1st. An ancient and elaborately finished sword thrown by the surf on the beach fronting the right bank of the river, in the year 1820, which was picked up by Orin Joiner, a member of the family of Datus Kelley. The hilt terminated in a ponderous lions head, which, and the guard, were of pure and solid silver. It was subsequently sold to a Cleveland goldsmith, and the silver was melted down for other uses.
If I am correctly informed, the lion’s head was, in the last century, the insignia, to designate the naval from the land service of Great Britain-hence it is inferred that this sword belonged to a naval officer attached to the flotilla-probably the commander.
2d. In the spring of 1842, a heavy storm broke up and rearranged the hidden sand bar, extending at right angles with the beach, from the east bank far into the lake. Evidences were abundant at that time that one of the sunken barges, which had been engulphed in the quicksands, for more than three fourths of a century was also broken up. Gun-flints, brass guards of muskets, eroded bayonets and fragments of muskets barrels, were cast on the shore or were found among the sands in shoal water. Many of these articles were observed by John Williams, Capt. Burlighame, and Frederick Wright; who are among the few survivors of our early settlers that recollect the circumstances.
In one night, the last named individual, hauled in six bayonets, while sweeping this bar with his seine, soon after that storm occurred.
The surf also threw high upon the beach, the bow-stem of a large boat or batteau. The wood was much chafed, and water-soaked, a heavy iron ring-bolt, perforating it, secured by a nut, was deeply incrusted with rust. A thick coating of aquatic moss or algae, invested a portion of the wood, while other portions had evidently been buried in the sand. It remained on the shore for a year or two, when it was burned by fishermen, and I secured the ring-bolt.
At that time, it attracted the attention of common observers, and was in their minds, indefinitely associated with the other relics, but no one in the vicinity, was then in possession of the historical facts connected with those two disasters.
Since the year 1850, no further discoveries have been made on that beach.
3d. In the year 1859, a bayonet was thrown out by a plow on the margin of the plateau, overlooking the left bank of the river, between Tisdale’s point, and the highway, running from the plank-road to the residence of Col. Merwin. In the year 1863, Capt. Tisdale, while constructing a private road to his residence on the point, uncovered with a plow, the circle of boulders inclosing a quantity of ashes and charcoal-the remains of a camp-fire, to which allusion has already been made, and which is near where the bayonet was discovered.
On the outer margin of the circle were, dug out of the earth, the remains of case-knife, nearly consumed by rust, and the blade of a surgeon’s amputating knife. The bayonet and the amputating knife I have among my collection of relics.
4th. The ring-bolt, rudder irons, nails, and other remnants of a consumed batteau, were exposed by clearing of the bottom at the mouth of McMahon’s run, soon after the first settling of the township.
5th. A stack of bayonets, covered with accumulated soil, rubbish and rank vegetation, and the remains of a musket, resting in the crotch of a tree, encased in the growth of wood; were discovered about the same period of time, as were the relics of the batteau.
6th. Several years later, two, six-pound cannon balls and a number of leaden musket balls, were exposed to view, by undermining, by the Lake of the clay-cliff, which rises from the western margin of the bottom lands. These, no doubt, were among the articles, buried, by Bradstreet, with his cannon and ammunition, as described by Sir Wm. Johnson.
All of the aforenamed relics were discovered by Mr. McMahon, and most of them were preserved by his family for a considerable time. All seem now to be lost, except the two six-pound cannon balls, which the family retain, and one of the musket balls, that is in my possession.
7th. About the year 1831, a young daughter of Datus Kelly, now Mrs. Charles Carpenter, of Kelly’s Island, found an antique silver spoon on the beach, opposite the present residence of Col. Merwin. She dug it out of the sand while at play. It is thick and heavy for its size, the workmanship, which is coarse, is evidently old, and is of the model of those that were common, in the more wealthy families in New England during the last century.
On the under side of the tip of the handle, the initials, I. C. are engraved, and on the same side near its junction with the bowl, are stamped the initials of the maker, A.S. Mrs. Carpenter has had the care and good taste to retain it in her possession as an interesting relic.
