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Thomas & Elizabeth Summers Allen & John Whitesides Roach

by David Allen Roach, 1911


Contributed by Bill Bentley, Chanute, Ks

    David Allen Roach, son of Henry Lewis Roach and Frances (Allen) Roach, was born in Parke County, Indiana in 1843.  After his graduation from the University of Indiana Law School, he practiced law in Fountain, Parke and Montgomery Counties, Indiana.  During his youth and adult years, he kept extensive notebooks and diaries concerning his ancestors which were inherited by his only children, Mary Maude, born 1879 and Mable Louise, born 1885, both unmarried and who were still living in California in the late 1960's.  The contents of the notebooks and dairies were handed-down to descendants of David's older sister, Elizabeth (Roach) Butcher, 1837-1905, of Wilson County, Ks then to this lady's grandaughter, Velva (Irwin) Peterson (1903-1981) and finally to a great grandson of Elizabeth Butcher's, Bill Bentley, born 1923, of Chanute, Ks.  The following are two stories David Roach wrote about his two grandfathers, Thomas Allen and John Whitesides Roach, both Veterans of the War of 1812, who settled in Fountain and Parke Counties in the early days.  

    David Allen Roach, son of Henry Lewis Roach and Frances (Allen) Roach, was born in Parke County, Indiana in 1843.  After his graduation from the University of Indiana Law School, he practiced law in Fountain, Parke and Montgomery Counties, Indiana.  During his youth and adult years, he kept extensive notebooks and diaries concerning his ancestors which were inherited by his only children, Mary Maude, born 1879 and Mable Louise, born 1885, both unmarried and who were still living in California in the late 1960's.  The contents of the notebooks and dairies were handed-down to descendants of David's older sister, Elizabeth (Roach) Butcher, 1837-1905, of Wilson County, Ks then to this lady's grandaughter, Velva (Irwin) Peterson (1903-1981) and finally to a great grandson of Elizabeth Butcher's, Bill Bentley, born 1923, of Chanute, Ks.  The following are two stories David Roach wrote about his two grandfathers, Thomas Allen and John Whitesides Roach, both Veterans of the War of 1812, who settled in Fountain and Parke Counties in the early days.  


   Thomas Allen, father of Frances Allen Roach, was born in Scott Co, old Virginia on the 13th day of June, 1790.  He was reared on a farm and had little educational advantages, there being no public schools at that early day.  He was skilled however in the use of the gun and hunting knife.  The deep unbroken woods, where the Bear leisurely ambled among the trees, the nimble Deer sped under the hills and plains, where could be heard the screams of the Panther and the barking of the Wolf and the Fox, was his most fascinating retreat.  He was married in Russell County, Old Virginia 1807 to Elizabeth Summers, daughter of John and Martha Williams Summers.  Soon after their marriage they determined to make their future home on the sunset side of the Mountains (Blue Ridge).  He was so fascinated with the chase that he desired a home in the unbroken woods where they could feast upon venison and wild honey.  The only way of transporting freight across the mountains at that early time was by packhorse, that is they "girted" a long wooden frame called a pack saddle upon a horse or mule and fastening such articles as were to be freighted upon it so he could carry them over to the new country.  So loading the necessary outfit for housekeeping into a homemade bedtick, it was placed upon a pack saddle on their family horse, then Mrs. Allen, who was a small woman (115 pounds), got up on the horse and taking upon her lap a small spinning wheel, they started upon their journey of more than 100miles.  Mr. Allen (Thomas) walked carrying an axe and gun and drove the cow, the axe and gun being two of the most necessary articles in the outfit.  Passing over the mountains and down the headwaters of the Big Sandy River, they settled in Eastern Ky, where they settled down in a section wholly unsettled with no white family of whom they knew in 50 miles of them.  He built a log cabin of such small logs as they could handle, split boards and covered it, built the chimney up to the arch, the cracks between the logs were chinked and daubed.   There was an opening for a door but the sutter was not hung as it was made of puncheons split from a tree and hewed to an even thickness an dpinned on a cross bars.   Their bedstead was made by driving a forked stake into the ground of the cabin some 5' from one wall and 6 1/2 from the other with poles from this to either wall.  From these were plated a mattress of linnbark and this formed the comfortable, though not stylish bed.  Their table was a slab split from the trunk of a tree, hued to a smooth surface.  Two inch auger holes bored in the underside at each of the four corners and poles driven into them for legs.  Mr. Allen had begun cutting away the timber and clearing up the brush preparatory to raising a crop of corn the following spring.  he piled the brush and limbs into heaps so he could burn them.

