File 001 Ireland

Pg.4
Address of Judge Thomas M. Bigger


 

The first year of their residence here, Thomas Bigger planted some corn in the clearing, and afterwards went on one of these trips for supplies.  During his absence she cultivated the corn.  Having a baby she placed it in a sugar trough, in lieu of a cradle, and placed this trough in the shade of a tree.

 

       In the spring of 1774, the same spring they established their home here, the women and old men belonging to the family of the Indian Chief Logan were brutally and treacherously murdered at the mouth of Yellow Creek by some renegade white men, while Logan and his party were absent hunting. This, of course, sent Logan and his people on the warpath to revenge

that outraged.  The place of this murder could not have been more than fifteen to eighteen miles distant from the Bigger home.  This and other outrages by the whites, against the Indians, such as the more extensive massacre of the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten on the banks of theTuscarawas, filled the Ohio Indians with a spirit of revenge, which spared neither age nor sex.  We have often heard the old people in our family say that their parents often fled from their cabin, upon hearing rumors that the Indians were on the warpath.  On one occasion they were just sitting down to dinner when the warning came, and closing the cabin door they fled without waiting to eat.  On their return they found the cabin just as they had left it with the food on the table. 

 

       This brings us to an incident, which came near to rendering impossible any reunions of the descendants of Thomas and Elizabeth Bigger.  The reference is to the massacre, by the Indians, of the people who were in Fort Dillow.  The location of this fort was on the south bank of Dillow's Run, a tributary of Raccoon Creek, entering it from the west, the mouth of the run being opposite to the residence of A. D. Bigger, the brother of the writer of this sketch, and our boyhood home.  This little fort was built by Thomas Bigger and Dillow, whose home was there,and at least two other men, whose names we do not know.  It is built after the usual pattern of such forts, with a stockade surrounding it. It is location was about a mile, or a mile and a half, up the stream from its mouth.  The place was always called Fort Dillow, although in our time there was no fort there, but its position was marked by a tree of unusual variety in the neighborhood.  We were told that, on one occasion, a woman riding to the Fort, had stuck the end of her riding switch in the ground where it took root and grew.  The writer remembers seeing the tree, but does not know whether or not it is there to the present day.  These four men, being neighbors and located upon the extreme frontier, felt that they should have a fort nearby, to which they might resort in case of danger, without being compelled to flee to a more distant place of safety.  On the occasion to which reference is now made, these four men with their families had taken refuge in the fort, by reason of an alarm that the Indians were on the warpath.

 

       During the night, Thomas Bigger said, a man named Quinn, whom he had known in Ireland, and who lived farther to the east, rode by and called over the stockade that a large party of Indians were crossing the Ohio, and that they should leave the little fort and escape to the east.  It would seem that no one else in the fort heard this.  When he informed the others of what he had heard, they said he must have been asleep and that it was only a dream.  He insisted that he was awake and urged them that they should all leave the fort.  This they refused to do.  As soonas it became light enough to see to travel he started, with his family, for a stronger fort located probably twelve or fifteen miles to the east on Miller's Run, believing that when the others saw him leaving; they would believe him and follow.  They, however, remained behind.  Some time during the day, the little fort was surrounded by a large body of Indians, who soon captured it and took all the inmates of the place

prisoner.  The Indians then with their prisoners started back toward the Ohio River.  On the way, in one of the deep ravines which lead down to the Ohio, they massacred the entire party, except one of the Dillow children, a boy about fourteen years of age, whom they carried with them and adopted into the tribe.  This boy remained with the Indians for ten years.  When he returned to the settlements, for the first time the people of the frontier learned that fate of the inmates of Fort Dillow.

 

The young man said he believed he could find the place where themassacre occurred, and took a party to the spot, where they found the bones of the unfortunate inmates of Fort Dillow scattered upon the ground.  Thomas Bigger and his wife and children escaped safely to the Fort on Miller's Run.  Some time after this occurrence Thomas Bigger met Quinn and inquired of him how he came to be at the fort that night, and was informed that he never was there.  We have frequently heard these

old people in our family say that their father always insisted, as long as he lived, that on that night he was as wide awake as he ever was in his life when he heard Quinn's voice.  The writer has no explanation for this, but it is as well established as any other fact in the early history of the family, and we probably heard this incident discussed by the old people more than any other and they had no explanation for it. 

