Spencer Records' Memoir of the Ohio Valley Frontier 1766-1795

Note to readers,

The following narrative is an excellent chronicle of the difficulty of frontier life in western Pennsylvania and Kentucky during the period of our study. This document was provided by a fellow researcher, James Sellars, whose 5g uncle John Sellers, was one of the defenders of Ruddle's Fort.

--Bob Francis, June 1998--




Spencer Records' Memoir of the Ohio Valley Frontier 1766-1795






Reprinted from Indiana Magazine of History Volume LV, December, 1959

* Naomi Mullendore Hougham is a great-great-granddaughter of Spencer Records. She is a former professor of botany at Franklin College, Franklin, Indiana.

The narrative which follows is principally a memoir of frontier life in western Pennsylvania and the Licking Valley of Kentucky. A son of Josiah Records and Susanna Tully Records, Spencer Records was born December 11, 1762, in Sussex County, Delaware, of English ancestry. Three years later the family left Delaware and, after a brief sojourn near Hagerstown, Maryland, followed Braddock's Trail into western Pennsylvania, settling in 1766 near Dunbar's Creek at the foot of Laurel Mountain. The Peace of Paris, 1763, which registered the decisive triumph of the English over the French for possession of the vast and fertile hinterland west of the Appalachian Mountains, had been concluded only three years earlier. Moreover, settlement in the area selected by the Records family was then illegal under the Proclamation of 1763, but even so western Pennsylvania was at that time he most important beachhead of settlement west of the Appalachian watershed by English colonists.
Approximately the initial one-fifth of the memoir describes frontier life in western Pennsylvania during the period from 1766-1783, and particularly during the years of the American Revolution, 1775-1783. A main thread throughout the narrative is the story of the continuous struggle for physical survival. Obtaining food, shelter, and clothing adequate for subsistence was essential. Perhaps equally important in the struggle for survival was the costly and almost continuous conflict with the Indians. Fortunately, the early settlers of western Pennsylvania were largely seasoned frontiersmen, quite unlike the tenderfoot English who first settled Jamestown and Plymouth about a century and a half earlier. Hence the settlers of western Pennsylvania not only survived harsh conditions and costly Indian conflict, but they soon extended their settlements and improved their situation. During their struggles with the wilderness and with the Indians, however, the frontiersmen in some respects lived more like Indians themselves than is commonly realized. The fact that settlers sometimes mistook other settlers for Indians, as indicated in the Records narrative, was more than accidental.
In 1783, when Spencer Records became twenty-one years of age, his family migrated to the Licking Valley of Kentucky. The remainder and bulk of the narrative is largely concerned with frontier beginnings and early developments in the Licking Valley during the ensuing decade. Life in Kentucky was much the same as it had been in western Pennsylvania--the same harsh struggle for food, shelter, and clothing, as well as continued conflict with the Indians. The residents of this valley remained vulnerable to Indian attack from north of the Ohio--the "Indian side" of the river, as Spencer Records termed it--from the end of the Revolution almost until 1794 when General Anthony Wayne defeated the Indians at Fallen Timbers in northwestern Ohio.
This memoir correctly and vividly portrays the early Ohio Valley frontiersmen as being woodsmen and hunters as well as farmers and illustrates their economic self-sufficiency. It also suggests that frontier experiences were very similar in the various parts of the Ohio Valley during the years described. Moreover, the Records narrative offers excellent examples which point out the importance of the Ohio River in directing and influencing early settlement west of the Appalachians. For instance, whether Records lived in western Pennsylvania, the Licking Valley of Kentucky, the Scioto Valley or near the Ohio River in Ohio, or in Bartholomew County, Indiana, he remained a resident of the Ohio Valley. The Ohio River was the principal highway within the region; and even when Spencer Records took circuitous routes through present-day West Virginia enroute to Pennsylvania to collect a debt for his father, he remained within the Ohio Valley and generally traveled up and down the Ohio's tributaries and over their connecting portages and trails. Knowledge of the fact that this narrative is a product of the Ohio Valley frontier is very helpful in locating the various residences and trips of Spencer Records.
Although political developments were important in Kentucky during the 1780's and the early 1790's, Records almost completely ignores them. Kentucky became a state in 1792, he correctly observes, but he adds nothing to indicate that it had been a county of Virginia, nothing of the various conventions leading to statehood, and nothing of the so-called Spanish Conspiracy. Neither are the problems of the navigation of the Mississippi and Spanish control of its exit mentioned.
