Copied from Harbaugh's 1909 History
Miami County Ohio
THRILLING INCIDENTS OF
- Contrast of Past and Present - Emigrant
- Encounters with Wild Animals - Pioneer
- England Pays Bounty on Scalps - Indian
- Adoptions into the Tribes - The
Moffit Boys - Col. Johnston -
During the settling up of the county and the region
adjacent there occurred many thrilling incidents which have come down to
us in personal narratives and otherwise. If all were to be described, many
pages would be taken up, but some of these events are worthy of telling
in a work of this nature. The traveler of today, seated in the comfortable
railroad coach, speeding away at the rate of fifty miles an hour, along
the banks of broad rivers and the shores of inland seas, upon whose waters
float the palatial steamer, and the many white winged crafts of commerce;
through a country made up of highly cultivated farms and beautiful rural
homes, where contentment and thrift prevail, a country studded with flourishing
towns and populous cities, where the smoke is seen curling from the towering
chimney tops of the great workshops and factories, and hundreds of spires
gleam in the sunshine finds it difficult to realize that within the space
of one hundred years these ships of trade and pleasure have taken the place
of the bark canoe of the red man, and these mansions stand upon the spot
where stood the Indian wigwam; and that where now burns the fires of forge
and furnace, blazed the council fires of the painted sachem and his dusky
braves, around which they danced the wild war dance, their tomahawks glittering
in the lurid light and their demoniacal shouts reverberating throughout
the silent and unbroken forests; and that here occurred the gigantic struggle
of the pioneer, with both the Wild beast and the Indian, culminating in
the successful contest Of white man's skill with Indian cunning, civilization
There is nothing to be found in the annals of chivalry to equal the
acts of heroism performed by these people in braving the dangers that beset
them on every hand in the accomplishment of the great work they had undertaken.
And now before the obliterating hand of time erases from the tablets of
our memories the recollection of those perilous times, I shall endeavor
to perpetuate the heroic records of the pioneers. It must be remembered
that the first settlers of this region entered it poorly equipped for the
struggle before them. The lumbering wagon had transported across the mountains
their scanty belongings. They were not rich in this world's goods and theirs
were the annals of the poor. Yet they brought from beyond the barriers
of the Alleghenies healthy bodies and strong wills. They knew what lay
before them. They knew that the wilderness of Ohio, vast in extent and
practically unknown, a veritable terra incognita, stood ready not only
to welcome, but to bury the within its vastness.
Many of these people had left more comforts than
they could expect to find in the new land. Babes in arms were transported
from the newly formed states into the Miami wilderness, their lullabies
often being the long, lone howl of the wolf or the grinding of the wheels
of the pioneer wagon against the rocks that fringed the forest trail. No
doubt there were adventures a-plenty between the old home and the new,
but history is silent as to this. The loan watches of the camp fires on
the way, the attacks by the wolf and wildcat, the battle against the forest
storm and many other perils to keep the immigrants on the qui vive. The
smaller children rode in the wagons, while the larger ones trampled along
side. Thus the long and lonesome journey was made. Not infrequently a child
sickened and died on the way.
Then came the saddest and most pathetic part of the trip. The little
body was habited for the grave by the sorrowing mother, a rude coffin of
bark was furnished by loving hands and a grave made in the forest. Sometimes
the grave was made in the trail and after the simple funeral the wagons
were driven over it to obliterate all traces from the eye of the Indian
and the scent of the wild beast. Often on these mournful occasions the
comforting words of the Burial Service were read: "I am the resurrection
and the life," and a hymn sometimes floated heavenward from the grave
of the little one. The long trail westward those days were actually doted
with little mounds. The boughs of the forests waved mournfully over them,
and when spring came wild flowers bloomed profusely over them. One can
imagine the grief of the pioneer mother when she turned from the grave
of her child, knowing that never again would she drop a tear upon it, for
the new home beckoned her on and on, and trials almost as great as the
separation lurked among the forests of The Miami.
