PresentationPDF Available

The Long Run Massacre and the History of Early Louisville



My essay discusses an often ignored or misinterpreted battle known as the Long Run Massacre which happened near Louisville, September 13-14, 1781. I discuss how some historians have failed to capture the importance of this fight between settlers and a war party of Miami, Shawnee, and other nations. And I also discuss what life was like in the earliest years of the Louisville settlement, 1779-1784.
The Long Run Massacre and the Beargrass Stations: Early Louisville History
First let me say what a pleasure it is to be back in Louisville. When I was
researching the five years William Wells spent as a boy at various stations on the
Beargrass, naturally I found the Filson Historical Society’s archives invaluable, and the
staff consistently helpful. I stayed at a nearby bed & breakfast and spent many a day
pouring over old documents that provided detail after detail to fill in the story of the early
settlers. When my historical novel, Blacksnake’s Path, was published I returned to give a
reading. Several years later I published William Wells and the Struggle for the Old
Northwest, and once again I was welcomed here.
You may wonder why I have written both a novel and a work of history about
William Wells. When I first became interested in Wells I was a poet turned novelist and of
course I thought of writing fiction. I was struck by how his life was similar to that of the
title character in Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man. Some of you may have seen the Dustin
Hoffman film. A key difference was that the fabulous adventures of Wells were actually
true. I saw that his remarkable life as a Miami and then as an American scout and agent
was an ideal way to dramatize conflicting values in the Old Northwest. Another reason to
write a novel was a gap in the historical record. In 1784 Wells, age thirteen, was captured
near Louisville and in 1792 he arrived in Cincinnati to help free some Indian prisoners, but
what about the intervening eight years he spent among the Eel River Miami? Nevertheless,
after my novel was published, my agent told me I’d done such a prodigious amount of
research, why not write a history of Wells and his time. That is what I proceeded to do,
and, in the process of additional research here and in other places, I was able to find more
evidence about his captivity than I thought I ever would. The result is chapter two of my
history book entitled “Becoming Miami,” which discusses the experiences of Wells and
many others like him in documented detail.
Perhaps at the end of this talk we can return to the fascinating topic of being
captured by the Indians and what the process was by which a captive did or did not “go
native,” becoming, in a very real sense, an Indian. This evening, however, I’d like to focus
on a few highlights of early Louisville history and the Long Run Massacre in particular.
This is an event of considerable local significance; next to the defeat at Blue Licks I believe
it was the bloodiest of the Indian battles in Kentucky, yet it has frequently been
misinterpreted or completely ignored. Often it is described as bloodier than it was. In 1848
Kentucky chronicler Lewis Collins, for example, states over one-hundred were killed or
captured. By 1916, another historian claims eighty were slain. The historical marker on
Route 60 erected in 1964 informs us that Miami warriors killed more than sixty settlers
fleeing from Squire Boone’s Painted Stone station. In reality, as we shall see, the actual
number of the two engagements of September 13 and 14, 1781, was about 25 to 30 killed,
and several captured. I’d say that’s bloody enough.
A few intrepid scholars have made impressive efforts to set the record straight. The
Filson can proudly claim credit for Vince Akers, Neal Hammon, and Ronald Reginald Van
Stockman, whose books, articles, essays, and papers are essential. Since I completed my
research over five years ago, no doubt there are others who might be mentioned.
Furthermore, the people of Shelbyville now annually put on a Long Run re-enactment
every September. If any of those folks are in the audience, you will have to forgive me for
preaching to the choir. Still, recent writing about early Kentucky is not always
accurate. As anyone who strives to correct the historical record knows, once you have done
so that doesn’t necessarily mean subsequent historians will pay attention. Historical errors
have a strange life of their own, persisting in spite of newly discovered evidence. To give
one minor but I think revealing instance. During my research I discovered that the great
Miami war chief Little Turtle, who was also William Wells’s father-in-law, did not visit
Philadelphia, did not meet President Washington, and was not personally presented a
sword from him. I found in the National Archives original documents of that trip which
indicate Little Turtle, due to his rivalry with Blue Jacket, at the last minute refused to go.
All historians before me state that Washington gave Little Turtle a sword, but so have
several since who have read and praised my book. In the grand scheme of things this is a
trivial matter, but the larger issue of historians making a conscientious effort to do their
research and try their best to tell the truth is not. The renowned Leopold von Ranke said
that the task of the historian is “to show what actually happened.” This is not as simple as
it sounds. The past cannot be recaptured. Nevertheless, some history books are more
eloquent, accurate, and reliable than others. And the task of the historian is not only to
present the facts as best he or she can but also to interpret them, to give shape and meaning
to past events in a way that enables us to better understand the human condition.
At the risk of being accused of partisan bias, I want to focus on factual flaws in
Craig Thompson Friend’s Kentucke’s Frontiers, published in 2010 as part of an Indiana
University Press series of early state histories. The author is a professor at North Carolina
State and has edited a valuable collection of essays, The Buzzel about Kentucky. I have
selected his book to illustrate how the Long Run Massacre has often been misinterpreted as
well as to stress how some historians become preoccupied with a thesis at the expense of the
facts on the ground. Thus I cite him to emphasize specific problems, not because his thesis
or other aspects of his work aren’t admirable. If I were speaking before the Ohio
Historical Society, I might make a similar case against David McCullough’s present best-
seller, The Pioneers.
Much of contemporary scholarship concentrates on issues of race, class, and gender,
each an essential aspect of American life that has frequently been neglected. While Friend
deals with all three, his thesis focuses on gender. He argues that the violence of the frontier,
the inability of Kentucky males to defend their homes and families from Indian attack,
created what he terms “frenzies of mean fear,” an unfortunate phrase he repeats, that
challenged masculine identity and led to various excesses—not only against Indians, but
also in terms of oppressing white women and black slaves. There is truth to this, and his
thesis does provide some valuable insights, but in the course of arguing his case he is often
negligent of historical facts. His misinterpretation of the events at Long Run is what makes
his book relevant to our discussion, but that comes within a larger context of vague and
inaccurate information. To illustrate this problem, let me cite briefly his treatment of
certain key battles and crucial treaties.