8th. On the 4th of July, 1851, Oscar Taylor, in company with several young men, while bathing in the lake at McMahon’s cove, some forty rods west run, discovered in the water a teaspoon similar in all respects, except the engraved initials are S. T. He now resides at New London, Wisconsin, and retains the spoon. On the same occasion Stephen M. Taylor found an old bayonet near that locality, but neglected to preserve it.
9th. Still farther to the west, on the beach opposite the farm of Mr. Brown, the proprietor discovered many years since, an iron or steel tomahawk, constructed to answer also the purpose of a piper for smoking. It is lost.
10th. In the year 1859, an extensive slide from the high land, overlooking the lake and the right bank of McMahon’s run, took place. While examining it, Edwin Bidwell noticed the end of a bayonet, still bearing the metallic tip of the sheath, projecting from the undisturbed margin of the bank, about twelve inches below the surface, the depth of the soil that seems to have accumulated over many of these relics, dropped on the land, a hundred years since. This bayonet was invested in the fine grained blue clay, formed from the breaking down of the adjacent shales, in which condition it is thrown upon the margin of the high banks of the lake, by the surf during storms. So perfectly did this investing material, protect the bayonet against the action of erosive agents, that it now retains much of its original polish,. and is entire in all its parts. Through the kindness of Mr. B. I have it in my collection.
11th. In the same collection are also a number of bayonets less perfect, collected by the families of Gov. Wood and Col. Merwin. These, at different times, were thrown up by the surf, or were drawn out of the water by fishermen’s seines. One thus obtained was still attached to a large fragment of a musket barrel.
Two years since, a very entire and perfect musket barrel was obtained in the same manner, and presented so me by the fishermen. It belonged to an English Queen’s arm of the last century. It exactly receives the bayonet found by Mr. Bidwell, and the lead ball, washed from the clay bank at McMahon’s run.
The locality, along the beach at Col. Merwin’s where many of these relics have been found, is a favorite fishing ground, but the fishermen, after a few trials, are annually compelled to abandon it, as their seines are certain to become entangled by hidden and fixed objects some rods from the land. Often they are cut and injured, and they draw in various relics. The remains of some of Bradstreet’s engulphed batteaux are doubtless the obstructions against which they become arrested.
12th. Pursuing the survivor’s track from the beach, where they were overwhelmed by the storm, we first arrive at the ridge, near the house of Frederick Wright. There he some years since disinterred the collection of gun flints above referred to. In quantity they are said to have amounted to a peck or more. They were adapted to the heavy musket, but had never been used. I have not succeeded in obtaining a specimen; though the authority upon which the above statement is made, is good.
13th. Still further east along the ridge is the orchard of John Williams, where, at the first breaking up of the ground, a silver teaspoon was exposed, some thirty or more years since. It was retained by him until recently, when it was lost. From report it seems to have been similar to those previously described, and doubtless belonged to some of the officers of the expedition.
A vague report also states that a number of relics, including a sword and several bayonets, were in early times discovered in the next lot east, lately owned by Wm. Allen. No satisfactory confirmation of it can be obtained.
14th. A few rods still farther to the east, in the garden of the Patchen Inn, Mr. Silverthorn, in 1862, while excavating to put out a fruit tree, discovered some three or four dollars in silver, in a small pieces of change, of French and English coinage, one bearing date in 1717, and all of them earlier than 1764. It is to be regretted that he soon passed them off at their nominal value.
15th. Mr. P.A. Delford, residing at the plank-road gate, discovered in 1863, while digging in his garden a few rods from the last named locality, two copper pennies of 1749, bearing the effigies of George II. Of Great Britain.
I have perhaps been tediously minute in these details, but my object was to facilitate the labors of any future investigator, who may attempt to divest this subject of any remaining doubts and obscurities.
A theory, to account for the manner in which these relics were scattered and deposited, at these several points has been already given.
A tumulus or gave of unknown dead, long since observed, on the right bank of the Rocky river, I have not noticed; yet I have little doubt, it has an intimate connection with one or the other of these disasters.
It is situated one hundred and fifty feet east of the plank road bridge, at the head of a gully, that formerly cut, from the high ground down to the bottom land, near the present bridge. This gully has been partially obliterated, by the construction of the road. In its pristine condition, it was the only accessible way, from the river to the uplands, except a similar gully nearer the lake, and at the head of which that ancient camp-fire was established, on the left bank of the river.
