incident is related. When the captives had crossed the Ohio River, the Indians, feeling elated themselves at their success, requested the captives to sing to them, when it is said Mrs. Gilmore struck up with plaintive voice, Old Hundred and Thirty-seventh Psalm of Rousâ€™ version, used then in all the churches. Its appropriateness to their condition may be seen from the two following verses:
"On Babel's stream we sat and wept,
When Zion we thought on.
In the midst there of we hanged our harps,
The willow trees thereon.
'"For then a song requested they,
Who did us captive bring.
Our spoilers called for mirth and said,
'A song of Zion sing.â€™"
In closing the narrative I have been able to collect of these dark and bloody days of the history of our country, I am satisfied if I have saved it from being entirely lost. Many of the names and incidents, which would have been interesting, are hopelessly gone. I have tried to present a true statement of the facts, as far as I have succeeded in gathering the material for them. The account, imperfect as it is, may interest many aged persons who have heard their fathers and mothers talk of it, and it may remind the young of the trying times through which their fore fathers passed in securing for them the peaceful homes which they now enjoy.
I may furthermore state, by way of confirming what has been written, that I have submitted these papers to Captain William C. Gilmore, a son of one of the captives, and who, of course, has heard much of his life in relation to these matters, and that the narrative now meets with his entire approbation.