The Pigeon Roost Massacre

Kentuckiana Genealogy: Interesting Stories: The Pigeon Roost Massacre
By Board Administration (Admin) on Wednesday, June 28, 2000 - 03:44 pm:

Extracted from the account of John Dillon. History of Indiana, 1859

pp492-494 and "Pigeon Roost Massacre" by Lizzie D. Coleman 1904. As printed in "The Collings, Richeys and The Pigeon Roost Massacre"
compiled by Constance A. Hackman, Leona M. Lawson and Kenneth Scott.
Used by permission of Constance Hackman and Alice Scott.In the afternoon of the third of September, 1812, Elias Payne and man

whose name was Coffman were hunting for "bee trees" in the woods about

two miles north of the Pigeon Roost settlement and were surprised and

killed by a party of Indians. This party of Indians, which consisted of

ten or twelve warriors, nearly all of whom were Shawnees, then attacked

the Pigeon Roost settlement about sunset and, in the space of about one

hour, they killed one man, five women and sixteen children.

"Jeremiah Payne (Who lived near a fort at Vienna, but seven miles north

from Pigeon Roost) was warned of danger when his cows, bellowing very

loud, came running to the house with spears and arrows stuck in their

sides.) Taking his wife and only child, Lewis to the fort at Vienna,

the father started on foot to warn his only brother, Elias (who lived

five miles away), of their threatened trouble. He ran in a "turkey

trot", as he called it - but too late. He found that the Indians had

been before him and already done their deadly work. The wife and seven

children of his brother had been massacred - part of their bodies cut

into strips and strung around trees...."

"Another unprotected woman, Mrs. Richard Collings, and her seven

children (Mr. Collings being away in the service of the government), are

soon in the thralldom of the savage mob in their own home. Their lives

are soon taken."

"Going southwest from here, they met Mrs. Rachel Collings (wife of Henry

) who had just returned home from Payne's where she had been to get

spools for warping. Words are inadequate for describing the barbarity

of results here. Mrs. Collings was pregnant at the time, having been

made the victim of the Indian mob, the child was taken from the womb and

scalped, afterwards found laid on the bosom of the woman. The incentive

to such a diabolical deed was the five-dollar British reward offered for

each scalp."

They next approached the home of William E. "Longknife" Collings. "In

the Collings home on this memorable afternoon was the aged father

William, Lydia and Captian Norris, an old Indian fighter, who had

engaged in the battle of Tippecanoe and was here now to warn the

settlers of their threatened danger." He "had come to confer with them

concerning the need of a fort."

"The Captain and Collings had been taling but a short time, perhaps no

more than an hour." "...Captain Norris espied the Indians

approaching." Collings said they should go into the cabin and fight

and he handed one gun to Captain Norris. Norris had been severely

wounded at the battle of Tippecanoe and couldn't easily handle the heavy

gun. After some discussion they decide to try and hold off the Indians

and try to escape after dark. While William was shooting, daughter

Lydia was molding bullets in the cabin.

"William E. Collings, espying a big Indian standing in the doorway (at

Henry Collings house)....takes aim, fires, and the force of the mudering

foe is reduced." "One Indian assumes the appearance of a woman, having

decked himself in Mrs. Henry Collings' shawl, and while thus plotting he

falls a victim at the hand of the matchless marksman."

"In the meantime John , aged thirteen, had caught a horse and was ready

to after the cows when he saw an Indian approaching. Dropping the rein,

he fled, but was pursued. He realized that the savage was gaining on

him whe he heard the report of his father's rifle;... glancing back he

saw the savage fall with the blood streaming from his breast. Now he

knew that he was saved and quickly made his way to the house."

