WE come now to the most bloody and discouraging period in the history of what is the finest and most beautiful part of Lycoming county-the period preceding what is known in history as the "Big Runaway."
The winter of 1777-78 was a distressing one. On the 23d of December a man was tomahawked and scalped near the mouth of Pine creek, and on the 1st of January another met the same fate above the Great Island. Under date of January 14, 1778, Col. Samuel Hunter, writing from Fort Augusta to President Wharton, informed him of the killing of these men, and said that it had caused the inhabitants to collect together for greater safety. Colonel Antes had just visited him to consult as to what was best to be done. Three classes of Col. Cookson Long's battalion were ordered out immediately, with instructions to report to Colonel Antes for orders. These men mostly lived on the West Branch; "Colonel Antes," remarks Colonel Hunter, "is an excellent woodsman, and will use all means to come up with the savages." Colonel Hunter closed his letter by saying that the majority of the inhabitants" did not think it prudent to let any [militia] out of this county at the present call, when the frontiers are likely to suffer from the savage enemy." A party of Indians numbering eleven were seen about this time above the Great Island, and, as they evidently were bout on mischief, they were pursued by Colonel Antes's command. A light snow had fallen and they were easily tracked and soon overtaken. In a slight skirmish which followed two Indians were killed, when the remaining nine rapidly fled.
The scarcity of arms and ammunition was one of the greatest difficulties under which the frontiersmen labored, and yet the Executive Council was constantly calling for militia to assist at the front. On the 28th of March Colonel Hunter replied to President Wharton that he was doing all he could to aid the recruiting officers. "The fifth class of the militia," be observed, "was on the frontier under the command of Colonel Antes," who was the only field officer he was then allowed until the sixth and seventh classes were ordered out. "If they are to be stationed on the frontiers," he continues, "we shall be badly off for arms to accommodate three classes at one time, for in case the Indians have any intention of committing hostilities it will be very soon, as the snow is partly all gone." He also reminded President Wharton that when he was last in Philadelphia he had "endeavored to purchase some good guns, but could get. none that were worth buying. Only two rifles and sixty ordinary muskets we had made for this county, are all that we have of public arms." In order to do the best he could under the discouraging circumstances he ordered all the old and broken guns repaired.
The fifth class of militia, as they were called, were only to serve two months, and as soon as their time expired the sixth class was expected to relieve them. The inhabitants complained that if no troops were stationed above Muncy they would be obliged to abandon their homes and go down the river, which would break up the settlements and leave the country to the mercy of the enemy. On the 5th of May Colonel Hunter informed President Wharton that he "would have ordered out the. sixth class to relieve the fifth," but he could find no meat for their subsistence. He could not have subsisted the fifth class, "only for some beef and pork bought by Col. Hugh White for the Continental stores, and when that was done there was no more to be had to buy in this county." And as for flour there was not enough to be had to serve the sixth class for two months. The condition of the people was truly deplorable.
A party of Indians penetrated Buffalo valley and secured a large amount of plunder. They were pursued by Lieut. Moses Van Campen and a small party of men
across Bald Eagle mountain, who, overtaking them at a large spring on the side hill near Jersey Shore, recovered much of the stolen goods. Where they were overtaken is probably what was afterwards known as Pfouts's spring, near the present cemetery.
The outlook became so threatening that in this month (May) the sixth and seventh classes of Col. Cookson Long's battalion were ordered by Colonel Hunter to be consolidated and scout along the frontier until the sixth and seventh classes of Colonels Murray and Hosterman should arrive at the Great Island to cover that portion of the county. The Indians were now fairly on the war path and butcheries became ore frequent. On the 16th of May, near the mouth of Bald Eagle creek, three men, while engaged in planting corn, were attacked, killed, and scalped. Two days subsequently, near Pine creek, a man, woman, and child were taken prisoners, probably by the same party. On the 20th two men, seven women, and several children were captured.
A few days after this, three families aggregating sixteen persons, great and small, were attacked on Loyalsock. How many were killed is not positively known, but a party of armed men who soon afterwards visited the place, reported finding only two bodies, which leads to the conclusion that the balance were carried away as prisoners. Just where they lived is not known, but it could not have been far up the creek, as few settlers at that time had ventured any distance above Montoursville. Their cabins were reduced to ashes and everything about the premises destroyed. The Indians were bent on a war of extermination, and whenever they were not too closely pressed, they left nothing but ruin behind them.
