The Morgan Station Raid

Excerpt from "Pioneer Times in Montgomery County" (From a paper delivered to D.A.R. Chapter, Montgomery County, KY, by Lucien Beckner)

Started on Page 7

MORGAN'S STATION --

Within the borders of present Montgomery County (KY) occurred two major tragedies of the Indian wars.  One, Estill's defeat or the Battle of Little Mountain, occurred within the limits of the present Mt. Sterling.  It was a Revolutionary battle.  The other, the sack of Morgan's Station, was subsequent to the Revolution but a part of that Indian war which continued without interruption from 1774 to 1794, when Mad Anthony Wayne, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, crushed the hostile tribes and cowed their British allies and sponsors; twenty bloody years.

During the past century the spirit of man has so supplied itself with civilized tools, arms and methods that a group of savages today would be unable to cower a community or vanquish as few as a tenth of their own number, much less fight on equal terms.  But in the spring of 1793 Americans were living much as their ancestors had done for thousands of years past; log cabins, tallow candles, leather and home spun clothes, goose-quill pens, horses and saddles, log fires and their simple appointments, home grown foods and mud roads.  The stimuli of mental freedom guaranteed first in this world by the American Constitution, had no had time to create the educational systems and the inventive progress which it later did.  So, in order to understand our pioneer times, we must shut our eyes to the present and dream back into the primitive homes and little communities from which our present has grown.

RALPH MORGAN --

Ralph Morgan was born in Frederick County, Virginia, and came to Kentucky with his father and uncle in 1779, at which time he was nearly a grown lad.  They settled at Strode's Station, its builder having been their neighbor in the adjoining Virginia County of Berke (now in West Virginia).  The Morgans had gone first to Boonesborough, built by their cousin, Daniel Boon, whose mother was a sister of the father of Gen. Daniel Morgan of the Revolution.  While at Strode's, Ralph had quite an adventure in which he escaped by outrunning the Indians.  In the chase he had to throw away his gun and then got lost for several days and had to subsist on one squirrel.  When found he was so weak he had to be carried home.

JAMES WADE (12 CC 11-41)

James Wade tells Shane a very detaile dand interesting story of the settling of Morgan's and the adjacent territory and of the sack of that station.  His memory was so good that Shane, who had listened to hundreds of the pioneers try to recall their early days, comments upon it favorably.  He also furnished a map of the station so detailed that if desired, it can be located and rebuilt.

Morgan's Station was nearly east of Mt. Sterling on Slate Creek Wade says that Morgan ofered his settlers land at one dollar an acre and that the first who came unpacked their horses on February 10, 1789.  They were Tom Montgomery, Silas Hart, George Naylor, Robert Doughert, Peter and William Hanks, and a little later, James Dougles and John Holmes.

They planted their corn and appointed June 1, 1789, to rendevois at Strode's and return in a body to settle.  Fear of the Indians compelled them to come in a body.  Strode's was their best neighbor; in fact, that well stockaded station was the strength of the neighborhood for many years.  Hood's was a little closer but not so large and so well defended.

By June 3, three cabins had been built, all facing each other so that they could defend each other's doors.  Later more were built and they were stockaded.  The settlers had planted their corn a little late, so that early frosts hurt it, causing them all to leave save the brothers, John and James Wade.  James was employed by Morgan as a spy or scout to keep watch for Indians.  John Luster was induced to stay with them for awhile but got uneasy and soon left.

Other less pretentious settlements began to spring up.  Peter Harper and his nephew George Harper came in the spring of 1790 and settled about four miles from Morgan's, building cabins and planting corn.  Peter was half Shawnee, hsi mother having been captured and compelled to live with an Indian.  The fat that she named her Indian son for her white husband from whom she had been torn, shows how she must have suffered.  The Harpers settled at Boonesborough; but Peter went to Strode's when it was first settled, and was finally killed near his station in Montgomery, some say by Indians, but othes say by Col. James McMillan, because he mistook him for an Indian.  He never married and at the time of his death had been living with his mother on Howard's Upper Creek in Clark.

A week or two before Harper moved into his station, John Wade had been fired on by Indians and his clothing, knife, and rifle hit eleven times but his skin was unbroken.  He got safely into Morgan's Station.

During 1790 Morgan's seems to have been deserted or left to the care of the Wade brothers.  When they harvested their corn that fall, they found that the buffaloes, who would not eat corn, had rolled much of it down by wallowing in the ground made soft by tillage.  The bears, however, liked the sweet grain and had commenced to harvest it when the Wades came to the rescue.

On June 30, 1790, occurred the attack near Morgan's on the spies as told above.

