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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

The Moore Massacre

Title:     The Moore Massacre
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

One of the most beautiful sections in Southwestern Virginia is called Ab's Valley, in Tazewell County. It was first settled by Captain James Moore, one of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, who had moved from Rockingham County in 1775. There was no river running through the ten miles of fertile grounds, but several springs watered the tall grass which afforded fine grazing for stock and game. Captain Moore's brother-in-law, Mr. Robert Poage, came to live nearby, but they were the only settlers in that neighborhood. Their nearest neighbors and a fort were over twelve miles away.

In the Spring of 1782 the Indians came to Mr. Poage's house and burst through the heavy door without any warning. They did not expect to find any men there and when they saw there were three they did not attempt to enter the house. The next morning, a man named Richardson, who worked on the place, went out to look at some deer skins which he had soaking in a nearby pond. The Indians crept up and shot him, taking his scalp.

Two years passed before the Indians attacked the Moore family. James, a young boy of fourteen, was sent by Captain Moore to get some horses from a field about two miles from his home. He wanted James to go to the mill and for this he needed an extra horse.

James had gone only a short distance when three Indians sprang from behind a log and caught hold of the boy. He screamed and the Indian laid his hand over his mouth and in the Indian language told him to keep still.

Black Wolf was the name of the middle-aged Indian. His son was about eighteen years old. The other Indian seemed to be one of Black Wolf's men. James said he was not so very much frightened after he was told he belonged to Black Wolf, though he was one of the sternest looking men he had ever seen. Black Wolf gave James some salt and told him to catch some of his father's horses for him. James said he would, meaning he would catch two, and try to make his escape on one of them. But every time he caught a horse the Indians ran up and frightened it so it would get away. At last the Indians gathered up their blankets and pots where they were hidden in the grass and motioned for James to fall in line. The young Indian went first, then the Indian man, then James, followed by Black Wolf.

James tried to break off pieces of bushes so his father could tell which way he had gone. Black Wolf tapped his shoulder and shook his head. Then he tried to leave signs by digging his toes down into the soft earth. Again Black Wolf shook his head.

After they had gone a long way, about sundown Black Wolf gave a long war-whoop. He did the same the next morning at sunrise. The Indians did this to show they had a prisoner. They gave one cry for each prisoner taken. If they had taken scalps, the cry would have been a different kind.

Before they lay down in the thicket that night, Black Wolf searched James to see if he carried a knife. Then he took out a halter and tied it fast to James' neck and wrapped the other end around his hand.

The next morning Black Wolf left James with the other two Indians and went off to get a Dutch oven which he had taken on one of his other expeditions. He gave this to James to carry. He fastened it to James' back, but after it rubbed a sore place, James threw it down and refused to carry it further. Black Wolf then took off the huge bundle which he carried and told James to take it. But he could not even lift it from the ground. The Indian then pointed to the Dutch oven, and he found it was not so bad to carry after he padded it with leaves.

He found out how long the Indians could go without much food. For three whole days they had only water in which poplar bark had been steeped. On the fourth day they shot a buffalo. They took a small bit of the meat and made a clear broth which they drank but Black Wolf did not let them eat any of the meat until the next day, this being their custom after fasting.

James said he travelled the whole way barefooted. Of course his feet became sore from bruises. He saw many rattlesnakes, but he was not allowed to kill them as the Indians considered them to be their friends.

James knew that the Shawnees, of whom Black Wolf was a member, lived far to the West. He believed they must be nearing their town after he had travelled for twenty days. He told of how they made a raft of logs on which they crossed the Ohio and other streams. He learned how to twine the long grapevines around the logs to make the raft. He saw how the Indians made crude pictures in the banks of the streams to let other Indians know they had a prisoner. Black Wolf stopped and drew three Indians and a boy.

When the Indians came near their town they painted themselves black. They left him white as an omen of safety. Black Wolf traded James to his half-sister for a horse. James later found out why he was not taken into the town. It was a time of peace and if they had seen the new prisoner, they might have made him run the gauntlet. The old squaw was kind to him and sometimes left him alone in the wigwam for days at a time. He said he prayed to God to keep him safe. We cannot give all his experiences with the Indians, but he was finally sold to a French trader from Detroit. His name was Baptist Ariome and he liked James, for he looked like his own son. He gave the old squaw fifty dollars' worth of silver brooches, beads, and other trinkets in Indian money.

James met a man who was a trader from Kentucky, a Mr. Sherlock. This man promised to write to James' father and tell him of his capture, of his being sold and of his being taken to Detroit. After some time, as we shall see, he did get back to Virginia.

But in the meantime, many other things were happening to the Moore family. In July 1786, several of the hundred head of horses which belonged to Captain Moore came in to the salt block to get salt. Captain Moore went out to see them, about two hundred yards from the house. Nearby were two of his children, William and Rebecca, who were coming from the spring; not far away was another child, Alexander. All at once a stream of bullets began to fly. Thirty Indians had hidden themselves in the tall grass which almost surrounded the Moore home. William and Rebecca were killed instantly. Captain Moore ran to the fence which separated the lot from the house and as he climbed over, he was struck by several bullets. The Indians then ran up and scalped him.

Two men who lived with the Moores were not far away in a field, reaping wheat. When they heard the shooting they ran toward the house but when they saw it was surrounded by Indians they made their escape and went off to give the alarm to other settlers who were six miles away.

Mrs. Moore and Martha Evans, the girl in the house with her, quickly barred the door when they saw the tragedy. They took down the rifles which had been fired the night before and gave them to an old Englishman, John Simpson, who was ill, to load for them. But the old man could not help them, for he had been struck by a bullet as he lay sick.

Martha Evans soon decided to hide under a loose board in the floor of the cabin. Polly Moore, a little girl of eight, was holding her baby sister who was screaming with fear. Martha told Polly to get under the board too, but she decided to stay with the baby.

Then the Indians burst down the door and lunged in. They took Mrs. Moore prisoner and four children, John, Polly, Jane, and Peggy. They took everything they fancied, then set the house on fire.

Poor Mrs. Moore saw the Indians kill her son because he was sick and could not keep up with them. They killed the baby because it cried so pitiously. They had to have their hands tied, as had James, and they, too, fasted.

When at last they reached the Indian town, Mrs. Moore and Jane were killed by torture and death at the stake. Polly was treated more kindly and was finally sold to a man near Lake Erie, for a half gallon of rum!

Now fate seems to have taken a hand in bringing Polly and her brother James together in that far-away country. While on a hunting expedition James heard about the destruction of his family. He was told that his sister Polly had been bought by a Mr. Stogwell, a man of bad character. It was in the Winter, so James waited until Spring when Mr. Stogwell moved into the same section of the country where he was living.

When James went to see them he found Polly very miserable. Her clothing was only rags and she had almost lost hope of ever seeing any of her people again. James found that Mr. Stogwell was unkind, too, so he went with Simon Girty to Colonel McKee, Superintendent of Indians, to get her release. He had Mr. Stogwell brought to trial, but they did not have enough evidence and Polly could not leave him. However, after much trouble, James was able to get passage for Polly and himself on a trading boat and came down the Great Lakes. They landed in a Moravian town where they met some friends owning horses. They journeyed to Pittsburgh and stayed until Spring. Then they set off for Virginia, sad, of course, knowing how few there would be to welcome them. Yet they were delighted to find their brother Joseph was still safe. He had been visiting his grandfather in Rockbridge County at the time of the massacre.

Polly met and married the Reverend Samuel Brown, a Presbyterian preacher. They had seven sons, and five of them were ministers.

[The end]
Etta Belle Walker's short story: Moore Massacre