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Rev Benjamin Kelley

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Baptist Association

According to the Baptist Association reports, Benjamin, at the age of fifteen, "came to Kentucky and sheltered himself from Indian fury with the first settlers of Boonesboro. In January 1778, while with a party of twenty seven, headed by Daniel Boone, engaged in making salt at Blue Lick, he with the whole party, was taken prisoner by the Indians. he fell into the hands of the tribe in which the notorious renegade, Simon Girty, was the Chief. An old squaw adopted him as her son and he remained with them about six years. At the expiration of this time, aided by his foster mother and an old Indian, he made his escape and returned to his parents in Virginia. Here he married the daughter of David Jarrell and afterwards emigrated with his father-in-law to Kentucky. The next information we have of him was as pastor of Mt. Pleasant Church (Fordsville), in Ohio County, Ky. He probably gathered this church, which was constituted in 1814, and ministered to it about ten years. His labors were greatly blessed in bringing sinners to Christ. His last sermon was preached in the midst of a great revival during the continuance of which, over 100 had been added to the church. After baptizing some converts he went home and was taken down with violent fever. He finally recovered from the fever but was bereft of his reason and so remained until about two hours before his death, which occurred about the year 1826. After his reason returned he talked freely of his hope in Christ and departed in joyous triumph.
"He went into the constitution of Goshen Association in 1817 and remained a minister in that body until his death. He also assisted in the constitution of Panther Creek Church, Ohio County, on September 23, 1815. This church later became a member of Daviess County Association in 1844 and remained until 1878, when it went into the constitution of Blackford Association. He was a member of Salem Association from 1814 to the time of the constitution of Goshen in 1817. As to the time of his conversion, his ordination, and the churches he served prior to 1814 we have no information. He was in Ohio County as early as 1806 and probably belonged to the old Beaver Dam Church along with Josiah Haynes and other pioneers in the northwest section of that County. He performed marriage ceremonies in Davies County in 1820."