    Up to this time, they had moved serenly on with perfect contentment, the young wife feeling the greatest security, but now it was apparent that there must be milling one (grinding the corn) and the nearest mill was 60 miles away.  The woods about them were full of wolves as they were heard in the immediate neighborhood every night.  Occasionally the scream of the panther rang through the woods. One might expect any hour a gang of savage Indians, merciless, angered by seeing the habitation of a white man planted on the hunting ground from which they had recently been driven, swoop down upon the little household and annihilate the family.  Until now the young wife had not taken time to think of these troubles, but now they swelled her heart with great fear and sadness.  Long before the sun had whitened the East with the dawn of a new day, Mr. Allen had taken the horse and gun, leaving, as he thought, the dog and axe as the only means of defense of the wife, and started upon his two day journey to the mill.  After he had gone the dog slipped away and followed him.  As the morning light spread back over the mountain slope, followed quickly by the golden sunshine gliding first over the upper most tips of the trees then dropping down until the whole forest was ablaze with its light.  Filled with this native grandeur the young wife, forgetting her loneliness, joined the mocking bird and lark in their morning song.

    But as the day was well spent that same sheen of sunlight began climbing from limb to twig, her eyes following until it had left the valley about their humble cottage.  She saw it on the mountain heights lingering for a moment with diamond brilliance among the water that leadked from a summit in the rocks, and then it was gone.  Then night, not unfriendly but lonesome night was there.  Frightened with all the spectered imaginations that could lurk in its dark solitude.  She now realized that SHE WAS LONE IN A SENSE THAT SHE HAD NEVER REALIZED BEFORE.  Separated by miles of unbroken wilderness from all civilization, exposed to probable barbarity of the Indians, defenseless against the beasts of prey, in a house that afforded little or no protection from either (exactly as told to David).

    In describing that night of terror she said, "I was afraid to build a fire because its light would stream out through the cracks attracting the attention of any Indfians who might be in the vicinity for I knew they would either kill me or carry me away into captivity.  I was afraid not to build a fire knowing the wolves could come into the house through the fireplace which was only built about five feet high so far.  i went to bed covering up my head but I could not sleep and when in the night the cow came home, I heard her walking in the leaves and was sure it was the Indians.  She came up close to the house just by my bed and while I held my breath, I heard her lay down and blow her breath like a cow will when full -- then I knew it was not the Indians.  But I tell you I was never so glad to be near a cow in all my life. She seemed to be a dear friend."

    She (Elizabeth Summers Allen, 1791-1875) spent the night under this great suspense and in the morning felt, as she expressed it "that there was an Indian behind every stump and tree and brush pile."  She could not rest satisfied until she walked around every one of them.   I (David, her grandson) asked her if she was not afraid to do so, and she said, "I knew if they were there they would kill me anyway and I wanted to know what was going to happen."  Not until late in the night of one of the following days did her husband return. She fully realized the fact that she had in the true spirit of the sacred writ, "Left father and mother and clung to her husband" -- as in the marriage vows.  They remained in this solitude until 1809 or 1810, when they returned to Scott Co, Va, "Old Virginia", making the trip with pack saddle through the pathless wilderness, as they had first moved into Ky.  During the war of 1812, Thomas Allen was a soldier in that department of the US Army located at Norfolk, Va being a Pvt. in the co. of John Hammond, 7th Regt Va. militia.  After peace was declared he returned to his family in SoW Virginia.

    In 1820, Thomas and family recrossed the mountains into Ky, crossing the Blue Ridge through Cumberland Gap and settling on Little Cainy Creek in Morgan Co, Ky near Licking River.  In Nov 1827 they moved to Indiana where they "entered" and settled on the NE Quarter Sec of Twp 18N, Rg 6W Jackson Twp, Fountain Co, Indiana.  They remained on this farm until the death of Mr. Allen which occurred July 7, 1841.  Elizabeth remained on the farm during her long widowhood, for she never married a second time. This was except for a short time when she lived with her daughter, Elizabeth and husband, Alfred Fisher in Parke co, Indiana.  It was on this farm, Sunday the 7th day of Feb, 1875 that she paid the final debt and passing the dark valley entered that brighter existance of eternal peace.

    On many a winters evening when she was more than 80 years of age, I have sat by her fire -- for she spent her last years from 1856 when my mother, Frances Allen Roach died, to 1875, when Elizabeth died. She helped us and lived as one of my (David's) father's family.  With greatest interest have I sat by the fire and heard her tell the story of her pioneer life.

