Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nathaniel Massie and the Paint Creek Fight of 1795

The story of Nathaniel Massie, which I began in the last post, is picked up here in another excerpt of the paper I presented at the University of Dundee in July 2009. Additional excerpts of this conference paper will be posted in the coming weeks. ~ ALF

Surveying the lands of the Scioto Valley may have been legal under American law in the spring of 1795, but the Shawnee and others, at the time, did not recognize American surveying rights to these lands. The pan-Indian alliance of Ohio Indians that had recently been defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers had yet to sign a peace and land cession treaty. Leaders of the Indian nations, however, were in council with American Indian commissioners at Ft. Greenville. General Anthony Wayne had proclaimed a truce for the purposes of negotiating a treaty, allowing the representatives of the different parties to travel unmolested to and from Ft. Greenville, the location of the council.

The only known illustration of the Paint Creek Fight was published in John McDonald's Biographical Sketches in 1852.

In late May of 1795 towards the end of the council, Virginia land speculator Nathaniel Massie led an expedition aimed at surveying lands on Paint Creek, a major tributary of the Scioto River. Massie planned to locate the site for a new town, which would become known as Chillicothe. Massie and his men, however, ran into a band of Shawnee who were camping on Paint Creek, an area that had long been a popular Indian hunting ground.

Massie and the other leaders of their party decided to attack in a surprise and pre-emptive manner. In their attack, Massie’s party killed a handful of Indians and then pillaged their camp grounds. Massie and his men quickly looted all the Shawnee possessions they could carry and then began a rapid retreat back to Manchester. Once safely back in their stronghold, Massie and others piled their treasure into boats and floated down to Maysville, Kentucky, where they auctioned off $500 worth of booty to the highest bidders in broad daylight. In retaliation for the fight on Paint Creek, the leader of the Shawnee who had been attacked, a man named Pucksekaw – known in English as the Jumper – led warriors into the mountains of western Virginia, where they carried out raids on new settlements, ultimately taking four Americans captive.

The Paint Creek Fight occurred near Bainbridge, Ohio, at what became known as Reeves' Crossing in Ross County, Ohio.

Massie’s attack on Paint Creek and Pucksekaw’s retaliatory raids threatened to derail the peace negotiations that were then underway at Ft. Greenville. Chief Blue Jacket, himself, and a handful of other prominent Shawnee leaders agreed to temporarily leave the negotiations in order to track down Pucksekaw and return him and his captives to Ft. Greenville. Blue Jacket’s efforts were successful; Pucksekaw agreed to bury the hatchet and return his newly acquired captives. Massie, however, had earned the wrath of Arthur St. Clair, who served as the Governor of the North-West Territory. St. Clair considered prosecuting Massie for his actions, but the matter was soon dropped, when St. Clair found it difficult to secure witnesses willing to testify against Massie. With the peace finally secured, Massie’s speculation ultimately paid off; the lands at the confluence of Paint Creek and the Scioto would end up in his hands; his major town speculations would now involve Manchester in the southern region of the Virginia Military District and Chillicothe in the eastern section of the District.

The new frontier town of Chillicothe, located amidst the ruins of ancient Indian earthworks in a bend of the Scioto River, was on the very eastern edge of the Virginia Military District, surrounded by fertile Scioto River bottomlands, which beckoned American settlers from Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Chillicothe, named after the Shawnee word for their principle town, was also centrally located within the lands ceded by the new Greenville Treaty; Nathaniel Massie’s newest town speculation was quickly perceived far and wide to be the future center of frontier life in Ohio.


  1. I just discovered your Blog and find it very informative. I have ancestors who lived in Pickaway and Ross Counties as early as 1811. This history will be very helpful to me and I thank you for it.

  2. So they found some natives who were on a camping trip, and they decided to attack them. Always great neighbors, eh?

    It will be okay, because GOD is Who measures all.

  3. Dr. Feight,

    I just discovered your website this second. I have loaded my kayak and am heading toward the Paint, paddling at the foot of the Copperas Mountains below Bainbridge, taking out at Blain Hwy. which I've done dozens of times.

    I am writing a book series and would like some historical information on the Copperas Mountain area.

    I am literally walking out the door to go paddle, but will review your blog further tomorrow, which is quite a wonderful surprise.
    Regards, KYAKER