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The Fall Creek Massacre


The Fall Creek Massacre was the name given to the brutal murders of a peaceful group of Seneca and Miami Indians by white settlers. The actual massacre occurred on March 22, 1824 in Madison County, Indiana between Fall Creek and Deer Lick Creek. James Hudson's trial was held October 7-9, 1824. Trials of the other men were held in 1825. The trial set an important precedent in recognizing the civil rights of Native Americans. Conner Prairie occasionally presents a program recreating this important trial and the materials below were created to add to the understanding of the event.

Who was involved:

Those killed

Logan: A subordinate chief of Seneca Indians; Known as "a person of great distinction and greatly esteemed among the Senecas." A "venerable old chief, whose name ought to have been his passport and protection from Maine to Georgia, and from the Mississippi to the Atlantic" and "A friend of the white men" (Bloomington Indiana Gazette Nov 13, 1824)

Ludlow: A Seneca Indian

Three women (one was mixed blood, white and Delaware), two ten-year-old boys and two younger girls

M'Doal: A Seneca Indian; part of the group but not in camp during the massacre, was wounded as he fled the killing of the women and children

Those involved in the killings:

James Hudson: Born in Baltimore Co, Maryland, 19 April 1796; Moved to Kentucky when about aged 4; Moved to Champaign Co, Ohio at age 15; Became a member of the Methodist Church at 19 or 20; Married Phoebe Croom - 1820 Tried and convicted of murdering Logan on October 8, 1824.

Thomas Harper: Brother of John T. Bridge Sr's 1st wife; "a roving character who spent much of his life on the frontier"; Was said to have boasted "it was no worse to kill an Indian than to kill a deer"; Likely Harper's brother who was killed during the Raisin River massacre; Instigated the attack; Escaped after the massacre, after looting the camp.

Andrew Sawyer: May have been the brother of John T Bridge's second wife; Tried for the murder of an Indian woman and child found guilty of manslaughter, he was confined to hard labor in the state prison for two years and fined $100; found guilty of the murder of Ludlow, he was sentenced to hang.

John Bridge, Jr.: Son of John T. Bridge; Tried under two indictments for murdering Logan by stabbing him with a nine-inch hunting knife and for aiding and abetting Hudson in the murder of Logan. Found guilty of murder in the first degree but the jury recommended his pardon because of the strong influence of his father and uncle. Ninety-two men signed a petition for pardon which was sent on to the governor. Bridge received a last minute pardon from the governor after the noose had been placed around his neck. After his pardon, John Bridge, Jr. returned to his home state of Ohio but came back to Indiana in 1837 to settle in Carroll County, running a dry goods store. He died in Delphi, Indiana in April, 1876.

John T. Bridge, Sr.: 'A decent citizen who contributed to the organization of the county'; Father of Bridge, Jr and the brother-in-law of Sawyer and Harper Tried for murdering and assisting to murder the women and children at Logan's camp and found guilty of murder.

Andrew Jones: "Local boy, 17 or 18 years old"; Accompanied John Bridge Jr. and Hudson into the Big Lick to kill Logan; Only witness for the prosecution

Others involved:

Peter Jones: A neighbor involved in the search for the horses; Refused to allow the wounded Indian woman into his house

John Johnston: Indian agent, Piqua Ohio; Came to Indiana to assure local tribes of a just trial; Sent an account of the murder to the War Department in Washington City

William Conner: Traveled with John Johnston to meet with tribes; Signed a petition asking for pardon for John Bridge, Jr.

At court:

William W Wick: Presiding judge during Hudson's trial; First judge to hold court in Indianapolis

Samuel Holliday: Associate judge

Adam Winchell: Associate judge; Local blacksmith, had ironed the prisoners; Directed the burial of Logan and his family

Samuel Cory: Sheriff; "a fine specimen of a woods' Hoosier, tall and strong boned, with hearty laugh, without fear of man or beast, with a voice that made the woods ring as he called the jurors and witnesses."

William Young: Sworn officer of the court

Charles Tharp: Coroner; Signed a petition asking for pardon for John Bridge, Jr.

The Petit Jury: John L. Garwood, Isaac Gum, Samuel Saunders, Abraham Johns, Isaac Roberts, David Stephenson, George Smith, Reuben Bentley, Kilbourn Morley, William Willson, John Marsh and Robert Willson

Attorneys For the Prisoner: B. F. Morris, Calvin Fletcher, Martin M. Ray, William R. Morris

Attorneys For the State: Harvey Gregg, General James Noble, Philip Sweetser

Fall Creek Massacre

How it ended:

James Hudson was found guilty of the murder of Logan. Hudson's attorneys appealed to the state Supreme Court on November 9, 1824. On November 13 the Court disallowed all points of the appeal. Two days later Hudson escaped from the jail. While in hiding, he became ill because of the cold and suffered severe frostbite. After ten days of hiding under the floor of an abandoned cabin, Hudson was recaptured when he came out in search of water. While he was missing, the execution date was moved from December 1, 1824 to January 12, 1825.