    Of the three long tiresome journeys across the mountains she told of the burning spring in the mountain water that would burn like alcohol.  They camped at this spring and just before they started from it, Mr. Allen fired his gun close to the water and it took fire. She said there was a blue smoke which played a vapor upon the water until the basin of the spring was dry and then it could be seen coming from the cracks in the bottom of the basin.   When the blaze was smothered out, the water would reappear and fill the spring as before.

    She united with the regular Predestinarian or Primitive Baptist Church while living in Virginia and lived a consistent member until her death, a period of about 60 years. Her husbnad, Thomas was a member of the same church. He was in politics a Democrat. He was physically a well-formed man being 6' in height, broad shouldered and not too stout in build.  He had brown hair and blue eyes.  He was a fine type of manhood.

    Mrs. Allen (Elizabeth) was well formed but small, weighing from 90 to 115 pounds.  She was born in Augusta Co, Old Virginia on the 5th day of Nov 1791.  Her father, John Summers, Sr, who was born in Pa, was of German ancestry.  Her mother, Martha Williams, was of English ancestry. 

    Thomas Allen's mother was Frances Pettit, born in Southern Old Virginia.  His father, Isaac C. Allen (1755-1831) of English ancestry and a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  He was born in Scott or Russell Co on the 15th day of March 1755.  I am unable to learn much of Isaac Allen's early life.  He was reared on a farm, and, like most of the farm boys of his time, started in life at his majority (21 years) with but little education.   But like his Virginia peers, his whole being radiated with patriotism and when his state made the first call for volunteers to fight in the American Revolutionary War, he shouldered his rifle and hastened to join the army of George Washington, in whose army he remained until England acknowledged the independence of each of the 13 colonies and peace was declared.  During that 7 years of hardship and suffering, he stood in the forefront of that noble army and never flinched from duty.  When the state of Virginia, before ceeding the north western Territory, comprising Ohio, Indiana and other states of the middle west of the US Government, the state offered to each of her soldiers of the War of 1776, a quarter section; of land in this territory if they would just go out and survey it off, making their selection of location.  He (Isaac Allen) absolutely refused to accept it saying, "I did not fight in the War of the Revolution for money, but for the liberty of our country and that so long as I am able to make a living for myself, I will not ask charity of our country."  Much of the sentiment of his life is expressed in a verse  on the marble shaft that marks his grave in Wolfe Creek Cemetery in Northeastern Parke Co, Indiana:
            "Unyielding in his country's cause,   This Christian patriot stood, Devoted e'vr to right, to laws, to country, home, to God."

   NOTE:  As a widow of Thomas Allen, in Dec 1850 Elizabeth applied for and received two 40 acre tracts of bounty land on warrant #91551.  In January, 1873 she applied for and received a widow's pension of $8.00 per month which dated from 14 Feb 1871.  Copies of these applications are available from the National Archives, Washington, DC. 

Children of Thomas & Elizabeth (Summers) Allen were:

Martha "Polly" b. 1808                 James   b. 1810                 John b. 1811

Isaac  b. 1813                                 Anna b. 1814                     Frances A. b 7-20-1816

Maria B. b. 1818                             Thomas b. 1820                 Elizabeth b. 1822 (29)

William b. 3-26-1826                     David b. 1827                    


John W. Roach, father of Henry L, was born on a farm in Bath County, Ky on the 8th day of June 1789, to cheer the home of his parents Henry and Elsa (Elcy) Kemper Roach as their first born child.   He was favored but with little education, spending his youth among the wild but health giving hills of the East fork of Licking River and learning the cabinet makers trade in a shop of his father. When General Winchester organized his army of the flower of Ky's young men, to join the forces of General William H. Harrison for the defense of the Northwest Territory in the War with England in 1812, John Whitesides Roach entered that army, leaving Miss Elizabeth Morgan to whom he had pledged his future devotion and betrothal.

    During this campaign up through Ohio from the river to Lake Erie and into southeast Michigan, for the most part through a densely wooded and often swampy country where there were no roads, no inhabitants except an occasional settlement, during the winter amid rain and hail and snow, with little or not shelter. With scant rations and without tents or shelter, often having to cut branches of trees and throw them on the ground to hold them out of the water while the men slept.  Or climb into bushes and tie themselves upon a limb to secure a good nights rest. 

