Without a doubt, skilled hunters were invaluable to those who groups who explored and founded settlements in Ohio. Of course, we have all heard tales of Indian fighter, Davy Crockett, who reportedly killed 105 bears in just one year on the frontier. And, of course, guide and tracker, Daniel Boone, is legendary for helping settle what is now Kentucky. He was also a professional hunter and would go on long trips where he would spend months in the wilderness with a small group of companions. On these hunts Boone had to avoid native hunting parties that viewed him as a trespasser.
Early hunters excelled at their craft in Scioto County. Residents should also know of the exploits of Henry Utt. Never heard of him? And, how about another skilled hunter near here who went by the name of Waw-wil-a-way? Let me introduce you. Here are the tales of two hunters – one white and one Native American – both having once lived in our beautiful Scioto River Valley.
Utt was a Pennsylvania Dutchman by birth, and a man “of industrious and steady habits.” He assisted in surveying a large portion of the military lands lying between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers.
While in the employ of Massie, Utt located about 200 acres of the bottom lands just two miles above the mouth of Brush Creek. It is not precisely known when Utt built his cabin and moved onto his land there, but from tradition it must have been as early as 1796, as nothing confirms more of Massie's surveying after that time.
As one of the first settlers in the area, Utt offers a first-hand perspective of carving out a homestead in the frontier that would become Scioto County. He relates ...
“It is fighting the Indians first to get possession of the country, then the wild beasts of the forest must be subdued before the country is in a fit condition for settlement. These involve dangers and difficulties that must be met and overcome or no settlement could be made. After that, it takes nearly a lifetime to clear the land, build houses, plant orchards, and otherwise improve the country to render it fit habitation for civilized man.”
“While he was in the service of Mr. Massie as a hunter, he was hunting on McCulloch's Creek (a tributary of Scioto Brush Creek) and near night he became tired and concluded to lie down and rest himself. It was warm weather, and not requiring any fire, he wrapped himself in his blanket and lay down by the side of a log where there were a good many dry leaves, and soon went to sleep.
“He slept very soundly and did not wake up till the next morning. When he awoke, the first discovery he made was that he was completely covered up with dry leaves. He was a little alarmed at first, knowing some mischief was intended for him. He got out of his bed as quickly as he could and held his gun at a position to fire if an enemy should be near at hand.
“He walked off cautiously and concealed himself behind a tree to see what developments would be made with regard to his careful night's lodging. He had not waited long before he aspied an old she panther with her litter of young ones approaching in a very stealthy manner the place where he had spent the night.
“She crawled up within jumping distance and then gave a tremendous spring, and lit on the bed of leaves. No hurricane or whirlwind ever made leaves fly faster than they did there for a few moments. When she discovered her intended prey had escaped, she looked up quite bewildered and began snuffing the air to see in which way he might have gone.
“Mr. Utt watched her movements and concluded it was time for him to do something. So, he drew a bead on the animal's head, and at the crack of his rifle, she fell over dead. He dispatched the young panthers, took off the skin of the old one, and returned to camp with the trophies of his victory.”
Here is a brief summary of the murder of Chief Waw-wil-a-way, storied friend of the white man. Unlike many of his contemporaries, including Tecumseh, Waw-wil-a-way viewed the settlers as his allies, and he welcomed the pioneers to live peacefully alongside him, his wife and two sons at the mouth of Hardin Creek in Highland County. The chief was said to have helped Massie with many hunting parties over the years.
Violet Morgan of Greenfield, Ohio, related the following story in 1946:
“A report had been circulated (in the spring of 1803) by some white men that the
Indians, who had been adhering to the terms of the peace treaty of 1795, were rising to make a terrible surprise attack upon the settlers. When a messenger on horseback rode through from Chillicothe, bringing the word, settlers everywhere collected and fortified themselves.
“Shortly after this, the tomahawked and scalped body of Captain Herrod, a prominent settler living a few miles west of Chillicothe, was found by some hunters in the woods near the clearing of his home.
“Indians were blamed for the deed and feeling was bad. Investigation by Governor Tiffin revealed that the Indians had only peaceful intentions and the story of the intended uprising had been a hoax. Some thought that it had all been part of an unscrupulous plan by a white man who might have wished to supersede Captain Herrod in office in the State militia. At any rate, even today, Herrod's murder is as much a mystery as ever.