Not all the adventures of the pioneer families were
had with Indians. Many of them were encounters with wild beasts, the bear,
the wolf and the ferocious wildcat. Bears, panthers and wolves were quite
numerous. The latter at times were very troublesome and dangerous. Collecting
in large packs, they would at night roam the forests throughout the settlements.
Stock of all kinds had to be kept housed at night during the winter seasons.
Bears, when hard pressed for food, would approach the settlements looking
for a stray pig or calf. I trust I may be permitted
to quote from the narrative of an early settler who talks in graphic language
an adventure which overtook him when he was a boy within the limits of
"One of the many duties that devolved upon me after the death of
my father" he says, "was that of providing meat for the family,
which I did with my rifle. I was then about sixteen. I was a good marksman
and the country abounded in all kinds of game. I never had to go far to
get a deer - have often killed them in sight of the house. I remember of
having one morning shot a large buck from the doorstep. Wild turkeys were
numerous. We often caught them in large numbers, in pens, or traps, made
by scooping a large hole in the ground, over which we built a covering
by laying rails across each other, as in building a log cabin, or as the
boys build their quail traps, then digging a trench or sloping passageway
from the surface outside down into the pit. In this passageway and pit
grains of corn were scattered, which led them down into the trap. Once
in, they were perfectly secure, for a turkey never looks down, only when
feeding. Whole flocks were often caught in this way.
"One morning, finding one of the beegums overturned and rifled
of its contents, I saw at once that a bear had been there and concluded
that he would be back the next night for more honey. That night I loaded
an old musket with several bullets to make sure work of it. I did not have
long to wait, for about ten o'clock bruin made his appearance. I saw him
sniffing about the hives which were only a few yards from the house. It
was pretty dark but I could distinguish him very well from a window, or
rather an opening covered with a curtain (we had no glass windows until
long after that). While my brother held back the curtain I took deliberate
aim and let him have it. When the smoke cleared away we saw a large black
ball bouncing up and down on the grass for several minutes, when it became
quiet. On approaching we found the bear stretched out at full length, dead.
It was the largest and fattest bear I ever saw. We now had plenty of meat
to do us for a long time.
"During the winter following the death of my father an incident
occurred which to me proved a thrilling adventure, and came very near winding
up my earthly career. As it will serve to show the dangers to which we
were exposed, I will tell it. One evening mother informed me that our stock
of corn meal was about exhausted. "I had hoped" said she "that
it would hold out until the heavy snow had passed away. You and Charley
had better shell enough corn to fill two sacks, which will do us until
winter is over. This you can take to mill on horseback." "All
right" said I. Brother and myself went to work, and soon had the corn
shelled. Bright and early the next morning, throwing the bag of corn across
'Old Doll's' back, with a kiss and a 'God protect you,' from mother, I
started on my lonesome journey. The mill was one of the few in the Spring
Creek region, and not a house on the entire way, the route being the usual
blazed one. The snow was deep and the weather intensely cold. My clothing
was light, being made of linsey- woolsey. As a substitute for an overcoat,
mother had wrapped her old woolen shawl about my shoulders. "So slow
was my journey that it was late when I reached the mill, where I found
several persons ahead of me, waiting for their grist's. It being a horse
mill and a poor one at that, I found that I would not be able to get back
for two days. This to me was a great disappointment, as I had expected
to return the next day. I knew mother was expecting me. After I had looked
after the comforts of the old mare and eaten my lunch, I turned in for
the night with the others, three of who were boys near my own age - boys
generally had to do the milling. Our bed was the bare earth, the ground
floor of the mill, in front of a large fireplace. Whoever awoke in the
night was expected to look after the fire. The lunch I had brought with
me consisted of corn dodgers and boiled venison, to be washed down with
cold water. Having to remain much longer than I had calculated on doing,
I ran short of eatables, and might have gone hungry had it not been for
a generous-hearted boy who divided his lunch with me. This poor lad had
been made an orphan by the last Indian raid. During our stay at the mill,
with sobs and tears he told me the heartrending story of the massacre of
"I did not receive my grist until about four o'clock of my second
day at the mill. It was then snowing hard and had been for several hours.
