Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bloody Skirmish in Wayne County

Massacre of Indians In Wooster City

Early settlers in Wayne County generally lived in peace with the native population that existed prior to their arrival. So stories of turf wars between the two cultures are rare. But one incident does not adhere to this generality. The events of the incident occurred within the borders of present-day Wooster, Ohio, and is the only violent confrontation ever documented between settlers and natives in the area.

From their home somewhere near present-day Sandusky, a group of natives headed southeast on a foraging expedition. Their travel brought them to the banks of the Ohio, then to banks of Raccoon Creek, west of Pittsburgh, where they encountered a thriving village of white settlers.

Initially, the visiting natives befriended the villagers. But this turned out to be a ruse. The native visitors were full of hate for white settlers and were seeking to destroy them. When the opportunity arose to safely do so, the natives attacked the villagers, killing five and burning seven dwellings to the ground.

A party of 30 men was immediately assembled to pursue and punish the fleeing natives. Selected to lead this group was Captain George Fulkes. Fulkes had lived in the Raccoon Creek area with his family until, at the age of three, he was kidnapped by natives. He was raised in the ways of the natives and grew to adulthood in their culture, before being restored to his original family when his father "purchased" him from the tribe.

Fulkes in the years following his return to a settlers life had become a fierce indian fighter, and, according to Douglass, had turned the table on local warlike natives. Thus it was fortuitous to select him to lead the party of pursuers.

The Fulkes' party pursuit brought them to the Ohio River, where sometime earlier the fleeing natives had cleverly cut out the bottoms of their canoes and fled on foot. The pursuers quickly crossed the river and began to track the assailants.

Several days later Captain Fulkes and his men arrived at Robison's Hill, just south of Wooster. From this vantage point they observed the campfires of the offending natives. The location of this campfire was at the present-day intersection of South Beaver Street and Madison Avenue.

Cautiously, Fulkes decided to move his men to Rice's Hollow to await the rising of the full moon before instigating his attack plan. Once the time was right, Fulkes sprung his trap.

Fulkes men encircled the native encampment. On Fulkes' command, the men opened fire on the slumbering natives. When the smoke cleared all of the entrapped were dead. Or so it seemed.

A lone native from the group had been assigned the duty of checking game traps, and had escaped the deadly barrage of gunfire. Having heard the report of musketry, the native hurried back to the encampment. Once he neared the camp he shouted in his native dialect, "What's wrong?". Fulkes, having been raised as a native, was able to respond in the native's dialect. "Nothing is wrong, come forward", Fulkes said. With that the lone native moved towards Fulkes' men. An itchy-fingered member of Fulkes' party dispatched the lone native with his rifle. Retribution complete.

A shallow grave was dug at the site of the massacre, and the offending natives were laid to rest. Today, a marker resides as the location believed to be that of the final confrontation of the opposing forces. The burial sight can not be far away.
This historic marker is located at the approximate location of the Native American campsite where Fulkes and his party ended this saga of Wayne County history. The fallen are reportedly buried nearby.

Captain Fulkes eventually lived in Columbiana County, then Richland County, where it is said he died.

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