1795 Indian Story

Hill at Martin Cemetery

Pioneer History of Indiana by William Monroe Cockrum  1907

Pages 177 through 180 of 638 pages

Data of the recapture of three Kentucky women from the Indians in what is now Pike County, Indiana, was furnished the author in 1855 by William Leathers, son-in-law of John Severns. The story is as follows:

In 1795 John Severns was on White river hunting, when he met two Indian trappers one of whom he had known intimately during his captivity among the Indians. They had been in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company, of Canada, for several years but had come south to do a little trapping on their own account and had a large number of traps with them, mostly for beaver. Severns told them of the many beaver and beaver dams along the Patoka river and its tributaries.*

After talking the matter over the Indians agreed that they would hunt bear for awhile and put in the late fall and winter trapping for beaver, all of which was carried out. From the start the three men bad all they could do to keep their traps set and care for their peltry. The intention of the trappers was to stay a few days in the neighborhood, catch all they could and then go on farther. In this way they thought they could go over the best trapping territory during the winter. The weather had become pretty cool and the trappers had made their camp against a bluff bank of the river where a thick vein of coal was cropping out. They built their fires against the coal and had a good one. This camp as the river runs was from 35 to 40 miles from Mr. Severns’ home. They had been there several days and had become pretty well acquainted with the surrounding country when one morning as they lay in their comfortable quarters a little before day they were startled by the firing of several guns not far away. They would have thought it was Indians shooting at a bear or a gang of wolves prowling around their camp had it not been for the loud hallooing and the screaming of a child or a woman, that continued for some time. The trappers hastily put out the fire and got into a position to defend themselves. In a short time daylight came and Severns and one of the Indians determined to reconnoiter near their camp. On going up the river some distance they heard talking and were satisfied that it was white people. The Indians slipped away and went back to camp while Severns went in the direction of the talking and soon saw several men and women sitting around a fire. One man, who was on the lookout, saw Severns and seeing that he was a white man, called to him and when he got to the party he saw seven of the hardiest type of Kentucky backwoodsmen and three women. One of the men was wounded by a ball through the top of the shoulder. The women’s clothing was badly torn and their feet almost bare. They looked weary and careworn and the stop had been made to make some covering for their feet so they could travel, but they were very short of suitable material. Severns told them that if they would wait until he could go to his camp, less than a mile away, he would provide them with all the material they needed. The proposition was gladly accepted and he soon returned with the saddle of a deer and a dressed buck skin. While he was at camp he advised the Indians to keep close as he did not know much about the people, only that they had recaptured three white women from the Indians and had killed several of the latter and that he might go a little way with them to find out what he could. The moccasins were soon mended and the party started on the long return trip. Severns went with them for a few miles and learned that they lived in central Kentucky and that nearly all of the men of their settlement had gone to a salt spring to make salt. While they were absent six Indians attacked two houses and captured the three women. A boy not far from one of the houses saw the Indians and ran to two men building a cabin and gave the alarm and then all the other families ran to the fort not far away. A runner was sent after the men at the salt spring but it was nearly two days before they could get back and start after the Indians. After that they followed them on the run as they knew the Indians would make haste to get back over the Ohio river. When the Kentuckians had crossed the river they had no trouble in following the trail because most of the way they were on a trace that crossed at the ford where Severns found them. “Last night about eleven o’clock,” one of the men told Severns “our out runner came back to the party just after we had retired for the night and told us that he had seen a little glimmer of fire about a half mile ahead. Two of our men went back with him and in about an hour one of them came back and said they had located the Indians and that they were all asleep except one who was guarding the prisoners and that as well as they could count them as they lay, there were six Indians and the three women, and that their camp was at the foot of a bluff. He left the other two on a hill about a hundred yards from the Indians. There was a small valley between them and they had a clear view of the camp. The rest of us went to the hill and after a whispered council decided to deploy out so as to reach the camp from the south and east sides and as soon as we could get near enough, to charge the Indians and kill them before they could defend themselves. The men who are husbands of two of the women were to look after them. In creeping up we found the little valley covered an inch or two deep with water from a gushing spring near the Indians’ camp which greatly delayed our attack and it was nearly five o’clock when we rushed on them, killing four before they could use their guns. The one left on guard shot one of our men in the shoulder and he and another one got away, the guard with a broken arm.”

After hearing his story, Mr. Severns wished them a safe journey and returned to camp. That afternoon the three trappers went to the battle ground and found four dead Indians which they placed in a large hole made by the uprooting of a tree that had blown down, piling brush, dirt and rocks on them. The Indians were greatly alarmed and Mr. Severns could not induce them to stay longer, so they went down the river to Severns’ home and then took their traps and went north.

