The Slaying of the Thomas Osborne Family

The Slaying of the Thomas Osborne Family

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 199-201.

The foregoing story was related to me Saturday, October 31, 1964, by Audrey Banner and Mrs. Russell Harman, of Castlewood, Russell Co., VA. Mrs. Banner lives on the land once owned by the Indian spy, James Fraley, and also owns the site of the old Moore's Fort. Mrs. Harman lives on the property once owned by Thomas Osborne and her house stands on the exact spot where the old Osborne home once stood. Both are descendants of families that have lived in the area since the days when the events told here happened.

The attack on the Thomas Osborne home came early on a morning of a very foggy day. Upon arising some horses or cattle were missing and a "bound boy" by the name of Walls was sent to look for them. He is said to have been on a hill slightly to the northeast of the house when the fog lifted and saw the Indians approaching the house. He lay flat on the ground until the Indians were gone and thus escaped capture.

Thomas Osborne went to the door of the home and was shot while standing in the door. Lucretia Osborne, niece of Thomas, and daughter of his brother, James, was visiting in the Thomas Osborne home. She fled from the house and started for her home about a mile away across a hill. The Indians pursued her and she was captured in a cornfield just east of the house. Mrs. Osborne, and the "bound girl" Betsy Walls were apparently captured in the house.

The Indians quickly started with their captives up a narrow hollow in a southwesterly direction toward the present Bangor, where Clinch River is shallow and easily forded, which would have put the river between them and the settlement very quickly, and thus on a direct route to their towns on the Ohio river. After traveling only a short distance up the hollow they observed that Mrs. Minnie Osborne was lame, and couldn't keep up. They then and there, tomahawked and scalped her under a large honey locust tree that stood well into the memory of some of those living today in the area.

All the family of James Osborne had given Lucretia up for dead, except her mother, who it is said, looked every day toward a path where she would appear if she ever returned. She never gave up hope, and one day as she gazed longingly at the path, her great faith was rewarded, for walking along the path was her daughter Lucretia, and a man, who turned out to be her husband.

It is said that James Osborne was having a log rolling at his place the day his daughter returned and many of his neighbors were present. He told them to drop their log-hooks, rolled out a keg of whiskey, and celebrated his daughters return.

James Fraley, a militia soldier, and long an Indian spy and fighter on the frontier, lived about a mile from the Thomas Osborne home. In his Revolutionary War pension claim filed in Floyd Co., KY, in 1834, he has this statement:

Our settlements (Castlewood) were attacked and the Indians killed Thomas Osborne, and Minnie, his wife, which he states he helped to bury in the same coffin, and they took two girls prisoners, to-wit: Lucretia Osborne and Betsey Walls. In spite of all that could be done they took off the girls to Canada, and kept Lucretia Osborne four years. Betsy Walls - the Indians killed by beating her on the head. Lucretia Osborne was exchanged and brought to Detroit. She there married one Armstrong, who brought her back to Virginia, and from whom he learned the fate of Betsy Walls.

Thomas Osborne lived on a 190 acre tract of land surveyed for him on the 14th day of November, 1782, although he had been living on the site some years prior to this survey.

That Thomas and Minnie Osborne were killed prior to August 17, 1790, is proven by this entry in Russell County Court Order Book 1, page 207, which reads:

On motion of James and Stephen Osborne letters granted them for Administration of the estate of Thomas Osborne, deceased...with Thomas Carter, Christopher Cooper and Robert Vicars, as securities, and William Robinson, Samuel Porter, (of Castlewood) James Wharton and John Smith as Appraisers of the estate.

A letter written by Col. Walter Crockett, County Lieutenant of Wythe Co., to the Governor, dated September 3, 1790 (1), may be a reference to this particular massacre; wherein he states:

...A week or so ago, 5 or 6 persons were killed by the Indians on Clinch, in Russell County, which is very near to us...

Regarding the children who were "bound" to Thomas Osborne, is this entry in Russell Co., VA, Order Book 1, page 29, dated 18th of April, 1787:

Two female children of James Walls "apprenticed" to Thomas Osborne.

If the above order is correct then it was a girl who was sent to look for the stray livestock instead of a boy.

(1) Virginia State Papers, Vol. V, page 205.

This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson

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