1790: Was the Snider family massacred on Catoctin Mountain?

Posted by | January 13, 2014

Please welcome guest blogger Jim Rada. His articles appear regularly in a variety of regional and national magazines such as History Channel Magazine, Boy’s Life and History Magazine. The following piece ran on Rada’s blog Time Will Tell on January 10, and is reprinted here with permission.


peter williamsonJacob Snider, one of the early settlers in the area, owned 25 acres west of Owens Creek Campground on Catoctin Mountain that he obtained in 1770. The parcel, called “Snider’s Gardens” was “at a bounded white oak standing on the North side of a branch that runs into Owens Creek, about 20 perches (330 feet) from said creek,” according to the land deed.

Further west, a settlement was established near the mouth of the Conococheague Creek. It could be reached from the Thurmont area by traveling the Monocacy Indian Path. The path ran from Wrightsville, Pa., to the Shenandoah Valley.

“Like most frontier outposts, the Conococheague Settlement was an occasional target for Indian raids. On one such occasion, a raiding party of Susquehannas captured a young Scotchman named Peter Williamson, and forced him to carry their loot. He later escaped, or was freed, and lived to a ripe old age,” Frank Mentzer, superintendent of Catoctin Mountain Park, wrote in the September 7, 1968, Catoctin Enterprise.

Mentzer made the case that the Jacob Snider family was massacred by Indians in the late 1700′s. He based his belief on an account written by Williamson called The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson, who was Carried Off from Aberdeen, and Sold for a Slave.

Though the book is inflammatory, which is understandable since it is written by a man who was probably angry about his treatment and seeking a way to vent his anger, it contains Williamson’s remembrances of his time with the Indians, including the massacre of the Snider family.

The Joseph Snider family in Williamson’s account lived in the Blue Hills area of the Appalachian Mountains. Snider, his wife, five children and a servant lived in the house.

Williamson and his captors approached the house. “They soon got admittance into the unfortunate man’s house where they immediately without the least remorse and with more than brutal cruelty scalped the tender parents and the unhappy children: nor could the tears the shrieks or cries of these unhappy victims prevent their horrid massacre for having thus scalped them and plundered the house of every thing that was moveable they set fire to the same where the poor creatures met their final doom,” Williamson wrote.

The Indians watched the house burn “rejoicing and echoing back in their diabolical manner the piercing cries heart rending groans and paternal and affectionate soothings which issued from this most horrid sacrifice of an innocent family,” according to Williamson.

Mentzer noted in his account that Snider’s Gardens was located not too far off the Monocacy Indian Path so it would not have been unheard of for Indians to pass near the homestead. He also pointed out that while the Joseph Snider family lived near the Blue Hills, Snider’s Gardens was just south of an area known as Blue Mountain.

Williamson notes in his account that the Blue Hills were 30 miles from the Conocheague Creek. This is the same distance that Snider’s Gardens is from the creek.

Mentzer believed that the small differences that Williamson wrote down can be accounted for by the time between when he experienced things and when he was finally able to write about his captivity.

“It is possible that Jacob and his family lived long and prosperous lives in their ‘Garden’ on Catoctin Mountain,” Mentzer wrote. “It is also possible that they were scalped by a warring party of Susquehanna Indians and consumed in the fire of their burning home.”

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