As the full particulars of the capture of Christian Fast, by the Delawares of Sandusky, have never appeared in print, it may be interesting to the pioneers of west Pennsylvania and Ohio to peruse a brief sketch of his life among the red men of the Tymochtee.
In the month of June, 1781, an expedition, composed of Indians and Canadians, destined to invade Kentucky, moved from their places of rendezvous at Detroit, the Sandusky, the Miami and the Wabash. The salient point of the campaign was the falls of the Ohio, or Louisville, then containing only a few cabins, and a station for soldiers to protect the scattered settlements of Kentucky against Indian invasion.
Colonel George Rogers Clark, the hero of Kaskaskia and St. Vincent, learning that an expedition, composed of British and Indians, was about to invade that region, stationed a small body of troops at the village of Louisville, to intercept the passage of war parties on their way to the interior of Kentucky. His command was soon increased by the arrival of one hundred and fifty Pennsylvanians and Virginians, under the command of Colonel Slaughter.
Colonel Archibald Loughery, of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, raised a corps of about one hundred men, who volunteered to accompany General Clark on the expedition. These volunteers embarked in boats at Wheeling, and moved down the river, in order to join the troops of General Clark at the falls of the Ohio. On the twenty-fourth of August, Colonel Loughery and his party passed the mouth of the Great Miami river, and soon afterward one of the boats was taken to the Kentucky side of the river, and a number of men, under the command of Captain William Campbell, went ashore for the purpose of cooking and eating some buffalo meat. The river was low, and the boat was fastened near a sand-bar. While on shore, Colonel Loughery's forces were attacked by a large body of Indians, and after a brief resistance the small expedition was forced to surrender. Forty men were killed. Colonel Loughery was made prisoner, tomahawked and scalped. Sixty of his men were captured and taken to Detroit. See Dillon's history of Indiana, pages 173-4.
For reasons never fully explained, the British expedition, commanded by Colonel Byrd, on reaching the mouth of the Great Miami, changed its destination; and when the boats conveying his troops, cannon and military stores, arrived on the Ohio river, instead of descending its rapid current, turned up the stream, and ascended the Licking to its forks, where he landed his men and munitions of war. It is probable the destination of Colonel Byrd was changed in consequence of his advanced Indian spies and scouts coming in contact with the forces of colonel Slaughter in their descent of the Ohio.
Some thirty-five or forty miles above the falls, the boats of Colonel Slaughter, which were conveying horses and a few soldiers, became separated from the main body of the expedition in the night. At daylight the advanced boats drove an occasional stake near the shore, and attached written directions thereto, to guide the boats in the rear.
The boats thus abandoned being deprived of proper rations for the soldiers, had no alternative but to supply themselves with such game as could be obtained from the forest. Perceiving a buffalo heifer leisurely feeding a short distance from shore, the larger boat was shoved to a shoal and the heifer shot. It was hastily skinned, a fire was built, and the soldiers proceeded to prepare breakfast.
While in the act of cooking the flesh of the heifer, the party was attacked by Indians, who were probably drawn to the spot by the sound of the guns. The frightened soldiers, who had neglected to station pickets, fled to the boat which had been stranded on the shoal, just as the smaller boats were making toward the shore for breakfast. They were unable to shove the boat to the current, and the Indians rushed down the shore firing into the boat, wounding and killing several of the men and horses.
All was consternation. Many of the soldiers endeavored to save themselves by leaping overboard and attempting to swim to the opposite side of the river, but, on reaching it were again fired upon. Among those who fled to the opposite shore was Christian Fast, a youth of about seventeen years of age, who had volunteered as a cavalry-man, from what is now Fayette county, Pennsylvania, then a part of Westmoreland county.
Young Fast was an expert swimmer. As the Indians rushed upon the men, he leaped over the opposite side of the horse boat, and struck out boldly for the Kentucky shore, which he reached in safety. Just as he was about to arise from the water and ascend the bank, two or three Indians approached him, saying: "Come on, brother, we will use you well". At the same time reaching out their hands in token of friendship.
Knowing the savage character of the red man, he doubted their pacific intentions, and speedily turning about, started for the middle of the river. He had scarcely got in motion, when they commenced to fire after him, a ball passing so near his head that it stunned him for a moment, by its concussion in the water, while another ball passed through the fleshy part of his thigh, making a painful wound, notwithstanding which, he succeeded in reaching the center of the river.
