Monday, October 17, 2011

Enslaved Dick Pointer Saves Fort Donnelly - 1778

Perhaps Uncle Monk had heard of Slave Dick's exploits before expressing his own heroic nature in 1782. 


"On May 29, 1778, Dick Pointer, a black slave, helped to save about 60 settlers in the Greenbrier Valley. Warned that a band of Shawnee Indians had left the Ohio Valley with the intent of attacking the Greenbrier settlements, the settlers with Pointer among them decided to shelter at Fort Donnally near Lewisburg. The Indians attacked the fort the next day.
On the morning of the attack Pointer and a white man, William Hammond, were the first to hear the alarm, given by settler William Hughart as he rushed to close the fort door on the attacking Indians. The Indians began hacking at the door with tomahawks. Their effort failed due to the quick thinking of Pointer and Hammond, who rolled a hogshead of water behind the door. Pointer also managed to fire at the invaders, thus alerting the sleeping inhabitants.
The surprised settlers fought the Indians as they jumped from their beds. At dark, the Indians retreated and the attack was over. For his bravery Pointer was granted a life lease to a piece of land, where he lived until his death at about age 89 in 1827. In 1795, the thankful friends of Dick Pointer petitioned the Virginia Assembly for his freedom but were refused, although he was purchased and freed in 1801. In 1976, a stone was dedicated in Lewisburg to honor Dick Pointer’s heroism. His musket is now in the State Museum in Charleston." [SOURCE]
If Dick Pointer's exploits were carried into the Kentucky District of Virginia, the message conveyed was that slaves could demonstrate courage, not that valor brought freedom.


Deed Book 1, pages 400-401 Greenbrier Co. VA March 1801 [Spelling and capitalization are as found in original document.]


"Know all Men by these presents That I James Rodgers of the County of Greenbrier & State of Virginia Do agree to Immancipate & Set free My Negroe Man Named Dick pointer on the Conditions hereafter attentioned havit that if the said Negroe Dick Doth Well  Truly behave himself in all things so that I Never Come to Trouble on his Account then this Immancipation to be finel but if he Should fail in any of the above obligations so that I May Sustain any injury Thereby he Shall from That instant Return To his Usual Slavery & forfit Every part of the Restitution he has given to Obtain it at present-after A True performance of the above I bind MySelf My heirs etc firmly by these presents Sealed With my Seal & Dated this 2th Day of March 1801.
James Rodgers" [SOURCE]


Freedom had its drawbacks as well.


In grateful thanks, the settlers wrote to VA asking the State to give Dick Pointer his freedom, but this did not happen as a result of their request. Dick Pointer and his family were later sold by Col. Donnally to the See family. Pointer was eventually freed by a Mr. Rogers, only to die in poverty because, as they became old and infirm, Pointer and his wife could not sustain themselves on the small farm which neighbors provided them. [SOURCE]




It is probable that James Berry (c1752-1822), whom Monk carried to safety, had a pre-existing relationship with Greenbrier (then in Virginia, now in West Virginia). Berry had there enlisted with Revolutionary forces one year prior to the attack on Fort Donnally.


An interesting footnote is that history suggests that Dick Pointer's son was captured 'while young' by native warriors. For his able services as a translator, Wyandot elders granted Johnathan Pointer his freedom. Johnathan continued to reside among native peoples for many years, working with a Methodist preacher to convert them to Christianity.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Slave Saves Woods Family c1782, perhaps traumatized

Monk is not the only slave to encounter violence in Anglo struggles to displace Native Americans in the Kentucky District of Virginia, c1782.


From the Campbell County Historical Society: "In 1782 near Crab Orchard an aged, lame slave defended a white woman and her daughter when Shawnees attacked their cabin. The Black man struggled with a warrior who had entered the house before the woman bolted the door. While he held him, the young girl killed the invader with an ax."


There is no mention of the slave's age in the following accounts.

From Lewis Collins' 1877 History of Kentucky:

In the year 1781 or 2, near the Crab Orchard, in Lincoln County, a very singular adventure occurred at the house of a Mr. Woods. One morning he left his family, consisting of a wife, a daughter not yet grown, and a lame negro [sic] man, and rode off to the station near by, not expecting to return till night. Mrs. Woods being a short distance from her cabin, was alarmed by discovering several Indians advancing towards it. She instantly screamed loudly in order to give the alarm, and ran with her utmost speed, in hope of reaching the house before them. In this she succeeded, but before she could close the door, the foremost Indian had forced his way into the house. He was instantly seized by the lame negro man, and after a short scuffle, they both fell with violence, the negro underneath. Mrs. Woods was too busily engaged in keeping the door closed against the party without, to attend to the combatants; but the lame negro, holding the Indian tightly in his arms, called to the young girl to take the axe from under the bed and dispatch him with a blow on the head. She immediately attempted it; but the first attempt was a failure. She repeated the blow and killed him. The other Indians were at the door, endeavoring to force it open with their tomahawks. The negro rose and proposed to Mrs. Woods to let in another, and they would soon dispose of the whole of them in the same way. The cabin was but a short distance from the station, the occupants of which having discovered the perilous situation of the family, fired on the Indians and killed another, when the remainder made their escape.


