Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stephenson Family: Kentucky - A Dark and Bloody Ground

Shawnee Warrior
In my previous blog, I mentioned that our 4th great-grandparents, Moses Turpin and Jane Stephenson, married in Madison County, Kentucky in 1800. This is the Stephenson family story. 

Jane's father Edward Stephenson was born in 1744 in Williamsburg,

Williamsburg, James City County, Viginia

Edward's father Robert Stephenson (1714-1766) also had been born in Williamsburg and was a merchant and landowner. The spelling of "Stephenson" was often interchangeable with "Stevenson."
14 Mar 1755
Robert's advertisement on Page 4 of "The Virginia Gazette" newspaper, Williamsburg, James City County, Virginia.
"For LONDON, The Ship Elizabeth, Jacob Cooper, Master, now lying at Littlepage's, will take in Tobacco, with Liberty of Consignment, at seven Pounds per Ton. Gentlemen Inclinable to ship, may send their Notes or Orders to Mr. William Stevenson at York, Mr. Richard Adams in New-Kent, Col. Thomas Moore in King-William, Capt. Robert Stevenson at Cumberland Town, or to the Captain, who will attend the County Courts." [Cumberland Town was on the James River in Cumberland County, Virginia. William Stevenson at York may have been Robert's brother.]

Cumberland County, Virginia
  Robert Stephenson often made use of the Virginia Gazette.

2 Sep 1757
Page 2 of "The Virginia Gazette" newspaper, Williamsburg, James City County, Virginia.
"STRAYED from the Subscriber, in Cumberland Town, some Time in May last, a black Colt, about five Years old, with a Blaze Face, two hind Feet white, his Tail lately cut, and branded on the near Buttock S in a Diamond. Whoever takes up the said Horse, and conveys him to the Subscriber, shall have a Pistole Reward. Robert Stephenson." [The pistole, a Spanish doubloon, was a common coin in Virginia until the 1760s, worth almost a pound.]
 Robert Stephenson married Elizabeth Campbell Russell (1718-1791) of Williamsburg in 1736. They had nine children.
Amherst County, Virginia
In his September 1766 will in Amherst County, Robert left 110 acres to his son Robert; 120 acres to John on which he was then living; the plantation and land [about 113 acres] to Edward Stephenson; 110 acres to William; his wife's third of the estate as dower to James at her decease. All his moveable estate was to be sold and, after paying his lawful debts, the remainder was to be equally divided among his daughters Margaret, Jane, Elizabeth & Mary (all still unmarried). "It is also my will that my four daughters . . . live with their mother & my son Edward until they marry or as long as they please, if unmarried." He died a month later.

What was the lure of the western rivers? In 1773 Edward Stephenson and his wife Phoebe, whom he married in 1765, sold the plantation and its 113 acres to Samuel Woods for 140 pounds sterling. I'm not certain where they spent the next eight years, but in 1781 Edward acquired a land grant in Washington County on the Holstein River. Other family members, including his mother, undoubtedly moved there with him. 
Washington County, Virginia, formed in 1776, optimistically named for America's commanding general, deep into his fight for our country's independence. 
In 1784 the Stephensons were off to "Kentuck," still part of Virginia until it achieved statehood in 1792. Edward Stephenson, his wife, five children, including Jane (1779-1830), and extended family members, took to the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap to Boonesborough.
Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap
They traveled it on horseback and on foot (the trail not wide or smooth enough for wagons) and were susceptible to Indian attacks. Over 100 emigrants were killed that autumn of 1784 while attempting to make it into Kentucky. Read about the Wilderness Road HERE

On September 11, 1863, the historian Lynman Draper HERE interviewed William Champ (b. 1776 in Virginia), who lived in Paint Lick, Kentucky, the Civil War not stopping his quest for oral histories. Champ as a boy had traveled through the Cumberland Gap with his family the same year as the Stephensons and grew up near them. Draper's hand-written notes based on Champ's memories form the basis of the Stephenson story. The Stephensons settled on 200 acres near Paint Lick. As Champ put it,
"Edward Stevenson settled in Kentucky in 1785 - and about 1787, settled out, locating on the waters of Meadow Fork of Paint Lick Creek."
Madison County, Kentucky
William Champ continued:

