George Foulkes: The Story of an Unsung Legend
By David D. Bricker
In the summer of 1806
, Peter Young of Middleton Township, Columbiana County, Ohio, saw his first Indians.
This was, after all, over a decade since the Battle of Fallen Timbers
, and the Treaty of Greenville
had ended Indian raids into Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.Young described the startling event by stating,
"There was a squad of them came from Sandusky on a visit to George Foulkes, who resided about four miles from our place up the creek. They came to see George because when he was a small boy, he was taken prisoner by the Indians. He remained with them and married an Indian squaw, and they had two children. He left her and settled on Little Beaver Creek, a few miles from Darlington, Pa., Beaver County. This squad of Indians was relatives of Foulkes and his first wife."
Young witnessed a family reunion that brought a group of twenty-five Wyandot Indians on a one hundred seventy-five mile journey to the Foulkes homestead on the Little Beaver Creek just inside the Western Pennsylvania border. George was living on a land grant that was his reward from the government for his service as a spy in the Indian Wars of 1790-94. The Indian visit was a reminder that Pennsylvania had not always been his home. He had spent almost as much time along the banks of the Sandusky River in central Ohio as he had in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and Yohogania County, Virginia.
His life in Ohio began on March 20, 1780, at the age of eleven. It was a time of bitter warfare in the Ohio River Valley. The Foulkes family entered this war zone when George was almost six years old. Whites and Indians were involved in killing each other in numbers that far exceed those who died in the Post-Civil War western frontier wars. He would become a victim of the Forest Wars; but unlike the estimated twelve thousand who died, George Foulkes survived. The life he led after he escaped, made him either a frontier hero or villain. It depends on one's perspective of property as a prerequisite to happiness.
The Proclamation of 1763 established the Appalachians as a boundary for white settlers. It could not be enforced by the British. The Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 proclaimed the Ohio River as the new barrier separating Indians from whites. With help from Lord Dunmore of Virginia, who encouraged settlers to defy the treaty, land-hungry hordes were invading land that the Ohio Indians thought was off limits to whites. Murder, mutilation, missing people and kidnapping became common occurrences from the 1770's to 1794 along the Ohio River and its tributaries.
Into this scenario came the Foulkes family. They moved from Leesburg, Virginia, to Yohogania County, Virginia (or Westmoreland County, Pa.) in 1774. The colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia both claimed the same territory where the land claim called "Brotherhood" was located. Today that property is in Beaver County, Pa. which did not exist until 1800. The land dispute was settled in 1781 and Washigton County, Pa. became the site of their property on Raredon's Run, a tributary of Raccoon Creek. It was a risky move, but land beckoned.
Widowed With Five Children
George lost his father at the age of ten. William died of heart failure while working his land on the hilly terrain above Raredon's Run in 1779. His wife Anne, known by most as Nancy, was left with five children. In many instances, those who lost a spouse met and remarried. Her second husband was William Tucker who lived on Montour Run in present day North Fayette Township, Allegheny County, Pa. George, his mother, and siblings moved in with the Tucker family on their four hundred acres called "Strawberry Fields."
William, Lewis, and Polly Tucker were very close in age to the older Foulkes children. John Foulkes was 18, Elizabeth was 15, and George was 11. On the adjoining property was the Turner farm known as "Refuge". In March of 1780, these families experienced the dreaded horror of frontier existence... Indian attack!
The Foulkes' Claim on Raredon's Run was only about six or seven miles from the Tucker property. It was close to hundreds of maple trees near the mouth of the run where it empties into Raccoon Creek in present day Independence Twp., Beaver County, Pa. It would be an adventure for the eleven Foulkes, Tucker, and Turner children who ranged in age from eleven to twenty. On the practical side, tapping trees was the only way to satisfy your "sweet tooth" in frontier days.
On Saturday, March 19, 1780, a band of Wyandot Indians crossed the Ohio River near present day Shippingport, Beaver Co., Pennsylvania. These Indians were from the village of the Wyandot Chief known as Half-King by the British. Since the English King was the "Full-Kingî, the British used this title on occasion for some important tribal leaders. His Wyandot name was Dunquat, but he was more commonly known by the name that the neighboring Delaware tribe called him: Pomoacan. When the Indians came upon the sugar camp, the young men were armed and firing at targets carved into trees. The warriors hid themselves on a tree covered hill three hundred yards away from the camp, where they watched and waited.
