Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Festival & Lard Scalding

This coming weekend, September 19-22, my home county of Pendleton will hold the annual Treasure Mountain Festival. Growing up, my family always got together and went to the Festival, and we usually just milled around in the crowd and ate a lot of food. You see, there’s not much to do at the Festival besides see old friends and eat. I always liked to use the festival as an excuse to put on my “winter coat”, an old mountain term referring the need to get fattened up for the winter months.

Me at the TMF 2006. Yes, those bags are full of food!

The Festival is always held on the 3rd weekend of September and this year it will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Burning of Fort Seybert.

Every year following the parade, the Burning of Fort Seybert is re-enacted on the site of the original fort.

The Treasure Mountain Festival story begins shortly after the attack in 1758 when a band of Shawnee Indians under the leadership of the Delaware chief, Killbuck, attacked and burned Fort Seybert & Fort Upper Tract. The only remaining fort left standing in Pendleton County was Hinkle’s Fort, which was built by my 7-great grandfather Johann Justice Hinkle.

My brother Jason and the 7-great-granddaughter of Chief Killbuck. She attends the Treasure Mountain Festival every year.

After leaving the site of Fort Seybert, the Indians along with their prisoners crossed the mountains through Greenawalt Gap, a natural and well-known crossing through the rugged mountains. From there they travelled through Germany Valley and westward to the Little Kanawha River in present-day Upshur County, which in turn, further took them to the Ohio River and the Shawnee town of Chillicothe.

Pendleton Natives, Brud & Ardella make their annual pilgrimage through the TMF Parade. Brud always fires off a few rounds from his muzzleloader to delight the crowds.

The few settlers who escaped the massacre told of what happened and they recounted a story of how the valuable possessions and treasures belonging to the settlers were collected in an iron kettle and a wooden pole was stuck through the bale and two Indians carried the treasure. As they were climbing up the eastern slope of South Fork Mountain, the terrain became steeper and the two Indians fell behind the larger group. Fear of pursuit made the two Indians abandon the kettle full of treasures, and when they rejoined the larger group they were empty-handed. They said they had hidden the treasure somewhere on the mountain along the trail near a giant hollow tree, and that they would return to claim the treasure at a later time. It is doubtful that the Indians returned , as this was their last known visit to the area.

Over the years since that fateful autumn day in 1758, many locals have so strongly believed in the existence of the treasure that they searched the still-visible mountain trail in hopes of locating it.

While no one has succeeded in uncovering this ancient "pot of gold", the legend lives on and is celebrated every year at the Treasure Mountain Festival.

I have a family story that tells of this Shawnee raid in Pendleton County. On their way up the South Branch of the Potomac River, the Indians passed my Grandmother Rebecca Skidmore’s cabin. All the menfolk were away hunting up in the mountains. According to the story passed down through the generations, Grandmaw saw the Indians coming up the river but didn’t run away, she said she was too old to run anyway, and besides, her grandmother was a Shawnee woman named Sowetha, so she figured she had no real reason to fear and expected the Indians just wanted to trade as they usually did when they were in this part of the country. As they neared, my grandmaw said she saw that this was a raiding party and she knew she was in trouble but there wasn’t anything she could do about it, so she just went about her business, which just happened to be rendering lard. Well, the Indians pulled up their canoes and started up to the Skidmore cabin, and she just acted like she wasn’t afraid. She said the Indians went into the cabin and stole her coffee and sugar and came out and that she could tell they were deciding what to do with her. She said she knew a couple of Shawnee words and said them, and tried to tell them that she was part Shawnee, and they just grunted and talked among themselves. She said then one big Indian pulled out his knife and started toward her and she knew she had to do something right then, so she instinctively threw a big dipper of rendering hog fat in his face and he took to digging at his eyes and scalded face. The other Indians thought this was just too funny and roared in laughter, and then restrained the man from revenge. She said they then went back in the house and took her butcher knife and a hatchet and nodded to her as they went back towards the river, still laughing about what she had done. The story further tells how Grandmaw Skidmore was rather shocked that they left without killing her. Years later, when Killbuck was asked about this, he talked of how the raiding party had encountered an old white woman that fought like a Shawnee, and for her bravery, they had let her live.

The Giant Pendleton Pumpkin Contest 2007.

So, if anyone is in the area this coming weekend, be sure and stop by the Treasure Mountain Festival, there's sure to be something that will interest you there.


tipper said...

Just an amazing story about the indians. Wow that is real history.

Janet said...

Very interesting.
I think Grandma Rebecca was lucky. I read Follow the River and I almost quit reading it in the first chapter when the Indians raided the homes, it was awful. West Virginia has a very interesting past.

Matthew Burns said...

Indeed she was lucky.

You may find of it interest that during that raid on the New River settlements (as outlined in Follow the River), my wife's 6th-great grandparents were among those families, and several of their children were killed, and a couple more taken captive.

There is a statue devoted to my wife's grandparents in front of the Mercer County Courthouse, it is titled "Torment in Stone". My wife's grandparents were Mitchell and Phoebe Clay, the first settlers of Mercer County.

You can find a photo of the statue and their home by doing an internet search, or if interested, you can email me for them. Maybe someday i'll write a post about that.

Yes, we certainly do have a colorful history here in the Mountain State.

Thanks to all who comment on my posts, I enjoy the feedback.

Jason Burns said...

Like I've often said, you don't mess with the women in our family. The least you'll come away with is a good cussin'.