Spencer Records was about eighty years of age when his memoir was composed, apparently in 1842. The events and incidents which he relates had nearly all occurred fifty to seventy years earlier. Meanwhile, he had lived in Kentucky while it continued to gain in population and resources during the last half of the 1790's; then he had lived for two decades in Ohio (1801-1821); thereafter he had resided near Columbus in Bartholomew County, Indiana, for two more decades. Family correspondence and tradition indicate that the narrative was rewritten and copied by a neighbor, James Clarke, who polished its grammar and form. During the 1860's the memoir was acquired by Lyman C. Draper, and it is now included in the Draper Collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, and is published here with the society's permission. A different and less complete version appeared in the Indiana Magazine of History, XV (September, 1919), 201-232.
About two-thirds of the way through his memoir, Spencer Records mentions his marriage to Elizabeth Ellrod in Kentucky in 1790; and he completes the vital statistics of his family with evident pride near the end of the narrative. Here and elsewhere Records gives testimony to his being of the Regular Baptist persuasion. Several episodes in his story illustrate his literal predestinarian views.
In editing this memoir the editor was impressed by the fact that historical information which Records recounts generally concurs with the basic facts as related by scholars and authors who are cited in the footnotes. This agreement may indicate a marvelous memory for detail on the part of Records, the octogenarian; it my mean that part or all of the memoir was composed earlier than 1842, or that Records may have had the assistance of other persons in writing his recollections. In any case, the memoir is an important and informative document regarding frontier beginnings in the Ohio Valley during and immediately following the American Revolution.
A Brief Narrative giving an account of the time and place of the birth of Spencer Records his movings and settlements: with incidents that occurred relative to the wars with the Indians. With a brief account of his father Josiah Records: written by himself the said Spencer Records.
Editor's note: In editing the document that begins with this line, original spelling, capitalization, and paragraphing have been reproduced. Letters were difficult to distinguish in some instances but were transcribed according to the writer's probable intent. Original punctuation has also been retained except in a few cases where additions were made for the sake of clarity. Periods have been inserted wherever their addition was unmistakably indicated--after abbreviations and at the ends of paragraphs. Commas were used to separate a series of words if the writer of the manuscript omitted them. Throughout the document, proper nouns were often, but not always, underlined. The editor has chosen to delete this underscoring rather than to clutter the page with italics which have no significance that can be determined. Bracketed words, dates, and phrases in the text of the memoir have been added by the editor. The manuscript contains these dates in brackets, written by some unknown person. The two footnotes that appear in the manuscript have been retained; evidently someone other than the original penman added them and marked their location by asterisks. With the minor exceptions already noted and insofar as the mechanics of printing permit, the narrative which follows is a faithful reproduction of the original--minus its repetitive table of contents. The original Spencer Records narrative is in the Kentucky Papers, Draper Manuscripts, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 23CC. Mrs. Hougham indicates that some of Records' personal papers, such as deeds and military orders and commissions, are in the possession of a descendant, Charles L. Rueff, of Johnson County, Indiana.
Special note: A slight change has been made from the original article for this web page. Rather than the traditional footnote method of placing the footnotes at the end of the document, I have included the footnotes within the narrative in italics. I realize that some may find this a bit of a nuisance in that it interrupts the natural flow of the narrative; however, this is offset by the convenience of having the footnoted material readily available. {Bob Francis, web site owner}
I have written the following narrative, partly for my own satisfaction and amusement, and partly for the information of my children, as by it they may become acquainted with some things, they would otherwise be ignorant of.
I have written it briefly, stating every thing in as few words as possible; which will take less writing and reading, and will probably be better understood.
October 8th 1842--Spencer Records.
A narrative of Captain Spencer Records
Spencer Record son of Josiah Records and Susanna Tully his wife, was born on the 11th day of December 1762 in Sussex County, State of Delaware. My father and mother were both descendants of English ancestors.
I shall in the first place, give a brief account of my father Josiah Records, which will serve as an introduction to my own. Josiah Records son of John Records and Ann Callaway his wife, was born on the first day of May old style [Josiah Records was born May 12, 1741 according to the present day New Style calendar] in the year 1741 in Sussex County, State of Delaware. In 1765 my father with his family, his mother, sister Susanna and his two brother-in-laws, James Quoturmos and James Finch with others, embarked on board of a sloop in the Nanticoke river, descended it to its mouth in the Chesapeake Bay, thence to the mouth of the Potomac, and up that river to Georgetown, and having landed there, proceeded on to Antetom creek near Hagarstown, and there wintered.
In the spring of 1766 my father and his two brother-in-laws crossed the Alleghany mountains, and took up land near the foot of Laurel Hill, and near Dunbar's creek, so called, from the circumstance of Col. [Thomas] Dunbar having encamped thereon, with the rear of Braddock's army, at the time of his defeat. Braddock was mortally wounded, taken to that camp, there died, and was buried. [Note: General Edward Braddock's defeat in battle against the French and Indians in 1755, as he neared the forks of the Ohio where Pittsburgh now stands, was a major disaster for the English and Colonials during the Last French and Indian War, 1754-1763. Braddock, fatally wounded in the battle, died several days later as his forces retreated eastward over the road they had recently opened on their westward march. This road, known as Braddock's Road, was opened from Cumberland, Maryland, to within sight of the forks of the Ohio.]
