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John Martin Family Captured by Indians

At the outbreak of the French and Indian war a Scotch-Irish settlement had been made in what is now Fulton county, Pennsylvania, at a place known as the Big Cove. The Quaker government of Pennsylvania had refused to give these people land except within the area that was then open to settlement, and they had therefore gone farther west and taken up land on their own account. The state authorities, fearing that this movement would exasperate the Indians of the west, tried to prevent this settlement, but failed to do so as the settlers promptly returned to their lands when the officers who had been sent to eject them, left. Among these pioneers was John Martin, the ancestor of the Martin family of Western Pennsylvania. Following the disastrous defeat of general Braddock on the Monongahela in the summer of 1755, the Indians carried the war eastward across the Alleghenies, and on the first of November of that year a band of them suddenly fell upon the settlers at the Big Cove. Among the homes destroyed was that of John Martin, who at the time of the raid was absent on a trip to Philadelphia, having taken his horses with him. His oldest son, Hugh Martin, afterwards one of the most prominent men in the formative period of Westmoreland history, was then seventeen years of age, and hearing of the impending attack, started to warn his neighbor and arrange for the escape of the two families to a blockhouse somewhere in the settlement. He found his neighbor's cabin in flames, and, returning, saw the Indians sacking his own home, his mother, two brothers and three sisters, being prisoners. As he was unable to render assistance to the family he kept hidden from view until the Indians left, and then started eastward for help, traveling under cover as best he could. He met a body of armed men on the second day, and returned with them to the Cove, but the Indians had gone, taking their prisoners with them to their village on the Allegheny river, at or near the present site of Kittanning. The settlers dared not follow, being too few in number. John Martin returned from the east, and with his son Hugh rebuilt the home. The Martin prisoners consisted of Mrs. Martin; Mary, aged nineteen; Martha, aged twelve; James and William, aged ten and eight respectively; and Janet, aged two years. Mary, upon her refusal to adopt the Indian life, was beaten to death by the squaws, and within a short time the mother was torn away from her children and carried to Quebec by the French. She worked as a domestic, and in time was able to secure her freedom. A French merchant of Quebec who was trading with the Indians along the Allegheny river, secured the little girl Janet and took her to his home. The mother had the good fortune to meet her child there, and, proving her claim, was allowed to redeem her. After a considerable period of time Mrs. Martin was able to take passage on a ship to Liverpool, and from there she sailed to Philadelphia, finally reaching her home at the cove with her young daughter after several years of trials. Martha, James and William Martin were held in captivity by the Indians for about nine years. They were carried along by roving bands of the Delaware and Tuscarora tribes over Western Pennsylvania and as far west as the Scioto Valley, in Ohio. They spent some time in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, the encampment being on big Sewickley creek, near the present site of Bell's Mills in Sewickley township. The Martin boys were attached to this spot, and after their release they returned in 1769 and took patent to two tracts of land there, where they continued to live during most of their lives. While there was no communication between the prisoners and their family at Big Cove, the latter had learned in some way that their lives had been spared, for John Martin had come as far as Fort Ligonier at one time to treat with the Indians for their ransom. He was not successful, however, and nearly lost his life in this attempt. After the notable defeat of the Indians by Col. Boquet at Bushy Run in 1763, the Indians agreed to give up their prisoners, and the Martins, along with others, were brought to Fort Pitt and surrendered to their friends. The habits of life acquired by their long contact with the Indians never forsook the two Martin boys. Though they made permanent homes on land of their own, they had no inclination to labor or to improve, but spent their days in hunting or idleness. Their elder brother, Hugh Martin, while a young man, also came to Westmoreland county, and, as indicated above, became prominent in its early history. Later their youngest sister, Janet, captured as a child when two years old, came as the wife of John Jamison and settled on a tract of land on Dry Ridge, three miles southeast of Greensburg. She lived there many years until her death in 1839, and was the mother of a large family. She was the grandmother of the late Robert S. Jamison of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and of Margaret J. Jamison, to the latter of whom the author is indebted for this sketch.

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