About this time the house of Andrew Armstrong, who had settled at the "big spring," a short distance east of the present village of Linden, was visited by a party of Indians. They came suddenly and stealthily. Mrs. Armstrong, who first discovered them, slipped under the bed. They entered the house, seized Armstrong, his little son, a woman named Nancy Bunday, and hurriedly departed. Armstrong called to his wife to lie still, which she did, and escaped. They were in such a hurry, on account of a small body of armed whites being near, that they neither ransacked the house nor fired it. They turned up the creek, and when Mrs. Armstrong crawled from her hiding place and peered through the window she saw her husband and little son disappear in the forest. Years rolled away and no tidings came from Andrew Armstrong. No doubt he had been cruelly murdered in the wilderness. The little son was also given up, when one day long after peace had been restored, an aged Indian with a young man by his side knocked at the cottage door of Mrs. Armstrong. From his appearance there was white blood in his veins. The old Indian asserted that the young man had been carried away when very small and reared among his people. But he partook so much of the appearance and character of an Indian that she could, not recognize him as her son. He remained, with her some time, but having all the mariners, customs, and actions of an Indian, he did not readily take to the ways of civilized life, and finally returned to those with whom he had been reared. He might have been her Son, but she could detect nothing about him to convince her that he was. He never returned.
TWO REMARKABLE ESCAPES.
Small bodies of savages were constantly seeking for victims, and it was dangerous for any one to go any distance from protection. Near the close of May a thrilling incident occurred on the river below the mouth of Pine creek. A party of four men, composed of Robert Fleming, Robert Donaldson, James McMichael, and John Hamilton, came down the river in a canoe to Antes Fort, from Horn's Fort, to obtain a flat-boat. This latter fort was situated on a bluff on the south side of the river a short distance west of the present village of Pine, in Clinton county, and several families were collected there for safety. They wanted the boat to assist in transporting their families down the river, as the danger on the frontier was too great for them to remain any longer. Having secured the flat boat two of the party started back in their canoe, while the other two were to follow with the boat. The canoe party passed through Pine creek ripples, when they paddled over to the south shore for the purpose of waiting for their comrades in the flat, who were slowly poling up the river. As they were in the act of landing they were fired on by a body of Indians concealed in the bushes on the shore., Donaldson jumped out of the canoe, fired, and cried out to the others, "Come on!" Hamilton, who was with him in the canoe, saw the Indians rise from their place of concealment, and at the same time he noticed the blood spurting from Donaldson's back as he was trying to reload his gun. Taking in the situation at a glance, Hamilton saw the futility of attempting resistance, and quickly shoving the canoe from the shore, jumped into the water, and keeping it between himself and the Indians, held on with one hand, while with the other he worked it across the river. Several shots were fired, and the bullets flow around him lively for a few minutes, bat he managed to reach the north shore without receiving a scratch. His escape was remarkable. When he clambered up the bank his woolen clothes were so heavy, from being saturated with water, that he could make but slow headway. As soon as he was beyond the range of the Indian bullets, he quickly divested himself of all clothing but his shirt, and started on a run up the river. Crossing Pine creek he dashed up a path which led through the Open ground above the creek. He ran for dear life for about three miles, or until he came opposite Horn's Fort. On giving the alarm a canoe was sent to bring him over. The tradition which has been preserved of this exciting incident says that he was badly frightened and almost exhausted when his rescuers reached him.
On hearing the firing McMichael, Fleming, and a young man named James Jackson, who where on the flat-boat, and some distance behind, pushed quickly to the north shore, but before they could get out of range the first two were killed. Jackson escaped, and finding a horse in the pasture west of Pine creek, caught it, mounted, and rode to the settlement opposite the fort, when a party came over and rescued him.
A party was at once organized and sent down the river to look for the Indians, but they could not be found. Being in the vicinity of two forts, and knowing that they would be pursued, they very likely dashed up the ravine through which Aughanbaugh's run flows to the river and escaped. The pursuing party found the dead bodies of Donaldson, Fleming, and McMichael where they fell, and carried them to Antes Fort. They were buried in the little cemetery near the fort. This sad affair cast a gloom over the families congregated at both forts and they all heartily wished for deliverance to a place of greater safety.
John Hamilton, who made such a narrow escape, was only about sixteen years of age, and was looked upon as the most nimble footed youth in the settlement. He was the elder brother of Robert Hamilton, who became the father of John Hamilton, who was born October 14, 1800, and died April 24, 1891.
The same day of this bloody occurrence a number of men were driving a lot of cattle down the river from a point above the Great Island, for the purpose of placing them out of reach of the hostiles. As they were crossing the level country near where Liberty stands they were fired on by a party of Indians who had been pursuing them. The whites returned the fire and an Indian was observed to fall. His comrades promptly carried him off. One of the cattle party named Samuel Fleming was shot through the shoulder. The Indians fled. precipitately and abandoned a lot of plunder which they had stolen from some of the settlers. It consisted largely of blankets, which were secured by the whites.