That country at that time, was known as the Redstone country, and so called from Redstone creek, which running through a part of that country, entered the Monongahela river, twelve miles northwest of where Uniontown now stands, and near where the town of Brownsville is now built.
After clearing ground, planting it in corn, and working it, they returned back, and in the fall [1766] moved over the mountains. My father hired Peter Melot with his cart and three horses to move him, and took my uncle Quoturmos' blacksmith tools in the cart, all but the anvil; it was heavy and had to be left.
They took Braddock's old road. At that time there were not more than ten or twelve families in that settlement, [Presumably the settlement near Dunbar Creek, close to the foot of Laurel Mountain, where the Records family settled.] a few about the broad fold of Youghagany; some about Redstone old fort, and a few about Fort Pitt; perhaps not more than one hundred in all: however emigrants crossed the mountains rapidly, and settlements were soon extended to a considerable distance in different directions. Perhaps it may not be amiss, to give a short sketch of the manner in which the first settlers of the Redstone lived. [For information on settlement and frontier life in western Pennsylvania, see pertinent chapters in Solon J. Buck and Elizabeth H. Buck, The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, 1939). A concise account of the beginning and early growth of settlements in the area is in Ray Allen Billington, Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier (New York, 1949), 155-157. As indicated in Billington, the area in which the Records family settled, was west of the Proclamation Line of 1763 and not legally open to settlement in 1766.] As they had to pack over the mountains on horse-back, they could carry but little more than their clothing, beds & cooking utensils. As deer, bear, and turkies were plenty, they were supplied with meat by hunting; their cloth was homemade, some dressed deerskins; many yards of linen were made of nettles: their bread was made by pounding corn in a hommony bloc[k]. Coffee and tea were not used. At that time there were no store goods west of Laurel hill; all articles they could not make themselves, were packed over the mountains from Hagarstown, a distance of 130 miles. Some persons made a business of buying bear and deer skins, ginseng &c. packing them to Hagarstown, and fetching such articles as were needed. My father being a good hunter, and killing a great many deer and bears, made a trip to Hagarstown every winter after hunting time, and got such articles as he stood in need of.
The people there, at that time, lived happier, and better contented, than the people do there at this time, with all thei[r] luxuries, fine dress, pride, vanity, pomp and show.
About the year 1768, Philip Shoot built a tub-mill on Dunbar's creek. My father did the mill-wright work, and my Uncle Quoturmos did the black-smith work. It was built on a very small scale, and very imperfectly, for want of tools. I remember, that my uncle made use of the pole of an axe for an anvil. This mill would grind fifteen bushels of grain in a day, which being sufficient for that neighborhood was a great relief--This was the first mill built west of Laurel
Hill. About two years afterwards, Henry Beason built a mill on Redstone creek, and some time after, laid off a town that went by the name of Beas-on-town, but now Union-town the capital of Fayette County Pennsylvania. [According to Buck and Buck, The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania, 150, 410, Henry Beeson, a Quaker, settled at Uniontown about 1767, and soon other Quakers joined him in the vicinity of Uniontown and Brownsville. Beeson was a blacksmith and miller.]
1772. Six years of happy days had passed away, my father having sold his plantation, bought land about fourteen miles from Fort Pitt, on the north fork of Robertson's run. In the year 1774 the Indians broke out [Dunmore's War], at that time the whites were the aggressors, caused chiefly by the murder of Bald Eagle, a Delaware chief, by some villains on the Ohio, while he was in his canoe; and the murder of the family of Logan, the celebrated Mingo chief, by captain Michael Cresap. We all had to fortify ourselves. Dunmore, governor of Virginia, marched an army into the Indian Country, and as the Indians had not done much mischief, soon returned home, after patching up a kind of peace with them, which was however of short duration. [Dunmore's War, 1774, involved rivalry between Pennsylvania and Virginia, both of which claimed the forks of the Ohio, as well as conflict between the Indians and the advancing English colonists. This war immediately preceded the American Revolution, which began in 1775, and perhaps helped delay further costly Indian warfare in the upper Ohio Valley until 1777. For a general discussion of Dunmore's War and its impact on western Pennsylvania, see Buck and Buck, The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania, 156-170, 175-184, and Randolph C. Downes, Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the Upper Ohio Valley until 1795 (Pittsburgh, 1940), 152-178] In the interval of peace during the year 1776, my father built a mill on Raccoon creek, on land he had previously purchased ten miles northwest from home, and hired Isaac Felty to to keep her that winter.
