"First Settlement of Grave Creek"
American Pioneer
Vol. II, no. V (May 1843), pp. 347-57

My father, Joseph Tomlinson, was married near Cumberland, in the state of Maryland. Soon after he migrated to the west in quest of a suitable country to settle. Accordingly, in the year 1770, he arrived upon the Grave creek flat, and prepared it for his situation; and, with the assistance of his brother Samuel, he built a small sapling cabin and cleared some land. The spot he selected for his cabin was about one-fourth of a mile from the Ohio river, and about three hundred yards distant and a due north course from the Mammoth mound.

During his stay here (which he continued until some time in the year 1772) he discovered the Mammoth mound. The circumstances of his discovering it were these: - He had shot and wounded a deer that had approached his cabin; his dog gave it chase, and he also followed. The deer ran a southern direction to the distance of about three-quarters of a mile, when he was overtaken by the dog and caught. My father dressed it, and was returning to his cabin, with the deer on his shoulder, when he unexpectedly came to, apparently, a hill of considerable height and very steep. This astonished him, as he had supposed the flat on which he had settled was level; but the density of the forest had obscured from his view the mound. He laid the deer from his shoulder and ascended to the top, when he discovered it to be an artificial mound. Many others of the same character he had seen in the neighborhood, but of much less dimensions. These mounds he supposed to have been used by the Indians as burying grounds, consequently he called them Indian graves. He stated that the growth of the timber upon the mound at that time, was as large and thickly set as any of the surrounding forests, and dates of quite remote periods were upon the trunks of some of the trees that stood upon its top. The timber upon the surrounding bottom at this time was of somewhat irregular growth. The most valuable and elevated portion of the flat, and where those ancient mounds and entrenchments are most numerous, was generally covered with a young growth of timber, with here and there a cleared spot containing, perhaps, an acre or two of ground. These patches were supposed to have been cleared and tilled by the Indians, consequently were called Indian fields. But upon the other mounds, and within and on the ridges of the ancient fortifications, grew timber of gigantic size, by no means falling short in majesty to those upon the Mammoth mound, described in my last letter.

In 1772, my father returned to the state of Maryland, and in the following year took his wife to his new improvement. They were accompanied by several families, whose names I do not now recollect. This was a short time before colonel Ebenezer Zane and others settled at Wheeling. The war of 1774 imposed upon these new settlers the necessity of erecting forts, which was soon done both at Wheeling and Grave creek. My father had his fort built upon the same ground on which his cabin was erected. Nothing of importance occurred, that I remember, previous to his leaving his fort in 1777, except the murder of two boys. They were sent to hunt the cows, and had taken a north-eastern direction from the fort; when about two hundred and fifty yards off, and near the base of three of those ancient mounds, they were fired upon by Indians. One of the boys fell dead, the other took to flight and endeavored to secrete himself in a thicket of alder bushes that stood a short distance south of the place where they were attacked, but he was pursued by the Indians and killed.

In 1777, colonel Zane received a letter from his brother Isaac, who was near Sandusky and living with the Indians at the time, stating that three hundred Indians would strike the Ohio river somewhere between Wheeling and Limestone, but most likely at Wheeling. This intelligence soon reached Grave creek, and, deeming, it imprudent to undertake to defend the fort with their weak force, they immediately made preparation to leave the fort. Their heavy domestic articles, such as ploughs, hoes, axes, gears, pots, &e were hid in swamps and other secret places, and by four o'clock the same day they were on their march for Wheeling. My father proceeded with his family to the mouth of Pike run, some distance below Brownsville, on the Monongahela river. Samuel, his brother, remained at Wheeling, and was killed in the anticipated attack.

