STORY OF THE TWO JOHNSON BOYS
The following story is reproduced from a book titled, the "Combined History and Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio." The material for this book was taken from two nineteenth century books: (1) 'History of Monroe County Ohio,' a product of the H.H. Hardesty & Co., publishers, Chicago and Toledo, 1882 and (2) 'Caldwell's Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio,' a product of Atlas Publishing Company, Mount Vernon, Ohio, 1898. The "Combined History and Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio" was reprinted and is available from the Monroe County Historical Society.
The narrative of the heroic adventures of the two Johnson boys, who killed two Indians in what is now Jefferson county, was furnished the writer by Henry, the younger brother, in 1845, for publication in a paper he then published in Woodsfield. The story is as follows:
"I was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, on the 4th day of February, 1777. When I was about eight years old, my father, having a large family to provide for, sold his farm with the expectation of acquiring larger possessions further west. Thus he was stimulated to encounter the perils of a pioneer life. He crossed the Ohio river, and bought some improvements on what was called Beech Bottom Flats, two and a half miles from the river, and three or four miles above the mouth of Short creek. Shortly after he came there the Indians became troublesome. They stole horses and various other things, and killed a number of persons in our neighborhood. When I was between eleven and twelve years old, (I think it was is the fall of 1788), I was taken prisoner with my brother John, who was about eighteen months older than I. The circumstances are as follows: On Saturday evening we were out with an older brother, and came home late in the evening; one of us had lost a hat, and John and I went back the next day to look for it. We found the hat, and sat down on a log and were cracking nuts. After a, short time we saw two men coming down from the direction of the house; from their dress we took them to be two of our neighbors, James Perdue, and J. Russell. We paid but little attention to them till they came quite near to us. To escape by flight was now impossible, had we been disposed to try it. We sat still until they came up to us. One of them said, ‘How do, brudder?’ My brother then asked them if they were Indians, and they answered in the affirmative, and said we must go with them. One of them had a blue buckskin, which he gave my brother to carry. Without further ceremony, we took up our line of march for the wilderness, not knowing whether we should ever return to the cheerful home we had left; and not having much love for our commanding officers, of course we obeyed martial orders rather tardily. One Indian walked about ten steps before, and the other about the same distance behind us. After traveling some distance we halted in a deep hollow, and sat down. They took out their knives and whet them, and talked some in the Indian tongue, which we could not understand. I told my brother that I thought they were going to kill us, and I believe he thought so too, for he began to talk to them, and told them that his father was cross to him, and made him work hard; that he did not like hard work, and that he would rather be a hunter and live in the woods. This seemed to please them, for they put up their knives and talked more lively and pleasantly to us. We returned the same familiarity, and many questions passed between us, all parties being very inquisitive. They asked my brother which way home was, and he told them the contrary way every time they would ask him, although he knew the way very well. This would make them laugh. They thought we were lost and knew no better. They conducted us over Short creek hill in search of horses, but found none; so we continued on foot. Night came on, and we halted in a low hollow, about three miles from Carpenter's fort, and about four from where they first took us. Our route being somewhat circuitous and full of zig-zags, we made headway but slowly. As night began to close in around us I became fretful; my brother encouraged me by whispering to me that we would kill them that night. After they had selected the place of encampment, one of them scouted round the camp, while the other struck fire, which was done by stopping the touch-hole of a gun, and dashing powder in the pan. After the Indian got the fire kindled he re-primed the gun, and went to an old stump to get some dry tinder wood for fire; and while he was thus employed, my brother took the gun, cocked it, and was about to shoot the Indian; but I was alarmed, fearing the other might be close by, and be able to overpower us. So I remonstrated against his shooting, and took hold of the gun, and prevented the shot. I, at the same time, begged him to wait till night, and I would help him to kill them both. The Indian that had taken the scout came back about dark. We took our supper, talked some time, and went to bed on the naked ground to try to rest and study over the best mode of attack. They put us between them that they might be better able to guard us. After a while, one of the Indians, supposing we were asleep, got up and stretched himself on the other side of the fire, and soon began to snore. John, who had been watching every motion, found they were both sound asleep, and whispered to me to get up. We got up as carefully as possible. John took the gun which the Indian had struck fire with, cocked it, and placed it in my hands pointed in the direction of the head of one of the Indians. He then took a tomahawk and drew it over the head of the other Indian. I pulled the trigger and he struck at the same instant; the blow falling too far back on the neck, only stunned the Indian. He attempted to spring to his feet, uttering the most hideous yells. Although my brother repeated the blows with some effect, the conflict became terrible, and somewhat doubtful. The Indian, however, was forced to yield to the blows he received upon his head, and, in a short time, he lay quiet and still at our feet.
"After we were satisfied that they were both dead, and fearing there might be others close by, we hurried off, and took nothing with us but the gun I shot with. We took our course towards the river, and in about three-quarters of a mile found a path that lead to Carpenter’s fort. My brother here hung his hat, that we might know on our return where to turn off to find our camp. We got to the fort a little before daybreak. We related our adventure, and a small party went back with my brother and found the Indian that was tomahawked. The other had crawled away a short distance with the gun. A skeleton and a gun were found sometime after near the place where we had camped."