When darkness fell, they knew the Indians would fire the house so they

made their way from the house to the corn field nearby. As William

passed the corn crib, an Indian, hiding behind it, fired. "Collings

raised his gun to returnt he shot when found that the savage in missing

his aim had broken the lock of his wonderful gun." He called forNorris

to send back the other gun but Norris either couldn't hear or didn't

hear the request and Collings was left alone to meet the enemy. "When

they came too near he would raise his flintlock and pretend that he

would fire and thus frightened them." They knew his abilities with a

rifle so for "Collings, the useless gun was his salvation." By "early

next morning he was sheltered at his son Zebulon's" blockhouse about

five miles south of Pigeon Roost. Captain Norris and the children also

made it to the blockhouse safely.

"Henry Collings, who was at work in the field, was wounded in the head

by an unexpected missle. He cautiouly made his way to an old shed and

concealed himself under a pile of flax. here he was found a day or two

later ...." He told the others that "I went to jump the fence and

Little Kill Buck shot me." Henry died of the wounds received that day.

About sundown, Jane Collings Biggs had taken her children, one just a

baby, with her to bring up their cow. Returning to edge of the woods,

she saw Indians surrounding her house. Jane hastily retreated into the

woods to hide and save her children. The Indians fired the cabin and

took to the woods hunting for the occupants. Jane could hear the

footsteps and voices of the Indians. In the midst of this danger the

baby began to cry and Jane reportedly covered its mouth to prevent it

from giving away their position. [ Many reports of the day, as well as

later ones, reported that the baby had smothered and died. Direct

descendants of Jane Collings Biggs have reported that this report was in


After the Indians had passed by, Jane and her children turned their

footsteps to her father's house for help. Leaving the children hidden

near the road, she went to the house and found the door partially open.

Smelling gunpowder she hurried back to road with her children and

started for the blockhouse at her brother Zebulon's five miles away. She

and the children arrived safely at the blockhouse in the morning. How

she escaped the Indians at her father's house remains a mystery.

Dr. John Richey and Sichey Collings were the first couple married in

Scott Co. in 1810. They lived in the area of the settlement to the

southwest. Dr. John was working in the field when he heard shots and

saw smoke rising from the homes of the settlement. Realizing what was

happening, he took Sichey upon his back and fled through the cornfield.

They hid in the woods until dark and then laboriously made their way to

Zebulon's blockhouse the following morning. Sichey delivered their

first child shortly after the massacre.

"... the Indians managed to steal and carry away captive a little girl,

Ginsey McCoy, three years of age. She was a relative of Mrs. Jeremiah

Payne and at the time was making her home with Mrs. Payne. Some fifteen

years later she was reported seen with the Indians along the Kankakee

River. These Indians migrated to Kansas where Rev. Isaac McCoy, uncle

of Ginsey, doing missionary work there among the Indians, found the lost

child. Through the years she remembered her name, but now was the wife

of an Indian chief with a family. Rev. McCoy persuaded her to return on

a visit to Indiana..." "Not being contented away from her family, she

returned to her tribe and children and spent the remainder of her life

with them."

"After the time of the Pigeon Roost Massacre, many of the settlers on

the northern and western frontiers of Clark, Jefferson, Harrison and

Knox counties lived in a state of alarm until the close of the war in

1815." Mr. Zebulon Collings, who had the blockhouse within five or six

miles of the Pigeon Roost settlement says: "The manner in which I used

to work in those perilous times was as follows: On all occasions I

carried my rifle, tomahawk, and butcher knife, with a loaded pistol in

my belt. When I went to plow, I laid my gun on the plowed ground and

stuck up a stick by it for a mark so I could get to it quickly in case

it was wanted. I had two good dogs. I took one into the house, leaving

the other out. The one outside was expected to give the alarm, which

would cause the one inside to bark. I would then be awakened, and my

guns were always loaded. I kept my horses in a stable close to the

house, which had a porthole so that I could shoot to the stable door.

During the two years, I never went from home with any certainty of

returning - not knowing the minute I might receive a ball from an

unknown hand; but in the midst of all these dangers, God, who never

sleeps nor slumbers, has kept me."

In 1904 the State of Indiana erected a monument as a lasting memorial to

the massacred pioneers.

submitted by Pat Mount

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