In the spring of 1777, he moved to the mill; during the summer the Indians recommenced hostilities. A few families forted at the mill. The Indians fired on John Stallions, shooting his mare through, and himself through the arm. She ran with him about one mile to Dalow's fort, and fell dead. This was all the mischief done near us, but the frontiers in other parts suffered more, of which I can not give any account at this time. In the fall my father returned home, and as the Indians lived at some distance, and the winters were cold, we were not troubled with them during that season, so that we all lived at home in safety.
However in the spring of 1778 all forted again, my father forted at McDonalds fort, two and a half miles from home. During the summer my father obtained a guard of men, to be stationed at his mill; and men would go in companies armed, and get grinding done. When winter set in, the guard left the mill, but the miller stayed till the first of March, and then moved off.
1779. This winter my father was elected Captain, and received his commission from the governor of Virginia, which at that time claimed jurisdiction over all that part of Pennsylvania laying west of Laurel-hill, which claim they held until the year 1782. [Buck and Buck, The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania, 170, state that it was not until 1782 that Pennsylvania and Virginia agreed upon a temporary boundary westward to the Ohio River. Shortly thereafter commissioners from the two states ran the actual boundary.]
Sometime in March [1779?], the Indians fell on a camp of sugar makers, and killed five young men, and took five young women and a boy prisoners. This camp was on Raccoon creek, two miles below my father's mill: there was another camp on the creek, one mile below that. My cousin John Finch and myself were at the mill during the time the murder was committed, having been sent there by my father on an errand, and being detained there a day or two in consequence of a rise in the waters of the creek. The Indians had discovered the camp, and laying in ambush all night; fell on them about daylight with their tomahawks. This we knew to be the case, as the bodies all lay in and near the camp, except one, who had run about fifty yards, and was there tomahawked and scalped. Two of the young men were of the name of Devers, two named Turner, and one Fulks. One of the Devers' lay in the camp, with his shoes on slip-shod. He was stabbed in the left side, and was laying on his right side, with his fingers and thumb, s[t]anding on end over the wound. The creek falling we returned home.
The same morning, a man from the lower camp, went to theirs, to borrow a gimblet, to tap sugar trees, and found the men killed, and the women and boy gone. He gave the alarm to their friends, at the settlement ten miles off. The next day, we went to bury them. Ephraim Ralph, a cousin of my father's, who was a Lieutenant in the United States' service in Captain Laughery's company; was then at home on a visit, and went with us. When a grave was dug, the men being backward to lay them in it; Ralph told them not to hold back, for they knew not how soon they might be in the same situation themselves. So setting them the example, they were all laid in one grave and buried, and then we returned home.
These were the first I had seen, that had been killed by the Indians, and a dreadful sight it was to me, the more so, as some of them had been but a short time before, my schoolmates. The grief and lamentation of poor old William Turner, is still fresh in my remembrance, lamenting the loss of his children; his two sons George and William, that lay there tomahawked and scalped; and his beloved daughter Betsey, a beautiful girl of fourteen years of age, taken captive by the cruel savages; not knowing what she had suffered, or might hereafter suffer. His grief can be better conceived by tender parents than described.
In the year 1782 [1781], (bracketed date indicates a later notation) as Capt. Laughery was descending the Ohio in a boat with his company, in order to join General [George Rogers] Clark; he landed at the mouth of a creek, below the mouth of the Big Miami; he was there attacked by the Indians, and defeated. Laughery and Ralph were both killed. From which circumstance, the creek took the name of Laughery which it still bears. [The Captain Laughery referred to in this paragraph and on p. 331 is no doubt Colonel Archibald Lochry who, while in command of troops on their way to assist General George Rogers Clark in his proposed capture of Detroit, was defeated by a combination of Indians, Canadians, and English below the junction of Laughery Creek with the Ohio River in the present Dearborn County, Indiana, August, 1781. See John D. Barnhart and Donald F. Carmony, Indiana: From Frontier to Industrial Commonwealth (4 vols., New York, 1954), I, 69, and Downes, Council Fires on the Upper Ohio, 266-270. According to Downes p. 270), "Every soldier in Lochry's and of almost one hundred either was captured or died a wretched death at the hands of Brant and his ninety warriors, and Lochry himself was killed." Laughery Creek still bears the same name and has the same spelling as Spencer Records used; presumably its name is a corruption of Lochry.]
In the spring of this year, some forted, others lived four or five families together: four families lived with my father. About the first of August, Alexander McCandless, who lived a mile and a half from my father's, in company with a few families; hdd [had] occasion to go for Mrs. Meek, an old lady, about fifty years of age, who lived about six miles off, where a few families were gathered. After staying the time required, he set off home with her: about one mile from her house, they were fired on by five or six Indians, from behind a log, situated about twenty yards from the path. The shots missing both them and their horses, McCandless turned round, took the path home, and was soon out of danger. They then sprung towards the old lady, one of them threw his tomahawk, and stuck it in a tree near her head: she however stuck to her saddle, and her horse soon carried her safe home.
