SURVIVING WIVES DESPERATELY FIGHT OFF ATTACK BY INDIANS ON THEIR SETTLEMENT AT ENNIS BOTTOM
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
At this time we shall visit some sketches written by the late George L. Ridenour. Ridenour first writes of Anno Mastin who was a neglectful settler on Henderson and Company’s Powell Valley land. He also mentions that Lewis Matsin had gone to the Forks of Elkhorn and entered land farther down in Ennis Bottom with his two brothers-in-law, Hosrea and Jesse Cook, and four other families. They had built their cabins and were left undisturbed by the Indians for over a year.
However, in April of the third year of the existing community, more than one hundred Indians attacked the settlement at three different positions. The Cook brothers and Mastin were shearing sheep at this time. Their first warning came when they heard the geese in the barnyard carrying on. During the first Indian discharge Mastin and one of the Cooks fell dead. The other Cook, being mortally wounded, got his and his brother’s wife and a Negro child into a cabin where he barred the door and then fell dead.
The two Cook women had a rifle in the house, but could find no ammunition, however, one of the women found a musket ball and bit it in two. Earlier that morning she had loaded her rifle for the purpose of killing a hawk that was chasing her chickens and failed to reload it. Quickly, taking the piece of musket ball and loading the rifle, she saw an Indian sitting on a stump in the yard. Rushing to the peephole in the door, she took aim and fired. As the rifle bellowed out, the decorated and painted Indian made a sudden leap upward and fell over dead.
Being infuriated over the incident, the Indians tried to break down the door. Suffering failure in this undertaking, they fired several balls into the sturdy oak puncheon, but the balls would not pierce the thick hewed chunks of wood.
The intruders then climbed onto the roof and set it afire. One of the women quickly put the fire out with water. Again the Indians set the roof on fire. All the water had been used up in the room and so the ladies collected all the eggs in the room. These were broken and used to extinguish the second fire. And again the Indians set the roof on fire, but this time the ladies used the dead husband’s jacket, inundated with blood, to douse out the flames.
As all this was going on, the Indians were unexpectedly attacked by Lewis Mastin’s four bear dogs. These beasts completely routed the Indians and they left lickety-split. Ennis Bottom Settlement on the Fork of Elkhorn had seen the last Indian.
Another story written by Mr. Ridenour relates some history of Powell’s River and other known points and their origin. He writes that Powell’s (Powell) River begins in Campbell County above the now extinct Dempson Swanson’s canoe landing and a bar of rocks. Apparently Swanson was one of the lively characters who was feared by the Indians. For reason unknown, he was regarded as the one pioneer who worked magic. In all the close calls he had with the Indians, he was never harmed.
Just below Swanson’s cabin and canoe landing was a mill at a stream of water within a large cave. Down the river was Becky’s Strait. Ridenour tell the story of Becky Ellington’s services as a midwife, which at this particular time were required across Powell’s River, which was at this time at flood stage.
After her duties were performed during the night, with mother and baby made comfortable, she was ready to recross the river. Powell’s River was now flooded and violent with driftwood and logs. However, Becky Ellington was considered very capable with a canoe in high waters.
Her husband and others were at the canoe landing trying to discourage her from crossing, but she persisted. It was considered quite a struggle for a woman to cross under such dangerous conditions. In all, the men of the community began placing bets as to whether she would make it or not. Her husband accumulated all the bets, for he knew his wife and had more faith in her than the neighbors. One of the men who had bet against her began to holler, “Becky’s in a strait (a playing card term)! Becky’s in a strait!” The story goes that Becky made the canoe landing safely, and ever since the name of “Becky’s Strait” was given to the canoe landing.
“Cat Ham Bend” was named for its likeness to a ‘cat’s ham,’ and was feared by flatboatsmen in high water.
“Buzzard’s Roost” is situated opposite Heatherly’s Point, and was often visited by river men on flatboats that especially valued the buzzard plugs found there. Buzzard plugs were bits of down which had been swallowed by the buzzards and regurgitated.
“ Demory Cave” was named for Major Demory, commandant at Fort Louden, and the first British outpost at Tellico west of the Appalachians. Tradition says that British soldiers from Fort Louden used the cave to store maple sugar made in Sugar Hollow. Ridenour writes that during sugar making, the soldiers enjoyed divine services in the cave. It is unknown whether these services were held on Sunday or not, simply because the soldiers had lost count of the days of the week.
The road leading to Demory Cave was known for many years as the Pussley Road, named for the English purslane planted along it, from Sugar Hollow to Demory.
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