Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ancestors, Indians, and Johnny Appleseed

I shared some family history with the kids on our trip to Mohican State Park a couple weekends ago, and since persistantly cloudy and periodically thundery weather has hampered work on the shed, I'll share my story of Indians, the War of 1812, Johnny Appleseed, and Neil & Cecilia's great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents (that's six greats if anyone lost count) here as well.

John & Anne Catherine (Smith) Lambright were married at Frederick, Maryland in 1802.  A list of their nine children with their years and places of birth reads as follows:

1 - John Lambright, born in 1805 in Frederick County, Maryland
2 - Margaret Ann Lambright, born in 1807 in Frederick County, Maryland
3 - Levi Phillip Lambright, born in 1810 in Frederick County, Maryland
4 - Henry Lambright, born in 1812 in Richland County, Ohio
5 - Catherine Lambright, born in 1814 at Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio
6&7 - twins David & Michael Lambright, born in 1817 in Richland County, Ohio
8 - Rachel Lambright, born in 1819 in Richland County, Ohio
9 - Elizabeth Lambright, born in 1822 in Richland County, Ohio

Twins are always something of a novelty, but what stands out in this list for a genealogist is John and Anne's fifth child, Catherine.  Specifically, Catherine's place of birth.  The family obviously moved from Frederick County, Maryland to Richland County, Ohio sometime around 1811.  So why was Catherine born at Lancaster? 

The answer to that question precedes Catherine's birth by a couple of years.  With the outbreak of the War of 1812 there was concern that Indians living in Ohio, encouraged by leaders like Tecumsuh, would join the British in the struggle and be incited to attack white settlers.  The Lambright family at this time was newly settled in their home Richland County (the area is now part of Ashland County).  Located near them was the Indian community of Greentown.  According to a local history published later in the 19th century, the Greentown Indians "had always been friendly and neighborly with the whites, and quite a settlement of white people had gathered around them. [But] fearing that Tecumseh would influence these Indians to engage in the war, and that they would suddenly fall upon the settlers and murder them, the military authorities determined to remove them."

'Friendly and neighborly' the Greentown Indians may have been, but when a company of soldiers arrived to remove them to a camp near Piqua they were "thrown into a violent state of excitement".  Fearing violence, the soldiers withdrew and their captain - Captain Douglas - decided to consult with local resident James Copus before proceeding.  Copus had been the first white settler in Mifflin Township.  He was "well known to the Greentown Indians; was on the most friendly terms with them, and was much respected by them." The Captain went to Copus, urging him to use his influence with the Greentown Indians to secure their peaceful relocation.  Copus strongly opposed the military's treatment of the Indians: "his sympathies were with the Indians, and he was strongly opposed to their removal. He liked them as neighbors, believed they were inclined to peace, and could not see the necessity of driving them from their homes. He entered into a long conversation with the officer respecting the justness of his mission. He maintained that [the Indians] had suffered the most shameful wrongs, and that a God of mercy would require restitution from the hands of the whites."  Captain Douglas persisted, though, declaring that regardless of how anyone felt, orders must be followed.  Realizing finally that "if he did not use his influence and persuade the Indians to go peaceably, there would be bloodshed", James Copus consented to return to Greentown with the soldiers, on condition that "should the Indians quietly surrender, their lives and property should be protected."  This Captain Douglas promised.

The local history resumes:  "Through Mr. Copus' influence, the Indians were pursuaded to go quietly away with the soldiers, after receiving assurances that their property should lie protected and restored to them, and that they should be protected on the march.... A schedule of their property was taken by James Cunningham and Peter Kinney, and they took up their line of march across the Black Fork, turning their faces from a home they, as a tribe, were never to see again....   [But] some eight or ten soldiers straggled from Douglas' command, and remained behind at the Indian village. No sooner had Armstrong and his people disappeared in the forest, than these soldiers deliberately, to the surprise and distress of Mr. Copus, set fire to the village and burned it to the ground. Nearly everything the Indians left behind was consumed."  As they marched through the woods, the Greentown Indians saw the smoke rising over the trees behind them.

The first act of retaliation by the Indians came on August 13, 1812, when a band of Indian stragglers ambushed a white resident as he walked home through some woods.  Survivors of this attack immediately gathered in the blockhouse, where they determined someone should be sent out to warn other local families, and to secure the protection of troops stationed south at Mount Vernon. 