He seems to assume that at Braddock’s Defeat, early in the French and Indian War,
it was the French, not the Indians, who did the defeating and near the conclusion of that
war he neglects the decisive victory at Bushy Run. He incorrectly names Michael Cresap,
not Daniel Greathouse, for the murder of Logan’s relatives and the catalyst for lethal
revenge raids—a mistake historians corrected long ago. When he comes to Kentucky
history, he argues that during Daniel Boone’s Shawnee captivity he was guilty of “treason,”
a hotly debated issue that he doesn’t debate. Clark’s intrepid capture of Vincennes is given
scant attention and, after the settlers arrived in Louisville, Kentucky raids against the
Shawnee villages in Ohio in 1779, 1780, 1782, and 1786, are skimmed over, as is the British
and Indian capture of Ruddle’s and Martin’s stations in 1780. Which brings us to our
central topic. The author states that “In September 1780, settlers at Squire Boone’s station
in the western blue grass fled to the Beargrass Stations for defense and right into an
ambush at Long Run Creek” (89). That is the extent of his discussion, which is a year off
on the date. Two pages later he notes that “Joseph Brant…ambushed a Pennsylvania
militia company critical to Clark’s plans near the mouth of the Miami River” (91). Neither
passage mentions what caused these attacks or the number of casualties, let along the fact
that Lochry’s Defeat preceded and was directly related to Long Run.
More than twenty pages later the author returns to Long Run without seeming to
realize he is doing so. Here is the passage:
Not surprisingly then, when occasion did make it necessary,
white men ferociously and sometimes incomprehensively reacted to
Indian attacks. Because women could display courage and combat-
iveness in the crucible of the Indian wars, men exaggerated masculinity
through overhunting, oversurveying, and as happened at Blue Licks,
overestimating their own martial abilities. Whites interpreted the
Indian threat—and specifically, successful Indian attacks—as affronts
to manly honor. Following a 1781 attack against his “Horse Militia,”
John Floyd complained to George Rogers Clark: “My party, 27 in
number are all dispersed & cut to pieces except 9 who came off
the field…I want satisfaction.” Indeed, anything less than satisfaction
would have been interpreted as unmanly. (113-14)
The essential but missing context here is the Long Run Massacre and, given what has
transpired, Floyd is doing far more than registering a “complaint.” By imposing a
“gendered” interpretation the author leaves the reader utterly confused about what
happened at Long Run—there is no how, why, what, when, and where. While gruesome
Indian attacks challenged the manhood and honor of Kentucky males, and thus
legitimately belong in any discussion of these events, what actually happened should be of
primary importance to any good historian. First get the facts straight, then provide the
interpretation. Instead, the book contains two brief apparently unrelated passages on Long
Run, each out of any meaningful context. I could specify further factual errors about the
imposed treaties that helped ignite the Ohio Valley frontier in the 1780s, as well as
misinformation about or neglect of key engagements in the 1790s—such as Harmar’s
Defeat in 1790—a battle historians rarely understand; Scott and Wilkerson’s raids and St.
Clair’s Defeat in 1791; and the American victory at Fallen Timbers in 1794, as well as the
Treaty of Greenville the following year. At that all-important treaty, Friend refers to Little
Turtle as “the Shawnee chief [who] led a delegation…and conceded Shawnee claims to
much of Ohio Territory” (176). Of course Little Turtle was not Shawnee, but Miami, and
he was the only chief to resist Anthony Wayne’s demands. He was the last to sign the treaty
and devoted the rest of his life to getting the boundary lines changed.
In sum, however provocative the author’s thesis, Kentucke’s Frontiers is often
unreliable as a history of this period, and his misinterpretations of events at Long Run
provide telling examples. Certainly there are recent histories that are easy to recommend.
To select one, I would mention Virginia’s Western War 1775–1786 by Neal O. Hammon and
Richard Taylor. Not only is it impressive for its discussions of the immensely tangled issues
of land ownership in early Kentucky, but also its depictions of key battles, including Long
Run, are both accessible and accurate. Friend cites the book in his bibliography, but
clearly didn’t make good use of it.
At this point I want to switch my focus from historians of early Kentucky to
presenting a narrative describing what did happen at Long Run. What led up to the
disaster and what was the immediate aftermath? To do that I must first set the context of
life in Louisville and on Beargrass Creek in the two years before the tragedy. On occasion I
will use the experiences of William Wells’s family to focus my discussion.
Louisville was destined to become an important trading center because of its
location at the Falls of the Ohio, yet in 1779 the site was not a desirable place to settle.
Although it was situated on a high plain rarely in danger of flooding, numerous small
ponds and nearby swamps bred mosquitoes and spread miasma. Most settlers preferred
the rich land on Beargrass Creek, where tall trees, plentiful springs, and a network of
beaver dams sustained the soil. The Wells family claimed tomahawk rights, cleared the
forest, and erected a cabin for themselves as well as a smaller one for their slave family of
Jacob, Cate, and their three girls.1
Shortly after their arrival, Sam Wells volunteered for a raid led by Col. John
Bowman against the Shawnee villages. A force of 296 men crossed the Ohio and by the
evening of May 29th were a few miles from Chillicothe on the Little Miami. Bowman
divided his force for a three-pronged attack at dawn. The result was unsynchronized: some
men charged into the village and others took a more cautious approach. Women and
children fled while the warriors defended a fortified council house, where Chief Black Fish
was mortally wounded. Fifteen Kentuckians, shielded by an oak log near the council
house, received heavy fire that killed seven. Bowman refused to come to the rescue.