A few days afterwards, Alexander McNeely and his brother James, both bachelors, who had gathered with others at Robert Shirers', went home by themselves to work: their dog beginning to bark in a hazel thicket, they got alarmed, thinking that there were Indians there, and so returned to Shirer's. Alexander got six men to go with him, leaving his brother James there, who was about sixty years of age. The Indians seeing them go off, followed them, and waylaid the path, behind a large log. When they came opposite them, they fired on them, killing McNeely and four others, one made his escape by running. Shirer was not killed, but in attempting to leap a muddy branch, he being old, and not able to reach the bank, fell in, and was taken prisoner.
26th [?] Sept. 1781--Bates Collier killed.
Shortly after that, two men that lived at my fathers, set off in the evening to hunt, taking a path that led to a deserted plantation. They had not proceeded more than half a mile, before they were fired on by Indians, and both killed. My father hearing the report of the guns; in company with another person, took the path and ran, but soon returned, having found them both killed and scalped. Their names were, Bates Collier, and Daniel Reardon. Upon these events, all either forted or moved off, my father moving eight miles. When winter set in, all returned home.
After the death of Alexander McNeely, his brother James, being heir to his plantation and other property, went there and lived by himself. One very cold morning, the snow being about half leg deep; one of the neighbors going to his house to borrow a bag, knocked and called at the door, but receiving no answer, he pushed it open, and going in, discovered the old man lying by the fire dead, with his feet in the fire much burnt. The fire had then burnt down, and how long he had been dead was unkno[wn].
And it came to pass in those days, that the devil entered into Colonel [David] Williamson (who lived fifteen or twenty miles west of us) and stirred him up, to raise a company of men, to go against a town of friendly Indians, chiefly of the Delaware tribe, and professing the Moravian religion who had taken no part with the hostile Indians, and who lived on the waters of the Muskingum.
Having accordingly raised his men, he crossed the Ohio, and reached the town. As the Indians were friendly, they did not apprehend any danger, so neither took arms nor fled. He told them, that he had come to take them over the Ohio, as he was apprehensive that the hostile Indians would slay them. Being agreed to this; that evening and night, the women were busily employed, pounding meal and baking bread, to take them on their journey.
In the morning, having them in his power, in cool blood, he ordered them all to go into two houses, the men into one, and the women and children into another. He then gave orders to his men, to go in, and fall on them with their tomahawks. To that some objected, and called on God to witness that they were clear of the blood of those innocent people. However he found enough willing and ready to accomplish his diabolical design. They went in and fell upon them. When the butchery commenced, two young men that were brothers, sat down together, began to sing a hymn, and continued singing till they were murdered. They were all murdered without distinction of age or sex; a piece of barbarity the Indians were never known to be guilty of, disgraceful to any people professing Christianity. The number slain I have no recollection of at this time. He then returned home in triumph. [This unfortunate episode, with its brutal massacre of Indians at Gnadenhutten in March, 1782, is discussed in Buck and Buck, The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania, 197-198, and in Downes, Council Fires on the Upper Ohio, 271-272.] I never heard any person speak of the circumstance, without expressing his abhorrence, excepting one poor old dirty Scotchman, named James Greenlee, who said, "owh mon ats a weel cum don thang, fur they suppurted the other Injuns as tha cum and gaad;" for which he got no applause from his neighbors.
Although my father's mill was deserted, and the nearest fort was five miles off; yet the Indians never burned it; and as mills were scarce, the people went in companies armed to get grinding done, and my father went and ground for them. Notwithstanding every one either forted or moved off, they all raised corn at home; those that had removed their families, returned themselves to the forts, and went in armed companies from field to field, where while some worked, other kept guard.
During the spring of 1780 [1782] my father moved fifteen miles; and it was during the summer that Colonel [William] Crawford's unfortunate expedition took place, [Colonel William Crawford's advance against Indians in the Sandusky Valley, Ohio, 1732, and his retreat therefrom, which turned into panic and because a rout, are described in Buck and Buck, The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania, 198. Crawford was burned at the stake by Delaware Indians in retaliation for the massacre of their kinsmen by the whites at Gnadenhutten. The Crawford expedition is also discussed in Downes, Council Fires on the Upper Ohio, 272-274. As Downes wrote (p. 271), "There was no truce in the Northwest following the surrender of the British at Yorktown in October, 1781."] where my uncle Joseph Ekeley who had married my father's sister Susanna, and who was a lieutenant in Captain David Andrew's company, was slain, together with his captain and others of my acquaintance.
In the spring of 1781 [1783] my father moved ten miles. There was no mischief done by the Indians this summer in our neighborhood.