[Edward Stephenson's] daughter Patsy, a young woman grown,in August, 1791, at dusk of evening baking bread for a party of persons expected to pass through the wilderness, sent her sister Jenny [our 4th great-grandmother Jane] out at the yard fence to get some hickory bark, of which a pile had been gathered there, and having got some of the bark, she felt her head strike against something, and looking around discovered it was the muzzle of an Indian's gun, with several others protruding through the fence, when dropping her load, she ran for the house exclaiming "there's a whole yard full of Indians." Her sister Sally came to the door to see about the alarm and was shot through the body, though in her confusion did not then know it - she barred the door and then discovered by the dripping blood that she was wounded. Mr. Stevenson was at home and ready for the Indians - they soon decamped. A silk handkerchief was drawn through Sally's wound, and she soon recovered - though shot completely through the body.

[About the silk handkerchief - Royal Navy officers wore silk stockings rather than wool or cotton, so if they were wounded in the legs, the wounds wouldn't become infected. And silk being drawn through a wound would clean out bits of charred cloth.] 

Having heard the story second-hand as a youth, Champ recalled it almost as picture images. He went on: 

Attack on Stevenson's, Aug., 1792. Just a year after Sally Stevenson was wounded, early one morning in August, Andrew Stevenson, a lad of some eight years. With a younger brother, came home from their neighbor, Mr. Robinson's where they had accompanied some of the Robinson boys from school and stayed all night. As the family was not yet up, the boys whopped and yelled around in sport, when at length their sister Patsy got up and unbarred the door to let the boys in - when several Indians rushed up so suddenly that none discovered them until they had possession of the door. Stevenson and a young man named Bonham jumped out of bed. Bonham was instantly shot and fell back dead upon the bed as he was in the act of putting on his pantaloons. Mrs. Stevenson was shot while yet in bed, probably mistaken for a man - the ball entering below the knee and (--?--) up breaking the thigh bone half way up her body. She never recovered, except to crawl about and lived only a few years and the ball went through her arm without breaking the bone. One of the Indians, who proved to be Captain Blue Skin, a Shawnee, and the leader of this party, rushed into the room, with a large knife nine or ten inches long, with a heavy buck-horn handle, in one hand, a large war club in the other - made a dash at Stevenson, who as he jumped from bed, without stopping for his clothes, aimed for his cutlass sword which was hanging up - but the Indian seized him before he could get it and commenced using his knife freely, cutting and slashing and stabbing and making the blood fly endeavoring to wield his war club, the handle had become slippery with the blood spiriting from Stevenson's wounds, it flew from his grasp and flew completely under one of the beds and no more figured in the contest. Attempting to seize the formidable knife by the blade, Stevenson got both his hands completely scraped of flesh - the handle of the knife having a natural knob on the end, enabled its possessor easily to hold on his grasp. The other three or four Indians were intervening this unequal and exciting contest grinning and laughing - when Patsy who, for the moment, for this was all the work of a moment - stood behind the door, now suddenly shut the door with such force as to knock the Indians out and some of them upon their backs on the ground - the next instant she had the door barred. Remembering her father's butcher knife was in its scabbard hanging up with his gun and shot pouch and powder horn on hooks on the wall, ran and got it, and commenced stabbing the Indian -giving him half a dozen stabs, but each time striking his breast bone, and the last time with such force as to break the blade. As she turned away, Captain Blue Skin made a stab at her. This Indian and his antagonist at that moment grasped and floundering about the room and completely severed a big toe from one of her feet, which bounced away. Mr. Stevenson now weak, with a portion of his entrails protruding from his wounds, called to his little son Andrew to get his gun and shoot the Indian, saying if the Indian should succeed in killing him, he would then soon kill them all. Andrew seized the first gun he came at, which proved to be a double-triggered gun, of which he had no knowledge of the management, and cocked it without setting the trigger, and aimed to shoot the Indian, but it would not go off and so exclaimed to his father, who told him to pull harder on the trigger. He did so and broke both triggers. Then Mr. Stevenson mistrusted the matter, said to Andrew to throw it down, and get another - all were loaded for use at a moment's warning - and got his hunting gun, with a half ounce ball. Mr. S. now kept urging Andrew to shoot and the Indian probably seeing how matters stood made desperate efforts to dispatch his antagonist and keep on the alert meanwhile - so Andrew placed the muzzle to the pit of the Indian's stomach and fired - the Indian rolled over, and gave a single long groan and all was over with him. The Indians outside had been endeavoring to break in the heavy (--?--) door, now hearing this groan, made off. The Indians previous to attacking Stevenson's house had gathered up in that region quite a drove of horses. Jenny Stevenson [our ancestor, age 14], sleeping in the loft of the house, and while the Indians at the commencement of the affair were at the front door, jumped out of an upper window, her petticoat caught on a fence stake, which threw her head downwards and broke the straps of her garment, and she ran off in her undress; perhaps a hundred yards off at the spring was a lame Indian, who intercepted the fleeing girl and made off with her. 

