Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Mohawk’

Mother and Five Children Murdered by Seneca Indian

February 23, 2009
The Old Stone House, Slippery Rock PA

The Old Stone House, Slippery Rock PA

This house was near where the murders took place, and is mentioned in one of the articles below.

From the Butler Herald.

A Mother and her Five Children Murdered!!

A most shocking and brutal murder was committed in Slipperyrock township, this county, on this morning, by an Indiam calling himself Samuel Mohawk. We have been enabled to gather the following particulars of the horrid tragedy. Mr. James Wigton had left his house early in the morning for the purpose of going to his father’s to borrow from him a horse to plough corn, leaving his wife and five children at home. While he was absent, the Indian came there, and as appears from his confession, murdered Mrs. Wigton and her five children by beating out their brains with stones. Mrs. Wigton and the youngest child were not quite dead, when first discovered. The Indian then proceeded to a Mr. Kennedy’s house, and made an attack on him and his family — injuring a son of Mr. Kennedy very severely, perhaps dangerously, by hitting him on the head with a large stone. After being driven off by Mr. Kennedy, he next went to Mr. Kiester’s, where he was captured, after a desperate resistance, in which a man named Blair was seriously injured. He was taken to Wigton’s and confessed the murder, and said he way sorry for it.

An Inquest was held on the dead bodies, and the jury returned a verdict that the murdered persons came to their deaths by the hands of Samuel Mohawk.

Mrs. Wigton was about thirty-five years of age — the children, three girls, and two boys, were aged about eleven, nine, five, three, and one, years.

The Indian is now in jail, and will be tried at the September Sessions. We understand that he lives in Cattaraugus county, N.Y. This unfortunate wretch remained in this place for a day or two previous to the commission of the above horrid deed, and complained of being sick.

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jul 3, 1843

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TRIAL OF MOHAWK. — The trial of SAMUEL MOHAWK, for the murder of the wife and five children of Mr. JAMES WIGTON, commenced in the Oyer and Terminer of this county on Wednesday the 13th, and resulted on Saturday in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. A motion was immediately made by his counsel for a new trial. This motion will be argued, and, we presume, decided at our adjourned court on the third Monday in January next.  — Butler Herald

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jan 1, 1844

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THE ruins of the Butler county Court house call up many interesting reminiscences says the Oil City Blizzard; But one murder received the death sentence in the old building. It was in 1869, I believe that a young farmer named Hockenberry, living on Muddy creek, asked the hand of Minnie McCandless, the daughter of a neighboring farmer. She refused him and he was so grieved and disappointed that he had determined to kill her. One bleak, dismal night in the late fall, he crept up to the old farm house and peering through the window, saw the rosy cheeked girl sitting by a cheerful fire. His pistol aim was deadly and the poor creature fell  over dead, while the blood slowly oozed from the wound in her head. The trial of the young farmer lasted several days, and Judge McGuffin pronounced the sentence which was soon after executed in the county jail yard. This lead back to the only other execution in the county, in 1843, Mohawk, a raftman, was returning from Pittsburgh to Orlean, N.Y. He was drunk when he left the stage about 12 miles below here, and the tavern keeper refused to keep him over night. The drunken and enraged red man sought the house of James Wigton.

Wigton was absent and the Indian wreaked his vengeance against the white people by murdering Mrs. Wigton and five children. The butchery was brutal, almost beyond savagery. The neighbors gave chase to Mohawk, and with great difficulty made him prisoner. His trial caused much interest and excitement at the time as old newspapers show; He was the first person executed in the county.

Indiana Weekly Messenger (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Jan 16, 1884

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1843 Massacre Near Stone House Described By Speaker At Meeting

The 1843 murder of a mother and her five children — reportedly the last Indian massacre in Pennsylvania — was described last night at a meeting of the Venango County Historical Society.

Lloyd Bromley of  Seneca, retired Venango Campus professor and a close student of Indian history in this area, used the Old Stone House as the theme of his talk in the Franklin Library.

HE TOLD of the Wigton Massacre of 1843 near the Stone House, historical event which he has researched in detail. In that massacre Mrs. James Wigton and her five children were slain by Samuel Mohawk, a Seneca Indian from Cataragus County, N.Y., on Saturday, June 30, 1843.

