Ohio History Journal






On the 12th day of March 1782, about break of day, as I

and my two companions were lying in our blankets about half

a mile from the Ohio river, on the Indian's side, near the mouth

of the Great Kenhaway2 river. We were surprised by a shout of

Indians who came rushing upon us. When I heard the noise

I spoke to my two companions and said "rise up here are

Indians," when one of them said "Oh Lord, what shall we do."

I told him to stand and fight. I was near the Indians, and four

of them and a white man had their guns presented upon us as

we rose within fifteen yards of us. I caught hold of my gun

as quick as I possibly could, and fired upon them; my two com-

panions did not take my advice, but ketched up their guns and

ran. The Indians fired at the instant I did, but to no effect.

The white man's gun missed fire the first time, but he made

ready and fired after one of my companions and killed him,

when one of them stept up to me with his tomahawk in his hand

to kill me, but I turned the Britch of my gun and made a blow

at him, but he avoided it by stepping back, when immediately

the other four drew their tomahawks and were all around me and

one of them spoke to me in English, and told me to give up

and I should not be hurt. I then handed him my gun and they

took hold of me and tied me exceedingly fast. The other Indian

ran after the other of my companions and caught him, but he

1Abel Janney was a resident of Goose Creek neighborhood (now

Lincoln), Loudoun County, Virginia. He was of a roving disposition,

often engaged in hunting or "trapping," and it was while on a trapping

excursion that he was captured. Colman Wilks and John Russell were

with him. Wilks was shot. Russell escaped and reached the settlements

in Kentucky, but was so badly frozen and prostrated that he lived but

a few days. Tradition says that A. J. was employed at Washington as

interpreter - John J. Janney, Columbus, Ohio.

2 I have followed the spelling and the punctuation of the original.

Vol. VIII-30.          (465)

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escaped and got off, leaving his gun with the Indian, and had no