Edward Stephenson was mortally wounded. Champ was nearly done:
Dr. Reuben Smith, a physician from the eastern states, attended Stevenson, cut off a plate full of caul fat and cleansed his entrails and got them in again as well as he could and said the man could not live. He survived till the next morning. Dr. Smith attended to families professionally at twenty five cents a year for each person, taking his pay in the produce of the country. Thus many subscribed for his services, and was faithful and got a fair living. He resided in Madison Co., and died a few years after of consumption. Before noon of the day of the attack, fifteen men gathered, my informant [Champ] one of them - Col. Edmund Terrill, an old Revolutionary Va. Colonel who served in Washington's army, was among them, and proposed to go and reconnoiter and scout - ten volunteered, Champ among them, then 16 years of age, all mounted - soon found the trail and followed till a heavy storm obliterated all traces of the route of the fugitives and had to abandon the pursuit that afternoon, leaving the Indians to retire with their prisoner and horses. With a pony and rope, the dead Indian was dragged off some distance and left - after which a young Harris (not Nathan) cut a piece of skin from the Indian's back for a razor strap.

Edward Stephenson made an oral will on 11 August 1792 with John Snoddy, sheriff, as a witness. This noncupative will of Edward Stephenson, deceased, was recorded in October 1792.

William Stephenson, the oldest son (b. 1771- died about 1830) must have been away from the house. In the summer of 1794 he joined Major General "Mad" Anthony Wayne's army as a private in the  Mounted Kentucky Volunteers, a member of the "Company of Mounted Spies and Guides under the command of Captain John Arnold, Major William Price's Battalion, commanded by Major General Charles Scott."  The mounted volunteers, about 1500 in number, gave Wayne a headache because they would not accept paper money as pay, but demanded gold and silver; and yet he wanted them with him to make the campaign a "vigorous" one. In August, because of the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, the army was concerned it wouldn't receive sufficient rations of whiskey for the troops. William, paid a dollar a day and forage for his horse, served from July 14 through October 23, 1794, and so was a participant in the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 22 against a confederacy of tribes, its warriors numbering about 2000, armed by the British.

After the American Revolution, although the lands below the present Canadian border on the Great Lakes were ceded to the fledgling United States, the British maintained forts at Niagara, Detroit, and farther south, giving the Shawnee and other tribes weapons, supplies and encouragement to fight the Americans. There was much Shawnee and other tribal deprivation among Kentucky and western Virginia settlers - over 1500 setters killed in a few years and countless captured. White retaliation against friendly villages escalated the bloodshed. These tribes living north of the Ohio River defeated military forays. President Washington finally appointed Revolutionary War hero Major General Anthony Wayne to train a proper army that would be able to defeat the Indian nations in the Northwest Territory. Wayne spent an entire year training his army.
Major General Anthony Wayne c. 1795
You can read about General Scott and his Kentucky Volunteers HERE; "Mad" Anthony Wayne and the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794 HERE

