The French fort, Junendot, at Sandusky, does not appear to have been garrisoned at this time. Between 1760 and 1763, the British put a schooner afloat on Lake Erie, called the "Gladwyn," which carried supplies to the post at Detroit, and the upper forts. In the last name year, the conspiracy performed its bloody work. The history of that murderous conflict is so familiar, that I confine myself to other events, referring those who would understand this savage tragedy, in all it horrible details, to the fascinating narrations of Parkman.
Major Rogers commanded a detachment, sent to the relief of Detroit during the siege of 1763. His battalion of provincials, assisted in covering the retreat of Dalzell's command, after their defeat at Bloody Run, on the morning of July 31st.
An important expedition was sent into the Indian country in the fall of 1763, in command of Major Wilkins. On the night of the 7th of November, it was shipwrecked, and so thoroughly disorganized as to be obliged to return.
Prof. J. P. Kirtland, of Rockport, resides near the reputed spot where this calamity occurred. He has thoroughly investigated the historical proofs in support of his opinion, and has kindly furnished me his conclusions, with a description of the relics found there. This valuable paper is inserted entire:
Attending the expeditions of Major Wilkins, and Colonel (Afterwards General) Bradstreet, near the present city of Cleveland.
By J.P. Kirtland, M.D. LL. D.
The lapse of a century casts an oblivious shade over imperfectly record events. That the two expeditions, engaged in prosecuting the Pontiac War, were wrecked on Lake Erie, the one in Autumn of the year 1763, the other about the same period in the year following, are well established historic facts. Neither authors nor tradition have, however, attempted to point out the exact locality where those events occurred.
Since the first settlement of the township of Rockport, some fifty years since, the attention of observing individuals has been awakened, by the frequent discoveries of vestiges of military implements, and other articles, not usually scattered at random in a new and uncultivated country.
Those discoveries have been made at two localities:
First-In the vicinity of the junction of Rocky River with Lake Erie, embracing the sandy beach bordering the Lake; and the right bank of the river; and the high bluff now known as Tisdale's Point, which is an extension of the left bank into the Lake, and which presents a perpendicular rocky face, seventy feet high, on its Lake front.
Second-McMahon's beach, which borders the Lake, under a high clay bank fronting the farms of Messrs. Brown, McMahon, Col. Merwin, and the late eastwardly from the last named farm, by the residences of Frederick Wright, John Williams, and Fletcher's Hotel, to the present crossing of Rocky River on the Plank, Road Bridge.
The first named locality is seven miles, and the second from the eight to ten miles west of Cleveland.
A careful examination of the several discoveries, in connection with the historical items furnished by the authorities to which reference is here made, leads to the conclusion that the catastrophe which befel Wilkins' expedition, happened at the first named locality, and that of Bradstreet's at the second.
The correctness of this conclusion will be confirmed, by an examination of the peculiar and dangerous character of these localities during a storm, and of the manner in which these vestiges must have been lost; and a more complete comprehension of the terrific scenes attendant on those disasters would thereby be gained.
Gov. Cass, in a address before the Historical Society of Michigan, in the year 1834, though laboring under some important errors in regard to the wrecking of Bradstreet's expedition, had a full conception of the horrors of that catastrophe.
Few of the present generation know, that either of these events have occurred; fewer still are aware of the pecuniary loss and human offering they involved.
Pontiac, with hostile tribes of savages, captured most of the British forts in the west, and murdered their garrisons, in the spring of 1763. The posts at Detroit and Fort Pitt, successfully resisted his first attacks. A vigorous siege, was carried on against them by the savages, during the summer following. While troops were collecting under Col. Boquet, (or Bouquet,) for the relief of Fort Pitt, a flotilla of batteaux from Albany ascended the Mohawk river, by portages reached Wood Creek, and ultimately, Fort Schlosser, on Niagara river, above the falls. In the autumn of that year, six hundred British regulars, with arms, military stores, and a train of artillery embarked under command of Major Wilkins, They attempted to ascend the river, and advance to Detroit.
After some delay and loss, from attacks of the Seneca Indians, they reached Lake Erie, but on the 7th of November, were driven on shore by a violent storm, lost twenty boats, with fifty barrels of provision, some field pieces, and all of their ammunition. Seventy men and three officers, including their surgeon, were drowned. These officers were Lieut. Davidson, of the train, Lieut. Paynter, and Dr. Williams, of the 80th regiment; also a French pilot. After the storm abated a council of war was held, and decided that the survivors should return to Niagara, where they ultimately arrived.