After supper, the older boys put their blankets under a lean-to shelter. The younger children spread out their blankets between the fire and the shelter. John Foulkes decided to find other arrangements. He crawled under an overturned clean sugar trough, hoping this would allow him to get some undisturbed sleep. His white dog Ginger slept close by his hidden master.
Around 11 o'clock on that moonlit night, John was awakened by the sounds of barking dogs and screams. He peered out to see Indians tomahawking the young men under the lean-to. He knew he would be next if found. He got to his feet and headed for Raredon's Run a hundred yards away. His barking dog joined him in his dash to safety. Because his dog was running right at his feet, he kept looking down trying not to step on Ginger. It caused him to stumble and fall since he could not keep concentrating on the undulating terrain. John was caught and killed. His curly black hair was removed as was the custom by both frontier whites and Indians in this struggle for the Ohio River Valley.
The younger children were captured. George had tried to run, but the pipe end of a tomahawk was brought down upon his head creating a laceration and a state of semi-consciousness. When he came to his senses, he saw the Indians had taken scalps. He recognized his older brother's. The others belonged to the three Turner boys and to his step-brother John Tucker. The Indians marched the six younger children down to the mouth of Pegg's Run, opposite the present town of Midland, Beaver Co., Pennsylvania, where they had hidden canoes.
Crossing the Ohio River, the Indians and their hostages found the hobbled horses and departed for the Sandusky River villages of central Ohio, where the Wyandot tribe had migrated after splitting away from the Hurons living on the north shore of Lake Erie. George's bleeding head wound made him very weak. The Indians would only let the girls ride which meant George had to walk. Elizabeth would occasionally get off her horse and let her brother ride. The Indians would not allow this for any length of time. This was his test of strength.
After three days on the trail, his wound was cleaned when they arrived at a village known as Snips Town in the vicinity of Rome, Richland Co., Ohio today. They cleaned his wound with slippery elm bark and bear's oil. The wound healed, but the scar remained noticeable for the rest of his life.
Elizabeth and James Turner, Lewis and Polly Tucker, and Elizabeth and George Foulkes now embarked upon lives as white captives. Back at the sugar camp in Pennsylvania, the bodies of the five dead young men were discovered and buried together at Frankfort Springs, now in Beaver Co., Pa. Their initials were carved into a nearby oak tree that has disappeared.
George soon found himself adapting to village life. He was adopted into a family, which involved being stripped naked, wading into the Sandusky River, and having his body washed with river pebbles. This ritual cleansing was done by the women of his new family. From the males he learned tracking and hunting skills. He spent much of his youth exploring the landscape of his new world.
George learned the Wyandot language as well as other Indian languages. He experienced the impact of smallpox as it spread through the tribe. His adopted father used a naturalistic way of innoculating his wigwam. He caught a couple of live skunks and would daily move them around so they would spray their horrific odor to shield his family from the pox.
George avoided death from disease, but narrowly escaped his demise at the hands of Pomoacan, the Half-King. The chief was filled with rage when he learned that two of his three sons died at the hands of the Poe brothers, famous Western Pennsylvania frontiersmen. He vowed revenge; however, he was unable to take it out on his first choice, Moravian Missionaries Heckewelder and Zeisberger since they had been taken from the Sandusky area to the British fort at Detroit for being pro-U.S. spies during the Revolution.
Instead, Pomoacan ordered the death of white captives in his village. Seven perished! An Indian maiden begged him to spare the life of George. Her appeal worked, and eventually he married a Wyandot woman. According to the famous Indian fighter Andrew Poe, George married the girl who saved his life. There is no record of George confirming this. Her name is unknown.
Plan To Escape
Although George had become immersed in the Wyandot way of life, he made a decision to make his escape back to white civilization about 1791. In all likelihood, he had come to the conclusion that he could not fight against white invaders. Soon after he became a captive, he was in the vicinity when Colonel William Crawford, from the area near Connellsville, Pa., led a volunteer militia army made up of Washington County, Pa. frontiersmen, to destroy the Indian villages along the Sandusky River. The Battle of Sandusky was fought two miles north of the present town of Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County. Elizabeth Turner, who had been captured with George at the sugar camp, was an eyewitness to the torture of Crawford by fire on June 11, 1782. The site of this action by the Delaware Indians, specifically by order of Hopocan (Captain Pipe), is now determined to be six hundred feet southwest of the Crawford Monument, half a mile east of the village of Crawford, Wyandot Co., Ohio.