I saw it would be far in the night before I could reach home, but nevertheless
I was determined to start, contrary to the miller's advice. As he said,
I would have to travel so slow, on account of the great depth of the snow,
I might become chilled through and perish on the way. And, then, the country
was infested with wolves that by reason of the severity of the long winter
were in a famishing condition and had become bold and dangerous. But having
made up my mind to see mother that night, I started, making but slow progress
through the deep snow.
"The snow had now ceased falling, and the full moon was shining
brightly, making the night as light as day; an oppressive stillness prevailed
and an unusual feeling of loneliness possessed me. How I wished for the
company of our dear old dog, 'Pomp'; anything to break the death like silence
would be a relief. Just then I heard a sound that sent a chill to my heart.
Checking the mare for a moment, I again heard the unmistakable howling
of wolves in the distance ahead of me. I knew the sound came from a large
prairie or marsh which they always infested, a neck of which I would have
to cross two miles from home.
"It would not do to hesitate now, so I urged the mare on and soon
reached the prairie. -I found that the wolves, with a few exceptions, were
a great ways off, in the direction of a red-brush thicket. As I started
across the opening one sent out a peculiar howl just ahead of me. On passing
it, it did not retreat, but sulked along behind me, stopping frequently
to give howl, as if calling the others, and in short time was answered
by a hundred. As I believe to this day, they understood each other, for
they were evidently drawing nearer to me; before this they had remained
"On emerging from the prairie to the higher ground and looking
back, I could see several of them plunging through the snow on my track.
Until then I was confident of reaching home before they could overtake
me, but now I saw that it would be impossible to do so. I therefore concluded
to dismount and climb the first desirable tree I came to. By this time
I could hear the infernal pack coming, and riding up under a large tree,
I hastily threw a bag of meal over a convenient limb, for I knew they would
tear it to pieces if they could get at it. The mare, comprehending the
situation, had become very restless, and just as I threw the bag over the
limb, she jumped to one side, throwing me to the ground, and at once started
for home, making fast time, being rid of her load. I saw that I could not
get into the tree very readily, so I ran to a small dogwood tree near by,
and just as I drew my last leg up a wolf snapped my foot, holding on for
an instant, doing me no harm. I was now out of their reach and safe, if
I could only keep up the circulation of my blood. I was chilled through
and through, but by whipping my arms against my body I soon got all right.
My perch was a frail one, requiring considerable effort to keep it.
"On looking down I beheld about twenty of the brutes leaping towards
me, snarling and gnashing their teeth in mad frenzy. They were of the large
gray variety. Numbers kept coming; in an hour's time the pack had increased
to at least fifty. They finally got to fighting among themselves; when
one got wounded they would tear it to pieces, devouring it, so nearly famished
were they. A terrible stench from their fetid breaths and damp bodies assailed
me. It was almost unbearable, I being only twelve feet above them. I saw
a number leaving on the trail of the mare, but they were too late; she
would reach home before they could overtake her. On seeing the mare returning
without me, mother could not help but think that I had been devoured or
at least might be perishing with the cold in a treetop, the only possible
chance for my escape, and I feared that in the anxiety and excitement of
the moment she might start out in search of me, and she be destroyed. I
fervently prayed to God that she might not, and that He would protect me
as He did Daniel of old when in the lion's den.
"Finally I became calm and hopeful, waiting for the night to pass
away, but how slowly the hours dragged! At last I noticed streaks of light
shooting up in the east; the welcome sun would soon shine again upon the
world, and then I would be relieved. The wolves by this time began to leave.
Some of them, after going a short distance, would sit upon their haunches
and look wistfully at me, reluctant to give me up, but in a short time
all were gone. "Just as the sun, in all its refulgence, burst through
the treetops what did I see but mother coming up the trail mounted upon
'Old Doll.' I will not attempt to describe my feelings on that joyous meeting.
Suffice it to say that I mounted the mare, taking mother behind me, and
we were soon warming ourselves before the roaring fire that brother Charley
had prepared for us. After drinking a bowl of strong coffee - real coffee
- I felt as good as new. Had I been a minute later in mounting the, dogwood
tree, in all probability the world would never have known that I ever existed."