These repeated attacks of the Indians had the effect of rousing the Executive Council to a realization of the great danger which threatened the frontier, and on the 21st of May a letter was forwarded, to Colonel Hunter from Lancaster in answer to his repeated appeals for help. It set out by saying that "it gave the Council great pain to find that the Indians had begun their horrid ravages," and that "one hundred fire arms of which thirty-one are rifles," had been procured and forwarded to Harris's Ferry," and besides this lot "seventy rifles had been obtained from the Continental store," and would be sent to the same destination for use of the inhabitants up the river. The Board of War had also ordered "one ton of lead and half a ton of powder to Carlisle," one-fourth of which was for the West Branch country.
Council admitted its belief that the attack of the savages was instigated by "our European [English] enemy, who avow in the face of the world the employment of such horried allies. It is manifestly made in concert with the invaders of the eastern side of our State." "Beyond all doubt then," continues the letter, "Pennsylvania has a claim to be supported by the force and money of the United States. Council and Assembly have therefore in a joint representation to Congress set forth the case of our suffering settlers, and demanded the aid and protection necessary." Had the appeals been heeded ere this and Steps taken to properly protect the frontier the great calamity which overtook the settlers might have been averted and many lives and much property saved.
Council stated that as they experienced much difficulty in "victualing the militia of Northumberland county," they had requested the " delegation of Pennsylvania to apply for proper and adequate supplies of food and stores for use in the immediate defense of the county." The Board of War asked General Washington "to send, Colonel Butler and at least 250 riflemen from. the army as an immediate succor to the militia against the Indians." This aid, though small, the Committee feared might be precarious, as they did not know what the British contemplated doing, and Washington "might not be hasty in sending off this detachment." Colonel Hunter, was assured, however, that everything possible would be done to assist him, and he was authorized to use any of the cannon at Fort Augusta for defending other places.
POINTS OF CONCENTRATION.
Months before any decisive measures had been adopted by the Supreme Executive Council and the Board of War, the inhabitants had formed some plans for their protection. A movement of this kind was imperative. Stockades were placed around buildings at certain places where families could concentrate in case of great danger. Capt. John Brady had enclosed his building on Muncy manor with Stockades, and it was known as " Fort Brady." The records of the time contain no description of the work, but according to tradition it was quite strong and many families in the valley fled. to it for protection.
Wallis's residence on Muncy Farms was an important point for concentration and efforts were made early to have a defensive work erected, but it was not done until after the first heavy blow had fallen. It is probable that some kind of tempo-rary works were hastily improvised, for we hear of a number of families being collected there some time before the exodus.
It is also said that there were some defensive works at the house of Samuel Harris, on the west side of Loyalsock creek, as families fled there. There appears to have been a number of settlers in that vicinity, which early attracted the attention of marauding bands of Indians.
Then came the places of refuge at Lycoming creek and Antes Fort, already described. Fort Horn and Reed's Fort were the last. The latter, as has been shown, stood on the site of Lock Haven and was the outpost of civilization in that direction.
Among the New Jersey settlers near the mouth of Loyalsock creek was Albert Covenhoven (corrupted into Crownover). He had three sons, James, Thomas, and Robert, and a daughter, Isabella. Robert became distinguished as a guide, spy, and Indian killer. Soon after coming to the valley Albert Covenhoven lost all his effects by a sudden freshet in the creek, and the family were reduced to great distress. On the breaking out of the Revolution Robert joined the Continental army, but late in 1777 he returned home on account of the expiration of his enlistment and at once took an active part in aiding to protect the frontier. The neighbors of the Covenhovens were the Thomsons, Wychoffs, Van Camps, Van Nests, etc. All of these, save the first mentioned, were of Hollandish descent. John Thomson was a Scotchman. When he came to America he brought with him a small Bible printed at Edinburgh in 1735. He married Juda Bodine in New Jersey and recorded the dates of birth of himself and his wife, and, afterwards, that of their child. On reaching the West Branch valley Thomson located about a mile west of Loyalsock creek on the Sheshequin path, up Miller's run, less than a mile north of the place where that path was crossed by the trail leading up the river. He built his house and barn on the edge of the upland, whose watershed produced the terrible swamp lying between it and the river. When the first alarm was given Thomson took his wife and child, and such goods as they could carry, and fled to Wallis's on horseback, seven miles away. His harvest was about ripe and the promise of a good crop was excellent. There they found several of their neighbors who had preceded them. Col. William Hep-burn was there and had command. Colonel Hosterman, Captain Berry, Captain: Reynolds and others who had just been sent from Fort Augusta to assist in protecting the frontier were there also. It was a motley and excited collection.
