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The Fall Creek Massacre

Madison County, Indiana -- 1824


"Early Reminiscences of Indiana:" by Oliver Hampton Smith

     "At the time of the Indian murders on Fall creek, the country was new and the population scattered here and there in the woods.    The game was plenty, and the Indian hunting grounds had not been forsaken by several of the tribes.  The white settlers felt some alarm at the news of an Indian encampment, n the neighborhood, and although they were all friendly, a watchful eye was kept on all their movements.  The county of Madison had been organized but a short time before.  Pendleton, with a few houses at the falls was the seat of the new county.  Anderson, on White river was a small village.  Chesterfield and Huntsfield were not then heard of.  There were only a few houses between Indianapolis and the falls, and still fewer in other directions from the capital.  Early in the spring of 1824, a hunting party of Seneca Indians, consisting of two men, three squaws, and four children, encamped on the east side of Fall creek, about eight miles above the falls.  The country around their camping ground was a dense, unbroken forest, filled with game.  The principal Indian was called Ludlow, and was said to be named for Stephen Ludlow , of Lawrenceburg.  The other man I call Mingo.  The Indians commenced their seasons hunting and trapping ---the men with their guns, and the squaws setting the traps, preparing and cooking the game, and caring for the children --two boys, some ten years old, and two girls of more tender years.  A week had rolled around, and the success of the the Indians had been very fair, with better prospects ahead, as the spring was opening, and raccoons were beginning to leave their holes in the trees in search of frogs that had begun to leave their muddy beds at the bottom of the creeks.  The trapping season was only just commencing.  Ludlow and his band, wholly unsuspicious of harm, and unconscious of any approaching enemies, were seated around their camp fire, when there approached through the woods five white men -- Harper, Sawyer, Hudson, Bridge, Sen., and Bridge, Jr.  Harper was the leader, and stepping up to Ludlow, took him by the hand and told him his party had lost their horses, and wanted Ludlow and Mingo to help find them.  The Indians agreed to go in search of the horses.  Ludlow took one path, and Mingo another.  Harper followed Ludlow, Hudson trailed Mingo, keeping some fifty yards behind. They traveled some short distance from the camp, when Harper short Ludlow through the body.  He fell dead on his face.  Hudson, on hearing the crack of the rifle of Harper, immediately shot Mingo, the ball entering just below his shoulders, and passing clear through his body. Mingo fell dead.  The party then met and proceeded to within gunshot of the camp.  Sawyer shot one of the squaws through the head.  She fell and died without a struggle.  Bridge, Sen., shot another squaw, and Bridge, Jr., the other squaw.  Both fell dead.  Sawyer then fired at the oldest boy, but only wounded him.   The other children were shot by some of the party.  Harper then led on to the camp.
    The three squaws, one boy, and the two little girls lay dead, but the oldest boy was still living.  Sawyer took him by the legs, and knocked his brains out against the end of a log.  The camp was then robbed of everything worth carrying away.  Harper, the ring leader, left immediately  for Ohio, and was never seen taken.  Hudson, Sawyer, Bridge, Sen., and Bridge, Jr., were arrested, and when I first saw them they were confined in a square log jail, fitting tight above, below, and on the sides.  I entered with the sheriff.  The prisoners were all heavily ironed and sitting on the straw on the floor.  Hudson was a man of abut middle size, with a bad look, dark eye and bushy hair, abut thirty-five years of age in appearance.  Sawyer was about the same age, rather heavier than Hudson, but there's was nothing in his appearance that could have marked him in a crowd, as any other than a common farmer. Bridge, Sen., was much older than Sawyer; his head was quite grey, he was above the common height, slender, and a little bent while standing.  Bridge, Jr., was some eighteen years of age, a tall stripling.  Bridge, Sen., was the father of Bridge, Jr., and the brother-in-law of Sawyer.
    The news of the Indian murders flew upon the wings of the wind. The settlers became greatly alarmed, fearing the retaliatory vengeance of the tribes, and especially of the other bands of Senecas.  The facts reached Mr. John Johnston, at the Indian agency at Pisquea, Ohio.  An account of the murders was sent from the agency to the war department at Washington City.  Colonel Johnston and William Conner visited all the Indian tribes, and assured them that the government would punish the offenders, and obtaining the promises of the chiefs and warriors that they would wait and see what their "Great Father" would do before they took the matter into their own hands.  This quieted the fears of the settlers, and preparation was commenced for the trials.  A new log building was erected at the north part of Pendleton, with two rooms, one for the court and the other for the grand jury.  The court room was about twenty by thirty feet, with a heavy "puncheon" floor, a platform at one end, three feet high, with a strong railing in front, a bench for the judges, a plain table for the clerk, in front a long bench for the counsel, a little pen for prisoners, a side bench for the witnesses, and a long pole in front, substantially supported, to separate the crowd from the court and  bar.  A guard by day and night was placed around the jail.  The court was composed of Wm. W. Wick, residing judge; Samuel Holliday and Adam Winchell, associates.  Judge Wick was young on the bench, but with much experience in criminal trials. Judge Holliday was one of the best and most conscientious men I ever knew.  Judge Winchell was a blacksmith, and had ironed the prisoners; he was honest, rough, frank, illiterate man, without any pretensions to legal knowledge. Moses Cox was the clerk; he could barely write his name, and when a candidate for the justice of peace at Connersville, he boasted of his superior qualifications: " I have been sued on every section of the statute, and know all about the law, while my competitor has never been sued, and knows nothing about the statute."  Samuel Cory, the sheriff, was a fine specimen of a woods' Hoosier, tall and strong boned, with hearty laugh, without fear of man or beast, with a voice that made the woods ring as he called the jurors and witnesses.  The county ws thus prepared for the trials....."
   (An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana... Indianapolis 1875, pg 442- 4)