On reaching the main current, he found the boats had floated some distance from the stranded one from which he had fled, and he resolved to swim after and overtake a small horse boat which was a few rods in the rear of the rest. After a vigorous exertion, aided by the current and a shower of bullets from shore, he reached the boat just as she surrendered. The Indians boarded it at once, and the prisoners were taken on shore, and the plunder secured.
After the prisoners had been deprived of all means of defence, the savages proceeded to strip them of such wearing apparel as they desired. In fact, the majority of the captives were left almost nude. The military suits with which the soldiers were clothed were deemed a God-send to these children of the forest. The appearance of the captives was most distressing; nevertheless resistance would have been rewarded with a cruel, lingering death by torture.
When the exulting savages had secured such plunder as they could carry away, it was put up in bundles and their new prisoners were compelled to pack it. The whole party proceeded through the forest in the direction of Upper Sandusky. The level lands along the Ohio and the Miami, at that season, abounded in rank, almost impenetrable, weeds, briars and nettles. The journey was a severe ordeal.
Young Fast was small, had hair as black as a raven, dark eyes, and a swarthy skin; was exceedingly agile, and very slim and straight. His appearance pleased the Indians, and an old Delaware claimed him as his prisoner. The leader of the band was old Thomas Lyons. On the route to Upper Sandusky, which was principally up the Great Miami until they reached the portage, the poor prisoners endured many hardships and cruelties.
Having been deprived of their clothing, the nettles, briars, weeds and undergrowth made fearful havoc with their uncovered bodies, so much so, that on one occasion, after they had been some hours in the forest, young Fast put down his head and refused to proceed, tell his Indian master to tomahawk him. The old warrior took pity on him, and returned most of his clothing. His wound was becoming quite painful. The old warrior assisted in dressing it until it healed.
After the war party had been two or three days in the forest, the Indians built a camp-fire and cleared a spot for a dance. The prisoners were all tied so as to prevent their escape. The savages engaged in the dance with much spirit, singing, hopping, leaping, brandishing their tomahawks and scalping knives, and grimacing in a most frightful manner. Their music was a sort of wail, between a shout and a moan, while a kind of time was beaten on a brass kettle by a warrior.
When the Indian dance had ended, the prisoners, one by one, were untied and requested to give an exhibition of their agility. With bodies torn and bruised, half famished for want of food, wearied with the journey, and almost nude, they endeavored to comply, knowing that a refusal would incur the hate and severity of their savage masters. When the time came for young Fast to dance, he felt it impossible to do so, in consequence of his painful wound, but fearing to incur the censure and vengeance of the warriors, he said to his comrades: "Boys, I can't dance and run on my feet, but I can run on my hands." So, limping into the ring, when the Indian music began, he proceeded a few steps, and then springing upon his hands, he elevated his feet, and commenced a sort of bear dance, accompanied by sundry singular maneuvers on his hands, turning an occasional somersault, and yelling like an Indian!
At first the savages seemed amazed at his performances, but soon began to applaud by the most uproarious laughter and shouts, some of them actually rolling on the ground in their merriment. After he had passed around the ring in this gymnastic manner, several of the warriors who had been most delighted with his antics, put their hands on the ground and desired him to "do so more." He pointed to his wound and refused, saying, he was "too lame." His singular vivacity and good nature captivated the Indians, and from that time on, he was the hero of the party, and was no longer tied at night.
On reaching the Shawnee towns on the Great Miami, the prisoners were compelled to run the gauntlet for the amusement of the old Shawnees, the squaws and youth. Several of the prisoners were severely beaten. A man by the name of Baker, a silversmith by trade, from Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, was beaten almost to death. In his desperation, he ran past the council house two or three times, being blinded by the blows and fright, and was about to sink, when a friendly voice directed him to enter the door. He did so and was spared. When this performance was going on, the old warrior who had young Fast in charge, shoved him back among the Indians, and he did not have to undergo the punishment of the gauntlet.
When the party arrived at Upper Sandusky, the prisoners were again compelled to undergo the ordeal of running the gauntlet. They were all handled very severely, but none of them were killed. Young Fast was again excused from the gauntlet by his Indian master. His wound, by this time, had nearly healed. The surviving prisoners soon recruited from their fatigue, and were exchanged at Pittsburgh, and on the Muskingum.
