This story was actually part of the the article with the Squatter Life story in my previous post, but since it was a completely separate incident, I broke it into separate posts.
Who has not heard of the heroic Miss Elizabeth Zane, at Fort Henry, in 1777, where the city of Wheeling now stands?
When a large army of savages had been collected under the infamous Girty, and had attacked the fort, having killed in an outside skirmish several officers and men, fearful crisis had arrived. The fort was reduced to eleven men and boys. The houses of villages were occupied by the savage foe, who for the moment had ceased hostilities, and had withdrawn to the base of the hill, which rose abruptly and precipitously from the narrow valley.
The ammunition of the fort was nearly exhausted; and the stock must be replenished, or all would fall — men, women and children — a prey to the merciless savage. About sixty yards distant, at the house of Ebenezer Zane, there was a keg of powder. If that could be procured they would be enabled successfully to defend the fort, and keep the Indians at bay. Not a man or boy, for they were almost equally good marksmen, could be spared; and yet, some one must hazard his life in the undertaking. It was the forlorn hope of that little band, and on it their fate was to turn.
The commander, Col. Shepherd, called for a volunteer in this perilous undertaking. Several promptly offered their services, both men and boys; but they were the bravest of the band, and could least be spared. The difficulty seemed to be not so much in finding the heart stout enough for the fearful undertaking, but in making the selection. Just then, up stepped a slender, delicate girl. With the spirit of her father, she said to the commander,
“I will bring the powder. If I die in the attempt, my loss will not be felt.”
In vain they strove to dissuade her, she would most certainly be shot; besides she could not run with the fleetness of a man. All entreaties were vain, and she heroically exclaimed,
“Open the gates, and let me go!”
With tearful eyes the gates were opened, and the intrepid girl bounded toward the house. The moment she emerged from the fort she was seen by the Indians, who, instead of firing at her, seemed to be taken by surprise, and astonishment that for a moment suspended their murderous purpose. She reached the house, entered it, secured the desired keg, and started back to the fort. The soul of the heroic girl was in the effort, and bravely it sustained her. As she sped across the space with her burden, a dozen rifles were raised, and their sharp, simultaneous crack, seemed to announce her doom; but she neither fell nor faltered. On with accelerated speed she urged her way; and, passing the gates, she entered the fort in safety.
The deed of that brave girl saved the fort; and an advantage was gained over the savage from which they did not recover so as to renew their depredations in future on that frontier outpost. Pioneer life in the West abounds with incidents of female heroism; and the simple story of their deeds possesses a more thrilling interest than can be infused by the most fervent and fruitful imagination into any scene of fiction.
– Pioneer of the West.
Richland County Observer (Richland Center, Wisconsin) Aug 11, 1857
Interesting book on Google books, which mentions Fort Henry, but not this incident, that I could find:
Frontier defense on the upper Ohio, 1777-1778
By Reuben Gold Thwaites, Louise Phelps Kellogg, State Historical Society
Madison, Wisconsin Historical Society, 1912
LINK to the book
A similar book:
The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775-1777
edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites, Louise Phelps Kellogg
Wisconsin historical society, 1908
LINK to book
Both books: “compiled from the Draper manuscripts in the library of the Wisconsin historical society and published at the charge of the Wisconsin society of the Sons of the American revolution“
From the dedication and note:
For a hundred years the stories of Betty and Isaac Zane have been familiar, oft-repeated tales in my family–tales told with that pardonable ancestral pride which seems inherent in every one. My grandmother loved to cluster the children round her and tell them that when she was a little girl she had knelt at the feet of Betty Zane, and listened to the old lady as she told of her brother’s capture by the Indian Princess, of the burning of the Fort, and of her own race for life. I knew these stories by heart when a child.
Two years ago my mother came to me with an old note book which had been discovered in some rubbish that had been placed in the yard to burn. The book had probably been hidden in an old picture frame for many years. It belonged to my great-grandfather, Col. Ebenezer Zane. From its faded and time-worn pages I have taken the main facts of my story. My regret is that a worthier pen than mine has not had this wealth of material.
“HISTORY OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA”
EDITED BY BOYD CRUMRINE
If you are interested in an account of the torture/death of Colonel Crawford (witnessed by Simon Girty, mentioned in the above article,) after clicking HERE, scroll down about to the sub-heading:
126 – HISTORY OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.
WARNING! It is very gruesome.