Draper Papers

Fordsville, Ohio Co. KY
April 15, 1852
Mr. Draper
Dear Sir
After so long a time, since you have been writing to this state for information concerning the early history of elder Ben Kelley, and especially his captivity during Indian warefare, your letters have fallen into my hands, and I proceed to give what of imperfect knowledge I have in the absence of any journal kept by my Grand Father Ben Kelley, I have only to depend on his relations as given to others, and in my presence. I have it from those of his associates to whom he related them.
He was one of the number taken captive by the Shawnee tribe of Indians, or, at least, he was captive to the Shawnees after being taken at the blue Licks.
Three out of the 30 who were there making salt had gone home (Boonsborough). Boone was, as was his custom, hunting provisions for the company, when he fell with a large body of Indians on there march against the fort.
He knew well the fort was in an unprepared condition to resist so formidable a force.
His first thought was flight—some of the swiftest on foot were set after him who overtook and made him prisoner; they demanded to be led immediately to the fort; but on being told that he would lead them to his men on condition they would promise him amity; they agreed; and he set out—came upon his men at the Lick, and they made the whole prisoners except the 3 gone with salt. Some of his men thought very hard, but it was doubtless a wise thing in Boone; for by it he saved the lives of defenceless women and children. The savages elated with their success turned immediately for their homes at Chillicothe.
The story of Boones escape as given by him (Kelley) is that he (Boone) and some squaws were sent to make sugar.
He (Kelley) was prisoner with the Indians about five years—a little more or less—was taken in February and escaped in the fall. Col. McKee had given him a horse, saddle & bridle. In there making up a company to go against the white settlements, he was asked if he would go, with an apparent carelessness and indifference as to whether he went or not. He at last consented—to things he did not intend to refuse unless to keep off suspicion.
As soon as they had started he made up his mind never to return—the place of there destination was Wheeling; they crossed the river below the fort, camped—stayed a day or two and moved round above the fort—there was an open field round the fort on which the Indians used to tramp in sight of the fort. One evening while taking a solitary stroll, he came across a white man painted in Indian stile whom he knew of there band but whom he only suspected of being a prisoner; they fell in to a conversation; Kelley drew him out, and so done it as to make him commit himself on the subject of there escape before he had said any thing about it; at last they agreed—there plan was matured and must be executed that night for in all probability the Indians would strike camp in the morning having despaired of success. Many of them had already gone off in scouting parties for the purpose of stealing horses etc.
There first plan was to slip to the fort gate after dark and beg admittance—crawling as stealthily as possible; when they had gone very near the fort there were five guns fired on them—when they broke and ran back. When they returned the Indians asked who was shot at they told, which seemed to please the Indians very much.
They laughed heartily at there defeat; next they concluded to slip off under cover of the darkness. Col McKee who all along previous to there crossing the river had been extremely familiar but who afterwards never spoke to him (Kelly) had told him that the nearest white settlement was about 70 miles and under where the sun would be at an hour high in the morning. Having noticed this in case of there failure in the first attempt, they set out—they had not gone barely out of hearing of the firing of the fort when they got bothered in the dry bed of a creek—crawling they found leaves and small sticks drifted which gave them the course, differing about where the sun would be at an hour high, they set down till day made its appearance which was about half way between there guess they immediately started. About 12 oclock they struck the trail of a lone Indian, and followed with the intention to kill being the trail lead off there route—they left it and proceeded. About two o’clock they saw the trail of a considerable party but never saw them. About the time they were ascending a long hill—his companion was weary and some 200 yds behind when they got to the top—not a word having been spoken, for they supposed they were now in the vicinity of the Indians whose trail had been seen—Kelley asks his companion how he felt, who said “I will go or die.” Then give me your hand, and we will stand together.
They immediately set off about hours. Then in the evening they came in to a plain path—following they found it went to a lick; they took the path back and soon heard a bell. Supposing it to be Indians with stolen horses they slipped out and lay in ambush determining if there were but 4 to shoot for they had managed to get there guns with them though he (Kelley) had left his horse. Kelley was to shoot the foremounted and his companion (name not recollected) another of the others; when the bell came, however, it was a mare and colt. They had not gone but a little way until they saw a fence, and on it a white hen, which they intended killing having eaten nothing all day. Turning to talk a moment there hen was gone; they went a little further and saw a house and standing corn with the tops cut off. They crawled into a tree top, and waited un till about dark they saw a man cutting wood and walked up getting pretty close. He saw them and stopped; they called and told they were prisoners escaped from the Indians. He invited them in; while sitting by the fire there was a call in English at the fence with an answer to come in. It prooved to be a recruiting officer. After some close examination on the part of the officer, he invited them home with him about 10 miles; they excused themselves that they were very tired—the officer gave my grand father (Kelly) a slight pluck and walked out; he followed when the officer told him he was not safe there for there host was a very suspicious character—every body else was forted; nor could they live out of the fort. While he was unmolested they immediately got there guns and started and about 11 oclock made there way into the fort; the officer told them that he was in the act of drawing a pistol and shooting them several times at the house believing them spies—suspicion resting upon there host as being leagued with the Indians.
