Extraordinary Strength and activity, with the most daring courage and a thorough knowledge of life in the woods, won for Joshua Fleethart a high reputation among the first settler's of Western Virginia and Ohio. When the Ohio Company founded its settlement at Marietta, in April, 1778, Fleethart was employed as a scout and a hunter. In this service he had no superior north of the Ohio. At periods of the greatest danger, when the Indians were known to be much incensed against the whites, he would start from the settlement with no companion but his dog, and ranging within about twenty miles of an Indian town, would build his cabin and trap and hunt during nearly the whole season. On one occasion this reckless contempt of danger almost cost the hunter his life.
Having became tired of the sameness of garrison life, and panting for that freedom among the woods and hills to which he had always been accustomed, late in the fall of 1795, he took his canoe, rifle, traps, and blanket, with no one to accompany him, leaving even his faithful dog in the garrison with his family. As he was going into a dangerous neigborhood, he was fearful lest of the voice of his dog might betray him. With a daring and intrepidity which few men possess, he pushed his canoe up the Sciota river a distance of fifteen or twenty miles, into the Indian country, admist their best hunting-grounds for the bear and the beaver, where no white man had dared to venture. These two were the main object of his pursuit, and the hills of Brush creek were said to abound in bear, and the small streams that fell into the Scotia were well suited to the haunts of the beaver.
The spot chosen for his winter's residence was within twenty-five or thirty miles of the Indian town of Chillicothe, but as they seldom go far to hunt in the winter, he had little to fear from their interruption. For ten or twelve weeks he trapped and hunted in this solitary region unmolested; luxuriating on the roasted tails of the beaver, and drinking the oil of the bear, an article of diet which is considered by the children of the forest as giving health to the body, with strength and activity to the limbs. His success had equalled his most sanguine expectations, and the winter passed away so quietly and so pleasantly, that he was hardly aware of its progress. About the middle of February, he began to make up the peltry he had captured into packages, and to load his canoe with the proceeds of his winter's hunt, which for safety had been secreted in the willows, a few miles below the little bark hut in which he had lived. The day before that which he fixed on for his departure, as he was returning to his camp, just at evening, Fleethart's acute ear caught the report of a rifle in the direction of the Indian towns, but at so a remote a distance, that none but a backwoods-man could have distinguished the sound. This hastened his preparations for decamping. Nevertheless he slept quitly, but rose the following morning before dawn; cooked and ate his last meal in the little hut to which he had become quite attached.
The sun had just risen, while he was sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree, examining the priming and lock of his gun, casually casting a look up the river bank, he saw an Indian slowly approaching with his eyes intently fixed on the ground, carefully inspecting the track of his moccasins, left in the soft earth as he returned to his hut the evening before. He instantly cocked his gun, stepped behind a tree, and waited till the Indian came within a sure range of his shot. He then fired and the Indian fell. Rushing from the cover on his prostrate foe, he was about to apply the scalping knife; but seeing the shining silver broaches, and broad bands on his arms, he fell to cutting them loose, and tucking them into the bossom of his hunting shirt. While busily occupied in scouring the spoils, the sharp crack of a rifle and the passage of the ball through the bullet pouch at his side, caused him to look up, when he saw three Indians within a hundred yards of him. They being too numerous for him to encounter, he seized his rifle and took to flight. The other two, as he ran, fired at him without effect. The chase was continued for several miles by two of the Indians, who were the swiftest runners. He often stopped and "treed", hoping to get a shot and kill or disable one of them, and then overcome the other at his leisure. His pursuers also "treed", and by flanking to the right and left, forced him to uncover or stand the chance of a shot.
He finally concluded to leave the level grounds, on which the contest had thus far been held, and take to the high hills which lay back of the bottoms. His strong, muscular limbs here gave him the advantage, as he could ascend the steep hill sides more rapidly than his pursuers. The Indians, seeing they could not overtake him, as a last effort stopped and fired. One of the balls cut away the handle of his hunting knife, jerking so violently against his side, that for a moment he thought he was wounded. He immediately returned the fire, and, with a yell of vexation, they gave up the chase.
Fleethart made a circuit among the hills, and just at dark came in to the river, near where the canoe lay hid. Springing lightly on board, he paddled down stream. Being greatly fatigued with the efforts of the day, he lay down in the canoe, and when he awoke in the morning the boat was just entering the Ohio river. Crossing over to the southern shore, he, in a few days, pushed his canoe up to Farmer's Castle, without further adventure, where he showed the rich packages of peltry, as the proceeds of his winter's hunt, and displayed the brilliant silver ornaments, as trophies of his victory, and to the envy and admiration of his less venturous companions.