CAPTAIN BERRY'S EXPEDITION.
Peter Wychoff settled on Mill creek, just above the place where it empties into Loyalsock, and about a mile northeasterly from Thomsons. A number of horses having been stolen, Captain Berry, with a company, set out for Loyalsock on the 10th of June, 1778, to look for them. William Wychoff, son of Peter, his brother William, and his sons, Cornelius and Joseph, were along. So were their cousins, James and Thomas Covenhoven, and perhaps others of their relatives. Besides these there was a friendly Indian, known as "Captain Sharpshins," a negro, and others to the number of twelve. After starting a messenger was sent after them to advise an immediate return. The messenger was Robert Covenhoven. But Captain Berry refused to acknowledge Colonel Hepburn's authority, and persisted in going forward. As so many, of his relatives were in the expedition, Robert Covenhoven determined to go along as guide. The company proceeded cautiously through the Narrows, and so on up the creek, searching in vain for the horses, until they thought they had gone far enough. They then determined to retrace their steps, and accordingly set out again down the creek. Robert Covenhoven believed that there were Indians in the vicinity, and advised a return by a safer, but more difficult, route through the woods, and over the mountain, in order. to avoid the danger of an ambuscade. But Captain Berry thought there was no danger, and paid little attention to his warning. He insisted until Berry impatiently said he was needlessly alarmed, and accused him of cowardice. This irritated him, and he insisted no more. He went privately, however, to his brothers and communicated to them his fears that they would be attacked, and that if so they would probably all be killed. He urged them to keep a sharp outlook, and if the flash of a gun was seen, to spring immediately behind a tree.
They traveled on without molestation until they again reached the Narrows, a mile above the present bridge across Loyalsock, where they were suddenly fired upon by a band of savages in ambush. Most of the party, including the reckless Captain Berry, were shot down. Robert Covenhoven, however, and a few others escaped and returned to Wallis's place and reported the fate of the expedition. Night was approaching, but Colonel Hepburn at once set out with a party to rescue any other fugitives that might be in the vicinity of Loyalsock creek.
It was learned that Thomas, Covenhoven, Peter Wychoff, his son, Cornelius, and the negro, were made prisoners. The negro was afterwards burned at the stake in the presence of the other prisoners, who did not know but what they would meet the same fate. But they suffered only the privations and distresses incident to the condition of captives among savages.
THE WYCHOFFS–AN EXCITING FIGHT.
Peter Wychoff was fifty-four years of age when captured and his hair was white. The Indians, however, dyed it black and dressed him in their own costume so that he should not be easily recognized. This story was magnified by repetition into the statement in Day's Historical Collections, page 455, that he was, bald when captured, and on his return had a fine head of hair! Both he and his son, Cornelius, remained in captivity about two years. Joseph Wychoff, another son, was captured at the same time. While a prisoner in Canada he became acquainted with Keziah Ford, also a captive from Kentucky, and they were married by Father De Lisle, of Montreal. Their marriage certificate is still preserved by their descendants.
Joseph Wychoff had taken the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, July 30, 1777, in Northumberland county, and was appointed lieutenant of the Third Company of the Third Battalion of Militia, April 24, 1785. His commission was issued by the Supreme Executive Council.
After their release from captivity, Peter Wychoff and his son, William, returned to New Jersey and remained there till the war was over, when they came back to their place on the Loyalsock and erected a house on the old site. In a short time his wife and younger children, who had fled to New Jersey, returned also.
The family of the Wychoffs was a large one, and they suffered greatly at the hands of the savages. William Wychoff, the brother of Peter, went with him from New Jersey when they first emigrated to the West Branch. He was the "old man Wychoff," spoken of in some of the early accounts, who had a rude tannery on the Loyalsock and made leather for the settlement before the war broke out. Near the time of the affair just described he was at work in his tannery, and his nephews, the Covenhoven brothers, were mowing grass in an adjacent meadow. A dog suddenly commenced barking and exhibited great symptoms of alarm. He would run towards the woods, sniff the air, and return. The Covenhovens were confident that Indians were near, and, seizing their rifles, called to the old man to accompany them to some place of greater security. At first he refused, alleging that there was no danger, but at last yielded to their persuasions and went with them. They had proceeded but a short distance when one of them hissed to the dog, and he at once bounded into the bushes and seized an Indian by the leg, who was hiding there. He jumped up and shot the dog. The whites, who were six in number, immediately took to trees. The Indians, who had been lying in ambush, did the same, and firing began. "Old man Wychoff," who was very much humpbacked, unfortunately got behind a tree which was too small to hide all of his person. Another small tree, fortunately, stood between him and the Indians, and as they fired at him their bullets struck this tree and caused the bark to fly around Robert Covenhoven, who stood behind another tree near by. He called to Peter to stand up straight or he would be hit. As Robert was loading his rifle his ramrod was shot in two, but luckily he had a "wiper" with which be rammed down the bullet. Just at this moment he observed an Indian steadily creeping round to get a shot at the Old man. Watching him closely, till he attempted to crawl over a log, he fired and shot him through the body. He sprang into the air, gave a loud whoop, and fell. His comrades rushed up and bore him away, when the whites retreated as rapidly as possible. He appeared to be a chief or commander of the party. Had Covenhoven not succeeded in hitting him the whites might have been worsted.