The only certain location of this battle ground is the Patoka river and Severns’ home but the distance and outcropping of the coal makes it certain to my mind that it was Massey’s Bridge where the trappers’ camp was and that the Kentuckians crossed at Martin’s Ford about a mile up the river from the bridge and the place where the battle was fought and the women rescued was at Martin Springs. The hill the men laid on when planning to charge on the Indians, was I believe, where the Martin cemetery is now located.

Author’s Note. I have heard hunters say that there was no place in the western country where there had been more beaver than on the Patoka river and that many had been caught as late as 1835. To this day the signs of their industry are to be seen in many places.

Valley at Martin Cemetery

Another view of hill at Martin Cemetery

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The Old Winslow Stendal Road

The Old Winslow Stendal Road or Yellow Banks Trail

The Old Winslow Stendal Road or Yellow Banks Trail

I found this postcard in a box of old stuff from an estate sale several years back.  It is postmarked from Stendal .  It looks like the boys are maybe stonecutting.  It appears many a stone had already been cut from the old stone walls.  There is no year on the postmark, but others in the box were from the late 1890s to the 1910’s. 

I don’t remember being interested in structured history class growing up.  I do remember being interested in Indiana History though.  When we started reading about the Underground railroad and Col. Cockrum and runaway slaves at Snakey Point, I started paying attention.  That was part of my old stomping grounds.  Speed Erwin’s school bus stopped shy of it every morning when we picked up the Boyd kids.  In fact, I bought a copy of the very same history book we used at a library sale one summer.  It has Renee Woods and Sheila Barrett’s names in it.  They were both friends and in my class at school.  I remember learning about the old Yellow Banks Trace which ran through Winslow.  My Grandpa called it the Old Winslow Stendal Road.  There was an East Yellow Banks Trace and a West Yellow Banks Trace and they both met at a point on the River near Winslow now called McCords Ford. 

Shows the East and West Yellow Banks Trails meeting near Winslow on the Patoka.
1852 Colton’s map shows the East and West Yellow Banks Trails meeting near Winslow on the Patoka.
From the 1919 Early Indiana Trails and Surveys Book, pg. 388:  In a letter written by John Fuquay, 1802, to Gen. Gibson, Secretary of State for the Indian Territory:  “There is an old Indian Trace running from the Yellow Banks to the headquarters of the Litte Pigeon, where there has been a large Indian town, then in a northwesterly direction to a large spring then along the spring branch to Little Patoka, and it crosses the Large Patoka at a good ford and continues to the forks of the White River”
 
1852 King map shows the two Yellow Banks Traces meeting near Winslow.

1852 King map shows the two Yellow Banks Traces meeting near Winslow.

 
I am a huge fan of google earth for finding the old places.  You can follow the old trails and roads in your pajamas.  No ticks, chiggers or poison ivy!   When you google earth Winslow, you can see southwest of Winslow, the area of the river that was a big horseshoe bend that was straightened during the dredging in the 1920s.  The railroad runs right through the horseshoe on the 1881 plat map.  On the old maps, the trails meet west of the bend, at McCord’s Ford.
1881 Plat map of Patoka Township showing the river before it was dredged and the horseshoe bend southwest of Winslow

1881 Plat map of Patoka Township showing the river before it was dredged and the horseshoe bend southwest of Winslow

Showing where the trace used to be and the horseshoe bend in the river which is now an old slough.

Showing where the trace used to be and the horseshoe bend in the river which is now an old slough.

1871 & 1872 Indiana Geological Survey, pg. 269:   “A natural bridge on Jackson Corn’s land, southwest quarter section 16, township 2 south, range 7 west, is formed by a small branch passing beneath a ledge of “rock house” sandstone.  It is symmetrical, thirty feet long, ten feet wide with a chord of twenty feet.”
 
McCord's Ford, southwest of Winslow

McCord's Ford, southwest of Winslow

This is where my grandfather said Abraham Lincoln and his family crossed when they were moving from Spencer county to Illinois.  My grandfather always said the Evans “were tied in” with the Lincoln family.  If he told me how, I don’t remember it.  Through the research I have done, Lincoln spent time at Evans Mill in Princeton, Indiana.  That Evans was the brother to Robert Evans who founded Evansville.  I have not found a family connection there.  I have read in some of the histories that Abe travelled the countryside reading every book he could find.  The Evans family produced many teachers.  Maybe he visited them to read their books.  Possibly the families knew each other before the Evans family moved here from Harrison County.  I found a Hannah Evans who married a Joseph Lincoln in the early 1700s.  One of William Lewis Evan’s daughters, Mary, married Abraham Deffendoll.  Abraham Lincoln returned to Pike County and gave a speech in Deffendoll’s Grove around 1848.  Maybe there is a connection there.   That is all yet a mystery to which I may never find the answer, but I will keep searching. 
 
