Danger and drama on the Stark County frontier

Stark County, according to historical accounts, seems to have been a fairly peaceful region in frontier times, but two 19th-century books recount rare dramatic encounters. The first is from “Reminiscences of Dover,” published in 1879 by the “Iron Valley Reporter” and reprinted in 1982 by the Dover Historical Society.
Christian Deardorff and Jesse Slingluff, two of the original proprietors of Dover, during a trip in 1802 prepared to camp one night on the bank of Meyers Lake, arriving weary and hungry. Shortly after falling asleep the men were awakened by scores of howling wolves. “The glaring, fiery eyes of the fierce and savage animals were pressing in upon them in all directions. There was no safety but in flight.” (Writing was a tad melodramatic in the late 1800s.)
Their horses within reach, the men quickly saddled and mounted, but it was three miles to a nearby settler’s cabin. They rode a short distance along the lake, “the hungry wolves some distance in front.” They turned their horses and rode rapidly in the opposite direction until they reached an opening in the woods and made for the settler’s home. The wolves were temporarily foiled but soon found the track again. Now they chased in front, by the side and in the rear — “gathering in compactness and numbers, their hot breath could almost be felt as it came from the hungry throats of the maddened animals.”
The light from the log fires was in view when a huge black wolf sprang at the flank of Deardorff’s horse. Deardorff struck the wolf with a heavy whip, but the horse stumbled upon a log, throwing Deardorff over his head. Slingluff turned his horse and yelled, startling the wolves and allowing Deardorff to remount, and the men soon reached safety.
Howe’s “Historical Collections of Ohio,” published in 1898, includes “A Running Fight,” the only known fight between whites and Indians in Stark County. Capt. James Downing Sr., John Cuppy, Isaac Miller, George Foulk and Thomas Dillon in April 1793 crossed the Ohio River from Virginia at the mouth of Yellow Creek, south of present Wellsville, to scout for Indians, traveling up the north branch to its source and west to the headwaters of Sandy Creek.
They saw no Indians for miles around, and Downing shot a deer and another man a turkey on the fourth morning, between Little Sandy and Indian Run, north of present Waynesburg. Eighteen or 20 Indians of the Ottawa and Wyandot tribes heard the shots and divided their force. Cuppy, examining his gun in camp, looked up and saw an Indian peering through the underbrush. He jumped up and gave the alarm, the Indian turned and ran, and Cuppy fired but missed. Miller and Foulk chased with guns in sparsely timbered land but stopped before reaching heavy timber, where they feared ambush, but several Indians came from another direction.
“Let us stand together and defend ourselves to the last,” Downing said to Cuppy and Dillon. “No,” said Dillon. “Each one for himself,” he said and ran off. Downing and Cuppy cautiously moved to higher ground toward the forks of the Sandy, the Indians pressing upon them, and would turn and raise their guns as though intending to shoot to keep the Indians at a safe distance. Downing eventually shot the nearest and caught up with Dillon, who was exhausted because he was choking from his necktie, having pulled it tighter while trying to loosen it.
Downing and Cuppy, both past middle age, had run until nearly exhausted, so they stood and fought. An Indian shot Downing, and the other whites fired back. Miller and Foulk heard firing and hurried in that direction and found themselves among the Indians. Miller was surrounded and ran across the bottom of a swamp toward the north branch.
The Indians threw down their guns, drew tomahawks, gave a scalp yell and pursued Miller, who crossed the Little Sandy onto an open plain, thinking, “Now legs for it.” After about a mile and a half he reached a ridge, rested and returned to the original site, but no one was there. Heading for the rendezvous site on the east side of the Ohio River, he traveled until dark, hid under a fallen tree by Yellow Creek and slept soundly on a bed of leaves. He crossed the Ohio the next day at the mouth of Yellow Creek and found Downing, Cuppy and Dillon safe. Foulk appeared the evening of the next day after hiding in brush and on a hill.
The rendezvous site was in what is now West Virginia, that state parting from Virginia, during the Civil War. Settlement started in Ohio in the late 1700s, the Treaty of Greenville establishing the Tuscarawas River as the border in our area between Indian and white land.

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