Soon after the attack at Wheeling, which occurred on the 2nd of September, captain Foreman and his men were surprised at the head of Grave creek Narrows; the account of which event, as given in the Border Warfare, differs somewhat from the way Robin Harkness, my uncle, related it, who was with captain Foreman at the time. I will, therefore, give it as related by him. A smoke was discovered down the river in the direction of the fort at Grave creek, which induced those at Wheeling to believe that the Indians had not yet left the country, and that the fort at Grave creek had been set on fire. In. order to make discoveries, on the 26th of September, captain Foreman with forty-five men set out for Grave creek. Having arrived there, and seeing the fort standing, and discovering no signs of the Indians, they returned. On arriving at the foot of the Narrows, a contention arose between captain Foreman and a man by the name of Lynn, who had been sent with him as a spy, about which road they should take, the river or ridge. Lynn urged the probability of the Indians having been on the opposite shore, and had more than likely seen them pass down; and the most likely place for waylaying them was in the Narrows, and therefore urged the necessity of going the ridge road. Foreman, being indisposed to take the counsel of Lynn, proceeded along the base of the hill. During the contention, Robin Harkness set upon a log, having very sore eyes at the time, and took no part in the dispute; but when captain Foreman started he followed him. Lynn, however, with seven or eight other frontiersmen, went the ridge road. Whilst passing along a narrow bottom at the head of the Narrows, the foremost of captain Foreman's men picked up some Indian trinkets, which immediately excited a suspicion that Indians were near, which caused a halt. Before them some five or six Indians stepped into the path and behind them about the same number, and at the same moment a fire was poured in upon them from a line of Indians under cover of the river bank, and not over fifteen steps from the white men. Those that escaped the first fire fled up the hill, but it being steep and difficult to climb they were exposed for some time to the fire of the Indians. Lynn and his comrades, hearing the fire when they were below them on the ridge, ran along until opposite. They then proceeded to the brink of the hill, where they saw a man ascending near them, who had got nearly to the top when he received a shot in his thigh, which broke it. Lynn and his comrades ran down and lifted him up, carried him over the hill and hid him under a cleft of rocks, and then proceeded to Wheeling. As Robin Harkness was climbing the hill near the top and pulling himself up by a bush, a ball struck it and knocked the bark off against him, which alarmed him, as he supposed it to be the ball; he however proceeded on and escaped unhurt. In this fatal ambuscade twenty-one of captain Foreman's party were killed and several much wounded; among the slain were captain Foreman and his two sons. The Indian force was never ascertained, but it was supposed to have been the same party that attacked the fort at Wheeling on the 2nd, which was supposed to have been upwards of three hundred strong. On the ensuing day, the inhabitants of the neighborhood of Wheeling, under the direction of colonel Zane, proceeded to the fatal spot to bury those who had fallen, and at the same time to get the man who was wounded and hid under the rocks, who was still alive and finally recovered.

My father remained at the mouth of Pike run about seven or eight years, and during his stay there I was born, April 3rd, 1779. When I was about four years old he returned to his place at Grave creek, and found it burned down and destroyed by the Indians. They were soon employed in searching for their hidden articles; but in consequence of their long absence and the hasty manner in which they were secreted, but few were found.

Not long after the return from Pike run, when I was about five years old, the men had left the cabin for some purpose, not now recollected, and my grandmother had gone a few steps from the cabin to get chips. While thus occupied, she was suddenly approached by two Indians that had been secreted in a brier thicket close by. One was an elderly man and the other apparently young. The eldest one laid his arm around her neck, saying, at the same time, "We are friendly Indians - we won't hurt you - we are hungry - we want something to eat." She told them to come into the cabin and she would give them something to eat. They did so; she prepared them their breakfasts, and when told to sit up to the table they did so, but did not use the knife and fork. After eating they commenced looking for something to carry away with them. The eldest discovered some flour that my father had brought from Monongahela. He had a blanket, but it was very old and much torn; seeing it would not do so well to carry flour in, he took from the wall a check apron, that hung with many other articles of clothing, and spread it on the floor to put the flour in. Grandmother violently snatched it up, saying, "Hut! hut! de'il the bit of that shall you have," which was articulated very strongly in her Irish tongue. He then took a skirt of a dress and was about to put the flour in it, when she took it from him in the same manner, which enraged the Indian and he gave her a violent shove, which sent her against the wall. She called out to John Carpenter (a boy about twelve or thirteen years old, who had skulked around the cabin and was looking through one of the cracks at what was going on within,) to go and tell the men to come. To this the Indian responded, "Don't tell the men to come - white man kill us," and was content with putting some flour in his blanket and went off peaceably.

The same Indians went on to Wheeling creek, about twelve or fifteen miles from the fort at Wheeling, and killed two men that were keeping batchelor's hall - one of their names was Randle Dearth, the other Bedford. The Indians took their guns and went off, and were not heard of until they had returned to Sandusky, where my father heard of them; and through the means of Isaac Zane, he wrote to them and thanked them for their kind treatment to his family.

