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MIKE WATSON : William Casey sketch from Judge Rollin T. Hurt
Colonel William Casey & Montgomery Station Sketch number 19 in a series on Adair County History written by Judge Rollin T. Hurt, Columbia, for the Adair County News,. published 1919.
Submitted by Mike Watson, Adair County Historian
[William] Casey appeared in Lincoln County in the early part of the year 1779. He lived at Logan's Fort during the summer and in the early autumn he returned to Virginia, but came again to Logan's Fort about the beginning of the winter. He spent the winter of 1779-1780, which is memorable for its extreme severity, in an open camp upon the banks of the Hanging Fork of Dick's River. He remained in Lincoln County for ten years, during which time he actively engaged in the defense of the country and participated as a soldier in the various military movements made against the hostile Indians. A portion of the time he resided in Logan's Fort near the present site of Stanford, but afterward he established a "station" upon the waters of the Hanging Fork of Dick's River. This station was three miles and seven miles from the present sites of Stanford and Danville, respectively. The term "station" was used by the pioneers as a place where several men and families associated themselves together and lived near to each other for mutual protection from the Indians and helped each other upon occasions of necessity. Usually a stockade or blockhouse, or both, were erected, or the dwelling houses were situated near to each other so that, if one house was assailed, the occupants of the others could assist in its defense at once by the use of their rifles in shooting from their own homes, which were provided with loop holes through the walls for that purpose.
In the autumn of 1789, when Casey was thirty-three years of age, he removed to [what is now] Adair County and must have by that time improved very much in personal appearance since the visit to the home of his future father-in-law [William Montgomery] in the Holston River country. At the time of his removal to Adair County he has been described as a large man of very prepossessing appearance, and when he became more advanced in years, was corpulent. His eyes were black, sharp and piercing, but kindly in their expression; and his hair was as dark as the raven. He had a very fine forehead and the lines of his face were clear cut. He was very much esteemed by his acquaintances and was famous for his kindness of heart. He was noted for his great coolness, tact and courage upon occasions of extreme personal danger.
One trait of his character was very remarkable for the time and generation in which he lived, when his personal prowess and courage are considered. That was a time when men were very proud of their personal prowess, their physical strength and ability to fight. They engaged in a "fisti-cuff" fighting upon the least provocation and, frequently, when there was no provocation at all. Many fought for the mere prize of victory and to exhibit their skill and ability to give and bear punishment.
It was held to be cowardly to make use of weapons in fighting with anyone, except the Indians; and it was cowardly to refuse a challenge to personal combat with the hands, feet and teeth. It was considered that there could be no excuse for a large and strong man to decline a challenge to personal combat with anyone who claimed that he had suffered a grievance, or who wanted to engage in a fight, except a lack of courage to accept the challenge and to engage in a fight.
In the estimation of that generation in Kentucky which had so many necessary occasions to rely upon personal courage, the want of it rendered the individual perfectly helpless in popular ways. Men and women looked upon an individual whom they suspected of lacking physical courage as a thing perfectly contemptible and not worthy of a trust in any way. Casey had the moral courage to ignore this well nigh universal sentiment.
Although a large and powerful man, and more than a match in physical prowess for the majority of the men in the country, he was never known to engage in a contest of physical strength or to participate in any fighting with his fellow men, which was then termed "fair fighting," which term included simply all characters of fighting with natural weapons. It was well understood that if a quarrel was pushed upon Casey, and he was compelled to fight, that he would so do with weapons. It was, however, a trait of his character, which was well known, that he never sought a personal trouble with anyone, either great or small. No one who knew his history, however, ever doubted his personal courage.
In the year 1781, and while Casey was residing at Logan's Fort, Montgomery's Station was attacked by Indians. Montgomery's Station was twelve miles to the southwest of Logan's Fort and upon the headwaters of Green River and two and one-half miles from Pettit's Station. It had been established by William Montgomery and his sons and a son-in-law, by the name of Joseph Russell, who had removed to it from the Holston River country in 1780. It consisted of four cabins, one of which was built upon each of the four corners of a square, and in easy gunshot of each other. One was occupied by William Montgomery, Sr., his wife and three sons, Thomas, Robert and James, and two daughters, Jane and Betsey. Another was occupied by William Montgomery, Jr. and his family. A third [was occupied] by John Montgomery and his wife. The fourth [was occupied] by Joseph Russell and his family.
At the time of the attack, Thomas and Robert Montgomery were absent, and were engaged as spies upon the movement of the Indians, while Mrs. Montgomery, the wife of William Montgomery, Sr., and her little daughter, Flora, were absent at Logan's Fort, which left in the cabin of William Montgomery, Sr. only himself and daughters, Jane and Betsey, who were young women, and his son, James, who was a small boy.
In the month of March 1781, a party of Indians surrounded the station at night and waited for the dawn of day to make the attack. Just at the break of day, William Montgomery, Sr. opened the door of his cabin and went out of it while a negro boy was bringing in a log of wood upon his shoulder for the fire. The Indians, who were nearby in hiding, opened fire with their rifles. The negro boy was hit by a bullet and sank down dead upon the doorstep with the log of wood across his body. William Montgomery attempted to escape to the rear of his cabin, but seven rifle bullets penetrated his body and he fell dead. The Indians immediately made a rush for the open door, with the purpose of entering and overcoming the occupants before the door could be closed. Jane, the older daughter, pushed the body of the negro boy from the door and thrust to the shutter of the door; but before she could place the bar with which it was secured across it, the Indians reached the door and undertook to push it open. Though Jane was a strong young woman, the strength was insufficient to hold the door shut and one of the Indians [had] thrust his arm between the shutter and the post of the door when Jane called aloud to some imaginary person to reach to her Thomas' gun. The ruse had the desired effect and the Indian withdrew his arm and Jane immediately closed the door and placed the bar across it.
During the struggle at the door, Betsey, the younger girl, who was about twelve years of age, clambered up the chimney, which was only nine to ten feet in height, jumped to the ground from its top and fled in the direction of Pettit's Station. One Indian pursued her, but she fairly outran him and succeeded in reaching Pettit's Station safely. The Indians, being attracted to the chimney by the escape of Betsey from it, approached it and one clambered upon it with the purpose of entering the cabin by means of it; but Jane, comprehending such an attempt, threw a large feather bed upon the blazing fire in the chimney. The smoke from the burning feather bed was so thick and stifling that the Indians were deterred from descending the chimney and no further attempt was made to break into or enter the cabin.
[This Jane Montgomery, daughter of William Montgomery, Sr., will later marry pioneer Colonel William Casey and will migrate with him to present-day Adair County in 1789. They were the great-grandparents of the celebrated Samuel L. Clemens, "Mark Twain."]
This story was posted on 2017-02-19 11:24:14
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