JOHN THOMSON—HIS DEATH AND THE EXPERIENCES OF HIS FAMILY.
When the party under Captain Berry set out from Wallis's to look for stolen horses, John Thomson began to regret that he had so hurriedly left his place a short. time before, and he determined to return and bring off his cattle. The day was rainy. At last Thomson found two men who were willing to accompany him and assist in driving the cattle. One was named Peter Shufelt, a New Jersey man; the other was William Wychoff, a lad of sixteen. They were mounted and followed Captain Berry's party to the crossing of the Loyalsock, when they left them and proceeded over the hills to the Thomson improvement and residence. Thomson found everything apparently as he and his wife had, left it. Nothing had been disturbed. They tied their horses near the door and entered the house. It was now long past noon and they were hungry, and at, once set about preparing their dinner.
Suddenly the horses snorted with alarm, and rushing to the door they saw several Indians approaching from the barn, where they had been lying in ambush. Thomson and his companions seized their guns and made a dash for the woods; but the Indians rushed upon them, firing as they came, and Peter Shufelt was mortally wounded. Thomson stopped and returned the fire. But this heroic effort to save his friend cost him his own life. Some of the Indians had reserved their fire for just this opportunity, and now delivered it with fatal effect. A bullet passed through his powder horn, which burned at his side as he lay in the agonies of death. William Wychoff succeeded in reaching the woods, but was severely wounded, and finally captured at the end of a skirmish which had lasted nearly three-quarters of an hour. The bodies of the men were at once thrown out of sight, in the hope that others following might fall into the same ambuscade. But this hope was not realized, for a rescue party larger than the Indians were willing to engage was close at hand. They had fired the barn, but did not have time to apply the torch to the house, when they were forced to fly with their prisoner.
After Captain Berry had started from Wallis's that morning to look for the stolen horses, Colonel Hosterman, with Captain Reynolds and a party of thirteen men, set out for Antes Fort with ammunition for that place and the militia stationed at the Great Island. They followed the public road and crossed Loyalsock creek between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and as they reached the western shore and passed over the "sand hill" they heard firing and yells which they judged to be about three-fourths of a mile up the creek. They hurried up to the place where they thought the firing was, but found nothing. Surmising that the firing might have been at Thomson's, they returned and pushed on thither as rapidly as they could across the northern, or upper, end of the great swamp. The heavy rains had made it "very ugly," and it took them nearly a quarter of an hour to cross it. Thus they arrived too late to be of service.
The wily foe no doubt know of their approach. When they reached the place they found the barn with its store of unthreshed grain from the previous harvest on fire, and heard in the distance the triumphant shouts of the foe. Two of these shouts they recognized as "death halloos," and one they correctly took to be a "prisoner halloo." From the shouts Colonel Hosterman supposed the party to consist of about fourteen. This was a very close guess as subsequent information proved. There was a Tory with the savages, for Captain Reynolds and his men distinctly saw his shoe tracks, along with the moccasin tracks of the Indians, in the soft ground near the house. A search of the premises was made. Near the house they found Thomson's powder horn, with the bullet hole through it, but did not find the men or their bodies. Satisfied that they could be of no further service, Colonel Hosterman returned to Wallis's and wrote out a report of the events of the day. Some accounts state, that a portion of the party pushed on to Lycoming creek that evening, where, the sequel will show, they were greatly needed.
The next morning, when it was learned that the companies sent out the day before had not all returned, there was great uneasiness, particularly among those who bad friends in the expeditions. The full news evidently was withhold by Colonel Hosterman. Another party of men was got together under Captain Shaffer and sent to search for the missing. When they came to Thomson's they made a thorough examination of the house and premises. At last the dead bodies of Thomson and Shufelt were found lying a short distance apart, outside a cleared field, among some pine grubs, where they had been dragged. Thomson had been shot in the left side and his jacket was scorched by the burning of the powder in his horn. Shufelt was shot through the left shoulder. It is not stated whether they were scalped, but it is very likely they were, as the English paid the Indians a premium for scalps. The place of burial is not given, but they probably were taken to Wallis's, where their friends were, and buried in what is now known as Hall's cemetery.