Enter Johnny Appleseed.  According to local legend the "eccentric but brave" Appleseed volunteered for the hazardous journey and started immediately.  "On this journey, Johnny Appleseed gave a warning cry at every cabin he passed, informing the inmates that Reed, Wallace and Jones were killed, and that the Indians were passing south. There was something awful, it is said in Johnny's warning cry as he pounded at the door of each cabin he passed, and shouted to the inmates: 'Flee! Flee! for your lives! The Indians are upon you.' and before they could open the door, or fairly comprehend his meaning, this angel of mercy had disappeared in the darkness and night, on his way with the fleetness of a deer to the next cabin.  And, pressing forward like the wind, left pallor and surprise behind."  (A side note here - while all accounts agree that Johnny Appleseed travelled through the area warning settlers of the Indians' actions, there is some disagreement exactly when this occurred.  The version quoted above places Appleseed's journey in August, while other versions say the journey came later in September.)
During that late summer of 1812 John and Anne Lambright were basically the same age Charles and I are now, with four children all under the age of 8.  I can't imagine the tension they and their neighbors must have lived with daily during those weeks.  That tension came to a head for the Lambright family a few weeks later, about September 10th. 

Earlier that day local resident Martin Rufner had heard of a band of Indians "well armed with guns, knives and tomahawks" in the area who had indicated they were headed to the Zimmer cabin.  His suspicions aroused, Rufner quickly rode to the Zimmer residence, beating the Indians there.  The Zimmer family numbered four - the elderly parents, nineteen year old son Phillip, and "beautiful" daughter Kate.  After a hurried discussion it was decided that Rufner should remain at the Zimmer residence to protect the family while young Phillip Zimmer went to warn other settlers and return with assistance. 

Returning to the local history: "Phillip Zimmer hastened to [James] Copus' cabin, and from there to John Lambright's, two miles further south on the Black Fork. Lambright returned with him, and, joined by Mr. Copus, they all proceeded together to the Zimmer cabin....When Philip returned with his party, nature had already thrown her sable mantle of night over the valley.  Except for the occasional hooting of an owl there was almost deathlike stillness.  No breath of wind stirred the leaves of the forest, and the stars shone with a pale, flickering light.  As the party neared the cabin, no light was seen and all was quiet and still within.  After a consultation, Mr. Copus advanced alone to the rear of the house and tried to peer through its window, but nothing could be seen in the darkness within.  He then cautiously crept upon his hands and knees around to the front of the building, and, finding the door ajar, endeavored to push it further open, but found something against it like a body, on the inside.  He then placed his hand through the opening of the door and found that the floor was covered with blood."

The local histories vary slightly on what happened next.  One states that Copus "Hasten[ed] back to Phillip and Lambright, who were concealed a short distance from the cabin, and stated his discoveries and convictions."  Another version states that, "Returning to the party, [Copus] thought it best not to tell Phillip what he had discovered...Enjoining silence, he led them quietly away, and when at a safe distance told them that he feared the family had been taken prisoners, and that they had better to go to the blockhouse for assistance." 

Regardless of how much James Copus did or did not reveal to his companions, both accounts agree that at this point Phillip Zimmer "became frantic with grief and excitement, and desired to rush into the cabin to learn the whole truth.  In this he was prevented by the others, who feared that the Indians were yet concealed in the cabin, awaiting his return. Persuading Phillip to accompany them, they hastened back to the cabin of Mr. Copus, and, taking the latter's family, they all proceeded as rapidly as possible to Mr. Lambright's. This family was added to their numbers, and they pushed on to the cabin of Frederick Zimmer, Jr., Phillip's brother, and he and his family joined the fugitives. They hastened along an Indian trail, near where the village of Lucas now stands, and stopped at the cabin of David Hill, where they remained until the next morning, when, accompanied by the family of Hill, all proceeded to the blockhouse at Beam's mill. This fort was then occupied by a company of soldiers under Capt. Martin. A party of these soldiers, accompanied by Mr. Copus, Phillip and Frederick Zimmer, Hill and Lambright, all well armed, proceeded by the most direct route through the forest, the trail to the Zimmer cabin.

