Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County


From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County

JOSIAH HUNT

The following is taken, with but little changing, from Howe:

During the last war with England a notorious hunter and Indian fighter, by the name of Josiah Hunt, lived in this vicinity. Powerfully built, fearless, and thoroughly versed in woodcraft, he was a terror to the Indians. He was a member of Wayne's legion, and participated in the battle of Fallen Timbers, August 20, 1794.

In the beginning of the battle, while he was rushing through the tangled net-work of logs, he was fired at by a savage, whom he had scared up in such haste that his aim was harmless, the bullet whizzing through the hair over his right temple, causing a singing in his ear for a long time. The Indian, after firing, took to his heels, and as he ran zigzag. Hunt aimed at a red stripe along his naked back, fired, and bounding in the air, the redskin expired.

Being an expert hunter, he was employed to supply the oflicers with game, while the army was encamped at Greenville in 1793. Environed by savages, the task was perilous in the extreme. The Indians climbed trees in the vicinity of the fort, and watched the garrison. If one was observed going out, note was taken of the direction, his path was ambushed, and his scalp rewarded the assassin. To forestall this, Hunt left the fort in the darkness, and once in the woods, "our chances," said he, "were equal."

After leaving the fort, he made his way to the vicinity of his next day's hunting, and camped for the night. His plan to keep from freezing was unique. With his tomahawk he would dig a hole about the size and depth of a hat crown. Into this he placed dead white oak bark. Igniting this with flint and steel, he carefully covered it, leaving an air-hole on each side. Spreading bark or brush over this miniature coal-pit, enveloped in his blanket, he sat down with it between his legs, and slept the sleep of a watchful hunter. When his fire grew low, he would give it a few blows through the ventilators, and it was all right again. In this way, he said, he could make himself sweat whenever he chose. The snapping of a twig aroused him; and with his hand on his trusty rifle, his keen eye penetrating the silent gloom around, boded no good to the savage intruder, man or beast.

Sitting before our own quiet hearths, surrounded by all the comforts and luxuries of civilization, we scarce can realize the imminent dangers, privations, and hardships through which our forefathers passed. Alone, amidst the denizens of the wilderness, in a "dreary forest, swarming with enemies, bloodthirsty, crafty, and of horrid barbarity, without a friend or human being to aiford him the least aid, in the depth of winter, the freezing winds moaning through the leafless branches of the tall trees," the howling of the gaunt grey wolf—all conspired to awaken emotions of fear in the bravest heart. There would he sit in his blanket, nodding in his uneasy sleep, scarce distinguishable from surrounding objects, defying the rigors of winter, yet showing no fire; calm, ready, and prompt to engage in mortal combat with any foe, whether Indian, bear, or panther. At daylight he proceeded slowly, and with extreme caution, to look for game, at the same time watching closely for Indians.

When he espied a deer, previous to shooting it he put a bullet in his mouth, with which to reload, which he invariably did immediately after firing. Peering in every direction, he cautiously approached his game, dragged it to a tree, and with his back against it, he would skin awhile, then straighten up and scan his surroundings, to ascertain if the report of his gun had attracted a foe. Satisfied in this direction, he resumed skinning. The breaking of a stick, or the slightest sound, was sufiicient to arouse all his vigilance, and with his trusty rifle firmly grasped, he was ready for any emergency. Having skinned and quartered the animal, the choicest parts were packed in the hide, slung over his shoulder, and carried to the fort. Once while hunting, he suddenly came upon three Indians within easy gun-shot. His position was above them. Unconscious of his presence, they were marching in Indian file, little dreaming of the deadly rifle, whose owner was waiting to get two of them in range. Not succeeding in this, and deeming the odds too great otherwise, he allowed them to pass unharmed. Through all his perilous adventures, and constant exposure to danger in all its forms, he passed unscathed, in great part due to constant watchfulness, which seemed to render these faculties almost involuntary.

During the winter of 1793 he made seventy dollars, solely by hunting. At the treaty of Greenville, the Indians inquired for him. and when he made his appearance they crowded around him, and were profuse in their praises and compliments. They seemed to consider him next in greatness to Wayne. " Great man," said they. "Captain Hunt great warrior; good hunting man; Indian no can kill!" They informed him that often their bravest and most cunning warriors had set out expressly to kill him; they had often seen him; could recognize him by his dress, especially his cap, which was made of coon skin, with the tail hanging down behind, the front turned up, and ornamented with three brass rings. They knew his mode of making a camp-fire, which excited their admiration. Yet with all the glory of capturing such a noted hunter inciting them, they could never surprise him, never get within shooting distance without being discovered, and exposed to his unerring rifle. Some years after the war he removed to Indiana, and has never been heard of since.