Young Fast was retained, and adopted into an old Delaware family, in lieu of a son who had lost his life in a border skirmish. His hair was plucked out in the usual manner, leaving a small scalp-lock about the crown; his white blood was all washed away; his ears and the cartilage of his nose were perforated, and brooches placed therein. After this, he was dressed in Indian costume, his hair roached up, and filled with gaudy feathers. Being taken to the council-house, he was regularly indoctrinated as the son the tribe. He received the name of Mo-Lun-the, and was taken to the cabin, or wigwam, of his new parents.
Young Fast resided on the banks of the Tymochtee about two years. He was treated very kindly by his Indian mother. He had an Indian brother, by the name of Ke-was-sa, to whom he became much attached. They often hunted coon and other game. On one occasion, Ke-was-sa invited young Fast to accompany him to hunt bear. After traveling some distance in the forest, they discovered evidences of the ascent of a bear up a large elm, which was hollow near the top. After trying some time, in vain, to rouse the bear from its retreat, it was proposed that a tree, which stood at a proper distance from the elm, should be felled, in such a manner as to lean against the elm, to enable young Fast to climb to the hole, and smoke bruin out with punk and rotten wood. The tree was cut, and fell against the elm. Young Fast, being expert in climbing , ascended it to the proposed point, and commenced operations with a view of smoking bruin into a surrender. Kewassa placed himself in a position, gun in hand, where he could welcome the bear, on its appearance, to a smell of powder. Young fast lighted the dry tinder and threw it into the hole, but bruin failed to make his appearance. While engaged in this fruitless enterprise, a strong breeze struck the leaning tree, and it fell to the ground. Here was a dilemma. Young Fast was some forty feet from the ground, on a large elm. He could not grasp his arms around it, so as to safely descend. Kewassa was alarmed for his safety. There could be no help, for the only tree in the vicinity had been cut. After gazing at young Fast some time, without being able to offer assistance, he hastened to the camp, several miles away, expecting that his new brother would be dashed to pieces.
Taking in the situation at a glance, young Fast concluded that he only hazarded his life by remaining where he was; and the attempt to descend could result in nothing more than death, but might terminate in safety. Summoning all his strength, he grasped the rough bark with his hands, at the same time making good use of his feet and legs, and commenced the decent, moving cautiously, until he came within fifteen or eighteen feet of the ground, when his strength so far failed him, that he was compelled to relax his grip and slid down, mangling his hands, and the inside of his arms and legs badly. On reaching the ground he was considerably stunned, but soon revived and started for the camp, where he arrived amidst the grief of his Indian mother and brother, who had given him up as lost.
On one occasion, after he had been a captive over a year, when all the warriors were absent from the village, his Indian mother having also left the camp for a short time, he became very melancholy. Thoughts of home stole upon him. He left the wigwam and proceeded a short distance into the forest, and seating himself upon a log, soon became absorbed in meditation. While thus musing, he was interrupted by a stranger, who suddenly appeared and confronted him. Discovering his embarrassment and dejection, the stranger said in the Delaware language:
"Ah, young man, what are you thinking about?"
Fast.-"I am alone, and have no company, and feel very lonesome".
Stranger.-"That is not it, you are thinking of home. Be a good boy and you shall see your home again."
After some further conversation, he learned that the stranger was none other than that terror of the pioneers, the renegade, Simon Girty. Young Fast afterward became well aquainted with Girty, and was the recipient of many favors at his hands. In fact, Girty's assurance that he would again see his home in Pennsylvania, greatly revived his drooping spirits and led him to believe that Girty, though often denounced by the pioneers as a villain, a demon in human shape, was not destitute of sympathy and kindness, though associating with the fierce red men of the northwest.
During the campaign of Colonel William Crawford, which ended so disastrously, Mr. Fast was with the Delawares on the Tymochtee. Captain Pipe and Wingenund, leading Delaware chiefs, resided, when in their villages, in that region of Ohio. After the rout of Crawford's army, when the Colonel was brought back a prisoner, Mr. Fast was present and saw him. He was in hearing distance when the Delawares tortured the Colonel, and could hear his groans. He was so much affected that he left the spot in company with his Indian brother and mother. Mr. Fast, in his lifetime, often related incidents connected with the unfortunate expedition of poor Crawford. As they have been repeated by Dr. Knight, Slover, and Heckewelder, it is unnecessary to narrate them here.
