CHAPTER XXI—THE BURNING OF THE CABIN
Indian troubles along the border were perhaps never worse in the history of the Northwest territory than in this year (1792) when Return Kingdom and John Jerome daily lived surrounded by dangers, the true, awful extent of which they little realized.
The scalping knife was never sharper, seldom bloodier. The torch was put to cabin after cabin. At mid-day and at midnight the flames which consumed the scattered evidences of civilization west of the Ohio river leaped skyward. The fierce war-whoop rang defiantly from Detroit south to the settlements in Kentucky and no white man was safe. Harmless traders, and peaceable hunters as well as settlers were murdered and their scalps hung high on the lodges of the Delawares, Shawnees, Chippewas, Wyandots, and all the tribes between the Wabash river and the Allegheny mountains.
And all the while the British at Detroit were urging the Indians on, and all the while the authorities of the American government were urging moderation on Wayne’s part and trying hopelessly to bring about peace.
Some peace commissioners who were sent to treat with the Indians were at first received kindly, but without warning, a few days later, slain.
News traveled far less rapidly in those days than now. A family might at midnight hear the redskins’ dreadful yells and die fleeing from the fierce savages, even while flames devoured their home. But neighbors only a few miles distant would continue to dwell in supposed security, knowing nothing of the outrage, and so only the more readily fall victims of the same ferocious Indian band a little later.
Indeed, it is not remarkable that Return and John had felt little fear among the Indians, while living so far from the frontier that news of the terrible tragedies along the border did not reach them. Their entire plan for the future had been from the first to make the redskins their friends. They had, with some rather serious exceptions, in which they were not at fault, succeeded admirably until Lone-Elk incited Captain Pipe’s people to hostility. But now, even had both the boys been at their cabin, and seemingly at peace with every tribe, as they had once been, they could not have failed to discover evidence of the warlike activity about them. They would not only have seen but, very likely, have felt, the increasing hostility of every redman the vast wilds contained.
No longer did the head men, such as Chief Hopocon or Captain Pipe, seek to restrain the bloodthirsty young warriors. They were allowed full sway. Treaties still fresh in their minds, such as that fixing the Cuyahoga and the portage trail as a definite boundary between the white men and their red brethren, were forgotten or no more regarded than the leaves which drifted before the autumn winds.