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The Poe Brothers and Big Foot
Milestones Vol 22 No 2 Summer 1997


The following is an excerpt from 'A True History of The Three Brave Indian Spies - John Cherry, Andrew and Adam Poe - Who Wiped Out Big Foot and His Two Brothers " written about 1872 by Adam Poe, Sr.

George Jacob Poe came to this country in 1746 from the River Rhine, Prussia and bought land in Maryland on the Antietam River near the place where Gen. McClelland and his armies gallantly fought. Here he built flouring mills. Under King George's rule of the Colonies it was customary for imigrants on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to agree with the ships captain to sell their time, when arriving in this country for their passage. The city of Baltimore was his market for the product of the mills. On one of his trips to the city, he bought the time of an Irishman and his wife, they being entirely subject to the purchaser's orders and plans of work they were called upon to perform. Every time the Irishman could get whiskey he would get drunk and abuse his wife. The old German was of the same opinion as the writer, that any man who would whip his wife ought to be horse whipped. Poe, being a powerful man in strength, took a switch and it is said gave him a complete whipping Poe having his own teams to do his transportation, and the Irishman being one of the drivers, the latter managed to get his wagon loaded, had concealed a rifle in his wagon with which he shot Poe as the latter passed his team. When the other teams came up they found Poe dead in the road and the Irishman gone. He has made good his escape never to be heard of afterwards. Poe being a widower at the time under English law that ruled the colonies, the whole estate fell into George's hands, he being the oldest son, Poe having four children. The others were named as follows, Andrew, Kate and Adam, the writers' grandfather.

Sometime after the estate fell into George's hands, Andrew thought George was getting a little despotic and concluded to go to the frontier. He heard of a settlement West of the Allegheny mountains in the forks of the Yough, now known as the Youghiogheny. The settlement was located between West Newton on the Yough and the town of Elizabeth on the Monongahela River now in Westmoreland County, PA. Andrew had to pack his several days provisions to reach the desired location where he got work at once and worked for sometime helping the settlers to clear up their lands, and after a time went back and brought Adam and Kate west. He apprenticed Adam to a German shoemaker. Kate, being of the original Poe build and make and able to do any kind of work, also got employment. In this history will be seen the likeness of one of her grandsons, Isaac Miller.

After Andrew separated the family it was never united again. After Andrew had Kate and Adam in good houses, the war with England broke out and he enlisted with the Rebels to fight against King George. His son, George, whose likeness will be seen in this history, resembled his father, Andrew, while the other son, Adam, favored his mother. He could not remember the name of the General or the battles his father had been engaged in. Andrew worked in the settlement with the farmers, clearing the lands till the war broke out with England, and as he certainly had no sympathy with the English laws in making one out of a family rich and leaving the balance subject to the human Lord, he enlisted with the Rebels. His son, George, could not tell the General he fought under nor in what battle his father was made ensign bearer on account of his size and bearing. In one of the close contested battles, a soldier was shot dead nearby him. He threw down the colors, took his gun and accouterments and fought through the engagement, came out of the battle unharmed, and would have been raised in the rank, but his language was too much German.

Edward Cherry, the first settler of Washington County was shot at his own spring and scalped by the Indians. He was of English descent. Fort Cherry was built in 1774 by Edward Cherry, John McCarty and William Rankin. Those parties ventured across the Monongahela River from the Red Stone settlement near where Brownsville was afterward built. Andrew had eight daughters, intelligent and handsome. The writer saw several of them before they were married. Andrew Poe used very strict discipline in his family. My father, Thomas Poe, says he visited his Uncle Andrew and that he kept all quiet in his home. If his girls wished to have any sport they had to go outside of the house.

Andrew and Adam Poe were about the same size and build, six feet high and weighed 190 lbs. Andrew Poe never struck but one man, William McMillon, whom the writer knew for several years in his boyhood. The father of Captain John McMillon who invented or put in use the patent capstan, told his daughter who died in the last year while tending store for David Bruce in Burgettstown, Washington County, telling a man about the fight with Big Foot, when another man walked up to the parties and said it was all a lie. Andrew struck him one lick, which knocked him out into the street. Andrew said take that and went on with his conversation as if nothing had happened.

My father, Thomas Poe, said his father nor Andrew would never say one word about the fight with the Indians. Since I began this history I have been on correspondence with the Hon. William Farrer, who was raised near Fort Cherry, Washington County. His brother now occupies a farm adjoining the Cherry farm where the remains of one of the three dwellings can be seen.

