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History of Painted Stone Station

By Vincent J. Akers

The foundation for America's claim to the West was laid by George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Illinois County in 1778-79. The prize so daringly won by Clark's small force was held throughout the Revolution and for years after in the face of savage British policy designed to drive the American pioneer from the West.

From the post at Detroit the British directed the full brunt of Indian hostility against the Kentucky settlements. Raiding parties swept across the Ohio superbly equipped with British guns and staffed with British officers. The Long Run Massacre and Floyd's Defeat are typical of the resulting Indian incidents.

On December 25th 1780, then Governor Thomas Jefferson of Virginia penned a long letter of instructions to George Rogers Clark authorizing a giant campaign to drive the British from Detroit the next year. Men and horses along with four tons of cannon powder, camp kettles, rations, tents, medicine, and clothing together with cannon and artillery were to be floated down the Ohio from Fort Pitt on 100 barges. But the men needed to fight the campaign could never be raised. Plans for Detroit were abandoned. He would float down the Ohio with what men he had--some 400, in hopes of raising more men from Kentucky so that "something clever" might yet be done.

Clark waited several days near Wheeling for additional men being raised by Col. Archibald Lochry. Finally assuming that Lochry's recruitment efforts had been unsuccessful and finding his own men deserting, Clark started down river for the falls. The timing was a fateful accident of history. On August 8th 1781 Lochry arrived with over 80 men. They had only missed Clark by 12 hours. That narrow failure to make the connection would prove fatal. Lochry reluctantly followed Clark.

Meanwhile the British desperately tried to organize the equally reluctant Ohio Indians against Clark's Army. The British Superintendent of Indian Affairs had sent his most trusted and successful Indian warrior into the Ohio Valley. This was none other than the celebrated

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Mohawk chief Thayendanegea, better known as "Captain" Joseph Brant, and as we will see, in his brief 1781 foray into the Ohio Valley, he lived up to his hated nickname "Monster Brant".

In August 1781 Brant gathered a motley crew of about 100 Indians from several western nations. Brant arrived on the Ohio ahead of Clark's passage and inspired his Indians with the notion of attacking and repelling the famed George Rogers Clark as his much larger force passed on it's journey down river. The expectation of large reinforcements at any time no doubt contributed to the initial enthusiasm.

But Captain Joseph Brant's plans fell victim to Clark's mystique. Their runners continually brought notice of his approach. The closer Clark approached, the more discouraged the Indians became. As he moved down the river, Clark occasionally fired his artillery, the ominous noise echoing up and down the heavily wooded valley. The firing of his cannon and the beating of the drum and fife struck such terror in the Indians that in the end they utterly refused to commence the attack. They let Clark pass during the night of August 17th without firing a single shot.

On the morning of August 24th Lochry's group landed on the North shore of the Ohio to cook breakfast and feed their horses. Scouts immediately informed Brant who was just down river waiting. The Indians rushed forward and attacked from the advantage of the high wooded banks. Lochry's men made only a slight resistance before Lochry ordered a surrender. It was a total defeat, not a single man of Lochry's party escaped.

In all, 101 men were killed or captured with Lochry's Defeat - 37 killed, 64 taken. A few days later Brant was joined by 100 white men ("Butler's Rangers") commanded by Captain Andrew Thompson and 300 Indians under the direction of Captain Alexander

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McKee. On August 28th, this loose force of nearly 500 Indians and British proceeded down the Ohio toward the Falls. It was now little more than two weeks before the Long Run Massacre.

To discover the willingness of each county to support an expedition, Clark summoned the militia officers of the three Kentucky counties to Louisville on September 6th 1781, one week before the Long Run Massacre. After considerable disagreement, the Council concluded the next day with only a recommendation to erect a strong fort at the mouth of the Kentucky River.