The exact locality of Wilkins' disaster has hitherto been a matter of uncertainty. Some persons suppose it was on the north shore of the Lake. The evidences to sustain this conclusion are the following:
A published "Diary of the seige of Detroit," kept by a private soldier in the garrison at that place, states as follows:-"Nov. 18, 1763.-This morning two Indians arrived from "Point-aux-Pins," with a letter, one-half wrote in Erse, and the other in English, from Major Monterife, (Moncrieffe,) giving an account of the batteaux being cast away, on the 7th instant, at the highlands, beyond the said point."
Sir Wm. Johnson, in a letter to the Lords of Trade, locates the disaster at ninety miles from Detroit; and Lieut. Gov. Colden, in a letter to the same Board, fixes it at "two-thirds of their way to Detroit."
If "Point-aux-Pins" could be designated, the question would at once be determined; at the time of the writing of the diary, no locality on the shores of Lake Erie was designated by that name. Such is the inference, from the fact that on Lewis Evans' map of the Middle Colonies, published in London, dated June 23d, 1755, eight years before the wrecking of this expedition, no locality is distinguished along the Lake as "Point-aux-Pins."
It is true that a recent map in Bell's History of Canada, has that name affixed to a headland in Kent District, on the north shore of Lake Erie, but it is evidently of modern application. It is equally true that for ages a similar point, covered with a tall pine and spruce trees, has been and is still a prominent object for observation, jutting into the Lake some twenty rods east of the mouth of Rocky River.
Such evergreen headlands are favorite land-marks for the voyageurs of these western waters, who have never been blessed with the knowledge of charts and surveys. They are in the practice of using "the Point of Pines" as a common term, applicable to evergreen were equally likely to use it in reference to either of those two points.
The distance from Detroit specified by Sir Wm. Johnson and Gov. Colden, are in favor of Rocky River ; and the fact that the Indians carrying Moncrieffe's dispatch from "Point-aux-Pins" to the commander at Detroit occupied eleven days in its transmission,
renders it certain that their route must have been along the south shore of the Lake, among hostile tribes, and could only have been pursued stealthily, at night. The north shore, where the population were not hostile, could have been traveled over by Indian expresses in two days.
The presence here of numerous vestiges of military implements, and their absence from the Canada locality, is almost positive evidence in favor of the former.
A trivial link, sometimes, is found to connect fragments, so as to form a strong chain of circumstantial evidence, and render it as certain as the most positive. Such a link is lying before me. The blade of a surgeon's amputating knife, described in the annexed notes, could have belonged to no other person than the unfortunate Dr. Williams of the 80th British regulars.
By aid of the facts furnished by historians, an intimate knowledge of the locality, and the character of the autumnal storms, taken in connection with these discoveries, any, one can figure to himself the succession of tragic scenes as they occurred, without requiring much play of imagination.
Maj. Moncrieffe reported in the Newport, Rhode Island Mercury of December 19th, 1763, that "at 11 O'clock at night they were overtaken by a violent storm, which came suddenly,"-------The whole detachment was in danger of being lost, as every batteaux that reached shore was more than half full of water."
When thus threatened they doubtless attempted to gain a safe harbor with the mouth of Rocky River. The channel is narrow, and lies immediately in contact with the high and perpendicular cliff forming the terminus of the left bank. The eastern margin of the channel is bounded by a hidden sandbar, covered with a few feet of water, extending at right angles into the Lake a number of rods. During a storm the waves sweep over this bar with tremendous force, breaking some sixty to eighty feet in height, against the cliff. A boat, to enter the river at such times, must hug the cliff, amidst the surf, in order to avoid this concealed bar.
An inexperience pilot would, however, give that surf a wide berth, and, as a consequence, would be stranded on the bar. This, no doubt, was the fate of several of their batteaux ; others were probably driven high and dry, on the sandy and marshy beach east of the bar ; and others succeeded in reaching a safe harbor within the mouth of the river. Those upon the bar, if they were not at once sunk in the changeable and engulphing quicksands, would soon be dashed in fragments by the force of the waves. The batteaux were built of light materials, to fit them for two extensive portages, over which they passed, between the Hudson river and Lake Erie. The capacity of each was adapted to the carrying of
one hundred men, arms, ammunition, stores, and a small cannon, which was placed upon the bow. Such a craft was illy adapted to resist the forces here acting upon it. The crews of the boats which gained the harbor no doubt sought a landing-place. It was not afforded in those days by the eastern or right bank of the river, which then consisted of a marshy tract of bottom land, or of precipitous cliffs; and the left bank was of a similar character, except just within the point, where a gully of lower inclination, running from the margin to the level of the upland, rendered access to the latter comparatively easy. Through this gully the survivors found a refuge from the uncomfortable lowlands, inundated and swept by the surf. Here they formed a camp fire, within a circle of boulders, and around it collected the vestiges from their wrecks. They remained till the storm abated, probably three days, as that is the period usually occupied by autumnal storms on Lake Erie. A period as long as that, is indicated by the accumulation of ashes and charcoal lately disinterred.