I will have in my history a perfect drawing of the house before it blew down. The stockade enclosing the houses also took in a grand spring, the largest flow of water coming out of the earth in the country and near the top of the slope from the creek. The Fort stood on the grandest location that could be found in Washington County from which could be seen the approach of an enemy by three different points and by going to the second story could see any enemy approaching from all directions, as the dwelling was a story and one half high. The chinking was 8 x 5 inches and the logs hewed so they could be joined.

The Hon. William Cherry, nephew to John, who fired the first shot at Tomlinson Run, W. VA, gave me leave to take a chink out and it was a difficult job as the house was built proof against warfare of the day when built. Soon after the Fort was built, Gen. George Washington came over the river to the settlement and brought with him Col. Crawford who surveyed 1300 acres of land adjoining the farms of the builders of the Fort. Crawford who afterwards was burnt on the Sandusky Plains by the Wyandot Indians. The reader can see now how the country got its name.

The Fort was built on Grand Lookout six miles Southwest of Burgettstown, Washington County. On the headwaters of Little Raccoon could be seen the approach of an enemy from the ground from three sides, and also the fourth from the roof of the second story and the stockade surrounding the three dwellings a story and one half high perfectly hewed and put together bullet proof against rifle shot. The true sketch of one of the dwellings enclosed by the stockade as here represented was kept roofed by the Cherry's for a chicken house, the premises still in the ownership of the Cherry's.


Everybody was alarmed, General Irvine's dispatch to George Washington says. Six Wyandot Indians were killed at Tomlinson's Run out of seven. Andrew and Adam Poe and John Cherry did the principal fighting. Three of the party were sons of the Half King and the other four were the picked braves of the Wyandot nation. I have never learned how the great Chief of the Nation got the title except through Canada to excite the large Wyandot nation to wipe out the settlers of the frontier. The parties who met on the Jackson farm to follow and rescue Jackson from the Indians had no General to obey. They all had a plan of their own to find the Indians. John Jack who was scout and spy for the settlers mounted his horse and said, "I know where the rafts will be now all that wishes follow me." Andrew and Adam Poe, John Cherry, William Castleman, William Rankin, James Whiteacre, and John Jack made the seven men. This party wiped out the Indians, and returning to the Fort met the parties hunting the trail. They had only made about seven miles, the trail being hard to find, as the Indians had traveled separate all night, whooping like owls to keep in line towards the river. John Jack had not time to warn all the settlers to get to the Fort. There had been indications of Indians from the river to the settlement, and it appeared to him direct from the mouth of Tomlinson's Run, but the parties could not agree. The majority determined to follow their trail. John Jack mounted his horse and called to the settlers, "I know where their rafts are and what is to be done must be done quickly, if we undertake to follow their trail they will cross the river, and if caught on the river they may kill Jackson. Now all that wish follow me." So he started and only six men followed, Andrew and Adam Poe, William Castleman, John Cherry, William Rankin and James Whiteacre. They certainly rode like John to the top of the hill and tied their horses and took it on foot. Jackson and his son were pulling flax. The Indians called like turkeys. The son said to his father I will go and kill the turkey. When he came back to the clearing he saw the Indians at the wood pile, standing around his father. He knew his father was their prisoner, so he crept back into the woods, and ran about nine miles to Fort Cherry where the families stayed at night. It has been handed down that Jackson was a great power on foot, and it is said that he made the quickest time ever accomplished on foot that day.

He arrived at the Fort just about dusk. A dark cloud was rising in the West, and shortly after it began raining very hard. It rained all night, but that did not keep them (the settlers) from gathering together all their available forces, and they all met on the Jackson farm at the break of day about 17 men in all. The settlers traveling between the Ohio River and the settlement named John Jack.

They tied their horses and took it on foot down hill, the run making a deep hollow, and the land was level to the top of the hill, making a sharp cone between the run and the river. When they came to the river bottom, they struck the Indian trail. The run ran quartering up the river angle of about 45 degrees. The small trail went straight across to the river, and the large trial towards the mouth of the run. They stopped for a moment. Andrew Poe, being the chief advisor, took Rankin and Whiteacre with him. John Cherry, William Castleman and John Jack the scout went with Adam. The Indians made Philip Jackson, their prisoner, carry his tools all night as he was a carpenter. (I suppose a broad axe and a felling were the tools as they were about the only tools used by the early settlers). The Indians struck the river some distance below Tomlinson's Run. They followed the foot of the river hill to where the run struck the river bottom where the trail divided. Adam and Cherry stayed close by each other and when they came to the bank of the run they were careful in looking for a time so as not to shoot Jackson, the prisoner. At this moment their scout came running up saying that all was right as the Indians had struck the river some distance below the run and followed the foot of the river hill up to the run, where the trail divided.

