The Skirmish at Salt River and
The Massacre at Kincheloe’s Station ©
A Salt River Outdoor Drama
by Kathy Cummings
Welcome to Light Up Salt River here in Spencer County. We are the Painted Stone Settlers from Shelbyville, Kentucky. This is our second of the three outdoor drama we will re-enact in 2003. The first was at Pigeon Roost in Scott County Indiana and the third will be The Long Run Massacre in Shelbyville on September 13th and 14th.
It was amazing in researching for this drama the links we found between Spencer County and the re-enactment of the 1812 Massacre at Pigeon Roost that we did just three weeks ago. Many of the same families like the Collings and the Richeys originally moved to Indiana from this area.
We think it’s appropriate as we celebrate the Fourth of July to step back in time to the years when this new nation was formed. While we think of the Revolutionary War taking place at places like Valley Forge and Lexington and Concord - the Western Front of that war was here in Kentucky. The British were arming their Indian allies to fight against the settlers here. As the war dragged on Britain’s hope of retaining colonies in the new world rested in Canada, Detroit and the unclaimed territory of the west.
On August 19, 1782 the Battle of Blue Licks took place. The losses to the settlers were great. Daniel Boone even lost one of his sons and a nephew there.
Just two short weeks later Colonel John Floyd, head of the Jefferson County militia, heard that over 100 Indians led by the famous white renegade Simon Girty were still in the area. Word was spread to call out the men to confront the Indians.
Along Simpson Creek about 8 miles South of our present location, five to seven families had built a small station. It was named after Captain William Kincheloe. The men from Kincheloe’s Station joined the party to search for the Indians.
The area around here was covered with salt licks. These were places where salt was present either in the soil or in the spring waters. Buffalo, deer and elk came to these areas and licked the ground for the salt. Their paths crisscrossed Kentucky and many of our present highways actually follow these old paths.
The Salt River was named because of all the Salt Licks near here. Settlers needing salt to preserve their meat, came to the salt licks. They set up great kettles to boil the water and obtain the salt.
When the word from Colonel Floyd was given to the men they left what they were during to form ranks. It was not unusual for the hearty women of the frontier to carry on. Many of them could shoot as well as a man. And most could wield an axe. Most of the children worked in the fields with their parents from a very young age.
SCENE 1(men gathering weapons and heading off)
Some accounts say the women were attacked while alone others say the men returned late that evening. They had failed to find the roaming band of Indians. They were weary and did not take their usual precautions. Early the next morning as the settlers were rising and preparing for the day the Indians attacked.
Cornelius Davis, the sentinel had just entered his cabin to get a few hours of sleep when the yells of the natives were heard. As he left the cabin the Indians were so close his shirt caught on fire from the blaze of their guns. As he stopped to reload he was tomahawked to death. His two daughters were horrified at what they were witnessing. And then quick as a spark from a fire the Indians turned and tomahawked them to death.
SCENE 2 (Main attack)
Most of the cabins were burned. Many times on the frontier settlers were faced with amazingly difficult decisions. Saving several children often meant sacrificing others. If a women left the safety of her cabin while under attack to go into the yard for the other children she would open the door to a full scale massacre. Instead she had to stay hidden to protect the children inside while listening to the screams of those family members left outside.
Mrs. Davis and a Widow Davis fled the stockade as five of her children were being killed.
Thompson Randolph’s wife was killed early in the battle when a bullet passed through an unchinked crack in the cabin wall. She never even had a chance to get out of her bed.
When all seemed lost Mr. Randolph grabbed their child and fled the fort. Osbourne Bland was killed trying to defend his family. His wife and four children were taken prisoner.
William Harrison hid his wife and another woman under the floor boards of the cabin. He then climbed into the loft and out through the roof.
As they were preparing to hide during the attack Mrs. Harrison and the other woman had found a keg of whiskey in the ‘potato hole.’ So before hiding there they ran out and placed it where the Indians could find it. The Indians were distracted by it and it saved the women’s lives for their cabin was the only one not burned. It also bought more time for several others to escape.
After the screams died down Mrs. Harrison and the other woman escaped to nearby Cox’s Station along with young Benjamin Ash. Many of the Ash children were taken prisoner including George.
Later settlers coming down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh were often lured into Indian attack by a young white boy yelling for help from the riverbank. When they stopped they realized he was an Indian decoy and they were ambushed and often perished. The name of this famous adopted Indian was George Ash. He later returned to Kentucky but his father had remarried and George did not get along with his stepmother. He left Kentucky for Indiana. He later lived in Lamb, Indiana and married and raised several children.
SCENE 3 (Natives round up the prisoners for the march to Detroit)
Several of the prisoners were killed on the march. Indians often killed very young children to keep them from crying. Anyone else who could not keep up the pace was usually killed along the trail.
Mrs. Ash and two of her children were murdered just beyond the settlement. Men following the trail after the attack came upon their bodies.
Mrs. Bland after seeing what had happened to Mrs. Ash did not think she and her children even had a chance to survive. When she was sent by her captors for water while on the trail she left her children with the Indians and escaped. She was found wandering in the woods 18 days later near the Falls of the Ohio. She had nearly starved to death.
Mr. Polk traveled to Detroit and bought his family’s freedom. A kind hearted Frenchman was said to have purchased most of the others when they were put on the slave block in Detroit.
At least 15 settlers were killed at Kincheloe’s Station and three Indians were reported to have died.
The Station was never rebuilt. References to the settlement from that day on refer to it as Burnt Station.
Thank you for coming. We hope you enjoyed this re-enactment of the attack on Kincheloe’s Station. Join us again at 4:00 PM to see the prisoners marched off to Detroit. Also plan on joining us in Shelbyville at Clear Creek Park on September 13 and 14 for our really full scale re-enactment when over 100 re-enactors join us for the two day event.
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