Gateway to the Classics: Boy's Book of Indian Warriors by Edwin L. Sabin
Boy's Book of Indian Warriors by  Edwin L. Sabin

Logan the Great Mingo (1725–1774)

and the Evil Days that Came Upon Him

During the French-and-Indian war with England, and during the war waged by Pontiac, there was one prominent chief who did not take up the hatchet. His name was the English one of John Logan. He was a Mingo, or Iroquois, of a Cayuga band that had drifted south into east central Pennsylvania.

There Chief Shikellemus, his father, had settled and had proved himself a firm friend of the whites. Old Shikellemus invited the Moravian missionaries to take refuge on his lands. He spoke good English. He acted as agent between his people and the Province of Pennsylvania. He was hospitable and shrewd, and ever refused to touch liquor because, as he said, he "did not wish to become a fool."

His house was elevated on stilts, as protection against the "big drunks."

About 1725, a second son was born to him and his wife, and named Tah-gah-jute, meaning "His-eyelashes-stick-out," or, "Open-eyes." In admiration of his good friend James Logan, of Philadelphia, secretary of Pennsylvania, and sometimes acting governor, Chief Shikellemus gave little Tah-gah-jute the English name of Logan.

As "John Logan" he was known to the settlers.

The wise and upright Shikellemus died—"in the fear of the Lord." His people scattered wider. Logan his son moved westward, to the Shawnee and Delaware country of Pennsylvania.

Here he married a Shawnee girl. He set up house-keeping and traded venison and skins with the white settlers, for powder, ball, and sugar and flour.

The tide of white blood was surging ever farther into the west, and the Indians' hunting grounds. Many of the Indians grew uneasy. Pontiac's Bloody Belt passed from village to village, but the weary and nervous traveler was always welcome at the cabin of Logan, "friend of the white man."

A white hunter, Brown, trailing bear in the Pennsylvania timber, laid aside his rifle and stooped to drink at a spring. Suddenly he saw mirrored in the clear water the tall figure of an armed Indian, watching him. Up he sprang, leaped for his gun, leveled it—but the Indian smiled, knocked the priming from his own gun, and extended his hand.

This was Logan—"the best specimen of humanity I ever met with, red or white," wrote Brown. "He could speak a little English, and told me there was another white hunter a little way down the stream, and guided me to his camp."

Other stories of Logan's kindnesses to the whites in his country are told. In the latter part of 1763, a party of white settlers had broken in upon the refuge of twenty Conestoga Iroquois, in southern Pennsylvania, and killed every one. The Conestogas were kin to the other Mingos; but Logan made no war talk about it.

Simon Kenton, one of the most famous scouts of Daniel Boone's time in Kentucky and Ohio, says that his form was "striking and manly," his countenance "calm and noble."

Although Logan started out to walk the straight path of peace, sore days were ahead of him. He moved westward again in 1770, erected a cabin at the mouth of Beaver Creek, on the Ohio side of the Ohio River about half way between Pittsburg of Pennsylvania and Wheeling of West Virginia.

His cabin was kept wide open. Everybody spoke well of Logan. He removed once more. The new cabin, "home of the white man," was built on the Sciota River of central Ohio, among the Shawnees of Chief Cornstalk's tribe. He and Chief Cornstalk were close friends. They both stood out for peace. But Cornstalk had been a war chief also, during the Pontiac uprising. He and his warriors had obeyed the Bloody Belt. His name, Cornstalk, meant that he was the support of the Shawnee nation.

Now the evil days of Logan were close at hand.

Since the treaty signed with the twenty-two tribes of Pontiac, in 1765, there had been general peace between the red men and the white men in America. This peace was not to continue.

For instance, Bald Eagle, a friendly old Delaware chief, who frequently came in, by canoe, to trade for tobacco and sugar, was killed, without cause, by three white men, in southern Pennsylvania. They propped him, sitting, in the stern of his canoe, thrust a piece of journey-cake, or corn-bread, into his mouth, and set him afloat down the stream. Many settlers who knew him well saw him pass and wondered why he did not stop for a visit. Finally he was found to be dead, and was brought ashore for burial.

There were bad Indians, too, who murdered and stole. For this, the good Indians suffered. Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio were a wild and lawless country.