The foregoing is only one of the many incidents that crowded the lives
of the boys who lived in the Miami wilderness. Theirs was a strenuous life,
beset with dangers from wild beast and savages, but all acquitted themselves
bravely. Their adventures, coupled with the work they did in clearing the
land, hardened their muscles and kept them ever on the alert. The writer
has heard more than one thrilling story from the lips of the first settlers
and the narration of all would tax the capacity of a large volume.
Before proceeding to give several thrilling incidents that took place
within the county during the war of 18l2, I hope I may be pardoned for
telling the story of a Mrs. Davis, who at one time was a resident of the
county in an early day. I had often heard the story from her descendants
and its authenticity is not to be doubted.
Mrs. Davis was a widow with three small children and occupied a home
in the wild wood region on the west side of the Miami River. About the
only serious annoyance and drawback to peace was the immense number of
wildcats which prowled through the woods and decimated the poultry. Stumpy-tailed,
green-eyed, they strolled through the clearing and sunned themselves on
the limbs of neighboring trees, blinking calmly at the clucking hens, which
they marked for their prey, and even venturing to throw suspicious glances
at the infant sleeping in its cradle. Sociable in their disposition, they
appeared to even claim a kind of proprietary interest in the premises and
in the appurtenances thereof. Shooting a dozen and trapping as many more
made little appreciable difference in the numbers of the feline colony.
Mrs. Davis at last constructed with much labor a closed shed within which
her poultry were nightly housed. This worked well for a season. But one
evening a commotion in the hennery informed her that the depredators were
again at work. Hastily seizing an axe in one hand and carrying a light
in the other, she hurried to the scene and two wildcats were found feasting
sumptuously on her plumpest pullet. The banqueters were evidently a mother
and her well-grown son, whom she was instructing in the predatory art and
The younger animal clambered to the hole where it had made its entrance
and was about to make a successful exit, when the matron, setting the light
on the ground, struck the animal with the axe, breaking its back and bringing
it to the ground. Without a moment's warning, the mother cat sprang upon
the widow, and fastening its powerful claws in her breast, tore savagely
at her neck with its teeth. The poor woman, shrieking with terror, strove
with all her might to loosen the animal's hold, but in vain. The maternal
instinct had awakened all its fierceness, and as the blood commenced to
flow in streams from the deep scratches and bites inflicted by its teeth
and claws, its ferocity redoubled.
It tore and bit as if nothing would appease it but the luckless victim's
death. Mrs. Davis would doubtless have fallen prey to its savage rage but
for a happy thought which flashed across her mind in her desperate straits.
Snatching her light from the ground she applied it to the hindquarters
of the wildcat. The flame instantly singed off the fur and scorched its
flesh. With a savage screech it released its hold and fell to the ground,
where she succeeded in dispatching the creature. It proved to be one of
the largest of its species, measuring nearly three feet from its nose to
the tip of its tail, and weighed over thirty pounds.
For many years this colony of pioneer wildcats continued to "make
things hot" for the settlers in that region, but most of them were
finally exterminated and the remnant emigrated to some more secluded locality.
Mrs. Davis had a grown daughter named Nancy, as winsome a lass as was to
be found in the Miami wilderness. Nancy Davis had a score of admirers among
the young men of the settlements and was the accredited belle of the region.
She was a good rider and an expert shot with the frontier rifle, and on
several occasions had carried off honors at the "shooting matches"
in vogue in pioneer days.
While she was one day wandering through the forest not far from home
she was suddenly startled from her reverie by a hoarse, deep, cavernous
growl, and as she lifted her eyes they were opened wide with dismay and
terror. Not twenty paces from her, rising on his huge-clawed iron feet,
was a wide-mouthed, vicious-looking black bear of unusual size, which had
evidently been "worked up " and was "spoiling for a fight."
That the bear meant mischief was plain, but the girl was a pioneer's daughter
and her fright produced no symptoms of anything like fainting. Bears could
climb, she knew very well, but then, if she got out of his way quickly
enough he might not take the trouble to follow her.
