Nov 20, 2013 by

Maggie Hammons Parker: I’ll just tell it to you the way I heard it. Great-grandfather I guess he was. At the time that it was, and they lived there, and there was just two families of the white people lived there. And all the others that lived there was Indians.
Dwight Diller: Where was—
Maggie: It was, ah—they had to cross, it was, they called it the Indian Nation, that’s where they said it was at, the Indian Nation.
Burl Hammons: You want to know where it was at? It was a place they called Whitley. Maggie: Where?
Burl: Whitley.
Maggie: Whitley?
Burl: Yeah….
Maggie: Anyhow, there was just the two, the two families of the white people that lived there and all the others was Indians, and they lived right close to a bunch of ’em; and so they was an old Indian, he always come every day. They said after he got acquainted with ’em, he’d come every day and talk with ’em and they liked that old Indian. And they liked the others.
They seemed like they was awful good people and good to ’em. And they had a little boy, he’d come, and so my, my great-granddaddy he had a—a boy just about the same age or size, and he’d come and he’d play with him. And he had a little whistle, the little boy did, and he said he could just call up all kinds of birds with that whistle. And he had a bow and arrow and they said he never missed a shot. And he’d take that boy and go out and get a whole string of birds and he strung ’em up on a string, and he’d bring ’em in and they had a fireplace and he’d just rake a place out in the fireplace and lay all of them birds right in there, feathers and all, and roast ’em. Roast ’em in there and then take and pick the meat off of the bones and they’d sit there, him and that little boy would, and eat that, eat them birds. So when he had him out, why they didn’t know it, but he had him—he could just swim any way he wanted to—he learnt that little boy of grandpaw’s to swim. He could swim any way, dive or anything. They had him trained, that little Indian did.
And so, well, that old man he’d come every day and he’d talk with ’em and they’d tell big tales and jokes, and they liked that old man. And so, after a while, one of the Indians come, he told him, he said, “I had a dream last night.” And he said, “Always when we dream anything, our dreams has to come true. He said, “Now that’s the way it goes with us. When we dream anything, the dream has to come true.” So he had a gun, he had a gun, a awful nice gun, he wouldn’t have took nothing for the gun, he said. And he told him he dreamt about owning that gun, that’s what he told him, he dreamt about owning that gun. And
so he couldn’t do a thing but let him have it, let him take the gun. He was afraid not to, I guess. But anyhow, he took the gun. Well, it pretty nigh killed him because he’d taken that gun and he didn’t know what kind of a plan to fall on to get his gun back.
Finally at last passed on right smart about a couple of weeks or more, and he said he got up and told ’em, he said, “I had a dream last night,” he said, “I dreamt I owned my gun back and one of the ponies.” He said to ’em at home, he said, “I’m a-going to tell ’em this morning,” he said. So he went, and he went over, he told ’em that he’d had a dream that night, and he said, “I dreamt about owning my gun back and one of your ponies.” He studied a while, he said, before he said ary thing. At last he said, “Take it, paleface, but dream no more.” And he took the gun and the pony.
And then, he said, a few days after, why that old Indian got to coming and he wouldn’t talk. He wouldn’t talk, he said, to ’em, he didn’t have nothing to say and they knowed there was something wrong with him. He wouldn’t say nothing at— Finally at last they went to asking him to tell ’em and finally at last he told ’em. He said, “If you people knowed what I did,” he said, “you wouldn’t be here.” He told ’em, he said, “If they find it out,” he said, “they’ll kill me sure, as sure as they find it out.” Of course they promised him to not tell it at all, and he told ’em they was going to come to kill ’em. Get rid of ’em a- waiting there. They was going to kill ’em, the Indian was. He didn’t know to do nothing, only to go to the other family and told ’em. And they just put what they could get on their ponies, they just gathered up and put on their ponies all they could ge— what they could put on ’em and, uh, and started. And they rode and rode and they heard the Indians a-hollering and they followed ’em till they come to that big river—now they said it was the Newcon River, now that’s all I can tell you, that’s what they told me it was. And that’s as far as they come when they come to—to Newcon River, why they swum it, the horses did, and they got away from ’em, and that’s the way they got away now from the Indians.
And he said that when they got—come back they didn’t even know it but that little boy could swim any way he wanted to swim, that little Indian boy had learnt him how to swim, dive, and everything. They didn’t know, and he could shoot a bow and arrow too. Yessir, and that bo—he lived to be, oh he was an old man I reckon. And, uh, he got drownded, yessir, he got drownded.


Maggie and Burl told me this story in February of 1970. The Hammons were living in complete isolation from any other white people except one other family. Maggie points out that they were living close to an Indian settlement and had good relations with the people who lived there. In fact, the social interaction between themselves and the villagers was friendly. Not only this, but the Indian settlement provided acceptance and protection. There was good communication and shared resources. The old Indian came over every day and talked and laughed. There was a common language there. The father was obviously white, but there was a reason why they were under the protection of the local Indians. A common scenario for the early settlers would be marriage into, and adoption by, an Indian tribe.

The father had what would have been a highly ornate Kentucky long rifle called ‘Old Specklebelly’[In another conversation, Maggie called the rifle by that name]. There was a new ‘breed of people’ that were different from the people east of the Frontier. It had been 150 since the first settlers landed at Jamestown. During that time, there was a ‘hardening off’ process, like the Exodus when the refugees spent 40 years in the desert. It took two generations there until there was nothing of Egypt left in them. Here, the European influence was gone, and the ‘Way’ of the eastern colonies would no long be attractive to this type of people with a nature now bent toward independence and individualism.

It was around 1750 when these men who were called ‘longhunters’ were entering the wilderness often alone or two to three at a time. They chose to stay a month to a few months and then would return. In my hometown of Marlinton, the first to arrive in this area west of the Allegheny front were from the East was Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell in 1749. After two years, Marlin went back East, while Sewell started a westerly journey. He was killed by the Shawnee on Sewell Mountain. At the exact same time the men were stepping out into the Frontier, this Pennsylvania long rifle had just reached a peak of great development and was suitable for traveling in the wilderness. This brand new kind of rifle became the most desirable possession on the Frontier. It’s price tag would have made it almost out of reach of many who where the ‘long hunters’. However it was a ‘must have’ since it was the main means of defence and sustenance for a Frontier family AND virtually impossible to replace. The friendship with the old Indian was compromised by the inability to give up the rifle: however this friendship was such that the Indian put his own life on the line in advising the Hammons of the real intentions of the tribe. He was taken at his word, and the Hammons along with the other family? left. The river that they crossed has not been found, and the name given by Maggie does not correspond to any known river. The Indians had followed closely thus showing it was important to them that the white families were captured. However they did not cross the river in pursuit.

Edn’s son James, Burl and Maggie’s first cousin, remembered this story, and said, “I was told ‘the river swum the horse, and a baby got drowned while they tried to get across’.” Perhaps the main point that can be found is that the Hammons were on the frontier in the 1700s. They were living in isolation from any other whites except for a nearby family. In this place, which has always been referred to as the ‘Indian Nation’, little is remembered except for what the Burl and Maggie said. But there is a lot thought that can be put inside of the story. Burl plays a fiddle tune called “The Indian Nation” and “The Big Scioty” as in the Scioto River which empties into the Ohio River. The largest Shawnee town sat where these two rivers met.

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: