The Death of Samuel McCulloch

Brooke County, Being A Record Of Prominent Events
by J. G. Jacob (Wellsburg, 1882)

Indian Stories - The Death Of Major Samuel McColloch.

As the narration of Indian stories (some of them only stories) is a staple in works of the sort we have in hand, the reader may be disappointed in that we have not gone largely into such stories. Our apace will not allow of the minuteness that would render these narrations interesting, and we prefer, therefore, not to attempt it. The reader will find abundant details in larger works, of which there are many and accessible. Occurrences of the sort that have a more immediately local application, however, come within our scope.

As has been observed the number of actual occurrences of the sort on present Brooke County soil, is not large, and what accounts we have are some of them so traditionary as to be beyond verification. Some of these date back as early as 1778 or thereabouts and are apocryphal. The living witnesses are long since gone and there is an almost singular paucity of either manuscript or printed records. Years elapsed before even the most noted found their way into print and in the different accounts of the same fact there is always more or less variance. Probably nothing of the sort that occurred during Indian times, occasioned more serious lamentation among the settlers, than the killing of Major Samuel McColloch, which occurred on the 30th of July, 1772 [1782], at a spot inside our present borders, but very near the line separating Brooke from Ohio County. At that time, lie was in command of Fort Van Metre, called then the "Court House Fort," from the circumstance of its being located within sight of the Court House at West Liberty.

Fort Van Metre proper was in its day a very important post. It was one of the very first constructed, and must be kept distinct from what was known as the Court House Fort, or Black's cabin.

The proper Fort Van Metre stood, says Mr. Vincent Van Metre, on the north side of the south fork of Short Creek on the hill above, on lands now owned and occupied by Eugene Ridgely & Brother, three miles southwest of West Liberty; the old fort at Liberty (probably the one referred to in the account of Major McColloch's death,) says the same gentleman, was on Van Metre's land and was sometimes called by that name, but afterwards became known as Black's cabin or the Court House Fort. Black was the agent at West Liberty at the time, of the Van Metres.

On the 30th of July, 1772 [1782], work in the harvest fields demanding attention, and many of the men being within or about the fort, arrangements were made to go to work. As a measure of precaution, the Major and his brother John undertook the duty of reconoitering the neighborhood to ascertain whether there were any lurking Indians about. Leaving early in the morning, on horseback, the brothers proceeded together some distance, when impelled by some impulse, the Major turned back and going to the Fort, deposited with the wife of his brother John his watch and several other articles and gave directions for their disposition in the event of his not returning. Whether he had observed any signs of danger, or whether this was the effect of a premonition of his fate, as the historian of the occasion intimates, can never be known; but the occurrence is given as a fact. Having left his valuables in the care of his sister-in-law, he again mounted and soon rejoined his companion.

They traversed the path lying along Short Creek and made their way up the river until they reached Beech Bottom, about half way between Buffalo and Short Creek - then returning they ascended the steep and singularly appearing ridge pointing toward the creek's mouth, still known as "Girty's Point," and pursued a path through the woods on the ridge toward Fort Van Metre. Riding along, they came to a tree top at the head of a ravine, around which it was necessary to pass, and John being in advance heard the growl of a large dog which accompanied them, which caused him to look around. Just as he did so several shots from the tree top were fired and Samuel fell from his horse fatally hit. Before the body had hardly touched the ground, a stalwart savage sprang from the cover and with knife in hand rushed forward to secure the scalp. While in the very act, John, who was unharmed, fired and shot the Indian, as was supposed, mortally, as he sprang into the air and fell. John then made his escape at full speed to the fort, the riderless horse following him, his hat and clothes perforated with bullets.

The next morning a party from the fort found the mutilated remains. The Indians had disemboweled the corpse, hung the entrails on a limb of a large tree and as was afterwards learned, taken out the heart to be eaten, according to their superstitious notions, in order that their own courage and manliness might be increased by eating the heart of an enemy who was known to them for his courage and hardihood. It was subsequently ascertained that the party, a detachment of which killed McColloch, consisted of not less than a hundred warriors in all, and that they were on their way to attack Fort Van Metre, though it is not probable that more than a very few composed the immediate party that did the deed. At any rate the attack was not made; the Indians knowing from the escape of the brother, that to surprise the fort was out of the question, started hastily for their towns west of the Ohio, and were not pursued any great distance.

The remains of Major McColloch were interred at or near Fort Van Metre amid great lamentation; and to this day his name is associated most prominently with the occurrences of early times, and he is remembered as a man of many noble qualities. He had married but six weeks before his death, a Miss Mitchell, who afterwards became the wife of Andrew Woods, and the McCollochs and Woods' are yet prominent families in the vicinity. The place where he was killed is, as near as can be identified, about two miles from the river on lands owned by James Ridgely (1881). The sugar tree upon which the initials "S. McC." were cut at the time, died thirty years ago, but a grove of young walnuts exists at this time at the precise spot. Some more enduring monument should be erected to mark the place. The McCollochs, although living near the border, were none of them, it is believed, residents of Brooke County. John married a Miss Buckey and raised a large family as did also another brother, Abraham, who married Alcy Boggs.

Exploration, Settlement and Conflict (1600-1799)