Soon after my father sold his millstones, irons, and bolting cloth, to Josiah Gammel, who at that time was building a mill in the settlement on Chartier creek; and the land on Raccoon, to James Crawford a Quaker, who was buying land on the frontiers for the quakers. After forting and moving off from home for five years, my father this spring [1782] moved twenty miles, and bought a plantation of William Fry on Peter's creek, taking a final leave of his plantation on Robertson's run. All however forted again or moved off, excepting one man of the name of Clock, who lived one mile east of my father's place. One day during the summer, I was sent home on an errand by my father, accompanied by John Woods. We had to pass Clock's house. When we came there, we saw blood in the yard, but seeing no one, we pushed open the door and went in, and found him and three of his little children lying tomahawked and scalped. One of the poor little things was not quite dead, but lay gaping and sighing. These children were about three, five, and seven years of age. The woman with her sucking child, and her oldest child, a boy about eleven years of age had been taken prisoners. One little girl about nine years of age, was at the spring when the attack commenced, and made her escape by running down the spring run, and hiding in the weeds till she thought they were gone, when she ran to Turner's fort about three miles off. The men from that fort pursued the savages, and after following them about four miles, found the little child lying tomahawked and scalped, with its mother's apron spread over it, she not being able to carry it any further and keep up with them. Perhaps she might have thought, that by spreading her apron over it, the wolves would not devour it, that they would be pursued, and that probably her child would be found, carried to the fort and buried. After pursuing them some distance, they found that they could not overtake them, and on their return home they carried the child to the fort and buried it.
During this time, there were seventeen killed, one wounded, and nine taken prisoners belonging to our neighborhood.
The five years last past, was in the time of the Revolutionary war; the British had taken the Indians for their allies, and paid them for the scalps of men, women, and children which was the cause of much more murder being committed, than would other wise have been.
The relation I have here given, has been confined to our own neighborhood, but the frontiers west of us, and on the east side of the Monongahela, suffered much, of which I can give no account at this time.
In the year 1783, my father bought land of John Kiser, which lay in Kentucky. Kiser, purposing to go down there in the fall, my father and uncle Finch built a boat, for myself and my two cousins, John and Josiah, to go down with him, take horses and cattle along, and raise a crop of corn for them; as they intended removing themselves, the succeeding fall.
I shall now commence a narrative of incidents connected with myself, leaving those connected with my father for the present. About the twentieth of November [1783], we embarked on the Monongahela in our boat, in company with Kiser, I having with me four head of horses and some cattle. We landed at the mouth of Limestone Creek, [Maysville, Kentucky, is now located at the mouth of Limestone Creek. For a while the community was known as Limestone, as it is called in this narrative.] but there was then, no settlement there. We made search for a road, but found none. There was indeed a buffalo road, that crossed Limestone creek a few miles above its mouth, and passing May's lick, about twelve miles from Limestone, went on to the Lower Blue Lick on Licking river, and thence to Bryant's Station ; [Bryant's (or Bryan's) Station was established in 1779 on North Elkhorn Creek about five miles northeast of Lexington, Kentucky. An account of its founding and early history, and especially of its unsuccessful storming by the Indians with British aid, is told in George W. Ranck, "The Story of Bryan's Station: An Address," Bryant's Station, ed. Reuben T. Durrett (Filson Club Publications, No. 12; Louisville, Ky., 1897 ), 69-130. Ranck describes Bryant's Station as it first appeared (pp. 73-75); as it appeared in 1782 (pp. 86-87), the year before Spencer Records settled in Kentucky; and at other times (passim). Records describes the construction of a fort such as Bryant's Station on p. 374.] but as we knew nothing of it, we went on, and landed at the mouth of Licking river, on the twenty ninth day of the month.
The next day, we loaded a periogue, and a canoe, and set off up Licking, sometimes wading and pulling our periogue and canoe over the ripples. After working hard for four days, and making poor headway, we landed, hid our property (which was whiskey and our farming utensils) in the woods, and returned to the Ohio, which by this time had taken a rapid rise, and backed up Licking, so that we took Kiser's boat up, as far as we had taken our property and unloaded her. He left on the bank of Licking, a new wagon and some kettles. Leaving our property to help Kiser, we packed up, and set off up Licking, and travelled some days; but making poor progress, and snow beginning to fall, with no cane in that part of the country, for our horses and cattle, we left Kiser, and set off to hunt for cane. He sent his stock with us, in care of Henry Fry, who had come down in his boat with cattle for his father.
