Simon Kenton, Namesake of the Simon Kenton Chapter
by Raymond G.Hughes
Kenton’s Captivity and Escape
“Bowman got me and two more to go to Chillicothe and make discovery- Alexander Montgomery got killed, I got taken, and George Clark escaped who piloted Bowman there next Spring, 1779. I did not return anymore to Clark till the summer of 1779.” This is how Simon Kenton described what has been stated to be the most momentous succession of perils, transitions, and hairbreath escapes in all our border history. (Kenton ran the Gauntlet nine times and was slated to be burned at the stake three times during his life)
For two months there was literally no moment when his life was not threatened nor a moment where he was not “miraculously” saved.
Kenton was sent to obtain information which he got and as a part of “frontier morality” he set about to retrieve horses that had been stolen by the Indians. While in the process of catching seven of the best horses they were heard by the Indians. Escaping thru Logan’s Gap which is 4 ½ miles below Aberdeen and about 3 ½ miles above Ripley, they tried to cross the Ohio River but the weather was stormy and the river was rough and they couldn’t get the horses into the water, the horses were frightened and refused to enter the water. Kenton said they had acted foolishly and should have cut the horses loose and escaped. At this time Kenton saw the Indians coming and fired at the leader but only had a “flash in the pan.” Kenton was run down by the Indians and captured. They tied him to a tree and went after Montgomery who thy overtook and killed. They scalped him and returned with the bloody scalp and slapped Kenton in the face with the scalp. The third man, Clark escaped.
The Shawanees were in a bitter mood, they had just lost Boone who was giving them trouble, but they were aware of Kenton’s reputation for courage and daring. They delighted in having a “brave man” for their captive and Kenton’s courage prolonged the ritual of his torture. The first night he was whipped and “stretched out” laid flat on his back with arms extended full length and wrists tied to a pole across his chest. A rope was passed under his body and around the pole and his elbows tied likewise. A halter was placed around his neck and tied to a tree and a stake driven in the ground to which his ankles were tied. He was unable to move and in terrible pain from the bonds and injuries inflicted by the Indians. Their only concern was that no blow should be fatal; they had a prize and he was not to die too quickly.
Kenton had been captured on September 13, 1778. Early the next morning while starting to Chillocothe the Indians bound Kenton to an unbroken 3 year old colt, they fastened his hands behind him and his feet under the colt’s belly, a halter was passed around his neck and its ends fastened to the colts neck and rump. They gave the colt a smart slap. The colt pitched, reared and rolled to rid itself of Kenton. Tree limbs tore his body and face, every leap of the colt was danger for if he lost his balance the halter would hang him.
On the fourth morning they approached the village and the Indians had arranged a “welcoming committee” for him was as follows. For a quarter of a mile from the Council House stretched two parallel lines of Indians- men, women, boys- standing 5 or 6 feet apart and armed with poles, sticks, thorn bushes, hoes and the like. He was to run the Gauntlet. If he was knocked down during the race it must be run again! If he could enter the council house without being struck by the squaw standing guard there with a hand spike he should go free. Kenton doubled and dodged and made it to the council house where he was struck by the squaw and felled! The race had to be run again! This time halfway down the line he made a leap got outside and was near the house when again he was knock down by a club, at which time all the Indians rushed and beat and kicked him until he was nearly dead. Another race was out of the question! That evening the warriors deliberated over his fate and it was decided that Kenton was to die by “burning at the stake.”
Kenton was taken to the village of Wappatomika, which was the strong hold of the Shawnee. Inside a large meeting house he was tied to a stake and his face painted black in preparation to being burned at the stake. Then suddenly he saw his good friend Simon Girty who was with the Indians. Girty convinced the Indians to spare his life, and for the next 20 days he recovered from his injuries and was adopted by the Indians. Then a group of defeated Indians returned to camp and demanded Kenton be put to death so the ruling was reversed Girty then convinced the Indians to take Kenton to Sandusky and make the event a national affair instead of a local event.
While on the way to Sandusky they passed thru present day Kenton, Ohio where Logan, the Mingo Chief lived. Logan who respected Kenton said he would send two runners ahead to Sandusky to speak “good of him” and try to save him. When he arrived at Sandusky Kenton was tied to a stake in preparation to being burned at the stake. THIS WAS A CLEAR CLOUDLESS DAY AND SUDDENLY CAME THE HEAVIEST RAINSTORM KENTON HAD EVER SEEN. The Indians were in awe of him and thought the Great Spirit was angry with them. Never the less after talking they concluded that the sentence must be carried out. At this THIRD DATE for his burning there appeared Pierre Druillard. (It was to him that Logan had sent the two runners) Druillard was an agent for General Hamilton at Fort Detroit, he convinced the Indians to allow him to take Kenton to General Hamilton for questioning. This they agreed too and eventually Kenton escaped and returned to Kentucky.