History of Juniata Valley And An Early Day Massacre:  Moses Donaldson -- Capture and Murder of His Wife and Two Children-

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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History of Juniata Valley And An Early Day Massacre:  Moses Donaldson -- Capture and Murder of His Wife and Two Children-



Source:  THE MANSFIELD NEWS, 18 November 1901, Vol. 17, No. 221


Submitted by Amy


The following incident and historical sketch relates to the grandfather of Joseph Donaldson, a former well-known resident of this city, whose sister was the mother of Moses Marlow of Wood street:

Moses Donaldson lived in Hartslog settlement where Hatfield's iron works are now located near Alexandria, Va.  In 1777 after the first Indian outrages had been committed the neighboring settlers met and resolved for their better protection to build a stockade fort somewhere near the river.  After the building was decided upon the location became a subject of contention, one party wanting the fort at Lytle's, another at Donaldson's and for awhile the party strife ran high.  Lytle, however, succeeded in outgeneralling Donaldson, not because his location was the most eligible but simply because he was the most popular man.  The fort was built at Lytle's under Donaldson's protest, who declared that he would never go into it, that if danger threatened he would fort at Standing stone -- a vow he religiously kept, at the expense of the loss of his wife and two children we regret to say.

He continued living at his own house until the spring of 1778 when Indian alarms became so frequent that he removed his family to Huntingdon.  In a short time the fears of the people were somewhat lulled and most of them returned to their homes again.  Mr. Donaldson, finding his farm work pressing, returned to his home about the first of June and prepared to make hay.  On the 11th. of the month a girl who was after cows discovered, in Anderson's bottom, near the mouth of Shavers Creek, an encampment of some five or six Indians.  Without their discovering her she made her way back and communicated the intelligence and the news was soon circulated among the settlers.  The five Indians were considered the advance of a large party otherwise they might have been readily cut off by a dozen resolute men.  Instead of making the least effort to ascertain the number of savages, the people fled to the forts in the utmost consternation.  On the same evening a convoy of canoes landed at the mouth of Shavers Creek and the soldiers stopped at an old inn on the bank of the creek.  They had taken a load of supplies to Water street, landing for the lead mine fort and were returning with lead ore consigned to Middletown for smelting.  The state of affairs was laid before the commander of the convoy and Mr. Anderson prevailed upon him to say a day or two until the alarm had subsided.  

On the afternoon of the 12th., Donaldson as warned that the Indians had been seen a second time and advised to fort at Lytle's without delay.  This he refused to do point blank, but immediately packed up, put his family into a canoe, and started for Huntingdon.  When he reached the mouth of Shavers Creek he tied the canoe to the root of a tree at the bank of the creek and went up to transact some business with Mr. Anderson, accompanied by his oldest child, a lad 9 or 10 years of age, leaving his wife and two younger children in the canoe.  After an absence of half an hour the boy returned to the canoe but as he came in sight of it he observed a number of Indians taking his mother and the children out of it.  He hastened back to the inn and told the soldiers, but they considered it a fabrication and paid no attention to what he said.  From thence he hastened to Andersons and told his father, who immediately followed him and found it only too true, that his family had been abducted, that too within the hearing and almost within sight of twelve sol----

Donaldson went to the inn and appealed to the commandant to start his force in immediate pursuit.  This, however, was found totally impracticable as they had been making a sort of holiday by getting drunk and were unfit for duty of any kind, which was to be regretted for the timely notice of the outrage would easily have enabled them, had they been in condition to overtake the savages.

Early next morning the soldiers started in pursuit in one direction and the people of the settlement formed in to a strong party and went in another and in this manner the entire country was secured.  Toward evening a bonnet belonging to one of the children was found in a rye field near where the Maguire farm now stands, which indicated the direction the savages had taken.  Next day the search was resumed and continued until night, but no tiding whatever could be obtained of the route the savages had taken and they were finally obliged to give them up as lost.

Several years elapsed before their fate was known.  Thomas Johnston and Peter Crum, while hunting up Spruce Creek, probably a mile and a half from its mouth, came upon the camp of a friendly Indian family, near whose wigwam an old woman was engaged in boiling sugar and who informed them that she had something to show them.  She then led the way and half a mile up showed them the skeletons of a grown person and two children.

The news was communicated to Mr. Donaldson and he had the skeletons taken to Shavers Creek with a view of interring them.  But here a new difficulty arose.  Mr. Eaton had not yet recovered his family, abducted from Kishicoquillas Valley, and there was no reason why these skeletons might not be those of his family.  The matter was finally determined by a weaver, who testified to a piece of Mrs. Donaldson's short gown found near her remains.

When we reflect over this act of savage atrocity we are free to confess that we look upon it as one of the most inhuman and revolting on record.  The woman with her two children, taken to a neighboring wood and there, in all probability tomahawked and scalped in succession, the children witnessing the agony of the dying mother, or perhaps the mother a witness to the butchery of her helpless offspring -- the very recital chills the blood.

The son, who accompanied his father to Andersons, died at a very advanced age, near Mansfield, Richland county, Ohio, in his 70th. year, 1840.  William Donaldson, of Holidaysburg, is a son of Moses Donaldson by his second wife.  Moses Donaldson is a great grandfather of A.R. McCurdy of Fort Wayne, Ind.

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