Warned that Simon Girty and 100 Mingo were fast approaching, he ordered a retreat,
leaving ten dead men behind. Although Bowman claimed victory, one veteran stated that
“the campaign was well nigh a total failure.” The Kentuckians had not triumphed, but
they had put the Shawnee villages on the defensive.2
George Rogers Clark had counted on Bowman’s men to enable him “to Reduce the
Garrison of Detroit.” For the rest of the Revolutionary War the capture of that town would
remain his “Principle Design.” On 4 October 1779, Colonel David Rogers, bringing
military supplies from New Orleans was ambushed near the Little Miami. Rogers and over
forty of his men were killed and five captured. This defeat, the first of many along the Ohio
River, meant that Clark would have to postpone his plans to take Detroit for another year.3
“There are but two lawyers here,” John Todd wrote from Kentucky to William
Preston, “and they can’t agree.”4 His remark foreshadows the litigious history of early
Kentucky, where disputed land claims made a palimpsest of every boundary map, and a
host of court cases dragged on into the 19th century. As a veteran of Lord Dunmore’s War
and the Revolution, and as someone who had explored Kentucky and built a cabin on the
North Fork of the Licking, Samuel Wells had several claims. Whether they were valid in
the Louisville area was the question, since John Floyd owned the land where Wells had
On 8 November 1779 Floyd arrived in Louisville and found the Wells family and
about ten others squatting on Beargrass Creek. His first impulse was to drive them off, but
since his slave Bob cut his foot and winter was coming on, he needed help constructing his
station. Thus the Wells family became dependent on Floyd, whom Clark termed “the most
capable man in the country.” He was six-feet tall and his straight black hair, flashing black
eyes, high cheekbones, and dark complexion were an inheritance from his Indian
grandmother. During the Revolution he had sailed on the privateer Phoenix to prey upon
British shipping. Captured and taken to England, Floyd escaped to Paris, where Marie
Antoinette, impressed by his charms, gave him a set of silver buckles. Ben Franklin
provided his passage home. William Preston, the surveyor of Fincastle County, sent Floyd
several times to select good land in Kentucky. 5
Floyd and his wife Jane, with the help of the Wells family, built their station on the
Middle Fork of Beargrass Creek. The rectangular fortification, with cabins on each side,
was protected by palisades and had a nearby spring. On November 14th, William Fleming
and other land commissioners arrived to settle titles in the Louisville vicinity. Virginia had
granted 400 acres of “waste and ungranted lands situated on western waters” to settlers
who had made improvements prior to 24 June 1776. The Land Act of 1779 extended a
“settlement right” to anyone who had raised a crop of corn before 1 January 1778, and a
preemption of 1,000 acres for an additional fee. Because of his military service, Samuel
Wells secured at least 400 acres, but his family would remain at Floyd’s Station through the
Snow began falling in late November and remained on the ground until March. All
over Kentucky people endured what in retrospect was called “the Hard Winter.” Rivers
and streams turned to ice, killing the fish; wild turkeys fell frozen from their roosts; deer
and buffalo died by the thousands; livestock perished. “Go through the cane and see cattle
laying with their heads to their side, as if they were asleep; just literally froze to death…a
heap! a heap! of them died.” Trees frozen to the sap would split open with a loud crack and
crash to the ground. Because it was too cold to reload their rifles, hunters knew they only
had one shot at their target. As the last “Johnny cake” was rationed out, flour became “as
dear as gold dust.” The buffalo meat was so poor it had to be “boiled with pounded corn to
thicken it.” When John Floyd tried to write to his friends in Virginia for aid, the ink froze
in his pen. In late February he reported “the severest winter that was ever known…. We
have but ten families with us yet.”7
The Wells family and their slaves suffered along with everyone else at Floyd’s
Station. In his travels around Kentucky, land commissioner Fleming was appalled by the
unwholesome living conditions. In Harrodsburg, for example, “the whole dirt and filth of
the Fort, putrefied Flesh, dead dogs, horse, cow, hog excrements and human odour all wash
into the spring…and makes the most nauseous potation of the water imaginable and will
certainly…render the inhabitants to this place sickly.” In March, following the Hard
Winter, Fleming stated that sickness had killed settlers at the Falls in large numbers. The
extreme cold and the lack of solid food made the young especially vulnerable. After Jane
Pope Helm lost all three of her children, she and her husband Thomas determined to move
elsewhere. Another victim of the spreading sickness—referred to as “the ague” or “the
bloody flux” and accompanied by “a bilious remitting fever” and “black vomit”—may well
have been Ann Wells, Billy’s mother, who died at this time. If so, George Hartt, the lone
doctor in Louisville, submitted her to treatments that exacerbated her illness: quicksilver-
laced laxatives, doses of calomel, blistering plasters, and frequent bleedings. Most patients
passed away within two weeks.8
“All they had to do was keep the Indians from killing them,” recalled Kentucky
pioneer James Wade, “though they were sometimes hard pressed to do this.” As soon as
spring arrived, the Wells family and other settlers were anxious to leave the fetid conditions
of the stations and start clearing their own lands. The warm weather also brought waves of
Indian raiding parties, armed by the British, looking for targets of opportunity. The
capture of the notorious “hair buyer” Henry Hamilton did not thwart this strategy; if
anything, the conflict escalated: “It would be endless and difficult to enumerate to Your
lordship,” British Gen. Frederick Haldimand wrote to Lord Germain, “the Parties that are
continually Employed upon the back Settlements.”9
Nevertheless, in the spring of 1780 optimism, at first, prevailed. Louisville was
incorporated, with John Floyd and William Pope among its nine trustees. Col. George
Slaughter brought 150 state troops to the fort and 300 flatboats arrived with settlers, who
filled six new stations on the Beargrass. Everyone assumed there was safety in numbers,
which led to an over-confidence that cost lives. “In this state of things it is no matter of
surprise that soldiers were shot near the fort, or that in the settlements of Beargrass lives
were lost, prisoners taken and horses stolen, with frequent impunity.” Though the myth of
the frontier celebrates the stalwart pioneer in his isolated cabin, the reality was different:
“The almost incredible number of distressed and defenseless families settled through our
woods for the sake of subsistence instead of adding to our strength are in fact so many
allurements, and most become a daily sacrifice to the savage brutality of our inhuman
enemies.” On 31 May 1780, John Floyd wrote from his station: “Hardly one week pass[es]
without someone being scalped between this and the Falls and I have almost got too
cowardly to travel about the woods without company.”10
Realizing the vulnerability of the Kentucky outposts, Major Arent de Peyster, the
British commandant at Detroit, lavished presents on his Indian allies and urged them to
invade the settlements. Captain Henry Bird left Detroit with 150 soldiers and some 700
warriors gathered by Alexander McKee. Their objective was the newly erected Fort Nelson
in Louisville; if it fell all Kentucky would be at their mercy. The men brought two cannons
that could shatter log palisades. On 9 June 1780 Bird’s force reached the Ohio. Rather
than attack Louisville and the Beargrass stations, McKee’s warriors insisted on targeting
two exposed outposts on the South Fork of the Licking River. Twelve days later they
surrounded Ruddle’s Station. When the Americans “saw the Six Pounder moving across
the field, they immediately surrendered.” Isaac Ruddle stipulated that all prisoners should
be taken to Detroit, although Bird “forewarn’d them that the Savages would adopt some of
their children.” McKee recalled that “the violence of the Lake Indians in seizing the
Prisoners, contrary to agreement, threw everything into confusion.” Two days later
Martin’s Station “surrendered without firing a gun. The same Promises were made &
broke in the same manner, not one pound of meat & near 300 Prisoners.”11
Although few captives were killed, Bird had been shocked by how they were treated.
When a rumor spread that Clark was “daily expected” in Louisville, he decided to retreat.12
The attacks demonstrated that exposed outposts were defenseless against cannon. The
preference of the Indians for easy plunder over strategic advantage, however, meant that
the Wells family and other settlers on the Beargrass were relatively safe for another year.
