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April, 2000

Two Hundred Years in the Telling

by Dr. Barbara Smith

It was two hundred years in August, 1995 that the last Indian attack took place in Barbour County, the last massacre east of the Ohio River. The name on the modern gravestone marking the location of the atrocity is Bozarth.

Mention of this West Virginia family dates back to 1694, when Bozarths moved to the area now known as Rivesville in Monongalia County. Before that, they had lived for at least two years in Cowellstown, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, where the only other English-speaking people in the predominantly French community were Evan Leeson, Enoch Cowell, and a family named Burris. According to Glenn D. Lough in Now and Long Ago, the Rivesville area was flooded in 1704, and the Bozarths and others moved to what is now Barbour County, West Virginia, to a settlement which in 1721 burned and was abandoned. Records do not mention the family again until they were apparently living in present Marion County. Records there indicate that John and Jonathan Bozarth owned some four hundred acres, including the present site of West Fairmont High School, as early as 1770. The land was formally surveyed and deeded in 1772.1

It was in 1779 that, according to some versions of the story, Mrs. Bozarth traveled to what is now Monongalia County to visit her sister, a Mrs. Smith. Indians attacked the cabin. A colorful account from Hardesty's Early West Virginia History suggests that the property actually belonged to the Bozarths rather than to the Smiths.

About the first of April, when only Mrs. Bozarth and two men were in the house, the children, who had been at play, came running into the yard, declaring that some ugly red men were coming. One of the men, going to the door to ascertain the truth, received a glancing shot on the breast which caused him to fall back, and the Indian who had fired sprang in, and being grappled by the other white man, was thrown upon the bed. The savage's antagonist having no weapon, called Mrs. Bozarth for a knife; not finding one, she seized an ax, and with one blow, brained the prostrate Indian. At this time, a second savage entered the door and shot dead the white man who had just been having the encounter on the bed. With a well directed blow, Mrs. Bozarth disabled him; he bawled for help, and others of the party who were engaged in securing the children in the yard, came to his relief. The first who thrust his head in had it cleft by the ax in the hands of Mrs. B., and he fell lifeless to the ground. Another catching hold of his wounded companion, drew him out of the house, when Mrs. B., with the aid of the white man who had first been shot (and had somewhat recovered), succeeded in closing and barring the door. The children in the yard were all killed; but the heroic exertions of Mrs. Bozarth and the wounded white man, enabled them to resist the repeated attempts of the Indians to force open the door, until a party from the neighboring settlement came to their relief.2
Another account of the same incident can be found in West Virginia History by Phil Conley and William Thomas Doherty.
Mrs. John Bozarth, living near the site of the present town of Core in Monongalia County, was called upon to defend her log cabin against an Indian attack in April 1779. Unable to get her children into the house, Mrs. Bozarth was forced to watch Indians murder them in the front yard. As the Indians proceeded to enter her home, she was able to prevent her own murder by slaying three Indians with an ax.3
Glenn D. Lough in Now and Long Ago records the story as told by James Morgan.
Just before we moved to Deckers Creek, John Bozarth and family went down to Cheat River to visit Mrs. Bozarth's sister's family named Smith ... Seventeen and seventy-nine. The bad year for all of us around. George, John's boy, and I were good friends Mrs. Bozarth was there at Smith's when Indians raided on Cheat. I heard Uncle Dave say there was about thirty of them, broken in little bunches. Jacob Prickett had a brother settled in that country, and his boy Elias was at the Smith's [sic.] that day. He was about twenty years old, I think. The children were playing outside right after dinner, and yelled that Indians was coming.

Elias Prickett was outside and was shot in the hip. He fell back into the door. The Indians ran inside. Dick Dotson was in there and he jumped the Indian and threw him down on the floor, yelling for something to kill him with. Mrs. Bozarth picked up an axe and chipped open the Indian's head. Another Indian ran in yelling and shot Dick Dotson. It's been in the papers and in books that Dotson was killed, but he wasn't. It's been in the papers and in books that the Bozarths lived on Dunkard Creek. But they didn't. Just like about Uncle Dave's fight with the Indians here, a pack of lies has been told and printed about that trouble there on Cheat...

Mrs. Bozarth hit the Indian that shot Dotson in the head and knocked him down and chopped his belly open and his entrails went dragging after him as he crawled out of the cabin. One of the Indians that was helping his friends murder the children in yard, ran to help the hurt one, and Mrs. Bozarth axed him, splitting his head open to the chin...