Shortly after the execution of Crawford, Mr. Fast was urged to marry a young squaw, a daughter of an Indian family of some distinction. He was then about nineteen years of age. It was a question of much delicacy, and required a good deal of tact to repel the proposal in such manner as to avoid offence. When the subject was again seriously pressed upon his attention, he intimated he was only a boy, and was too young to marry. The Delawares were greatly amused at his modesty, and his reason for refusing. He added as a further objection, that no man should marry until he had become a good hunter, and could provide meat. Not being the owner of a gun, it would be impossible for him to supply the quantity of game required for food. Moreover, he thought he could not get along without a cow, an essential to every person designing to marry. As soon as these could be procured he would gladly consent. He professed much admiration for the young squaws, and intimated he could easily select a wife from among them, if his terms could be met. It was agreed his ideas were correct, and that he should accompany the first expedition to the settlements along the Ohio, and the first gun captured should be his, and on returning he should be permitted to bring back a cow.
In August, 1782, there was a grand council at Chillicothe, on or near the Great Miami, in which the Wyandots, Delawares, Ottawas, Mingoes, Shawnees, Miamis and Pottawatomies participated. Simon Girty, Elliott and McKee were present, and addressed the assembled warriors. The council resolved to raise two armies, one of six hundred men, and the other of three hundred and fifty, the larger to march into Kentucky, and the smaller into western Virginia and Pennsylvania. By the last of August, the greater army appeared under the lead of Simon Girty, at Bryant's station, in the territory of Kentucky. The story is narrated in all the histories of Kentucky.
The Indian forces destined to operate against the border settlements of Virginia and Pennsylvania, delayed their march until a runner brought tidings of success from Kentucky. Some four hundred fierce warriors assembled on the Sandusky, and were armed and equipped by the agents of the British. The warriors were dressed and painted in the most fantastic manner, their hair, being gathered in a sort of cue and drawn through a tin tube, was ornamented by colored hawk or eagle quills. With scalping knives, tomahawks and guns, they presented a formidable appearance. For many days and nights before the expedition started, their wild orgies echoed through the forests. Speeches, dances and the like, accompanied by threats of extermination against the white race, were common.
Young Fast was painted in true warrior style, his hair being put up in a cue and drawn through a tin tube, and ornamented with feathers. He was furnished a tomahawk, scalping-knife, and bow, and told he might accompany the expedition. Before departing, he buried, in a secure place, his fancy brooches and other ornaments of silver, so that if he ever returned he could reclaim them. The expedition passed down the old Wyandot trail through what are now Crawford, Richland and Ashland counties, by Mohican Johnstown; thence near the ruins of the Moravain towns on the Tuscarawas. Arriving at that point, a difference of opinion arose as to the exact destination of the expedition.
After some consultation in council, as the expedition to Kentucky was proving successful, it was decided that the Indian army should proceed to and attack the small fort or block-house at what is now the city of Wheeling, West Virginia. On the approach of the Indian army, the expedition was discovered by John Lynn, a noted spy and frontier hunter, who was scouting through the forests and watching the Indian paths west of the Ohio. He hastened to the stockade and gave the alarm. The stockade had no regular garrison, and had to be defended exclusively by the settlers who sought security within its walls. On the arrival of Lynn, all retired within the stockade, except a family of Zanes; and when the attack began, there were but about twenty efficient men to oppose nearly four hundred savages, led on by Simon Girty.
The Indian army soon crossed the Ohio river, and approached the stockade waving British colors. An immediate surrender was demanded. Colonel Silas Zane responded by firing at the flag borne by the savages. The assault was commenced by the Indians, and kept up briskly for three days and nights, but each attack was successfully repelled by the little garrison. While the men within were constantly engaged in firing at the enemy, the women moulded bullets, loaded and handed guns to the men, and by this means every assault was repulsed. The galling fire poured upon the savages exasperated them to madness. In the night they attempted to burn Zane's house, from which they had suffered most, but through the vigilance of Sam, a colored man, their intentions were thwarted.
