J. H. Newton, G.G. Nicols, and A. G. Sprankle, HISTORY OF THE PAN-HANDLE, West Virginia, 1879, pp. 134-135; Ohio County Library,
http://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/wheeling-history/4298, contributed by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.
THE M'COLLOCH FAMILY - Among the earliest settlers in Northwestern Virginia were the McCollochs, who emigrated from the south branch of the Potomac, in 1770, and located on the borders of Short creek, stream which empties into the Ohio river nine miles north of Wheeling creek. The family consisted of four brothers. Abraham, George, Samuel and John, and two sisters, one of whom Elizabeth, was the wife of Ebenezer Zane, who, with his brothers Jonathan and Silas, came from the same neighborhood, and settled at the mouth of Wheeling creek.
The father of the McCollochs, whose name was also Samuel is said to have been sent by the government some time previous with a number of men from Alexandria over the Allegheny mountains to Fort Pitt. History only speaks of the settlement of the four sons and two daughters, but the present descendants assert that the father accompanied them down the river with the Zane's in the spring of 1770, and that after settling them upon the ridge bordering on Short creek, he with his wife, returned to his native place across the mountains and after some years was taken off by the yellow fever.
(KJW note: Father is John, grandfather is Samuel- father died after trip over mtn)
Between the two younger brothers of the McColloch family Samuel
and John, whose daring achievements in Indian warfare fill the pages of
history, seem to have existed a more than fraternal intimacy, arising
not only from congeniality of disposition, but from community of
interests and pursuits; consequently they were much together, and their
history is in some degree blended.
Samuel, whose name has been immortalized by his famous leap down an almost perpendicular precipice to escape the Indians on the 2d of September, 1777, has thereby become the most noted member of the family, in historical annals.
At a very early age he distinguished himself as a bold and efficient borderer. As an Indian fighter he had no superior. He seemed to track the wily red man with a sagacity as remarkable as his efforts were successful. He was almost constantly engaged in excursions against the enemy, or "scouting" for the security of the settlements. It was mainly to these energetic operations that the frontier was so often saved from savage depredation, and by cutting off their retreat, attacking their hunting camps, and annoying them in various other ways, he rendered himself so great an object of fear and hatred. For these they marked him allowed sleepless vengeance against his name. To many of the savages these brothers were personally known, and were objects of intense fear and hate. Numerous artifices were employed to capture them; their enemies anticipating, in such an event, the privilege of satiating their vindictive malice, by the infliction of a lingering and cruel death. Of this design, on the part of the Indians, the brothers were aware; and in their almost miraculous preservation, in various contests with them, gratefully acknowledged the interposition of an in visible power in their behalf.
In consideration of his many very efficient services, Samuel McColloch was commissioned Major in 1775.
While the enemy was pressing the siege of Wheeling, in 1777, Major Samuel McColloch, at the head of forty mounted men, from Short creek, made their appearance in front of the fort, the gates of which were joyfully thrown open. Simultaneously with the appearance of McColloch's men, re-appeared the enemy, and a rush was made to cutoff the entrance of some of the party. All, however, succeeding in getting in except the gallant Major, who, anxious for the safety of his men, held back until his own chance was entirely cut off. Finding himself surrounded by savages, he rode at full speed in the direction of the hill.
The enemy, with exulting yells, followed close in pursuit, not doubting they would capture one whom of all other men, they preferred to wreak their vengeance upon. The Indians drove the gallant Major to the summit of a lofty hill, which overhangs the present city of Wheeling. Knowing their relentless hostility toward himself, he strained every muscle of his noble steed to gain the summit, and then escape along the brow in the direction of Van Metre's fort. At length he attained the top, and galloping ahead of his pursuers, rejoiced at his lucky escape. As he gained a point on the hill near where the Cumberland Road now crosses, what should he suddenly encounter but a considerable body of Indians, who were just returning from a plundering excursion among the settlements.