 A few days after the battle General Wayne described it in a letter to Secretary of War Henry Knox, and wrote regarding the Kentucky Mounted Volunteers, " . . And here permit me to declare, that I never discover[ed] more true spirit and anxiety for action that appeared to pervade the whole of the mounted voluntiers; & I am well persuaded that had the enemy maintained their favorite ground but for half hour longer, they would have most severely felt the prowess of that corps. . . "

It wasn't the Battle of Fallen Timbers itself, lasting less than an hour with Wayne losing less than 40 killed and 100 wounded, that convinced the tribes to enter into peace negotiations, but the fact that when the warriors withdrew from the battlefield, retreating to Fort Miamis six miles away, its British commander refused to open the gates to them and the British garrison refrained from provoking a war with the Americans while Wayne destroyed Indian villages and crops surrounding the fort. The tribes knew then that the British had deserted their cause of driving the Americans from their lands.

Aware of the tribes' defeat, the British within three months signed the treaty John Jay had been vainly negotiating, Britain pledging to evacuate Northwest Territory forts by 1796. General Wayne, as single commissioner, began negotiating a peace treaty with the tribes, and the Treaty of Greenville HERE was signed in the summer of 1795, effectively opening Ohio to American settlers. 
Note how far north the Battle of Fallen Timbers was fought. The treaty line pushed the tribes into the northern part of Ohio.
Included in the treaty was the American demand for the release of American captives, some tribal members to be kept as hostages until the exchange was completed.
Treaty of Greenville, allegedly painted by one of General Wayne's officers.
On July 11, 1796 the British army surrendered Fort Detroit to the American army. Jane Stephenson was discovered in Detroit, married to a French-Canadian trader. He easily could have carried her just over the border to Windsor, a French-Canadian town, and she would have been lost to history, but he did not. These are Draper's hand-written notes from what Champ told him:
[William Stephenson] served on Wayne's campaign of 1794 & 1795, and at the treaty got his sister - she was married to a French trader in Detroit who (-----ed) her out in gaudy dresses. It was very likely a marriage of necessity or convenience. After her return home, she married Mr. Turbing and they left the country.

Jane Stephenson was gone for over four years. We can only imagine the physical and mental pain of her captivity. I found only one letter from General Wayne, dated September 3, 1794 (two weeks after the battle), that contained a short list of prisoners - Jane Stephenson wasn't on it. Detroit was a long way from Kentucky and it was another year before the American army assumed command of Fort Detroit. Did William fetch her home or did she travel with a party of captives? She must have been greeted by neighbors when she returned home, that her appearance in bright colors was recalled.

Jane Stephenson and Moses Turpin married in April 1800. They did not immediately "leave the country," but moved to Pulaski County, Kentucky, about 1808. Jane's mother, Phoebe, who was crippled in the attack, did not die soon after that event, but lived to be reunited with her daughter. She appears in the Madison County, Kentucky, censuses of 1800 and 1810 as head of household. Some say she died with family in Etowah, Tennessee, in 1829. Jane's brother William is alleged to have died in Madison County, Kentucky, as early as 1814 or as late as 1830. 
Pulaski County, Kentucky

Moses Turpin served at the beginning of the War of 1812 in Thomas Dollarhide's company of the Kentucky Battalion of Mounted Volunteers formed in Pulaski County. By the 1820 census the Turpin family had moved up to Garard County, Kentucky, created from the larger Madison County.
Garard County, Kentucky

And they were in Jackson County, Indiana, by the 1830 census, proving up 80 acres in 1838, receiving the deed bearing President Martin Van Buren's signature (probably a signature facsimile - they could do that even then).
Jackson County, Indiana

Moses and Jane had eight children, including Moses Turpin (1812-1892), who married Frances Utterback (1818-1865), our 3rd great-grandparents. Jane died in Jackson County in 1830. Moses died in 1838 in Lawrence Conty, Indiana.  

Notes: William Lewis of Lewis & Clark fame, and younger brother of George Rogers Clark, was a lieutenant with General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and kept a journal of the campaign. A fascinating read. You can download the PDF HERE

Allan W. Eckart, acclaimed historical fiction writer, mined the Draper manuscripts for his novels, and allegedly used the Stephenson family tragedy as a plot line, possibly in The Frontiersmen or one of his other novels found on Amazon. 


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