This tumulus was observed at the time of the clearing of the land, forty years since, but as it was ascertained that it abounded with human bones, the early cultivators were careful to shun it. It then rose from two to three feet, above the level of the adjacent ground, and was about one rod square. The covering of earth was so thin that a spade easily reached the bones; and the surface was strewed with their fragments.
The common belief was, that it was an Indian grave. Mr. Worden, plowing the field with two yoke of oxen, seventeen years since, attempted to level it down by running his plow deeply through it. His furrows seemed to consist mostly of human bones, skulls in large proportion; and all in a very perfect state of preservation. He again interred them, and avoided any further disturbance of the locality. He informed me, that his sons, then small lads, picked up, from the rubbish of bones many small articles, such as metallic buttons and pieces of iron.
The former were entire, the latter were nearly destroyed with rust. It was a mystery with him and his family, how the early Indians should possess so many of these articles. One of those sons, now an adult, confirms fully the statement of his father.
In 1861 Mr. Eaton again plowed into it, and threw up bones in like manner. Of the large ones, he brought me at least two bushels, including a dozen craniums, and I subsequently made additional collections.
On examining them, they evidently were middle aged or younger adults, and all males. I pronounced them to be either Greeks or Anglo-Saxons, not then knowing that a Greek colony had ever settled within the Union, I concluded, of course, they must have belonged to the latter race-which was confirmed by the decision of one of the most perfect of craniologists in our country. My further conclusion was, that they were the remains of those who perished in one of the shipwrecks, on the shipwrecks, on the adjacent coast.
The following year, Mr. Kirkpatrick and myself, made a thorough exploration to the bottom of the tumulus. This we reached at the depth of two or three feet, after digging through a rich compost of bones and decayed animal matter. The bottom tier of skeletons at that place, had not been disturbed since their interment. We examined two-one large and middle aged, the other somewhat smaller and younger, judging from the teeth and length of the bones. Both were lying on their sides, thrown there in a careless manner.
By the front of the large one, and near its middle, lay in close contact, the following articles, to wit: two small fragments of ancient Indian pottery, of the days of the race of mound building; once valve of the unio siliquiodes of the western rivers; a knife, or spatula formed from bone, and the peculiar bone of one of the sexes of the raccoon. They occupied a small place only, and could have been embraced as charms, or amulets in an Indian’s pouch, or the pocket of a soldier as objects of curiosity.
This discovery led to the conclusion that they all were Indian skeletons, but on re-examining such of the craniums as have not been lost, I am led to believe that the one of large size, found at that bottom of the grave, was that of an Indian, while the others were Anglo-Saxon.
The grave was evidently shallow, not over three feet deep. The bodies were thrown in one on another without much care, and were covered superficially, raising the tumulus two or three feet above the surface of the adjacent ground, in the manner soldiers are many times buried on recent battlefields.
That these individuals perished in one or the other of those wreckings, can be hardly doubt. That Bradstreet had with him many Indians is certain, but nothing is known as to the number of men he lost; though that number was considerable is inferred from the fact that “the losses of officers and men by the wreck, was made the subject of legislative action.” That Wilkins lost a specified number, is well established ; seventy men and three officers, but whether he was accompanied by Indians is not recorded. Such was probably the fact, for they were wont to take part in all military movements in those days, and he would need them as scouts and guides to his expedition. One or more were probably lost, and were thrown into the bottom of this grave. Its dimensions adapted it for the reception of about the number of his dead.
Another view may be taken. I may err in the conclusion, that one was an Indian ‘s skull. All may be Anglo-Saxon. The Indian amulets, may have been collected by a sailor while among the Indians, retained as curiosities in a pocket of his clothing and with his person buried in this grave, after he perished.
We have the example of Herodotus for introducing discussions and opposing statements, in cases where the evidence is not historically conclusive. He gives in this way an interesting variety, and an air of candor to his narrations.
Prof. Kirtland’s investigations leave reasonable doubts, in reference to the locality of Major Wilkins’ disaster.
The additional testimony which I now introduce, favors the impression that it occurred on the north shore, nearly opposite Cleveland, but does not entirely relieve the obscurity of the subject.