On March 2, 1791 (?), John Wade was killed within two or three hundred yards of the Beaver Ford, which was about a mile below where Ile's Mill stood on Licking in the middle of the last century.  The Sunday after, a man named Reynolds was killed near Morgan's, being shot by a bullet from the gun which John Wade had carried when he was killed.

FORT'S STATION --

Peter Fort, in the fall of 1791, built his station about two miles northeast of Morgan's.  A man named McFARLAN AND HIS FAMILY LIVED THERE>  After the sack of Morgan's they stockaded this station and stood their ground.  They were joined by Ridgeway from Troutman's Station.

TROUTMAN'S STATION --

This last named station, about three-quaters of a mile from Fort's, was built by John Troutman, who immediately sold it to his brother Peter.  On the evening of the sack of Morgan's, Peter threw his plunder in a wagon, crossed Slate, reached up a steep hill, and did not stop until he reached the settlements at Mount Sterling.  That fall this station was reoccupied.

CRAIG AND ARTIS ARE SHOT AT --

In August, 1791, Robert Craig and William Artis were hunting about a mile and a half from Morgan's Station (near where Squire Crooks lived about the middle of the last century), when eight or ten Indians shot at them but did not hit them.  They ran and beat the Indians to Morgan's.  This was the last appearance of the Indians until the sack of Morgan's.

HANSFORD STATION --

Thomas Hansford, a Baptist preacher, built his station in the fall of 1792, half way between Fort's and Troutman's, about where a Mr. McIlvain lived when Shane interviewed Wade.   After the sack of Morgan's Hansford stockaded his place but soon evacuated it and moved to Clark and never returned.  However, his station was settled again in the fall.

PLEAKE'S SETTLEMENT --

John Pleake (whose full name  was Pleakenstader, or at least this was about as close as the old time clerks could come to it), who, with Abraham Becraft, had moved out to Morgan's about the end of 1791, left the next spring and made a settlement nearer Mt. Sterling.  Becraft stayed at Morgan's and with his family was involved in the disaster.

THE CAUSE OF THE TRAGEDY AT MORGAN'S --

In 1792 the country was so well settled and Indians had been quiet so long that all of the stockades at Morgan's had been cut down and used for firewood.  With its two defenses gone - the alertness of the people and their fort's walls - no wonder its capture was so easy.

Harry Martin, resident at Morgan's, was one of the most able and daring of the Indian fightes of this frontier; and a story current at the time told that the attack on Morgan's was the result of a feud between him and a Cherokee chieftain who wished to killhim.  The Cherokee's fellow tribesmen refusing to aid him, he went to Ohio and hired thugs from the ever-ready Shawnees with promises of easy plunder.

JOHN WADE, JR. TELLS THE STORY (12 CC 22-25) --

John Wade, Junior, the son of James was present and told Shane a full and vivid story of what happened.  He had stepped into Harry Martin's cabin at the Station and was collecting some money due him for corn, when the alarm was raised.  They at once ran out, Martin taking time to jerk down his gun from its hooks on the wall.  We will follow Wade's language from now on --

"The Becrafts and Andy Duncan had been out working in the corn fields, and were flying before the Indians - all except Abraham Becraft, the father, who, being pretty close tothe woods, jumped over the fence unperceived and made his escape.

"The moment we went out we saw the Indians; but Martin, thinking there were but two or three, ran with all his might in that direction, with his gun in hand, to relieve the pursued.... There were two blockhouses that I had expected them to go into, but all went with Joe Young into the one; and three was but one gun and that Joe Young had;  all the others were with the men who were gone away, having taken them to the fields.

"I now looked out through a porthole and saw an Indian, in advance, carrying a beautifully finished rifle in one hand, the polished brass on the butt glittering as it caught the rays of the sun, and in the other a shining tomahawk, brandishing over his head.  Suddenly he fell  on one knee and aimed a shot at Martin running straight ahead within fair range of him.  Some 10 or 15 steps behind followed 30 or 40 Indians, all spread out in a line and making towards the Station.  Martin, startled on seeing how many there were, had turned back and was running with the Becrafts and Duncan before them.  A fire as ineffectual from the white line followed that of the chief and the then raised the yell.  As soon as Young heard the firing and yells, he jerked open the door and ran out.  His wife caught him and clung to him but he loosed her hand and broke away.

"I saw Young pitch upon all fours.  I thought he was wounded or shot, but he had only stumbled.  As he went along, a bullet knocked his hat off but he picked it up and continued.  He and Andy Duncan got together and made their escape to Anderson's Station above Mt. Sterling.  They there represented that there were 150 or 200 Indians.

