Yesterday’s blog focused on the history of Captain Bull and what led he to led his family and followers to set up their small village in a creek that runs in the Little K River, and what became known as Bulltown. Today’s blog continues with the 1940 report that I found which dives into whether the massacre of Captain Bull and his tribe actually happened. It analyses another story of who may have committed the massacre and then rebukes that story. The conclusion that I walk away with after digesting this report and a few other documents that I was able to dig up is that most historians do not believe that the massacre ever happened. I stumbled over a photo of this historic marker, posted by the State of West Virginia, which also cast doubt on it having occurred.
Here is the continuation of the Bulltown report from where I left off in yesterday’s blog:
In other areas of the trans-Allegheny territory, Indian raids were committed with ever increasing frequency and by 1772 the threat of an Indian war occupied all minds. Tension between the western settlers and the Indians became constantly greater. The pioneers desired a final settlement and when they began laying plans for forcing the issue, war was assured.
Stories that the Indians at Bulltown were massacred by whites have appeared in a number of books, papers and journals and the following story from the WPA Writers Project can be accepted as typical.
STROUD FAMILY MASSACRED
“Shortly after the 1768 treaty with the Indians, Adam Stroud, a German, and his family, settled on what is now Stroud’s Creek, near its junction with the Gauley River in what is now Webster County. Here he erected a crude log cabin and in the course of time cleared some land and planted crops. For four years he and his family enjoyed the freedom of the frontier unmolested. Then, in the month of June 1772, while Stroud was absent from his home, a party of Indian warriors, supposed to have been of the Shawnee tribe, murdered the entire German family of seven children and the mother. They also plundered the house and drove off what livestock the Strouds possessed.”
“Because the Shawnees, who were guilty of the Stroud massacre, left a false trail leading in the general direction of the Delaware village, suspicion at once fell upon Captain Bull and his warriors; even Stroud himself expressed the belief that the Bulltown Indians were responsible for the massacre. When he arrived home that June day and found his entire family murdered, Stroud sped to the Hacker’s Creek settlement in Lewis County and spread the alarm.”
“An immediate cry went up to avenge the deed at once. Many, however, doubted that Bull or any of his band had any part in the killing. They held back because on frequent visits to the Little Kanawha village they had found the leader of the Bulltown Indians very friendly and were slow in being convinced of his guilt.”
“Five men, Jesse Hughes, William White, John Cutright, William Hacker and a man by the name of Kettle, who would believe nothing but that the Bulltown Indians were guilty announced their intention of proceeding against the Little Kanawha village. Jesse Hughes, like Lewis Wetzel, had a great hatred for the Indians — whether friendly or not, and nothing delighted him more than an opportunity to kill a redskin. It is therefore possible that Hughes, because of his feeling towards the Indians, and because he lived only a short distance from their settlement, instigated the action against Captain Bull’s people.”
“Hughes and his party went to Bulltown, and returned a day or two later. They denied having as much as seen an Indian, telling the Hacker’s Creek settlers that Bull and his people had left the country.
“What really did occur at the Indian village was not disclosed until several years later. On his death bed in 1852 when 105 years old, John Cutright told the true story of the disappearance of Captain Bull and his fellow Delawares.”
“Cutright said that as Jesse Hughes and the four other men left the Hacker’s Creek settlement, and made their way toward the Bulltown colony, they became more and more embittered against the Indians. Hughes, it appears, goaded the men on, and planned the best way to attack the Indian village. With his usual cunning, Hughes planned to take the Indians completely by surprise.” “He succeeded, and falling upon the Delawares before they were aware that and danger was near, the Hughes party killed every member of the Indian settlement, men, women, and children alike. Realizing the extent of their malefaction, the men, fearful of possible unpleasant consequences when their deed became known, removed the last evidence of their crime by throwing the bodies of the Indians into the Little Kanawha River. Thus ended the career of the notorious Delaware chieftain whose name will not be forgotten so long as Bulltown exists.”
This massacre was first reported in A.S. Withers’ “Chronicles of Border Warfare”, published in 1831. Withers was not certain that the story was true and gave the names of only two of the alleged assassin, William White and William Hacker. He further explained that White and Hacker had planned to go to Bulltown to see if they could find evidence that the Delawares had participated in the Stroud massacre. The two men were reported to have returned to Hacker’s Creek and reported that the entire Bulltown village was vacant. The men were alleged to have inadvertently said something in following years that indicated that they were guilty of the massacre.