    "The day for the trial of Hudson, one of the prisoners arrived.  A number of distinguished lawyers were in attendance from this State, and several from the State of Ohio.  Among the most prominent I name General James Noble, Phillips Sweetzer, Harvey Cregg, Lot Bloomfield, James Rariden, Charles H. Test, Calvin Fletcher, Daniel B. Wick, and William R. Morris, of this State; General Sampson Mason, and Moses Vance, of Ohio.  Judge Wick being temporarily absent in the morning, William R. Morris arose and moved the associate judges--"I ask that these gentlemen be admitted as attorneys and counselors at this bar; they are regular practitioners, but have not brought their license with them."  Judge Winchel---"Have they come here to defend the prisoners?" "The most of them have." "Let them be sworn; nobody but a lawyer would defend a murderer."
     (An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana... Indianapolis 1875, pg 445)

    I digress to give the scene in court, published by General Sampson Mason, in a Springfield, Ohio, paper.  "As I entered the court room, the judge was sitting on a block, paring his toe nails, when the sheriff entered, out of breath, and informed the court that he had six jurors tied, and his deputies were running down the others."  General Mason, with all his candor, unquestionably drew upon his imagination in this instance.
    Hudson, the prisoner, ws brought into court by the deputy sheriff and two of the guard.  His appearance had greatly changed since I first saw him in the log pen with his comrades in crime.  He was now pale, haggard, and downcast; and with a faltering voice, answered upon his arraignment, "Not guilty."  The petit jury were hardy, honest pioneers, wearing moccasins and side knives.  The evidence occupied but a single day, and was positive, closing every door of hope to the prisoner.  The prosecuting attorney  read statute creating and affixing the punishment to the homicide, and plainly stated the substance of the evidence.  He was followed for the prisoner, in able, eloquent, and powerful speeches, appealing to the prejudice of the jury against the Indians: relating in glowing colors the early massacres of white men, women and children, they Indians; reading the principal incidents in the history of Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton; relating their cruelties at the battle of Blue Licks and Bryant's station, and not forgetting the defeat of Braddock, St. Clair, and Harmar.  General James Noble closed the argument for the State in one of his forcible speeches, holding up to the jury the bloody clothes of the Indians, and  appealing to the justice, patriotism, and love of the laws of the jury , not forgetting that the safety of the settlers might depend upon the conviction of the prisoners, as the chiefs and warriors expected justice to be done.  The speech of the general had a marked effect upon the crowd, as well as the jury.  Judge Wick charged the jury at some length, laying down the law of homicide in its different degrees, and distinctly impressing upon the jury that the law knew no distinction as nation or color; that the murder of an Indian was equally as criminal in law as the murder of a white man.  The jury retired, and next morning brought into court, and sentence of death pronounced in the most solemn manner, by Judge Wick.  The time for the execution was fixed, as is usual, for a distant day. In the meantime Hudson made  his escape from the guard one dark night, and hid himself in a hollow log in the woods, where he was found and arrested.
    Time rolled on, the fatal day for execution arrived, multitudes of people were there.  Among them were seen several Senecas, relatives of the murdered Indians.  The gallows was erected just above the falls, on the north side.  The people covered the surrounding hills, and at the appointed hour, Hudson, by the forfeiture of his life, made the e last early atonement for his crimes.
    Such was the result of the first case on record in America where a white man was hung for killing an Indian.  The other cases were continued until the next term of court, and will be the subject of a distinct sketch."
    (An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana... Indianapolis 1875, pg 446-7)