Elias Prickett became conscious and got a gun and ran to the door and shot at the Indians, who were then running for the woods. If he did any damage it wasn't known. I have read stories that say that the people there stayed shut up in that house with the dead Indians and Dick Dotson for several days, but this isn't true. This house was relieved within the hour, I've heard Uncle Dave and Jacob Prickett say, and John Ice was with those who relieved it, and helped bury the dead children of the Smiths, Dotsons, and Bozarths, six in all.4

Alexander Withers is quoted by Lough as saying in Chronicles of Border Warfare, "The time occupied in this bloody affair, from the first alarm of the children to the shutting of the door, did not exceed three minutes. And in this brief space, Mrs. Bozarth, with infinite self-possession, coolness, and intrepidity, succeeded in killing three Indians."5

After they sold their Marion County properties to Thomas Barnes in 17836, the Bozarth family apparently moved to what was to become Barbour County, just west of the present town of Boulder. Here, on what the Indians called the "River of Many Bends," now known as the Buckhannon, John and Anna, called Elizabeth in some accounts, established their farm and gave birth to six children. All went well until 1795.

The story of the 1795 attack is recorded in a variety of sources such as The Border Wars. It seems that a warning came that Indians were approaching. There had been no threat of attacks for the thirteen years during which General "Mad Anthony" Wayne was trying to work out a peace treaty, so the Bozarths considered the warning empty, a mistake. John and his two older sons, John and George, continued gathering grain in the field. Mrs. Bozarth and her other four children were apparently in the house, though one version of the story suggests that several of the children were out rounding up the cows. Whether in the house or in the field, two of the children were killed by the Indians. Mrs. Bozarth and the two others were kidnaped and taken to Ohio. Alexander Withers recorded details in Chronicles of Border Warfare.

Old John and his sons George and little John, the crippled one, was hauling grain in from the field, and the Indians came on them. George and his father ran. First they heard screams from the homestead and ran that way to see what the matter was and here came the Indians. One of them shot at George point blank, but George dropped in time not to be hit and to make the Indians think he was hit. The Indians left him and went after his father, who was old but a great runner. The old man outran the two Indians after him, and George jumped up and ran. There was some shooting up the hollow, and the Indians guessed what it was...white men coming to see what the trouble was. Old John and George got off, but little John, the cripple, couldn't run, so he was caught and tomahawked and scalped. The Indians left in a hurry...When old John and George got to the house, they found there a youngest, a girl of twelve or thirteen, and three little boys belonging to George, all dead and scalped in the yard. Mrs. Bozarth and John's other two sons were missing, and the signs said that the Indians had taken them off.7
Another, more amusing, description of Mr. Bozarth's behavior is recorded in Withers' work. "Mr. Bozarth had not attained to that age when the sinews become too much relaxed for active exertion, but was yet springy and agile, and was enabled to keep ahead of his pursuer. Despairing of overtaking him, by reason of his great speed, the savage hurled a tomahawk at his head. It passed harmless by; and the old gentleman got safely off."8

The tale continues. "When old John and George got to the house, they found John's youngest, a girl of twelve or thirteen, and the boys belonging to George, all dead and scalped in the yard. Mrs. Bozarth and John's other two sons were missing...Mrs. Bozarth and the two boys were turned over to General Wayne in a few weeks, right after the making of the Greenville Treaty."9

According to Lucullus McWhorter in Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia 1768- 1795, the names of the boys captured with Mrs. Bozarth were Lot and Zed.

Zed was a "jolly fool" and seemingly did not fully comprehend the fearful work done by the Indians. While the warriors were engaged in killing the children, Zed came up to them and demanded to know what they were doing. He cursed them roundly, called them "Damned black rascals." This strange conduct led the superstitious Indians to believe that the child was an object of Divine commiseration and protection. Gently stroking his head, they ejaculated, "Brave boy, brave boy." After reaching the Ohio country, the marauders were safe from pursuit and they proceeded with leisure often camping and hunting. They killed game and dressed some of the choice pieces to carry home to their families. These epicurean morsels Zed would steal and devour. His captors, in real or feigned anger, brandished their tomahawks over his head, threatening him with instant death, but the half-witted lad cursed them loudly, answering deadly threats with vituperative abuse. His mother, stricken with grief, fearing the exasperated Indians would slay the child, urged them to whip him soundly and make him behave. Tenderly patting the boy's head, they would answer, "Him too brave; him too brave. No hurt. Great Spirit." Zed once escaped from his captors and took refuge in a hollow log. The Indians in their search for him came so near that the boy heard them, and betrayed his place of concealment by hurling at his pursuers a volley of calumnious epithets.10
The story of the Greenville Treaty and the resultant release of Mrs. Bozarth and the children is worth noting, again as recorded in Withers' Chronicles of Border Warfare.
...Hostility to the whites lead [sic.] them [the Indians] to acts of occasional violence, and keep them for some time from acceding to the proposals for peace. In consequence of this, their whole country was laid waste, and forts erected in the hearts of their settlements at once to starve and awe them into quiet. The desired effect was produced. Their crops being laid waste, their villages burned, fortresses erected in various parts of their country and kept well garrisoned, and there was no alternative left them but to sue for peace.
Although the Shawnees had conceded after their defeat in 1782, General "Mad Anthony" Wayne insisted that any peace agreement be signed by "all the different tribes of the North Western Indians." The Greenville Treaty was therefore not realized until the summer of 1795.11

As late as 1903, according to a passage recorded in Comstock's encyclopedia, people were in awe of the Indians of the region.

