I have long been interested in this episode from my family’s history, and after seeing the same details being passed around time and time again, and running into a lot of confusion regarding the survivors, I decided to dig a little deeper to into the sources and the historical context, to try to separate fact from fiction. These are my findings.
It seems that most of the commonly shared details regarding this incident come from one of two sources: a biography and genealogy of Lewis Corder Anthony's son, Anderson Woods Anthony, published in The History of Morgan County, Missouri (1889), and an account of “McFarlane’s Defeat” printed in the January 20, 1907 edition of the Lexington Herald. Both these accounts were published about a century after the events they describe, and are based on second and third-hand personal recollections and family traditions, rather than on contemporary sources, and as such should be treated with skepticism. Many of the thrilling, gruesome, and romantic details they report are likely to be embellishments added as the story grew through generations of retelling.
The accounts are long and detailed, so I won't reprint them here, but you can find them at the following links:
Excerpt from The History of Morgan County, Missouri, 1889:http://www.mygenealogyhound.com/missouri-biographies/mo-morg...
Article from The Lexington Herald, Jan 20, 1907:http://laurelcokyhistorymuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/0...
At first glance, it is hard to tell that these two sources are even describing the same event, so different are the reported details, including the names of the people involved, the locations mentioned, and the date. We must refer to contemporary reports of the incident to see that they are indeed related.
Kentucky Gazette, vol. VI, no. 29, page 3.
"LEXINGTON, April 6"
"On the 26th of March, a company consisting of 9 men, 2 women & eight children, on their way to this state, were attacked about five miles from the Hazel Patch toward Laurel river, about an hour before sunset, by a party of Indians supposed to be about thirty. The nine men dismounted and defended the women and children for about fifteen minutes, during which time they fired four or five rounds, but being overpowered and the Indians closing in on all sides, the whole were killed or taken, except four who escaped, one of which is dangerously wounded. Names of the killed and missing...Joel Corder and his family; James Anthony and family; Mathews Flourney; _______Speilman and Thomas Peniston, James Jones, wounded. Robt Hill, James M Farland and William Anthony escaped unhurt. --The above account is given by one of the men who escaped. We are just now informed that Peniston and one of the children that was missing has since come in."
Kentucky Gazette, vol. VI. no. 30, page 3, column 1.
"LEXINGTON, April 13."
We are informed that a party of men under Maj. Wheatly who went to the place where the company was defeated in the Wilderness on the 26th ult. have returned, and brought in with them the most of the horses and baggage belonging to the party defeated, as also two of the children that were missing ---it is supposed some sudden alarm caused the Indians to leave the ground immediately, by means of which the children were preserved. They also found and brought in a child that was taken by the Indians from a company they defeated about the first of March. It had straggled off from their camp whilst they were making the attack on the company of the 26th --- The children had suffered very much for want of food."
From this, and drawing on the later accounts to fill in some of the blanks, we can begin to piece together who the members of the party were, and what became of them.
James Anthony - killed
Joel Corder (James's brother-in-law) - killed
???? Speilman - likely killed [probably Christopher Spellman mentioned in the 1907 account]
Mathews Flourney - likely killed, although there is a memorial on findagrave for a Maj. Matthew Flournoy, 1776-1842, buried in Lexington, KY.
James Jones - escaped, gravely wounded
Robert Hill - escaped
James McFarland [or McFarlane] - escaped, perhaps with minor wounds, as reported in the 1889 account
William Anthony (James's younger brother) - escaped
Thomas Peniston - escaped
Elizabeth Anthony (James's wife, Joel's sister) - taken captive
Jane "Jenny" Corder (Joel's wife, James's sister) - taken captive
Lewis Corder Anthony, age 7 (son of James and Elizabeth) - taken captive
Pembrook Anthony, age <7 (daughter of James and Elizabeth) - escaped (thought to be the child mentioned at the end of the first Kentucky Gazette article)
3 other Anthony children (it is believed the Anthonys had 5 children, Lewis being the eldest) - fate unknown
[Boy] Corder - escaped (thought to be one of the two children mentioned in the second Kentucky Gazette article)
[Girl] Corder - escaped (thought to be one of the two children mentioned in the second Kentucky Gazette article)
???? Corder - fate unknown
We know that 2 children of Joel Corder survived, because Joel and Elizabeth's father John Corder Jr. mentioned them in his will in 1814:
"to the two heirs of my son Joel Corder, deceased. I give and bequeath unto them five shillings a piece,"
So were the other children gruesomely murdered for being "too young to travel", as the 1889 account suggests? The Gazette articles mention nothing about the bodies of children being recovered from the site of the massacre, so it is difficult to say. However, a list of prisoners taken by Natives in Kentucky, dated 1794, mentions "some children" taken along with Elizabeth and Jenny, so it may be that others did survive the massacre.
