In Pendleton, Madison County, Indiana - there is a stone that sits in Falls Park that marks the spot of an important event in American History. Three white men where hung in that spot for killing Indians. This was the first time in United States history that white men were tried, convicted and executed for the killing of Native American people. Hoosier, Jessamyn West, wrote a historical fiction novel entitled, "Massacre at Fall Creek" about this event.
In 1824, a group of ten Native Americans who were affiliated with the Seneca and Shawnee tribes, returned to a familiar hunting ground about nine miles above the falls of the White River - near present day Markleville, IN. Their camp was situated near the south bank of Deer Lick Creek in an area that was known locally as "Big Lick" by both Native Americans and settlers. In that area there were several mineral springs whose deposits were left upon the rocks and stones. The game was prevalent there as the animals came to lick the mineral deposits off the rocks; therefore, the hunting and trapping was very successful.
Madison County had just been formed in 1823, and the small settlement of cabins called "The Falls at Fall Creek" (later known as Pendleton) was the county seat. For the early settlers who were cut off from most civilization, the appearance of a group of Native Americans could be a bit unsettling. Primarily, this was because of the uncertainty if these Native Americans were friendly or not. However, it seemed that there were several white settlers who were familiar with this group of Native Americans, which was headed by Chief Logan, and included two other men: Ludlow and Mingo. There were also three women, two boys and two girls. The Native Americans were planning on hunting and trapping, and then selling their pelts to the local settlers. Unfortunately, not all relationships between the Native Americans and the white settlers had been pleasant. A settler from Ohio by the name of James Hudson alleged that he overheard Ludlow saying that he would kill any white man who disturbed his animal traps. He also claimed that Ludlow had threatened his wife after she refused to trade with him, and also became angry after a dog he had purchased from another man was later taken away from him. However, these accusations remain unsubstantiated.
On March 19, 1824, James Hudson met with several other settlers at a house raising near the settlement. Most of these settlers had migrated from Ohio to Indiana, but many took a circuitous route of several different places before settling at The Falls. Hudson was born in Baltimore, MD in April of 1796, and shortly thereafter his family moved to Kentucky. Then, when he was 15, the family migrated to Champaign County, Ohio, where at the age of 24 James Hudson would marry Phoebe Croom. By 1820 James and Phoebe had moved to Indiana with their children. Also, at this house raising was Thomas Harper, a roving frontiersman from Butler County, Ohio and a known Indian-hater. He was quoted as saying, "it was no worse to kill an Indian than it was to kill a deer." It is believed this hatred stemmed from two events in his early life: Native Americans kidnapped his three-year-old sister, Elizabeth, in 1800, and during the War of 1812, his brother James was tortured and killed by Native Americans. Harper was the brother-in-law of John T. Bridge Sr. who had married Mary Harper. The Bridge family had moved to Indiana in 1819, and two years later, Mary Harper Bridge died. It is believed that Thomas Harper was in the settlement visiting his sister’s family. John Bridge was born in Boston, MA in 1778, and then moved to Ohio before migrating to Indiana with his wife. It is believed that as a second marriage, he may have married the sister of Andrew Sawyer. Sawyer was also at this event, but not much is known about his background or family.
During a break in the building, Hudson, Harper, Bridge and Sawyer all started drinking and discussing the Indian presence at Big Lick. The discussion became heated when the topics of stolen property or threatening a man's wife were discussed. The men were overheard saying they would "kill any Indian" that did those things.
Two days later, Sawyer came to the Hudson farm saying two of his horses were missing. Harper and Sawyer; Sawyer's son, Stephen; John T. Bridge, Sr.; his two sons, James and 18-year-old John Bridge, Jr.; and a boy named Andrew Jones went to look for the horses, but were unsuccessful. They agreed to meet the next morning to continue the search.
The white men approached the Native American settlement on the morning of March 22, 1824. Mingo was away checking his traps, but Logan and Ludlow agreed to help with the search for the missing horses for a fee of 50 cents each. The white men had been drinking heavily for several days - and continued to drink while on their search. The group reached an abandoned cabin where they decided to split up. Logan joined Hudson, Bridge Jr., and Jones, while Ludlow went in a different direction with Harper, Andrew and Stephen Sawyer, and James Bridge. James left the group for unknown reasons and was replaced by his father, John Bridge Sr.
