Thursday, May 2, 1935
My friend Moody Moore, close observer of things in general and out of doors things in particular, has been telling me for years of an Indian grave on the old road between the Jake Place and Huntersville about opposite the mouth of Browns Creek. In the romantic days of his youth, he had hunted for the traditional jar of silver buried on the rising ground near the mouth of a stream away back in the 1750s and 60s.
His uncle, the late William Moore, of Browns Creek, had found a large heap of piled stones when he worked on the new road around the Jake Hill in 1890. He told the young nephew about it, and Moody proceeded to investigate to see if by any chance this might be the place the treasure was buried.
Moving tons of stones, Mr. Moore found no silver, but he did uncover the bones of not less than a half dozen men. The bodies had been laid in a circle, feet to the centre. One, at least, had been a man of gigantic statue, with a skull of unusual thickness. From the way his teeth were worn down, it was presumed he had been up in years when he met death. No silver was found, nor anything whatsoever to show whether Indians or whites had been buried there. The bodies had been placed upon the carpet of forest leaves and moulded, with no excavation, and tons of stones pile upon them. The heap is circular, and perhaps a rod in diameter.
The tragedy which overtook this party will remain one of the mysteries of these mountains. If they were Indians and the victims of a battle between tribes, I read the sign they belonged to the victorious side. They were laid to rest with care on a pleasant bench in the full light of the rising sun. But, if Indians, surely some stone weapons, implements and ornaments would have been found.
As for the whites, it is not unlikely that parties of hunters and trappers met death in the forest vastnesses of these mountains prior to the general settlements which began in the late 1760s and early 70s.
Cold might wipe them out in the winter; the regulars of the standing army of the six nations, in accord with provisions of the Treaty of Albany, 1722, would kill with immunity whites trespassing upon Indian ground; a party of mercenary hair hunters looking for scalps to claim bounty at Detroit in French and Indian War times, would murder whomsoever they would find; or it may have been the bloody work of outlaws raiding a camp for the winter fur catch. Indian regulars, mercenaries or white outlaws would leave bones of their victims to bleach where they fell, to be gathered together for decent and mayhap Christian burial by the first party of white hunters, months or years later, to travel that way and seek a camping place there.
Little or no record need ever be expected now to be found of such disappearances. There was a strong order by the King of Great Britain to keep out of the Indian country on the Western Waters. By solemn treaty, he said the Indian could kill with impunity any of his subjects so trespassing. No record of such loss, if known, would be upon the court books at Staunton. In the Augusta County records there now and then appears the notation after the name of a man on the delinquent tax list or one wanted for debt or for trial or witness, “Disappeared in the Greenbrier country.”
Along in the 1750s, in the Greenbrier country, “a day’s journey from Fort Dinwiddie” on Jackson’s River, a party of Indians – some say as many as fifteen – were killed by whites. This brought reverberations even to the King’s court at London, and that mighty monarch, defender of the Faith, made due apology to the Indian nation for the breach upon their people. The militia man responsible got out of it by saying he could not tell what kind of Indians they were; they looked like a war party of Shawnees to him, and he was taking no chances.
That sounded so like a Marlinton trick to me that I have always put Marlins Bottom as the place where it was pulled. However, the mound at Huntersville is twenty miles from Fort Dinwiddie – a fair day’s walk on mountain trails – and it may be this cairn marks the resting place of these friendly Indians done to death, through excess of caution, to put the best face possible on the matter.
The absence of any personal belongings of stone would indicate burial after robbery. The care with which the bodies were laid away indicated to me burial by friends. The placing of the bodies on top of the ground may mean burial in the winter time on frozen ground, or merely lack of good digging implements and hurry to get away by the survivors. However they did do a good job of rock piling.
The good state of preservation of the bones is sign to me this burial could not have been long before the arrival of settlers in the Knapps Creek Valley, about 165 years ago.
There are Indian mounds scattered all over this region; most of dirt, but occasionally a stone pile, in some of them remains of men are found, with personal stone belongings. In others, only the sign of fire is seen.
To be continued…