Here were probably brought the bodies of their drowned comrades, together with their arms, clothing, etc. among which were the pocket-case instruments of their dead surgeon. The bayonet here found belonged to some of the soldiers, and the eroded case knife to their cuisine. (Vide annexed note.**) The dead were probably buried on the adjacent plateau, in the native forest, now occupied as a lawn by Capt. Tisdale.
I due time the men were recruited, their clothing dried, and the surviving boats repaired. The ammunitionless expedition then retired down the Lake, and ultimately arrived in safety at Fort Schlosser, without having afforded any relief to the garrison at Detroit.
Two miles north-westerly from the locality of this disaster, following the Lake shore, we arrive at the long and narrow spit of land known as McMahon's beach. Undoubted evidences determined it to have been the seat of a still more destructive catastrophe, which befel
The Indian war continuing into the summer of 1764, Col., Boquet advanced with his forces from Fort Pitt to the Muskingum river, and Col. Bradstreet, with a well appointed army of three thousand men, entered Lake Erie in a flotilla of batteaux.
After a campaign of varied success, in which the conduct of the latter compares very unfavorably with the former, who duped by the duplicity of the savages, and laboring under a heavy censure from his commander in chief, commenced his return down the Lake, with a force of about eleven hundred men.
On the 18th of October, 1764, he precipitately left Sandusky Bay, not even recalling his scouts and hunters.
"The boats of the army had scarcely entered Lake Erie when a storm descended on them, destroying several, and throwing the whole into confusion. For three days the tempest raged unceasingly, and when then the angry Lake began to resume its tranquility, it was found that the remaining boats were insufficient to convey the troops. A large body of Indians, together with a detachment of provincials, were therefore ordered to make their way to Niagara, along the pathless borders of the Lake. They accordingly set out, and after many days of hardship reached their destination, though such had been their sufferings from fatigue, cold and hunger, from wading swamps, swimming creeks and rivers, and pushing their way through tangled thickets, that many of the provincials perished miserably in the woods. On the 4th of November, seventeen days after their departure from Sandusky, the main body of the army arrived in safety at Niagara, and the whole, embarking on Lake Ontario, proceeded to Oswego. Fortune still seemed adverse to them, for a second tempest arose, and one of the schooners, crowded with troops, foundered in sight of Oswego, though most of the men were saved."-Parkman, p. 476-7. Additional facts are furnished in Stone's Life of Johnson, p.230, as follows:
"The sequel of the expedition was singularly unfortunate. When a few days out from Sandusky, and about to encamp for the night, Col. Bradstreet, instead of landing at the mouth of a neighboring river, [Rocky, or Cuyahoga?] where the boats could have lain in safety, persisted in disembarking at a spot which it was told him was visited by heavy surfs. The result of his obstinacy was, that a heavy storm arising, twenty-five of the batteaux were dashed in pieces, and most of the ammunition and baggage lost, together with a field train of six brass cannon. A hundred and fifty men wee therefore compelled to make the journey to Niagara on foot, through a wilderness of four hundred miles, filled with savage men and savage beasts, and crossed by deep rivers and fearful morasses. Many perished on the way, and those who finally reached Niagara were spent with fatigue, cold and hunger. On the 4th of November the main body of the army, weary shattered, entered the gates of Fort Niagara. Stragglers continued to come in, day after day, nor was it until the last of December, that all the survivors reached their homes."
Franklin B. Hough, M.D., of the Bureau of Military Statistics, at Albany, N.Y., has had the goodness to furnish me with copious extracts from unpublished letters of Sir Wm. Johnson, written in the winter of 1763, and spring of 1864, and now on file in that bureau. They were addressed to Gen. Gage, Charles Lee, Lt. Col. Eyre; also, to the Lords of the Board of Trade, and to some unknown person. They confirm the statements of the foregoing quotations, and furnish other particulars.
In his letter to Gen. Gage he imputes the wrecking to Bradstreet's relying solely upon a Detroit pilot, "a notorious villian," -a Frenchman, who had been in the confidence of the late Capt. Dalyell or Dalzell, whose death he caused the year before, by betraying him into an ambuscade. This pilot, it seems, refused to run into a large river [Black River] after the storm commenced, and at length persisted, contrary to the sentiment of the army, in drawing up his boats along an open and exposed beach,[McMahon's,] though, had he gone a little farther, another large river [either Rocky or Cuyahoga,] afforded a safe harbor. As a consequence, before the following morning one-half of his boats were lost, and he buried his cannon and ammunition "by day, all in the sight of ye French villian," whom he fears, will. On his return, cause them to be taken up, and employed against Detroit.