When Clark returned to Louisville he called for an attack on the Shawnee villages,
this time bringing a cannon captured at Vincennes. Samuel and Sam Wells were among the
more than 400 militia from the Falls commanded by John Floyd and William Linn. In
August an army of about 1,000 Kentuckians crossed the Ohio and headed up the valley of
the Little Miami toward Chillicothe, which was deserted. Proceeding to Piqua on the Mad
River, Clark attacked the village. The fighting, “with a savage fierceness on both sides,”
continued for two hours until the warriors retreated back into the town, some taking refuge
in a fort built by the British. Clark brought up the brass six-pounder, whose “balls
shivered the stockade wherever they struck.” The warriors shot back until the cannon fire,
“playing too brisky on their works,” forced a retreat. The Americans lost at least 22 killed,
the Shawnee a similar number.13 Because he had retaliated for the taking of Ruddle’s and
Martin’s Stations, Clark’s reputation soared.14
The most exposed outpost in the Louisville area, known as Jefferson County, was
Painted Stone Station on the north bank of Clear Creek above present-day Shelbyville,
which was run by Daniel Boone’s brother Squire. In the spring of 1780 he had taken a
dozen families and several single men to his 1,400 acre preemption located twenty-one
miles east of Linn’s Station, the last on the Beargrass. A wagon road marked by “mile
trees” connected the two stations. In the spring of 1781 Sam Wells, following a dispute with
John Floyd, was expelled. Since it was too dangerous to settle on their land near Painted
Stone, the Wells family moved to Linn’s Station.15
In a plea for help to Governor Thomas Jefferson, Floyd summarized the plight of
the Beargrass stations in April of 1781:
We are all obliged to live in Forts in this Country, and notwithstanding all the
Caution that we use, forty seven of the Inhabitants have been killed & taken
by the Savages, besides a number wounded since Jan[uar]y…. Not a week passes &
some weeks scarcely a day without some of our distressed inhabitants feeling
the fatal effects of the infernal rage and fury of those Execrable Hell Hounds.
Our garrisons are dispersed over an Extensive Country, and a large proportion
of the Inhabitants, are helpless Widows & Orphans.
Only General Clark’s indominable spirit and military skills, as well as the fact that the
settlers were unable to leave, had sufficed to “keep this Country from being left entirely
No death that spring was more deeply felt than that of William Linn, whose station
served as a refuge for many of the widows and orphans mentioned in Floyd’s letter. His
sons, William and Asahel, were friends of Billy Wells. On the morning of 5 March 1781,
Linn had left ahead of a group going to Louisville. When shots were heard in the woods, a
party that included Sam Wells investigated, finding Linn’s horse. The next day they
discovered his mutilated body. The torn-up ground indicated that he had fought bravely to
the last.17
The situation at Painted Stone rapidly became untenable, as persistent Indian raids
picked off the settlers. In February, Even Hinton, Richard Rue, and George Holeman went
to Louisville to preserve thousands of pounds of meat for Clark’s next campaign. Upon
their return they were surprised and captured. All the salt was lost and Hinton later died.
In April three young men out clearing ground for the spring crop were fired on: Thomas
Hansberry was killed and John Underwood captured, while his brother Nathan escaped.
Squire Boone still in his shirttail and a dozen other men grabbed their guns and set out in
pursuit. They, in turn, were ambushed by a war party led by Simon Girty. Two were killed
and Boone was shot twice: “So badly wounded was he,” Boone’s son Moses recalled, “none
thought he would recover—his arm was badly shattered, & when it healed, that arm was
an inch and a half shorter than the other.” Girty delighted that “he had made Squire
Boone’s white shirt fly.” In May, Abraham Holt was killed when he went out to drive his
hogs; in August, Philip Nicholas was fatally shot and scalped when he left the station to get
water. Squire was at least as tough as his more famous brother. He had, by a later
reckoning, “Rec’d Eight Bullet Holes through him and…been in seventeen engagements
with the Indians.” In spite of his disabling injuries, he wanted to stay and make a stand,
but a majority of the settlers at Painted Stone “were determined to leave.”18
In December Jefferson authorized Clark to raise 2,000 men to capture Detroit, but
few were willing to enlist. In early August he left Pittsburgh with 250 raw recruits and
started down the Ohio. When Colonel Archibald Lochry failed to meet him at Wheeling
with 100 men from Pennsylvania, Clark left a message that he would “move on slowly” so
that they could join forces in a few days. Aware of Clark’s intentions, the British in Detroit
sent 100 rangers under Captain Andrew Thompson and 300 Indians with Alexander
McKee to thwart his plans. Ten miles below the mouth of the Big Miami, Joseph Brant,
leading ninety Mingos and ten whites, ambushed Lochry on the morning of 24 August
1781. Thirty-six were killed and sixty-four captured. As he was sitting on a log trying to
recover from the shock of the disaster, Lochry was tomahawked by an enraged warrior.
When Brant noticed a silver medal around Lockry’s neck, he expressed regret that he was
not able to save a fellow Mason.19
Clark was in Louisville when he received word of Lochry’s defeat. On September
7th he told his Council of Officers that he wanted to march up the Wabash, destroy the
Miami villages, and, if possible, push on to Detroit. “I am ready to lead you on any Action
that has the most distant prospect of Advantage,” he asserted, “however daring it may
appear to be.” But the Board stated that “under our present Circumstances, it is
impossible to carry on an Expedition.” A discouraged Clark dispersed his army “among
the neighboring stations on Beargrass.” Two of the soldiers sent to Linn’s Station were
Sam Wells’s old friends from Jacobs Creek: Sam Murphy and William Crawford. 20
McKee could not keep his Indian force together. The warriors did not want to risk a
direct assault on Fort Nelson. Instead they broke off “in small parties, some going home,
others going after Horses…so that we were Reduced to a small Number, not able to attack
the falls.” McKee and Brant still had 200 warriors who “agreed to cross the country and
attack some of their small forts and infest the Roads,”21 thus posing a serious threat to
Painted Stone and the Beargrass settlements.
At this time, two couples wished to be married at Linn’s Station. Bland Ballard
headed for Brashear’s Station, at the mouth of Floyd’s Fork, to bring the only Baptist
minister in the area, John Whitaker. Spotting signs of an Indian war party, Ballard
immediately went to warn Painted Stone, where plans were already underway to evacuate.
Two men had been killed in a nearby cornfield a few days before. When twenty-four light
horsemen under Lieutenant Thomas Ravenscraft arrived as an escort, everyone prepared
to leave the next morning, 13 September 1781. Because there weren’t enough pack horses,
the families of Squire Boone and the widow Hinton would have to wait for a later escort.
