I closed my eyes and bent my head to receive the stroke of the tomahawk

Posted by | November 9, 2009

On the 8th of March, 1782, William White, in sight of Fort Buckhannon [ed.-in modern day Upshur County, WV], was shot from his horse, tomahawked, scalped and lacerated in the most frightful manner by the Indians. White’s companions Timothy Dorman and his wife were captured. After the killing of White and capture of the Dormans, it was resolved to abandon Fort Buckhannon. A few days after the evacuation of the fort, some of its former inmates went from Clarksburg to Buckhannon for grain which had been left there. When they came in sight, they beheld a heap of ashes where the fort had been.

“Border Settlers of Western Virginia,” McWhorter

“My story’s a brief but a most painful one for a wife to tell. My husband’s name is Timothy Dorman. We lived in a little cabin near Buchanan Fort in the Kanawha country.

“Just about two months ago some fresh tracks of Indians were discovered, which, on account of its being so early in the season, created great alarm among the scattered settlers. As William White, a noted and active scout , my husband and myself, this little babe and little Eddy, my only other child, a curly-headed boy of six years past, were hastening to the fort, we were set upon by a lot of savages.

“Neighbor White was shot through the hips, fell from his horse, and was then tomahawked, scalped and mutilated in the most frightful manner, and we all taken prisoners.

“We were hurried rapidly through the woods, both my children having been repeatedly threatened by our captors, because, said they, their flight was impeded. The second day little Eddy began to fret and cry on account of soreness of his feet, and finally fell behind.

“This was the last I ever saw of him. An hour later some of the Indians having joined us again, I beheld — and what a sight to a fond mother!’ — and here Mrs. Dorman shuddered at the harrowing memory — “the fresh, bleeding scalp of my dear boy fastened to one of the Indian’s girdles. I knew it by its jetty curls, and boldly charged the cruel savage with killing and scalping it ; but he only laughed, crying out, “No, no, only otter skin.” But I knew better, and from that moment lost all heart, and was indifferent to my fate.

Indian warrior with scalp“Three times did I throw down a heavy kettle which I was forced to carry; closed my eyes and bent my head to receive the invited stroke of the tomahawk, but no use. Each time the kettle was replaced with angry and scolding words.

“At last, I threw it off again and refused to go one step further, when a chief, kinder than the others, said I should not be made to carry the pot and my child, too.

“My husband had all this time been making up with the captors; laughed, ate and drank with them, and was so cheerful and contented and expressed himself so anxious to become an Indian, that we were now treated well enough.

“My husband, for some years, has been much given to drink and low company, and being of a very passionate disposition when in liquor, had made a number of enemies in the fort. It is a most painful and humiliating confession for a poor wife to make; but, indeed, Timothy was once a good, kind, loving man, but lately the drink seems to have so changed and debased him, that he is more cruel and revengeful than an Indian himself, and has thrice led parties against the border settlements.

“Alas, that I, once his loved wife, and the mother of his children, am compelled to confess it; but he is becoming more and more lost to all that is good. The one fatal misstep of betraying his own neighbors seems to have turned all that was good in him to gall.

“He has lost his own self-respect, and seems ashamed to show himself before white people. He is now back in yonder woods conversing with the Indians. I sometimes think, if God will not take me, that I will have to leave him, but then, again, I have hopes that by constant love and tenderness, I may win back the free, hearty and affectionate Tim of my youth — such as he was before he took to the drink.

“We were first taken to the Chillicothe towns, and there remained during the cold weather. Then we journeyed eastward along the Ohio, and fell in with a party of Cherokees from south of that river, who had the two children with whom you saw me.

“They were educated to decoy Ohio boats to the shore, and the poor little innocents seemed perfectly skilled in the use of all the arts to simulate distress. You would be perfectly amazed to see how these little ones would cry, kneel and clap their hands and run along the shore in the most artful manner. Oh, they are smart little things, and deserve a better life.

“It was only a couple of days ago that we fell in with [Simon] Girty’s large party, who, marching towards the Ohio to take vengeance for what they call the Moravian massacre, easily arranged for the transfer of the children and ourselves to them.

“The result of their arts you know well, as you and your party were the first victims; but I must tell you that I long resisted every attempt to make me a party in their miserable decoy. The Indians, knowing how much their chances of success depended on having a supposed mother with children, repeatedly ordered me to play traitor. I even refused to obey my husband’s commands.

“Finally, one grim, ferocious old Shawnee, made furious by my obstinacy, snatched my babe from my breast, and threatened to brain it against a tree unless I instantly complied. I wept and screamed and implored, but all to no purpose.

Your boat was just then in sight, and while I was running along shore playing the false mother, this brutal Shawnee kept behind me in the woods the whole way, holding my precious babe by one foot ready to dash out its brains at the first sign of failure on my part to do his bidding.

“Why did I not make signs? Oh, I did, I did, but they were not seen, and when I found your boat really coming in, I fainted outright, and had to be carried back out of sight.”

excerpt from “Simon Girty : “The white savage”; A romance of the border,” by Charles McKnight, JC McCurdy & Co, Philadelphia, 1880 online at http://www.archive.org/stream/simongirtythewhi00mckn/simongirtythewhi00mckn_djvu.txt
McWhorter citation from: www.eg.bucknell.edu/~hyde/jackson/George.html

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