THE Indians were not allowed to come near the fort before sunrise nor after sunset. They wanted Henry back. They called him Hanu. Every morning for a long time they came and called "Hanu!" "Hanu!" The mother had to watch or he would have gone out and gone with them.
Henry liked to shoot and hunt and ride better than to be closed up in the fort. Finally they got tired coming and came and demanded his Indian suit and bow and arrow, and said, "he was now a free boy."
Mrs. Earnest worked to pay her ransom while at the fort, like many other women who were sold there. Mrs. Kauffman said "she would get a dollar for scrubbing a room for an officer." She was a very industrious woman and earned more than her daily allowance and saved some money. Besides the work, she made clothes for her boys, perhaps from cast off suits of officers, and, her own clothing. Her great granddaughter Sarah Kauffman of Imlertown, Bedford County has a large piece, part of a back breadth of one of her dresses yet. She gave me the patch from which this cut is made. The colors are darkish red, several shades, and light,--very good, heavy calico once, better than we get now. Mrs. Earnest bought this dress at Fort Detroit and brought it with her. This goods as a relic was handed down from daughter to daughter -from Eve to her daughter Mary, who escaped through the roof, from her to her daughter, Rachel Dibert Kauffman, and from her to Sarah.
It is about 123 years old.
As Mrs. Elder who was captured on the branch must have been in the fort at Detroit as a companion of Mrs. Earnest, I give her history from Jones' History of Juniata Valley in full. I was impressed when I read that Mrs. Elder was captured while visiting the sick.
I have known one family of her descendants all my life - George Elder's of Buffalo Mills, Pa. I think he was a grandson of this Mrs. Elder. I have known of Mrs. George Elder (Peggy Cessna) walking miles and visiting the sick and carrying things to the poor, and of her children doing similar deeds of kindness.
My aunt Agnes says, "Mrs. Elder heard her children coming singing through the woods to meet her just when she was captured. She told the Indians to hurry off for she heard the whites coming and thus saved her children from being killed, or captured with her."
Mrs. Elder was gone two years. The family have in their possession a Bible printed in 1748, presented to her by a British subject for her bravery when she was exchanged, also other relics. She was born in 1741.
I quote also from "Jones" about her husband, which does not agree with the sketches of the Elders in later histories, giving it that Mrs. Elder and her husband settled in Cumberland Valley Township in 1781.
"The first murder committed in Woodcock Valley during the Revolutionary struggle occurred at Coffey Run near the present residence of Mr. Entriken. The victim was a man named Elder, the husband of the woman mentioned in a preceding chapter as having been carried a captive to Detroit by the Indians. He was on his way home with Richard Shirley, when he was shot and scalped. This was in 1778."
"The country between the mouth of the Raystown Branch of the Juniata and what is called the Crossings was thinly settled prior to the Revolution. The land, and general appearance of things, did not strike
settlers very favorably; hence it may be assumed that it was only taken up about 1772, when the new-comers from the eastern counties had already taken up the choice tracts lying continious to the river .
The first depredation committed on the Branch, near its mouth, by the savages, occurred in May, 1780. A band of roving Indians were known to be in the country, as several robberies had occurred in Hartslog Valley, at houses belonging to men who with their families were forted either at Lytle's or at Huntingdon. A scout had ranged the entire frontier in search of these depredators, but could not find them. They were seen in Woodcock Valley, and information immediatley conveyed to the commander at the fort in Huntingdon. A scout was sent to Woodcock Valley, but got upon the wrong trail, as the Indians had crossed the Terrace Mountain, where, it appears, they divided into two parties. One of them went to the house of one Sanders, on the Branch; and just as the family were seating themselves at the table to eat dinner, five of the savages bounded in, and killed Sanders, his wife, and three children. An Englishman and his wife, whose names are not recollected, were in the house at the time, both of whom begged for their lives, declared they were loyal to the king, and would accompany them. The Indians agreed to take them along as prisoners, notwithstanding at that period scalps commanded nearly as high a price as prisoners. The Englishman and his wife were taken to Montreal.
The day following the above massacre, the other party of savages, who it appears had taken the country nearer the Juniata to range through, made their appearance at the house of a Mrs. Skelly, who was sick in
bed at the time, and her nearest neighbor, Mrs. Elder, being there on a visit,. It was a beautiful May-day Sabbath afternoon, when Mrs. Elder prepared to go home, and Felix Skelly, the son, agreed to accompany her part of the way. They had gone probably a hundred rods through a meadow, when Mrs. Elder noticed a savage, partly concealed behind some elder-bushes. She stopped suddenly, and told Felix, who had got a little in advance, to return, as there were Indians about. Skelly said he thought not, and advised her to come on, or it would be night before he could return. Mrs. Elder stood still, however, and soon saw the figure of the Indian so plainly as not to be mistaken, when she screamed to Felix to run, and, when in the act of turning around, a savage sprang from behind an elder-bush into the path, and seized her by the hair. Another seized Skelly, and in a moment the shout of victory went up, and three or more Indians came from their places of concealment. Finding themselves captives, and unable to remedy matters, they submitted with a good grace.