Ten-year-old Isaiah Boone, however, got permission to go. Sporting a “three-cornered
cocked hat, gold fringe & a cockade, sent him by his brother in Kaskasia, & nicely beaded
shot pouch, & a small gun given him by his father,” the boy mounted a pack horse and rode
off with the main party.22
After a few miles, Sergeant James Welch of the militia became ill; a dozen men
remained behind to care for him. By mid-day the main caravan of settlers, pack horses,
and cattle were strung out along the narrow wagon road near the ford at Long Run when
they were attacked by a Miami war party. A few families ran off to save their own lives,
but most sought shelter while the men fought back. Hearing the cries of the wounded and
realizing they were outnumbered, Ballard and others cut off the packs so that the women
and children could mount the horses and make a dash for it, with the men running from
tree to tree and firing to protect them. An elderly black woman pulled up her petticoats
and shouted as she began to run, “Every man for himself and God for us all.”23 The safety
of Linn’s Station was eight to nine miles away. The presence of this black woman raises the
question of whether any slaves were killed during the ambush. We know that Squire Boone
owned a few, and possibly others at Painted Stone did too.
Young Isaiah Boone, who had dismounted, was knocked down by the swollen waters
of Long Run, soaking both him and his gun. As he scrambled out he spotted an Indian
behind a tree on the opposite bank. George Yount saw Isaiah raise his gun and asked what
he was doing.
1. “I’m pointing at an Indian that has been trying to kill me.”
2. “Why didn’t you shoot him?”
3. “My gun is wet and won’t go.”
4. “Where is he?”
“There he is,” said Boone pointing to the clay bank…. At that
moment the Indian peeped up his head & Yount shot him through the neck
& killed him—& he rolled into the water.
“Now you boy, throw away your gun and clear yourself!”
To gain speed Isaiah reluctantly abandoned his gun; as he ran he held his shot pouch in his
teeth to take off his coat and accidentally dropped it. He managed to mount a pack horse
behind a woman and her child, and, to make it gallop, he smacked it repeatedly with his
three-cornered hat and lost that, too, before he reached Linn’s Station.24
The men who had stayed behind with Lt. Welch made a litter to carry him. They
first suspected an ambush when they saw a frightened horse on the road. Proceeding with
caution they surprised two Indians and rescued their three captives. Rachel Van Cleve,
baby sister in her arms and brother by her side, told them her mother, two of her siblings,
and at least six other people were dead.25
A lone militiaman rode out of the woods unscathed to report the disaster. Floyd flew
into a rage, demanding to know where the rest of the militia were. When the man
confessed he couldn’t say, Floyd threatened to have him hung for cowardice. He then
assembled twenty-seven men, including Samuel and Sam Wells, and the next day they rode
off before sunrise to recover the wounded and bury the dead. After riding several miles
they came upon Mr. and Mrs. Eastwood, who had hidden that night in a sinkhole. Further
along the road one of the men, who later died, found Isaiah Boone’s three-cornered hat and
tucked it inside his shirt. After they crossed Floyd’s Fork, the men advanced up a hollow
and along a ridge in three columns, with Floyd in the center, Capt. A’Sturgis on the right,
and Lt. Rosencraft on the left.
Meanwhile, the Miami war party had been joined by more than 100 Indians led by
McKee and Brant. McKee decided to “take Possession of the Ground they had drove the
enemy from and to wait their coming to bury their dead.” Because they did not expect
Floyd’s men to arrive so early, the Indians were slashing open packs and collecting plunder
scattered along the wagon road when the Kentuckians rode into view. The dispersed
warriors were able to rush forward and attack from several sides, giving Floyd’s men time
to fire only one volley before trying to escape. Several were killed on the spot, including
Samuel Wells. Floyd was fleeing on his favorite horse “Shawnee” when a low branch hit
his head and knocked him off his mount. Sam Wells saw his predicament and “two or
three times wheeled his horse & presented his gun & kept the Indians at bay—finally he
dashed forward, & gave his horse up to Col. Floyd, who was so fatigued, that after jumping
upon the horse, balanced on his breast several rods before he got finally righted &
asaddle.” Sam then ran alongside Floyd back to Linn’s Station.26
Sam Murphy had lost his horse and taken cover. Seeing the other men ride off,
Murphy sought to escape by racing from tree to tree, turning and pointing his gun at
intervals to make his pursuers stop. He was wounded in the hip, however, and soon was
overtaken. One Indian tried to shoot him at point-blank range, but his gun snapped;
another seized him “by his cue & threw him to the ground,” while a third tied him with a
cord. Four other men were also captured. Daniel Whittaker and Nicholas Soap had the
misfortune of being claimed by rival war parties; Joseph Brant promptly put an end to the
dispute by tomahawking them both. After the battle McKee urged the Indians to destroy
Painted Stone and harass the other stations, but the Huron had lost a chief and two of their
best warriors in the battle and opted to go home.
“I have this minute returned from a little Excursion against the Enemy,” Floyd
wrote to Clark, “& my party 27 in number are all dispersed & cut to pieces except 9 who
came off the field with Capt. Asturgus mortally wounded and one other slightly wounded, I
don’t know yet who are killed…. I cant write guess at the rest.”27
Two days later some 300 men from the Beargrass stations returned to the scene of
the fighting. They faced the grim task of gathering the bodies, many bloated and mutilated
beyond recognition. At least twenty-five and possibly as many as thirty had been killed in
the two battles. The dead were buried in a sinkhole at the site and their names carved in a
nearby tree trunk. At Painted Stone, Squire Boone had assumed the worst when some
panic-stricken cattle, one with a horn shot off, returned to his station. He and his son
Moses had primed their guns for a fight to the death. Since McKee’s warriors had already
left the area, they were rescued unharmed.28 At least temporarily, Squire Boone had
learned his lesson; he and several other survivors from Painted Stone now settled at the
Low Dutch Station on Beargrass Creek.