He also alludes to the overland return of 170 Indians and Rangers, without an ounce of provision at their starting , and speaks of the kindness of the Seneca Indians of Chenusio, [Genesee,] treating famished soldiers with great humanity, feeding them gradually till they recovered, &c. The loss of officers and men by the wreck, was, it is said, made the subject of legislative action, reports and petitions, in the colony of New York. If the records and documents should be examined in relation thereto, more light would no doubt be obtained on the subject.
That the storm must have overtaken the expedition somewhere between Sandusky and Black river, is evident from the fact that of the latter place, the army had already become alarmed, and were anxious to run into that port. That McMahon's beach was the place where the disaster occurred, is equally evident, for no other "open beach." such as the one described, is to be found east of Black river and west of Rocky river, and along this beach vestiges of an extensive wreck have been found.
It appears that that boats were closely drawn up against the shore, without any special precaution, the crews and troops encamped on the then dry beach. A furious north-westerly storm soon raised before it the waters of the Lake, swept the surf over the beach, and broke with terrific force against the abruptly clay banks. This occurred suddenly, during the night. The frail batteaux were either sunk, dashed to fragments, or driven high over the bar, to the base of the cliffs. One-half of their number, it seems, were destroyed before morning. The men, amidst these horrors, in darkness and confusion, could only find safety by reaching the overlooking plateau, through several gullies which are cut through it down to the level of the Lake-and also through the narrow interval skirting McMahon's run. The banks of these gullies, are also nearly as inaccessible at many places as the clay cliffs fronting the Lake; and in wet weather are equally as slippery and impassable.
In a bank of a gully on Col. Merwin's farm, a bayonet was found a few years since, forced to its base into the tenacious clay, some six or seven feet above the bottom of the run, which had evidently been used as a fixture, by which the retreating soldiers drew themselves up to the top of the bank.
In another instance, a company or soldiers, invested with their bayonets, belts and cartridge boxes, gained the upland skirting the right bank of McMahon's run, probably wet and fatigued, stripped themselves of their cumbersome implements, and piled them systematically and soldierly-like, against the foot of a chestnut tree. After the lapse of more than half a century, the bayonets were found by McMahon, covered with leaves and herbage. Near by a musket barrel was also discovered by him, enclosed in the fork of a tree by the growth of wood. It had been placed in an inclined position, and had there remained undisturbed until the tree had completely invested it.
The morning ensuing found the survivors in melancholy groups, overlooking an angry and tumultuous lake, the beach strewed with the bodies of their dead comrades, and the remains of their boats, arms and provision. The number of lives here lost is not known.
When the storm abated, Bradstreet proceeded to launch and repair such of his boats as had escaped destruction,
and to collect and bury the cannon and ammunition which could be recovered. The place of their deposits, was probably at the eastern part of a clay cliff, some ten rods west of the mouth of McMahon's run. From time to time the lake has infringed on this cliff. Some years since two six pound cannon balls, and numerous musket balls were washed out. The cannon had either been disinterred and removed in early days by the British, or washed into the Lake by the wearing away of the shore.
One of the batteaux, cast high upon the bottom land near this cliff, and probably rendered unseaworthy, was burned, to prevent its falling into unfriendly hands. The nails, rudder hangings, bow ring, and other irons, as well as the ashes and charcoal remaining after its destruction, were ploughed up McMahon many years since.
The other vestiges that were discovered in this locality are referred to in the annexed description.
What became of the British regulars belonging to the expedition we know not, but it is referred that they embarked in the surviving boats, on their way to Niagara, taking with them all the provisions; leaving the Provincials and friendly Indians to make their way provisionless, through an inhospitable wilderness to the same point of destination. These Provincials were under the command of the then Maj. Israel Putnam, subsequently Major General in the service of the United States; and with him was the same Indian Chief,
who captured him near Ticonderoga, in the year 1758. After the surrender of Montreal to the British, these two renowned partisans met, became friends, and the latter joined that part of Bradstreet's expedition, under Putnam's command.
This body of Provincials was raised in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Massachusetts refused to participate, in furnishing her quota.
It is remarkable that no minute history of the overland journey which closed this campaign has been preserved. The individuals who went out from those three colonies were intelligent, and in the practice of writing. It is very probable that some neglected garrets contain diaries and correspondence, filed away with forgotten papers, which would furnish details of this expedition. Their track from McMahon's beach to the crossing of Rocky river, near the present plank road bridge, is made evident by the various articles dropped along the way. The immediate shores of the Lake between these two points, though seventy feet above the water, was wet and swampy. To avoid this they resorted to the dry running through the premises of Frederick Wright and John Williams, and curving parallel to the river through Mr. Patchen's grounds, to the place of the present plank road gate. Here they prepared for their tedious march, disencumbered themselves of all useless and perhaps some valuable articles;
before attempting to pass the high and precipitous banks of the river. Many of these articles have been discovered in recent times.
