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1882 History - Chapter 2

While the war of 1812 was in progress, but few emigrants came to the county, and these settled in the vicinity of the forts, or stations, on account of the hostile incursions of the savages. Occasionally a settler erected his cabin, and made a “clearing” at quite a distance from the station, remaining there with his family as long as there were no signs of Indians about, but as soon as they made their appearance in the neighborhood, e would remove, with all his responsibilities and household goods, into the fort for safety, returning home when the danger had passed. Families thus situated moved to and from the forts, perhaps, several times in a year, and, while living at their homes, were in constant danger of being attacked by Indians; yet they appeared contented, and in the enjoyment of more happiness than seems possible, under the circumstances.

There was a man named COX, who, in spite of the warnings and entreaties of others, persisted in staying at home instead of coming with his family, into Hill’s Station, the savages being then encamped on Indian Creek, four miles nearly west from Greenville. His house was near Beaver Creek, a little below where Dudleyville is now situated, and several miles from the station, but he insisted there was no danger. As a result, however, of his imprudence, the Indians attacked his house one day during his absence, stole several articles of value, captured his daughter, Sally COX, and carried her off with them. Intelligence of this melancholy event reached the station in a few hours. A party of men was instantly raised, the savages pursued, overtaken, and the girl rescued and brought back safe to her parents, all within the space of twenty-four hours from the time of her capture. After this occurrence, COX was willing to remove his family to the fort, especially in times of imminent danger, but, notwithstanding the remonstrances of others, he would go out to his house once or twice a week, “to see how things were getting along.” On one of these occasions he was accompanied by his son, a small boy, both being on horseback.

When they came within a short distance of his residence, he sent the boy to water their horses at the creek, while he proceeded on foot to the house. As he approached he noticed Indian tracks, which aroused his suspicions, but being a brave man he went on, almost fearing to enter. The savages were concealed in the house, standing on both sides of the door with rifles cocked and presented, ready to shoot him the moment he entered. He came up to the door, and on opening it, was shot by an Indian and instantly killed. They then ran down to the creek where the boy was, and gave him to understand they would not hurt him, that they only wanted the horses. Being greatly frightened he endeavored to ride toward them, or hold the horses so that they could come near enough to take hold of the bridles, but the poor animals were so alarmed at the Indians he could not manage them. Hence, quite a struggle ensued; the Indians trying to get to the horses and they struggling away from them, while the boy was using every exertion to hold them, no doubt thinking his life depended on his efforts to do so. In this manner they gradually got farther from the creek, when, suddenly emerging into the prairie, the boy thought to escape, and started off at a rapid pace. The Indians perceiving this, one of them leveled his gun

[Page 21] and shot the little fellow off his horse as he ran. The house in which his tragedy occurred was standing but a few years since.

The particulars of the murder of COX and his son were related by the Indians themselves, at the treaty made near the close of the war. He was a large, powerful man, an experienced Indian fighter, and had sent many a “brave” to the “happy hunting grounds.” Had he certainly known they were concealed in the house, it would have cost them many lives to have taken his, for he was considered a match for two or three Indians at any time. Most of them knew him, and acknowledged that, as they watched through a small crevice in the house, and perceived, from his looks and actions, that he had discovered their tracks, and yet was boldly approaching the door, they felt afraid of him, although ten to one in numbers.

An incident occurred at Jones’ Fort, about the time COX was killed, which is of interest in this connection. At a little distance from it stood a large elm tree, which at the height of several feet separated into three prongs, all branching out at the same distance from the ground. Each of these being very large afforded sufficient shelter to conceal a man standing in the space thus formed. An Indian, observing this, conceived the idea of climbing up into the ambuscade thus furnished and shooting at persons inside the fort. From this elevated position, he could see over the wall and fire on the people, which was impossible from the ground. One evening, near sunset, he ascended the tree and took his station; soon the report of a rifle was heard and one of the men in the fort fell dead. This was so sudden and unexpected that no one could tell from whence the firing proceeded, though all were satisfied it came from an Indian concealed somewhere outside the inclosure. This was repeated on several evenings until four or five white men had been shot down without any one being able to find out the whereabouts of the murderer. He was finally discovered, however, in his hiding place, and shot by a man watching for him.

Another attack by Indians took place at Hill’s Station in the latter part of August, 1814. As there have been several versions of this fight already published it is but proper to mention that the following statement is in no particular derived from any of them, as they are not entirely correct. It coincides with them, however, in many of its details. It is obtained direct from persons now living who had the scene described to them by those residing in the station at the time of its occurrence, besides from the statement of the hero of the conflict himself, and may be considered reliable.

A few rangers, under the command of Maj. JOURNEY, were stationed at the station in order to afford the settlers better protection against the savages. Benjamin HENSON, a resident in the station, while out hunting one day, saw an Indian, which circumstance he related on his return in the evening, adding that he believed they were in danger of an attack. This story was discredited by many, both officers and men, who believed he had manufactured the whole thing merely to get up an excitement and alarm. On the evening of the day in question some of the women found grains of parched corn scattered about the spring, situated a little distance form the station, and as none of the white people had been using any at that time, this was conclusive evidence that the "red skins” were about.