The commander of the fort let them know it was his duty to send them home – but could not at that time, as all the horses were pressed to go in the expedition against the enemy that he had left. They had already heard information, that Fort Wheeling was surrounded.
After staying several days, and taking rest, they set out for there homes. I think my Grand father was about 17 years old when captured which would make him about 22 when he returned.
He related a great many anecdotes connected with Indian life. On one occation the Indians took prisoners and put several to death. One (Crawford) an officer for whom Simon Girty plead as he did for all officers – finding he could not save him, mounted a negro boy on the best horse and rushed him to McKee, but when McKee came it was too late—the man was dead but yet burning—the Indians upon this occation upbraided Girty, telling him he would plead for an officer who led the enemy, but the common soldier might perish.
---[*See Ms. Norine Papers, p. 311, showing two prisoners escaped. L.C.D.]
Of this party there was a Dr. Stover who was shackled and sent in charge of a lone Indian to another tribe where he also was to die. The other Indians were to follow in night & overtaking the Indian struk fire which was hard to kindle. The Indian asked Stover to help “How can I” said the Dr., “and I tied”—the Indian untied him. He set to gathering brush and the Indian to kindling—finding a dogwood chunk that had been burned in two by former campers, he threw down his brush at the Indians feet, and with the chunk felled him to the ground, springing to the gun. He started off into the woods, looking back, he saw the Indian rise. He presented to shoot and the Indian broke the other way. The Dr. in his hurray injured the trigers (it was a double trigers gun) so as to render it useless and threw it away. The Indian kept his run till out of sight and the Dr. turned the other way and made good his escape. This he had from the Indian whom he often heard laugh heartily over it, and all so the Dr. after his return.
On another occasion he relates being acquainted with an Indian of a tribe who would take no mans life except in self defence. One of these and himself, with S. Girty were sent to the Ohio to bring away spoils flour and whisky that had been taken some time before; the body’s of the slain were still lying there – some on land and some in the water. The Indians who did the murder had been lying in ambush on the shore; the boat was driven on a bar by the wind—the men in the boat made arrangements to camp until the wind lay—the Indians listening all the time. As soon as the camp was made, they fell upon the boat crew, and murdered all without exception. On this occation of there visit to the river, he (Kelly) declared that on three different occations he drew his gun to his face to shoot Girty; there was a boat passing down the river, & Girty was trying to bring them too; finding he could not, he set to cursing them; Kelley said he could have killed Girty—pushed off the stolen boat, and have brought off a good booty. The Indian he felt sure would not have killed him; but Girty had on several occations treated him with great kindness which detered him. [See Jos. Jackson’s notes showing how some flour was obtained. Col. David Rodgers dept ?, Oct. 1779…L.C.D.]
As related by Kelley, the story of Boone’s escape, was this: Boone was sent with some squaws to make sugar [salt] – when a large party of Indians came by who were on there way against Boonesborough, and indicated he should go. He appeared quite careless about going, but at last consented; they had often tried to get him to take arms against the whites but could not untill now. On this occation he determined to go and was therefore furnished with a horse gun etc. During the march Boone, as is related by him in his history requested permission to follow a deere which was granted but never returned. For this, he (Kelley) was indebted to the Indians. Perhaps it is well to repeat that Boone was often solicited to take part in war against the whites which he refused and was therefore never compelled, there being a law among them that forbade there compelling any one either prisoner or native to go to war, all must be volunteers.

I have thus far given you this imperfect history and will still continue to write as I may find matter worth communicating. Your informant is a grandson of Ben Kelley – Boones associate & fellow prisoner. Kelley who became a Baptist minister preached for years in Ky and especially in this county (Ohio). His remains now lie within 2 miles of my house. His eldest child, David J. Kelley was all so a Baptist minister and is buried about one and a half miles from his father – I am the eldest son of his and have been for two years preaching as a Baptist to the congregations to whom my ancesters preached. If you think proper to address me at any time you will direct your communications to Fordsville Ky. There are … living in my community, two daughters of my Grand father, and two sons soon and if I shall be able to get any other information it shall be communicated till then I remain yours in Christ Jesus, Carter J. Kelley.

April 15th, 1852
PS You will pleas pardon the imperfect script, and the bad stile it was done in haste and from my imperfect notes. C.J.K.
P.S. Kelley has often said that the singularity of McKees conduct towards him had him to believe that he desired him to escape if he chose. Previous to there crossing the river, all was familiarity; after crossing, they never spoke – and he supposed it was to keep any suspicion down that might arise in the minds of the Indians as to his knowledge of his intentions nor did McKee know any thing un till he was gone. C.J.K.[1]




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