Between his return to prison and the execution date, Hudson spent his remaining days visiting with relatives, reading his Bible and relating his 'life and confession' to an Indianapolis editor. He wrote a letter to his wife, asking that she bring their young children and attend the execution. She replied to his letter with a tearful farewell and returned home to Ohio before the hanging.

On the morning of January 12, 1825, large crowds gathered around the falls at Fall Creek to witness Hudson's execution. Included were several Seneca Indians, relatives of those who had been murdered. Rev. Miller had visited Hudson during the morning, reassuring him, singing to him. Hudson's coffin, which had been stored in the loft of the jail since the postponement of the execution, was brought down and placed in a wagon. Hudson, unable to walk because of the frostbite, had to be carried to the wagon where he sat, downcast, on his own coffin. With military escort, the wagon moved through the crowds toward the gallows.

When they arrived at the scaffold, Hudson requested Rev. Miller to preach a sermon on 'being prepared to meet your Maker,' a text based on Matthew 25: 3-4 and prayer was offered. A penitent Hudson one last time insisted that he had been deceived and led into his murderous act by his associates. His last request was 'that Captain Berry would take care of his body and deliver it over to his friends.'

James Hudson was then hanged by the neck. His body hung motionless for thirty-five minutes when it was taken down and placed in coffin. The next day he was buried in the village burial ground north of the falls.

Fall Creek Massacre

The next set of trials were not held until May 9, 1825. On Tuesday Andrew Sawyer was tried for the murder of an Indian woman and a small child and was found guilty of manslaughter. He was to be confined at hard labor in the state prison for two full years and fined $100. Wednesday morning opened with the trial of John Bridge, Jr. Under the charges of murdering Logan and assisting Hudson in murdering Logan, he was found guilty of murder in the first degree but the jury recommended his pardon because of the strong influence of his father and uncle.

On Thursday, John Bridge, Sr. was tried for murdering and assisting to murder the women and children in Logan's camp and found guilty. Sawyer was tried on the final charge of murdering Ludlow on Friday and found guilty. All three men were sentenced to death by hanging on the third day of June, 1825.

A petition was circulated requesting a pardon for John Bridge, Jr., because of "his youth, ignorance, and the manner which he was led into the transaction." Among the ninety-four signers of the petition were many of the jurymen, William Conner, the court clerk, the coroner, one of the prison guards, two of the defense attorneys as well the minister and journalist who met with Hudson before his death.

John Bridge, Jr., along with a large crowd, witness the hangings of his father and uncle as the crowd waited expectantly for a pardon from the governor. With no sign of a pardon, another sermon was preached as the crowd waited expectantly. Finally, John Bridge, Jr. was lead to the gallows and the rope was lowered over his head. But as the men waited for a signal, a cheer arose from the back of the crowd.

A stranger rode forward and looked the condemned man in the face. "Sir, do you know in whose presence you stand?" Bridge shook his head. "There are but two powers known to the law that can save you from hanging by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead; one is the great God of the Universe, the other is J. Brown Ray, Governor of the State of Indiana; the latter stands before you…" Handing over the written pardon, the governor announced, "you are pardoned."

Thomas Harper, said to be the instigator of the attacks, escaped capture after having looted the camp. Thought to have fled to Ohio, rewards that reached $225 were offered but Harper was never brought to justice.

Hudson's sentencing statement by Judge William W. Wick - Originally published in the Western Censor, Indianapolis, Tuesday, October 19, 1824.

JAMES HUDSON, The constitutional accusing tribunal of the country for the county of Madison, a grand jury of your fellows and peers, have presented you for the murder of LOGAN, an Indian of a tribe at peace with the United States. You have been arraigned - have plead not guilty - and have put yourself upon your country for trial. A jury of your own selection have found you guilty of the accusation, after a patient and full investigation, in which much ability & ingenuity have been exerted by your legal advisors on your behalf. The court being, according to the benign maxim of the law, "of counsel for the prisoner," have anxiously sought for grounds for a rational doubt in your favor, but are constrained, by proof the most full, perfect & clear, to accord to the verdict of the jury their reluctant, but undoubting assent. As the organ of the bench, it has, for the first time in my life, become my duty to pronounce upon a fellow mortal the most awful sentence of the law. Believe me, my heart recoils from the discharge of this duty. I would that it were otherwise.

I feel as a dying man. As such permit me to address you and to call upon you to

"Look down - On what? A fathomless abyss,

"A dread Eternity, How surely your's."

