The Indian Murders by A. F. Shirts -1824 - 1905 (transcribed as it appears in Primitive History Of Hamilton County, Ind - 1901)
**Note: The history recorded by Mr. Shirts was done so in a time before political correctness. We transcribed portions of his work so that the reader may experience it as it was described from 1st and 2nd hand accounts, in authenticity of mood and reflections of its time in history. We honor all those who wove the fabric of this nation's greatness and hope you will celebrate with us by respecting all groups and their contributions to bring us to who we are today through their sacrifice and endurance.
As early as 1821 two cabins were built in what is known as Fall Creek Township. One of these cabins was built on the south bank of Fall Creek at the mouth of Thorpe's Creek. This creek had not received its present name at that time. The other cabin was built on the north bank of Fall Creek on the land that was owned by John Patterson at the time of his death, and near where the old Indian trace, leading from Noblesville to Greenfield, crossed the creek. These tow cabins were found vacated by the first permanent settlers of Fall Creek Township, and they never knew who built them. The writer of this history learned by accident that the last named cabin was built by a man by the name of Bridge, and , as will be shown hereafter, it is probable that the first named cabin was built by a man by the same of Sawyer, who was a brother-in-law to Bridge. Bridge frequently visited the trading post of William Conner. There was, at the time, an Indian trail leading past Bridge's cabin from the east to William Conner's trading post, and when asked what he was doing he said hunting and trapping. 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 northeast of the present site of Pendleton. At this time the country was new and the population scattered here and there in the woods. Game was plenty and the Indian hunting grounds had not been forsaken by many of the tribes. The country around the camping grounds of the Indians was a dense, unbroken forest, and although these Indians were friendly, the white settlers felt some alarm and kept a watchful eye upon them. The principal Indian was named Ludlow; the other man was called Mingo. The Indians commenced their season of hunting and trapping the men with their guns and the squas setting the traps, preparing and cooking the game and caring for the children... two boys some ten years old and two girls of more than tender years. A week had rolled around and the success of the Indians had been only fiar, with better prospects ahead. As the spring was opening and raccoons were beginning to leave their holes in the trees in search of the 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 wood five white men, Harper, Sawyer, Hudson, Bridge Sr. and Bridge Jr. Harper was the leader and stepping up to Ludlow, took him by the hand and told him that 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 and Bridge Sr. trailed Mingo, keeping some fifty yards behind. They traveled some short distance from the camp, when Harper shot 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 shoulder and passing through his body, killing him instantly. The party then met and proceeded with gunshot of the camp. Sawyer then shot one of the squaws through the head. She fell and died without a struggle. Bridge Sr. shot another squaw and Bridge Jr. the other. Both fell dead. Sawyer then fired at the oldest boy, but only wounded him. The other children shot by some of the party. Harper then led on to the camp, where the squaws, one boy and two girls lay dead. The oldest boy was still living and Sawyer took him by the legs and knocked his brains out against the end of the log. The came was then robbed of everything worth carrying away. Harper, supposed to be the ring leader, left immediately and was never taken. Hudson, Sawyer and Bridge Sr. and Bridge Jr., were arrested and confined in a square log jail, built of heavy beech and sugar tree logs, notched down closely and fitted tight above, below and on the sides, all heavily ironed. Hudson was a man about middle size, with a bad look, dark eye and busy hair and about thirty five years of age. Sawyer was about the same, rather heavier than Hudson, but there was nothing in his appearance that could have marked him in the crowd as any other than a common farmer. Bridge Sr., was much older than Sawyer, his head was quite gray. He was above the common height, slender and a little bent when standing. Bridge Jr, was some eighteen years of age, tall stripling. Bridge Sr. was the father of Bridge Jr. ans I have said, and the brother-in-law of Sawyer. The news of these Indian murders flew upon the wings of the wind. The settlers became greatly alarmed, fearing the retaliatory vengeance of the tribes and especially the other bands of Senecas. The facts reached Mr. John Johnston, at the Indian agency at Piqua O. An account of the murders was sent from the agency to the War Department at Washington City. Col Johnston and William Conner visited all of the Indian tribes and assured them that the Government would punish the offenders, and obtained the promise 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 in the north part of Pendleton with two rooms, one for the court and the other for the grand jury. The court room was about 20x30 feet, with a heavy puncheon floor and a platform at one end, three feet high with a strong railing in front. It had a bench for the judges, a plain table for the clerk, in front on the floor along bench for the counsel, a little pen for the 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 William Wick, presiding judge; Samuel Holliday and Adam Winchel, associate judges. Judge Wick was young on the bench, but had had much experience in criminal trials. Judge Winchel was one of the best and most