Pittsburgh - New Kensington - Butler - Leechburg - Natrona Heights - Kittanning - Freeport
Tarentum - Lower Burrell - Vandergrift - Ford City - Hyde Park - Fox Chapel - Brackenridge

Your Guide to the
Alle-Kiski Valley
and the Greater
Pittsburgh Area

March 29, 2017


Go Outside    



Back Issues    

History - Pioneers - Massa Harbison

The Escape

Then I concluded it was time to escape. I found it impossible to injure him for my child at the breast, as I could not effect any thing without putting the child down, and then it would cry, and give the alarm; so I contented myself with taking from a pillow case of plunder, taken from our house, a short gown, handkerchief and a child's frock, and so made my escape; the sun then being about half an hour high.

I took a direction from home, at first, being guided by the birds before mentioned, and in order to deceive the Indians; then took over the hill, and struck the Conequenessing Creek, about two miles where I crossed it with the Indians, and went down the stream till about two o'clock in the afternoon, over rocks, precipices, thorns, briers, &c. with my bare feet and legs. I then discovered by the sun, and the running of the stream, that I was on the wrong course, and going from, instead of coming nearer home. I then changed my course, ascended a hill, and sat down till sunset, and the evening star made its appearance, when I discovered the way I should travel; and having marked-out the direction I intended to take the next morning, I collected some leaves, made up a bed, and laid myself down and slept, though my feet being full of thorns, began to be extremely painful, and I had nothing still to eat for myself or child.

The next morning, (Friday, 25th of May) about the breaking of the day, I was aroused from my slumbers, by the flock of birds before mentioned, which still continued with me, and having them to guide me through the wilderness. As soon as it was sufficiently light for me to find my way, I started for the fourth day's trial, of hunger and fatigue.

There was nothing very material occurred on this day while I was traveling, and I made the best of my way, according to my knowledge, toward the Allegheny river. In the evening about the going down of the sun, a moderate rain came on, and I began to prepare for my bed, by collecting some leaves together, as I had done the night before; but could not collect a sufficient quantity, without setting my little boy on the ground; but as soon as I put him out of my arms, he began to cry. Fearful of the consequence of his noise in this situation, I took him in my arms, and put him to the breast immediately, and he became quiet. I then stood and listened and distinctly heard the footsteps of a man, coming after me, in the same direction I had come! The ground over which I had been traveling was good, and the mould was light; I had therefore left my foot-marks, and thus exposed myself to a second captivity! Alarmed at my perilous situation, I looked around for a place of safety, and providentially discovered a large tree which had fallen; into the tops of which I crept, with my child in my arms, and there I hid myself securely under the limbs. The darkness of the night greatly assisted me, and prevented me from detection.

The footsteps I heard were those of a savage. He heard the cry of the child, and came to the very spot where the child cried, and there he halted, put down his gun, and was at this time so near, that I heard the wiping stick strike against his gun distinctly.

My getting in under the tree, and sheltering myself from the rain, and pressing my boy to my bosom, got him warm, and most providentially he fell asleep, and lay very still during the time of my danger at that time. All was still and quiet, the savage was listening, if by possibility he might again hear the cry he had heard before. My own heart was the only thing I feared, and that beat so loud, that I was apprehensive it would betray me. It is almost impossible to conceive, or to believe, the wonderful effect my situation produced upon my whole system.

After the savage had stood and listened with nearly the stillness of death, for two hours, the sound of a bell, and a cry like that of a night owl, signals which were given to him from his savage companions, induced him to answer, and after he had given a most horrid yell, which was calculated to harrow up my soul, he started and went off to join them.

The fifth day, Saturday, 26th of May, wet and exhausted, hungry and wretched, I started from my resting place in the morning, as soon as I could see my way, and on that morning struck the head waters of Pine Creek, which falls into the Allegheny about four miles above Pittsburgh; though I knew not then what waters they were, but I crossed them, and the opposite bank I found a path, and discovered in it two mockasin tracks, fresh indented, and the men who had made them were before me, and traveling on the same direction that I was traveling. This alarmed me; but as they were before me, and traveling in the same direction as I was, I concluded I could see them as soon as they could see me, and therefore I pressed on in that path for about three miles, when I came to the forks where another branch empties into the creek, and where was a hunter's camp, where the two men, whose tracks I had before discovered and followed, had been, and kindled a fire and breakfasted, and had left the fire burning.

I here became more alarmed, and came to a determination to leave the path. I then ascended a hill, and crossed a ridge towards Squaw run, and came upon a trail or path. Here I stopped and meditated what to do; and while I was thus musing, I saw three deers coming towards me in full speed; they turned around to look at their pursuers; I looked too with all attention, and saw the flash of a gun, and then heard the report as soon as the gun was fired. I saw some dogs start after them, and began to look about for a shelter, and immediately made for a large log and hid myself behind it; but most providentially, I did not go clear to the log; had I done so, I might have lost my life by the bites of rattle-snakes; for as I put my hand to the ground, to raise myself that I might see what was become of the hunters, and who they were, I saw a large heap of rattle-snakes, and the top one was very large and coiled up very near my face, and quite ready to bite me. This compelled me to leave this situation, let the consequences be what they might.

In consequence of this occurrence, I again left my course, bearing to the left, and came upon the head waters of Squaw Run, and kept down the run the remainder of that day.

During the day it rained, and I was in a very deplorable situation; so cold and shivering were my limbs, that frequently in opposition to all my struggles, I gave an involuntary groan. I suffered intensely this day, from hunger, though my jaws were so far recovered from the injury they sustained from the blows of the Indians, that wherever I could, I procured some grape vines, and chewed them for a little sustenance. In the evening I came within one mile of the Allegheny river, though I was ignorant of it at the time; and there at the root of a tree, through a most tremendous night's rain, I took up my fifth night's lodgings, and in order to shelter my infant from the storm, as much as possible, I placed him in my lap, and placed my head against the tree, and thus let the rain fall upon me.

On the sixth (that was Sabbath) morning from my captivity, I found myself unable for a very considerable time, to raise myself from the ground; and when I had once more, by hard struggling, got myself upon my feet, and started upon the sixth day's encounter, nature was so nearly exhausted, and my spirits were so completely depressed, that my progress was amazingly slow and discouraging.

The Return

Copyright 1999-2014 by Darren McPhilimy, All Rights Reserved.