It was the only chance, and she sprang for the nearest tree. It was
of medium size, with a rough bark and easy to climb. All the better for
her, if none the worse for the bear, and in an instant she was perched
among the lower branches. For two or three minutes the shaggy monster seemed
puzzled and as if it doubted what course he had best pursue if he wanted
the pioneer belle; then he came slowly up and began smelling and muzzling
round the roots of the tree as if to obtain the necessary information in
order to enable him to decide the important question.
The young woman in the tree was no coward, but little as was her hope
of being heard in that forest solitude, she let her fears have their own
way and screamed for help. As if aroused and provoked by the sound of her
voice, the bear began to try the bark with his foreclaw while his fierce
little eyes looked up wistfully into the face of the maiden and his little
tongue came twisting spirally from his half opened jaws, as if he were
gloating over a choice tidbit. It happened that a young neighbor man, and
by the way, one of the girl's admirers, soon reached the scene of action.
Though completely unarmed, he did not hesitate to come to close quarters
with bruin, and seizing a heavy stick, he commenced to vigorously belabor
the hind quarters of the brute, who, however, only responded to these attentions
by turning his head and winking viciously at his assailant, still pursuing
his upward gymnastics in the direction of the treed girl, who on her part
was clambering towards the upper branches of the tree.
The young man redoubled his blows, and for a moment bruin seemed disposed
to turn and settle matters with the party at his rear, but finally, to
the dismay of both the maiden and her champion, the bear, evidently deeming
his readiest escape from attack would be to continue his ascent, resumed
his acrobatic performance and was about to place his forefeet on the lower
limbs, when his foe, dropping his futile weapon, seized the stumpy tail
of the beast with his strong hands and, bracing his feet against the trunk
of the tree, pulled with all his might. The girl, seeing the turn that
matters had taken, immediately broke off a large limb and stoutly hammered
the bear's snout. This simultaneous attack in front and rear was too much
for bruin, and with an amusing air of bewilderment, he descended in a slow
and bewildered manner and galloped off into the forest.
It is not on record whether Miss Nancy rewarded the courageous youth
with her hand or not, but he certainly deserved some consideration at her
fair hands. The foregoing are some of the thrilling incidents that enlivened
pioneer days among the wild beasts that infested the lands of the Miami
a century ago. At times it was not safe to go far from home for fear of
the savage four-footed denizens of the forest. During certain seasons of
the year, when food was scarce, it was dangerous to venture far, for the
wild beasts were ravenous and did not hesitate to attack the settlers.
It is not believed that any of the pioneers fell victims to the rapacity
of the wild animals, but narrow escapes were numerous and would thrill
the reader if all of the personal encounters could be recorded.
With the breaking out of the War of 1812 the pioneers
were thrown into a new peril, which discounted anything that they had hitherto
experienced. The British did not hesitate to turn loose upon the isolated
settlements bands of savages, who swept the forest like a besom of destruction.
Not only this, but they placed a bounty on scalps, and many were actually
sold by the red friends at the English posts in Canada. There is extant
an old song which had for its refrain a stanza like this:
Scalps are sold at stated prices,
England pays the price in gold.
This atrocious bargain on the part of the mother country with a lot
of bloodthirsty fiends who carried in their hearts no attributes of mercy
cannot be condoned. It is no wonder that the settlers along the Miami lived
in terror of this red war cloud which hovered over them throughout the
whole period of that war. It seemed as if the entire border would be decimated
by the tomahawk and scalping knife, and there was a constant fear everywhere.
Blockhouses were established in various parts of the county, and to these
the inhabitants would flee at every alarm. When one observes the present
state of happiness and prosperity in our midst he can scarcely believe
that such a state of affairs as I have described ever existed here. The
wild beasts of the forest were outdone in their ferocity by the wilder
Indian. The savages, egged on by the English, stopped at no cruelty, and
all the time the settler was in the direst peril.
Small war parties of Indians reached this locality.
