Life and Death on the Frontiers

Life and Death on the Frontiers

I.  Encounter of Major Rector with Hostile Indians
(printed in the Missouri Gazette, March 12, 1814)

In the Gazette, Major Nelson Rector’s letter to his brother, Col. Rector, in St. Louis, was introduced by one from Governor Edwards, of Illinois to the same brother.  Following is Governor Edwards’ letter of March 6:

“I avail myself of the opportunity of a stranger that I find going to St. Louis, to inform you that I have this day received certain intelligence from the U. States Saline, that a party of hostile Indians have made their appearance in that neighborhood and that your worthy brother and my much esteemed and respected friend, Major Nelson Rector, on Tuesday last, returning from surveying, received two balls in his side and his horse three from those indians.  He however made good his escape to the Saline . . . .  I have reason to believe that your brother, though badly wounded, is likely to recover.”

And here is Major Rector’s reassuring letter to his brother, dated March 5, 1814

“It is with much regret and mortification that I have to inform you, that on my way to this place from my camp (where I have been recently surveying) at the hour of 1:00 [date blotted out] inst. I was fired on by a party of indians consisting of from 5 to 8 in number, who have badly wounded me.  My left arm is broken by a ball which still remains in it, I am also shot through the left side of my breast, the ball entered below my collar bone, and was extracted from my back by Doctors Shannon and Gwathney, I have a third wound on the right side of my head, just above my ear, which is very slight, as it only cut the skin, and knocked off my hat  with the above wounds it is unnecessary to tell you I suffered more than I can express before I arrived at the first house, which was 12 or 14 miles distance from the spot where I received my wounds; my broken arm knocking against every bush that came in its way:  notwithstanding the severity of my wounds, I am very sanguine of recovering, as they are much better than I could have expected in so short a time.   Although the tawny sons of the woods were so sure of my scalp, they have missed it; notwithstanding they were concealed under the bank of a creek, and did not shoot more than eight or ten paces from me, my horse was shot through his shoulders, but carried me where I received assistance.  I am here yet alive, and should heaven permit me ever to recover again, I will retaliate on the savages in a fourfold manner (if but my one arm is preserved)–I do not think of dying.

“Nelson Rector”

II.  Encounter of Citizens of Missouri with Hostile Indians
(printed in the Missouri Gazette May 7, 1814)

“On the 26th ult. Messrs. Johnathan Todd and Thomas Smith, inhabitants of Boon’s Licks settlement, were shot, scalped and stabbed in several parts of their body, their heads cut off, opened and emptyed of the brains, a leg and thigh was cut off of each and hung against a tree.  . . .  Last week a man of the name of M’Coy was shot and cut to pieces in the neighborhood of Wood’s family fort a few miles from the village of St. Charles.

In giving publicity to the above, we have no wish to excite unnecessary alarm, it is merely intended to inculcate a proper caution in those of our fellow citizens who reside on the northern border of these Territories; nor are we in the habits of publishing idle rumors:  those statements of Indian hostility which we elicit are generally obtained from the best authority.”

(from the Missouri Gazette, May 28, 1814)

“We are informed, that a white man has been discovered floating down the Missouri, apparently dead four or five days.  He was tomahawked, stabbed and scalped.

The BLOOD of our citizens cry loud for VENGEANCE.  The general cry is let the north as well as the south be JACKSONIZED!!!”

(from the Missouri Gazette, August 20, 1814)

A map of the Territory of Missouri in 1812

“On Monday week last Henry Cox and his sons,, inhabitants of Shoal creek, Illinois Territory were attacked while at work on their farm, by the indians.  Mr. Cox and one of his sons were killed and shockingly mangled, another was taken prisoner to experience a worse fate.”

About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden