Dyer Family


SOURCE: Chronicles of Border Warfare by Alexander Scott Withers, 1912. Pendleton News- article below.


On the south fork of the South Branch of Potomac in what is now the county of Pendleton, was the fort of Capt. Sivert. In this fort, the inhabitants of what was then called Upper Tract, all sought shelter from the tempest of savage ferocity; & at the time the Indians appeared before it, there were contained within its walls 30-40 persons of both sexes & of different ages. Among them was Mr. DYER (father of Col. DYER now of Pendleton) & his family. On the morning of the fatal day, Col. DYER & his sister left the fort for the accomplishment of some object, & although no Indians had been seen there for some time, yet they did not proceed far, before they came in view of a party of 40-50 Shawanees, going directly towards the fort. alarmed for their own safety, as well as for the safety of their friends, the brother & sister endeavored by a hasty flight to reach the gate & gain admittance into the garrison; but before they could effect this, they were overtaken & made captives.

James DYER, a lad of 14, was spared, taken first to Logstown, & then to Chillicothe & retained a year & 10 months when as one of an Indian party he visited Fort Pitt & managed to evade his associates while there, & finally reached the settlements in PA & 2 years later returned to the South Fork.


Fort Seybert Massacre

The story below is taken from "The Dyer Settlement, The Fort Seybert Massacre by Mary Lee Keister Talbot, A.B., Hollins College, M.A., University of Wisconsin. Authorized by The Financial Committee of The Roger Dyer Family Association. page 47.

"The morning of the 28th of April (1757) dawned upon Fort Seybert with a fog hanging over the valley of the South Fork, as if presaging the calamity that hung over the heads of the settlers. By an unfortunate conjunction of events, a part of the men were absent from the settlement, having crossed the Shenandoah mountain the day before. Probably because of their absence, the remaining men and the women and children were gathered within the fort. They knew that danger was imminent but unaware of the immediate presence of an enemy, while stealing stealthily upon them, concealed by the fog, and protected by the forest, was a party of forty Shawnee warriors. they were not the band that had wrought the destruciton at Upper Tract the day before, nor did they join them on their return. These had come from beyond the Ohio River, had crossed the Alleghanies and now descended upon the South Fork Valley as their field for desolation. At their head was the treacherous and revengeful Killbuck.

"It is probable that, according to the usual Indian plan in attacking a settlement, they had separated into several groups for the purpose of surprising and capturing the scattered settlers providing they were not all in the fort. One of these parties captured Mrs. Henry Hawes (Sarah Dyer Hawes, daughter of Roger and Hannah Dyer, widow of Henry Hawes at this time) at her home on what is now the Laban Davis place near Brandywine, opposite the mouth of Hawes' Run. She was taken on down the river toward the fort and as her captors conducted ther along the high bank of the river above the present residence of A. D. Lough, she suddenly pushed the one (Indian) next (to) the river over the bank. He returned in a rage, threatening to kill her, but his companions restrained him and laughed at him, calling him a squaw man ....... "The first violent act of the savages near the fort was the killing of William Dyer (son of Roger and Hannah Dyer and Mrs Hawes' brother).

"Mr Dyer was out hunting when waylaid by the savages. He attempted to fire upon them but his flint lock missed fire and they shot him dead. It transpired afterward that an Indian, probably Killbuck, had been secreted under the bridge leading across a ravine to the spring when one of the women had crossed in the morning for water. He permitted her to cross and return unmolested. "There is a tradition that a solitary horseman was riding toward the fort in the early morning, and, hearing the sound of firing and suspecting there was an Indian attack, hastened away to give the alarm to distant settlers. Also that a messenger was secretly dispatched to Fort Upper Tract for aid, but when he came in view of the fort the smouldering ruins met his astonished gaze. There is also a doubtful tradition that a Frenchman was among the attacking party at Fort Seybert.

