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October 03, 2023


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History - Pioneers - Massa Harbison


In this almost helpless condition, I had not gone far, before I came to a path where there had been cattle traveling, I took the path under the impression that it would lead me to the abode of some white people, and by traveling it about one mile, I came to an uninhabited cabin! and though I was in a river bottom, yet I knew not where I was, nor yet on what river bank I had come. Here I was seized with the feelings of despair, and under those feelings I went to the uninhabited cabin, and concluded that I would enter and lie down and die; as death would have been to me an angel of mercy in such a situation, and would have removed me from all my misery!

Such were my feelings at this distressing moment, and had it not been for the recollection of those sufferings which my infant would endure, who would survive for some time after I was dead, I should have carried my determination into execution. Here, too, I heard the sound of a cow bell, which imparted a gleam of hope to my descending mind! I followed the sound of the bell, till I came opposite to the fort at the point of the six mile Island.

When I came there, I saw three men on the opposite bank of the river. My feelings at the sight of these were better felt than they can be described. I called to them, but they seemed unwilling to risk the danger of coming after me and asked who I was. I replied, that I was one who had been taken prisoner by the Indians on the Allegheny river on last Tuesday morning and had made my escape from them. They requested me to walk up the bank of the river awhile that they might see if the Indians were making a decoy of me, but I replied to them that my feet were so sore that I could not walk.

Then one of them, James Closier, got into a canoe to fetch me over, and the other two stood on the bank with their rifles cocked, ready to fire on the Indians, provided they were using me as a decoy. When Mr. Closier came near and saw my haggard and dejected appearance, he exclaimed, 'who in the name of God are you?' This man was one of my nearest neighbors, yet in six days I was so much altered that he did not know me, either by my voice or my countenance.

When I landed on the inhabited side of the river, the people from the fort came running out to the boat to see me: they took the child from me, and now I felt safe from danger, I found myself unable to move, or to assist myself in any degree. Whereupon the people took me, and carried me out of the boat to the house of Mr. Cortus.

Here, when I felt I was secure from the ravages and cruelties of the barbarians, for the first time since my captivity, my feelings returned with all their poignancy! The tears flowed freely, imparting a happiness beyond what I ever experienced. When I was taken into the house the heat of the fire, and the smell of the victuals, which the kindness of the People immediately induced them to provide for me, caused me to faint. Some of the people attempted to restore me, and some of them put some clothes upon me. But the kindness of these friends would, in all probability, have killed me, had it not been for the providential arrival, from down the river, of Major M'Culley, who then commanded the line along the river. When he came in and saw my situation, and the provisions they were making for me, he became greatly alarmed, and immediately ordered me out of the house, from the heat and smell;-prohibited my taking anything but the whey of buttermilk, and that in very small quantities, which he administered with his own hands. Through this judicious management of my almost last situation, I was mercifully restored again to my senses, and very gradually to my health and strength.

Two of the females, Sarah Carter and Mary Anne Crozier, then began to take out the thorns from my feet and legs; and Mr. Felix Negley, who now lives at the mouth of Bull Creek, twenty miles above Pittsburgh, stood by and counted the thorns, as the women took them out; and there were one hundred and fifty drawn out, though they were not all extracted at that time, for the next evening, at Pittsburgh, there were many more taken out. The flesh was mangled dreadfully, and the skin and flesh were hanging in pieces, on my feet and legs. The wounds were not healed for a considerable time. Some of the thorns went through my feet, and came out on the top. For two weeks I was unable to put my feet to the ground to walk.

Besides which, the rain to which I was exposed by night, and the heat of the sun, to which my almost naked body was exposed by day, together with my carrying my child so long in my arms, without any relief, and any shelter from the heat of the day or the storms of the night, caused nearly all the skin of my body to come off, so that my body was raw nearly all over.

The two men's tracks which I had followed down the run, referred to before, and which made me so much afraid were two spies, James Amberson and John Thompson, who arrived at the station very soon after me.


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