    Hildreth in his history of the US (Vol. 6, pg 392) says concerning this, "The army of Harrison  having reached lower Sandusky (now Fremont, Ohio) orders were sent to Gen. Winchester, commanding the Ky. troops at Fort Defiance, to move down the Maumee River and occupy the rapids which Tupper with the central column had twice failed to capture."  On Jan 10, 1813, after a march of 11 days much obstructed by snow, Winchester reached the rapids, a few Indians flying before him.  While busily employed there building store houses and gathering corn from the Indians' fields, successive messages arrived from Frenchtown (now Monroe, Michigan) a small village on the Raisin River about 30 mi. in front, with entreaties for aid against a party of 300 British and Indians, who had occupied the town and who threatened to burn the houses, rob the barns and carry off the inhabitants.

    Jan. 16th -- a council of war unanimously agreed, under the influence of this appeak, that aid should be sent.   Lossing, in his "War of 1812" says concerning this detachment (pg 348) "Colonel Allen's command -- Captains McCrackin, Bledsoe and Watson (or Matson) were commanding the right. The left, led by Major Green, was composed of the companies of Hamilton, Williams and Kelly.  The center under Major Madison contained the companies of Capts. Hightower, Collier and Pugh.  The advnace guard was composed of the companies of Capts. Hickman, Glaives and James and was under the command of Capt. Ballard, acting as Major. The chief of this little Army was Colonel Lewis."  Frenchtown was at that time a village of 33 families, 22 of which resided on the north side of the river.  Gardens and orchards were attached to their houses and these were enclosed with heavy pickets called "puncheons" made of sapling lots split in two and driven in the ground and sometimes sharpened at the top.  The houses were built of logs of good size and furnished with most of the conviences of domestic life.

    Lewis's forces when he reached Frenchtown, 18 Jan 1813, were less than 700 men armed with muskets and side arms only.  He formed his men in line on the So. side of the river, one fouth of a mile away and advanced under the fire of the British and Indians, crossing the river on the ice, scaled the banks and mounted the picket fence with the blaze of musketry and the haling grape and cannister from the Brisih cannon in their very faces.  Routing the enemy and driving them in a northeast direction to the woods some distance away, where the fight continued -- the enemy slowly receeding until night when the Americans returned to the village and went into camp.  The officers occupied the houses just vacated by the British and the privates camping inside the picketed gardens. The Americans in this engagement lost 12 killed and 55 wounded, among which were Capt. BW Ballard, Pascal Hickman and Richard Matson.  The loss of the enemy was much greater. The Indians, true to their instinct on their retreat,  killed some of the inhabitants and pilalged their homes.  Jan 19, 1813 -- Winchester arrived at Frenchtown with 300 more troops and encamped them in an open field on the right of Col. Lewis's forces and he then took headquarters at the residence of Col. Francis Naverre more than 1/2 mi. away from his forces on the S side of the river.  During the afternoon of Jan 21st, Winchester was informed by a messenger from Malden that Gen. Proctor was collecting a force of British & Indians near Frenchtown preparatory to an attack upon them.  While knowing that Malden, where most of the British forces were congregated, was within 8 mi. of him and only separated by the frozen surface of the Lake, Winchester refused to believe the messenger and was, on the following morning, awakened from his slumber by the sharp crack of the pickets muskets and in great surprise rushed across the river to his forces only to be captured and humiliated and see the men who he had refused to provide protection for by leaving them in an open field, surprised, routed and murdered by drunken and savage Indians.  The men whom Col. Lewis had placed within the pickets fought manfully silencing the British artillary and driving their forces back to the woods.  This band under the command of Major Madison (one of whom was John Whitesides Roach) did effective work and after Winchester had surrendered he sent one of his men to Gen. Proctor under a flag of truce. But Winchester refused to surrender until Proctor promised that the American wounded and prisoners would be protected from the murderous assault of the Indians.  Hildreth in his Hist. of the US (Vol 6, p 393) wrote of this engagement after the surrender.  "As soon as the Articles were signed, Gen. Proctor took with him the prisoners able to travel on his return to Malden.  The captured Americans wer penned up in a small muddy woodyard exposed through the night to a constant rain, without tents or blankets and with hardly fire enough to keep them from freezing, but the wounded prisoners left behind experienced a much worse fate." 