clothes except a waistcoat, and Breeches and a pair of stockings,

not even so much as a knife to help himself with. The Indian

soon returned with his gun to where I and the rest of the com-

pany were, when I had to stand and see my other companion

scalpt and had all reason imaginable to expect myself to be

the next victim of their cruelty as they began to gather around

me and looked very much exasperated but God, who is all-

sufficient to preserve, did not permit them to hurt me. So they

tied a string around my neck, and the white man led me and

put a heavy load of provisions upon my back and we traveled

exceedingly fast all that day and two days after we came to an

Indian camp, where some Indians were hunting. When we

came near the camp they made a halt, and painted me red

and the white man that killed my companion painted himself

black, and then gave the scalp Halloo, so we went on until we

passed the camp a small distance. The Indians had not as yet

returned from hunting, but we had scarce got fire kindled, when

we saw the Indians returning from hunting. When my Indians

saw them they immediately cut three large stakes and shaved

off the bark, and painted two of them red, and the other black,

and I was tied very fast they immediately came to our camp,

and my Indians (as I called them) were all set down in a row,

except one who came and sat by me, the strange Indians shook

hands with them immediately and sat themselves down and

smoked, and talked a long time, at last they began to make hoops

to stretch my companions scalp upon as they had not yet done

it, when they had done it they made another and stuck it up

before the fire. The little Indian who sat by me pointed at it

and said "no good for you," which gave me all the reason imagin-

able to expect to be massacred. However, I was fully resigned

to give up my life to Him that gave it, when it should please

God to call it from me, however, some time in the night, the

Squaws brought a quantity of roast Bears meet, and they gave me

some to eat, and made me to understand that I should see them at

their town, so I eat some of their meat, and they tied me very

fast, and I laid down to sleep, and next morning early, they

started forward on their way and nothing extraordinary hap-

The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians

The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians.  467

pened until we arrived at their town, when we came there, there

was nobody in the town but a fewold squaws, the rest of the

Indians were all at their sugar camps making sugar, which was

well for me, for had they been at home in all probability I

should have been exceedingly ill treated, as it is a general prac-

tice with that nation to whip prisoners most barbarously at

their first coming into town, or at least till they can get into the

Council House. It was on the 20th of March when we got to

the town and the old Indian who kept me, took me home, from

the Council House, to his own wigwam, where I lived till I made

my escape from them. But to speak of the barbarities com-

mitted by them on the prisoners that came in after me (fully to

express it is beyond my discriptive abilities) I shall fall short

of words sufficient to convey a full idea of what they must have

suffered who were permitted to fall as victims to their savage

barbarity. The first who was put to death was one James Whart,

a Quaker, who appeared to be a sober, solid man. They had

kept him about two weeks before they put him to death, and

he had not the least expectation of it until they took him and

painted him black, which they did very early in the morning and

tied him securely; they then led him off to a town three miles

distant from the town I lived in, and there they gathered to

have a Frolic with this poor object of pity. They led him up

to a large stake near a large fire prepared for the purpose, and

when they had scalped him and cut his nose off that it hung

below his under lip, and then they cut off his ears, and took

bark shovels and threw hot embers out of the fire upon his head,

whilst others were employed in burning him with fire brands,

in short they lacked nothing that they could invent to augment

his pain and many others suffered in a most barbarous manner,

particularly Colonel Crawford, who was unhappily defeated by

them, and fell a victim into their hands, and suffered as follows,

(viz) they first scalped him, and then they tied him fast to a

stake before a large fire made of logs of wood for that purpose

and then cut out his tongue and cut off his nose and ears and

then poured hot embers out of the fire upon his head, whilst

others were employed in burning him with long fire brands,

and none were more active in this employment that the squaws

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indeed my memory fails me in recollecting the many inventions

they contrived to punish so brave a man, who bore all they could

inflict upon him with such a calmness and fortitude as seemed

to be surprising to human nature.3 His son-in-law John Har-

rison also fell into their hands and was most barbarously mur-

dered but seemed to be much assured that he should find a

merciful Saviour and seemed to be very fervent in his supplica-

tions. He did not in the least seem to dread their severest

threats of torture, but seemed to be fully resigned to the will

of his Creator, and desired me (if it should please God to bring

me home again) to inform his wife that I saw his end and like-

wise to desire her and her children to live a more circumspect

life than they had done heretofore. So I shall cease to enumerate

any more of their barbarities and turn again to my own concerns.

It was about midnight on the 2nd of August that I was pre-

paring myself with necessaries to make my escape from these sav-

ages or die in the attempt, though I was sore by reason of a cut on

my ankle, I did not mind it, for I thought nothing should deter

me from making an attempt. I thought to make up the deficiency


3 All the short biographies of Colonel Crawford that I have seen

state that he was "burned to death," thus leaving the reader to infer

that he was burned at the stake according to the old religious method

of dealing with heretics, but that was humane in comparison with the

Indian method. The former released the sufferer in a few minutes; the

latter was usually prolonged through a day, or sometimes parts of two

days. Butterfield, in the History of Crawford's Campaign, says: "The

Indian men took up their guns and shot powder into Crawford's naked

body from his feet as far up as his neck. It was the opinion of Knight

that not less than seventy-five loads were discharged upon him." Knight,

who was present, says: "The fire was made of small hickory poles

burnt quite through in the middle," and "three or four Indians would

by turns take up, individually, one of these pieces of wood and apply it

to his naked body, already burnt black with powder." The squaws poured

hot coals on his head "so that, in a short time he had nothing but

coals and hot ashes to walk on." There used to be a tradition that one

method of Indian torture was to stick sharp, short splinters all over the

naked body of the victim, and set them on fire. As an evidence of forti-

tude, in my boyhood, we would stick a short piece of broom-straw in

the hand, at the base of thumb, set it on fire and let it burn out. The

pain was very acute, and we would try to imagine what it would be if

the whole body was covered.

The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians

The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians.  469

of my ankle by depriving myself with a good horse, which I

was unfortunately deprived of in the following manner. I had every

necessary but a gun, which was my dependance, both for defense

and provision. The men about this time were chiefly gone to

Kentucky to war, and there was no guns about the house I lived

in. I was therefore obliged to make a search for one. I went

into one house and found a gun but upon examining her, I did

not like her, and so I determined to make further search. I

loaded her and went into another house4 and found the Indians

all from home, I searched about and found a prettly likely rifle,

I viewed her by the light of the moon, I looked into her pan.