Some one entrusted with a sack or box of gun flints, containing several quarts, threw down his charge near the residence of Frederick Wright, by whom it was disinterred a few years since. An antique silver teaspoon, was ploughed from the earth at the earliest cultivation of John Williams' orchard, forty-years ago-an utensil that no doubt belonged to some officer's mess. A sword and several bayonets were also ploughed up, a little north and east of that place, according to common report.
In the gardens of Mr. Patchen, at the Plank Road House, coins have been found, bearing date early in the last century ; one, a French silver coin, of the year 1714, and a English copper penny, of 1749. These coins were probably thrown down in discarded clothing, or in forsaken knapsacks.
Nothing more is known of their sufferings during their march to Niagara, than is contained in the letters of Sir Wm. Johnson. On their arrival at Albany the Regulars went into winter quarters; the Provincials proceeded to their homes, and were disbanded.
Gen. Bradstreet died at New York in 1772.
From the time of these disasters to the war with Great Britain, these localities were not much frequented by the Indians, and only cursorily visited by the white hunters; hence these relics escaped observations, until the present population commenced their settlements about the year 1815.
These views are believed to afford a correct solution of the historical problem, involved in the above discoveries. They are left for either confirmation or rejection by future investigations.
Ample room remains for further research at both localities. A number of cannon are doubtless concealed in the sands, fronting McMahon's beach, and the right bar extending into the lake from the right bank of Rocky river. Storms and fishermen's nets, are annually revealing other vestiges of these disasters.
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE RELICS.
1st. An ancient and elaborately finished sword thrown by the surf on the beach fronting the right bank of the river, in the year 1820, which was picked up by Orin Joiner, a member of the family of Datus Kelley. The hilt terminated in a ponderous lions head, which, and the guard, were of pure and solid silver. It was subsequently sold to a Cleveland goldsmith, and the silver was melted down for other uses.
If I am correctly informed, the lion's head was, in the last century, the insignia, to designate the naval from the land service of Great Britain-hence it is inferred that this sword belonged to a naval officer attached to the flotilla-probably the commander.
2d. In the spring of 1842, a heavy storm broke up and rearranged the hidden sand bar, extending at right angles with the beach, from the east bank far into the lake. Evidences were abundant at that time that one of the sunken barges, which had been engulphed in the quicksands, for more than three fourths of a century was also broken up. Gun-flints, brass guards of muskets, eroded bayonets and fragments of muskets barrels, were cast on the shore or were found among the sands in shoal water. Many of these articles were observed by John Williams, Capt. Burlighame, and Frederick Wright; who are among the few survivors of our early settlers that recollect the circumstances.
In one night, the last named individual, hauled in six bayonets, while sweeping this bar with his seine, soon after that storm occurred.
The surf also threw high upon the beach, the bow-stem of a large boat or batteau. The wood was much chafed, and water-soaked, a heavy iron ring-bolt, perforating it, secured by a nut, was deeply incrusted with rust. A thick coating of aquatic moss or algae, invested a portion of the wood, while other portions had evidently been buried in the sand. It remained on the shore for a year or two, when it was burned by fishermen, and I secured the ring-bolt.
At that time, it attracted the attention of common observers, and was in their minds, indefinitely associated with the other relics, but no one in the vicinity, was then in possession of the historical facts connected with those two disasters.
Since the year 1850, no further discoveries have been made on that beach.
3d. In the year 1859, a bayonet was thrown out by a plow on the margin of the plateau, overlooking the left bank of the river, between Tisdale's point, and the highway, running from the plank-road to the residence of Col. Merwin. In the year 1863, Capt. Tisdale, while constructing a private road to his residence on the point, uncovered with a plow, the circle of boulders inclosing a quantity of ashes and charcoal-the remains of a camp-fire, to which allusion has already been made, and which is near where the bayonet was discovered.
On the outer margin of the circle were, dug out of the earth, the remains of case-knife, nearly consumed by rust, and the blade of a surgeon's amputating knife. The bayonet and the amputating knife I have among my collection of relics.
4th. The ring-bolt, rudder irons, nails, and other remnants of a consumed batteau, were exposed by clearing of the bottom at the mouth of McMahon's run, soon after the first settling of the township.
5th. A stack of bayonets, covered with accumulated soil, rubbish and rank vegetation, and the remains of a musket, resting in the crotch of a tree, encased in the growth of wood; were discovered about the same period of time, as were the relics of the batteau.