Fortunately for them, the warrior who had command of the party could speak a little English, and was a little more humane than the generality of savages of the day. He gave Mrs. Elder positive assurance that no harm should befall her. He would not, however, give the same assurance to Skelly. They took up their line of march over the Terrace Mountain, crossed over to the base of the Allegheny, avoiding as much as possible the white settlements, and crossed the mountain by the Kittanning Path.
Skelly, although but seventeen years of age, was an athletic fellow, well built, and weighed in the
neighborhood of one hundred and eighty pounds. The Indians, noticing his apparent strength, and in order probably to tire him, so that he would make no effort to escape, loaded him down with the plunder they had taken in Hartslog Valley. In addition to this, they found on the Allegheny Mountains some excellent wood for making bows and arrows, a quantity of which they cut and bound together, and compelled Skelly to carry. Mrs. Elder was obliged to carry a long-handled frying pan, which had been brought all the way from Germany by a Dunkard family, and had, in all probability, done service to three or four generations. Of course, Mrs. Elder, burdened with this alone, made no complaint.
At length the party reached an Indian town on the Allegheny River, where it was determined that a halt should take place in order to recruit. One of the Indians was sent forth to apprise the town of their coming; and on their entering the town they found a large number of savages drawn up in two lines about six feet apart, all armed with clubs or paddles. Skelly was relieved of his load and informed that the performance would open by his being compelled to run the gauntlet. Skelly, like a man without money at one o'clock who has a note to meet in bank before three, felt the importance and value of time; so, walking leisurely between the lines , he bounded off at a speed that would have done credit to a greyhound, and reached the far end without receiving more than one or two light blows. He was then exempt, as no prisoner was compelled to undergo the same punishment twice.
The Indians, disappointed by the fleetness of Skelly, expected to more than make up for it by pum-
melling Mrs. Elder; but in this they reckoned without their host. The word was given for her to start, but the warrior who had captured her demurred, and not from disinterested motives either, as will presently appear. His objections were overruled, and it was plainly intimated that she must conform to the custorn. Seeing no method of avoiding it, Mrs. Elder, armed with the long-handled pan, walked between the lines with a determined look. The first savage stooped to strike her, and in doing so his scant dress exposed his person, which Mrs. Elder saw, and anticipated his intention by dealing him a blow on the exposed part which sent him sprawling upon all fours. The chiefs who were looking on laughed immoderately, and the next four or five, intimidated by her heroism, did not attempt to raise their clubs. Another of them, determined to have a little fun, raised his club; but no sooner had he it fairly poised than she struck him upon the head with the frying pan in such a manner as in all likelihood made him see more stars than ever lit the "welkin dome." The Indians considered her an Amazon, and she passed through the lines without further molestation; but, as she afterward said, she "did it in a hurry."
The squaws, as soon as she was released, commenced pelting her with sand, pulling her hair, and offering her other indignities, which she would not put up with, and again had recourse to her formidable weapon - the long-handled pan. Lustily she plied it, right and left, until the squaws were right glad to get out of her reach.
In a day or two the line of march for Detroit was resumed, and for many weary days they plodded on
their way. After the first day's journey, the warrior who had captured Mrs. Elder commenced making love to her. Her comely person had smitten him; her courage had absolutely fascintated him, and he commenced wooing her in the most gentle manner. She had good sense enough to appear to lend a willing ear to his plaintive outpourings, and even went so far as to intimate that she would become his squaw on their arrival at Detroit. This music was of that kind which in reality had "charms to soothe the savage, " and matters progressed finely.
One night they encamped at a small Indian village on the bank of a stream in Ohio. Near the town was an old deserted mill, in the upper story of which Skelly and the rest of the male prisoners were placed and the door bolted. That evening the Indians had a grand dance and a drunken revel, which lasted until after midnight. When the revel ended, Skelly said to his comrades in captivity that he meant to escape if possible. He argued that if taken in the attempt he could only be killed, and he thought a cruel death by the savages would be his fate, at all events, at the end of the journey. They all commenced searching for some means of egress, but none offered, save a window. The sash was removed, when, on looking out into the clear moonlight, to their horror they discovered that they were immediately over a large body of water, which formed the mill dam, the distance to it being not less than sixty feet. They all started back but Skelly. He, it appears, had set his heart upon a determined effort to escape, and he stood for a while gazing upon the water beneath him. Every thing was quiet; not a breath of air stirring. The sheet of water lay like a
large mirror, reflecting the pale rays of the moon. In a minute Skelly formed the desperate determination of jumping out of the mill-window.