That most daring, vindictive and determined of Indian chiefs, Buch-on-g-ha-la, whose violent and murderous bands alarmed, terrified and exterminated whole settlements...on and after an occasion of a savage raid, like the destruction of the Bozarth family or the wholesale murder of all the whites on Files Creek, made his camp fire frequently on the waters of Roaring Creek and Middle Fork, where he said evil spirits dwelt...Middle Fork, a settlement near Belington, reports a very troublesome ghost...[a] frightful unearthly apparition...the evil Manitou.12
It should be noted that McWhorter claims a mistake in the claimed location of the Bozarth property. "The Bozarth homestead, the scene of the Indian massacre the last committed by the Indians on the Virginia frontier stood east of the present railroad station of Lorentz, south of the pike and opposite the residence of the late Valentine Lorentz, the old homestead of Jacob Lorentz. Hu Maxwell places the scene of this tragedy on the Buckhannon River, and within the present bounds of Barbour County, which is clearly a mistake. (See History of Barbour County, West Virginia.) 11 13 In 1828 the Bozarths sold the farm to Alexander House for $2200, a fortune at the time. Mrs. Bozarth signed the deed with an X. The graves of the Bozarth children remained on the farm. In 1866 the land was sold again to the Cool family, and it was not until almost a century later that the graves were marked.

Elza Wilson of Philippi tells the tale. "Nola and I were visiting with Howard and Leona Cool on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in March 1985. When Mrs. Cool and I began to talk about the Bozarth children, Mr. Cool, who was 87 at the time, said, 'I am the only person alive who knows where those graves are.' I asked him would he feel able to walk up the hill to show me where they were, and I led him through the brush and the trees and we climbed up to the level above his granddaughter's house. As soon as we reached the top of the knoll, he said, 'This right here is the place where the children were buried.' So I stuck a stick in the ground, and later my wife and I talked about it. I got permission to place a monument there, and Nola and I purchased it, and we got some people to help us. We had to cut a roadway in to where we could deliver the stone, and we installed it. In the summer of 1985 we had a laying on of flowers at the grave of the Bozarth children by State Treasurer A. James Manchin. We built the base up high so the monument will remain there for years without being swallowed up by the earth.

"Since that time several people have gone to see those graves, but the important thing that comes to my mind at this time is that here we are in 2000, and the deaths of those two children, the last people killed by the Indians east of the Ohio River, happened in August 1795. The two hundred year anniversary of that historical event in Barbour County went by five years ago.

"People need to know of that tremendous lady, Anna Bozarth, and what she went through in settling this part of our homeland." In adulthood the two surviving Bozarth sons became community leaders. Young John and George were named as two of the twenty justices of the peace when Lewis County was formed in 1817, and John later served as a state legislator in Virginia. According to Lucullus McWhorter in Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia from 1968-1795, two daughters also survived the 1795 attack.

Tradition says that two of Bozarth's daughters were also carried off in this raid and that they returned from captivity with their mother and the two boys. Philip Reger's second wife was the younger of these daughters. Elizabeth, the older, became the second wife of Uriah Forenash and after his death, she is said to have married James Morrison. She died in 1862.14

More information on the Bozarths is found in the same book in the chapter on the Reger family: John Bozarth; Mary, George Bozarth. These brothers were the sons of John Bozarth, Sr., whose family was attacked, and some of them killed, by the Indians on Fink's Run, in 1795...John was a commissioned captain in the Virginia Volunteers, War of 1812. It has been claimed that George was a non-commissioned officer, same war...Both brothers were identified with the early history of Lewis County; both acting justices. With their families they moved to Indiana at an early date, and were lost sight of by their Virginia friends.15

The grave of the two slaughtered sons is permanently marked today on the farm owned long ago by John and Anna Bozarth. The land has been handed down by Howard and Leona Cool to their daughter, Ruth, and her husband, Thomas Jones. The Joneses, in turn, have given the property to their daughter, Pat Pinnell, and her husband, Bill. Visitors to the graves, the Pinnills say, are welcome.


1. Glenn D. Lough. Now and Long Ago. (Reprinted Fairmont: Marion County Historical Society, 1969), 6.

2. Alexander Withers. Early West Virginia History. Reprinted West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, Vol. I (Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1974), 14-15.

West Virginia History (Charleston: Educational Foundation, Inc., 1974), Phil Conley and William Thomas Doherty. 144.

4. Lough, 343-46.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Alexander Withers, Chronicles of Border Warfare (Joseph Israel, 1831), 429.

9. Lough, 346.

10. Lucullus McWhorter. Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia from 1768 to 1795. (Reprinted Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1973), 487.

11. Withers, 429.

12. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, Vols. 12-13 (Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1973), 362.

13. McWhorter, 487-88.

14. Ibid., 487.

15. Ibid., 305.

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