Bromley said Mohawk arrived in Butler from Pittsburgh after he had helped bring a raft of logs to Pittsburg from the Upper Alleghney.

After a brief stay in Butler, Sam took the stage for the interchange at Stone House Tavern.

In the evening he wound up in a fight with the proprietor, John Sill. Sill broke a chair over Sam’s head and shoulders and put him out of the tavern.

The next day Mohawk wandered back up the road, a mile north of Stone House, and entered the grounds of the Wigton home.

“Just what prompted the struggle we are at a loss to know,” Bromley said.

“Crazed with white man’s liquor, having lost his sense of moral values, abused and beaten, he attacked Mrs. Wigton as she defended herself and her brood.

“Leaving her lying there in the yard, he entered the home to complete his infamous work. Finding the baby in the kitchen cradle was not a girl, he bashed its brains out.

“Searching around he found a stone in the washhouse fireplace used there in place of an iron. He took it and went upstairs to the bedroom where the other four children were sleeping and beat their brains out.

“Meanwhile Mrs. Wigton with one hand partly severed crawled into the kitchen only to be dispatched a few minutes later by Sam Mohawk.”

A neighbor’s son found Mrs. Wigton in a pool of blood in the kitchen. Her face was badly beaten and one hand almost severed.

The boy called his parents and the tragic news quickly spread about the community.

“Very soon about 100 settlers flocked in from all directions,” Bromley said. They found blood stained the floor, walls and ceiling of the children’s bedroom “and their heads had been bashed in by the rock Sam had taken from the fireplace.”

“The room was found covered with blood,” he said.

James Wigton returned from his father’s farm where he had borrowed a horse and was stunned by the tragedy. He never entered the house again.

THE MOTHER and five children were buried in a common grave July 2, 1843, in the cemetery of Muddy Creek Presbyterian Church, three miles south of Stone House and about 1,000 feet off Route 8. To date the grave is unmarked, Bromley said. An estimated 6,000 people attended the funeral.

Later Charles McQuiston, brother of Mrs. Wigton, Tom Donahy and others cornered Mohawk in the home of Paul Keister.

He was beaten into unconsciousness and dragged outside.

After he was revived, Mohawk was taken to the Wigton home where he confessed and rehearsed the crime in part but he later said they could not prove he committed the murders.

James Wigton and his brother William drew guns and stepped forward to shoot Sam.

After a plea for law and justice, a coroner’s jury of six men head a hearing  under an apple tree on Wigton Farm. Mohawk then was taken to Butler in a covered wagon.

Later a grand jury returned a true bill.

While in jail, Mohawk was baptized into the Christian faith.

“Upon coming to his sober senses, he had sought God’s forgiveness,” Bromley said.

His trial began December 13, 1843, and after four days and 48 witnesses had testified in four days the jury in one hour handed down the first death penalty in the history of Butler County.

Sam was hung March 22, 1844. His body was refused burial in any Butler cemetery though he made a “profession of religion and implored God’s mercy,” Bromley stated,

SHORTLY BEFORE his death, two Seneca Indians came from Cataragus with a burial suite and moccasins and begged that Sam be shot instead of hung. Mohawk was laid to rest in the woods on Hill Street.

James Wigton received a letter signed by six Seneca chiefs saying they did not condone Mohawk’s offenses and actions and they implored him to intercede for safe conduct for Indians passing through this area.

They had to return home by the Venango Trail from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to the upper reaches of the Allegheny.

Bromley said that for a long time Indians were not welcome in this area.

Derrick (Oil City, Pennsylvania) Oct 21, 1970

UPDATE: I just ran across an old New York Times article about this murder, which can be found HERE. ( It’s a PDF.) It gives a good summary of the case.

UPDATE 2: I searched Google Books for the Butler Co., PA history book mentioned in the comments, but did not find it. I did, however, find a mention of this massacre in the Jefferson Co., PA history book, which follows:

 

Title: History of Jefferson county, Pennsylvania, with illus. and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers
Author: Kate M. Scott
Publisher: D. Mason, 1888
Pages 613-615