Pipe was getting revenge for two incidents of violence tied to Pennsylvania. The first was the Squaw Campaign near present day New Castle, Lawrence Co., Pa., where Pipe had his brother killed and his mother wounded as troops from Fort Pitt attacked a village of women, children and old people in 1774. Crawford was part of the attacking army led by General Hand.
The second was the infamous slaughter of the Christian Delaware Indians at Gnadenhutten, a Moravian settlement eleven miles south of the town of New Philadelphia, Tuscarawas Co., Ohio. This massacre was carried out by one hundred Washington Co., Pa. militia. Ninety-six Indians died.
These soldiers were led by Colonel David Williamson. Two months after Gnadenhutten, Williamson was back in Ohio as the second in command to Crawford as another Washington Co., Pa. militia of over five hundred troops marched on the Sandusky villages in June of 1782. Crawford was captured and subjected to a most excruciatingly painful death. Pipe got his revenge. Williamson, who was most wanted by the Indians, escaped and later became a Sheriff in Washington County. Crawford became a martyred hero with counties, towns, and monuments named in his honor.
After more than ten years of living with the Wyandots, George plotted his escape. He hid some food on his probable escape route eastward. He came back from hunting trips later than usual, explaining that he had gotten lost. After using this ruse a few times, he headed west on a hunting trip then circled east on his way back to Pennsylvania. His horse gave out where Jeromesville, Ashland Co., Ohio is today. He walked the remaining distance to freedom. It took him thirteen days to make it to the north shore of the Ohio River where he saw an opportunity to cross.
George's sister Elizabeth met another white captive named James Whitaker, who had been captured by the Wyandots while on a hunting expedition in 1780. Whitaker was within a few miles of Fort Pitt at the time of his capture. He met Elizabeth soon after her arrival from Pennsylvania and they fell in love. They were married at Detroit in 1782 and returned to Lower Sandusky (Fremont, Sandusky Co., Ohio today) where James was allowed to establish a trading business. He had trading posts at the two primary Wyandot villages; Lower Sandusky and Tymochtee, which was close to New Half-King's Town in northern Wyandot Co., Ohio today.
Elizabeth Foulkes Whitaker and her husband, both captives from Western Pennsylvania, became the first permanent continuous white settlers within the borders of Ohio. She died in 1830 and is buried beside her husband on what was known as the Whitaker Reserve overlooking the Sandusky River a mile north of Fremont.
Dressed As An Indian
George found his way to the north shore of the Ohio River where Sewickley, Allegheny Co. Pa., is today. Dressed in Indian clothing, he yelled across the river to attract attention. Two girls, Charlotte and Catherine Ullery looked across the 100 yard width of the river and saw an Indian. Was this some scheme to get them captured? Was this a white man who had escaped and needed help? Charlotte convinced her mother to let her go across to investigate. Catherine went along too. The girls had taken a boat across the river many times. The Ullery family had established a ferry service that was located between the mouths of Narrows Run and Thorn Run entering the Ohio. Charlotte and her sister questioned the stranger while off shore, and George was able to convince them that he was on his way home after years of captivity.
Trying to adapt to the life of a farmer was difficult after living in a society where women did most of the planting and harvesting. It was culture shock to return to the white man's environment. George was glad to see his family again, but he was restless. The only thing that broke up the monotony was the courting of Catherine Ullery.
Luckily for George, the United States military was in need of individuals who had the talents that George had acquired as an Indian captive. The new nation was licking its wounds after humiliating defeats at the hands of the tribes of the Northwest Territory. General Josiah Harmar, a Philadelphian, was defeated in his attempt to end Indian attacks on the frontier. This was followed by the worst defeat in the military history of the U.S. Army by Indians, when General Arthur St.Clair, of Westmoreland. Co., Pa. led his troops to slaughter in extreme western Ohio, just miles from Indiana.
If the next attempt to defeat the Indians were to succeed, it would be because of better training, leadership, supplies, and intelligence from spies in enemy territory. It would require the most highly skilled trackers and fighters. He knew the dangers. Would he ever see Katy Ullery again? At this point in his life, he was not ready to settle down.
Appointed A Spy
George was appointed by the Commander-in-Chief and became a member of the Spies from Washington County in the service of the United States. The years 1792-96 would prove to be much more exciting as a spy than as a farmer. He spent much of this time with Captain Sam Brady's Rangers. Indians were trying their best during the first half of the 1790's to keep whites east and south of the Ohio River. They were busy discouraging white invaders with frequent attacks on river traffic and interlopers in the eastern Ohio frontier. George soon found Indians as he and other spies covered an area from present day Beaver Co., Pa. to Harrison Co., Ohio usually within forty miles of the Ohio River.