Strange as it may seem, however, some of the rangers still refused to believe that there was any danger. One Lieut. BOUCHER, on hearing HENSON’s statement, called him a liar to his face, and treated with contempt every suggestion of danger.

After disputing and quarreling awhile over the matter, they decided to send out a squad of men on the following day to look for Indians

[Page 22] Next morning Maj. JOURNEY started out, taking all the men with him, thus leaving the fort in a defenseless condition, the gates all wide open and the women milking the cows, apparently unconscious of danger. The party of rangers proceeded along a narrow path leading down a narrow ravine, when they were suddenly fired upon by a large party of Indians, concealed behind trees and in the grass on both sides of the path. Maj. JOURNEY, Capt. GROTZ and two of the privates, - Lynne and William PRUITT, were instantly killed. The fifth man, - Thomas HIGGINS, was shot in the thigh and fell from his horse, which ran off. The others, seeing danger ahead, left the path immediately, scattering in different directions and taking positions at some distance from each other, managed to engage the enemy as best they could. Having seen HIGGINS fall from his horse with the other four, they supposed him killed also and took no further notice of him at that time. There was a small field of corn close to the fort, on the north side, in which several Indians had concealed themselves, for when the firing commenced the women saw three or four run out of this field and pass round to the scene of conflict. They had doubtless been watching the whites, intending to commit some depredation as soon as the men all left. Immediately after HIGGINS fell from his horse he was attacked by three Indians armed only with spears, evidently believing him entirely within their power. His wound had disabled him so that it was with difficulty he could stand without support, but the knowledge that his life was at stake seemed to give him super-human strength. Cocking his rifle, he presented it whenever one approached nearer than the others, as if intending to shoot, determined, however, not to do so until he could make sure of his game. The Indians, being uncertain whether his gun was loaded or not, were afraid to rush on him. Thus he held them at bay for a short time; but they kept circling round trying to get on both sides of him, each time coming a little closer and closer, whirling about in various ways or falling down flat in the grass and weeds whenever he seemed likely to fire. Occasionally one gave him a thrust with his spear, when they would all laugh to see him dodge and writhe with the pain, but were afraid to advance near enough to take hold of him. He still reserved his fire knowing that his only chance for life was to kill one “dead” at the first and only shot he would get. He said that one of them was the “biggest Injun” he ever saw, and he thought if he could only hill him first his chance for life would be much better. At length feeling himself growing weaker, and receiving a severe wound in the mouth and jaw from the spear of the largest Indian, who also was the boldest, HIGGINS leveled his rifle at him as he pulled the spear from the wound and fired, killing him dead on the spot.

The other two, knowing that his gun was discharged, now advanced on him without fear. His success in killing the most formidable one inspired him with fresh courage, and not having time to reload his rifle, he seized it by the muzzle, and as they rushed upon him with loud and triumphant yells, struck the foremost one with all his power over the head, knocking out his brains and killing him immediately. The force of the blow broke the gun off at the breach and the barrel flew out of his hands to some distance in the thick grass.

He now fell exhausted, and being unable to rise to his feet, commenced crawling toward the gun-barrel, his only means of defense, in order to obtain it before the remaining Indian, who had also started to search for it. The savage succeeded in getting it first, and with a tremendous yell, came slowly up in front of him, brandishing the weapon in his hands, as if to give him all the anguish possible, before striking the final blow. Having reached a small tree, he raised himself by means of it to a

[Page 23] standing position, leaning back against it for support, feeling that his time had come when, to his great joy, he beheld two white men – William PURSLEY and David WHITE – on horseback, coming to his rescue. They were coming up behind the Indian, who was too much elated with the idea of capturing his victim to observe them. As soon as HIGGINS saw them he exclaimed, “Pursley, for God’s sake, don’t let him kill me.”

The Indian still believing no one near, and that this was a cry of despair, laughed tauntingly in his face, and mimickingly repeated his cry in bad English. The words had scarcely passed his lips when the men were upon him with rifles leveled. Instantaneously he commenced a series of the most vigorous and ludicrous gymnastic exercises, but they finally succeeded in killing him.

A portion of this fight was witnessed by the women in the fort, and one of them – Mrs. WHITE – when she saw HIGGINS likely to be overpowered, seized a gun, mounted a horse, and started to his assistance. She had not proceeded far, however, when, perceiving PURSLEY and her husband hastening to his relief, she returned to the fort. HIGGINS was taken to the station, where his wounds were dressed and cared for until his recovery. He died, a few years since, in Fayette County, having been a perfect specimen of a frontier man in his day. He was once assistant door-keeper of the House of Representatives of Illinois.


Emigrants came to the country but slowly, so that by the year 1816, Bond County numbered not over twenty-five dwelling-houses, if their pole cabins could be called dwelling-houses. ...

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Transcribed by Norma Hass from the History of Bond and Montgomery Counties Illinois, published in 1882, Part I, pages 20-24.

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