Sometime after this event, colonel Zane received intelligence again that a large number of Indians would strike the Ohio somewhere between Maysville and Wheeling. On hearing this, the inhabitants of Grave creek met for the purpose of determining on what course to pursue for their safety, as they were in a poor state for defence, not having as yet rebuilt their fort. They determined to rebuild and defend it. Accordingly, their force was collected, which amounted to ten or twelve men, and in a few days a good fort was built, and they prepared for the anticipated attack; but the Indians crossed the Ohio near Maysville.

A year or two after this fort was rebuilt, another was built on the west side of the river, close to the bank, and directly opposite the Mammoth mound - it was called Dillie's fort, and another was erected about nine miles below Grave creek, on the east side of the river - this was called Baker's station. These improvements placed the inhabitants in a tolerably good state of defence; but by artful cunning the Indians made many depredations upon the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

Previous to the building of Dillie's fort, the inhabitants were in the habit of crossing the river to hunt. A Mr. Chapman, who had recently come to the country, had been on a hunting expedition in the fall, and left his horses on the opposite side during the winter, where they lived very sumptuously, as the pasture was good. Some time in the spring he sent his son John, in company with another lad, in quest of the horses. After having crossed the river, John ascended the bank and called them. Not hearing of them he advanced further back, and called the second time; after which he turned to come back, when he was shot down. The other lad took to flight and escaped to this side of the river unhurt.

About two hundred and fifty yards below Dillie's fort, on the bank of the river, lived a man by the name of Tate. The old man, arising very early one morning, went to the door and opened it: he was shot down by Indians; his daughter-in-law and grandson pulled him in and shut the door and barred it. The Indians endeavored to force it open; but by the exertions of the boy and woman, they were kept out for some time. They eventually fired through the door and. wounded the boy, who then left his post and hid behind some barrels. The woman also endeavored to escape out at the chimney, but whilst in the act was shot from the outside, and she fell in the fire. The boy seeing her condition, sprang from his hiding place and pulled her out, and retreated behind the barrels again. The Indians soon after entered the house and killed a girl, after their entrance. They scalped the three persons killed, and went behind the house, being on the opposite side from the fort. The boy (who had been wounded in the mouth) embraced the opportunity and escaped to the fort. The Indians, twelve or thirteen in number, remained behind the house until they had wiped and loaded their guns, and went off unmolested by the men in the fort, notwithstanding they had witnessed the whole transaction, and their strength nearly equal to that of the Indians.

Baker's station was next attacked by about three hundred Indians, with Simon Girty at their head. The whites had sufficient warning of their approach to enter the fort, and were prepared for its defence. When the Indians advanced along the hill-side, (near the base of which the fort stood,) Simon Girty called out to those in the fort to turn out and surrender. The voice of Girty was recognized by some of the men, who answered him by curses, telling him, if they did not leave before morning (this being between sundown and dark) they would come out and drive them from the country. The Indians, however, fired upon the fort; and perceiving that their shots would not take effect from their present position, they proceeded further up the hill, in order the more easily to discover those in the fort. From this position they engaged the fort all the next day and part of the next night. But the whites concealed themselves under cover of the walls so securely that no one sustained any injury. The Indians finding their efforts to be vain, abandoned the attack and went off without effecting their purpose. During the attack on the second night, a Mr. Downing left the fort to give the alarm to those at Grave creek, and, if possible, to get assistance. Some seven or eight men returned with Mr. Downing early next morning, but the Indians had left, and all was peaceable.

John Wetzel, the father of Lewis, and who migrated to this country with colonel Zane and others, had left some of the upper stations and was descending the Ohio for this fort, (Baker's) and was seen by those at the station, floating down the river in his canoe. They called to him; and as no answer was given, he was approached by some of the men, who found that he had been shot and was dead, still sitting upright on his seat with his head reclining forward. He was taken ashore and buried not far from the fort.

From this place, John Bean and another, person, as spies, crossed to the west side of the river. They had not proceeded far before they discovered two Indians, who saw them at the same time. Bean and his comrade retreated towards the river. Having arrived at the shore some time before the Indians, they were anxiously waiting an opportunity to give those at the fort signal for a craft, fearing to call aloud lest the Indians should, the more easily find them. Whilst thus secreted under the bank of the river, the Indians approached Bean and his comrade sprang into the river to escape to the other side by swimming. Bean received a slight wound in his thigh; his comrade was shot dead at the water's edge and scalped. Bean, by assistance from the fort, succeeded in reaching the other shore without further injury. Preparation was immediately made to go in pursuit of the Indians.