L.V. McWhorter, in a footnote to the Withers story, added the death bed confession story and the names of Jesse Hughes and John Cutright. The name Kettle is from an unknown source. Other manuscripts substitute Adam Stroud for Kettle.
Although these accounts have been accepted as fact for many years, other authors doubt its truth. An anonymous writer of an article in “Awhile Ago Times”, reprinted in “The Hacker’s Creek Journal” states that Chief Bull and his Delawares were moved from Bulltown by the Indian Affairs Commissioner in May 1772 and references a number of documents proving that the Delawares moved south to the lower Mississippi, where Chief Bull died after 1810.
Robert B. Smith states that in 1772, Captain Bull and his people moved to the White River in Indiana, about eighteen miles from present day Wabash. In 1778, after the capture of English General Hamilton, they removed to the Mississippi. Smith cites Simon Kenton’s “Notes”, Draper’s “Manuscripts” and private documents is support of his statements.
According to Smith, traditional Hacker history states that Withers “stole” the manuscript for “Chronicles of Border Warfare” from William Hacker. The fact that William Powers and William Hacker advertised the sale of a forthcoming “History” in a Morgantown newspaper lends credence to the story. The book was to be published in 1825, if sufficient subscriptions were obtained.
The “Hacker’s Creek Journal” Vol.10 Issue 2, p.23, states that Withers was hired by Clarksburg, VA (WV) publisher Joseph Israel to rewrite chronicles by Hacker and Powers that “… are said to have been published in the 1820’s by a newspaper in Morgantown.”
If these things are not enough, let us examine the stories rationally. Withers was writing 59 years after the event and was not sure that the story was true. McWhorter was writing more than a hundred years after the event. The alleged “deathbed confession” of John Cutright was supposed to have occurred in 1852, 80 years after the event, and more than 20 years before McWhorter’s writing. Any deathbed statement of a person 105 years old probably owes more to the questions and perceptions of the hearer than of the dying person. And any verbal report of such a confession 20 years in the past is highly suspect.
A history of the Hughes Family, published in “The Hacker’s Creek Journal”, states:
“In 1786, a party of Indians murdered Jesse’s father, Thomas Hughes and in 1787, another party of Indians led by the white renegade, Leonard Schoolcraft, captured Jesse’s daughter. Although Jesse was able to purchase his daughter’s freedom the following year, the two incidents turned Jesse and his brother Elias into implacable enemies of the Indians.”
Note that Jesse and his brother were not turned into “implacable enemies of the Indians” until four years after the Bulltown massacre is alleged to have occurred.
Killing more than forty persons and throwing them in a river would be quite a warm day’s work for five men, even if the victims were totally passive. Considering that the Indians were experienced warriors, albeit somewhat out of practice, and given the rather primitive weapons of the period, the slaughter of so many by so few seems highly unlikely, if not impossible.
The Little Kanawha River at Bulltown is a rather small and shallow affair and throwing a hundred bodies in such a river in June is not quite the same as throwing a handful of pebbles in the Mississippi at Memphis. It is doubtful that a hundred bodies could be thrown in such a river by five men in “a day or two”, the time frame from the WPA paper, in such a manner that they would not be visible. And even if the bodies were sunk in the river, they would not stay sunk. The writer of this sketch has participated in several body recovery operations and has ample experience to know that bodies sunk in a shallow river in warm weather usually surface within 48 hours.
If the Bulltown massacre did occur as alleged, someone should have commented to some author or other about the disproportinate number of dead Indians in the Little Kanawha at a specific period.
The WPA paper mentions the coming of John and Benjamin Conrad to Bulltown in 1800 and mentions that Adam O’Brien blazed a trail from Sutton to Bulltown in 1792 and says that “many ‘squatters’ came to the Bulltown Country before the Conrad brothers, but only for the purpose of hunting and obtaining salt from the springs.”
From these statements, we must conclude that the village site was regularly visited in the years following the alleged massacre, but there have been no reports of bones and other traces that one would expect to find on the site of such a massacre.
The writer of the “Awhile Ago Times”, article terms the entire story “A Ridiculous Tale.” Perhaps Smith’s statement describes such a situation best:
“If these five men could attack Bulltown, where sixteen warriors were fortified in twenty cabins and they being in the open and fighting behind trees, the Squaws were no doubt loading weapons for the warriors and they all being aware of the approach of the white men, it would be a feat unheard of and unsurpassed in all history of the frontier, to believe that they could kill all sixteen of the warriors, the fifteen squaws and eight children, dump their bodies in the Little Kanawha River and never suffer wound or casualty themselves. This unbelievable and much too much to comprehend.”