Raids were made by them within our borders, but strange to say, but little
murdering was done. The settlers were constantly on their guard and the
savages feared their murdering rifles. A number of cattle were killed or
carried off by the marauders, and several people were slain and scalped.
One of the most notable of these killings within our borders was that of
the Dilbones family, which occurred in Spring Creek Township.
The killing of the Dilbones, which occurred in August 1813, was preceded
by the Indian assault on David Gerard, who lived four miles north of Troy.
Gerard, in company with a neighbor named Ross, was cutting timber. They
were not apprised of the nearness of the Indians until a shot was fired
from ambush and Gerard fell. Ross turned and fled for his life and succeeded
in outstripping the redskins, who soon came back to their victim. When
the nearest neighbors reached the scene of the attack it was found that
Gerard had been scalped and not an Indian was in sight. But for the alarm
spread by the terrified Ross, the entire Gerard family would have been
massacred, but, as it was, only one victim had succumbed to the fury of
The Dilbones resided two miles north of the Gerard home. They were among
the earliest settlers of the county and were well known people. Dilbone
and his wife were found at work pulling flax. As they had heard nothing
of the killing of Gerard, they were unsuspicious of danger, and therefore
were not able to make any resistance to their enemies. It was a beautiful
summer day and the sun was sinking slowly behind the distant hills, the
last rays flooding the flax fields with a shower of golden light. At the
first volley by the Indians, Dilbone fell with a bullet in the breast,
being unable to render his wife any aid. He was mortally wounded, but managed
to secrete himself in the corn and was overlooked by the enemy. From his
hiding place he saw the fiends shoot and scalp his wife, after which they
cleared out with the bloody trophies of their foray. There were only two
Indians engaged in this killing, and one was only a half-grown boy, who
in all probability was taking his first lessons in warriorship. The twain
carried but one rifle, which was lost, but was picked up the following
day. Dilbone survived his wound till the next day, but his wife died. It
was afterwards ascertained that the same two Indians were seen along Spring
Creek the day previous to the killing, but they disappeared so mysteriously
that their whereabouts could not be traced.
Of course this incursion into the county created the greatest excitement.
The whole border was thrown into a state of alarm, and it was for a time
feared that a large body of Indians was about to be precipitated upon the
Miami settlements. The fact that the two Indians concerned in the murders
on Spring Creek went north after their bloody work gave rise to the belief
that they were taking the scalps to their white employers for the promised
reward. About this time a woman named Martin was scalped by marauding Indians,
but she survived her wounds and lived for many years afterward in this
There came into the county previous to General Clarke's
expedition against the Piqua towns, two boys by the name of Moffit. They
had passed through the most exciting experiences. Their home was in Greenbrier
County, Virginia. One day while hunting squirrels they were surprised by
a foraging party of Indians and made captives. John, who was the eldest,
presented his gun to the redskins, but the Indian made proffers of good
intentions and the brothers were deceived and secured.
From the date of their unlucky experience began a long captivity. John
was forthwith adopted into the tribe and given an Indian name. His brother,
whose physique was more delicate, was marked for death, but a squaw who
had recently lost a son interceded for the boy and was handed over to her.
The ceremony of Indian adoption was somewhat peculiar
and may be given here. George Moffit was first required to run the gauntlet,
after which his Indian mother took some dry ashes, which she placed on
a square bit of bark. She next rubbed the ashes on her fingers and proceeded
to pluck from the boy's head every hair but enough which formed a scalplock
after the Miami. Firmly held by several red Indians. This ceremony was
not to young Moffet's liking, but he had to submit to it, which he did
with no good grace.
The conclusion of the adoption ceremonies was an immersion in the waters
of Amazons, the bewildered boy was dragged to the banks of the river and
was repeatedly soused in the water till he was declared to have no white
blood in him. For a year or two afterward he remained to all intents and
purposes an Indian. He was still in the hands of his captors when Gen.