The Indians were hardly any more anxious for real action than the Kentuckians. They lost all enthusiasm after scouts returned with prisoners who informed them that no expedition was to be carried on that season against their village. The already indifferent Indians quickly broke off into small parties, some going home, others fanning out to plunder isolated cabins and steal horses. The British Rangers also returned home. But somehow Brant and McKee were able to keep together an Indian force numbering 200. Too small to attack Clark at the Falls, but entirely adequate as McKee observed: "to cross the country and attack some small forts, or infest the Roads." Squire Boone's Station presented the closest and easiest target.

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No station could be considered more exposed in 1781 than Painted Stone. It had been built in the spring of 1780 on the North side of Clear Creek, two and a half miles North of present-day Shelbyville. In 1781, the station occupied a central position in an otherwise unoccupied region. It was over twenty miles due East of the Beargrass Stations, its closest neighbors,  and about the same

distance West of Leestown, a deserted landing on the Kentucky River near the present day Frankfort. The Kentucky and Ohio Rivers formed a vast triangle of uninhabited territory that stretched North of Painted Stone. Beyond the Ohio was enemy country. Rather than serving as a barrier from attack, the Ohio offered the Indians a convenient entry and escape route for their raids.

And raid they did! Painted Stone suffered under continual harassment from small Indian raids throughout 1781. By late summer there was a marked increase in Indian sightings. With this obvious and growing concentration of Indians, the inhabitants ultimately decided to abandon the isolated station. Squire Boone sent a request to the Beargrass stations for a militia guard to aid and escort the evacuation. General Clark ordered out twenty-four light horsemen under Lieutenant Thomas Ravenscraft. Colonel John Floyd ordered out the Jefferson County militia from the Low Dutch Station under Lieutenant James Welsh. The militia took the opportunity about Painted Stone while the inhabitants packed up their belongings.

It became imperative to get the families evacuated before a general siege of the station developed. All of the families were ready to leave except Squire Boone's and Widow Hinton's. They remained behind only because there were not enough packhorses to carry all of their belongings. The militia agreed to return to get them the next day. Squire Boone gave permission for his nine-year-old son Isaiah to ride along with the fleeing families on one of the packhorses.

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The evacuation caravan left Painted Stone early in the morning September 13th. The march would be agonizingly slow. The women and children rode packhorses, loaded down with household goods. The men led the horses and drove the cattle along the road. There were twenty-one miles to travel that day to reach Linn's Station, the Eastern-most of the Beargrass stations. Boone's Wagon Road was the escape route. Only the year before had trees been cut and the trace widened enough to bring a small wagon into Painted Stone. Along this dark wooded trail the families fled.

The possibility of an Indian attack on the exposed group was well appreciated and planned for in advance. In case of attack, the women and children were to dismount and shelter themselves behind the trees while the men defended them. Unfortunately, the families became much scattered along the trail as they proceeded. The packhorses moved one behind the other along the narrow trail making a long string. It was impossible to concentrate the families or their protective escort at any one spot.

Their feeble force was further weakened by the loss of a large part of the militia escort after they had proceeded only nine miles. Here, at the ford of the first branch of Long Run, Lt. James Welsh became violently ill and had to turn off the trail until the sickness passed. Some ten to twenty of the militia guard remained behind with him. They would try to catch up as soon as Welsh was able to move.

The fleeing families and their remaining escort proceeded on a little more than three miles. It was now just after midday and the scattered group had completed more than half their trek. Those in front were approaching the main ford of Long Run approximately where present-day U.S.60 now crosses the creek. Suddenly the dreaded Indian attack commenced.

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Several people in front ignored the agreement to shelter themselves behind trees and make a fight. They cut loose their pack loads and darted off without making a stand. The remaining men might have handled the Indians had this loss and the loss of their militia guard in the rear not weakened them.

The other women and children dismounted as ordered and took shelter. Most of the men acted bravely in their defense. But seeing that the horses were getting very alarmed and realizing that the Indians were too numerous, they concluded that they had better remount and make a run for Linn's Station some eight or nine miles West. It was only a few minutes after the attack began before the group started their run.