As Logan moved ahead, the three white men fell behind, and Hudson shot him in the back, but he did not fall. Bridge Jr. went up and knocked him over, and then Andrew Jones pointed his gun at the man's head, and the gun flashed. Bridge Jr. would then strike Logan in the head with his rifle and also stabbed him with a hunting knife. The men hid his body in the woods. In the meantime, Harper and Sawyer shot Ludlow in the back as the others in his group watched. Ludlow's body was never recovered.
In an apparent change of heart, Bridge Jr. decided he couldn't go on into the camp, and expressed remorse. His father called him a coward, and his uncle reminded him of his relatives who had been killed by Indians. At the encouragement, Bridge Jr. agreed to go onward, but not James Hudson. Hudson commented that he would not take part in the killing of women and children.
The men, with the exception of Hudson returned to the Native American camp. Apparently, Sawyer shot one of the squaws through the head. She fell and died without a struggle. Bridge, Sr. shot another woman in the head, and Bridge, Jr. shot at the other woman. Sawyer then fired at the oldest boy, but only wounded him. The other children were shot by some of the party. Unfortunately, Sawyer discovered that the oldest boy was still living. He took him by the legs, and knocked his brains out against the end of a log. Upon hearing the gunfire, Mingo returned to camp and witnessed the killings, and then became a target himself. It is believed he may have been wounded, but was able to escape into the woods and was never found. The men then mutilated the bodies and stripped them of their clothes and threw the bodies in a muddy pond. Then they robbed the camp of everything worth carrying away. In all, they killed nine people: two men, three women, and four children.
Reports of gunfire, the sudden disappearance of the nearby Native Americans, and conversations that neighbors overheard in the Sawyer and Bridge homes prompted a search party to begin an investigation the following morning. Upon reaching the Native American camp the searchers found the camp abandoned, and it was evident that they were at the scene of a murder after the bodies were discovered nearby. The men also found that one of the women, although injured, had survived the attack, but was unable to clearly explain what had happened. The group left her at the scene and rode off to report it. On Wednesday, March 24, two days after the attack, a second group of men arrived at the camp to find her still alive. They also located Logan's body and buried him at the scene. The surviving woman was taken to a settler's farm, but the owner refused to let her stay, so she was taken to the Bridge's cabin, where she died later that day.
Within three days of the killings, the authorities arrived to arrest Harper, Bridge Sr., and Bridge Jr.; however, Harper escaped into the woods with the stolen goods, and fled. He was never seen or heard from again. Hudson, Jones, and both Sawyer men were arrested shortly thereafter. Within a week they were all in custody. Following their arrest Hudson, Bridge Sr., Bridge Jr., and Andrew Sawyer were chained in Madison County's newly built log jail until their trials. Andrew Jones, and Stephen Sawyer, asserted their innocence. They along with John Adams turned state's evidence in the upcoming trials. The news of the murders flew upon the wings of the wind. The settlers became greatly alarmed, fearing the retaliatory vengeance of the tribes. The sad tale of the murders reached Colonel John Johnston at the Indian agency at Pisquea, Ohio from there word was sent onto the War Department in Washington D.C. As a result, Colonel Johnston and William Conner (of Conner Prairie fame) visited all the Indian tribes, and assured them that the government would punish the offenders. The chiefs agreed they would wait and see what their "Great Father" would do before they took the matter into their own hands. This quieted the fears of the settlers, and preparation was commenced for the trials. As a result, a new log building was erected at the north part of Pendleton, with two rooms, one for the court and the other for the grand jury.
William Wick was the judge at this trial, and there were many notable lawyers present. The evidence was presented - including the bloody clothes of the victims. As the trial came to a close, Judge Wick made an important statement to the jury: "that the law knows no distinction as nation or color; that the murder of an Indian was equally as criminal in law as the murder of a white man." Hudson had been tried first, and the jury deliberated only an hour before finding him guilty. He was sentenced to death by hanging, with an execution date set for December 1, 1824. It was the first time in American History that any white man had been sentenced to capital punishment for killing a Native American. The trials for the other three men were postponed.
