Beanery Online Literary Magazine

October 31, 2012

At Sewickley Creek: a novel excerpt



An excerpt from WARPATH, a historical novel

Sal Martin

     In 1756 there was a meeting to discuss peace. One of the negotiators was from the eastern Turtle Clan Delaware named Teedyuscung. Teedyuscung wanted peace for his people and houses and teachers. The conferences at Easton eventually brought a lessening of the hostilities.

“The land is the cause of our Differences, that is, our being unhappily turned out of the land; … they do not act well nor do Indians justice …We on our parts gather up the leaves that have been sprinkled with blood, we gather up the blood, the bodies and the bones, but when we look round, we see no place where to put them.”

That spring, the Martin and Knox children and other white captives made another trip, of twenty some miles, down the Allegheny to Fort Duquesne, in canoes. There were about 200 prisoners at Fort Duquesne at that time. The French commander was offering a bounty for pioneer scalps. He had already paid for 500 scalps. A bounty for Indian scalps was also being paid in Williamsburg and Philadelphia.  That the Pennsylvania Council would do such a thing horrified the Quakers to the point that they withdrew from politics.  Franklin’s anti-Quaker group had won.

The French at Ft. Duquesne did not have enough food for all the mouths and sent the captives along, in canoes, down the Ohio. Martha and Jane Knox and Martha’s two little brothers were taken instead up the muddy Monongahela River to the clean, clear Youghiogheny River, and then on up to Sewickley Creek. They stashed the canoes and carried their precious possessions, blankets and winter clothing up to Captain Jacob’s Cabin.

It was spring and the children were enchanted with the glory of the variety of flowers that bloomed everywhere. They worked in the clearing, planting the corn, each couple of kernels accompanied by one of the fish from the abundant creek. The boys worked more at learning how to trap or shoot the small animals that came to visit the gardens. On days that it was too rainy to work, they were busy inside the cabin, working the furs to prepare them for the day when the trader might come.  The corn grew and fall came and the crops were harvested and stored in clay pots. Fish were dried. Meats of different kinds were dried. Corn cakes were cooked hard and dried.  The sweet days of summer were gone and the chill of fall brought a glorious month of changing colors. The old Indian squaws who were their owners, didn’t have to beat the children as much as they had before. The children had become reconciled to not trying to escape because they had no idea where they should go. The old Indian trail that was nearby had had much traffic a couple of years before, but nothing went by on it now. The squaws felt safe from marauding Cherokees or Iroquois and seemed to feel safe from the frontiersmen.  Chief Jacob came by only once in late August. His visit was interrupted when a runner came to fetch him back to Kittanning.

The winter passed with a minimum of starvation and the flower filled spring came again.  That year was very pleasant with good crops and the boys were able to keep them furnished with small game for food.

The boys were beginning to stalk young deer the next spring. They and the girls also busied themselves with planting again but when the first little sprouts were beginning to show, Shingas and some of his braves showed up and urged the children to gather their belongings and drag them down to the creek where the canoes were uncovered from their hiding places and made serviceable again.

The wide pool of the Youghiogheny reflected sunlight glittering with sparkles and bedecked with blossoms that had fallen from the trees. They wanted the old squaws to come also but the braves hurried them along. As they floated away, down the stream, the squaws set up a wailing which soon faded away.

They stopped at Fort Duquesne and were astonished by the busy Fortress. The many French soldiers seemed to be busying themselves with packing and from time to time, a group of them would push a canoe into the water and start off up the Allegheny.  Consulting with each other, the children decided that they might be about to abandon the fort.  They decided that this was a very hopeful sign. Shingas appeared and abruptly gathered them and some other captives and they set off down the Ohio.  Shingas stopped in a couple of miles on the left side of the river. He went to a camp spot of his own that had been abandoned some time back and retrieved some gunpowder and bullets. He had been given some supplies at the Fort, but not enough and he complained loudly, saying that the French were being stingy.

They set off the next day and, passing Logstown where Washington and Christopher Gist had met with Shingas and the half King, just three years before. Without they stopping, halted at the mouth of the Beaver River. Shingas had built another community there, with the help of the French. Several rugged cabins were on a grassy bluff, overlooking the river.

Where the Beaver Creek flowed into the Ohio, the “beautiful” river takes a turn, almost a U turn and heads southwest. They stopped at the place where the kings Beaver and Shingas and Shingas’ brother Tamaqua now lived. Not enough food for them there either. They were passed along, again in canoes, down the river now to what is now another turn south. From there they went overland to the Muskingum.

Where the Tuscarawas River meets the Muskingum River was the large Indian village called Tuscarawas or Tamaqua or Coshocton where the boys and Robert Knox and Martha and Jane Knox spent the rest of the war.


Read more of Sal Martin’s work by clicking on her Beanery Online Literary Magazine folder,

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