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Letter from Jonathan VanCleave to John Gibson


Crawfordsville, Ind. Dec 13th, 1925 RR 7

Mr. John S. Gibson, Borden Ind -- Dear Sir:


In reply to your letter of Dec 7 I will try as best I can to give an account of the capture of Uncle Samuel VanCleave, by the Indians and hope it may be of use to you. I can't say just what year this took place but think it must have been in the early part of (1800) eighteen-hundred. The only thing I remember was that Grandfather told me when he was a boy going to school he crossed the ground many a time where Uncle Sam was captured and Grandfather was born in the year of 1805. This Tom Mahuron must have been a neighbor that was helping Uncle Sam and was captuerd at the same time. Not a great many days before they were captured they were talking about what they would do if they should ever be captured by the indians, Tom Mahuron said he would never go with them he would die first, Uncle Sam said he would go with them and take his chances getting back again and he told his family not to follow for he would try and make his escape some way. Uncle Sam was a cabinate maker or a furniture maker as we might say, by trade. Now begins the main part of the story.

That day they were building a work shop and they were cutting weight=poles to hold the clabboard roof in place as they had no nails then to nail them on with and Tom Mahuron kept telling Uncle Sam all day that he heard Indians but Uncle Sam didn't believe him, so about three o'clock in the evening the indians came around a tree top and was right on to them before they saw them so they both broke and ran and Uncle Sam could out run all of the indians except one young chief and he was about to get away from him and he threw his tomahawk and knocked Uncle Sam down, when he came to (or when he regained consciousness, the indians were removing his silver-knee-buckles and they made signs for him to get up and run, they tried to get Tom Mahuron to go with them but he would not, he locked his hands around a saping, they pounded his fingers to make him let loose but he would not so they just knocked him on the head with their tomahawk and scalped him and left him. Some of Uncle Sam's family followed after him for a short distance but to no purpose.

They took a circutous route around through Ohio to their camp on the St. Joseph River in Indiana and somewhere on their way they went through a silver mine, Uncle Sam said the silver was so pure they hacked it off with their tomahawks to make their brooches with. They didn't allow Uncle Sam to see any of this for they blindfolded him a good while before they got to the camp and kept him blindfolded till they got far away, so he didn't have any idea much where the silver mine was, altho he thought it might be somewhere along Sugar Creek. Arriving at their camp on the St. Joseph River the first thing they did with him was to strip him of his clothes and take him out in the stream to wash the white blood out of him and made him be an Indiana, he not knowing what they were trying to do he ducked the old Indian Squaw that was performing the trick, so she could speak english some and she said, "OH stop. You fool, we are not going to hurt you," so he let them go ahead and make an Indian of him. So the next task they put him to hoeing corn with the women, so they showed him how to hoe the weeds and hill up the corn, but he didn't like to hoe, so he woud (sic) chop down the corn and hill up the weeds, that didn't suit them at all so they soon put him at something else.

They soon found he was a good hand with the rifle so they would take him out hunting with them, and he became a great favorite for he would play with the little Indianchildren teach them games and how to shoot the rifle and he became such a great favourite that they wanted him to marry on of their tribe, but he told them "no" he had a wife and children in Kentucky and that was all he cared for.

After he had been with them for quite awhile they would send him out alone to hung and give him so many bullets so he had to show game for the number of bullets he shot away but instead of shooting the whole bullet he would cut it in halves shooting one half and keeping the other half for himself and still give correct proof for the number he shot away.

So one day he and another white man by the name of Scott who was also held a prisoner were out hunting together and they got to talking about making their escape so Uncle Sam says its to day or never and he proposed to lead the way back towards Kentuck but Scott was sure that he could lead the way and after they had traveled all day just at dusk they found themselves back in sight of the Indiana Village, so they knew what it would mean to be recaptured so they secreted themselves in a hollow log and they heard the Indians cross back and forth over that log time after time, sometimes sitting down on the log to talk and tell what they would do if they should eve recapture them again. They had to keep themselves concealed till the next night when they started towards Kentucky again and this time, Uncle Sam says, "I am going to take the lead now." So they arrived safe back homein Kentucky from which he had been absent 18 months. They almost starved before they could get far enough away to kill any game for fear the Indians might hear the report of their rifles.

Uncle Sam afterwards moved with his family to Indiana and lived and died here. If you think the account of Mr. Offield would be of any use to you, I might be able to send a copy of the paper in which it was published.

Yours truly, Jonathan Vancleave


I'm sorry, not sure where I got this so can't give a proper thanks but think it is one of the niftiest items on the Montgomery Co GenWeb site :) KZ
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Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the submitter, for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information.

Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the copyright holder(s), for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information. © 2014 by Karen Zach, and licensed to the Indiana GenWeb (INGenWeb) Project and the USGenWeb Project. May be used in personal research with a citation.

This page created:  

11-Sep-2011