"I would have stayed in that blockhouse with that one gun; the burning of the others, I think, would not have set this on fire unless the wind happened to be unfavorable; they were some feet off.  Even then, Young said afterwards, that he had but little ammunition.  And from his frightful accounts of the number of Indians, speddy relief would have been afraid to come.  Abraham Becraft went to my father's and told themthat he had seen me jump into a big wheatfield.  That, as I jumped, the Indians fired a volley upon me and shot me; and that two Indians jumped over upon me.  This he said he saw.

"When I ran, I took round and went down to Troutman's Station below, to give the word lest the Indians should come upon them unawares.  When I got to Troutman's, they were out with their guns.  They gave me a horse and also dispatched the news to Hansford's.  From there I wheeled upon Stepstone Creek and gave the first news at Montgomery's Station, where I knew were some good soldiers; and then came round to my brother-in-law's, Pleake's on the way to my father's.  When I got there I found the whole country about there had gone to Mt. Sterling.  My mother had taken my rifle and understanding that I had been killed, would let no one have it.

"The men were gathering at my brother-in-law's, one and one-half miles from th Station.  I told them I thought there were about 30 Indians, making it as low as possible.  We went to the Station, getting there a little after dark; but all was burned down and the Indians were gone.  We went about very carefully and didn't at all go up to the fires.

"Women in those times wore nothing but a petticoat over their shift and a handkerchief around their necks.  Harry Martin came along in the juncture of general flight, took out his butcher knife and cut loose his wife's petticoat; then picked up the older child and pointing to the younger, told his wife to take it up and follow him.  They soon got over the hill and out of sight over Slate Creek.  When he got to Montgomery's Station next morning he ha to leave his wife out till he could go in and get clothes for her.  A little girl of Becraft's, that was running just before Harry Martin, was accidentally shot with a ball that was no doubt meant for him.  I saw her fall.  She seemed to wheel round to the left and then drop down.  When we afterwards went to her, we found her shot in the right hip, and suppose the force of the bullet turned her around.  The Allingtons wer then living at the Station and old Mrs. Allington, mother of Clarinda and of Jonathan and David, who lived a mile from the Station went along with Martin as far as she could go, and when overcome with fatigue, laid down till night overtook her and then made her way over to Pleake's.

"As I left the blockhouse ... I ran right across the fort with Baker but a step or two before me.  I am confident that I was the lst person that ran out.  The Indians, whom I thought had all gone, on one sie, had divided at the north side aout equally and come around so as nearly to meet us as we ran out.  Indeed, I wondered at the time that they hadn't killed some of themselves in pouring their volley upon us, they seemed to fire so carelessly.  Some were in abou ten steps of me, nd women and children were flying in every direction.  Baker was a big fat Dutchman.  It was impossible that he should have escaped; and I thought that, if I could get before him, it might possibly save me some.  Not ten steps beyond him the firing seemed to be sharper than ever.  I afterwards counted nine bullets that had been shot into a white oak stump from within 8 or 9 feet from the ground, which stump I had been desiring to throw between them and me.  Two Indians then pursued about a fourth of a mile to the Creek, but finding they were distanced, returned to the spoil.  Baker was only grazed low down on the shank, the ball glancing up the leg, tearing up the skin, till it shattered the knee.  The Indians killed allthe calves and even the geese.  My horse and my little crib of corn which stood beside the fort, were all that anyone saved.

"The next morning, April 2nd, by 8 or 9 o'clock, men were assembled, some all the wa from Bourbon, to the number of at least 150, and pursued under Capt. Enoch Smith, of the Militia.  When we had gotten about five miles, just above the head of Little Slate Creek, we found Mrs. Becraft and suckling child, 6 or 8 months old, lying, tomahawked.  It was a very plain case.  They had stripped her to her shift to make he walk faste.  They had walked her too hard the night before; and this morning, as she couldn't walk fast enough for them they had tomahawked her and her child before they had gone a quarter of a mile.

"About seven miles father, on Beaver Creek, they had massacred a son of Robert Craig, four or five years old.  The next nine (murdered) were about 5 miles farther.  Two of them that were left for dead survived:  Mrs. Robert Craig, seven days, and Betty Becraft, daughter of the woman first killed, who recovered entirely.  The othe seven that were killed were Mrs. Craig's infant boy; a little boy of Joe Young's; two children of Baker's; and the remaining three children of Abraham Becraft, between the girl killed at the Station and the infatn killed with his wife.  Twenty-five miles from the last place, the Indians appeared to be gaining on us and going so fast that Enoch Smith said it was not worth while to go any farther.  The horses were well loaded and made a deep track as they stamped in the ground; but, if a bed turned or a pack in the saddle, they didn't stop to straighten it up but just cut the cords and let it go.  They had carried off all the moveable plunder such asclothing, bed-ticks, etc. and , it so happened, got every horse creature that belonged to the place except mine, which was only accidentally there.  Martin's had been hitched up; Becraft's two were in the field, ingears; Andy Duncan's, Reuben Cofer's, Baker's, and Joe Young's happened to be about.  Of eight or nine they didn't leave one.