The location of Hazel Patch, near the Laurel River (or Laurel Branch, as it appears on Google maps), makes much more sense than Bryan Station, Northeast of Lexington, mentioned in the 1889 account. The party was traveling from Caswell, Co., NC to Murfreesboro, TN. One only need glance at a map to see that Bryan Station is much too far north to have been on their route.
A little historical context is warranted in order to bring some perspective to this event. The massacre took place toward the end of a conflict known as the Northwest Indian War, between white settlers and the Native tribes of the area around the Ohio River Valley. The French were the first Europeans to claim control of the territory, but ceded it to the British at the end of the French and Indian War. The British made treaties with the Iroquois and Cherokee to settle some of the land east of the Ohio River, however tribes such as the Shawnee and the Mingo, who lived in this territory, were not consulted on these treaties, and regarded European incursion as a hostile invasion. After the American Revolution, when the British ceded the territory to the U.S. government in the Treaty of Paris, American settlers considered the territory open for settlement, and began pouring across the Appalachians into Native territory in large numbers, resulting in a great deal of bloodshed on both sides.
(Northwest Indian War: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Indian_War
The story of Elizabeth Anthony's thrilling escape presents many problems, mostly with regard to a lack of documentation, and the large number of details which are likely romantic embellishments added over generations of retelling. However, the fact of her escape seems to be incontrovertible, and if she escaped by ship, then a location on the shores of the Great Lakes makes sense. It is also likely that she remarried, given her father's reference to "my daughter Elizabeth Cartwright" in his will, though whether Cartwright was in fact the captain of the ship on which Elizabeth escaped, and whether her travels took her to Scotland, lacks documented sources. I also doubt the notion that she was never heard from again by her family, since they must have learned about the means of her escape and subsequent marriage somehow. But it does seem that she never returned to her children, and that by 1814 the family had not heard from her in some time.
Jenny Corder and Lewis Corder Anthony were held in a Native village for almost 2.5 years, before being released into U.S. government custody under the terms of the Treaty of Greenville (1795). Article II of the treaty states, "All prisoners shall on both sides be restored. The Indians, prisoners to the United States, shall be immediately set at liberty. The people of the United States, still remaining prisoners among the Indians, shall be delivered up in ninety days from the date hereof, to the general or commanding officer at Greeneville, Ft. Wayne or Ft. Defiance; and then chiefs of the said tribes shall remain at Greeneville as hostages, until the delivery of the prisoners shall be effected." I do not have in my possession any documentation describing the location of their captivity or the exact circumstances of their release, though I am assured by other researchers this documentation exists. In the book "A Dark and Bloody River" by Allan Eckert, the author cites a reference to "Corder, Jenny, 28, captured March 26, 1793, on the Wilderness Road in Kentucky; surrendered on July 10, 1795, by Wyandots."
(Treaty of Greenville: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Greenville
A pair of bonds issued by the court of Caswell Co., NC, dated Jan 27, 1800, grant guardianship of Lewis Anthony and Pembrook Anthony, described as "minor orphans", to Joseph Anthony and John Corder (likely the children's grandfathers, though Joseph may be an uncle). This differs from the 1889 account which states that Lewis was raised by a pair of Corder uncles. Lewis's guardians eventually brought him to Tennessee, where he took possession of the land grant near Murfreesboro originally awarded to his father.
This is an accurate accounting of events, so far as I have been able to determine. If you know of any conflicting or additional information originating from reliable contemporary sources, I am more than happy to hear of it and correct this account.
(cross-posted to Corder surname board)