TRIAL OF SAWYER

    Monday morning came. Court met.  Judge Eggleston, in fine health, on the bench in the center; Adam Winchell on his left, and Samuel Holliday on his right, Moses Cox at the clerk's desk, Samuel Cory on the sheriff's platform, and Colonel John Berry, captain of the guard, leaning against the logs.  The grand jury were called, sworn and charged, and court adjourned for dinner.  In the afternoon, the evidence of the main witness was heard. I prepared the indictments in my office and had them with me.  The foreman signed bills on his knee, and they were all returned into court before the adjournment.  That night, Colonel John Johnston, the Indian agent, called at my room and offered me one hundred dollars on behalf of the United States.  I informed him that was a State officer and could not accept the money, however tempting it might be under other circumstances.
    The court met in the morning.  we agreed to try Sawyer first for shooting one of the squaws.  The prisoner was brought into court by the sheriff.  He appeared so haggard and changed by his long confinement, that I scarcely knew him.  The court-room was crowded.  General James Noble, Philips Sweetzer and myself for the State; James Rariden, Lot Bloomfield, William R. Morris and Charles H. Test, for the prisoner.  Judge Eggleston---"Sheriff, call the petit jury."  Judge Winchell---"Sheriff, call Squire Makepeace on the jury, he will be a good juror; hell not let one of these murders get away."  Judge Eggleston, turning to Judge Winchell: "This will never do.  What! the court pack a jury to try capital case?"  The jury was soon impanneled.  The evidence was conclusive that the prisoner had shot one of the squaws at the camp with his rifle after the killing of Ludlow and Mingo by Harper and Hudson in the woods. The jury were a hardy, heavy-bearded set of men, with side knives in their belts, and not a pair of shoes among the whole of them; all wore moccasins.
    Mr. Sweetzer opened for the State with a strong matter-of-fact speech; that was his forte.  He was followed in able speeches by Mr. Morris, Mr. Test and Mr. Rariden, for the prisoner.  General Noble closed for the prosecution, with a powerful speech.  The general was one of the strongest and most effective speakers before a jury, or a promiscuous assembly, I have ever heard.  The case went to the jury under an able charge from Judge Eggleston, and court adjourned for dinner.
    At the meeting of the court in the afternoon, the jury returned a verdict of "guilty of manslaughter," two years hard labor in the penitentiary.  Mr. Rariden sprang to his feet, "If the court please, we let judgment go on the verdict, and are ready for the case of Sawyer, for killing the Indian boy at the camp." "Ready for the State."  The same jury were accepted by both sides---being in the box.  They were immediately sworn.  The evidence was heard again conclusive against the prisoner.  General Noble opened for the prosecution, and was followed by Charles H. Test, William R. Morris and James Rariden, with powerful speeches.  They jury were referred to their verdict in the previous case, and their judgment warmly eulogized.  This was, by arrangement, my case to close .  I saw my position, and that the only point I had to meet,  was to draw the distinction between the two cases, so as to justify the jury in finding a verdict for manslaughter in the one case, and murder in the case before them.  In law there was no difference whatever.  They were both cold-blooded murders.  The calico shirt of the murdered boy, stained with blood, lay upon the table.  I was closing a speech of an hour. Stepping forward, I took up the bloody shirt, and holding it up to the jury: "Yes, gentlemen of the Jury, the cases are very different.  You might find the prisoner guilty of only manslaughter, in using his rifle on a grown squaw; that was the act of a man, gut this was the act of a demon.  Look at this shirt, gentlemen, with the bloody stains upon it; this was a poor, helpless boy, who was taken by the heels by this fiend in human shape, and his brains knocked out against a log!  If the other case was manslaughter, is not this murder?" The eyes of the jury filled with tears.  Judge Eggleston gave a clear and able charge upon the law.  The jury, after an absence of only a few minutes, returned a verdict of "murder in the first degree."  The prisoner was remanded, and court adjourned.
    (An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana... Indianapolis 1875, pg 447-8)