Clarke entered the Miami country in 1782. During the night battle waged
by Clarke's little band against the Indians George Moffit made his escape
and fled in the direction of the Stillwater. He did not care to go back
to the whites, so accustomed had he become to the wild habits of his tribe,
and he looked upon the whites as invaders who were unjustly persecuting
the Indians. But the time was coming when George, or "Kiterhoo,"
as he was called by the Indians, was to leave his captors. His father,
who still resided in Virginia, heard through other Indian captives that
his boy was alive and with the red tribes. This information eventually
brought about young Moffet's return to his home. John remained a captive
nearly two years after his brother's restoration to the old home, when
he was ransomed by French traders, so that both boys saw the family roof
again, with exciting experiences that would fill a whole volume. Years
afterward the Moffit boys became residents of this county, in 1808, and
purchased land not far from Piqua. George Moffit died in 1831 and John
survived him a few years. Both married and raised families and became substantial
citizens of the county. Singular to relate, the two brothers for many years
after their return to civilization retained some of their Indian habits.
They were familiar with forest life and could track a deer when the knowledge
of a settler was in this particular utterly at fault.
Another pioneer of the county who had a large
and vivid experience with the Indians was Col. Johnston, who during the
War of 1812, was an Indian agent, and by his excellent management and coolness
kept a large number of Indians on his land near Piqua and prevented them
from taking up arms against the Americans. Among the Indians thus managed
by Col. Johnston were Shawnees, Delawares, Wiandots and Senecas. At one
time he had six thousand red men under his charge, The Indians hostile
to Col. Johnston frequently plotted against his life, for they realized
that while he lived he would keep his charges neutral and thus prevent
them from deluging the frontier in blood.
All these murderous plots failed. At one time it was designed to kill
him where he was expected to pass on a journey. Not far from the Indian
camp at Piqua, which Col. Johnston visited daily, grew a wild plum thicket.
A lot of hostile's secreted themselves among the underbrush and prepared
to end the career of the white man whom they so cordially hated. Col. Johnston
had not the remotest suspicion of the plot. The day came and the death
hour was near at hand. Fortunately, just before the culmination of the
scheme some Delaware women warned the agent, and, the would-be assassins
fled. Pursuit was instituted as soon as possible, but the villains escaped
and, it is said, were later on concerned in the killing of the Dilbones.
At another time Col. Johnston proved the stuff he was made of and showed
what sort of men it took to keep down the turbulent characters that threatened
the Miami frontier. It seems that two members of the militia, in a spirit
of pure malice, fired upon a party of friendly Indians protected by a flag
of truce furnished by Col. Johnston. Two Indians were killed and the remainder
were taken to Greenville as prisoners, a most shameful and unwarranted
act. Changing their minds, the militiamen brought the prisoners to Piqua
and turned them over to Col. Johnson. He decided to take them back to Greenville
and restore them to their people.
As the journey at that time from Piqua to Greenville was one full of
danger, Col. Johnston applied to the commander at Piqua for an escort.
The cowardly militia refused to go. Then Col. Johnston said he would accept
the responsibility himself and conduct the Indians twenty-five miles through
the forest alone. It was indeed a dangerous journey, for the Indians had
recently committed several murders in the region through which the trip
had to be made. Col. Johnston saddled his horse, bade his wife farewell,
scarcely expecting to see her again, and set out with his charges. He made
the journey unmolested, and having delivered the Indians back, set out
on his return trip alone. Great was the surprise of the militia at Piqua
when they saw the brave old agent safe again in their midst, but not one
of the dastardly fellows could look him in the eye without quailing, and
the reader can imagine, for we cannot describe, the opinion Col. Johnston
had of them.
I have not space in this book to narrate all the thrilling personal
incidents connected with the settlement of the county. I have given only
a few of the many, but from them the reader will form a good idea of the
whole. It took courage and perseverance, hardihood and untiring watchfulness
to wrench from the wild beast and the wilder Indians the rich and beautiful
lands of the Miami. The people who now inhabit the county, while they honor
the memory of the pioneers, can never fully appreciate the suffering and
heroism that was required to make this region what it is today.
--- End chapter 4 ---
Harbaugh's History of Miami County, Pub 1909