(Continued From Yesterday)
We are now on historic ground in our journey over the old pike. At the
foot of Coon Island Hill, on the south side of the road, was the cabin of William
Hawkins, a pioneer settler. One morning in September, 1781, a Shawnee war party
suddenly descended upon the Dutch Fork settlers, and at the cabin of Presly
Peak, half a mile from Coon Island, they captured Peak, William Hawkins, and a man
named Burnett. Peak tired to escape, and several shots were fired before he
was seized by several Indians.
In the Hawkins home were Mrs. Hawkins, her daughter, Elizabeth, and
her infant son. Mrs. Hawkins escaped with the baby in her arms, but Elizabeth
was captured, and she saw her father, William Hawkins, Peak and Burnett tomahawked.
After the war party reached the Ohio country, she was adopted into the tribe
and later married a Shawnee chief. Years later when the Indian wars were over she
came back to the scenes of her childhood, but only remained a short time and then
returned to the wild, roving life of the Indians. That was the last her relatives
or friends ever heard of her.
The Hawkins cabin was torn down years later and the logs used in the
construction of a barn across the road; but it, too, disappeared long ago.
William Hawkins Jr., the baby Mrs. Hawkins carried in her arms that day,
grew to manhood and was county surveyor of Washington in 1809 and again in 1812.
The cabin of Edward Gaither stood at the junction of Dutch Fork and
another branch of Buffalo Creek, near the Cain residence of later years. The
Shawnees surrounded this house, only to find that the family, alarmed by the
shots at Peak’s had fled to Miller’s Blockhouse, leaving a warm meal on the table
which the Indians ate with great relish.
The site of Miller’s Blockhouse, on the Dutch Fork of Buffalo Creek, three
miles north of Coon Island, is on the old Clinton Miller farm. Built by Jacob
Miller Sr., some time before 1780, it was the refuge for the settlers of that
region during Indian raids.
This was the scene of one of the most heroic defenses in pioneer history,
for it was here that the gallant Ann Hupp, almost single handed, defended the
blockhouse against a large war party of Shawnees until help arrived. On Easter
Sunday, March 31, 1782, Jacob Miller Sr., and John Hupp Sr., started in search
of a colt. Mrs. Hupp begged her husband not to go. She had dreamed the
previous night that a copperhead snake had bitten him on the hand, and try as
she would she could not pull the venomous reptile away.
Laughing at her fears, he went with Miller; but they had hardly disappeared
in the forest when the women in the blockhouse heard the crash of rifles, followed
by the terrifying war whoop of Indian warriors. During the night, a Shawnee war
party had surrounded the blockhouse. Early that morning young Captain John Jacob
Miller, leader of the rangers in that section, left with his men on a scout to Rice’s
Fort, three miles farther down the creak. The concealed Indians had allowed them to
pass, and when they killed Jacob Miller and John Hupp, they believed the
blockhouse was defenseless. The women inside they thought, would be easy to capture.
Under most circumstances of this kind, they might have reasoned correctly;
but they reckoned without Ann Hupp. After scalping their victims, they closed
in on the blockhouse with savage yells. The women and children were terrified, all
except Ann Hupp, who took charge of the defense better than most men. She sent
Frederick Miller, a lad of 11, to try to reach Rice’s. He made a gallant attempt,
but was finally driven back to the blockhouse, pursued by two savages with uplifted
tomahawks. With death at his heels the boy ran as he never ran before or afterwards.
As he leaped over the fence a shot struck him in the arm, but he continued his race
for life and ran through the open door into the arms of Ann Hupp.
With Indians closing in and firing from all sides, this pioneer mother
proved herself one of the greatest heroines of the old frontier. She quickly rallied
the terrified women and one old man, Nathias Ault [Mathias in other articles],
with words of encouragement; and seizing a rifle she fired point blank at the nearest
Indian. There were several rifles in the fort, and she grabbed loophole and fired.
Repeating this from all sides she gave the impression that the blockhouse was
defended by a large force, and the Shawnees stopped their charge. Women were
one thing; but a blockhouse apparently defended by men was quite another.
While the other women kept the rifles loaded, Ann Hupp continued to snipe
from all sides. The Indians poured in a terrific fire at the little fort, but Ann
returned it with vigor. Just when the fighting was at its height one of the men gave
a shout of joy when she saw three white men coming from Rice’s. The women could see
the warrior’s positions, and they called directions to the men. Fortunately none of
the Indians could understand English, and they seemed a little mystified by the
shouts, and while trying to comprehend the meaning, the three men suddenly dashed
through their lines and up to the door of the blockhouse which was opened by Ann
Hupp. Those three daring scouts were Captain John Jacob Miller, Phillip Hupp and
Jacob Rowe. At that time Captain Miller was only 20, and Jacob Rowe, a brother of
Ann Hupp, was just 16.