In an instant, he comprehended the full extent of his danger. Escape seemed out of the question, either in the direction of Short creek or back to the bottom. A fierce and revengeful foe completely hemmed him in, cutting off every chance of successful retreat or escape. What was to be done? Fall into their hands, and share the most refined torture savage ingenuity could invent? That thought was agony, and in an instant the bold soldier, preferring death among the rocks and bramble to the knife and fagot of the savage, determined to plunge over the precipice before him. Without a moment's hesitation, for the savages were pressing upon him, he firmly adjusted himself in the saddle, grasped securely the bridle with his left hand, and supporting his rifle in the right, pushed his unfaltering old horse over! A plunge, a crash,-crackling timber and tumbling rocks were all that the wondering savages could see or hear. They looked chagrined but bewildered, one at another; and while they inwardly regretted that the fire had been spared its duty, they could not but greatly rejoice that their most in veterate enemy was at length beyond the power of doing further injury. But, lo! ere a single savage had recovered from his amazement, what should they see but the invulnerable major on his white steed, galloping across the peninsula. Such was the feat of Major McColloch, certainly one of the most daring and successful ever attempted. The place has become memorable as McColloch's leap, and will remain, so long as the hill stands, and the recollections of the past have a place in the hearts of the people. Our engraver has given a very effective and correct representation of this "leap."
It is to us a matter of great regret, that more of the stirring incidents in this man's life have not been collected and preserved. We have heard of many daring feats of personal prowess, but they come to us in such a mixed and unsatisfactory form, as to render their publication, at this time, unsafe.
In the spring of 1782, General Irvine called a convention of the lieutenants of the several counties and the principal field officers of the militia, as well as citizens of note, in the Western Department, for the purpose of devising means for the defense of the border. The convention met on the 5th of April, and we find the names of Major Samuel McColloch and David Shepherd, as the representatives of Ohio county, Va.
From the year 1777 to 1782 Major Samuel McColloch commanded at Fort Van Meter, styled the "Court House Fort," from the circumstance of the first civil court in Northwestern Virginia being held in it immediately after the organization and separation of Ohio county from West Augusta. This fort was one of the first erected in this part of Virginia, and stood on the north side of Short creek, about five miles from its confluence with the Ohio river. During many consecutive summers the inhabitants of the adjacent neighborhood sought security from the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the merciless aborigines within its palisades; agricultural labor being performed by companies, each member of which wrought with one hand while the other grasped a weapon of defence.
On the 30th July, 1782, arrangements were made by the inmates of the fort for the performance of field labor. To the commander and his brother, John, was assigned the dangerous duty of reconnoitering the paths leading from the river, to ascertain, if possible, whether there were any Indians lurking in the vicinity. Leaving early in the morning, in the discharge of their mission, after proceeding some distance, the former, impelled perhaps by a sudden premonition of the tragic fate which befell him, returned, and, depositing with the wife of his brother John, his watch and several other articles, gave directions as to their disposition, in the event of his not returning, and, leaving a kindly message for his youthful bride, soon rejoined his wondering companion.
They traversed the path lying along the south bank of the creek till within a short distance of its junction with the Ohio, where they crossed, and followed the direction of the river to the Beech bottom, a distance of three miles, when, perceiving no indications of an enemy, they retraced their steps to the mouth of the creek, a short distance above which they ascended a steep and rugged eminence, well known in the neighborhood by the significant cognomen of "Girty's Point." The notorious renegade, Simon Girty, having on several occasions, when conducting parties of Indians into the settlement, with difficulty escaped capture by the infuriated whites by a rapid flight over the craggy and precipitous path.