"Now that the presence of the foe was known, the settlers fastened the gate and put themselves on the defensive. An Indian peering up over the ledge of rocks under the brow of the hill eastward was espied by Nicholas, fifteen-year-old son of Capt. Seybert, from his position at a loophole, and fired upon. He head instantly disappeared and young Seybert soon saw feathers floating upon the stream below, from which he judged his bullet had hit its mark and cut loose the savage's head-gear. "Killbuck now changed from attack to strategy and called out to Capt. Seybert in English that if they would surrender they would all be spared, but if not they would all be killed. Seybert entered into a parley with Killbuck, as a result of which he agreed to surrender without further resistance and turn over tho the Indians the money and valuables in the fort. Killbuck agreed that the inmates of the fort should not be harmed. Some of the settlers favored this condional surrender while others opposed it. Nicholas Seybert was bitter in his opposition and attempted by violence to prevent his father from making the surrender. Before the gate was thrown open he took aim at Killbuck and would have shot him dead but that his gun was knocked aside by his father. The bullet struck at Killbuck's feet

....."Killbuck greeted Seybert by striking him in the mouth with the pipe end of his tomahawk, knocking loose his front teeth. This deed and the action of the savages showed the settlers too late what they might expect, and confusion followed. Young Seybert refused to surrender and was overpowered. A man named Robertson managed to secrete himself and was the only one to escape. "The inmates were made prisoners, the money and valuables secured and the block house set on fire. A woman named Hannah Hinkle who was probably bedfast perished in the flames. The man Robertson escaped from the stackade, made his way unoticed down the eastern bluff, followed the shelving rocks to the river, corssed over and fled across Shenandoah Mountain.

"the Indians took their prisoners up the slope toward the South Fork mountain about a quarter of a mile. Here they divided them into two groups, placing in one group those whom they selected as desirable for captives. Nothing of mercy or humanity entered into their choice, only expediency from the Indian point of view. The object of the Indian in preserving captives was to adopt them and thereby strengthen his tribe. He wanted brave young men who would make valiant warriors. He wanted no old people, no weaklings, no cowards. He preferred brunettes to blondes because they resembled his swarthy complexion more nearly. The fact that most of the captives preserved in Indian raids endured the hardships and privations to which they were subjected shows that the selections for physical fitness were well made.

"At some point of time while the prisoners were being separated, James Dyer, a fleet footed youth of fourteen, broke from among them and attempted escape by flight. So swift was he that his eager pursuers did not overtake him untilhe had reached the river about three quarters of a mile distant. Here in a cane brake, opposite the presnet dwelling of J. W. Conrad, her was overtaken. Because of his swiftness he was preserved.