6th. Several years later, two, six-pound cannon balls and a number of leaden musket balls, were exposed to view, by undermining, by the Lake of the clay-cliff, which rises from the western margin of the bottom lands. These, no doubt, were among the articles, buried, by Bradstreet, with his cannon and ammunition, as described by Sir Wm. Johnson.
All of the aforenamed relics were discovered by Mr. McMahon, and most of them were preserved by his family for a considerable time. All seem now to be lost, except the two six-pound cannon balls, which the family retain, and one of the musket balls, that is in my possession.
7th. About the year 1831, a young daughter of Datus Kelly, now Mrs. Charles Carpenter, of Kelly's Island, found an antique silver spoon on the beach, opposite the present residence of Col. Merwin. She dug it out of the sand while at play. It is thick and heavy for its size, the workmanship, which is coarse, is evidently old, and is of the model of those that were common, in the more wealthy families in New England during the last century.
On the under side of the tip of the handle, the initials, I. C. are engraved, and on the same side near its junction with the bowl, are stamped the initials of the maker, A.S. Mrs. Carpenter has had the care and good taste to retain it in her possession as an interesting relic.
8th. On the 4th of July, 1851, Oscar Taylor, in company with several young men, while bathing in the lake at McMahon's cove, some forty rods west run, discovered in the water a teaspoon similar in all respects, except the engraved initials are S. T. He now resides at New London, Wisconsin, and retains the spoon. On the same occasion Stephen M. Taylor found an old bayonet near that locality, but neglected to preserve it.
9th. Still farther to the west, on the beach opposite the farm of Mr. Brown, the proprietor discovered many years since, an iron or steel tomahawk, constructed to answer also the purpose of a piper for smoking. It is lost.
10th. In the year 1859, an extensive slide from the high land, overlooking the lake and the right bank of McMahon's run, took place. While examining it, Edwin Bidwell noticed the end of a bayonet, still bearing the metallic tip of the sheath, projecting from the undisturbed margin of the bank, about twelve inches below the surface, the depth of
he soil that seems to have accumulated over many of these relics, dropped on the land, a hundred years since. This bayonet was invested in the fine grained blue clay, formed from the breaking down of the adjacent shales, in which condition it is thrown upon the margin of the high banks of the lake, by the surf during storms. So perfectly did this investing material, protect the bayonet against the action of erosive agents, that it now retains much of its original polish,. and is entire in all its parts. Through the kindness of Mr. B. I have it in my collection.
11th. In the same collection are also a number of bayonets less perfect, collected by the families of Gov. Wood and Col. Merwin. These, at different times, were thrown up by the surf, or were drawn out of the water by fishermen's seines. One thus obtained was still attached to a large fragment of a musket barrel.
Two years since, a very entire and perfect musket barrel was obtained in the same manner, and presented so me by the fishermen. It belonged to an English Queen's arm of the last century. It exactly receives the bayonet found by Mr. Bidwell, and the lead ball, washed from the clay bank at McMahon's run.
The locality, along the beach at Col. Merwin's where many of these relics have been found, is a favorite fishing ground, but the fishermen, after a few trials,
are annually compelled to abandon it, as their seines are certain to become entangled by hidden and fixed objects some rods from the land. Often they are cut and injured, and they draw in various relics. The remains of some of Bradstreet's engulphed batteaux are doubtless the obstructions against which they become arrested.
12th. Pursuing the survivor's track from the beach, where they were overwhelmed by the storm, we first arrive at the ridge, near the house of Frederick Wright. There he some years since disinterred the collection of gun flints above referred to. In quantity they are said to have amounted to a peck or more. They were adapted to the heavy musket, but had never been used. I have not succeeded in obtaining a specimen; though the authority upon which the above statement is made, is good.
13th. Still further east along the ridge is the orchard of John Williams, where, at the first breaking up of the ground, a silver teaspoon was exposed, some thirty or more years since. It was retained by him until recently, when it was lost. From report it seems to have been similar to those previously described, and doubtless belonged to some of the officers of the expedition.
A vague report also states that a number of relics, including a sword and several bayonets, were in early times discovered in the next lot east, lately owned by Wm. Allen. No satisfactory confirmation of it can be obtained.
14th. A few rods still farther to the east, in the garden of the Patchen Inn, Mr. Silverthorn, in 1862, while excavating to put out a fruit tree, discovered some three or four dollars in silver, in a small pieces of change, of French and English coinage, one bearing date in 1717, and all of them earlier than 1764. It is to be regretted that he soon passed them off at their nominal value.