The defeat’s one positive aspect, celebrated at the time and in later accounts, was
“the magnanimous gallantry of young Wells” in saving Floyd, who in gratitude gave Sam a
gift of land. The two men put aside their former enmity and became good friends. Sam
was such a hero of those dark days that women vied for his attention. On 30 December
1781, he and Mary Spears were united by “the first marriage bond ever written in
Jefferson County.”29
Like many other children in Kentucky, eleven-year-old Billy Wells was now an
orphan. William Pope, a prominent figure in Jefferson County, became his guardian. The
Pope family had a cabin at Sullivan’s Stationw on a bluff overlooking the South Fork of
Beargrass two miles east of Louisville near the present Bardstown Road. William Pope was
an important if unpopular man in Jefferson County. Appointed as a Lieutenant Colonel in
April of 1781, James Sullivan told Clark: “the Generality of the people is much averse to
serving under him.” A few years later John May wrote, “I found that Col. Pope had
conducted himself so very imprudently & had given himself up so entirely to Drink that he
had nearly ruined himself.”30 He was, in short, probably not a figure Billy looked up to or
admired. Deprived of one father, he had not found another. What Pope did believe in was
education, hiring William Johnson at one-hundred pounds a year to teach his son John as
well as Billy Wells. John Pope, for one, was a serious scholar, especially after he caught his
arm in a cornstalk mill and it had to be amputated below the shoulder. No longer able to
be a woodsman, he came to prefer the life of the mind. Later, he became a United States
Billy and the other boys at the Beargrass stations had responsibilities. In the
mornings they would take their dogs and chase the deer and wild turkeys from the
cornfields; as the crop ripened they had to scare away crows, squirrels, and hogs. In spite
of their efforts, at night the raccoons would feast in the fruit trees. They also had to keep a
sharp ear out for the bells of cows browsing in the woods, and an even sharper eye for
Indians lurking around the settlements in order to steal horses, take prisoners, or lift the
scalps of the unwary. These dangers haunted their nightmares. The boys gathered berries
and nuts, caught crawfish along the creek, and fished in the nearby ponds. Billy was old
enough now to dress like the men in leather breaches and a baggy shirt. He no doubt
owned a gun and knew how to hunt, skin, and gut the game he shot, then cut and pack it to
bring back to the station.31
Although the British had surrendered at Yorktown on 16 October 1781, combat in
the West intensified in 1782. In April Col. David Williamson and 100 men from
Pennsylvania massacred 93 men, women, and children in cold blood at Gnadenhütten, a
Delaware village of Moravian converts on the Tuscarawas. In retribution for this slaughter
of the innocents, the warriors made Kentucky their prime target.32
On 16 August 1782 several hundred laid siege to Bryan’s Station, a few miles north
of Lexington. The Indians destroyed the crops, killed the livestock, stole the horses, and
withdrew. They were pursued by a mounted force of 182 men under Colonel John Todd,
which reached Blue Licks on 19 August 1782. The Kentuckians advanced, came under a
withering fire from several sides, and in five minutes were routed. It was, in one survivor’s
words, a “Direfull Catastrophy.” The cream of central Kentucky lay dead on the field,
including Todd, Col. Stephan Trigg, two majors and eight captains.33
To avenge Blue Licks, Clark’s army of about 1,000 men burned several Shawnee
villages and destroyed thousands of bushels of corn. Ten Indians were killed as well as four
Americans. “We got a few scalps and prisoners,” Clark reported. As a result of this attack,
Shawnee warriors were reduced to isolated raids as they spent the winter struggling to feed
their families.34
The Indians had concentrated their attacks on central Kentucky in 1782, yet
Jefferson County and Sullivan’s Station were not spared. In July a slave couple belonging
to William Pope was captured. The woman was killed “because she didn’t follow them
willingly.” On Christmas morning Billy Wells’s schoolteacher William Johnston was riding
with a few friends when they were ambushed. One man was killed. Johnston was
captured. On 7 July 1783, the Wea on the Wabash returned him in a peace overture. He
reported that his “Usage among the Savages had been kinder, than I by any Means could
have expected,” and resumed his teaching.35
In early April, John Floyd donned a scarlet cloak bought in Paris and headed
toward the salt works at Bullitt’s Lick. He was accompanied by his brother Charles, Sam
Wells, and others. At a branch of Brooks Run, they were ambushed. One man fell dead
and Floyd was mortally wounded. “The best beloved man in Kentucky” and “the main
Stay & Support” of Jefferson County was dead. He was buried on the knoll behind his
station. Years later, his wife was buried beside him, wrapped in his scarlet cloak.36
After Floyd’s tragic death, Indian attacks decreased. On 3 September 1783 the
Peace of Paris ended the American Revolution. Without consulting their Indian allies, the
British ceded the territory above the Ohio and promised to evacuate Detroit and other forts
in the Old Northwest. Feeling secure, the people of Louisville turned their attention to
more mundane things. The Popes moved to the Pond Settlement southeast of town. Sam
fulfilled his father’s dream and established Wells Station on the wagon road about four
miles due west of Painted Stone. A few years later Squire Boone purchased the station and
Sam moved near Louisville.37
In the summer of 1783 Daniel Brodhead opened a retail store in Louisville. Women
bartered the linsey from their looms for calico, straw bonnets, and cotton handkerchiefs.
Men traded their pork and corn for hunting rifles, steel traps, feed, seed, and farm
implements. For those who hankered after the finer things, there were silks and satins,
fashionable furniture, pewter and china ware, trinkets and horn combs, Madeira and a
good cigar. Sugar, coffee, and tea from the Caribbean were shipped up-river from New
Orleans. Woodsmen could exchange their pelty at John Sanders’s “keep” (a covered
flatboat moored nearby) and receive certificates of deposit to use as currency. One home in
Louisville had glass windows, prompting a boy to run to his mother and cry, “O, Ma! I just
saw a house with specs on!”38
By the spring of 1784 the town consisted of 50 or 60 scattered houses, mostly log, a
few frame. One tavern boasted a billiard table. The civic-minded spoke of paved streets,
brick houses, and a dancing school. On Sundays young ladies under parasols promenaded
along the shoreline and were courted by swains in silk stockings. The dominant note,
however, was more vulgar. “In truth I see very little doing but card playing, drinking, and
other vices among the common people,” one visitor wrote, “and am sorry too many of the
better sort are engaged in the same manner.”39 While Billy Wells and the other boys played
marbles and mumblety-peg, the men engaged in the rough and tumble of wrestling
matches, horse races, shooting contests, cock fights, wolf baiting, and gander pulls. The
latter, a test of a man’s insensate heart and sure grip, involved galloping past a live gander
—neck greased, webbed feet tied to a low-hanging branch—and, in one swift motion,
yanking off its head.
In the spring of 1784, Billy Wells, Will and Asabel Linn and Walt Brashears, who
had recently arrived with his family from Maryland, went camping at Robert’s Pond.
There were lots of ponds in the area, some known as the Fishpools, a series of sinkholes
connected by an underground stream where eyeless fish were caught. Another set of large
ponds drained into Pond Creek. It was a wonderful place to hunt and fish, with beaver
dams and plenty of geese, swans, and ducks. A light snow had fallen during the night and
the boys had tracked and shot a bear cub and were determined to carry their prize home.
As they were preparing their triumphal load, they were suddenly seized by a small war
party of Delaware and Miami. In broken English the Indians demanded to know where
they came from. Under the threat of brandished tomahawks, the boys insisted that their
home was in Louisville, thus concealing the existence of the nearby Pond Settlement.