On the return of light, on the second day, the savages, after some delay, renewed the siege. A wooden cannon, loaded with balls captured from a small boat on its way to the falls of the Ohio, was pointed towards the stockade, and, amid the yells of the infuriated Indians, discharged. They expected to see a section of the stockade blown to splinters, and an opening for the warriors created. The cannon exploded, and fragments flew in every direction. Several of the warriors were wounded and a number killed, and all were appalled at the result. Recovering from their dismay, and being furious from disappointment, they again pressed to the assault with renewed energy. They were as often repelled by the deadly aim of the little garrison, and forced to retire.
The achievements of Elizabeth Zane, on this occasion, are matters of history, and too well known to require repetition in this article.
The third day the siege was renewed with terrible ferocity; but every attempt to storm the fort was successfully resisted. In the afternoon, despairing of success, the Indians resolved to change their programme. About one hundred warriors remained to annoy the stockade, lay waste the country, and scour the neighboring settlements. The balance of the army crossed the Ohio, and made a feint of returning to Sandusky, but the next morning re-crossed the river above the stockade, and divided into two parties, and hastened towards the settlements about Fort Rice, some forty miles away, in what is now Washington county, Pennsylvania.
On the third night of the siege, learning of the departure of a part of the Indian army, and presuming the savages were about to invade his old home, young Fast resolved, if possible, to effect his escape. Late in the night, while reposing beside his Indian brother on his blanket, on the ground, the memory of his home and dear friends came fresh to his recollection, and knowing the whole settlement was imperiled by the approach of his savage companions, intent on revenge and blood, he could not sleep. Ka-wa-sa, his Indian brother, wearied with the exertions of a three days' siege, slept soundly. Knowing the nature of an Indian, when profoundly slumbering, young Fast attempted to awaken his Indian brother, stating that he was very thirsty and desired him to go with him to the river for water. He refused to rise, telling Molunthe to wait until morning.
Permitting his brother to return to his state of stupor for some time, he again made an effort to arouse him, insisting that he could not wait, but must have water. The Indian, having full confidence in young Fast, as a brother, told him to go himself, as no one would harm him. He was but too happy to comply. Taking a small copper kettle, he hastened to the river bank and placed the kettle in a position that might imply that he had fallen into the stream, been drowned and floated down the current. Then carefully wending his way through the Indian lines, he proceeded across the hills and valleys in the direction of Fort Rice, on Buffalo creek, some fifteen or twenty miles from his old home. He groped his way among rocks, down declivities and across small streams, sometimes falling headlong down the embankments, and about daylight became exhausted from fatigue and want of food, and was compelled to seek repose at the base of a steep bluff, in a thicket of undergrowth; and while resting there, could distinctly hear the passing warriors conversing. A short distance hence the trail divided.
Carefully concealing himself until all the warriors passed, he again proceeded in the direction of the fort, taking a ridge midway between the trails. By a vigorous exertion he got in advance of the savages, and when within about two miles of the fort, he discovered a white man approaching with a bridle and halter in his hand. Springing behind a large tree, he waited until the settler arrived within a few feet of his concealment, when he stepped into the path and confronted him. The white man was taken by surprise and trembled with fear, and was about to flee for life, when the supposed warrior addressed him in English, briefly informing him who he was, where he was going, the approach of the warriors and the danger that environed the settlement. Calmed by the assurances of present safety, the white man caught his horses, which were near, and he and young Fast mounted and hastened to the fort and spread the alarm, and succeeded in gathering the settlers in the vicinity into it before the savages appeared. The fort consisted of a strong block-house, surrounded by several cabins of the settlers. When all the men were gathered in, there were only six.
The savages approached with much assurance, and offering to spare all the prisoners, if the little band would surrender. Young Fast assured the inmates that the cold steel of the tomahawk would be the price of such an indiscretion. Their proffers of safety were not accepted. A fierce assault at once commenced. The siege was kept up all day and night; but the little fort held out. Several of the savages were wounded, and the warriors finally despairing of success, suddenly withdrew and spread among the scattered settlements in detached parties, burning houses, and shooting cattle and hogs. They had probably learned the approach of Colonel Swearinger with relief for Wheeling, that was yet beleaguered by the red fiends.
