Adam Poe

 

 

 

 

 

The term “Frontier Fighter” is a label that cannot be worn by many men, at least not to the extent of the Adam Poe and his older brother Andrew Poe.  Adam Poe earned the title protecting frontier settlers along the Ohio River in western PA at a time when our country was not quite civilized. 

 

Adam Poe was born on 03 Mar 1747 along the Antietam Creek near Frederick, MD.[1]  On 12 Oct 1777 in Westmorland Co, PA, Adam married Elizabeth Smith Cochran who was born in Ireland on 10 Feb 1758.  Adam died on 23 Sep 1838 in Dalton, Tuscarawas Township, Stark Co, OH and was buried in Sixteen Church Cemetery, Massillon, OH. [2]  His wife, Elizabeth, died on 27 Dec 1844 and was laid beside her husband.  They had ten children ─ eight sons and two daughters.

 

Family Background.  The story of the Georgetown Poe family begins with the emigration of George Jacob Poe from the Palatine Region of the Rhine River to the Maryland countryside near Frederick, MD about 1741.  George Jacob Poe Sr, Adam’s father, was murdered by an indentured servant in 1762.  Adam’s father had owned a plantation on the east side of the Antietam Creek in what is now Leitersburg, MD.  There he operated flour mills and marketed his products in Baltimore.  It was along the road to Baltimore that George Jacob Poe Sr was shot in the stomach by his servant.  Money was stolen and the servant was never heard from again. [3]

 

 

Capt Adam Poe Book cover (University of Pittsburgh Libraries)

In accordance with the English law and custom of primogeniture, Adam’s older brother George Jacob Poe Jr inherited the entire estate by Right of Primature.  According to some accounts, George Jacob Poe Jr was a hard master.  After Andrew attained his majority, he left the MD farm in 1764 across the newly constructed Cumberland Road to Ft Pitt.  There he honed his skills as a woodsman and scout at the conclusion of the French and Indian War. [4]  In 1768, he acquired some land near Harmons Creek in what is now Washington Co, PA.  Then that land was also claimed by VA.  The tract of land was approximately twelve miles from the Ohio River. 

 

In the spring of 1772 Andrew returned to MD and persuaded Adam, who was five years younger, to join him in PA.  He also invited his sister Catherine.  Both Adam and Catherine moved first to Ft Pitt and later in 1775 to the Harmons Creek property in Washington CO, PA. They traveled with the Wetzel brothers and lived with the John Crist family during the Revolutionary War.   Andrew apprenticed Adam to a German shoemaker.  Catherine, or Kate, was also able to find suitable work and a good home.  They moved to the Georgetown area in 1777.

 

During the Indian Wars, Adam was a good friend of Col David Williamson.  Through Col Williamson’s influence Adam received a commission as the captain of the fort opposite the mouth of Yellow Creek. [5]  In honor of Col Williamson’s friendship Adam named his youngest son – David Williamson Poe. [6] 

 

 

 

Revolutionary War Service.  Like his brother Andrew, Adam was a scout and participated in many expeditions against the Indians who were constantly crossing the Ohio River to attack isolated pioneer settlers.  Adam volunteered in 1776, serving as a private in Capt G McCormick’s Company (militia).  He was also a private in Col Cannon’s PA Regiment and Capt T Bass’s (Bay) Company.  In 1781 Adam and Andrew were in the Battle of Sheepsgate where Andrew was wounded.  Adam also served as a private for not less than six months in Col James Marshall’s regiment.  From 1781 – 1783 he was a private in the 7th Company, 4th Battalion, PA Militia (Capt Kidd’s Company).  From the summer of 1776 through 1783 Adam enlisted multiple times. 

 

The Sep 1781 fight with the Wyandot Indian chief is well documented by numerous historians.  Adam Poe’s daughter, Sarah, penned her account of the adventure.  In her statement her Uncle Andrew, who was severely wounded, wanted his brother to collect the scalp of the Indian chief, but her father Adam went to his wounded brother’s assistance while Bigfoot was swept down the river.  The scalp as a trophy or bounty was lost.  One note to add to the many descriptions of the fight is that Adam shot four members of the raiding party, including Bigfoot.  Andrew shot one raider and John Cherry killed one before he took fatal fire.  Although some accounts report three pursuers of the Indian raiders were killed only one has been named ─ John Cherry.  His body was carried home and buried in the Cherry Graveyard in Mt Pleasant Township, Washington Co, PA.  The stock of the gun used by Adam was saved as a family relic which unfortunately was stolen from a canal boat “about the time of the World’s Fair in Philadelphia”.  It was wanted for exhibition at the fair. [7]  The tomahawk recovered from the Bigfoot fight was also handed down through the Poe family.  It was last reported in 1926 in the possession of Ms Mabel (Poe) Dantel of Cleveland, OH, a great granddaughter of Andrew Poe. 

 

The importance of this little campaign was the great display of bravery in a desperate time.  Seldom does a conflict prove so fatal to the great proportion engaged.  That conflict was only one instance of astonishing bravery and self-sacrifice displayed by Adam Poe throughout his military service on the frontier.

