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Squire Boone Chapter 8: The Long Run Massacre

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By Ron Van Stockum

No settled station was more exposed to Indian attack in the late summer of 1781 than Squire Boone’s Painted Stone Station. It had lost several of its defenders in recent harassing attacks, and venturing beyond its wall was a hazardous undertaking.

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Being fearful of survival if a large force attacked, a group of interrelated families at the station became determined to leave. Such a reduction in station strength would render its defense impossible, and Squire Boone planned its abandonment.

He made arrangements for a militia escort of about 40 men, gathered from nearby Beargrass stations, to accompany his fleeing settlers, and early on the morning of Sept. 13, most of the families departed Painted Stone, using available pack horses, which would return to evacuate the families of Boone and Evan Hinton.

Squire Boone remained with his family, consisting of his wife Jane, his daughter Sara, and his sons, Enoch, 3, and Moses, 12. Enoch, born in Boonesborough, was the first male white child born in Kentucky. Missing was Boone’s oldest son, Jonathan, was in Kaskaskia, the early settlement on the Mississippi, which had been captured by George Rogers Clark in 1778.

Also remaining were the widow and four children of Evan Hinton who, 3 miles short of Painted Stone, had been captured the previous February while bringing salt from Louisville. He had died in captivity.

Boone, himself, had not fully recovered from the wounds incurred when his station had been attacked the previous April, and his ability to use a rifle obviously was impaired by a broken right arm.

And the only males remaining to defend the fort were Boone and Moses, who, like many boys on the frontier, had acquired the responsibilities of adults at an early age.

Likewise, the resolve and capability of frontier women be underestimated.  In the event of an attack, Jane Boone and the widow Hinton would have been ferocious in defense of their families.

  The escape

Nevertheless, those left behind were fully aware that they were in great peril.

The fleeing settlers followed Boone’s Wagon Road, which had been widened the year before to accommodate wagons, across what is now Shelby County and toward present-day Louisville.

Their plan was to reach, by day’s end, the relative safety of Linn’s Station, one of the Beargrass stations near the Falls of the Ohio (present-day Louisville), 21 miles distant.

Pack horses, loaded with household goods, were ridden by women and children. The men led the horses and herded the cattle.

The plan, in case of attack, was for women and children to dismount and take shelter behind trees, while the men defended them. Squire Boone’s 9-year-old son, Isaiah, went along, riding one of the pack horses.

This small force, after proceeding 9 miles, was weakened by the loss of 10 to 20 members of the militia, who remained behind at the ford of the first branch of Long Run Creek, later known as Nine-Mile Run, to protect their officer, Lt. James Welsh, who had taken ill.

The fleeing settlers and their remaining escort proceeded another 3 miles  and, just after midday, were approaching the main ford at Long Run, having completed more than half their trek.

Families had become separated, and they and their remaining escort were strung out in file, along with their pack animals on the narrow trail.

  Surprise attack

Suddenly, at the peak of the settlers’ vulnerability, the Indians launched an attack.

Several of the leading families, instead of following the plan for defense in case of attack, cut loose their pack loads and darted off without making a stand.

In an interview with historian Lyman Draper in 1846, Isaiah Boone, then 74, expressed the opinion that had the settlers not been weakened by this loss and that of the militia who had remained behind with their sick leader, they could have coped with the Indians.

The remaining women and children dismounted and took shelter, as had been planned.  Isaiah Boone reported that Thomas McCarty threatened to shoot one cowardly settler who was trying to drive a woman from her horse.

The other men, however, acted valiantly in defense of their families. Soon it became obvious that the settlers were badly outnumbered, and after cutting off the packs and remounting the women and children on the horses, they made a run for Linn’s Station, still 8 or 9 miles to the west.

Many were shot as they ran along exposed to enemy fire. Some of the settlers engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Indians, who, after firing their guns, had rushed the families with tomahawks raised.

The retreat was turned into a hopeless rout.

Packs were scattered for a mile. 

Thomas McCarty was hit by three shots, two of them in the face, but he was able to escape.  Bland Ballard managed to get outside the enemy line, where he used his rifle effectively, bringing down at least one of the attackers and perhaps one or two more.

  Isaiah Boone’s plight

The attack continued for a mile to the Long Run ford.  Some of the pursuers stopped to cut open and ransack discarded packs, thus facilitating the escape. However, when the settlers reached Long Run, Indians were still closing in, looking for scalps.

In his interview with Draper in 1846, Judge Moses Boone, then 77, seemed to express pride in describing the exploits of his younger brother, Isaiah, one of the last to run through the knee-deep water of Long Run.

Falling in midstream, he got completely wet, gun and all. As he scrambled out of the water, he looked back and saw an Indian on the opposite bank and instantly drew up his gun and pointed it, causing the Indian to dodge behind a small bank.

Because young Boone’s gun would not fire because of the wet powder, George Yount, who was nearby, shot and killed the Indian.  He then advised Isaiah to throw his gun away, which he did reluctantly after finding that it retarded his progress.

Soon placed on a horse, Isaiah lost his prized three-cornered hat, a present from Jonathan Boone, which he had used to whip the animal along.

  Happy moments

Floyd’s Fork lay about 2 miles west of Long Run. Here, Bland Ballard, lying in wait, shot an Indian on horseback, caught the horse and made his escape to Linn’s Station.

The militia guard that had remained behind, having prepared a litter for Lt. Welsh, their sick commander, had renewed their march, unaware of the Indian attack.

When they came upon the battle, they surprised two Indians with prisoners, Rachael Vancleave, holding her little sister Sally in her arms.

The Indians ran off, leaving behind the Vancleaves. The Indians had seemed about to kill Sally, who had been crying.

After taking a long circuit to avoid Boone’s Wagon road and the Indians, this rear party reached Linn’s Station safely that night, as did most of the massacre’s survivors.

 

The facts

Even though Squire Boone was not present during this action, it was originally described as “Boone’s defeat,” the Americans involved being the settlers leaving his station for the greater security offered by the stations at the Falls of the Ohio.

Today it is known as the “Long Run Massacre.” Historian Vince Akers states that no more than 15 were killed, possibly as few as 11. He cites exaggerated accounts of the number of the dead.

Willis in his History of Shelby County, Kentucky, reporting 40 or 50 killed, and Collins, in his History of Kentucky, more than 100.

The bronze Kentucky Historical Marker near Eastwood mentions 60. Even the Kentucky Encyclopedia estimates that 60 were killed and says “only a handful, including Squire Boone, escaped.”

Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to describe this small engagement as a “massacre,” because of the fury of the attack and the slaughter of women and children.

 

Next: Floyd’s Defeat

  

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: My understanding of the tragic events that now transpired has benefited considerably from a careful reading of  The American Revolution in Kentucky 1781: The Long Run Massacre (Boone’s Defeat) and Floyd’s Defeat,” an unpublished 1995 manuscript by Vince Akers.  This scholarly paper, exhaustively researched and footnoted, not only places these battles in the overall context of the revolution, but also describes them in great detail.

On Sept. 13, 1981, the 200th Anniversary of the Massacre, Akers, a descendant of the Low Dutch settlers in Shelby County, retraced on foot the route of the fleeing settlers. Akers is chief of the tax department for Cummins, Inc., the worldwide manufacturer of diesel engines, headquartered in Columbus, Ind.