With the retreat, the massacre began. The men were able to keep the Indians somewhat in check just long enough to get the retreat moving. But many of those killed were shot as the retreat commenced and they ran along exposed to enemy fire. This soon turned the retreat into a hopeless rout. The large number of women and children made for a truly desperate situation. Confusion and panic reigned as people began being shot down. The heaviest casualties fell upon the women and children. There was simply no way to adequately protect them under the circumstances. Most of the men put up a brave resistance. Some engaged in single-handed combat with Indians who had fired their guns and then rushed on the families with their tomahawks.

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The attack continued for a mile and the packs were scattered along the trail most of the distance up to the ford. To some extent this aided the families in making their escape as many of the Indians lingered behind, cutting open packs to get at the plunder rather than pursuing their prey. A few were nevertheless persistent in their desire for scalps. The running families had to cross Long Run as they were still pursued by some of the Indians. The water was knee-deep or more, swollen by the recent rains. Floyd's Fork also had to be crossed by the fleeing families a little over two miles West of Long Run. It too was swollen from recent rains and its waters were quite deep.

The militia guard with Lt. Welsh was so far behind on the trail that they did not hear the firing of guns and were unaware that the attack had taken place. They had just renewed their march when a horse was caught running back toward Boone's Station. Their worst fears were soon confirmed when cattle came running scared from the same direction. They turned off the trail a few hundred yards and cautiously continued on. The militia made a long circuit to avoid Boone's Wagon Road and the Indians. They made it safely to Linn's Station that night. Most of the massacre's survivors also arrived by nightfall.

The ambush of the fleeing settlers was generally referred to as "Boone's Defeat". Although Squire Boone was not present, it was obviously a defeat for his station. The more descriptive "Long Run Massacre" seems to be a fairly modern title for the incident. The term "massacre" is fitting... for the word conjures up all the instant feelings of dreaded surprise, panic, hopelessness, and wanton slaughter which were part and parcel of the unfortunate affair. "Long Run Massacre" is particularly descriptive since the Long Run location was ever after closely connected with the massacre. One early despondent in an 1809 land suit summed it up, saying: "The crossing of Long Run was a place of notoriety on account of women and children being killed near the ford..."

The Indians responsible for the Long Run Massacre were a party of over 50 Miami's who had separated two days earlier from the larger group under Joseph Brant and Alexander McKee. Several small parties were constantly breaking away to plunder isolated cabins and steal horses. It was the misfortune of the Painted Stone settlers to cross the path of so large a party.

The main body of Indians had started across county to strike at Squire Boone's Station. On their way they fell in again at Boone's Wagon Road with the jubilant Miami's only a few hours after the massacre. The united Indian force now again numbered 200. Brant and McKee decided to delay the intended attack on Painted Stone and, in the words of McKee: "Take possession of the ground they had drove the enemy from and wait their coming to bury their dead."

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The Indians did not have long to wait. As soon as the first survivors of Long Run straggled into Linn's Station, runners were sent out to spread the shocking news to the other Beargrass Stations. Colonel John Floyd was particularly distressed by this report. No doubt Floyd was chagrined upon hearing of the ineffective part played by the militia guard which had been sent to the Painted Stone specifically to escort its inhabitants to safety. Floyd hurriedly collected what men he could muster at his station and the nearby Low Dutch and Hogland's Stations. A shortage of horses was a problem. Earlier that same day, the marauding Indians had stolen twenty-five horses from the Dutch Station.

Somehow Floyd managed to quickly mount a small force which he rushed to Linn's Station, fearful that it might be under attack. Linn's was in a dangerous position being relatively isolated about three miles east of other Beargrass Stations. His small party arrived at Linn's after sundown and found it free from attack but in an extreme state of alarm. The full particulars of that afternoon's carnage at Long Run were now absorbed first hand from its terrified survivors. Floyd was determined to take the offensive. The remainder of the evening was hurriedly spent preparing for an early march the next day.