When their scout hollered that all was safe, John Cherry fired and killed one Indian, and Adam Poe also fired and killed another. Jackson was sitting on a log on the raft, telling the minor chief who had him in charge, that he would build him a house when they got home to Sandusky. Jackson broke away and ran across to the whites. The chief followed him, and struck at him with a tomahawk, the blow glancing took affect under the shoulder blade where the tomahawk struck. He ran to Adam and asked him to pull it out, but he told him in broken English to go about his business. So Adam shot the other two, as he could load twice in less than one minute.

Andrew Poe had come to the bank, where the Big Foot and his brother were waiting for the parties having the prisoner in charge. When Andrew looked over the bank Big Foot was lying down and his brother was working with his gun lock which was out of working order, and which afterwards proved a lucky circumstance for the Poe's. After Andrew saw them he stepped back to rub his flint against the brim of his hat. The report of John Cherry's gun brought both to their feet, Andrew at once drew his gun to shoot Big Foot, but in depressing his gun to take aim the priming dropped out. He again aimed at Big Foot, but his gun did not act, and he dropped his gun and jumped between them, threw his arms around their necks and all three came to the ground. He held them for a little time and attempted to draw his sheathe knife. In raising his right shoulder the minor chief pulled his head out and was loose. Big Foot rolled over on his back and pulled Andrew on top of him and directed his brother to tomahawk him. He came and was aiming to strike him on the head. Andrew had the full use of his feet and a sharp eye on the tomahawk and kicked it a good distance away. The Indian picked it up and came again aiming at his head and struck but Andrew threw up his left hand, the blow taking effect on his wrist, it stuck and he slung it a distance away.

The second failure enraged Big Foot and he used both hands and feet in pitching Andrew off. Andrew picked up Big Foot's gun and shot the minor chief through the belt. Then Andrew and Big Foot went into a regular pioneer battle, Big Foot striking awkwardly over hand while Andrew struck under handed. Finding his strokes telling on Big Foot he caught him by the breech cloth, tripped him and pitched him into the river, and they were soon in deep water. Andrew caught him by the scalp lock and put his head under water and thought him drowned but when he let go Big Foot popped up like a cork and started for shore. Andrew knew Big Foot would shoot him as soon as he got his gun, so he swam out into the river and hollered for Adam.


Adam came down the shore and a fallen tree top hid Big Foot from him, Andrew hollered, "there he is, shoot him quickly." Big Foot got his own empty gun as Andrew had just shot Big Foot's brother with it. Having to gather up his accouterments, Adam got the start on him just as grandfather pulled his trigger. Big Foot dropped his gun and understanding a surrender, made an attempt to throw up his hands. It has been handed down that Adam Poe was sorry till his death he had not made a prisoner of him. He had not time to think, the matter was all over so quick.

After the battle was over they brought a horse from the top of the hill and tied John Cherry across his back with bark as it was at the time of the year when barkwood peels. When they arrived at the Fort, John Cherry's face was as black as ink. He was a large man, 23 years old, six foot tall, weighing 200 lbs. and was said by the old inhabitants to be the handsomest man ever seen at that time. Andrew did not wish to scare the parties at the Fort, made the party alight who was riding behind him when they came in sight of Fort Cherry. John Cherry, it is handed down by two generations dead who knew him personally, says he was the handsomest man they had ever seen. John Montgomery who was married to Adam Poe's eldest granddaughter, told me that his father, James Montgomery, told him John Cherry was the handsomest man he had ever seen. James Montgomery was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church, near Calcutta in Columbiana County, Ohio. John, his grandson was elected to fill the place of his father. With his grandfather, John is now resting in the cemetery adjoining the church.