 

Under Col Marshall, Adam was elected Capt in defense of the frontier.  He also served under Col Baird and Daniel Williamson.  On 31 Aug 1832, he applied for a pension. [8]

 

Adam Poe’s Scalp Bounty.  The original PA scalp bounty offer was declared on 14 Apr 1756 by the Deputy Governor of PA, Robert Hunter Morris who announced that this was “the only way to clear the frontier of savages”. [9]  The scalp bounty proclamation of 7 Jul 1764 renewed the offer of reward for Indian prisoners and scalps during those troubled days.  On 22 Apr 1778, Joseph Reed, President of the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of PA, declared a bounty for the entire state of PA allowing $3,000 Continental for every Indian or Tory prisoner and $2,500 Continental for every Indian scalp.  $2500 Continental was valued at $33 1/3 in silver.  The bounty proclamation of 22 Apr 1780 remained in effect until it was repealed on 21 Mar 1783. [10]  During the three-year period, according to PA Treasury records, the state acquired only a half dozen scalps.  The rewards went to Capt Samuel Brady, Capt Henry Shoemaker, Capt Andrew Hood, Capt Alexander Wright, William Minor and Adam Poe. [11]  Most of the scalps returned for reward were probably burned, but for one exception.  The scalp which Adam Poe turned in became a museum piece.  In his accession list dated Jul 1782 for the “American Museum”, Pierre-Eugene du Simitiere of Philadelphia wrote:

 

A Scalp taken from an Indian killed in Sep 1781, in Washington Co near Ohio in this state by Adam Poe, who fought with two Indians, and at last kill’d them both, it has an ornament a white wampum bead a finger long with a Silver Knob at the end the rest of the hair plaited and tyed with deer skin.  Sent me by the President and the Supreme Executive Council of this state with a written account of the affair. [12]

 

After his death in 1785 du Simitiere’s collection was sold.  The scalp was lost to history, but the written accession account and other du Simitiere manuscripts were purchased by the Library Company of Philadelphia. [13]  Whether Adam Poe received the bounty payment is unknown.

 

According to the PA Colonial Records Vol 13 Page 248, Adam Poe was paid 12 pounds, 10 shillings for one Indian scalp on 02 Apr 1782. 

 

Post Revolutionary War. In 1786, Adam left the land along Harmons Creek in Washington Co, PA and settled on a tract of land not far from the Ohio River.  That land known as “Poeville” was granted to Adam via a VA certificate.  It contained 377 acres and was surveyed on 13 Jan 1786. [14]  In 1812, Adam moved from Poeville to the west fork of the Little Beaver Creek which flows into the Ohio River opposite Georgetown.  He acquired several sections of land in Range 3, Wayne Township Columbiana Co, Ohio which he cleared for farming.  [15]  In 1813 he moved from Columbiana Co to Wayne Co with his wife and youngest son David Williamson, and his daughter Catharine.  Adam took a house on North Market St in Wooster and returned to his shoemaking trade for three years.  It was said that he was an excellent tanner and shoemaker.  At age seventy he purchased sixty acres of land from his son, George, where he lived for twelve years.  Aging and infirm he moved in with his son Andrew in Stark Co.  There he was a member of the Lutheran Church. [16] 

 

In Stark Co, OH he died on 23 Sep 1838 aged ninety-three (93).  The day before, he had attended a political meeting for the presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison.  Adam Poe was lionized by the crowd. The hero of the day.  He returned home from the political meeting exhausted and died.

 

Figure 2 Poeville from Warrantee Township Maps Hanover Township Washington Co (PA Archives)

 

Another adventure told by Sarah Poe occurred when two intoxicated Indians Adam Poe’s home in Ohio.  The Indians were threatening and loud but fell asleep under a tree. when the Indians awoke, they accused Adam of stealing their guns.  Adam picked up his gun only to see three more unarmed Indians approaching.  Adam told his wife and children to hide in the cornfield because there was a fight ahead.  Adam confronted the Indians.  He dropped his gun and attacked the five with his fists.  After a terrific encounter lasting ten minutes, he had them in a heap.  One by one he threw them over a fence and out of his yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary.  None of the pioneer settlers along the Ohio River won as much fame as “Indian Fighters” as the Poe brothers, Andrew and Adam.  From 1777 to 1784, they were the first and most fearless responders to Indian raids on the upper Ohio River.  The story of their fabled fight with Bigfoot may have grown in the telling, but the true story is still heroic beyond measure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

References.



[1]  A McIntosh has reported that Adam Poe may have been born at sea in 1745 and the birth was not recorded until arrival in America.

[2]  His place of death is also listed as Massillon, OH.

[3]  Other reports indicate that the servant was hanged.

[4]  The letter to Lyman C Draper indicated that the year he migrated to Ft Pitt was 1764.  Other references site the year 1763.

[5]  Adam Poe, A True History, p3.

[6]  David Williamson Poe and his son Jackson died from frostbite in Nebraska while looking for new sites for teir flour mill business.  Both had their legs removed with a carpenter’s saw according to Adam Poe in A True History, p4.

[7]   Adam Poe, A True History, p4

[8]  Adam Poe served in the War of 1812 as a captain.

[9]PA Archives II, 619,620,629; Colonial Records, VII, 74-76, 78-79,92-93.  Early governor of PA was referred to as “deputy governors” because Thomas Penn was the official governor and proprietor with his brother Richard

[10]  Colonial Records, XIII, 538.

[11]  Colonial Records, 3rd Series, V 149, 301; Colonial Records, XIII, 201.

[12]  Quoted by WJ Potts, “Du Simitiere, Artist, Antiquary, and Naturalist”, PA Mag Hist Biog, XIII (1889), 369.

[13]  Historical Records Survey, Pennsylvania, Descriptive Catalogue of the Du Simitiere Papers in the Library Company of Philadelphia (1940), p. 120,135.

[14]  Rev Joseph H Bausman, History of Beaver County PA and Its Centennial Celebration, (The Knickerbocker Press, New York, 1904), p161.

[15]  John Bever, longtime resident of Georgetown surveyed that tract of the Northwest territory in 1799.

[16]  Tall Tales of the Poe Brothers, The Daily Record, Wooster, OH, 11 Jul 1999.

 

 

 

 

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