conscientious of men. He was a blacksmith by trade and had ironed the prisoners. He was honest, but illiterate man. Both associate judges were without any pretensions to legal knowledge. Moses Cox was the clerk. He could barely write his name. Samuel Cory, the sheriff, was a fine specimen of a woods Hoosier, without fear of man nor beast, with a voice that made the woods ring as he called the jurors and witnesses. The State was thus prepared for the trials. In the meantime the Government was not sleeping. Col. Johnston, the Indian agent, was directed to attend the trials to see that the witnesses were present and to pay their fees. Gen. James Noble, then a United States Senator, was employed by the Secretary of War to prosecute, with power to fee and assistant. Philip Sweetzer, a young son-in-law of the General, of high promise in his profession, was selected by the General as his assistant. Calvin Fletcher was the regular prosecuting attorney, then a young man of more than ordinary ability, and a good criminal layer. The only inn at Pendleton was a new frame house near the creek. When the day for the trial of Hudson, one of the prisoners, arrived, a number of the distinguished lawyers of this State were in attendance and several from State of Ohio. Among the most noted I name Gen. James Noble, Philip Sweetzer, Harvey Clegg, Lot Bloomfield, James Rariden, Charles Zest, Calvin Fletcher, Daniel Wick and William Morris of this State. Two from Ohio were Gen. Sampson Mason and Moses Vance. Judge Wick was absent in the morning and William Morris arose and moved the associate judges as follows: "I ask that these gentlemen be admitted as attorneys and counselors at this bar. They are regular practitioners, but have not brought their licenses with them." Then the following took place: Judge Winchel - "Have they come here to defend the prisoners?" Mr. Morris - "The most of them have." Judge Winchel - "Let them be sworn, nobody but a lawyer world defend a murderer." Mr. Morris - "I move the court for a writ of habeas corpus to bring up the prisoners now legally confined in jail." Judge Winchel-"For what?" Mr. Morris- "A writ of habeas corpus." Judge Winchel- "What do you want to do with it? Mr. Morris- "To bring up the prisoners and have them discharged." Judge Winchel- "Is there any law for that?" Mr. Morris read the statute regulating the writ of habeas corpus. Judge Winchel- "That act, Mr. Morris, has been repealed long ago." "Your Honor is mistaken," replied Mr. Morris, "it is a constitutional writ as old as Magna Charta itself." "Well, Mr. Morris, to cut the matter short," said the Judge, "it will do you no good to bring out the prisoners. I ironed them myself, and you will never get those irons off until they have been tried, habeas corpus or no habeas corpus. Motion overruled." Judge Wick then entered and took his seat between the two side judges. Judge Wick - "Call the grand jury." All answered to their names and were sworn. Court then adjourned for dinner. After dinner the court met and the grand jury brought an indictment for murder, drawn by Mr. Fletcher against Hudson. Counsel on both sides- "Bring the prisoners into the court." The Court- "Sheriff put a jury in the box." Sheriff-"May it please the Court, Dr. Highday just handed me a list of names to call on the jury." Judge Wick ordered the Doctor brought into court. Dr. Highday- "Did Your Honor wish to see me?" Judge Wick- "Dr. Highday, is this your handwriting?" Doctor- "I presume it is."
Judge Wick- "Dr. Highday, we have no jail to put you in, as the one we have is full, so hear your sentence. It is the judgement of the Court that you be banished from the court grounds until the trials are over. Sheriff, see that the judgement of the Court is carried strictly into execution." Hudson, the prisoner, was brought into court by the deputy sheriff and two of the guards. His appearance had greatly changed since his arrest and imprisonment with his comrades in crime. He was now pale, haggard and downcast, and with a faltering voice answered on his arraignment, "Not guilty." The petite jury were hardy, honest pioneers, wearing moccasins and side knives. The evidence occupied but a single day, and was positively closing every door of hope to the prisoner. The prosecuting attorney read the 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 tin glowing colors the early massacre of white men, women and children by the Indians, reading the principal incident in the history of Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton, relating their cruelties and the battles of Blue Licks and Bryant's Station, and not forgetting the defeat of Braddock, St. Clair and Harmar. Gen. James Nobles 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 justice, patriotism and love of the laws, 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 to nation or color; that the murder of an Indian was equally as criminal in the law as the murder of a white man. The jury retired in the evening and in the morning brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree. A motion for a new trial was overruled; the prisoner was brought into court and the sentence of death pronounced in the most solemn manner by Judge Wick. The tinme for execution was fixed for a distant day. In the mean time Hudson made his escape from the guard one dark night and hid himself in a hollow login the woods, where he was found and arrested. Time rolled on. The fatal day for the execution arrived. Multitudes of people were there, and among them were seen several Senecas, relatives of the murdered Indians. The gallows were erected just above the falls on Fall Creek and the north side. The people covered the surrounding hills, and at the appointed hour, Hudson, by the forfeiture of his life, made the last earthly atonement for his crime. The other cases were continued until next term of court.
