|Ohio Revisited: Belmont County, Part 04 -- Lewis Wetzel, Indian Fighter: His Exploits at Dunkard's Creek and Indian Spring.|
by Henry Howe.
The celebrated Indian hunter, Lewis Wetzel, was often through this region. Belmont County was the scene of at least two of the daring adventures of this famous frontiersman. The scene of the first was on Dunkard Creek, and that of the second on the site of the National Road -- two and one-half miles east of St. Clairsville -- on the farm of Jno. B. Mechan, whose family had owned the place since 1810.
Fight at Dunkard's Creek
While hunting, Wetzel fell in with a young hunter who lived on Dunkard's Creek, and was persuaded to accompany him to his home. On their arrival they found the house in ruins and all the family murdered, except a young woman who had been boarding with them, with whom the young man was in love. Based on the signs, it was apparent that she had been taken alive.
By examining the trail of the enemy, they determined that the attack had been made by three Indians and a white renegade. Burning with revenge, they followed the trail until opposite the mouth of Captina Creek, where the enemy had crossed. Wetzel and the young hunter swam the stream and discovered the Indians' camp -- and the Indians laying around the fire. The young woman was apparently unhurt, but was moaning and pleading with her captors.
The young man could hardly restrain his rage and was for firing and rushing instantly upon them. Wetzel, who was more cautious, told the young hunter to wait until daylight, when there was a better chance of success in killing the whole party.
At dawn the Indians prepared to depart. The young man selected the white renegade as his first target and Wetzel aimed at an Indian. They both fired simultaneously with fatal effect. The young man rushed forward, knife in hand, to cut loose the young woman. At the same time, Wetzel re-loaded and pursued the two surviving Indians, who had taken to the woods until they could determine who was attacking them.
Wetzel discharged his rifle at random in order to draw the Indians from their cover. The ruse worked, and taking to his heels, he re-loaded his gun as he ran. Suddenly Wetzel wheeled about and fired his rifle through the body of the nearest Indian. The remaining Indian -- seeing the fate of his companion, and that his enemy's rifle was unloaded -- rushed forward in fury, the prospect of prompt revenge immediately at hand.
Wetzel led him on, dodging from tree to tree, until his rifle was again re-loaded. Again Wetzel suddenly turned and fired, and his remaining enemy fell dead at his feet.
After taking the scalps of the Indians, Wetzel, his friend, and their rescued captive, returned in safety to the settlement.
Fight at Indian Spring
A short time after Crawford's defeat in 1782, Wetzel accompanied Thomas Mills, a soldier in that action, to obtain his horse, which Mills had left near the site of St. Clairsville. They were met by a party of about forty Indians at the Indian Spring, two miles from St. Clairsville, on the road to Wheeling. Both parties discovered each other at the same moment. Lewis instantly fired and killed an Indian, while the Indians wounded Lewis in the heel, and subsequently overtook and killed him.
Four Indians pursued Wetzel. About half a mile beyond, one of the Indians having closed to within a few steps of Wetzel, Wetzel wheeled and shot him, and then continued his retreat. In less than a mile farther, a second Indian caught Wetzel. As Wetzel turned to fire, the Indian caught the muzzle of his gun. A severe struggle followed, but Wetzel was able to bring the gun to the Indian's chest, and, firing it, killed his opponent.
Wetzel again wheeled and took off running, followed by the remaining two Indians. All three were pretty tired, and often stopped to rest behind protective trees. After going something more than another mile Wetzel took advantage of an open stretch of ground over which he had just passed. As the Indians entered the open stretch behind him, Wetzel stopped, turned, and aimed at the Indian closest to him -- who thereupon sprang behind a small sapling. Wetzel fired and wounded him mortally.
The remaining Indian then exclaimed, "No catch that man; gun always loaded."
After the peace of 1795 Wetzel pushed for the frontier on the Mississippi River. When he finally died, he died as he had lived -- a free man of the forest.
This entry is adapted from Henry Howe's HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF OHIO (2 vols., 1907). The book has been reedited, updated, and restructured for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This entry is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. This entry may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that the Stratton House Inn iteration of this entry does NOT include the subject headings assigned the entry for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
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