TRIAL OF BRIDGE -- SCENES AT THE EXECUTION

    "The next morning the case of Bridge, Sen., for shooting a little Indian girl at the camp, was called.  The prisoner entered with the sheriff.  He was more firm in his step and looked better than Sawyer, though a much older man.  A jury was impannelled.  The proof was positive.  The case was argued by Mr. Morris and Mr. Rariden for the prisoner, and Sweetzer and myself for the State. The charge was given by Judge Eggleston, and after a few minutes' absence the jury returned a verdict of "murder in the first degree."  The only remaining case---of the strippling, Bridge, Jr., for the other Indian boy at the camp--came on next.  The trial was more brief, but the result was the same---verdict of murder in the first degree, with a recommendation, however to the governor for a pardon, in consequence of his youth, in which the court and bar joined.  The trials closed. Pro forma motions for new trials were overruled, the prisoners remanded, to be brought up for sentence next morning, and the court adjourned.
    Morning came and with it a crowded court house.  As I walked from the tavern I saw the guards approaching with Sawyer, Bridge, Sen., and Bridge, Jr., with downcast eyes and tottering steps, in their midst.  The prisoners entered the court room and were seated.  The sheriff commanded silence.  The prisoners rose, the tears streaming down their faces, and their groans and sighs filling the court room.  I fixed my eyes upon Judge Eggleston.  I had heard him pronounce sentence on fuller, for the murder of Warren, and upon Fields, for the murder of Murphy.  But here was a still more solemn scene.  An aged father, his favorite son and his wife's brother---all standing before him to receive sentence of death.  The face of the judge was pale, his lips quivered, his tongue faltered, as he addressed the prisoners. The sentence of death by hanging was pronounced, but the usual conclusion, "And may God have mercy on your souls," was left struggling for utterance.
    A time for the execution was fixed at a distant day; but it soon rolled around.  The gallows was erected on the north bank of Fall creek, just above the falls, at the foot of the rising grounds you may see from the cars.  The hour for the execution had come.  Thousands surrounded the gallows.  A  Seneca chief, with his warriors, was posted near the brow of the hill.  Sawyer and Bridge, Sen., ascended the scaffold together, were executed in quick succession, and died without a struggle.  The vast audience were in tears.  The exclamation of the Senecas was interpreted---"We are statisfied."
An hour expired.  The bodies were taken down and laid in their coffins, when there was seen ascending the scaffold Bridge, Jr., the last of the convicts. His step was feeble, requiring the aid of the sheriff.  The rope was adjusted.  He threw his eyes around upon the audience and then down upon the coffins, where lay exposed the bodies of his father and uncle.  From that moment his wild gaze too clearly showed that the scene was too much for his youthful mind. Reason had partially left her throne and he stood wildly looking at the crowd, apparently unconscious of his position.  The last minute had come, when James Brown Ray, the governor of the State,  announced to the immense assemblage that the convict was pardoned. Never before did an audience more heartily respond, while there was a universal regret that the executive mercy had been deferred to the last moment.  Thus ended the only trials where convictions of murder were ever had, followed by the execution of white men, for killing Indians, in the United States.
    (An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana... Indianapolis 1875, pg 448-9)

Another title for this story by the same author is Early Indiana Trials and Sketch: Reminisences by Hon. O. H. Smith, Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co.: 1858.
This may be found in the American Culture Series, Early American Books and Pamphlets in the Field of Politics and Law (microfilm reel ACS #185)

Oliver Hampton Smith (1794-1859) was born on Smith Island, New Jersey. He settled in Lawrenceburgh, Indiana, in 1818, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1820. He served in the Indiana General Assembly in 1822-1824, then was prosecuting attorney for the third judicial district in 1824-1825. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1827 to 1829, and as a Whig was elected to one term in the United States Senate, 1837-1843. He founded the village of Yorktown in Delaware County, and there built a saw mill, grist mill, and fulling mill. In the last decade and a half of his life, he lived in Indianapolis. There he was interested in railroads, especially the Indianapolis and Bellefontain Railroad and the construction of the first Union Station. He had three children, of whom one, Marcus W. Smith, was a state representative and then mayor of Muncie.

Sources: Biographical Directory of U. S. Congress
              Biographical Directory of Indiana General Assembly, Vol. 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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