and found no priming and unfortunately for me I snapt her

and she went off and the firing of the gun at this time of night

was a sufficient alarm. I ran into the cornfields which was but a

few steps off. I loaded my gun again, and broke the other that

I had before, and by this time the whole town was alarmed,

and the horse that I intended to have taken was standing by

the Council House in the midst of the town, and so were most of

the horses belonging to the town and I could by no means get

any of them. And what had like to have been worse for me,

my provision and Blanket, Saddle and Bridle were in a tent,

(where I staid to watch the garden to keep the other Indians from

stealing the garden stuff) quite on the other side of the town

from where I was but as soon as I had loaded my gun I gave

a Halloo to draw them to the side of the town where I was,

I then made the best of my way through the corn till I came to

the backside of the town, so I went into my tent, picked up my

provision and Blanket and Bridle, leaving the saddle, for I

discovered three Indians coming into the garden and I took

into the corn again and went a little way, made a stop, fixed my

load to the best advantage I possibly could and then I heard a

horse bell a considerable distance from the town. I made to it,

and found several horses, but I could not catch any but one,

which proved to be very indifferent, however I knew I had no

time to spare I therefore put on my bridle and mounted, and

4The writer doubtless used "house" instead of tent or "wigwam."

The Indians had not learned how to build houses, and did not feel the

need of them.

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rode on steering an east course till about one o'clock in the

afternoon, when my horse seemed so tired and lazy withal, though

I had not rode him very fast that I concluded to turn him out,

and go on foot, as I knew they would pursue me on horse back,

but by going carefully on foot, I put a stop to their pursuing

with any speed. I changed my course from due east to south-

east and so I traveled for that day. I then steered as directly for

Fort Wheeling as I possibly could, I met with no interrup-

tion till the 8th in the morning I found the cut in my ankle so

painful with wading through swamps, that I thought it almost

impossible for me to travel and so exceedingly swelled that I

had a notion of lying by that day, as I had plenty of venison to

subsist upon, for the evening before I had killed a deer, and bar-

bacued as much of it as I thought necessary to take with me.

But however I thought I was then within 40 or 50 miles of fort

Wheeling the thoughts of relief from the Inhuman Savages gave

me such a sweet satisfaction, that I was determined to travel on

lame as I was but I had not traveled past two hours before I

met with a company of Tawwa5 Indians. We did not discover

each other until we were within 20 yards. It was just on the

top of a ridge we met. I treed myse f immediately, and know-

ing that I was exceedingly lame that I could not run, I called

out as if there had been company behi d me, telling them "here's

the yellow dogs and we will soon do for them," and presented

my gun on one of them, and they ga e a yell, and one of them

shot at me, but only grazed me under the arm. I then perceived

that they were of a strange nation, I called to them in Shawney6

and told them I was one of them. One of them understanding

that tongue answered me "that he was Tawwa and was good,"

and if I would surrender he would take me to Detroit. I

accordingly surrendered, and throwing t e breech of my gun fore-

most I came out from behind my tree and he immediately ran

to meet me, holding out his hand, when we met we shook hands

with each other, and he called me "brother warrior," and assured

me he would take me to Detroit. He told me he knew I was

run away from the Shawnese, which I did not deny, and told

5Ottawas probably.


The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians

The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians.  471


them in what sort they had used me, and when I had told him,

he damned them saying "they were not good, he would not use

prisoners so." They then inquired if there were any more behind

me, I told them there was none, so they examined my track a

distance back, and seen there was no other, then they concluded

I had told them the truth. We then marched straight for a town

called Sandusky, belonging to the Wyandot nation. I had the

chief part of a good turn with me which we eat up immediately

and that was the last mouthful we had, but Blackberries for almost

four days, when one of them happened to kill a wolf, which was

roasted and eat up speedily, they took the entrails out and strip-

ping the stuff from them between their fingers and threw them

on the coals when roasted a little they offered me some, but as

hungry as I was my stomach revolted at it; they devoured them

like dogs. They cut some slices from the body and broiled on

the coals which they eat heartily of and this was the last supply

we had, until we came to the before-mentioned town of San-

dusky, which was one and a half day's march. When we came

near the town, they made a halt, and began to talk in their tongue.