 

       After making their escape to the fort on Miller's Run they found there a group of settlers numbering at least thirteen, and a substantial fort. There may have been more men that the thirteen, but we have the names of these thirteen set down in the diary of a no less accurate chronicler of passing events than George Washington, the Father of his Country.  The writer of this sketch has a copy of Washington's Diary, containing an account of his trip to the West in the autumn of 1784, in which the name of Thomas Bigger appears, along with twelve others.  After the destruction of Fort Dillow, and the disappearance of its inmates, Thomas Bigger feared to return with his family to his former residence, but purchased a farm from one of two brothers named, McBride, whose descendants have lived side by side with the Biggers from that day to this.  He immediately went to work, building himself another house and clearing land.  This labor lasted for seven years, we have often heard

the old people say.

George Washington Himself

 

       But their troubles were not yet over.  The Revolutionary War having come to an end, the Father of his Country turned his attention to his own business interests.  They had long been neglected.  Having property west of the Alleghenies, he mounted his horse at Mt. Vernon and rode across the range.  He first visited the site of a mill owned by him near Fort

Pitt, which he had leased before the war to a man named Gilbert Simpson, with the object of settling with him under the terms of the contract. Having concluded his negotiations with Simpson, he next turned his attention to some land, which he claimed, on Miller's Run in this county.  As our venerable ancestors were living on this land, under claim of ownership, this incident is of peculiar interest to us.  We often heard the story from these old people of the visit of Washington to their home on Miller's Run, but never dreamed there was in existence an account of this incident, written by George Washington himself.  The writer of this sketch has a copy of Washington's own account of this transaction, in a volume entitled, "Washington and the West", written by Professor Hurlburt, of Marietta College.  The same account may be found In a publication of Washington's Diaries by the ladies of Mt. Vernon Association, which may be found in almost any well-equipped public library.  These Scotch-Irish settlers on Miller's Run having heard of Washington's coming, and of his claim to be the owner of their land, sent a deputation to see him, while he was still at Gilbert Simpson's. They were unable to reach any settlement with Washington and returned home.  On the 18th of September 1784, Washington set out from Gilbert

Simpson's, in company with Dr. Craik, who accompanied him on his journey, to visit the land he claimed on Miller's Run.

The Colony of Virginia had made land grants to her soldiers who served in the French and Indian Wars.  These grants for certain definite amounts of land, and the written evidence of these grants were often sold by the owner.  One  of Washington's neighbors at Mt. Vernon, a man named, Posey, sold his grant for nearly three thousand acres to Washington.  These grants of wild lands, belonging to the Colony of Virginia, lying in the forests beyond the Alleghenies, were accounted of little value by the recipients of them.  But Washington had a vision of the future growth of the country beyond the Alleghenies which few, if any, others of his contemporaries had.  And the Father of his Country was thrifty.  He, therefore, commissioned Colonel Crawford, his friend and an early surveyor like himself, to select for him a body of good land of the

amount called for by Posey's grant, and to do whatever was necessary to perfect this title.  Colonel Crawford, who was later burned at the stake by the Indians near Upper Sandusky, Ohio, chose this land on which these  Scotch-Irish settlers

were afterwards living.  True, it was not within the boundaries of the Colony of Virginia, but was within the boundaries of Penn's Grant.

Mason's and Dixon's Line, however, had not yet been established, except to the summit of the Alleghenies from the east, for the reason that the Indians refused to permit the Commissioners of the King to cross the Alleghenies, and they had returned home.  For many years thereafter it was unknown whether the land lying west of the Monongahela River was part of Virginia or belonged to Pennsylvania.  Washington had paid Posey about twelve pounds, equivalent to about sixty dollars, for nearly three thousand acres of land on Miller's Run.  Compare sixty dollars for nearly three thousand acres of the best land on Miller's Run, underlaid with valuable seams of coal, within a few miles of Pittsburgh, and you will agree that Washington was a man who had a vision of the future.