William Wychoff, who was captured when Thomson and Shufelt were killed, suffered greatly during the journey through the wilderness from the pain of his wound and the exposure to which he was subjected, but his youthful vigor triumphed, and eventually he recovered. When his captors reached the Seneca country he was adopted into one of their families, according to Indian custom, to supply the place of one who has been killed in the war. His life, therefore, became quite tolerable, and in the autumn of the same year he was exchanged and returned home June 17, 1786, he married Robert Covenhoven's sister, Isabella, then nineteen years of age. He was nearly twenty-five. They settled near Canandaigua, New York, on land whose value he had learned during his six months membership of the Seneca family. There he died, April 2, 1847, and there his descendants still live.
The death of John Thomson was a cruel blow to his wife Juda. Left alone in a strange land filled with savages, with no kin but her boy, then but six years old, her lot was a hard one, but probably no worse than some of her neighbors. When the flight commenced she found her way down the river to Sunbury. How long she re-mained there is not known. But she availed herself of an early opportunity to set her face toward the home of her youth. Undoubtedly she traveled with others over the mountains. Her child was too small to make the journey on foot, and too large to be carried in arms. The horses had been lost the day of her husband's cruel death. "But mother - wit is quick wit, and mother love a love which overcomes all obstacles." She succeeded in securing a little cart suitable for the purpose, and in it she placed her child, with the Bible, which had been her husband's, and such, light articles of apparel as she had been able to bring with her. This cart she pulled through storm and sunshine, 250 miles, over the mountains and across the streams, through beech woods to Easton, and then over the Jersey hills to her former home. Her return was like that of Naomi from the land of Moab. The one treasure she still possessed, the only relic rescued from the destruction of her home by the red handed heathen, was her husband's Bible. It is still in existence and is now the property of Rev. John Bodine Thomson, D. D., of Inverness, California, a great-grandson of the six-year-old boy. It contains this record, among others: "The 9th day of June, 1778, John Thomson departed this life-was killed and scalped by ye Tory and Indians at Shomoken." The New Jersey people at that time called this valley the "Shomoken" country, which explains why that word was used in recording his death although the place was forty miles north of "Shomoken" proper.
John Thomson, Jr., grew to manhood, married, and raised a large family. He became a prominent man, and for more than thirty years was justice of the peace and judge of the Hunterdon county court; and during the latter part of his term he had the satisfaction of recognizing his son, Joseph, as one of the judges co-ordinate with him on the bench. His noble mother, who braved the perils of the wilderness to save him from the savages, died June 17, 1796.
Dr. Thomson thus describes the old Bible, now one of the most venerated relies in the land, because of its remarkable history and soul-stirring associations:
Every leaf of this precious book is water stained, probably by the exposures of the memorable journey from the Susquehanna to the Raritan. The old calf of the binding is worn into holes by long use, and only small pieces of the antique clasps remain, imbedded in one side of the thick cover. The leaf which contains the family record is becoming brittle, and, begins to crumble at the edges.
After the death of the last member of the family who had lived on the West Branch-John Thomson, Jr., the bible became the property of his youngest son, Aaron. By him it was in after years given to that one of the descendants who bears the names of all three of the residents, on, the West Branch, Rev. John Bodine Thomson. And in pursuing its remarkable history a little further, it is strange to, note that the precious relic is now zealously guarded on the shores of the Pacific, 3,000 miles from the place where its original owner fell by savage hands. The exact spot where his house stood can almost be pointed out today. The surrounding country is no longer a wilderness, the great swamp has disappeared, and finely cultivated farms, with stately buildings, are seen on every hand. Within sight of the spot where the blood of John Thomson crimsoned the ground more than a hundred years ago, the tall spires of the churches of the city of Williamsport are plainly visible, and the romantic hillsides are dotted with the cottages of a thrifty, prosperous, and happy people.
A BLOODY DAY.
With the recital of the foregoing horrors the reader might think that the chapter was full-that enough blood had been shed in one day to appease the savage appetite. But not so, June 10, 1778, was destined to be the bloodiest day in the annals of our history.