15th. Mr. P.A. Delford, residing at the plank-road gate, discovered in 1863, while digging in his garden a few rods from the last named locality, two copper pennies of 1749, bearing the effigies of George II. Of Great Britain.
I have perhaps been tediously minute in these details, but my object was to facilitate the labors of any future investigator, who may attempt to divest this subject of any remaining doubts and obscurities.
A theory, to account for the manner in which these relics were scattered and deposited, at these several points has been already given.
A tumulus or gave of unknown dead, long since observed, on the right bank of the Rocky river, I have not noticed; yet I have little doubt, it has an intimate connection with one or the other of these disasters.
It is situated one hundred and fifty feet east of the plank road bridge, at the head of a gully, that formerly cut, from the high ground down to the bottom land, near the present bridge. This gully has been partially obliterated, by the construction of the road. In its pristine condition, it was the only accessible way, from the river to the uplands, except a similar gully nearer the lake, and at the head of which that ancient camp-fire was established, on the left bank of the river.
This tumulus was observed at the time of the clearing of the land, forty years since, but as it was ascertained that it abounded with human bones, the early cultivators were careful to shun it. It then rose from two to three feet, above the level of the adjacent ground, and was about one rod square. The covering of earth was so thin that a spade easily reached the bones; and the surface was strewed with their fragments.
The common belief was, that it was an Indian grave. Mr. Worden, plowing the field with two yoke of oxen, seventeen years since, attempted to level it down by running his plow deeply through it. His furrows seemed to consist mostly of human bones, skulls in large proportion; and all in a very perfect state of preservation. He again interred them, and avoided any further disturbance of the locality. He informed me, that his sons, then small lads, picked up, from the rubbish of bones many small articles, such as metallic buttons and pieces of iron.
The former were entire, the latter were nearly destroyed with rust. It was a mystery with him and his family, how the early Indians should possess so many of these articles. One of those sons, now an adult, confirms fully the statement of his father.
In 1861 Mr. Eaton again plowed into it, and threw up bones in like manner. Of the large ones, he brought me at least two bushels, including a dozen craniums, and I subsequently made additional collections.
On examining them, they evidently were middle aged or younger adults, and all males. I pronounced them to be either Greeks or Anglo-Saxons, not then knowing that a Greek colony had ever settled within the Union, I concluded, of course, they must have belonged to the latter race-which was confirmed by the decision of one of the most perfect of craniologists in our country. My further conclusion was, that they were the remains of those who perished in one of the shipwrecks, on the shipwrecks, on the adjacent coast.
The following year, Mr. Kirkpatrick and myself, made a thorough exploration to the bottom of the tumulus. This we reached at the depth of two or three feet, after digging through a rich compost of bones and decayed animal matter. The bottom tier of skeletons at that place, had not been disturbed since their interment. We examined two-one large and middle aged, the other somewhat smaller and younger, judging from the teeth and length of the bones. Both were lying on their sides, thrown there in a careless manner.
By the front of the large one, and near its middle, lay in close contact, the following articles, to wit: two small fragments of ancient Indian pottery, of the days of the race of mound building; once valve of the unio siliquiodes of the western rivers; a knife, or spatula formed from bone, and the peculiar bone of one of the sexes of the raccoon. They occupied a small place only, and could have been embraced as charms, or amulets in an Indian's pouch, or the pocket of a soldier as objects of curiosity.
This discovery led to the conclusion that they all were Indian skeletons, but on re-examining such of the craniums as have not been lost, I am led to believe that the one of large size, found at that bottom of the grave, was that of an Indian, while the others were Anglo-Saxon.
The grave was evidently shallow, not over three feet deep. The bodies were thrown in one on another without much care, and were covered superficially, raising the tumulus two or three feet above the surface of the adjacent ground, in the manner soldiers are many times buried on recent battlefields.
That these individuals perished in one or the other of those wreckings, can be hardly doubt. That Bradstreet had with him many Indians is certain,
but nothing is known as to the number of men he lost; though that number was considerable is inferred from the fact that "the losses of officers and men by the wreck, was made the subject of legislative action." That Wilkins lost a specified number, is well established ; seventy men and three officers, but whether he was accompanied by Indians is not recorded. Such was probably the fact, for they were wont to take part in all military movements in those days, and he would need them as scouts and guides to his expedition. One or more were probably lost, and were thrown into the bottom of this grave. Its dimensions adapted it for the reception of about the number of his dead.
Another view may be taken. I may err in the conclusion, that one was an Indian 's skull. All may be Anglo-Saxon. The Indian amulets, may have been collected by a sailor while among the Indians, retained as curiosities in a pocket of his clothing and with his person buried in this grave, after he perished.
We have the example of Herodotus for introducing discussions and opposing statements, in cases where the evidence is not historically conclusive. He gives in this way an interesting variety, and an air of candor to his narrations.