Thirteen-year-old Billy Well and the other boys were then bound and taken into the
We will never know exactly what happened on that snowy day in March of 1784
when Billy Wells and his friends were taken prisoner by the Indians. Narratives from the
period describe people in similar situations, however, and two second-hand accounts
provide a few details. Walt Brashears tried to run, as did William Linn even though a dead
bear cub was strapped to his back, but both were quickly caught. The Indians patted
William on the back and gave him the Delaware name of “Little Fat Bear,” while the more
nimble Brashears was called “Buck Elk.” Billy Wells was named “Apekonit,” or Wild
Carrot, due to his reddish hair.41
Since the essence of the small war party was a swift attack and a hasty retreat, the
boys were promptly taken across the Ohio. Once on the Indian shore, they faced an
arduous 150-mile trek to the Delaware villages on the White River.42 The four boys
probably handed over any clothes the Indians desired. Captives were often stripped of
hats, coats, shirts, pants, and shoes. What they usually received in return were a pair of
moccasins, a breech clout, and sometimes a blanket. James Axtell, a scholar of the captivity
experience, argued that this “first transaction” of replacing shoes with moccasins was
literally and figuratively a crucial first step in transforming captives into “White
The boys knew that they most likely faced one of two fates: adoption or annihilation.
How they conducted themselves could determine whether they lived or died. Those from
ten to fifteen were prime candidates for adoption (Billy was thirteen), and a show of spunk
and fortitude might impress their captors. They may not have known that sometimes a
grieving family demanded a blood sacrifice, regardless of the qualities of the captives.44
The country of
southern Indiana across from Louisville was hilly and forested. There was no easy, direct
route to the Delaware villages. Chestnut Tree Place, present Anderson, Indiana, was a
likely destination. They proceeded in single file, leaving as little trail as possible, with an
Indian in front of and behind each boy. The last Indian held a switch to whip any laggards
and make sure no sign was left behind. If a search party tried to rescue the boys, they
probably assumed their captors were Shawnee on the Mad River in Ohio and thus headed
in the wrong direction.
Within the year the three other boys escaped from their Delaware village and made it
safely back to Louisville. Billy Wells, however, was taken to Snake-fish Town, and began
the process of becoming a Miami warrior, fighting at the side of his father-in-law Little
Turtle at St. Clair’s Defeat in 1791, the biggest victory the Indians ever won against the U.
S. Army. The next year, for reasons to complex to go into here, he returned to Kentucky,
scouted for Anthony Wayne at the decisive battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, then served as
Indian Agent for the Miami at Fort Wayne. He died a martyr at Fort Dearborn, present-
day Chicago, at the start of the War of 1812.
1 Yates, Two Hundred Years, 2-10.
2 Dandridge, Bedinger, 54-73; Butler, History of Kentucky, 108-9; Simon Kenton, DM, 5BB, 115; James Patton, DM,
49J, 89; Talbert, Benjamin Logan, 74-81; Hammon, Virginia’s Western War, 106-7.
3 James, Clark Papers, 1: 150-1, 117; Hoffman, Simon Girty, 135-7; Collins, Historical Sketches, 172-3.
4 Todd to Preston, DM, 4B, 66.
5 Clark, Trapp, “John Floyd,” 1; Anna M. Carlidge, “Colonel John Floyd: Reluctant Adventurer,” RKHS 66 (Oct.
1968), 336, 317-66; Trapp, “John Floyd,” 1-24; Mrs. Laetita Preston Floyd, DM, 6J, 89-108.
6 Abernathy, Western Land, 191. Floyd’s station was on the west side of present Breckinridge Lane near the Jamestown
Apartments. Hammon, “Beargrass Stations,” 154-5; Yates, Two Hundred Years, 13-4.
7 Beckner, “Clickenbeard Interview,”112; Young, Westward, 74; Floyd in Hammon, “dangerous situation,” 219-20;
Judge Moses Boone, DM, 12C, 28.
8 Fleming, “Journal,” in Mereness, Travels, 622, 630, 636-7, 641; Durrett, Centenary, 66-7.
9 Hogan, “James Wade,” RKHS, 30; General Frederick Haldimand to Lord George Germain, 10/23/81, Haldimand
Papers, MPHC, 10: 530.
10 Marshall, History of Kentucky, I: 104; Davis Gass in James, Clark Papers, I: 398; Floyd, Hammon, “dangerous
situation,” 220-1.
11 Carter, Territorial Papers, 7: cxxxv; Quaife, “Detroit Invaded Kentucky,” 62-65. Young, Westward, 89. For McKee
see Nelson, Man of Distinction.
12 McKee in Quaife, “Detroit Invaded Kentucky,” 65.
13 Heald, DM, 23S, 58; Hammon, Virginia’s Western War, 145; Wilson, DM, 9J, 21; James, Clark Papers, I: 452-3,
482; Simon Kenton interview, DM, 5BB, 123; McAfee, “Life and Times,” (Jan. 1927), 3; Beckner, “Clickenbeard
Interview,” 128; Hammon, Virtginia’s Western War, 130; James, Clark Papers, 1: 483.
14 May to Beall, 8/22/1780, FCHS; James, Clark Papers, 1: 453;Talbert, “Kentucky Invades Ohio—1780,” 298.
15 “Vince Akers, “The Long Run Massacre,” 1/26/1996, FHS, 19. Painted Stone was “on Clear Creek about midway…
between the Eminence Road and the Burks Branch Pike,” Akers, “Frontier Shelby County,” July 1779, FHS, 976.884, A
315, 2. Murphy said he was “billeted at Wells’ Station, some miles up Beargrass,” DM, 3S, 37. Probably he meant
Linn’s Station located west of present Hurstbourne Lane, Hammon, “Beargrass Stations,” 157.
16 John Floyd to Jefferson, 4/16/1781, James, Clark Papers, 1: 530-1.
17 George William Beattie and Helen Pruitt Beattie, “Colonel William Linn—Soldier Indian Fighter,Pioneer Linns of
Kentucky (privately printed), FHS, 220-48.
18 Ronald R. Van Stockum, Sr., “Squire Boone,” FHS, 18; Moses Boone, DM, 19C, 35.
19 Clark, James, Clark Papers, 1: 583; James Chamber’s Statement, DM, 4S; Haldimand to Germain, 10/23/1781,
MPHC, 10: 530; “Anderson’s Journal,” James McBride, Lives of the Early Settlers of Butler County, Ohio (Cincinnati:
Robert Clarke & Co., 1869), 279.
20 Clark, James, Clark Papers, 1: 598, 602-3; Murphy, DM, 3C37; William Crawford’s brother Valentine had a station
on Jacobs Creek near the Wells family.