Trial of Sawyer
Monday morning of the next term came, and court met. Judge Eggleston and Judges Adam Winchel and Samuel Holliday, associate judges, took their seats with Moses Cox at the clerk's desk, Samuel Cory on the sheriff's platform and Col. John Berry, captain of the guards, leaning against the logs. The grand jury was called, sworn and charged, and court adjourned for dinner. In the afternoon the evidence of the main witnesses was heard. O. H. Smith, prosecuting attorney, had prepared indictments in his office in Indianapolis. These he presented to the foreman of the grand jury. The foreman signed the bills on his knee, and they were returned into court before the adjournment that night. The court met the next morning. It was agreed between counsel for the State and defense that Sawyer should be tried first for the shooting of one of the squaws. The prisoner was brought into court. He appeared haggard and very much changed by his long confinement. The court room was crowded. Gen. James Noble, hilip Sweetzer and O. H. Smith appeared for the State and James Rariden, Lot Bloomfield, William Morris and Charles Zest for the prisoner. Judge Eggleston - "Sheriff, call the petit jury." Judge Winchel - "Sheriff call Squire Makepeace on the jury, he will be a good juror. He will not let on of these murderers get away." Judge Eggleston turning to Judge Winchell- "This will never do. What, the Court pick a jury to try a capital case?" The jury was soon impaneled. The evidence was conclusive that the prisoner had shot one of the squaws at the camp after killing of Ludlow and Mingo by Harper and Hudson. This jury, too, were a hardy, heavy bearded set of men, with side knives in their belts, and all wore moccasins. Mr. Sweetzer opened for the State with a strong speech. He was followed in able speeches by Mr. Morrison, Mr. Zest and Mr. Rariden for the prisoner. General Noble closed for the State. The case went to the jury under an able charge from Judge Eggleston and court adjourned for dinner. At the meeting of court after dinner, the jury returned the verdict of guilty of manslaughter, two years of hard labor in the penitentiary. Sawyer was immediately put upon trial before the same jury for the murder of the Indian boy at camp. The evidence was heard and was conclusive against the prisoner. Able speeches were made by counsel for the State and also for the prisoner. The jury was charged by the Court and retired for deliberation. After an absence of only a few minutes the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. The prisoner was remanded and court adjourned.
The next morning the case of Bridge Sr. for shooting a little girl at the Indian camp was called. The prisoner entered with the sheriff. A jury was impaneled. The proof was positive. The case was argued as in the case of Sawyer; the jury was charged and after a few minutes' of absence, returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree.
The only remaining case, the one of the young Bridge for the shooting of 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, but with a recommendation to the Governor for a pardon in consequence of his youth, in which the Court and bar joined. The trials closed, motions for new trials overruled and court adjourned until the next day. The next morning the prisoners were brought into court and the sentence of death was pronounced. The time for the execution was fixed for a distant day, but it soon rolled around. The gallows were erected on the north bank of Fall Creek,just above the falls. When the hour for the execution had arrived, thousands surrounded the gallows. A Seneca chief, with his warriors, was posted near the brow of the hill. Sawyer and Bridge Sr. ascended the scaffold together, and were executed in quick succession, and died without a struggle. The vast audience was in tears. The exclamation of the Senecas was interpreted, "We are satisfied." 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 bodies of his father and his uncle. From that moment his wild gaze too clearly showed that the scene had been too much for his youthful mind. Reason and partially left her throne and he stood wildly looking at the crowd, apparently unconscious of his position. The last minute had come, when James B. Kay, Governor of the State, announced to the immense assemblage that the convict was pardoned. Perhaps 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 first trials in the United States where convictions for murder were had and followed by the executions of white men for killing Indians.
Bridge Sr. Bridge Jr. and Sawyer resided in Fall Creek Township, Hamilton County, Indiana. Hudson lived in Hancock County, Indiana, very near Sawyer and Bridge Sr. It was not known where Harper lived. It was evident that the conspiracy to murder these Indians was formed in Hamilton County, Indiana and as three of the guilty parties resided therein, it is proper that the whole circumstance should be related in this work. The main facts in connection with the murders and the trials of the murderers, I have taken from the reports of the murders and trials written by O. H. Smith and published n his work entitled, "Early Indiana Trials and Sketches." The other facts I learned from the old settlers.