Up to 1774 these tit-for-tats had not brought on war. But the French of Canada and the Great Lakes country still secretly urged the Indians to drive out the settlers. The Americans were becoming annoyed by the harsh laws of the English king. There were English officials who desired an Indian war. That would give the Colonists something else to think about.

Lord Dunmore, royal governor of Virginia, was one of these officials. He had claim to land extending into Pennsylvania; Fort Pitt, at present Pittsburg, was garrisoned by Virginia troops, and he wanted to keep them there, to help his land schemes.

April 25, 1774, he issued a proclamation calling upon the commander at Fort Pitt to be ready to repel the Indians. The commander called on the border settlers.

There was great excitement. Almost at once the peace chain that Logan had received from his father Shikellemus was broken. He and his wife and relatives, and a number of Shawnees and Delawares, were encamped along Yellow Creek. This emptied into the Ohio River a few miles below Beaver Creek, his former home.

On the very day after the commander at Fort Pitt had issued his notice to the border people to arm, from Wheeling, on the Ohio in West Virginia, Captain Michael Cresap led a party of militia and frontiers-men to hunt Indians.

They promptly killed two friendly Shawnees at Pipe Creek, fourteen miles below Wheeling. The Shawnees had no time in which to make resistance. The next Indians who were attacked, fired back; one white man was wounded. Among the Indians killed in these two meetings was a relative of Logan.

Captain Cresap started north to wipe out Chief Logan's camp. He well knew that as soon as the word of the killings reached the camp, trouble might break. On the way his heart failed him. He was a hot-headed man, he hated Indians—but he balked at shooting women and children. So he turned aside, with his party.

There were white men not so particular as he. On Baker's Bottom, opposite the mouth of Yellow Creek, lived Joshua Baker, whose principal business was that of selling rum to the Indians. In the same settlement lived Daniel Greathouse—"a ruffian in human shape," and an enemy to all Indians.

Greathouse, too, was inspired to "strike the post," in the worst Indian fashion. He gathered thirty-two whites, and hid them in Baker's house. He feared that the Logan camp had heard of the Cresap killings, so he crossed over the river, to investigate.

A friendly squaw warned him to go back, or he might be harmed, for the camp was very angry. Back he went. Because he was afraid to attack the camp with his thirty-two men, he invited the Indians over, to drink "peace" with him. He was a rum seller, himself.

On April 30, they came. First a canoe containing six warriors, Logan's sister, another woman, and a little girl. The warriors were made drunk, and all but the little girl were butchered.

Across the river Logan heard the shooting. He sent two men in a canoe to find out what was the matter. They were killed. A larger canoe was sent. It was ambushed and the survivors fled back to the camp.

Now Logan learned that his sister and brother had been murdered. They were the last of his blood relatives. That was his reward for having remained the friend of the white man. That was his reward for having opened his cabin to the white wayfarer. He went bad, himself. He saw only red, and he vowed vengeance. A bitter wrath turned his heart sour. He felt that he must grasp the hatchet, buried so long ago by his father Shikellemus.

The war spirit blazed high among whites and reds on the frontier. The whites accused the Indians of many thoughts and deeds—some false, some true. The Indians accused the whites of many deeds—mainly true. Block-houses were hastily erected, for the protection of settlers. Governor Dunmore of Virginia called out troops in earnest. "Dunmore's War" as well as "Cresap's War" was this named.

The Shawnees, the Delawares, the Mingo Cayugas, the Wyandot Hurons, held councils in their Scioto River country of central Ohio. Belts were sent to the Miamis on the west and the Senecas on the east. There were debates upon striking the Long Knives, as the Virginians were called.

These Long Knife Americans had crossed the rivers and the mountains, were possessing themselves of Ohio, and even of Kentucky; much blood had been shed, and the wiser heads among the tribes did not know exactly what to do about it.

The great Cornstalk, loved chief of the Shawnees, and now fifty years in age, lifted his voice for peace. He could see no good in a war against the Americans. Logan, gnawed by his own wrongs, remained apart and said little. But the Americans struck first.

Hoping to keep the Indians at home, in June four hundred border men were ordered by Governor Dunmore of Virginia to attack the villages in Ohio. They marched west across country until in southern Ohio they destroyed two Shawnee towns.

The light-skinned Shawnees were known as the fiercest, most stubborn fighters among all the Algonkins between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi River. Now their hot natures burst. Chief Cornstalk yielded.