Entering it, they found the old gentleman, the old lady and Catharine, all dead upon the floor, and dreadfully mangled. The gallant Rufner was lying dead in the yard. There was every evidence that he had made a desperate struggle for his life and that of the Zimmers. His gun was bent nearly double, and several of his fingers had been cut off by blows from a tomahawk. The struggle had finally ended by his being shot twice through the body. The details of this butchery could never be certainly known, as the prominent actors were all killed; all had also been scalped. It appeared that the table had been set with refreshments for the savages, and most of the food remained. Whether any of the Indians were killed, is not known; they would have taken their dead away with them, and destroyed all evidences, if such a catastrophe had happened to them. It is supposed that eight or ten Indians were engaged in this tragedy."

Details of what is known as the Zimmer Massacre are recounted in the local histories.  They are based on the confession of an Indian named Kanotchy who was taken prisoner some years later and who claimed to have been part of the Indian party involved.  According to these (rather romanticized) accounts the beautiful Kate Zimmer fainted at the beginning of the violence.  "When she came to her senses, she looked about upon a scene of blood and horror, and burst into a paroxysm of weeping. She begged the savages to spare her life, but all to no purpose. They first ascertained from her where her father's money was concealed, and then buried the tomahawk in her brain. While she was in a senseless condition, a consultation had been held over her, to decide whether they should kill her or take her prisoner. It was decided that her life should be taken, but still they hesitated, as no one wished to do the deed. At length it was decided that the one who should perform the deed, should be considered as possessing the greatest heart, whereupon this same Phillip Kanotchy stepped forward, exclaiming, " Me kill white squaw, me got big heart." When Kate saw the tomahawk descending, she raised a beautiful white arm to ward off the blow, which, falling upon the arm, nearly severed it in twain ; a second blow did the work — one quiver, and the lovely life went out."

Following the murder of the Zimmer family residents fled to the safety of the blockhouses, and "nearly every cabin was left tenantless."  But after five days at the blockhouse, James Copus desired to return to his family to their cabin.  Still fearing violence, a guard of nine soldiers accompanied the Copus family.  They found their cabin undisturbed, but that afternoon while gathering potatoes from a nearby field, the Copus's twelve year old daughter Sarah noticed an Indian hiding behind a bush.  She failed to mention to anyone what she had seen, later explaining that her father "was a very strict man in regard to truth, and, fearing she might have been deceived, did not wish to incur his displeasure by creating a false alarm."  There followed a restless night, the Copus family sleeping within the cabin and the soldiers in a nearby barn.

The following morning, the soldiers desired to wash at a spring located near the Copus cabin.  "Mr. Copus again cautioned the soldiers of impending danger, telling them that Indians were certainly in the neighborhood or his dogs would not have made such a noise, and urged them to take their guns with them to the spring. They promised to do so, but, on passing out, leaned them against the cabin and went on to the spring. Fatal mistake! The Indians, who had been lurking about the cabin all night, were watching for just such an opportunity as this. Swiftly, silently, stealthily, as a cat creeps upon its prey, they closed in upon the doomed cabin, and, before the soldiers were aware of their presence, were between them and their guns; then came the horrid war-whoop as a score or more of painted warriors rushed upon them with tomahawk and scalping-knife."

Of the nine soldiers in the guard, seven were at the spring.  Three of these were killed immediately.  Three more ran into the woods, but were also shortly killed.  Within the cabin, James Copus immediately grabbed his rifle and went to the door.  He opened the door just as the seventh soldier from the spring, George Dye, reached the house.  Dye was shot through the thigh as he entered the house and Copus was himself shot through the chest as he held the door open. 

"The scene within the cabin was pathetically dramatic.  He who an hour before stood as the protector of his family now lay in the throes of death, his grief-stricken wife and seven children grouped about his bedside...But they had soon to turn from the dead and assist the soldiers in their defense of the cabin.  Early in the contest, Nancy Copus, aged fifteen, was shot above the knee, inflicting a painful wound.  The children were then placed upstairs for greater safety, and that was but poor, for a number of the Indians were upon the hillside in front of the house and kept up an incessant fire upon the roof of the house, until the clapboards, it is said, afterward presented almost a sieve-like appearance....After five long hours of murderous assault from outside and of valiant defence from within, the awful contest ended by the Indians retreating, taking their dead with them and firing a parting volley into a flock of sheep which had huddled together in terror near the barn." 