A letter in the Newport Mercury, (R. I.,) of December 26th, 1763, states the shipwreck to have happened at “Point-aux-Pins,” or Pine Point, already referred to by Prof. Kirtland. Pine Point is the only recognized name, for a short spit which projects into the Lake at the “Rond-eau,” Rondout, or round water, on the Canada shore. This point is visible on Evan’s map, but is there without a name. It projects in a southerly and westerly direction into the water, the bearing of which upon the question of locality, will appear reading the following extract, to which reference has already been made.
Extract from the “Newport Mercury,” December 26th 1763, from a New York letter dated December 19th.
“The same day Major Moncrieffe arrived here from Niagara. He belonged to the detachment under the command of Major Wilkins, destined from Niagara for Detroit, by whom we learn that on the 7th, ultimo, at 11 o’clock at night, eighteen of their boats foundered on Lake Erie, in a violent storm at south-east, which came on suddenly, by which seventy brave men were drowned.
“Among the number was Lieut. Davidson of the train and nineteen of his men, also Lieut. Paynter and Doctor Williams of the 80th, and a French pilot. The whole detachment was in danger of being lost, as every batteaux that reached the shore was more than half full of water, by which means sixty odd barrels of provisions, all the ammunition but two rounds to the man, which the officers saved in their hands and two small brass field pieces were lost; and that after holding a council of war it was thought most prudent to return to Niagara.”
A wind at south-east, or in a southerly direction, could not have been the occasion of a dangerous sea on a straight southerly coast. In turning any projecting land on the north shore, a storm at any point of compass, south of an east and west line, would be dangerous, if it was severe.
Among the manuscripts of the Maryland Historical Society, at Baltimore, is the unpublished journal or Lieut. James Gorell, who was in the expedition. The Rev. E. A. Dalrymple, secretary of the society, has transcribed for my use, what relates directly to the shipwreck.
From allusions to attacks from the Indians in other parts of the journal, he supposes the party to have followed the southern shore of the Lake. This extract, however, states that they were delayed by contrary winds at “Long Point” ten days. On Evans’ map this is the name given to the slender promontory opposite Erie, which it has retained ever since. No other point of that name or character exists in any part of Lake Erie.
Extract from the Journal of Lieut. James Gorell concerning the shipwreck of Major Wilkins’ command, November 7th, 1763.
“At 10 o’ clock at night we set sail and continued all night and next day, until we came to the long point. There we were obliged to stay for ten days. The day we left we got a good wind until we came to a place called Fish Creek, where we were obliged to lay nine days more; on the ninth day the wind favored us, and the Major ordered us all up, with instructions to keep well out from the land and to continue all night. About two hours after dark there arose a storm, and we lost nineteen batteaux, the most of them the largest and best. Lieut. Davidson and all the powder boats were lost in this storm. (Not legible.) Was drowned, of the artillery, Lieut. Painter, late of the Independent, Doctor Williams, of the 80th regiment, with four sergeants, sixty-three privates and one Canadian. The next day we attempted to gather the wreck, but found little or none, except Lieut. Davidson and about six men, which we buried. As soon as the Indians were gone out of sight (they were sent by land to Detroit), we set sailed and arrived at Niagara the latter end of November.”
The distance from the “Rond-eau” in a direct line to Detroit is sixty miles; by way of the Lake shore between ninety and one hundred. From Rocky river by land to the same place, is one hundred and fifty to one hundred and sixty miles.
No mention is made by Moncrief or Gorell, of the post at Presque Isle on the south shore, where they would have called, and received supplies had they passed that way. The south shore route is nearly one hundred miles longer than the north, a distance which it was of great consequence to save, at this season of fall storms on the Lake.
Rogers took the southern route because he was required to visit Fort Pitt, and to procure cattle from that region. The object of Bradstreet’s expedition was to strike the Ohio Indians living on the south shore.
All the relics procured at Rockport may have belonged to Bradstreet’s party, whose boats were no doubt scattered by the storm and came ashore at different points. One of the contemporary accounts states, that they stood boldly out on the Lake, hoping to weather the rocky portion of the coast, before they were beached. Between Long Point and Rondout, on the Canada shore, is Catfish creek, which may have had that name at that time. The number of bodies recovered was only six, while those buried at Rocky river, were from sixty to seventy. This is the extent of our present knowledge upon this subject.