Jan. 23, 1813 -- a band of Indians entered the village and after plundering several houses, broke into those houses where the wounded lay, with no guard except a single officer and a few interpreters. Capt. Elliot, said to be a Marylander by birth, left in charge of the wounded British who were not far off, declined, if indeed he was able, to afford any protection.  Some of the wounded men were stipped of their clothes and killed and finally in revenge for their loss in the late battle the Indians set fire to two of the houses in which the most dangerously wounded were collected, pushing back into the flames all those who attempted to escape.  Such of the others as were able to move were presently taken off to Malden but as often as any man "gave out" they wer tomahawked by the Indians.  Besides the 600 who remained prisoners in the hands of the British there perished in the battle or subsequently 300 men including many whose position in society gave particular poignancy in their loss.  The whole state of Ky. was thrown into mourning. Indignation was raised to the highest pitch.  Gen. Proctor & Capt. Elliot were loudly accused of having "winked at" if not encouraged the massacre in order to get rid of the care and trouble of the wounded.  "The prisoners were taken (including John Roach) to Amhersbury where they arrived on the morning of Jan 23rd and on the 26th they were taken to Sandusky & Detroit. The whole umber of prisoners, 737 were finally parolled or exchanged except some of the officers who were kept near the close of the war.  Gen. Proctor ordered the inhabitants to remove from Frenchtown to Detroit a few days after the massacre, leaving the remains of the massacre unburied." 

    John Whitesides Roach was one of the men who stood behind the picket fence in the fight where he was wounded in the shoulder by a musket ball.  It lodged in front of the shoulder blade where it remained until his death.  He told me (David A. Roach) while they were their prisoners they almost perished with the cold and hunger.  Sleeping much of time out of doors and often nothing to eat but boiled potatoes which were thrown from baskets upon the ground so they might pick them up and eat them.  On one occasion one of the men who was weak and sick failed to get a single potato, but his comrades divided with him of course.  As an instance of how near starved they were he said, "James Allen, the notorious Ky. counterfitter got hold of a biscuit and one of the prisoners offered him a $5 gold piece for it.  Allen refused to accept it but gave half the biscuit to the man." John was released from captivity by the British on 8 March 1813 when he returned home and was marr. in Bath Co, Ky to Elizabeth Morgan on 18 Sept 1815.  Miss Morgan was the daughter of William Morgan and Sarah Cunningham Morgan.  John W. and his wife first lived near their parents on horseshoe bend, E. fork of Licking River near what was then known as Stogdon's (Snelling) Mill.  In the Spring of 1826 they moved down Licking River in a flatboat to Cincinnati where they lived until 1828 when they removed to a farm near Brookville, Indiana.  Later they removed to Rush Co and in the Fall of 1833 they moved on to the NE corner of Parke Co, Indiana where they continued to live until John's death which occurred 20 May 1870, caused by gangrene in the right foot.   John W and Elizabeth had born to them 10 children - 7 girls who were: Sallie, Mary, Jane, Martha, Nancy, Eliza,  and Lucy.  Their three sons were Henry L, William and Benjamin who died in his youth in Parke Co.  John W. and his faithful wife were members of the primitive or Predestinarian Baptist Church and held their membership with MillCreek Church near their home and where they sleep.  John W. was  a Whig in politics, until that party disbanded when he became a Democrat and acted with that part during the remainder of his life. He was by trade a cabinetmaker and house joiner, taking the lumber he used ruff from the saw, he dressed and prepared it for house or furniture by the slow and laborious process of dressing, morticing and scrolling by hand. After losing his companion (1844) he never marr. a second time.  He was a man of remarkable good health until his final sickness when he suffered for months from gangrene in his right foot.  He had paralysis of the right side which hastened his death.  He entered his eternal rest strong in faith and buoyant in the hope of the great reward.  End of David Allen Roach's account ---

NOTE: According to John's military records obtained from the National Archives in Washington DC he enlisted at Isles Mill, Bath Co Ky 15 Aug 1812 in Capt. George Pugh's Co of the 1st Regt of Ky Vol. Militia. His discharge was dated 21 Feb 1813 at Urbana, Ohio though a notation written in longhand on his discharge states, "Taken prisoner 22 Jan 1813 and ret. home 8 Mar 1813."  At Fountain Co In 6 Dec 1850 and while he was a resident of Parke Co, John W. Roach, aged 60 applied for an received 80 acres of bounty land under warrant #27630 which he had assigned to a John Cunningham in 1852.  At Parke Co, Indiana 9 May 1855 and while a resident of Parke Co John W. Roach, 65, applied for and received an additional 80 acres of bounty land under warrant #33945 which he assigned to a Darius Breesee.