J. W. Stillwell, letter to The Pike County Democrat April 27, 1915:  “Editor-  While I was a boy going to school, I took a great interest in US history, and many times called on my grandfather for information.  Once I remember I was making a study of political parties and the presidents, so I called on my grandfather for information.  My grandfather’s name was Henry Stillwell, who lived to be 101 years old and whose recollections of things that took place when he was a young man was really good.  When a boy and a young man he lived in Harrison and Spencer Counties; he lived in and around Corydon, Ind., and was intimately acquainted with William H. Harrison and Abraham Lincoln.  They worked on the farm and hunted together.  Once while young men, Lincoln had occasion to go to Vincennes, and through friendship my grandfather went with Lincoln.  They walked and carried their guns on their shoulders, killed game on the way for their meat, and camped out. I might add that both were barefooted.  My grandfather in an early day was a Whig in political belief.  He told me how ugly Abe was; he also told me how fast Abe grew into prominence and what a smart man he made.  He told me about the Lincoln family moving away from Spencer County to Illinois, that he felt he had lost something- his best friend.  When Abe left, that Abe left on his trip barefooted.  Petersburg was the only town in the county that he knew of, which then consisted only of about one half dozen houses.  When he and Abe passed through on their way to Vincennes, they camped at a spring near Petersburg and, of course, Abe knew no other road through Pike County via Petersburg.  That he asked Abe how he was going and Abe said, “The way we went – through Petersburg.”  My grandfather said through respect he went to Lincoln’s home to bid him goodbye when he left.  In support of other statements, I , being in possession of this information, I feel it is my duty to let it get before the inquiring public.”  Mr. Stillwell has also stated that the Lincolns came to Petersburg from Winslow, where they crossed the Patoka River at a point near Winslow that could be forded. 
 
The old Winslow Stendal Road from Winslow to Augusta

The old Winslow Stendal Road from Winslow to Augusta

Google Earth without the paint highlights, you can see the trail connecting to roads not destroyed by the coal mines.

Google Earth without the paint highlights, you can see the trail connecting to roads not destroyed by the coal mines.

To find the Old Winslow Stendal Road, you would now come out of Winslow on the Old Depot Road, turn on the first left to McCord’s Ford.  The road that was the trail is not a road you can follow in a car.  The next place you can find a road that was most likely a part of the trail is the back way into Augusta from the State Forest Road.  Even then, this is old coal mine area and may not be the original road, but many of the old coal roads are still the original roads they took.  From in town Augusta, go west out the back way past the church and the old Augusta Cemetery on what they now call Old Highway 64.  Go west on Highway 64, to the Old Highway 64 that then leads back into Stendal.  It too, has been coal mined, and it may not be the original road.  The old Trace ended somewhere about a mile west of Stendal. 
Google Earth from Augusta to Stendal

Google Earth from Augusta to Stendal

From Augusta to Stendal without the highlighter.

From Augusta to Stendal without the highlighter.

1871 & 1872 Indiana Geological Survey, pg. 273:  “Stendal….it is situated upon a narrow ridge or “backbone” which separates the valley of Cup Creek from the basin of the South Patoka.  This ridge, commencing near Winslow, continues in a southwesterly direction beyond Stendal to the southern boundary of the county in almost a direct line, and is nearly the western margin of the conglomerate.  It was the ancient Indian warpath leading from the upper Wabash to the Ohio near Troy.  When first visited by white men, this trail was distinct and beaten as if it had been long and much used.  By it one may traverse this wild and hilly region on a level road or highway from one hundred and twenty to two hundred and ten feet above the adjoining water beds.” 
 
 
 
Whenever I read about the history of Pike County, I always find Petersburg and the first settlement of White Oak Springs.  Southern Pike County gets a short sentence or two as being settled earlier.  General Harrison sent 30 mounted troops to patrol south of the Patoka River, with scouts at different fords, to deter Indian attacks along the Yellow Banks Trace and the Patoka River, there were early settlers along and south of the Patoka.  When Col Hargrove and four other men named by the General Assembly of Indiana on Dec. 21, 1816, to fix a seat of justice for the County, on Feb. 15, 1817, made a report selecting Petersburgh.  In this report they say:  “We would willingly have examined that part of the county that is south of the Patoka had the season and weather admitted to it.”   We have the history of Honey Springs near Spurgeon and Martin’s Ford in the old Massey area with stories from the late 1700s. 
 
I know the coal mines have taken a lot of Southern Pike County’s “old places”, but we still have the old stories to tell.