Those in the fort, fifteen or twenty in number, with captain Enochs at their head, crossed the river, and soon fell upon the trail of the two Indians. Their trail was pursued but a short distance, when it was discovered that they had fallen in with many others. Captain Enochs was induced to believe by the signs manifested, that the strength of the Indians was equal to his own. They, however, followed on the trail, which soon fell upon Captina creek and proceeded up it, apparently marching along in a careless and deliberate manner, which induced captain Enochs and his men to believe that the Indians had not suspected the pursuit. After following the trail to the distance of about two miles from the river, they came to an Indian field, or prairie, as called by some. They struck the field about midway and proceeded through it. Captain Enochs had arrived at about the centre, when a galling fire was opened upon them from the west side of the field, from which no injury was sustained. A retreat was ordered to the other side, where a position was gained equal to the one occupied by the Indians, when a warm skirmish ensued until captain Enochs fell, when his men precipitately retreated toward the fort at Grave creek.

In the retreat, John Baker received a shot in his thigh and fell. Downing was behind Baker at the time and running in the same direction; as he came up to Baker he caught him up and set him on his feet, but he could not stand. Downing, seeing that no further assistance could be rendered to Baker, and being closely pursued by the Indians, again took to flight. George McCollough, whilst retreating in the advance, sprained his ancle, which impeded his progress very much. Discovering that he must inevitably be caught if he did not seek a hiding place before discovered by the Indians, he turned on one side a few steps to a pool of water in a ravine, and sunk himself in it near the side of a log that lay there. Here he remained and distinctly heard those of his companions who were behind pass him, and soon after he heard the Indians also pass. When he heard the Indians pass back, he crept from the pool and proceeded on to Grave creek. During the same night they all arrived at the fort at Grave creek except Mr. McCollough, who arrived about ten o'clock the next day. In this ambuscade, captain Enochs and a Dutchman were killed on the ground, and Baker was found dead where seen by Downing. The number of Indians killed could not be ascertained, but signs where three had lain on the ground was distinctly seen. A sheaf of arrows, a bow, and a weasle skin full of red vermillion paint was also found upon the ground the next day when they had repaired there to bury the dead. It was discovered that the Indians had passed through the field to the opposite side, where they had turned short around, and marched back and secreted themselves near the edge of the woods, from whence the whites received the first fire. Shortly after this, two young men were taken prisoners on Turkey run,a branch of Wheeling creek, by three Indians who had stolen two or three horses in the neighborhood. The Indians set out with their prisoners for the Ohio river, intending to cross at the mouth of Captina creek. On their route thither they fell upon the Grave creek flat, at the north end, where Little Grave creek enters the flat. They followed the creek down about a mile and opposite an old cabin that stood some two hundred yards to the west, when John Carpenter commenced pounding corn, who had gone there for that purpose. The Indians, not doubting but the cabin was crowded with men, from the racket within, took alarm and fled to the other side of the creek, ascending the hill and passing down on its face until opposite the fort. They then ascended to the top of an elevated point, where they seated themselves and watched the manoeuvre in and about the fort for some time. The young men stated that the inmates of the fort were engaged in beating the drum and playing the fife at the time. They, however, came down the point and crossed Big Grave creek about two miles from the river; ascended the hill and proceeded on toward the mouth of Captina. Night came on them when they had got about five miles from Grave creek: they encamped that night on the hill near the head of Baker's run. After having built a fire and taken the necessary refreshment, a light was discovered at some distance on another point. After some conversation by the Indians, not understood by the young men, one of the Indians set out with his gun towards the light. He was gone sometime, when the two remaining Indians had some conversation, and a second one set out in the same direction.