“The meeting was casual and friendly, Waw-wil-a-way shook hands with them cordially and asked about their health and their families.
“Wolf asked the chief if he would trade guns with him and the unsuspecting Indian, assenting, turned over his gun to him for examination. After stealthily removing the priming from the pan of Waw-wil-a-way's gun, Wolfe handed it back stating that he did not wish to trade.”
Wolfe and Williams made inquiry asking whether the Indians had commenced war. The chief said “no” and told them the Indians and white men were “now all one.” The chief also denied the Indians had killed Captain Herrod.
“The conversation ended in the friendly manner in which it began. Waw-wil-a-way again shook hands with the white men and they resumed their ways.
“The chief had gone only a few steps when Wolfe, raising his rifle, took aim at his back and fired. The ball passed through his body, but he did not fall.
“Although mortally wounded, Waw-wil-a-way turned upon his murderers. He raised his rifle and aimed it at Wolfe for the smoking gun revealed who had shot him. Wolfe jumped behind his horse. The scheme to remove the priming from Waw-wil-a-way's gun and render it useless had failed, for the cushion had been left on the tube.
“Then, the chief shot Williams, who fell dead from his frightened and plunging horse.
“Making a club of his gun, the Indian rushed upon Wolfe, and with one blow sent him prostrate to the earth. Wolfe regained his feet and attempted to seize Waw-wil-away by the tuft of hair on the top of his head. Instead he got hold of the shawl wound around Waw-wil-a-way's head. When he jerked the shawl to bring Waw-wil-away to the ground the shawl gave way, and Wolfe fell backwards.
"At this, Scott's History of Highland County says, 'the Indian drew his scalping knife and made a thrust at his antagonist, who seeing his danger, and throwing up his feet to ward it off, received the blade of the knife in his thigh. In the scuffle the handle brook off and left the entire blade in the wound.'
"During the entire encounter, Waw-wil-a-way never uttered a word. When the strife was over, his strength failed him rapidly from loss of blood, and his sight became dim. He cast one glance on his fallen foe.... turning, walked a short distance out into the grass, and sank upon his face amid the wild flowers."
“Waw-wil-a-way's death was the climax of a number of incidents that led to the last Indian Alarm in southern Ohio.”
In the meantime, several hundred Indians had collected at the forks of Lees Creek in Highland County, near Leesburg, Some of the chiefs went to the home of a Quaker settler, Nathaniel Pope, asking that a council be held. Pope sent for his Quaker neighbors, and they met with the chiefs under a spreading elm which stood by a spring on Pope's farm.
“It was an Indian law that the nearest relatives of the murdered man had a right to kill the murderer whenever and wherever he could find him. Knowing this, Wolfe had fled to Kentucky. Here he employed an agent to act for him and a negotiation was entered into with the sons of Waw-wil-a-way. The agent, acting for Wolfe, agreed to give each son a horse, a new saddle and bridle, and a new rifle. Thereupon peace was made between Waw-wil-a-way's family and Wolfe.
“A great ceremony was made of this truce. In the presence of a large Gathering of Indians and whites at Old Town (Frankfort) the two sons of Waw-wil-a-way and Wolfe occupied the center of a hollow square. The horses, the new saddles and bridles, and the new rifles, were there too, ready to change hands.
“Solemnly raising their hands toward heaven, Waw-wil-a-way's sons relinquished their claim to the life of the murderer when they called upon the Great Spirit to accept the blood and life of Wolfe.
“The scene was so impressive that many were moved to tears. Waw-wil-a-way's sons took Wolfe by the hand, called him 'brother,' lighted the pipe of peace, and smoked with him.
“At the conclusion of the meeting the two Indians returned to their camp at the mouth of Hardin's Creek. Here they sat down beside Allen Crawford, a white settler, and his sons were were camping there on a hunting trip. This was the peaceful ending of the last Indian alarm in southern Ohio.”
Biographical Record of Macoupin County, Illinois. Richmond & Arnold. 1904.
James Keyes. Pioneers of Scioto County. 1880.
Violet Morgan. Folklore of Highland Co., Ohio. 1946.