Hudson appealed to the Supreme Court of Indiana, then in session at Corydon, Indiana. The court issued an opinion on November 13, 1824, written by Chief Justice Isaac Blackford that upheld the lower court's decision and rejected all points of Hudson's appeal. Two days later, Hudson escaped from jail and hid beneath the floor of a vacant cabin, where he suffered from frostbite and dehydration. He was recaptured ten days later, when he came out of hiding to find water and was returned to the Madison County jail. While he was missing, the execution date was rescheduled for the following January. On January 12, 1825, a large crowd, which reportedly included several Seneca and Shawnee, gathered to witness the historic execution. Due to the frostbite he had suffered, Hudson had to be carried to the gallows, which had been erected on the north side of the falls. There he paid for the murder he had committed. The body of Hudson was buried in a nearby cemetery, north of the falls.
The trials of the remaining three men: Bridge Sr., Bridge Jr., and Andrew Sawyer, began on May 9, 1825, in the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Madison County. After fifteen hours of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict in Sawyer's initial case. He was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder, for killing one of the women. His punishment was two years in prison and a fine of one hundred dollars. Bridge Jr. who faced two charges: one for stabbing Logan, and another for aiding and abetting Hudson in the murder of the same man. The jury found him guilty after three hours of deliberation on both counts; however, they recommended a pardon for the teenager due to the influence of his father and uncle. The jury took only a few minutes to return a guilty verdict for Bridge Sr. in assisting in the murder of women and children at the camp. To conclude the trials, Andrew Sawyer was tried again and found guilty of murder for the murder of Ludlow. A petition on behalf of Bridge Jr. was signed by ninety-four locals, including many members of the jury, the county clerk, several attorneys, two prison guards, and a minister, submitted the petition to Governor James Brown Ray. The petition requested a pardon and cited "his youth, ignorance, and the manner which he was led into the transaction." Unfortunately, by the date of execution, the pardon had not been answered.
On June 3, 1825, the gallows was again erected on the north bank of Fall creek. The hour for the execution had come. Thousands surrounded the gallows, including a Seneca chief, with his warriors. Sawyer and Bridge, Sr., ascended the scaffold together, and were executed in quick succession. The exclamation of the Senecas was interpreted---"We are satisfied."
An hour passed, and the bodies were taken down and laid in their coffins. Then young Bridge, Jr., the last of the convicts, ascended the scaffold. His step was feeble, requiring the aid of the sheriff. The rope was adjusted, and put around his neck. Bridge., Jr. threw his eyes around - then down upon the coffins, where the bodies of his father and uncle lay exposed. The last minute had come. Suddenly, a man galloped up on a fancy grey horse and pushed his way through the crowd. As he approached the scaffold he looked the boy straight in the face, and proclaimed - "Sir, do you know in whose presence you stand?" The youth 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 the young man a written pardon, he simply said: "You are pardoned."
While this is a marvelous story - - what does this have to do with Little Orphant Annie - right???
Well - I am sharing this story only because of the family associations that go along with it - that has recently been brought to my attention.
One of the main characters in this situation is James Hudson. Note his timeline of events - as far as birth, home locations, etc. Now compare this to Miriam Hudson Gray, Mary Alice Smith Gray's (who is the real Little Orphan Annie) mother-in-law. Miriam was born in Kentucky in 1806. She married Joseph Gray in Champaign County, Ohio on October 24, 1822. Then the family moved to Hancock County in 1835. Ironically, at the time of the Fall Creek Massacre - Hancock County was still a part of Madison County - and Pendleton would have been the county seat. Hancock County did not become an independent area until 1828.
We know that often times family members followed other family members from one area to another - and that is what happened here. Several of the Hudson family members - including James moved to the east central Indiana area, which ultimately brought Miriam Hudson Gray and her husband to Hancock County. Upon doing some further research, it was brought to light that James Hudson was Miriam's older brother.
While this story has very little impact on the story of Little Orphant Annie - -it does tie some of her family members to a very significant event in American history - and for that reason it is worth mentioning.
Thank you so much to Cindy True - who provided me with the information regarding the Hudson family.