"We understood afterwards from those who returned that, before the last murder, five Indians, at different times, had slipped off singly each with a female prisoner, with arrangements to meet again on Little Sandy in two or three days.  By this ingenious, not to say humane, measure, they both effectually evaded pursuit and the necessity of a flght more rapid than the prisoners were capable of making.  The prisoners were Clarinda Allington; Baker's wife; a sister of Apsey Robinson; Baker's daughte; Joe Young's wife; and Rachael Becraft.  The women were kept on  Little Sandy 32 days before they were carried over the Ohio; the Indians waiting to catch horses that were running in the mountains.

"Sometimes the Indians left them all alone, when the others would have to watch Clarinda Allington, who wanted to leave them.  Said that she knew that river led down to the Ohio and that, keeping along it, she would get to Limestone.  But they were afraid of being killed themselves if they let her go.   Besides these women, there was only one other prisoner, Ben, a son of Abraham Becraft, about 14 years of age, who went on with the Indians.  They carried him with themselves on a horse and took him almost directly to Detroit, scarcely stopping at their towns.  There they sold him to a Scotchman, who put him in a store, gave him a pretty good slight at writing, and made such an improvement on him as you never saw put on anyone.  He had been gone only about 20 months when at Wayne's Treaty, they had to go get him and dress him up.  He came back with no Indian paint and he was nicely dressed. But he soon got to be a Becraft again.

"At Wayne's Treaty they could get no Indian who could give any account of such a girl as Baker's daughter and she never returned.  All the others were then given up except Clarinda Allington and they said her husband would have to gie her up, as she was in the Cherokee Nation.  Before Wayne's Treaty Joe Young had hunted everywhere for his wife.  Clarinda Allington stayed with the Cherokees six or seven years and until she had three children, John, Sally, and William, when she got permission to come and see her brothers.  Her husband, a Cherokee chieftain named Tuscarigo, sent a little negro boy along, 16 or 17 years old, to take care of the children.  She had promised to return to her Cherokee home, but refused, and left her children with he brothe Jacob and gave him the little negro boy to pay for raising them.  She again married, soon after she returned, a great deal worse husband than the Indian had made.  He moved to Ohio and there died; and she then married a more trifling man, if possible, than ever, so her brother David told me.

"She said her chief was not all Indian.  He had been in charge of the attack... Sometime after this an Indian came to Mt. Sterling and was about there drinking and reveling.  He said the Cherokee had died.  Clarinda was his only wife, and that John, as eldest son, was heir to his office as chief and to all that he had; and wanted to take him home with him.  But the Allingtons wouldn't consent to it.  This was while John was at William McCormick's, where he had been bound out to learn the tanning business.  His sister Sally had married a very good looking young man, a tanner, and when John had served his time out, hejoined with his brother-in-law and they moved and set themselves up in the tanning business on the Big Sandy.   John later went south to wind up his father's business, and I cannot find whether he remained with the Cherokees or not.

"William was bound to Col. Tom Dye Owings to learn the black-smith business and worked here at the Furnace; but ran away before his time was out and went to his brother's on the Big Sandy.  He complained that he wasn't learning anything at his trade and only made to do drudgery or other work."

In a statement given Shane by a Mrs. Pierce (who came as a child to Cutwright's Station in Clark, in the corner of that county where it joins Bourbon and Fayette), she says that seven Indians came to M. Sterling at the time of and election, and, that when they saw one of Clarissa Allington's Indian sons they called out, "Cherokee John." (You will notice that she calls her clarissa.)  Mrs. Pierce ws the daughter of John Reid, who first built a mill where Thatcher's Mill stood until recently, on Stoner, in Bourbon just over the Clark line.

With this I must close my overlong sketch of pioneer times in your interesting country.   No county in the State has had more history.  In the Civil War it was a strategic point where something was always happening.  I hope I have entertained you ladies of the D.A.R., but I more earnestly hope that my effort will provoke a more thorough study of yourpast and result in some issue of a history of Montgomery.

- Lucien Beckner. -


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Copyright, 2001.  Robert J Becraft, All Rights Reserved.