The firing ceased towards evening, and during the night the Indians withdrew.
At noon the next day Miller, Hupp and Rowe found the bodies of Jacob Miller and
John Hupp. They were buried in the same grave a few feet from the blockhouse. As
the years passed other were buried there, among them Captain Miller, and Ann
Hupp. The graves were all marked by headstones; but this little frontier cemetery
was neglected in more modern times, the headstones fell over, and today none of
the graves of those pioneers who fought the Indians when Washington County
was the wild western frontier, are marked. Only the spot where they sleep is
The hat and clothing worn by Jacob Miller when he was killed are now among
the valued relics in the collection of the Washington County Historical Society
in LeMoyne House.
Three miles north of West Alexander, on a high hill of the old Hupp farm,
overlooking the Dutch Fork Valley, is a little cemetery containing six graves
enclosed by an ornamental iron fence. In the center is a tall oblisk monument of
beautiful mottled pink granite upon which is engraved “HUPP.” Three graves are
marked with smaller shafts, the others with headstones, all of granite.
On one shaft is this inscription:
John Hupp Jr.,
Born July 27, 1780.
Died March 12, 1864.
The last of his race.
An only son of a pioneer martyr has gone to his rest and reward.
This is the grave of the baby in Miller’s Blockhouse that Easter Sunday
of 1782 when his mother so valiantly defended it against the savage attacks of
Shawnee warriors, who had just killed and scalped his father. As you stand on the
edge of the hill you can look across the Dutch Fork Valley to the spot where the
Blockhouse stood not over two or three miles away. It is a beautiful location
and a fitting spot for the “baby in the blockhouse” to sleep the years away. These
monuments and fence were erected by Joseph Hupp.
COON ISLAND HILL
Just west of the site of the old Canode Tavern, the pike, by sharp
curves, ascends the high hill that takes you eventually to West Alexander. Over the
small run at the foot of the hill is another massive stone arch bridge with long
walls on each side of the stream. There is as much masonry in this structure as
in the “S” Bridge, and why it was built when a stone arch culvert would have
been sufficient for this little run, is a mystery.
This hill was one of the most difficult and dangerous for stagecoaches
to descent in Washington County. In the seven-tenths of a mile from the bottom to
the top, are five sharp curves, regular hairpins. It certainly required an expert
driver, such as Jim Hutchinson, Jim Burr, or James Noble to descend safely’ but
I found no record of an accident during stagecoach day. As much cannot be said for
automobiles, for many accidents occurred there before the State Highway completed
the new route of the pike between Claysville and West Alexander in August 1939.
OLD BRICK TOLL HOUSE Picture
On the south side of the pike, a mile and a quarter west of Coon Island and
about half a mile beyond the top of the hill, is the last of the picturesque brick
toll houses erected by Pennsylvania after the state took over the National Pike
under the acceptance act of April 4, 1831. Under this act, which provides for the
erection by the state of not less than six of these toll houses, three were built
in Washington County—one near Beallsville, one at the Carrons farm east of
Washington, and one east of West Alexander. The other two fell into ruins and
disappeared long ago; but this, the only one remaining in Washington County,
still stands in a state of semi-ruin.
It stands on a acre of ground, purchased September 23, 1837, by the pike
commissioners from John Valentine for $50. The tollhouse was erected either in
the fall of 1837 or the spring of 1838. For many years and until long after toll was
removed from the pike in 1905, a large board upon which were the rates of toll, was
in one of the window spaces on the lower floor of the tower. After the State
Highway Department abandoned this tollhouse in the 1920s and allowed it to fall
into ruins, this board was removed and is now in the State Museum in Harrisburg.
The rates given were:
· Every score of Sheep, Six Cents.
· Every score of Hogs, Six Cents.
· Every score of Cattle, Twelve Cents.
· Every Horse and Rider, Four Cents.
· Every led or drove Horse, Mule or Ass, every Sled or Sleigh, drawn by
horse or pair of Oxen, Three Cents.
· Every Horse or pair of Oxen in addition, Six Cents.
· Every Dearborn, Sulky Chair or Chaise with one hours, Six Cents.
· Every Horse in addition, Six Cents.
· Every Charlot, Coach, Coaches, Stage, Phaeton, of Chaise with two horses
and four wheels, Twelve Cents.
· Every other carriage with four horses, Eighteen Cents.
· Every other carriage of pleasure, by whatsoever name it may be called,
the same, according to the number of wheels and horses drawing the same,
according to the number of wheels and horses drawing the same.
· Every cart or wagon, whose wheels do not exceed three inches in breadth,
drawn by one horse or pair of oxen, Four Cents.
· Every Horse in addition, Three Cents.