From History and genealogies of the families of Miller, Woods, Harris, Wallace, Maupin, Oldham, Kavanaugh, and Brown (illustrated): with interspersions of notes of the families of Dabney, Reid, Martin, Broaddus, Gentry, Jarman, Jameson, Ballard, Mullins, Michie, Moberley, Covington, Browning, Duncan, Yancey, and others, by Wm. Harris Miller, Richmond, Ky.  (1907)


(Pages 195-196)
Michael Woods, born perhaps about 1746, married Hannah Wallace, a daughter of Andrew Wallace and Margaret Woods. In about the year 1780, he emigrated with his family to Kentucky, and first stopped at Crab Orchard Station, where he was living in 1781-2, when the incident or adventure occured at his house as narrated in Collins' History of Kentucky, and also described by the Tattler further on in this chapter. He afterwards moved to Madison County, Kentucky, and entered, surveyed, and patented 1000 acres of land in Madison County, on Muddy Creek, adjoining of James Bridges' settlement and pre-emption claim on the lower side.


Michael & Hannah bore a son John Woods. John married his first wife, Mary H. (or Polly) Thomas, on July 2, 1812, in Madison County, Ky. Their first child was ...


"Elizabeth Woods, born April 23, 1813, near Milford or old town, in Madison County, Ky. She married Edward C. Boggs, Sept. 19, 1833. Their home was on the Big Hill Road, near the south eastern limits of the city of Richmond, Ky. where they died. 

"Mrs. Boggs has many times heard her father tell the true story of an incident related in Collins' History. One night, most likely in the spring of 1782, the Indians made a raid on the Station at Crab Orchard and stole all the horses. The next day all the men in and about the fort went in pursuit, leaving only a negro with a lame hand at Mr. [Michael] Woods' cabin and a white man sickly in another cabin close by. The children had been going to and from the spring all morning and had noticed nothing suspicious, except their sagacious dog would walk slowly in the spring path and look towards the spring and growl, but never bark. Towards dinner time, Polly Woods, then seventeen years old, had gone with her little brother, John to a knoll, not far from the house to gather salad, and the negro man, was in the yard playing on a buffalo robe with little Betsy Woods.

Suddenly, Polly saw a huge Indian stealing up the spring path with his body bent, and on tiptoe leading a band of warriors, and she at once gave the alarm, at the top of her voice. The negro ran to the house in an instant to shut the door, but the Indian leader rushed in the door at the same time and there they clinched in a tremendous struggle, the negro being as good a wrestler as the Indian. During the scuffle at the door, little Betsy though only three years old, slipped in between them. In a minute or two they had gotten inside and Mrs. Woods, the mother of the family had secured the door. In one corner stood a rifle and the struggle was for the gun, the Indian forgetting to use his knife and tomahawk, which hung in his belt, but jabbering all the time to his companions out side who were trying to break down the door with their war clubs. Mrs. Woods ran for a knife near by, but seeing it was of no use, seized the broad axe and hewed the Indian down. Utterly cutting him to pieces before they could stop her. Meanwhile Polly had rushed with her little brother to the house of the sick neighbor, who though hardly able to move, seized his rifle and shot one of the Indians out side. The savages then beat a hasty retreat, taking the dead body of their comrade with them.

They had been concealed near the spring, and seized their opportunity to slaughter the family, but failed. By the continual practice the sagacity of the lower animals in the old days was almost perfectly developed. The intelligent dog mentioned above was a very valuable animal. On one occasion William Woods with his twelve-year-old brother John, had gone to the salt works on Goose Creek, for salt, accompanied by this dog, on their return they had stopped for the night and had lighted a fire when this old dog looked back in the direction they had come and growled, but knew better than to bark knowing that Indians were about, William scattered the fire and came to the station, that night before stopping. A day or two after several men were killed in the same place by Indians.

This slave is not portrayed as lame:
From the Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser (Nicolson & Prentis), Richmond, December 6, 1783:
BEDFORD COUNTY, Nov. 20, 1783. CAME to my house on the 12th inst. a negro man who says his name is DAVID, and that he is free; he brought with him a discharge and pass from Colonel William Davis, dated at Charlestown the 24th of June last, but since has confessed he is a slave, and that he belongs to Michael Woods, living at the Crab orchard in Kentucky. He is about twenty five years of age, five feet ten inches high, well proportioned sensible, and active. Should the said negro remain at my house, the owner may get him, by applying to me, living at the head of Black water. THOMAS ARTHUR.

What if David, traumatized by the invasion of the frontier cabin, sought to return to civilization?