Isaac Walker of Walker Mill, PA
Presented with notes by Charles M. Ewing – Revised 1994 by Jerry D. Leeper
The following narrative was written at an early date by Isaac Walker, of Walkers Mill, Penna. While but a small scrap in the records of the western movement as a whole, it is, however, an important contribution to the perspective of that horrible picture of the Indian wars as they affected our pioneer stock. The narrative as now presented is a verbatim copy of the original manuscript. When the transcript was made some fourty years ago, the original document was in the possession of the late Mr. William Green, of Boyce Station, Penna.
Gabriel and Isaac Walker were born in Lancaster County, Penna. Gabriel in 1735 and Isaac in 1746. They emigrated in 1772 and purchased land adjacent to and west of the Ewing tract. Gabriel built his cabin on Robinson Run, and Isaac built his near the confluence on Scott’s Run and Robinson Run. For several years after settlement Isaac traveled back and forth to Lancaster Co. in the fall and spring for lead, tinware, axes, etc., which at that time were much in demand, the country being an unbroken wilderness. The only means of conveyance was by pack horse, the road, only a trail over the mountains and through the valleys.
Col. H. Benton has said: “The Buffalo and the Elk were the first engineers in the art of road making.” In 1779 Isaac married Mary (Stewart) Richardson, whose husband had been killed by the Indians on the Loyal Hanna. He brought his new wife to his western cabin where they settled down to the joys and hardships of pioneer life. (Note) Gabriel Walkers cabin was located near the present Rennerdale Station, and Isaac’s near the old Walker home at Walkers Mill. Mrs. Richardson’s husband, William Richardson, was tomahawked and scalped by the Indians, November 2, 1777, three miles from Ligonier, PA.
“Shortly before this the Revolutionary War broke out and the Indians were incited by the British government to make war on our white settlers. A reward of $8.00 apiece was offered for every scalp taken. This barbarity continued to the close of the war, and was a disgrace to the English nation.” WALKER 39
“In September, 1782 a band of Indians, about twenty-five in number, approached the cabin of Gabriel Walker. They concealed themselves nearby, intending to surprise the family at dinner. An intervention of providence saved them from destruction, two travelers with guns on their shoulders came at this time, Indians are a cowardly race, and these waited to do their bloody work until the travelers and extra guns had taken their departure. Before this occurrence, however, the younger members of the family including the bound boy Bill Harkins, were send to hoe Timothy Grass in a field near the house. After seeing the strangers leave, Mr. Walker started to the field, and while on his way saw the Indians creeping toward the children. He called to them to run as the Indians were coming. They started to run but were soon captured by the Indians. Five children were taken prisoners, but Mr. Walker made his escape. Two Indians pursued Bill Harkins, but not being swift on foot ran to the corn field and through it to Robinson Run, which stream he followed down to the Ewing Fort over two miles away, where he spread the alarm.”
“Mrs. Walker was in the house with two children when the alarm was given, she started to make he escape, snatching up her baby to run, but the other child said, “Mother don’t leave me for the Indians,” so she grasped them both, and under the cover of the high weeds back of the house she managed to conceal herself and so made her way to the fort. Young Harkins in his flight also gave the alarm to Isaac Walker, who also with his family made their way to the fort.”
“Indians pillaged the cabin of Gabriel Walker, ripping open beds , and taking such things as they wanted, set it on fire and burned it to the ground. They then assembled for a general attack on the fort, which had just been started when providence again intervened, by the timely arrival of several men from Millers Run, among who was Capt. Joseph Casnet. The Indians after a consultation murdered to two youngest boys, eight and twelve years old, in sight of the fort, and left their scalped and bleeding bodies upon the ground.”
“Then they departed in a northwesterly direction with their captives, James, seventeen, Martha, fifteen, Mary, thirteen. After going a short distance they set fire to a cabin on Brackenridge farm, now owned by Miller and McBride. They continued their journey single file, and were extremely careful to cover up their tracks so that the white men could not follow them. They cut the young ladies’ clothing off at the knees to expedite traveling. In this way they journeyed on, camping tat night at the head-waters of Robinson Run, where they feasted on green corn, which was visible to the settler who followed their trail the next morning. Continuing on they reached the Ohio River and at or near Logstown, where their canoes were hidden. All north of the river at that time was called Indian country, and few men had courage to explore its virgin soils, always going to it in a body and took care to be well armed.”
“The news of the massacre and capture spread among the settlers. Messengers were sent out far and near to the inhabitants, who gathered next day at the fort. A band numbering between fourty and fifty men was organized, among them were John Henry, James Ewing, Peter Hickman and John Conners. After consultation they appointed John Henry their leader. They then appealed to the bereaved mother who told them: “Go bring them dead or alive.”
“They followed the trail with caution for fear of ambuscade, but finally they reached the Ohio at Logstown, where they saw Indians crossing the river, they fired upon the last canoe killing one and wounding another Indian. The prisoners did tell after their return home, that they were not all over the river when their rescuers came to it, but were hid in the brush and tree tops. The Indian with uplifted tomahawks threatened death should they make the least outcry. Sometimes the white men were so close they could almost touch them. The scalps of the two white-haired boys were carried along by the Indians, and at night while sitting around their campfires, the prisoners were compelled to scrap the flesh from them in order to dry them. Not being pursued after they crossed the river, they traveled at their leisure toward Canada, and in about two weeks reached Detroit. They were kept until war ended, when they were exchanged for British prisoners.
They were sent by sea to the port of Philadelphia. From there they crossed the mountains on their way homeward, in rough road wagons, until they reached their parents, from whom they had been separated for two years, and who had given them up for dead. The joy of their meeting surely can only be imagined, not described by either tongue or pen.”
Young James Walker while with the Indians, often accompanied them in their expeditions, with their ponies and horses. On one occasion he was loading a horse belonging to a chief, when by some mischance the horse stepped on the foot of the chief. Smarting with pain, he turned and hit him on the head with his tomahawk, knocking him senseless. He soon recovered sufficiently to walk, but always afterward talked through his nose. He died on his farm near Hays Crossing, Pa. about the year 1844.”
“We owe a debt to Isaac Walker for the narrative he has bequeathed to our use. Many wilderness tragedies went unrecorded. This is our everlasting misfortune. The pen of Isaac Walker has, however, contributed to our understanding of the price of blood and treasurer that our forefathers paid for the freedom we now enjoy.”