edsanders.com - Charles Johnston"

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In March, 1790 a boat containing four men and two women passing down the Ohio, was induced by some renegade whites to approach the shore, near the mouth of the Scotia, then attacked by a large party of Indians. A Mr. John May and one of the women were shot dead, and the others then surrendered. The chief of the band was an old warrior, named Chickatommo, and under his command were a number of renowned red men. When the prisoners were distributed, a young man named Charles Johnston, was given to a young Shawnee chief who is represented to have been a noble character. His name was Messhawa, and he had just reached the age of manhood. His person was tall and seemingly rather fitted for action than strength. His bearing was stately, and his countenance expressive of a noble disposition. He possessed great influence among those of his own tribe, which he exerted on the side of humanity. On the march, Messhawa repeatedly saved Johnston from the tortures which the other savages delighted to inflict, and the young captive saw some displays of generous exertion on the part of the chief which are worthy of a place in border history.

The warriors painted themselves in the most frightful colors, and performed a war dance, with the usual accompaniments. A stake, painted in alternate stripes of black and vermilion, was fixed to the ground, and the dancers moved in rapid but measured evolutions around it. They recounted, with great energy, the wrongs they had received from the whites. - Their lands had been taken from them - their corn cut up - their villages burnt - their friends slaughtered - and every injury which they had received was dwelt upon, until their passions had become inflamed beyond control. Suddenly, Chickatommo darted from the circle of dancers, and with eyes flashing fire, ran up to the spot where Johnston was sitting, calmly contemplating the spectacle before him. When within reach he struck him a furious blow with his fist, and was preparing to repeat it, when Johnston seized him by the arms, and hastily demanded the cause of such unprovoked violence. Chickatommo, grinding his teeth with rage, shouted "Sit down, sit down!" Johnston obeyed, and the Indian, perceiving the two children within ten steps of him, snatched up a tomahawk, and advanced upon them with a quick step, and a determined look.The terrified little creatures instantly arose from the log on which they were sitting, and fled into the woods, uttering the most piercing screams, while their pursuer rapidly gained upon them with uplifted tomahawk. The girl, being youngest, was soon overtaken, and would have been tomahawked, had Messhawa not bounded like a deer to her relief. He arrived barely in time to arrest the uplifted tomahawk of Chickatommo, after which, he seized him by the collar and hurled him violently backward to the distance of several paces. Snatching up the child in his arms, he then ran after the brother, intending to secure him likewise from the fury of his companion, but the boy, misconstruing his intention, continued his flight with such rapirity, and doubled several times with such address, that the chase was prolonged to the distance of several hundred yards. At length Messhawa succeeded in taking him. The boy, thinking himself lost, uttered a wild cry, which was echoed by his sister, but both were instantly calmed. Messhawa took them in his arms, spoke to them kindly, and soon convinced them that they had nothing to fear from him. He quickly reappeared, leading them gently by the hand, and soothing them in Indian language, until they both clung to him closely for protection.

No other incident disturbed the progress of the ceremonies, nor did Chickatommo appear to resent the violent interference of Messhawa.

After undergoing many hardships, Johnston was taken to Sandusky, where he was ransomed by a French trader. Messhawa took leave of his young captive with many expressions of esteem and friendship. This noble chief was in the battle of Fallen Timber and afterwards became a devoted follower of the great Tecumseh - thus proving that while he was humane as a civilized man, he was patriotic and high-spirited enough to resent the wrongs of his people. He was killed in the battle of the Thames, where the power of the Shawnees was for ever crushed.


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