My paternal waybacks settled the Ohio Valley in the tricorn days, when there was nothing but endless forests and shadows hiding half-naked Indians who plucked screaming children from cabins nearly as quick as pioneer maidens could reproduce them, but not quite as quick. In the eighteenth century life along the “dark and bloody river” was short, but passionate anyway. People worked hard and played hard and passion was needed with pain and parasites and dying so common. Not many folks passed away in their beds. They generally did their expiring with arrows in their eyeballs and their hair hanging on a stranger’s belt. And the ones who did die in their beds couldn’t, because they didn’t have furniture and so only passed away on a pallet or met their maker on a bed-roll lying on the same dirt they’d soon be buried in. People were tough because they had no other choice. They were independent but counted on each other, knowing by common consent there was safety in numbers, and ate squirrels for dinner without steak sauce.
In 1803 those of my family who hadn’t been killed by Indians in the previous century petitioned the governor of Virginia for a pension in recognition of their services as scouts during the American Revolution. Their father, Captain John, and a brother, George, had been shot and killed by Indians previously. The following gives an idea of the hardships which had been endured by the surviving brothers:
Your petitioner Jacob, by having one arm broken and the other disjointed, as it still in part remains, is alike disabled to labor.
Your petitioner Martin has been shot through each hip, each side, and through his shoulder, by which he is like disabled.
Your petitioner John, by having his arm broken above and below his elbow, is alike disabled to labor.
And besides which they have all been prisoners with the Indians…