I perceived it was something concerning me, when the Chief of

the company turned about to me, and told me that he must cut

my hair in their form, or else those Indians that lived in the town

would beat me very much, and perhaps kill me. So he took

a pair of scissors which they always take with them to war, and

began to trim my hair, which they did according to the Indian

custom then they painted me and fixed me as much like them-

selves as they possibly could, and gave my own gun, and we

marched to the town with two scalps on a stick; and came into

it. When the Indians of the town (as their custom is), brought

us victuals, such as they had, which was very acceptable to us,

having eat nothing for almost two days. From thence we went

most part of the way by water in a canoe, till the wind blew so

hard against us, that we were obliged to quit our canoe, and take

to our feet again, and had exceedingly bad roads, which was very

bad for my ankle; though it was got much better than it was

when I first met with them, as they were very good doctors, and

spared no pains to dress it, but we had many swamps to go

through and it began to swell and get very painful. However

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we came to the village where they lived on the 16th day of August

and I expected to be beat after the manner of the savages I had

lived with before, but I was kindly treated very unexpectedly for

the chief sat down by an old squaw, whom he talked with for a

long time, and after he had made a stop in speaking to her she

looked at me as I was standing, and clapped her hand down on

the ground where she sat, showing me that I must sit down by

her, and began to tell me that it was her son who had taken me,

that she had one more at war yet, and now I was to be her son

also, and so gave me some victuals, water melons and apples,

and pitied me very much seeing that I was so exceedingly poor.

She said the Shawnees were not good for using prisoners so.

I remained there for two weeks and was kindly treated by them,

having nothing to do, but cut a little wood for the fire, and shoot

Blackbirds that came to eat up the corn, and according to their

aforesaid promise, they carried me to Detroit, where we arrived

on the 3rd of September, 1782, where I was given up to one agent

Bailey, who sent me with a soldier to Major Depasture7 com-

mander in Chief of the garrison, where I remained in close con-

finement till the 22nd and then I embarked on board the Dun-

more sloop of war, when we kept round by Lake Erie 188

miles to fort Slusher9 which is called 300 miles from Detroit.

From thence we went to Fort Niagara, 18 miles further which

lies about 16 miles below the falls of that great river, (which they

say were measured and are 360 feet high10) from thence we

embarked on board the Seneca sloop of war, on October the 9th

and arrived the 11th at Carleton's Island (which is 83 leagues

across Lake Ontario) where we were kept on board a guard ship

till the 24th, when we embarked in battoes for Sew Gurche11

7Major A. S. De Peyster, a British officer, in command at Detroit

at the time, a grandson of J. W. De Peyster, a leading Dutch settler of

New York.

8 This is erroneous or indefinite. He says it "is called 300 miles

from Detroit.

9 Fort Schlosher, opposite the fort of Grand Isle.

10 Really 160 feet, or, according to some authorities, the American

side is 164 feet, and the Canadian side 150 feet.

11 I cannot identify this Sue; suppose it to be a mispronounced

French name, which has disappeared from the maps.

The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians

The Capture of Abel Janney by the Indians.    473

which is 30 leagues, we arrived there the 25th in the evening,

and proceeded the next morning in our Battoes, and went down

a dangerous rapid called the Long Sew,12 which is reported to

run at the rapid rate of 9 miles in 20 minutes. We arrived at

Cateawde Lake13 the 28th which is 30 leagues from the aforesaid

place. From thence to Lasheen14 is 26 miles, and next morning

to Montreal 9 miles, by land where we arrived the 28th and

continued there in close confinement until the 28th of December

when we were sent back to Cateawde lake. We came there the

same day and in two days after we were put upon an island with a

guard of Dutch soldiers, which place was prepared for keeping

prisoners, with a number of ordinary Barracks and it stands in

the midst of such riffles in the river as renders it almost impos-

sible to get off from thence. It was on the 28th day of January

when I obtained my permit to teach school for the children of

the officers of the garrison and the merchants with whom I

lived till my releasement, which was on the morning of the 7th

of July 1783; we left Cateawde Lake and from thence round to

New York and from thence to Loudoun County Virginia,

my native home.

12 Long Sue.

l3 Cateawde Lake. This, I presume, was Lake St. Francis, an expan-

sion of the St. Lawrence river.

14 Lachine.