"It is well," he said. "If you go to war, then I will lead you. If we fight at all, we must fight together."

But of the Indians it was Logan who first struck the Long Knives. With only seven warriors he suddenly appeared in Virginia itself. This was Long Knife country. Here, July 12, he fell upon William Robinson, Thomas Hellen and Coleman Brown, three settlers who were gathering flax in their field.

Brown died under the first volley; Hellen and Robinson ran hard. Hellen was an old man, and easily caught, but William Robinson was young and strong. Dodging and legging, he had almost reached the timber. Hearing loud shouting, with English words, behind him, and fearing a rifle bullet, he turned his head and lunged full tilt into a tree. Down he dropped, stunned.

After a bit he came to. He was lying, securely tied, hands and feet. Logan was sitting quietly beside him, waiting for him to waken. The old man Hellen had not been harmed, either. Logan's party took their two captives to Logan's town in Ohio—treated them kindly on the way.

"What will be done to us at your town?" asked Robinson.

"You will be made to run the gauntlet," answered Logan. "But if you listen to my words, you will not be hurt. You must break through the lines and run to the council house. When you are in the council house, you will be safe. That will end the gauntlet."

Approaching the Mingo and Shawnee towns, Logan uttered a terrific scalp-halloo, as signal of success. Warriors hastened out. The gauntlet was formed. This was two lines of warriors, squaws and children, armed with sticks, clubs and switches. Through the long, narrow, living aisle the two prisoners had to make their way.

Remembering Logan's advice, Robinson charged aside, broke through, and raced for the council house. All out of breath, he reached it ahead of his howling pursuers. No Indian dared to attack him there. It was sanctuary.

Poor old Mr. Hellen failed. The lines were stout, the clubs and switches blinded him; before he had reached the council house a war-club struck him helpless. He might have been beaten to death had not Robinson bravely grabbed him and dragged him in.

He had won his life, and was adopted into an Indian family. Now the Indians were angry with Robinson. They decided to burn him at the stake.

"Have no fear. You shall not die," asserted Logan.

But matters looked bad. He was tied to the stake. While he stood there, with the squaws howling around him, he heard Logan speak, appealing for his life.

"The most powerful orator I've ever listened to," afterward said Robinson. "His gestures and face were wonderful!"

The warriors still called for fire. The torch was ready, when Logan sprang angrily forward. With his own hatchet he cut the ropes, and marching the white captive through the mob landed him in the lodge of an old squaw. Few chiefs would have dared an act like this, to save merely a white man, and an enemy.

However, Logan was not yet done. Thirteen of his people, he claimed, had been killed by the whites; and thirteen white scalps should pay. Just before he set out on the war-path again, he brought to William Robinson a goose-quill and some gun-powder.

He bade Robinson sharpen the quill, and with gunpowder-and-water for ink write a letter.

Captain Cresap:

What did you kill my people on Yellow Creek for? The white people killed my kin at Conestoga, a great while ago, and I thought nothing of that. But you killed my kin again on Yellow Creek, and took my cousin prisoner. Then I thought I must kill, too; and I have been three times to war since; but all the Indians are not angry, only myself.

July 21, 1774.

Captain John Logan.

This note was carried clear down into western Virginia, as if to show how far Logan could reach. It was found tied to a war-club and left at a plundered settler's cabin.

Logan never would believe but that Michael Cresap had killed the warriors and women at Yellow Creek. When Captain Cresap heard of this note, and that he was blamed, he said that he would like to sink his tomahawk in Daniel Greathouse's head!

Chief Logan was not long in getting his thirteen scalps.

"Now," he announced, "I am satisfied. My relations have been paid for. I will sit still."

He was not to sit still yet. The hands of the Shawnees grasped the hatchet very firmly. Forty scalps at a time had been hung in the Shawnee lodges, but the spirits of their fathers and the ashes of their towns called for more. The Delawares had not taken payment enough for the scalp of old Bald Eagle. The Senecas remembered that many years ago eight of their warriors were attacked by one hundred and fifty Long Knife soldiers. The Mingos had not forgotten the massacre of the Conestogas. The Wyandots were red, and hated the white face in the east.

These nations formed the league of the Northern Confederacy, to defend themselves. Cornstalk the Shawnee was chosen head chief.

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