EXPERT GENEALOGY Newsletter|
By Jeannette Holland Austin
|Issue No. 5 February 2003|
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Abigail Hedgepath scalped by Indians
This story was told by E. S. McCombs to the Atlanta Constitution, Saturday, June 9, 1894 edition, of the scalping of little Abigail Hedgepath before the days of the American Revolution."I was only about ten years old when I first remember Abigail Hedgepeth. Her father was an Englishman, industrious and brave, but he cared not if king or people ruled. He tilled his fields, fished the streams, hunted game and was on good terms with all his neighbors. He had taken up land in the new settlement on the Altamaha (McIntosh County, Georgia). His land joining that of Uncle Billy Allen, our families were quite intimate. Abgail, was the first and only playmate of my own age that I had ever had, and very pleasant, indeed, were the days we septn together. We looked very much alike, and the similarity in size and complexion was the cause of Abigail's misfortune....
Shortly after we had made our home in the new settlement Uncle Billy employed an Indian boy about seventeen or eighteen years of age, a veritable type of the red man, slight, but straight as an arrow. He wore a shirt and pants of blue cotton goods, his hair was cut straight across his low brow and hung down his neck and the side of his face. A striped cotton handkerchief was folded and tiled around his head, the ends mingling with the hair behind. He wore neither shoes nor moccasins. His business was to attend the cattle, chop wood and do the errands.
....I watched this boy closely, because I feared him....
Mr. Hedgepeth's loghouse was on a hill, about fifty yards from the road, which ran along just on the brow of the hill. About fifty yards further down a sharp declivity, on the other side of the road, was the spring, from which they procured their water.
It was midwinter, but Mr. Hedgepeth was getting his fields ready for the spring planting. The trees that\lay on the ground were cut in convenient lengths to be rolled into heaps and burned. On the first pleasant day after they were all cut, the neighbors were invited to assist at the "log rolling", as it was called. Some eight or ten men came with their families. They were all the neighbors there were for miles around. The men carried the logs on hand-spikes into heaps; the women assisted in preparing the dinner, which, though of homely fare, was bountiful and well cooked.
We two little girls, Abigail and I made frequent trips to the spring for water. About noon I was sent to the field with a pail of water for the workmen. Abigail, being employed at the time, I had to go alone. THe path lay near the fence inside the field. On the outside was a dense wood. When about half way back to the house carrying my empty pail, I was started by something whizzing by my head. I turned quickly to see what it was. Just then one of the men came up with me; he had broken his handspike and was going to the house for another. I asked him if he threw anything at me and told him it sounded like a sliver spinning through the air and very near my head.
"Hello!" said he, "can there be any redskins around?"
I fairly cried with fright and clung to his arm in terror. He laughed at me and told me that there was not an Indian within fifty miles of us. All were "on the other side of the Great Ogeechee". I was reassured and said nothing about it, not even to my little friend, Abigail.
The work went briskly and merrily on, both in the field and at the house. By 3 o'clock all was finished and the men had come in for dinner. It was soon spread and all were seated at the table. Sceams were heard from outside....there was one agonized cry from a mother. In an instant every one was on his feet. The men caught up their weapons and made ready for the attack. The women gathered up the screaming children and hastened to secure as well as they could the windows and doors. One kindly hand restrained the distracted mother's frantic efforts to go to the rescue of her child....
Some minutes passed; no attack was made. The men looked in their flints and powder, and made the barricade more secure. An hour passed and still no Indians...It was nearly dark when our party left the house After seeing them well on their way to the place of safety, at least against a small force of poorly armed savages, Mr. Hedgepeth, Uncle Billy and one other started in another direction to follow as well as they could, in the night, the trail of the murderers. After proceeding a few miles they lost the trail entirely and decided to rest until daylight.
...Mr. Hedgepeth could not rest: his mind was too much distressed for the safety of his child. He arose and walked to a slight eminence near by and looked in every direction. He saw a small light at a distance. It would flicker for a moment, then disappear, and then grow larger. At length it became a steady flame and he felt sure it was a camp fire, but whether Indians or whites remained to be discovered. He returned to his companions, awoke them and told them of his discovery. They set out immediately to investigate, soon saw the fire and proceeded in a body towards. it.
After walking some distance, however, they lost sight of it altogether. They then agreed to separate; one would go straight on and the others make more circuitous routes. A signal was decided on to be given should the fire again be seen by one of them -- a single cry of a night bird, followed by three repetitions, if necessary, for them to get together. (the signal was finally given, and they regrouped, proceeding towards a campfire of Indians). When near enough to see the Indians they could county only three. They separated and went around the camp trying to discover the whereabouts of the prisoner, but she was not with them ...They decided to attack. Each man chose his victim and, should his musket fail, it was to be hand-to-hand encounter to the death. The Indian sitting sprang to his feet and fell across the fire; the other two did not move, but what was the astonishment of our friends, to see a fourth Indian arise from the other side of the fire. This sudden awaking from a sound sleep had so bewildered his senses that he ran almost into the arms of his enemies. He came so near that Uncle Billy recognized the boy whom he had had employed - my old enemy. They had no time to reload and he was too swift of foot for them to think of pursuit.
Meanwhile, at the blockhouse, where the women and children were hiding, they heard the voice of a child: "Please let me in, I'm almost dead."
They cautiously made an opening large enough for a child to pass and bade it come. A pitiable object crept in and stood before them, with a gory head, purple and swollen face, a deep gash just above the temple where the cruel tomahawk had struck her down. No wonder they did not recognize at first little Abigail, but it was indeed she.
In a few days Abigail was able to be taken home, when she was quite well of her wounds, but all her life she bore the scars."