21 Thompson to De Peyster, 9/26/81, McKee to De Peyster, 9/26/81, MPHC, 10: 515-7.
22 G. T. Wilcox, “Floyd’s Defeat,” Louisville Courier-Journal, 7/28/1880. Wilcox was the son of Squire Boone’s
daughter Sarah and spoke with Isaiah Boone. His account says “a man named Carris” accompanied Ballard, but other
sources state that it was Sam Wells; Isaiah Boone, DM, 19C, 91; Akers, “Long Run Massacre,” 9.
23 Isaiah Boone, DM, 19C, 97.
24 Isaiah Boone and Moses Boone, DM, 19C, 95-6, 36-7.
25 A historical marker on U.S. 60 near Long Run states: “Scene of massacre, undoubtedly the bloodiest one in early
Kentucky, which took place in 1781. A Miami Indian party killed over 60 pioneers en route from Squire Boone’s
Painted Stone Station to safety at forts at Falls of Ohio.” The actual number killed was probably eight to ten, not
counting Samuel Wells and 15 to 20 killed the next day. The battle was originally called “Boone’s Defeat.”
26 Akers, “Long Run Massacre,” 19; Murphy, DM, 3C, 40-1; Isaiah Boone, DM, 19C, 96. McKee to De Peyster,
9/26/1781, MPHC 10: 517; Murphy, DM, 3C, 45; Collins, Historical Sketches, 173. Collins praised Sam Wells’s act of
selfless courage on two other occasions, 362, 519. Sam was 26 or 27 at the time of Floyd’s Defeat.
27 Floyd to Clark, 9/14/1781, James, Clark Papers, I: 604. Samuel Murphy and four others were captured. Murphy,
DM, 3C, 43. Murphy, Thomas Rosencroft and Valtine King were taken to Detroit; all eventually returned. Hoffman,
Simon Girty, 155; Murphy, DM, 3C, 44; McKee to DePeyster, 9/26/81, MPHC, 10: 518. At Detroit in October, 1781,
Miami warriors gave DePyester seven scalps from the massacre.
28 Stockman, “Boone,” FHS, 16-20.
29 Wells file, card catalogue, FHS.
30 Sullivan’s Station was near the Heritage House at 3411 Bardstown Road, Yates, Two Hundred Years, 15; Hammon,
“Beargrass Stations,” 158; Sullivan to Clark, James, Clark Papers, 1: 430; John May to Sam Beall, 7/14/86, FHS.
31 See Drake, Pioneer Life, 3-30.
32 William Croghan to William Davies, 7/6/82, William Irving to George Washington, 7/11/82; John Hardin to William
Davies, 7/28/82, James, Clark Papers, 2: 71, 76-7, 80. People in western Pennsylvania suspected the Indians at
Gnadenhütten of aiding war parties against their settlements; in truth, the Moravian missionaries were supporting the
American cause. Wallace, Heckewelder, 189-202. Americans made Crawford’s torture a cautionary tale about the
barbarity of their “savage” enemies, conveniently forgetting the massacre at Gnadenhütten which caused it. The Indians
did not forget. Tecumseh often mentioned it.
33 Steele to Benjamin Harrison, 8/26/82, Daniel Boone to Harrison, 9/11/82, James, Clark Papers, 2: 97, 113.
34 James, Clark Papers, 2: 152.
35 Legras, 8/1/82, James, Clark Papers, 2: 85; McKee to DePeyster, 8/28/82, Canadian Archives, Ottawa; Colonial
Office Records, Ser. 2, 20: 285-8; DM 52J, 28; Robert E. McDowell, “The Wilderness Road in Jefferson County,”
Louisville Courier Journal & Times Magazine (20 June 1967), 20-2.
36 McDowell, “Wilderness Road,” 12; a source says Wells was there, DM, 13CC, 12; Hammon, Virginia’s Western
War,178; Tapp, “John Floyd,” 222-3; Marshall, History of Kentucky, 1: 139; Isaac Hite to father, 4/26/83, FHS.
37 Robert E. McDowell, “Bullitt’s Lick: The Related Saltworks and Settlements,” FCHQ 30 (1956), 241-69; Akers,
“Frontier Shelby County,” 25, 30. The station was east of the junction of Harrington Mill Pike and Scotts Station Road,
“Taylor vs McCampbell” Bundle. 157, Shelby County courthouse. Fresh water still flows from the spring.
38 Collins, Historical Sketches, 363; Durrett, Centenary, 71.
39 In Ira V. Birdwhistell, Gathered at the River (Louisville 1978), 4.
40 Heald, DM, 23S, 62-5; Butler, “Outline,” 104; Hall, Romance, 113-9; Hammon, Virginia’s Western War, 252. The
Waller-Williams Environmental School, 2415 Rockford Lane, is on the former site of Robert’s Pond. My thanks to Judy
Hill for this information.
41 Butler, “Outline,” 104-5; Hall, Romance, 114-20. Butler had access to people who knew the story; Hall interviewed
Dr. Lewis F. Linn, son of William Linn, in the 1830s. Most of the narratives cited in this chapter describe captivities
from 1755 to 1795 in the Old Northwest. Although both Algonquian and Iroquoian cultures were involved, the
treatment of captives among woodland Indians was similar. Ten concern boys from ages 8-18. The three Miami
narratives are about Thomas Morris, John Flinn, and Frances Slocum. Nelson, Jonathan Alder, 30. The Alder narrative
is not exactly a “primary source.” See Nelson, “Introduction,” 1-25. Dunn, a scholar of the Miami language,
interviewed Little Turtle’s granddaughter Kilsokwa (The Setting Sun); she said that “the Miamis called William Wells
A-pe-kon-it…the name of a plant called the ‘wild potato’ or Indian potato.” Dunn added that a-pe-kon-it is known as
the “ground-nut” or “wild bean” (apios tuberosa), True Indian Stories, 114-5, 254. Whether the name referred to the
wild carrot, potato, or bean, Wells’s hair color probably was the inspiration; although one Miami tradition claims it was
because of the way the hungry boy devoured a bowl of wild carrot soup. Meginness, Frances Slocum, 28, 141-2;
Beckner, “Benjamin Allen,” 72, 74.
42 Hall, Romance, 114-5; Butler, “Outline,” 104.
43 Johnson, “Narrative,” 254-5; Spencer, Captivity, 46; Tanner, Narrative, 28; Axtell, Invasion Within, 309.
44 Tanner, Narrative, 24. Although many captives were eventually ransomed, and some were treated as slaves, adoption
or death at the stake would have been foremost in Billy Wells’s mind.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.