Researched and compiled by Tim Mann
The Wolverton Incident and The Dilbone Massacre
There are several accounts of the Dilbone Massacre. It occurred in 1813 on what is now State Route 36, east of Piqua. An account exists in every Miami County history book. The same can be said concerning a massacre involving Major Wolverton and some local soldiers. The first recorded accounts stem from the writings of Dr. Asa Coleman. Dr. Coleman was one of the county's first physicians, as well as a surgeon for the Ohio Militia during the War of 1812. His original version of these events was first published in 1837 by the Troy Times. Many of his recollections have been published, often not recognizing him as the primary source of information. This story holds information from all previous versions of the massacres, as well recently discovered letters from government officials concerning the events.
"The Wolverton Incident"
The first massacre concerning Miami County was not the above mentioned Gerard or Dilbone killings, but an "incident" that happened one year prior.
A group of Indians were ambushed by Miami Militia. In a letter to the Liberty Hall Newspaper, General Edmund Munger noted that arms were being sent from Urbana to supply several parties of Miami's men. These men were to patrol the area between Greenville and the Piqua-Troy area. Major Charles Wolverton, who was in command of Fort Greenville, was on patrol with a company of men. An Indian camp was discovered near their post. Without attempting to determine the position or loyalties of these Indians, the company of men attacked the Indians. Two Indians were killed another wounded, and several captured. The Indians offered no resistance.
The May 1812 edition of the Ohio Centinel describes the "incident":
The Indians-The savages appear to be engaged on every quarter of our frontier in committing depredations upon the lives and property of settlers. On the 20th of last month, they killed and scalped a man near Greenville. In consequence of the murder of Greenville, a volunteer company of militia from Miami County marched to that neighborhood, and we have been notified that they killed two, wounded another and taken two squaws and a boy prisoner. They are in pursuit of the wounded Indian, and they state a determination to kill every Indian they meet with, until they have further orders.
A later edition of the Centinel states that the wounded Indian lost his hand do to the injury. Who were these Indians camping near Greenville? Unfortunately, they were a friendly hunting party. They were the family of an Indian named Killbuck. The surviving Indians were taken to the fort, kept for some time. They were later sent under guard to Colonel John Johnston, the local Indian Agent. Johnston personally took this family back to Greenville, and ordered the Militia to restore their property. He then released them to their tribe. Colonel Johnston's official report to the Secretary of War, William Eustice was as follows:
The Honorable William Eustice
Life on the frontier was filled with violence for citizens in this area. It appears even more so for Indians. As for young Killbuck, he successfully escaped from his guard, and escaped a murder trial. Not all Indians were so lucky. Governor Meigs received an official report of the Wolverton Incident. It read as follows:
I likewise understood that the party with Major Wolverton had just seen the mangled corpse of one of their fellow citizens, who had fallen innocent victim to savage barbarity, without the least insult or provocation. This exasperated the men to such a degree, that it was very difficult to control them.
I was informed by Mr. Conner, a trader at Fort Recovery, that the party of Indians which were killed stayed at his house several days, and appeared to be friendly. They told him they were going to buy whiskey, they had a number of horses, and a considerable quantity of skins. They also had one handsome bridle with a plated bit, and one of their guns was stamped "London" on the barrel. Whether they are friends or foes is unknown, but they are of the Pottowattomie Nation.
We found on our arrival at Greenville five other Indians, who were in the possession of our party. they appeared to be friendly, and they were fearful that settlers might come across them and kill them. These Indians were of the Shawnee Nation. When I left Greenville, I thought it advisable to bring them all on with us, together with all their property, which I sent to Mr. Johnston, the Indian Agent, to dispose of agreeable to your directions.
I would further state to your Excellency the alarming situation of the settlements in the route we went. We found nearly all the inhabitants above the Stillwater River had evacuated their houses and farms, and removed back. We understand that if there could be a sufficient number of men sent on the frontier, they could go back and plant corn, and would return to their homes again.
I believe there is a probability of the Indians making an attack shortly. Mr. Conner told me that he had been advised by friendly Indians to remove from his place, or he would be killed, for the Prophet's party had determined to fall on the white peoples as soon as the leaves put out and their horses got in better order. He also said that there was a number of Indians at different times who related the same story. He has therefore removed to that place and was at Greenville. Everything looks like war with the Indians, although I believe some are determined not to act on either side.
If your Excellency should think proper to send out a detachment of men to those parts, to be stationed at such places as you may think proper to direct, under some vigilant officer. I would be leave to recommend Colonel Jerome Holt to be a man very suitable for that command, he having been an active officer, and thoroughly acquainted with all that part of the country, having served in all the different campaigns, through the last Indian War.
I have the Honor to be, with Respect,
Troy Citizens Petition the Governor
Miami County was an extremely dangerous place to live. Indian attacks were on the rise. Miami and Greene counties were considered war zone by the state, and men who stayed on their farm was draft exempt. Settlers in neighboring counties were being killed, and it was no surprise to settlers when murders occurred in this area. Prior to the Dilbone Massacre, thirty-five men from Troy petitioned Ohio's governor, R.J. Meigs concerning the Indians who were gathered at the Johnston Farm.