Now I will tell the reader something about the Indians, Scott and spy, Scottish. When Poe and Cherry fired on the Indians, broke away and ran up the river, John, Jack and Castleman who should have been at the front saw him run, shot at him, one of the balls taking effect in his right hand. At which time he was carrying his gun in the hand which was hit, and he dropped it and it was found afterwards at the point where the river forms a half circle at Tomlinson's Run to the head of Bakers Island, one mile below Wellsville, Columbiana County, Ohio. He would certainly follow the foot of the river hill to the Narrows above the island, which lies close to the Virginia shore. He could easily swim clear of the Island and would of course be carried by the current against the Big Rock near Goff s building, where he could rest and look back to the mouth of Tomlinson's Run where his comrades met their defeat.

I have often thought of his thoughts when he arrived safely on Indian ground. I suppose they were like the story told of the Irishman who came to this country, and walking along a road adjoining a field he espied a bovine pawing the ground. He took a hearty laugh at the thought of playing a joke on him. He thought it would be good fun to climb the fence and catch his horns and jam his nose in the ground. The laugh came in first, as the bovine pitched him back over the fence faster than he came into the field. I have no doubt but the Indians had rejoiced at the capture of Philip Jackson, so he could build wigwams and they could live like white people and also tell them the situation of the settlement as there is no doubt but they intended a raid in force, as this was immediately after Col. Crawford's defeat on the Sandusky Plains. Scottish traveled from the mouth of the Yellow Creek to the Indian camp without gun or provisions. He subsisted on roots and herbs. When he came in calling distance of the camp he set up a strange cry or howl, the chief s understood what it meant and went to him.

He was kept out of camp for several days but all other prisoners were killed and scalped except George Fulks from the family by that name in Columbiana County, Ohio who was his by a young squaw. George stayed till the Indian war was over when he came back to civilization and located on a farm near Darlington, Beaver County, PA It was told me by reliable parties that two squaws came once a year to see George and he did the white mans part by them, always got them what they could carry back to their forest home.

The reader can judge the relationship. Andrew and Joseph Jackson interviewed Grandmother Elizabeth Jackson and Grandfather Joseph Jackson who were about the first settlers in this neighborhood. Joseph was the first elected Elder on this side of the Monongahela River and Grandmother baked the first bread broken in the country at the Lord's table in the Presbyterian Church, they were living near Florence, now Washington County. Grandmother held the settlement for about 20 years as doctress and midwife, she could never fail in seeing her patients, night or day, she would face any storm or fort or swelling stream, and many a narrow escape she was said to pass through for her life.

Boys reading this history will observe in getting into deep water on horse back not to pull on the bridle only sideways as you can drown a horse by pulling the rein with your little finger.

Andrew is 75 years old and Joseph is 81 years old. Honorable citizens, both live near Florence. I asked Andrew where his grandmother procured her medicines, he said, "any place she could find them in the forest." Elizabeth and Joseph Jackson's remains lie in the cemetery in Florence. Andrew Poe's remains lie at Mill Creek Presbyterian Church. Kate, his sister's remains are in Mahoning County, Ohio. Grandfather Adam and his wife, Elizabeth, lie in a church cemetery six miles north of Massillon.

In about 1779 there was a man named Jacob Clark ventured over the river with his wife and two children at this place, Georgetown. His cabin was located where the Pittsburgh and Cleveland depot now stands, the little girl was sent in the evening to bring the cow, but she soon came back telling them that she had seen two men with feathers in their hair, so Clark took his rifle and went around in the hollow, there were two rifle shots, his wife called to him and the Indians answered her.

She did not like the sound of his voice, she was baking a corn loaf of bread and tumbled it into her apron and took the youngest child in her arms, the elder followed and took their canoe and crossed over to where the village of Georgetown is now located. The first settlers of any law was people by the name of Dawson, and had located a grave yard of a beautiful situation. Clark was the first buried in it. He had a hole shot in his forehead. The place not being properly marked it was dug up about 68 years since. When I was a small boy while Andrew Poe was living, there was a grave alongside said to contain the body of a man killed by the name of McDonald that the Indians had killed and scooped a hole in the soft ground and sat him up erect. When found his scalp was missing. I passed the place some days since, where the grave was, there is a little grove of black berry bushes.

This grave was alongside of the road leading to Andrew Poe's residence. After Andrew Poe's death the farm was rented to parties who wished to utilize the ground. Captain Joseph Walton now owns the land, and if he knew about the matter I have no doubt but he would make the place as it ought to be cared for as this enlightened age. If he sees this history I have written and wishes to give about eight foot square to one of the first settlers the writer can point him to the very spot of ground