"Boys," whispered he, "I am going to jump. The chances are against me; I may be killed by the fall, recaptured by the savages and killed, or starve before I reach a human habitation; but then I may escape, and, if I do, I will see my poor mother, if she is still alive, in less than ten days. With me, it is freedom from this captivity now, or death." So saying, be sprang from the window-sill, and before the affrighted prisoners had time to shrink, they heard the heavy plunge of Skelley into the mill-dam. They hastened to the window, and in an instant saw him emerge from the water unharmed, shake himself like a spaniel, and disappear in the shadow of some tall trees. The wary savage sentinels, a few minutes after the plunge, came down to ascertain the noise, but Skelly had already escaped. They looked up at the window, concludedthat the prisoners had amused themselves by throwing something out, and returned to their posts.
The sufferings of Skelly were probably among the most extraordinary ever endured by any mortal man. He supposed that he must have walked at least forty miles before he stopped to rest. He was in a dense forest, and without food. The morning was hazy, and the sun did not make its appearance until about ten o'clock, when, to his dismay, he found he was bearing nearly due south, which would lead him right into the heart of a hostile savage country. After resting a short time, he again started on his way, shaping his course by the sun northeast, avoiding all places which bore any re-
semblance to an Indian trail. That night was one that he vividly remembered the balance of his life. As soon as it was dark, the cowardly wolves that kept out of sight during the day commenced howling, and soon got upon his track. The fearful proximity of the ravenous beasts, and he without even so much as a knife to defend himself, drove him almost to dispair, when he discovered a sort of a cave formed by a projecting rock. This evidently was a wolf's den. The hole was quite small, but he forced his body through it, and closed the aperture by rolling a heavy stone against it. Soon the wolves came, and the hungry pack, like a grand chorus of demons, kept up their infernal noise all night. To add to the horrors of his situation, he began to feel the pangs of both hunger and thirst. With the break of day came relief, for his cowardly assailants fled at dawn. He ventured out of the den, and soon resolved to keep on the lowlands. After digging up some roots, which he ate, and refreshing himself at a rivulet, be traveled on until after nightfall, when he came upon the very edge of a precipice, took a step, and fell among five Indians sitting around the embers of a fire. Uninjured by the fall, he sprang to his feet, bounded off in the darkness before the Indians could recover from their surprise, and made good his escape.
In this way he travelled on, enduring the most excruciating pains from hunger and fatigue, until the fourth day, when he struck the Allegheny River in sight of Fort Pitt; at which place he recruited for a week, and then returned home by way of Bedford, in company with a body of troops marching east.
His return created unusual gladness and great rejoicing, for his immediate friends mourned him as one dead.
Mrs. Elder gave a very interesting narrative on her return, although she did not share in the sufferings of Skelly. She was taken to Detroit, where she lived in the British garrison in the capacity of a cook. From there she was taken to Montreal and exchanged, and reached home by way of Philadelphia.
Felix Skelly afterward moved to the neighborhood of Wilmore, in Cambria County, where he lived a long time, and died full of years and honor."
While gathering data for this story, I spent the winter of 1907 in Michigan at the home of my sister, near Grand Rapids. I saw much in their papers about the Michigan Historical Society, and especially about Detroit.. I wrote to one of their members about the old fort. I received the following:
THE PUBLIC LIBRARY.
Detroit, Mich., March 2d, 1907.
DEAR MRS. REPLOGLE:
Your inquiry about old Fort Lemoult, afterward named by the Americans Fort Shelby has come into my hands. This old fort was demolished more than 60 years ago. The city post-office now stands on its site. In excavating for the foundation of the post-office the base of the old flag staff was dug up and preserved, with a suitable inscription; it is now in the city museum.
There is no book devoted to a history of the fort, but there are accounts of it in various histories of the
city and in the volumes of the Pioneer Collection.
Shortly after the English took possession of Detroit in
1760 they abandoned the old French fort on the river
front and built the new one back on the hill beyond the
little creek, Savoyard. This fort the British continued
to occupy until they surrendered it to the United States
in 1796. During the Revolution the British forces at
Detroit led the Indians to harrass the white settlements
in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia and many
prisoners were captured by them and taken to Detroit.
Quite a number of these prisoners continued to live at
Detroit or vicinity after their release. Some visited
their old homes and then came back again bringing
their families, whose descendants are still living in
southeastern Michigan. I have not seen a picture of
old Fort Lemoult or Shelby and doubt very much
whether there is any such in existe nce.
Very Respectfully yours,
HENRY M. UTLEY, City Librarian.