· Every cart or wagon, whose wheels exceed three inches and does not
exceed four inches in breadth for ever horse or pair of oxen drawing the
· Every cart or wagon whose wheels exceed four inches and do not exceed five
inches in breadth, for every horse or pair of oxen drawing the same, Three Cents.
· Every cart or wagon whose wheels exceed five inches and do not exceed six
inches in breadth for every horse or pair of oxen drawing the same,
· Every cart or wagon whose wheels exceed six inches and do not exceed eight
inches in breadth, for every horse drawing the same, Two Cents.
· All carts or wagons whose wheels exceed eight inches in breadth, FREE.
The names of the gate keepers are pretty well known. William McCleary,
whom Searight says collected tolls here for many years, was probably the
first. The next of whom we have a record and she may have followed McCleary,
was Mrs. Sarah Jane Noble, who kept the gate during the last 40 years or more
that toll was collected. After toll was removed in 1905, she lived in the
toll house for several years.
Her husband, James Noble, an old Pike Boy, enlisted in the First Virginia
Cavalry at the outbreak of the Civil War. Later this regiment was changed to the
First Virginia Cavalry at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was killed by bushwhackers
near Fayetteville, Virginia, in 1862, and it was probably shortly afterwards
that his widow was appointed.
The building was kept in good condition during the years toll was collected
and while Mrs. Noble lived there, afterwards. Then the State Highway Department
rented it as a refreshment stand for some years, but finally closed it in the
early 1920s when it became a notorious speakeasy, and allowed it to fall into decay.
After that it became am rendezvous for clandestine parties, and as no one seemed
to have control over it nothing was done about it.
During the administration of General Edward Martin as Governor, the State
would have deeded it to any organization in either Claysville or West Alexander
that would have restored it; but no one was interested. Finally, in 1951, J. Garrett
Hunter, who owns the farm adjoining, offered to buy it for $500, and a bill was passed
by the Legislature approved the sale. Mr. Hunter wished to have control and eliminate
the nuisance so close to his home. After the purchase, he was willing to turn it
over to some organization; but still no one was interested. He uses it today as a
storage house for baled hay.
This is a sad ending to one of the priceless relics of the old National
Pike in Washington County. For persons of the present generations can
visualize the past when history marched past this old gate when it was young. In
a brilliant and picturesque cavalcade of stagecoaches, Conestogas, emigrants
to the west in lumbering, ox-drawn wagons, and famous men and women.
In September 1836, Captain Thomas Jefferson Morgan, grandson of the
noted Colonel George Morgan, marched past the spot where the gate was erected
a year or two later, leading 30 volunteers, know as Morgan’s Rifle Company, on
their way to help the battling Texans in their fight for freedom from Mexico. The
second lieutenant of this company was his younger brother, George Morgan, who
was to fight in the Mexican War and become a Union general in the Civil War.
Henry Clay, “Father of the National Pike,” passed the gate while traveling
to and from his Kentucky home and the National Capitol, during the last years of
In February 1845, James K. Polk passes there on his way to become President
of the Unites States.
Past the old gate came returning officers of the Mexican War—one of them,
Lieutenant Colonel Roger S. Dix, to die of Cholera in the old Stone Tavern in
Scenery Hill on January 7, 1849.
Early in 1849, came General Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War,
on his way to his inauguration.
Sixty-three years later, President Warren G. Harding, on his way to spend the
Fourth at his home at Marion, Ohio, passed the old gate in the Presidential automobile.
With him was another war hero, General John J. Pershing, commander of the America
Expeditionary Force in World War I.
Later in 1922, came “Uncle” Joe Cannon, who made history in Congress for 50
years. He had served his last term and was on his way to his home in Illinois.
James G. Blaine, a native of Washington County, who traveled the pike
in the days of its glory, knew the old gate. Later he became a famous statesman,
and in 1884, as Republican candidate for the Presidency was defeated by Grover
Cleveland in one of the closest elections in American history—by some 50 votes in an
up-state New York precinct.
At least one company of Forty-Niners from Washington passed the gate early
in April 1849, on their way to join the Gold Rush to California. There were six in
the party, one of whom was James W. Kuntz, who, after his return, became one
of Washington’s noted financiers and bankers.
In the 1860s many soldiers from Washington County passed the gate on their
way to fight for the Union in Grant’s army in the southwestern Confederate States.
During World War I and World War II, long cavalcades of Army trucks, loaded
with soldiers and munitions of war passed the old gate, then in ruins, on their
way to the battle fronts of Europe.
It seems a shame that this old tollhouse that has seen so much of the
history of our nation march past should be forgotten by the present generation,
and allowed to pass into oblivion. Some day we will wonder why somebody did not do
something about it.
(To Be Continued)
For part 25 of The National Pike Story For part 27 of The National Pike Story