Roger Dyer was a middle-aged man when he moved with his wife, Hannah, and five children from Lancaster County, PA to the Moorefield area. He and his son, William, purchased 1,160 acres on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River in 1747. The family moved onto the land in 1748 and were some of the first permanent settlers in the area. His three daughters, Hannah, Hester and Sarah, subsequently married men who owned or bought adjacent property. By the year 1758, four of Roger Dyer's children were married, and he had seven grandchildren. They were prosperous by the standards of the day, but life would have been quite difficult as their land was on the westernmost edge of the settled colonies. Native American tribes wandered freely in the area, hunting and trading. The settlers had to make a long, arduous journey over the Shenandoah to get to their markets and seat of government. The settlers' relations with the Indians who used this area were fairly cordial until about 1754. The French and Indian War had begun in 1753, and the Shawnee, one of the primary tribes in the area, were influenced by their Ohio kinsmen to be loyal to the French cause. This was understandable. The French used the areas they controlled in a way that didn't threaten the Indian way of life. They hunted and trapped, traded with the natives and often took Indian wives. The English, however, were true settlers. They bought the land, cleared and fenced it, built homes and settlements and drove the game and the Indians farther west. Because of Indian raids in areas to the northwest, George Washington ordered that two forts be built on the upper South Branch. Fort Upper Tract and Fort Seybert were built in 1757. Fort Seybert, named for Jacob Seybert, who had moved to the area in 1753 and in 1757 was commissioned the first captain of militia in that section, was close to the Dyer family settlement. April 27, 1758, many of the men and probably some of the women and children from the area left for a journey over the Shenandoah Mountain. The people who remained were staying at the fort, probably due to their vulnerability. They were no doubt aware of troubles in other areas with Indians who were sometimes accompanied by French. The morning of April 28 was foggy. Sarah Dyer Hawes, who had been widowed for about three years, and a boy named Wallace, who may have been an indentured servant, were outside the fort on their way to milk or to shear some sheep. Two Shawnee braves accosted them. Sarah attempted to stab one of the men with her sheep shears. During the scuffle Sarah pushed the brave over an embankment. The remaining Indian found the situation very funny, and in the midst of the laughter, Sarah and Wallace returned to the fort. William Dyer went out on that same morning to hunt. Not far from the fort, he was shot by the Shawnee and became the first casualty of that day. Nicholas Seybert, son of Jacob, heard the shots and fired at the Indians, hitting one brave who was the only Indian casualty. Killbuck, the Shawnee chief who was leading this group, spoke English and decided to negotiate with the settlers. He proposed to the settlers that they surrender. He guaranteed that there would be no blood shed and that, as his captives, the settlers would be well treated. Otherwise, everyone would be killed. Jacob Seybert, speaking for the settlers, agreed to Killbuck's proposal despite some dissension, notably by his son, Nicholas. Nicholas tried to shoot Killbuck, but his father disrupted his aim and the ball landed at Killbuck's feet. If the shot had met its mark, the events of the day may have been very different. Contrary to his word, Killbuck and his warriors moved the settlers to an area uphill from the fort where they were separated into two groups; those who would live as captives and those who would die. Among those who were to die were Sarah Dyer Hawes, James Dyer and Roger Dyer. Sarah saw her father hit in the mouth by a tomahawk, knocking out some of his teeth, and she fainted. This may have saved her life. For whatever reason, she was spared. James Dyer, who was 14 years old, managed to escape and tried to outrun his captors. Although he was recaptured, the Indians were impressed by his athletic prowess and spared his life as well. The doomed prisoners were made to sit on a log. An Indian stood behind each person, and on a command from Killbuck, the prisoners were murdered and scalped. Sarah and James along with nine other captives were forced to accompany the Shawnee, leaving 17 dead behind. They walked over the South Fork Mountain on that day. Along the way an infant who was crying was killed and left hanging in the forked branched of a dogwood tree. Their first night was spent at Greenawalt Gap near present day Kline. The second night was spent at Seneca. From there they journeyed to a Shawnee village near what is now Chilecothe, OH. James remained in captivity for two years. During that time he was often pitted against new captives in foot races called "running the gauntlet." Two racers would run between lines of Indians who hit them with sticks and whooped loudly in an effort to make the racers run more swiftly. The loser of the race was often killed. For the most part, however, the Shawnee treated their captives relatively well. The purpose of keeping captives was not to have slave labor but to acquire new tribe members, so the captives were encouraged to integrate into Indian life. James became a trusted tribe member and was allowed to hunt and go on trading trips. On one such trip to Fort Duquesne (present day Pittsburgh), he managed to allude his captors and slip into a cabin. A woman inside hid him under a pile of furs. The Shawnee searched for him, removing some of the furs as they looked through the cabin, but James wasn't discovered. He made his way to Lancaster County, PA, where he spent some time with family friends. Eventually he returned to the Fort Seybert area. Sarah was a captive for a longer time, probably about five years. James rescued her some years after he had made his escape. He returned to Ohio and found the camp where Sarah was. Hiding near a spring, he made contact with Sarah when she came to get water. They made arrangements to escape that night. Sarah gathered her few belongings, among them a spoon made of buffalo horn, which is still owned by her descendants. She and James rode away on horses James had brought, and they returned to the South Branch. Sarah had a daughter, Hannah, who was only two or three years old when her mother was captured. When Sarah returned, Hannah was terrified of her because of her Indian dress and mannerisms and her tanned skin. James and Sarah continued to live in what is now Pendleton County. Sarah married Robert Davis, had seven more children and lived on a farm near Brandywine, which is still owned by their descendants. James married three times and had a total of 16 children.above story was written by Andrea Dalen Larrivee, g,g,g,g,great granddaughter of Roger Dyer. This is an attempt to preserve the stories about the Shawnee's attacks on Fort Seybert, Fort Upper Tract and Fort Hinkle in the 1750's. This story and more like it will be published in this year's Treasure Mountain Festival tabloid. This story was printed in the Pendleton Times Newspaper. Sorry, I didn't save the date.


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