PIQUA — On the last day of his life, as the first rosy-pink and orange light peered through the cabin window opened to the warm air of an August morning, Henry Dilbone rose from his bed to harvest his fields of flax.
“Henry and Barbara Dilbone were married in Pennsylvania in 1801 and moved their family to Miami County about six years later, locating their new log cabin on Spring Creek,” according to an article on the website of the Shelby County Historical Society. “They were the second settlers to locate in Springcreek Township north of the current U.S. Route 36. As time passed, other settlers moved into the area, including John and George Caven, Benjamin Winans, William McKinney and David Garrard.”
In those days, an uneasy calm existed on the Ohio frontier even as American and British forces clashed during the war of 1812. The British, from their forts to the north agitated the Indians, many of whom were allied with them, to attack Americans.
All was well for a time, but that was just the calm before the storm. Two notable Shawnees, Tecumseh and his brother, known as the Prophet, often stirred up trouble around Piqua. They believed in a certain concept: that white scalps still held their value to the British, and Tecumseh and his brother openly encouraged attacks on white settlers.
The flax that Dilbone and his wife harvested was used for clothes and other goods the family needed, as well as for trade with the nearby Indians. According to the historical society website, the Dilbones had a friendly relationship with many of the Indians with whom they traded. It was reported the Dilbones liked the company, as neighbors and helping hands were blessings in 1813 on the sparsely settled frontier.
On Aug. 18, 1813, while Dilbone and his wife were working the flax fields and the couple’s four children were playing on a blanket beneath a walnut tree, their neighbor David Garrard four miles to the south was making shingles in the woods near his cabin with a friend identified only as Mr. Ross.
According to the account on the historical society website, just past noon two Indians, one later identified as Mingo George, emerged from the woods and fired on them, striking and killing Garrard.
“It is reputed that Ross then ran to Staunton, a former Indian village that had become a white settlement (part of present day Troy, Ohio) to warn others about the attack and was able to alert a group of volunteer militia who were drilling at that location,” according to the account on the historical society website. “The warning went out too late to help the Dilbones, and by that evening most of the settlers were housed in blockhouses, specially constructed for safety against such attacks.”
Following the attack on Garrard, the Indians made their way north to the Dilbone cabin. The first shot rang out like a bell and Dilbone collapsed into the dirt, according to the historical society website. “Mrs. Dilbone immediately ran toward her children, but the Indian overtook her, and with one swing of his tomahawk, he split her head open. In the presence of her horrified children he proceeded to scalp her.”
In his book “Chicago and the Old Northwest 1673 to 1835,” author Milo Milton Quaife, gave this account of the attack: “Mr. and Mrs. Dilbone were together in the flax field, with their four young children close at hand. Near the close of the day’s work their dog raised an alarm, and at almost the same instant the husband fell shot through the breast. The savage sprang forward from his place of concealment to take his victim’s scalp. But the latter though mortally wounded was not dead, and gathering his remaining strength he rose, ran to the edge of field, and leaped the fence which separated it from an adjoining swamp, where he fell among the bushes. The Indian abandoned the pursuit and turned back after Mrs. Dilbone, who had fled for concealment into the neighboring corn. Her flight was in vain, however, for she was soon overcome, tomahawked, and scalped. The slayer now turned his attention to the four children, the eldest of whom was 10 years of age and youngest 7 months.”
However, instead of pursuing the children who were fleeing toward the family cabin, Mingo George fled into the forest, “fearing probably that the noise caused by the discharge of his gun and the screams of Mrs. Dilbone would attract rescuers to the spot.”
“The neighbors quickly aroused and a company went in search of Mr. and Mrs. Dilbone,” Quaife wrote. “The corpse of the latter was found and carried together with the children to the blockhouse of the Simmons family.” Dilbone was found following day “too weak to move or even cry out. He, too, was borne to the blockhouse, where he expired the following day.”
According to an 1880 history of Miami County, Mingo George and his companion “immediately went on north to the British to receive their reward for the scalps. The Indians who committed these murders, it was supposed, came down the (Miami) river in a canoe from the Indians encampment, under the guise of a fishing party, as a party of three or four Indians were seen … on the river near the mouth of Spring Creek, the evening previous, and they disappeared rather mysteriously.”
Later, according to the historical society website, Gardner Bobo, a veteran and close friend of the Dilbone family, and his partner William Richardson, a brother-in-law of Barbara Dilbone, shot Mingo George and “punched his body into a quagmire near the river bank with a long pole.”
Today, an historical marker in the shape of a millstone stands along U.S. Route 36 marking the burial site of the Dilbones. Mingo George is depicted on the left side of the monument.
Reach Meg Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org.