Congratulating themselves on the absence of immediate danger, the brothers pursued their course in the direction of the fort, on the summit of the elevated ridge rising abruptly from the northern bank of the creek, and had arrived at the termination of a deep ravine which made up from the stream - John being somewhat in advance of his brother, and riding round the top of a large tree which had fallen across the way - when a low, half-suppressed growl, from a well-trained hunting dog which accompanied them arrested their attention. No time, however, intervened for scrutinizing the cause; a volley of bullets from an invisible foe revealed it. On reaching the path John turned to look for his companion, whose bleeding form, with feelings of unutterable anguish, he beheld falling from his horse, and, ere it reached the earth, a stalwart savage sprang from his covert, tomahawk and scalping-knife in hand, with which to complete the bloody tragedy and secure a trophy of victory. While the exulting victor was in the act of scalping his victim the younger brother, with a frenzied resolution, suddenly wheeled his horse and, amid a shower of balls, elevating his rifle, quickly sent the swift messenger of death to the heart of the murderer, whom he had the exquisite gratification of seeing spring into the air, then fall to rise no more. Having performed this feat, he, as fast as possible, his enraged enemies in full pursuit, their balls perforating his hat and hunting-shirt, made his way down the ravine and soon reached the fort in safety, his brother's horse closely following him.
The next morning a party from the fort, proceeded to the spot where the sanguinary deed had been perpetrated, and found the mutilated remains of their beloved commander. The Indians influenced no doubt, by that species of hero-worship, inherent in their nature, causing an undoubted admiration of personal valor, had abstracted the heart of their victim; which, it was afterward learned, from one belonging to the party, had been eaten by them; a practice in which they occasionally indulged. Parkman, who was well acquainted with their habits, says: "The Indians, though not habitual cannibals, some times, eat portions of the bodies of their enemies, superstitiously believing that their own courage and hardihood will be increased thereby."
This fatal rencounter was, doubtless, instrumental in the salvation of the lives of all in the fort; it being subsequently ascertained that the party committing the murderous act consisted of upwards of one hundred warriors, en route to attack it.
After the escape of the surviving brother, aware that notice of their propinquity would be given, and immediate pursuit made, they hastily retreated to their towns west of the Ohio.
The remains of Major Samuel McColloch were interred in Fort Van Meter; but not unwept nor unhonored. There were present very many who knew and appreciated the sterling worth of the forest soldier, and by whom the memory of his noble qualities and tragic fate was long cherished; and to this day, in the vicinity where the circumstances transpired, the name and fate of the hero are as familiar as household words.
Major McColloch had married a Miss Mitchell only six months before his death. His widow afterward married Andrew Woods.
The place where this fatal disaster occurred, was on the farm now owned by James Ridgely, on the road known as Girty's point road, about two miles from the mouth of Short creek, Brooke county. His remains were interred near Fort Van Metre, where rest many of the patriots and pioneers of the land. No stone or monument has ever been erected, by their unappreciative descendants, to mark the last resting place of these noble men. Even the trees which were wont to smile upon their graves were not suffered to stand and tell to future generations where their ashes rest.
MAJOR SAMUEL McCOLLOCH
S. Myers, MYERS' HISTORY OF WEST VIRGINIA, Volume 1 (The Wheeling News Lithograph Company), Chapter XVIII, pages 298-302.
The greater portion of the following information regarding the history of the McCollochs is taken from DeHass' Indian Wars. This sketch relates principally to Samuel McColloch, though, incidentally, other members of the family will be mentioned in this chapter. There were two Major McCollochs -- John and Samuel -- and for a time it was erroneously believed by many that John was the one who made the famous leap over the precipice at Wheeling at the point now known as McColloch's Leap. But DeHass has produced evidence which shows conclusively that Samuel was tbe hero of this episode. It might seem strange to us at this time that there could be any question about the identity of persons so well known as the McCollochs were in and about Wheeling. But when we consider the fact that but few written memoranda were made by the first settlers, and these were usually of such vague natures to often cause confusion, and that the rest of our information has been handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, dependent upon fickle memory, it is not strange that discrepancies occur here and there in the annals of West Virginia.