When we came to the fork of Licking, we found a wagon road cut out, that led up the South fork. This road had been cut by Colonel [Henry] Bird, a British officer, who had ascended Licking in keel boats, with six hundred Canadians and Indians. They were several days in cutting out this road, which led to Riddle's fort, which stood on the east side of Licking, three miles below the junction of Hinkston's and Stoner's fork; yet our people knew nothing of it, till they were summoned to surrender. Refusing to do so, they attacked the fort with cannon, which their stockade not being able to withstand, they were compelled to surrender. A few were killed, and all the rest made prisoners. They then proceeded to Martin's fort, six miles higher up Stoner, and succeeded in taking it also. [Thomas D. Clark, Frontier America: The Story of the Westward Movement, New York, 1959), 127, indicates that Captain Henry Bird invaded Kentucky from north of the Ohio River in May, 1780, with 150 whites, plus Indians. Clark mentions the capture of Hinkston's and Ruddell's forts and refers to the "excessive brutality" of the Indians during this raid. Also see Billington, Westward Expansion, 187.]
We took the load, and went on, the snow being about half leg deep. Early in the morning, about three miles from Riddle's fort, we came to three families encamped. They had landed at Limestone, but finding no road, they wandered through the woods, crossed Licking, and happening to find the road, took it. The night before we came to them, Mrs. Downey was brought to bed. They were poor people, and had not so much as a spare blanket to stretch over her, but were obliged to put up forks & poles, and place brush thereon for a kind of a shelter. She had no necessaries of any kind, not even bread, nothing but venison and turkey. They went to the same station that we did. She had several children, one of them a young woman. She said, that she had never done better at any such time in her life. So we see that the Lord is good and merciful, and worthy of praise from all intelligent beings, fitting the back to the burden. I have mentioned this circumstance, for the encouragement of others; we should in all times of trouble, trial or difficulty, put our trust in the Lord, who alone is able to save all that put their trust in him.
The names of these families were Reeves, Dewit, and Downey.
We went on to the fort, where we found plenty of cane. The next morning, John Finch and myself, set off to try to find Lexington, and left the horses and cattle in the care of Josiah Finch and Henry Fry, with orders if the snow melted off, or rain fell, to be sure to take the horses and cattle over the river: and as there was no road, we took up Mill creek and towards the head of it, we met some hunters, who lived on the south side of Kentucky river, who gave us directions how to find a hunting trace, that led to Bryant's station. They gave each of us a wheat cake, that had been ground on a hand-mill, and sifted; and as I was not well, and had not seen bread for more than two weeks, I thought it was the best bread that I ever had tasted. We went on, found the trace, and arrived at Bryant's station. The next day we went to McConnel's Station, about one mile north of Lexington, where there was a mill. We there got the meal, we had promised to get for Kiser, and the next morning set off back. It rained almost the whole day, about sunset we came to the river, which was very high. We expected to find the boys on our side of the river, with a good fire; but they had not crossed it; and as they had not obeyed our orders, we knew of no better way to retaliate on them, than to take a journey cake, [Commonly known as johnnycake and made of corn meal, flour, eggs, and milk. Such a cake could be taken on trips or journeys.] walk on the bank, and hold it up for them to see it. We did so, they saw it, but did not taste it. By this time the rain was over, but we were wet and cold; and as it began to get colder, we made a fire, and camped there that night. Early the next morning, we set off down the river, and at night encamped on the bank of Licking. It was very cold, from which we suffered much, and the next evening after dark arrived at Kiser's camp. The next morning, we set off on our return, when we got to Riddle's station, the river had fallen so much, that we could cross it, we therefore went on to McConnel's station, where we arrived the last of December.
Sometime in January four of us set out to hunt on Stoner; [Hunting was especially important in the early history of Kentucky. See Clark, Frontier America, 92-100, 105-108.] the buffalo being all gone off, we had to go about twenty miles after them. The second night it began to snow and get very cold. In the morning the ground was so much covered with snow, that we could not track our horses; we hunted for them, but not being able to find them, we hung up our saddles, and started for home, thinking that our horses had gone in that direction. It snowed all day, at night when we came to Elkhorn creek the snow was knee deep. We waded the creek about the same depth, and soon found ourselves in a large cane-brake, where we could get no wood to make a fire. The cane was all bending with snow, and no broken wood was to be found: however we found an old hiccory stump, about fifteen feet high. We pushed it down, and it being dry and rotten, we put fire to it. It was all the fire we had that night; we scraped away the snow and lay by it: it burnt slowly all night, but we could not dry ourselves by it. The next morning we went on four miles to Bryant's station, where when we arrived, our leggings and moccasins were frozen, and some of our feet frost-bitten. Shortly after our arrival at home, our horses were found by hunters and brought in. The snow that then fell, was not all off the ground till the tenth of March, and then went off with rain. This was a very cold winter, my horses (with the exception of one) and all my cattle strayed off so that I could not find them.
The tenth of March 1784, John Finch and myself, set off after our property we had left on Licking, and found all safe; but had some trouble on account of high water, and were gone ten days.