The evidence in the cause clearly warrants the unhesitating and decided belief that you did, without any just provocation, in cold blood, and with malice aforethought, shoot Logan so as thereby instantly to deprive him of life. O my God! How could you do it" How could you deprive your brother man (for Indian Logan was your brother) of that life which God gave him, and which was as dear to him as is yours to you? How could you do a deed at which NATURE stood aghast, and at the recital whereof the soul sickens? Did you do it in revenge for some fancied or real injury? Did you persuade yourself that because he was an Indian it would be less criminal to take away his life than that of a white man? Do you still persist in applying to your conscience any such balsam? Standing, as you do, on the verge of Eternity, I beseech you to believe that it is only out of a regard to your eternal interests that I solemnly warn you, and call upon you (as one who would minister to your weal in regard to those immortal destinies which await you) and conjure you in the name of that God, before whom you must shortly appear, to strip yourself of any such refuge of lies. We are not authorized to avenge our own wrongs. To give us redress for our injuries is the province of the constituted authorities of our government. To avenge us for our injuries is the prerogative of Heaven, expressly reserved in the character given us for our government here. - "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay." O sir! This plea however it may be partly supported in the too partial forum of your own conscience, or by a bench of modern "bloods", "bullies", and "gentlemen of honour", who bend the law to suit their own cruel and bloody notions, will be overruled when you reluctantly "appear and plead" at the 'bar' of the Judge of all the Earth.

But Logan wan an Indian: he was an hereditary enemy of white men.

Stop, Sir! If any pretended friends have led you to this precipice, permit me to extend a friendly hand, and faithfully, though perhaps to appear harshly, arrest you ere your soul is engulphed in the deceitful abyss forever.

Logan, although an Indian, is a son of Adam, our common father. Then surely he was not the natural enemy of white men. He as bone of your bone & flesh of your flesh. Besides, by what authority do we vauntingly boast of our being white? What priciple of philosophy or of religion establishes the doctrine that a white skin is preferable in nature or in the sight of God to a red or black one. Who has ordained that men of the white skin shall be at liberty to shoot and hunt down men of the red skin, or exercise rule and dominion over those of the black? The Indians of America have been more "sinned against than sinnning". Our fore fathers came across the broad Atlantic, and taking advantage of their fears and their simplicity obtained a resting place among the Indians, then the 'lords of the soil,' and since that time by a series of aggressions, have taken from them their homes and firesides - have pressed them westwardly until they are nearly extinct. We have introduced among them diseases and vice; we have done to them wrongs which cry to Heaven for vengeance, and which have, in many instances, brought down upon us a severe retribution. Our government has indeed always of late years treated them as an independent people, and have purchased their soil for valuable considerations, but those treaties and purchases have generally been made, either after some great victory while the Indians were humbled by recent defeat, or when our population was pressing upon them, and they were, as it were, beat back by the "tide of emmigration." Certain it is, that, under the influence of the wily arts of the enemies to our government, they have made war upon us, and contrary to the rules of civilized warfare, have failed to exempt from the effects of their rage unoffending women and children, and even the unresisting prisoner has been sacrificed to their vengeance. Such is the manner in which all savage nations make war. They are not at least guilty of making invidious distinctions to our prejudice, for they make war in the same manner upon one another. If they are savage, as we affect to call them, what more could we expect from them? We, as a civilized and Christian people, ought not to retaliate even when smarting under the remembrance of a recent outrage. How much less should we make a savage and unprovoked warfare, in times of perfect tranquility, upon a friendly, unsuspecting Indian, who, by visiting our territory, had made himself as it were our guest.

I feel no wish unnecessarily to harrow up your feelings, but I must ask you why you could not permit Logan to revisit his former home, and to hunt in his native forests? How could you have the heart to make war upon, shoot, and destroy the venerable of chief, whose name ought to have been his passport and protection from Maine to Georgia and from the Mississippi to the Atlantic? The blood of a Logan has a second time gone up before Heaven crying aloud for vengeance. The blood of a Logan and a "friend of white men" rests upon your conscience, and has imprinted a stain too deep to be washed out but by the blood of a REDEEMER.

I entreat and charge you that, under a proper sense of your natural depravity, as well as of all your actual transgressions, you humble yourself before that God, whom you must shortly meet either as an angry Judge, or kindly Redeemer.

Listen to the sentence of the law - which is, that you be now taken to the place whence you came; that you be there detained in close custody of the sheriff of Madison county, until Wednesday the first day of December next, on which day, between the hours of ten o' clock in the forenoon and two o' clock in the afternoon, you be hanged by the neck until you are DEAD.

And a God of mercy have compassion on your soul.