After the retirement of the savages, young Fast hastened to his old home, painted and dressed as an Indian warrior. On arriving at the cabin of his parents in what is now Fayette county, he so nearly resembled a wild Indian warrior of the wilderness that his parents were unable to distinguish him. Indeed, they were much alarmed at his presence, fearing he was a genuine savage acting as a decoy. He attempted to calm their fears by assuring them, in their own tongue, that his name was Fast, and that he was really their own son! At length his mother, recalling some peculiarity about the pupils of his eyes, and some spots on his breast, recognized him, and rushing forward to embrace him in her arms, was told not to do so, as he was covered with vermin from the Indian camps. The tube in which his scalp-lock was enclosed was removed and he repaired to an out-building where his infected garments were taken off and burned. Soap and water soon removed the encrusted paint and soil from his person, when he was presented with a clean suit of clothes, which restored him to his status as a white man. The joy of his parents on his safe return home, scarcely knew bounds. A full detail of his adventures was given, and often repeated to inquiring friends.
On arriving at manhood, Mr. Fast located in Dunker township, Greene county, Pennsylvania, where he married, and remained until the spring of 1815, when he removed with his family to what is now Orange township, Ashland county, Ohio, and settled about half a mile southeast of the Vermillian lakes. When Mr. Fast and family arrived at the lakes, he found a number of Indians encamped near where he subsequently erected a cabin. He built a fire and his wife proceeded to prepare supper, surrounded by a dense forest. While in the act of cooking, their little company was alarmed by the appearance of eight or ten Indians, headed by an old warrior who was extremely ugly, shriveled in flesh, and ferocious in appearance. They had just discovered their new neighbors, and came to see who they were. On approaching within a few feet of Mr. Fast and his children, who were seated on a log near where Mrs. Fast was preparing supper, the old Indian looked steadfastly at Mr. Fast for a moment, and then rushing forward exclaimed, Molunthe! at the same time offering his hand in token of friendship.
The old warrior was Thomas Lyons, who was present at the capture of Mr. Fast, on the Ohio, some thirty-five years prior to that time, and was along with the expedition to Wheeling when his favorite young warrior, Molunthe, made his escape. The Indians had never suspected him of desertion, but had always believed he had, in the darkness, fallen into the river and drowned. On finding him here alive, "old Tom," manifested much gratification, and gave many tokens of a friendship that remained very cordial up to 1822, the last appearance of the Delawares in this region. During the ensuing seven years, the Delawares often encamped in the vicinity, regarding Mr. Fast and family as of their tribe. They frequently went into his cabin in the evening and danced after the Deleware manner, making rude music by pounding on a stool and singing, while the dancers hopped about the room, flourishing their scalping-knives, shouting and keeping time to the music.
In the fall of 1819, old Thomas Lyons and a party of Delawares had a feast, on what is now known as the John Freeborn farm, southwest of Savannah, to which Mr. Fast and his sons were invited. Being unable to be present, his sons Nicholas and Francis, aged respectively twenty-five and fifteen, attended. The feast was in their camp. There were present some fifty or sixty Indians, and no whites, except the Fasts. A large black bear had been roasted and boiled. The body being roasted, was cut into small slices, and handed around on new bark plates. The head and feet, unskinned, were boiled in a copper kettle, and a sort of soup made therefrom which was handed around in wooden ladles. Nicholas and Francis partook, courteously, with the Indians. The roast was elegant, but the soup was not relished. At the conclusion of the feast, Lyons insisted on painting Francis, Indian fashion. The boy readily submitted, for the fun of the thing. "Old Tom" laid on a good coat of vermillion, which gave him the appearance of a young Indian. The paint was so adhesive that, when he returned home, he was unable to remove it for a long time; and was afterwards known as "Indian Frank." Billy Montour, Jim Jirk, Monos, Jonacake, George and Jim Lyons, Buckwheat, Billy Dowdee, Captain George, and other well known Delawares, were at the feast.
Christian Fast had nine sons, Jacob, Martin, William, Nicholas, David, Francis, George, Christian, and John; and four daughter, Margaret, Barbara, Isabel, and Christena. Jacob, aged 84, William 78, and George 65, remain in Orange township.
Christian Fast, sr., died, at his farm in Orange township, in 1849.