The McColloch family, we are told, was one of the earliest that settled on Short Creek. There were originally three brothers, Abraham, Samuel and John, and two sisters. Colonel Ebenezer Zane married Elizabeth, "whose life was a model of gentleness, virtue and love. Of the brothers, no men were more respected by their neighbors, or more dreaded by the Indians. Abraham was the eldest, Samuel next, and John the third." Samuel was a noted Indian scout and hunter and in this capacity he had but few, if any, superiors. To such scouts as Samuel McColloch, Lewis Wetzel, Ebenezer Zane, Daniel Boone, and a few others of their kind, the early settlements often owed their very existence, for these settlements could not long have survived the frequent attacks of the savages had it not been for these faithful "watch dogs" of the forests. But there was a large territory to guard; the foe were many, and comparatively few competent scouts. It can not, therefore, be considered strange that the Indian's sometimes slipped by unnoticed by these scouts, and the first notice or warning the settlers had of their presence was the terrible savage war-cry. As a mark of appreciation of his services, Samuel McColloch was commissioned Major in 1775.
Reference has been made elsewhere in this book to the part taken by our hero in the battle between the whites and the savages at Wheeling, September 2nd, 1777.
It will be remembered that the Indians drove the gallant Major to the summit of a lofty hill, which overhangs the present city of Wheeling, now known as McColloch's Leap. Realizing that if he should not succeed in escaping his savage pursuers his fate would be sealed, he strained every muscle of his noble steed to gain the summit and then escape along the brow in direction of Van Meter's fort on Short Creek. Having reached the top, he galloped ahead of his pursuers until he reached the point of the hill near the late crossing of the old Cumberland road. Here he encountered a large body of Indians who were just returning from a plundering expedition among the settlements.
This placed him in a very critical situation. Escape seemed almost an impossibility, either in the direction of Short Creek or back to the bottom. The hill at this point is about three hundred feet in height, and at that time was, in many places, almost perpendicular. The savage horde was pressing upon the Major, determined upon his capture. To hesitate longer meant sure death at the stake. To leap over the fearful precipice seemed equally fatal; so quickly adjusting himself in his saddle, grasping securely the bridle with his left hand and supporting his rifle in the right, he forced his horse to make the leap! Down, down, they went, crashing through timber and tumbling over rocks, while the savages peered over the precipice, no doubt in hopeful expectation that their bitter enemy had at last been killed. But to their wonder and amazement, they saw the invulnerable Major on his white steed, galloping across the bottom, safe from pursuit!
Many other interesting stories of adventure are told of the Major, but they are not sufficiently authentic to warrant our repeating here.
"Towards the end of July, 1782, indications of Indians having been noticed by some of the settlers, Major Samuel McColloch and his brother John mounted their horses and left Van Meter's fort to ascertain the correctness of the report. They crossed Short Creek and continued in the direction of Wheeling, but inclined towards the river. They scouted closely, but cautiously, and not discovering any such 'signs' as had been stated, descended to the bottom at a point on the farm owned by the late Alfred P. Woods, about two miles above Wheeling, They then passed up the river to the mouth of Short Creek, and thence up Girty's Point in the direction of Van Meter's. (Note: Girty's Point is a short distance of from the Ohio River, and is the abrupt termination of one of the elevated ridges. It derived its name from Girty, the white renegade. It was his favorite route into the interior. The path first made by the Indians is still in use by the people of the neighborhood. -DeHass).
"Not discovering any indications of the enemy, the brothers were riding leisurely along, on July 30th, 1782, and when a short distance beyond the point a deadly discharge of rifles took place, killing Major McColloch instantly. His brother John escaped, but his horse as killed. Immediately mounting that of his brother, he made off, to give the alarm. As yet no enemy had been seen; but turning in his saddle, after riding fifty yards, he saw the path was filled with Indians and one fellow in the act of scalping the unfortunate Major. Quick as thought, the rifle of John was at his shoulder, and in an instant more the savage was rolling in the agonies of death. John escaped to the fort unhurt, with the exception of a slight wound on his hip.
"On the following day, a party of men from Van Meter's fort went out and gathered up the mutilated remains, of Major McColloch.
"Major John McColloch was, perhaps, quite as brave and true as his brother. He did ample service in the cause of our long struggle for independence, and a more devoted patriot could not be found. He filled many important posts of honor and trust and was generally respected. The early records of Ohio County show that he acted a conspicuous part on the bench and otherwise.
"Major Samuel McColloch married a Miss Mitchell, and had only enjoyed the wedded life six months at the time of his death. His widow married Andrew Woods."
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