It was a small party that rode out of Linn's Station under Colonel John Floyd early Friday morning September 14th 1781. The party only numbered twenty-seven men, all mounted. East of Linn's Station the men divided into three columns. Colonel Floyd commanded the center column, which marched in the road. Captain Peter A'Sturgis commanded the right, and Lt. Thomas Ravenscraft commanded the left column. In this position they quickly marched east along the wagon road. They were heading for Painted Stone with all possible speed fully expecting to find it under siege. Unfortunately scouts were not sent ahead.

The British and the Indians fully intended to set up an ambush, correctly guessing that the Kentuckians would organize a burial and relief party. They miscalculated, however, the speed that Floyd would organize and advance. Accordingly, Floyd came riding through before the Indians were posted to receive him. The fickle Indians were busy that morning collecting and sifting through the plunder of the prior day's massacre instead of setting their ambush. This alone saved Floyd from the total defeat which almost certainly would have befallen his small party had 200 Indians been lying ready in wait.

Even so, the whites were unanimous in the conviction that they had fallen into an ambush. Certainly it must have seemed so for the terrain and numbers were grossly in the Indians favor. Floyd's men were riding fast along a stretch of Boone's Wagon Road between Floyd's Fork and Long Run. The road here lay along a dividing ridge. They did not discover the Indians until they received their fire. Floyd's men forever after assumed the Indians had been lying in wait, had let them ride through, then closed in behind and had them surrounded. Although not so well planned, the result was similar. The Indians had simply to pull back from the road and the ridge and shoot down as many whites as possible.

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The nearly one mile stretch of old U.S.60 (the Eastwood cutoff) follows the ridge and nearly the identical route of Boone's old wagon road. It was along this stretch of old U.S.60 at the site of the present day Eastwood Cemetery that the defeat occurred.

Those of Floyd's men who survived the first fire quickly charged on horse or on foot through the Indian lines, their only means of escape. Out of the twenty-seven men who rode out from Linn's Station that morning, only ten escaped from the defeat. Seventeen were either killed or captured on the spot. Capt. A'Sturgis died somewhere between Floyd's Fork and Linn's as they retreated. Again the Beargrass Stations were shocked by the new horror story told by the survivors of Floyd's defeat as they came in that morning. Colonel Floyd immediately sat down and dashed off the following dispatch to George Rogers Clark at the Falls:

Friday 14th 1/2 past 10 O Clock

Dear General,

I have this minute returned from a little excursion against the Enemy & my party 27 in number are all dispersed & cut to pieces except 9 who came off the field with Cap A'Sturgis mortally wounded and one other slightly wounded. I don't yet know who are killed. M Ravenscraft was taken prisoner. A party was defeated yesterday near the same place & many Women and Children wounded. I want Satisfaction. Do send me 100 men which number with what I can raise will do. The Militia has no good powder. Do send some

I am &c &c &c
Jn Floyd

I can't write guess at the rest

The day after Floyd's Defeat, a force of 300 men from the Falls and Beargrass made a long rapid march in the hot weather to rescue the families of Squire Boone and the Widow Hinton at Painted Stone. It was a humiliating defeat for Colonel John Floyd, but not totally without some benefit. Despite their surprise, Floyd's men had succeeded in inflicting several casualties on their Indian attackers.

After Floyd had been driven off, Joseph Brant and Alexander McKee vigorously proposed that the Indians follow up their success by taking Squire Boone's Station on their way back or at least, as McKee said: "endeavor to draw them out, destroy their cattle, and otherwise distress them." But the Hurons were so discouraged by the loss of their chief that they wanted only to return North of Ohio as soon as possible. With the Hurons, all the Indians turned homeward. Floyd's defeat thus saved the few inhabitants of Painted Stone from almost certain death or captivity.

The Revolution officially ended October 19th 1781, just a little more than a month after the Long Run Massacre and Floyd's Defeat. The Long Run Massacre was one of the largest and certainly one of the bloodiest massacres in Kentucky history. A fairly complete list of the victims can be pieced together. There were no more than 15 killed. Tragic as this was, most accounts grossly exaggerate the number of victims. For example, the Kentucky Highway Marker along U.S.60 near Long Run perpetuates in bronze for the passing motorist that the Indians "killed over 60 pioneers."

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