To His Excellency R.J. Meigs Governor of the said State
The petition of the undersigned humbly sheweth- that whereas there are a considerable number of Indians of the Delaware tribes called in by order of General Harrison, and are now in our county, that it is but thinly settled on the frontier, distant from a market where provisions can be furnished them. The people of the neighborhood, feel themselves in a dangerous situation in the consequences of their being exposed to invasion and depredation from them, they lying contiguous to the enemy, have every opportunity of conveying information to them of our situation, moving off and joining them and doing much mischief, from their knowledge of our country etc.etc.-
This brief petition we would humbly beg your Excellency to take into consideration and relieve us from a state of uneasiness and alarm, by having them removed to the interior of our state, where from its population they will be awed into the submission to the authorities having charge over them and supported at a much less expense to the Government-
At the outset of hostilities, Colonel Johnston was the unofficial authority in the county. Johnston spent his time trying to keep peace with the Indian nations, provide safety and shelter for many Indians camping at his farm, and attempting to intervene in Militia "incidents". The latter was frustrating for him, as he had no official power or rank concerning the Ohio Militia. His pleas for assistance often went unanswered. Local history books state that Johnston wrote to George Buchanan, a Captain at a blockhouse in Covington. He appealed for help. This is true, however, Buchanan was also ordered by Governor Meigs to assist Johnston. In order to obtain this assistance, Johnston appealed in writing to the United States Secretary of War, William Eustice. Eustice appealed to Ohio's governor through contacts in Washington.
The Honorable William Eustice
I have the Honor to Remain with Very Great respect, Sir,
The Dilbone Massacre
The fears of Troy's citizens were later to be realized, but not by the Indians residing at the Johnston farm. Johnston was directed by the Federal Government to supply non-hostile Indians with a safe domain and supplies, and also to keep them congregated in some sort of orderly manner. Harrison sent many Indians to Johnston in order to keep promote neutrality. As the number of Indians increased, so did the tension in the county.
In mid August, 1813, a man named David Gerard was murdered by two Indians in a woods near his house. He had been making shingles with a man named Ross. After Gerard was shot, Ross escaped and ran to Staunton, where a company of volunteers were drilling, and warned the community. Men returned to the scene to find Gerard scalped. His family was unharmed. Two miles north, the same Indians came upon a man named Henry Dilbone and his family. Dilbone was shot through the chest, but ran into the cornfield and hid in order to escape. He saw the Indians tomahawk and scalp his wife, but was unable to come to her aid. He hid himself as well as he could, and was not found until the next day. He was still living when he was located by Captain Benjamin Dye. Dye and his men were returning from Fort Greenville. In his last minutes on this earth, Dilbone asked for his wife and children. Captain Dye told him his children were being cared for, and that his wife was dead. He asked to see her remains, and after looking at her, he fell back and died. John Dilbone, the eldest child, was seven years old. He witnessed the entire event. After seeing his parents killed, he took his two sisters and infant brother back to their home. The children put the infant to sleep, and all climbed into their parents bed. Later that day, a neighbor stopped in and asked they why they were in bed. John told her the horrid story. She immediately left for her children and the nearest station. Presently, William McKinney came, and John took him to the grizzly scene. John also mentioned that he knew the Indian who was responsible was a well known local, Mingo George. According to John, his mother had pleaded with her murderer when he had fired at her husband. "George, don't kill him", she begged. She was then tomahawked. McKinney took the children to Winan's Station for safety.
As for Mingo George, some time later he was killed by a well directed bullet while deer hunting along the Miami River. The local tribe he had been staying with buried him without comment. As a warrior, he had achieved one of his goals. The hostile Indians in the area wanted to drive wedges between the citizens and the Indians that Johnston was keeping at his farm. A goal which was not achieved, was that of taking Colonel Johnston's life.
Johnston was much alarmed for the safety of the community. He noted details of the attacks in a letter he penned the following letter to the National Intelligencer:
Piqua, Ohio August 21, 1813
On Wednesday evening the 18th of the present month, the British allies made an irruption into the neighborhood of Piqua. They fired on David Gerard and a Mr. Ross who had been working some distance from a house. Ross made his escape unhurt, but Gerard, not being able to get out of the way, fell sacrifice to the tomahawk and scalping knife. From this scene the savages proceeded some distance to where Henry Dilbone and his wife were pulling flax. They fired upon Dilbone and shot him through the body, after which they dispatched his wife with the knife and tomahawk, in the act of holding up her hands and begging for mercy. The murderous wretches made good their retreat and in all probability have returned to there employers at Malden to receive reward for their services.
Both Dilbone and Gerard have left families of small helpless children. The party who committed the above murders passed Wapaghkonetta where they were spoken to, avowed there intention of coming to Piqua, and said they were sent by the British. They also said several parties of Indians were sent to other parts of the frontier. From many circumstances which have come to my knowledge, I am induced to believe these visits will be repeated upon our defenseless inhabitants. Those residing in places of danger will do well to be on their guard.
In haste, Your Obedient Servant,
The story ends as it begins, with murders within our community. Passing through the Miami Valley was much more difficult for the red man than the white. We know the fate of Mingo George. There is no record of disciplinary action against Major Wolverton or the men who attacked the peaceful Indians. Although we will never know all the facts, it appears that justice looked at the Indians with a blind eye.
On State Route a marker calls out the location of the Dilbone Massacre. When we travel north on Hardin Road past the Johnston Farm, we see no sign of the dangers that were real to our ancestors. This area highly volatile area was once the "hot spot" of the county. The Ohio Historical Society now keeps this area picturesque. It is difficult to imagine danger it held for our ancestors.
As an 1812 reenactor and Johnston Farm volunteer, people often tell me how much they would have liked to lived in early Miami County. The pace, freedoms, and opportunities our forefathers held are certainly fun to think about. Combining the fun things with the daily struggles and dangers, leads me to a different conclusion. Who knows? In two hundred years our descendants may say, "Wouldn't it have been great to lived back in 2001 ?
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