In the course of this spring, people began to settle in the neighborhood of Lexington. Colonel Garrard [James Garrard, Baptist minister and early political leader in Kentucky, served two terms as governor of that state during the late 1790's and early 1800's.] settled a station on Stoner, and General Benjamin Harrison [The identity of this person is unknown, but possibly he was a member of the famous Harrison family of Virginia] settled a station on the same river. I think he was a cousin to the much lamented brave Genl. William Henry Harrison. William McClelling settled a station on the road between Hinkston's and Stoner's forks; and Simon Kenton [Simon Kenton was a famous Ohio Valley frontiersman. Further on in the narrative, Spencer Records indicates his pleasure at having been personally acquainted with Kenton. Moreover, Records proudly recalls an episode illustrating that he was more shrewd than Kenton--at least on one occasion. See below, p. 357. Clark, Frontier America, 100, states: "Kenton was present at the occurrence of more major events in frontier history than any other frontiersman." For a book-length biography of Kenton, see Edna Kenton, Simon Kenton: His Life and Period, 1755-1836 (Garden City, N.Y., 1930).] settled a station one mile north of where the town of Washington now stands, the capital of Mason County Kentucky. A blockhouse and warehouse was also built at Limestone, which was a great convenience to emigrants as they came rapidly down this spring.
The land my father had bought, lay remote from any settlement, and times being dangerous, we could not go on it; we therefore took a lease of Alexander McConnel. We put up a cabin, and four of us lived together, my two cousins, Henry Fry, and myself. We had to get our meat, by hunting deer and turkies, as the buffaloes were too far off. This spring I was attacked with a fever, and was very bad; after I had got some better, but not yet able to work, I heard of one of my horses at Harrison's station. I went after him, and upon my return home, it rained almost the whole day. I got very wet, and took a relapse, and was worse than I was at first. This put me back so much with my work, that I got but four acres planted; but as range was good and cane plenty, I raised enough to supply my father, till he raised corn for himself. This spring my uncle Finch came down the Ohio, and lived in the cabin with us. I heard of my mare, about fifteen miles north of Lexington, & found her near a great buffaloe road, that comes from the north-west, out of the knobs, and leads to the Blue Licks, crossing North Elkhorn at a place which was then called the Great Crossings, which name it still bears. My two year old colt was found near the Big Bone lick, and brought in, so I got all my horses again. In the course of the summer, I made two trips to Limestone, packing rum and iron for Thomas January of Lexington. I also built a good cabin for my father, and in the fall gathered my corn. A small stockade fort was likewise built at the Blue Licks, to make salt at a spring on the west side of the river, which was most convenient to timber, although the main spring was on the east side.
Sometime this summer, a family landed a[t] Limestone, that had the small-pox, and went on to the Blue Licks. They were not permitted to enter the fort, but encamped on the opposite side of the river. The Indians fell on them in the night, and murdered the whole of them.
About the first of August, I set off to hunt my cattle, accompanied by Alex[an]der McConnel we steered a North east course till we struck the south fork of Licking we then steered a west course and hunted them three days and then returned back and and [sic] encamped not far from main Licking thinking to go to the mouth of Licking quite early in the morning before we came to main Licking we killed a large buck elk, which we skinned, and hung up the hide. We then took some of the meat, soon came to the river, and went down it. We there saw the fresh track of an Indian, which we followed for several miles. That evening a heavy shower of rain fell, so that both our guns got wet, which rendered them useless. About sunset we came to Kiser's camp, and encamped there for the night. The Indians had been there, cut his wagon some, and broke some of his kettles. As our guns were wet and out of order, we let them remain so; which I think was providentially ordered; for if we had put them in order that night, which could only be done, by picking powder in at the touchhole, and shooting them off; the Indians would have heard them, and have come in search of us, and found us by our fire. If we had put them in order in the morning, they would have heard us, as they were encamped not more than half a mile off, which we knew nothing of.
When morning came, we thought we would get our horses first, and then put our guns in order. We accordingly left them at the camp, and set out to hunt our horses separately. While we were out, we heard the reports of ten or twelve guns, not more than half a mile off. When we met, neither of us had found our horses. He said "did you hear the guns?" I told him I did; He said It is Indians: I replied, that I knew it was. He then said, they have probably found our camp and are watching it. I told him, that the woods were open, that if they were on this side, we could see them; that we had better run to the river bank and look down. Should they be there and not shoot us, we must try to make our escape. We did so, and seeing nothing of them, took up our guns, saddles and blankets, and carried them out of sight of our camp. We soon found our horses, saddled them and mounted. McConnel asked me if I could find the way home without keeping the river. I answered in the affirmative. He then said, "Go ahead, and make the best of your way, for if the Indians find our trail, they can follow us faster than we can ride; and as our guns are out of order, we cannot defend ourselves, and may be killed." At that time the ground was very wet, with a thick undergrowth of weeds and peavines, which made it bad riding, and much in their favor to follow us.