Shortly after the two young men, being much fatigued, lay down to repose. Sometime in the night one of the young men awoke, and found that the cords that confined his hands had been taken off, and that the Indians had left the camp. He felt benumbed and giddy: he put his hand to his head, which he discovered to be bloody; and did not until then know that he had been tomahawked and scalped. He shook his brother, who muttered something not understood; he then took hold of him and set him on his feet, but he could not stand. Seeing he could not take his brother with him, he took a check apron that had been left by the Indians, tied up his own head, took a set of silver spoons that was also left, loosed a mare that stood hitched close by, got on her, and put off in the direction he had seen. the fort the day before. He had not gone far before he began to feel sick and faintish. Finding that he could not proceed further without repose, he alighted, hitched the mare, and went a few steps to a cleft of rocks, where he found a comfortable place to lie in: he went to sleep and slept till some time in the morning, when he got up and found that the mare had been loosed and taken away. He set out on foot, and arrived at the fort in the forenoon of the same day. There he remained until he recovered of his wounds, under the care of David Enlow, his half-brother, who had heard of his condition, and came to Grave creek for that purpose. It was with great difficulty the apron could be taken from his head, as it had become dry and adhered to the skull. Some men left the fort and went in quest of his brother, who they found where he had been tomahawked. The Indians had returned and tomahawked him again; he was buried, and the men returned to the fort.

When I was about thirteen or fourteen years of age, my principal duty was to hunt the cows, for which purpose I had a young pony of a bluish color, called Little Blue. One day the cows had left their usual range, and I could not succeed in finding them. Robert Carpenter, a young man twenty-one or twenty-two years of age, mounted his horse and set out in an easterly direction on their pursuit. About a mile from the fort he struck the north fork of Big Grave creek, and proceeded up it and found the cattle. He was on his return home along a path that led to the fort, when he discovered the foremost cow spring to one side as if frightened, continuing out of the path some distance. The others followed alternately in the same way, all appearing to be frightened at the one particular place. Carpenter had left the path to turn the cattle in, and on arriving opposite the place where they were frightened, he was fired upon, and at the same time two Indians stepped out of the weeds. Having no gun with him, and being in his shirt sleeves, the ball passed through his shirt near his back and hit his elbow joint, knocking him from his horse. He sprang to his feet and ran, but was soon overtaken by the Indian that had no gun, who ordered him to return back. Carpenter started back in a brisk trot and, being eager to escape, sprang off again; but in his flight his foot struck a log he was jumping, which tripped him down. The Indian bounded upon him, and kicked and cuffed him, again ordering him to return. Carpenter returned in a slow walk, at the same time slipping off his old shoes, which he found to be much in his way. When he returned to the place where he had been attacked, the other Indian had caught and got upon his horse. He was told by the Indians to catch a neighbor's horse that was close by, and they gave him some salt for that purpose. Carpenter had with him a small dog, that barked fiercely and frightened the horse they were endeavoring to catch, making him run off. The Indian on foot ran to head him, when Carpenter dropped the salt, taking care at the same time to grip the wounded arm close to his side, and. sprang off again to escape. The Indian on foot followed him, calling out, "stop! stop!" which only, if possible, had a tendency to increase his speed. Carpenter soon discovered that the voice behind him was getting further off, which animated him to greater agility. He soon reached a large patch of weeds, and springing in them he heard no more of the Indians. He continued on, taking care to pass through all the weeds he could on the way, and reached the fort. Carpenter's horse likewise returned to the fort in a few days.

The Indians almost constantly kept the inhabitants destitute of horses. My father, therefore, was driven to the necessity, at one time, to work a yoke of oxen singly among his corn. The Indians, having been in the neighborhood for the purpose of stealing horses, and seeing him at work with the oxen, said, when they returned to Sandusky, that the white men had no horses - they worked the cows. The treaty of 1795 closed these events, and afforded the whites an opportunity of extending the settlement, which was soon done; and thus, in the prospering condition of the country, a town was laid out upon the beautiful Grave creek flat, by Joseph Tomlinson, and called Elizabethtown. This town, at first laying out, extended over fifty or sixty acres of ground, being quite level, and covered ancient mounds, entrenchments, &c. It is a soil well adapted to the use of a people unacquainted with the use of tools. It is a very fine loam sand, with little or no stone in it, except those that lay upon its surface, which was found to be very numerous when first visited by the whites; and they were of such size as rendered them convenient weapons for battle or defence, and was supposed to have been carried there for that purpose. Flint arrow-points also lay very plentifully upon the surface of the ground. Many other stone, cut in various shapes, were found very abundant in early days.

A. B. Tomlinson Elizabethtown, Marshall Co., Va., March 8, 1843.

Exploration, Settlement and Conflict (1600-1799)