Even years of experience could not keep Foulkes and his band of spies from being surprised by Indians. When this happened, it was kill or be killed. During a scouting expedition, George shot an Indian who suddenly appeared and took aim at the spies. While the others ran to cover, George found that the Indian he shot was still breathing. He finished him off with a tomahawk blow to the head, then he took his scalp.
Moving north on the Indian Fork out of Hagerstown, Carroll Co., Ohio, Foulkes and his band of spies ran into "a weird figure, half naked with long black hair, feet unshod, and a few tattered rags covering his body." As the scouts moved closer with rifles ready, they were about to meet Johnny Chapman before he became a folk hero named Appleseed. It would take a few more years of planting seeds before that moniker was known. This eccentric abhorred all animal food and was never known to kill any living creature. He was friendly and invited the spies to camp with him.
With the August, 1794 victory over the Indians at Fallen Timbers on the Maumee River in northwestern Ohio, General Wayne had removed the threat of Indian attack in the Ohio Country. The need for spies was over. It was time to entertain thoughts of a wife and property.
George had seen Katy Ullery on occasion during his years as a spy. Now he would re-establish his courtship. He knew there was land on Raredon's Run, so he could continue life as a farmer like his own father. Just when his plans seemed firm, the announcement was made that the government was going to give land to those individuals who helped drive out the Indians. The land in question was north and west of the Ohio River. George was very familiar with this wilderness and knew the land he wanted. He received a land grant next to the North Fork of the Little Beaver Creek, three miles west of Darlington, Pennsylvania, Beaver County. This property is now on Cannelton Road in South Beaver Township.
Trading With The Indians
After their marriage on November 21, 1796, George and Catherine started out living in a log cabin. George soon was busy building a dam across the creek to power a grist mill followed by a sawmill. George also improved himself financially by trading with the Indians. In Pittsburgh he bought products desired by the Indians and twice a year made a trip to Lower Sandusky. Two seven gallon casks of whiskey were included on his pack horses which were also loaded with calico fabric, blankets, traps, jewelry and trinkets. His old Indian mother was involved in the trading. She would measure whiskey into the lid of a copper tea kettle which was the legal tender for the coon, mink, beaver, or otter skins. One lid filled with whiskey was equal to one animal pelt.
With his two mills on the Little Beaver plus his profits from Indian trade, he was accumulating enough money to buy more land and build a bigger house. He also sold the four hundred acre property along Raredon's Run. Before long, George and Catherine had close to three hundred acres along the Little Beaver and built the first brick house in the area. They filled their house with eleven children, seven girls and four boys.
George Foulkes died July 10, 1840, at his home along the creek. He was buried on his property in a graveyard that today is hidden in the middle of wooded property fifty yards past his house. His remains were later moved to East Palestine Cemetery in Ohio, six and a half miles from his home. He is buried beside his father-in-law, Henry Ullery. His daughter Charlotte Foulkes Huffman and her husband are close by. The house he had built along the creek was damaged by fire after his death.
In recent years there was an attempt to restore the home, though that plan was abandoned because the house was structurally unsound. The shell of the house stands on Cannalton Road but is uninhabited, now used as a storage area by the current owner of the property. The local historical society has erected a marker alongside the road and another at the site of his mill to commemorate this early pioneer of Pennsylvania.
George Foulkes was an individual who has faded into history without much fanfare. There have been others like him, legends in their time, who can only be found in crumbling old books and on roadside markers in out-of-the way places.
GUIDE TO THE DRAPER MANUSCRIPTS by Josephine L. Harper, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1983.
DRAPER MANUSCRIPTS by Lyman C. Draper, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Series E.: Samuel Brady and Lewis Wetzel, Volumes 2,4,6.
Series S.: Draper's Notes Volumes 16,17,19,22.
Series U.: Frontier War Papers, Volume 11.
Series NN: Pittsburgh and Northwest Virginia Papers, Volumes 8,9.
Series YY: Tecumseh Papers, Volume 11.
Rev. Parker B. Brown articles in WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA HISTORICAL MAGAZINE
"Reconstructing Crawford's Army of 1782", January 1982, pages 17-36.
"The Fate of Crawford Volunteers Captured by Indians Following the Battle of Sandusky in 1782", October 1982, pages 323-339.
"The Battle of Sandusky: June 4-6, 1782, April 1982, pages 115-151.
"The Search for the William Crawford Burn Site; An Investigative Report", January 1985, pages 43-66