Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stephen Stateler - Third of Three Articles

Part Three of Three.  The following was taken from the Hartford Herald, published November 6, 1907.




Graphic Narrative of Dangerous
Travel and Encounters With Indians

(Continued from last week)

            I had been at Mr. Rhoad’s about a week when his son asked me to go into the woods with him to hunt the horses, and 1 readily agreed to do so, but insisted on having a gun. His mother forbade him loaning me the gun and directed him to take the gun away from me. I entreated her to let me have it, and was about to surrender it when her husband, coming up, interfered and told me to take the gun with me. I merely mention this fact as one of many instances of the doubtful and suspicious relation that I bore to the people of the place. The young man and I went out into the woods. The good old Dutch lady who had objected to my having the gun was that day the victim of serious alarms concerning the safety of her son and was greatly relieved in the evening when we returned home safe and loaded with wild game. Her suspicions against me were completely dissipated next morning when she discovered me reading a Dutch almanac, and said to me, “Is it possible that you can read Dutch?”

            I told her that my parents were Dutch, and that I understood the language. This clever old lady afterwards treated me with marked kindness and respect, which amply repaid me for any injury I sustained from her unjust suspicions.

            Barnett’s station was situated about two miles north of Hartford, and the people of both places were continually harassed by slight depredations from the Indians. It had been rumored that the Indians meditated an attack upon the station, and in April, 1790, they did assail Barnett’s station and killed two children of John Anderson and wounded Mrs. Anderson severely. She came very near being killed. A large powerful Indian had hold of her and was attempting to scalp her with a sword, when John Miller came to her rescue and when within a few steps raised his rifle and snapped it at the Indian who dropped his sword and fled but took with him the scalp of Mrs. Anderson. This lady afterward recovered and lived ten or twelve years afterwards. The Indians in this foray captured and carried off with them Hannah Barnett, a daughter of Col. Joseph Barnett, then a lovely young girl about ten years of age. They conveyed her across the Ohio river into Indiana territory. She was ransomed from the Indians by her brother- in-law, Mr. Robert Baird, who bargained with a trader to have her brought in to a post opposite Louisville, and she was accordingly rescued in the month of October following.

            In August of the same year I had the good fortune to recover my gun, which I did under the following circumstances: A company of about fifteen persons, myself among the number, had been raised in Hartford and Vienna to pursue some Indians. We traced them to “Robertson’s Lick” (since called Highland Lick) and abandoned the pursuit. We were about to return when I prevailed on two of the company, Dudley Miller and Moses Springton, to accompany mo to see if I could find it. We reached the river opposite and near to the spot where I had lost it. Miller stood guard whilst Springton and I swam across the Ohio. In a short time I found the place where I camped and upon examination I was satisfied that the tree to which I had tied my gun was now distant about twenty or thirty yards from the water. In searching down stream a short distance from this tree, Springton raised the gun up before him and cried, “Here she is.” It took a great deal of scouring and cleaning to get the rust off, but that same old gun killed many a deer afterwards. Upon my return to Hartford I exhibited my gun with more heartfelt satisfaction than can well be imagined at this day. Many persons about Hartford never had believed the account of my adventures as I had detailed them, but when I appeared with my gun, found as it had been by Springton, at the very spot I had so often described, and bearing evident marks of the truth of my assertion, I was at once acquitted of all suspicions in the minds of the most incredulous; and now for upwards of half a century have I lived near this same town of Hartford and endeavored to maintain the same character for truth and honesty which the appearance of my gun at that time enabled me to attain.

            In the same month, August, 1790, the Indians attacked three men who were hunting near the mouth of Green river. The men were camping out when they were attacked. Two of the men Mcllmurray and Faith, were killed; the third, Martin Vannada was taken prisoner. Taking their prisoner with them they crossed the Ohio river and traveled several days toward the North. They came upon what the Indians considered the signs and tracks of white men and in order not to be impeded by their prisoner they determined to leave him. I have frequently heard Vannada relate that terrible adventure.

            The Indians determined to leave him but at the same time to secure him so that he could not escape before their return. They spread down a blanket at the foot of a tree. With a thong of raw hides they pinioned his hands behind him to the tree, and another they tied around his neck and around the tree, wrapping it and twisting it securely both before and behind fastening his head back close to the tree, also lashing his feet together, and in this secure position they left him. Vannada immediately commenced his efforts to extricate himself. In the course of an hour he felt the knot which bound his hands behind the tree to loosen. He soon had his hands loose. Drawing his feet up he untied the thong which bound them but now his task seemed only begun. He could not reach around the tree to where the knot was, and it was so securely tied and twisted between his neck and the tree that he could not slip it, and as he moved around himself the knots would also move so as to be exactly on the other side of the tree from him and always out of his reach; nor could he slip his head through and in no possible way could he get to use his teeth upon it. Vannada used to say that he felt his teeth “on edge,” so great was his desire to get a good gnaw at that rope; he had no knife to cut it with. He then sincerely regretted that he had made any attempt to rescue himself, believing that when the Indians returned and discovered it they would murder him.

            In this dilemma it occurred to him that his vest had metal buttons on it. He pulled one of them off and with his teeth broke it in two. With the rough edge of this piece of button he succeeded finally in fretting, rather than cutting the cord, which bound his neck. He finally released himself and was once more free. But in such a condition! He was in a wild wilderness hundreds of miles from any human habitation that he knew of, with no clothes save his pants, vest shirt and moccasins, nothing to eat, no gun, no ammunition, no knife, not oven a flint to strike fire with. He had his choice between certain death when the Indians returned and his chances for life in the wilderness. He chose the latter alternative, and started with the determination to reach his friends at Hartford, or die on the way. No human being ever suffered more than did Vannada before he reached Hartford, which he did on the evening of the ninth day after his escape. During this time he subsisted entirely upon berries, roots, nuts, worms, snails and such things as he could find in the woods. For the last day or two he several times despaired of ever reaching his destination, and two or three times laid himself down to die. He was almost famished, and his intimate friends scarcely recognized him. He said that he would stop to rest, or rather forced by the gnawing of his ravenous appetite, would stop to look at a squirrel or a deer and imagine in what way it was best to cook them, and think of times past when he had more than he could eat. He spent whole days in picturing to himself visions of fine dinners, nice delicacies, etc. to eat. He could think of nothing else and when on the ninth day he staggered into Hartford he first asked for something to eat. He was treated very kindly by the people there and his appetite was relieved by small and repeated supplies of soup and gruel at first, and afterwards by meat and bread. It was more than a week before he was allowed to pursue his journey toward home, where he found his distressed family and friends mourning his loss, as they had heard of his capture and of the death of his companions, and they had given up all hopes of ever seeing him again. Vannada, however, lived many years afterward, and was an intimate acquaintance and friend of mine.

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