Prof. Kirtland's investigations leave reasonable doubts, in reference to the locality of Major Wilkins' disaster.
The additional testimony which I now introduce, favors the impression that it occurred on the north shore, nearly opposite Cleveland, but does not entirely relieve the obscurity of the subject.
A letter in the Newport Mercury, (R. I.,) of December 26th, 1763, states the shipwreck to have happened at "Point-aux-Pins," or Pine Point, already referred to by Prof. Kirtland. Pine Point is the only recognized name, for a short spit which projects into the Lake at the "Rond-eau," Rondout, or round water, on the Canada shore. This point is visible on Evan's map, but is there without a name. It projects in a southerly and westerly direction into the water, the bearing of which upon the question of locality, will appear reading the following extract, to which reference has already been made.
Extract from the "Newport Mercury," December 26th 1763, from a New York letter dated December 19th.
"The same day Major Moncrieffe arrived here from Niagara. He belonged to the detachment under the command of Major Wilkins, destined from Niagara for Detroit, by whom we learn that on the 7th, ultimo, at 11 o'clock at night, eighteen of their boats foundered on Lake Erie, in a violent storm at south-east, which came on suddenly, by which seventy brave men were drowned.
"Among the number was Lieut. Davidson of the train and nineteen of his men, also Lieut. Paynter
and Doctor Williams of the 80th, and a French pilot. The whole detachment was in danger of being lost, as every batteaux that reached the shore was more than half full of water, by which means sixty odd barrels of provisions, all the ammunition but two rounds to the man, which the officers saved in their hands and two small brass field pieces were lost; and that after holding a council of war it was thought most prudent to return to Niagara."
A wind at south-east, or in a southerly direction, could not have been the occasion of a dangerous sea on a straight southerly coast. In turning any projecting land on the north shore, a storm at any point of compass, south of an east and west line, would be dangerous, if it was severe.
Among the manuscripts of the Maryland Historical Society, at Baltimore, is the unpublished journal or Lieut. James Gorell, who was in the expedition. The Rev. E. A. Dalrymple, secretary of the society, has transcribed for my use, what relates directly to the shipwreck.
From allusions to attacks from the Indians in other parts of the journal, he supposes the party to have followed the southern shore of the Lake. This extract, however, states that they were delayed by contrary winds at "Long Point" ten days. On Evans' map this is the name given to the slender promontory opposite Erie, which it has retained ever since. No other point of that name or character exists in any part of Lake Erie.
Extract from the Journal of Lieut. James Gorell concerning the shipwreck of Major Wilkins' command, November 7th, 1763.
"At 10 o' clock at night we set sail and continued all night and next day, until we came to the long point. There we were obliged to stay for ten days. The day we left we got a good wind until we came to a place called Fish Creek, where we were obliged to lay nine days more; on the ninth day the wind favored us, and the Major ordered us all up, with instructions to keep well out from the land and to continue all night. About two hours after dark there arose a storm, and we lost nineteen batteaux, the most of them the largest and best. Lieut. Davidson and all the powder boats were lost in this storm. (Not legible.) Was drowned, of the artillery, Lieut. Painter, late of the Independent, Doctor Williams, of the 80th regiment, with four sergeants, sixty-three privates and one Canadian. The next day we attempted to gather the wreck, but found little or none, except Lieut. Davidson and about six men, which we buried. As soon as the Indians were gone out of sight (they were sent by land to Detroit), we set sailed and arrived at Niagara the latter end of November."
The distance from the "Rond-eau" in a direct line to Detroit is sixty miles; by way of the Lake shore between ninety and one hundred. From Rocky river by land to the same place, is one hundred and fifty to one hundred and sixty miles.
No mention is made by Moncrief or Gorell, of the post at Presque Isle on the south shore, where they would have called, and received supplies had they passed that way. The south shore route is nearly one hundred miles longer than the north, a distance which it was of great consequence to save, at this season of fall storms on the Lake.
Rogers took the southern route because he was required to visit Fort Pitt, and to procure cattle from that region. The object of Bradstreet's expedition was to strike the Ohio Indians living on the south shore.
All the relics procured at Rockport may have belonged to Bradstreet's party, whose boats were no doubt scattered by the storm and came ashore at different points. One of the contemporary accounts states, that they stood boldly out on the Lake, hoping to weather the rocky portion of the coast, before they were beached. Between Long Point and Rondout, on the Canada shore, is Catfish creek, which may have had that name at that time. The number of bodies recovered was only six, while those buried at Rocky river, were from sixty to seventy. This is the extent of our present knowledge upon this subject.
For further reading: Encyclopedia of Cleveland History