Soon after the disastrous skirmish on Loyalsock a company of emigrants traveling by wagon appeared at the Montoursville crossing of that stream. The names of the party, as given by Colonel Hosterman in a letter to Colonel William Winter, under date of June 10, 1778, and written from Wallis's, are as follows: Peter Smith, wife and six children; wife of William King, and two children; Michael Smith, Michael Campbell, and David Chambers, who belonged to Captain Reynolds's company, and two other men named, respectively, Snodgrass and Hammond. This made the company consist of six men, two women, and eight children, They were on their way to Lycoming creek. Here several of them intended to join relatives and settle. Mrs. King and her children had been living at Northumberland. Her husband, William King, had served as a lieutenant in the trouble with the Connecticut settlers, and in March, 1776, as an ensign in the company of his cousin, Captain Cool. In the beginning of the troubles he had been up the river, and as early as 1774 he had settled on the site of Jaysburg. But he had left his wife Rachel and two daughters, Sarah and Ruth, at Northumberland for greater safety. When Peter Smith decided to move his family up the river from Northumberland in a wagon, they persuaded Mrs. King to accompany them with their two children to join her husband at Lycoming. They doubtless argued that this mode of traveling would be more pleasant than to ascend the river in a canoe. Her husband had instructed her to remain at Northumberland until he came; but, yielding to the persuasions of her friends, she decided to accompany them, both for company and greater conven-ience, as she supposed.
It will be remembered that after the company of Captain Berry fell into an ambuscade, and the unfortunate officer, who refused to take any advice from Robert Covenhoven, lost his life, that a party was despatched from Wallis's to ascertain the, cause of firing up the creek. That company was commanded by Captain Reynolds and consisted of thirteen men. Colonel Hosterman accompanied them.
When Peter Smith with his wagon and party-several of whom had undoubtedly joined him at Wallis's reached Loyalsock, John Harris, (son of "old Sam Harris") who had heard the firing that afternoon, met and warned them not to proceed, but to return, as he considered it dangerous to go forward. Smith was disinclined to take his advice, but remarked that "firing would not stop them," and proceeded on up the road. When they had got within a short distance of Lycoming creek they were fired upon by a body of Indians in ambush. Colonel Hosterman says in his report that at the first fire Snodgrass fell dead, being shot through the temple. At first the Indians only fired two guns, then three, when they came from their place of concealment. yelling fiercely, and advanced on the wagon. The whites when they saw them for they did not see them till they had received the second fire took to trees and returned the fire. At this moment a "little boy and a girl" made off and escaped. The Indians closed in very fast and endeavored to surround the party, "This," remarks Colonel Hosterman, "occasioned our men to flee as fast as they could all, but Campbell, who was seen fighting at close quarters with his rifle, and the Indian's gun was found broken to pieces." Before they were out of sight of the wagon the fleeing men "saw the Indians attacking the women and children with their tomahawks!" It was thought there were about twenty Indians in the attacking party, showing that they had been re-enforced since the fight on Loyalsock.
This bloody affair occurred just before sundown. The boy and girl made their way to Lycoming creek and informed the men there what had happened. But owing to the frightened condition of the children their story was misunderstood, and the persons to whom they gave the information rushed to the river, thinking that a, canoe had been attacked. On account of this mistake much valuable time was lost. It was nearer where the butchery occurred than to the river.
In the meantime a messenger had reached Wallis with intelligence of something serious having occurred near Lycoming creek, and Colonel Hepburn, who had charge at the fort, quickly collected a party of armed men and hurried to the place where the firing had been heard. It was some time after dark when they arrived, but they succeeded in finding the dead bodies of Snodgrass and another man, but owing to the darkness they could not tell who they were. Deeming it useless to search any further that night, they went on to Lycoming creek and waited till next day. In the morning they repaired to the spot and a horrible sight met their gaze. The wife of Peter Smith was found shot through the body, stabbed, scalped, and a knife lying by her side. William King's wife was found tomahawked and scalped, but living. She was sitting up, and when her husband approached she seemed to recognize him, leaned against him, and almost immediately expired. She could not speak. A little girl was found killed and scalped, and a boy the same. Snodgrass had been shot through the head, tomahawked, stabbed, and scalped. Campbell was shot in the back, tomahawked, stabbed, scalped, and a knife left sticking in his body. His rifle was taken, but very few things in the wagon had been carried away. The sight of these mutilated And disfigured bodies was hideous to behold, and showed to what extremes of savage barbarism the red fiends could go. The bodies of the dead were carefully collected and buried near the spot where they fell, and their interment was very likely the beginning of the cemetery which afterwards served for many years as the place of interment for scores of the original settlers.
Colonel Hepburn's party found a coat which had belonged to an Indian, and a cartridge made of the best cartridge paper. The Indians had used buckshot, as one was found sticking in the wagon, and one in the arm of one of the slain. These articles it was clear had been furnished them by the English, who were encouraging them to commit deeds of atrocity calculated to make an ordinary fiend shudder.
COLONEL HEPBURN'S COMPANY.
Colonel Hepburn's company of militia was composed of the following residents of the valley, from Muncy to Lycoming creek:
Captain.- William. Hepburn.