Later that afternoon a larger detail of soldiers arrived at the Copus home, where they buried the dead and made an attempt to track the band of Indians responsible for the attack.  Failing to locate the Indians, the troops oversaw the journey of the Copus survivors and other settlers back to the safety of the blockhouse. 
"Stretchers were made upon which to carry the wounded, and the march of the whole party to Beam's blockhouse was commenced.  As it was late in the day when the start was made, they went only a short distance until they stopped for the night.  By that time the party had increased to about one hundred, and pickets were thrown out to guard against surprise....The march [to the Beam blockhouse] resumed the next morning...the distance being thirteen miles, [and] they arrived safely in the evening."

The Lambright family was surely among the group seeking the safety of the blockhouse that night.  When they left the blockhouse, John and Anne did not return to their home in the Richland County woods, but relocated their family south, to the safety of Lancaster, Ohio where just over a year late their daughter Catherine Lambright would be born.  (Although I have nothing to support this, I wonder if perhaps my 4th great grandmother was named in memory of the slain Kate Zimmer?)  Sometime around 1815 the family returned to Richland County.
The Lambright family's journey mirrored that made by James Copus's widow and children, who after two months at the block-house moved temporarily to Guernsey County.  "The journey consumed many days, during which most of the family were compelled, on little food, to walk over a rough path, wade small streams, encamp by the wayside, and always in fear of being pursued and captured by the savages.  They returned in 1815, and found their cabin as they had left it.  A few of the Greentown Indians had also returned and re-erected their cabins, but peace had come by that time...and they ever after lived in peace and friendship."

The quotes included here are all taken from late 19th century accounts of the Zimmer and Copus massacres.  The full accounts can be read here and here.
On September 15, 1882, exactly seventy years after Copus massacre, identical monuments were dedicated at the sites of the Copus and Zimmer homes.  It is said that the crowd the day of the dedication numbered over 10,000.

I have not been able to locate the Zimmer monument, but a sign along State Route 603 marks a winding stone road that leads to the Copus monument.  A picture taken at the monument's dedication in 1882 shows it standing in open fields, but the area today is rather dense woods (with a lot of mosquitoes the day the kids and I were there).

In an attempt to connect this post to the subject of this blog, let me close by continuing this story by a few years.  When she was nineteen years old, Catherine Lambright married George King.  Some years later they moved their family to Seneca County, where George built a house from stones found on his property.  The King stone house is today one of only six stone houses (that I'm aware of) remaining in this county.

A few years after moving into their own stone house, George & Catherine (Lambright) King's daughter Louisa King married John Corrigan.  And a few years after that, John & Louisa (King) Corrigan surely made a few trips to visit the family of John's sister Ann (Corrigan) Flack at another stone house.


  1. I thought at first that the military authorities were going to ask the white settlers to evacuate until the troubles blew over. Seems it would have saved a lot of hassle and grief if it had been that way.

  2. Kim ! One of my clients is a Copus decendant. If you would like to meet her sometime, just let me know... What awful things they had to deal with, thankfully I cannot imagine anything like it. Blessings and love, Aunt Barb

  3. Kim, Very interesting about Johnny Appleseed. I was interested in the info about the Lambright family. My Grandmother was Phoebe Lambright of Nevada, Ohio. Michael Lambright twin of David and son of John Lambright was my Great Great Grandfather.

    A few years ago I found John Lambrights along with infant Davids tombstones. They were located along state rte 39 by Lucas, Ohio. They were unattached from the graves. There were also two infants tombstones with the names of Baby Girl Smith. Probably Anna Catherines family. Are you a descendant of the Lambrights?

  4. Yes, I'm a Lambright descendant through John and Anne Catherine's daughter Catherine Lambright who married George King. Feel free to email me at mikkimg at yahoo dot com if you would like to exchange further information on our families.

  5. its quite a story i to am a lambright descendant of john and anne through catherine who married george king and through there daughter suannah who married milton marion grove and moved to hillsdale, michigan but i myself live in defiance, ohio about an hour west of were most of the family settled in seneca county