Lieutenant.- Paul Ricketts.
Ensign.- John Hall.
Sergeants.- Robert Covenhoven, Andrew Flatt.
Privates. - Joseph Wychoff, Israel Parshall, Jr., Joseph Sutton, Joseph Harber, James Covenhoven, George Barkley, Benjamin Bart, David Berry, Oliver Silverthorn, Samuel Brady, Samuel Wallis, John Covenhoven, Israel Parshall, Sr., William Hall, Erasmus Burch, Peter Burns, Albert Covenhoven, Cornelius Vanader, Robert Robb, Ezekiel Brown, Albert Polhemus, A. Blackly, Zachariah Irech, Charles Bignell, Ralph Slack, Joseph Webster, Jacob Lawrison, Peter Jones, Ockey Stepsion, Nimrod Pennington, William Jones, Henry Silverthorn, John Hollingsworth, Michael Craell.
In signing this roster Captain Hepburn says: "The above is a true return of the men's names belonging to my company that are not gone out of the county." It is dated August 9, 1778, and addressed to Colonel Hunter.
VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF THE MASSACRE.
This terrible massacre occurred at the point where West Fourth street, Williams-port, crosses the little stream which flows down Cemetery street. At that time a natural thicket of wild plum trees grew there, which yielded fruit of remarkable size and flavor for nearly a century after the tragedy. The road, was merely a widening out of the old Indian trail, and was out through this thicket. The boughs,. with the leaves dried on them, were thrown into the bushes, forming a safe place for the concealment of the savages.
When Colonel Hepburn's searching party was about to leave the spot without finding all the victims, the boy who had escaped the previous day insisted that Mrs. King must be somewhere in the thicket, as he had heard her scream and say she would not go along with the savages when they tried to drag her away, and that he saw her fighting desperately. The party then made another detour through the bushes and found her about nine o'clock in the morning near the little stream, where she had dragged herself during the night and rested with her hand under her head, with her brains oozing over her fingers.
William King, thus suddenly bereft of his wife and children, was left in a state of mind well nigh bordering on despair. The terrible fate of his wife he knew, but he did not know the fate of his two daughters, Sarah and Ruth. They were then, respectively four and two years old. If carried into captivity it was terrible to think of what sufferings they must endure while in the wilderness at their tender ages, broken down with grief he made his way back to Northumberland.
In the course of seven years he learned that the children were in Canada. He immediately started in search of them, and after a long and toilsome journey, found and identified them. The history of their adventures, and the difficulty he experienced in finding them, is very interesting, but too long for these pages. When King started for Canada he was accompanied by a friendly Indian as a guide to Fort Niagara. Their route was up Lycoming creek. On the journey they fell in with another Indian, who kept them company for a day and a night. During the night these two Indians kept up such an animated conversation that King's rest was disturbed. When the strange Indian left the next day his guide informed him that he was the man who had killed his wife in the massacre near Lycoming creek. This greatly exasperated King and he chided his guide for not telling him, saying that if he had known it he certainly would have killed him. The guide replied that he feared such a thing and therefore kept quiet. The long talk between the two in the vigils of the night was probably about that bloody affair. The wretch made his escape in time for notwithstanding peace had been declared, that fact would not have saved him from the punishment he so richly deserved at the hands of the outraged husband.
On recovering his children Mr. King started back with them, and in due time reached Northumberland. From them he learned that when they were torn from their mother, who was butchered before their eyes, they were wrapped together in a blanket, placed on a horse and hurried away through the woods over what is now Cemetery street, until they reached the Sheshequin path leading through Blooming Grove and up Lycoming creek, which they followed through the dark and dreary wilderness. Soon after starting little Ruth began to cry, when a young savage seized her by the legs to dash her brains out against a tree, but an old squaw claimed her as her child, and, thus by one of their peculiar customs her tender life was spared. On reaching Canada the squaw sold her to the wife of an English officer who had no children, and in her hands her father found her. When Ruth grew to womanhood she went to live with her mother's people in New Jersey, and there she married a retired sea captain. They moved to Genesee, New York, and settled, became well-to-do, and ended their days there.
Sarah accompanied her father when he returned to Jaysburg in 1789, and lived with him until he died in 1802. She then went to the home of her half-brother, Joseph King, when he lived on the Sutton farm in 1832. This farm was near the wild plum tree thicket, where the tragedy of 1778 took place. She would frequently take her nephew, Charles King, and others, down to the Methodist church that then stood at Fourth and Cemetery streets, where they would gather the wild plums that grew so abundantly, and she would point out the spot and relate the bloody incidents of that dreadful day Sarah finally died at the house of John Kelly King, Tioga county, September 19, 1850, aged seventy-six years.