Captivity Narrative: Massy Harbison

The following text is an excerpt from Massy Harbison’s Indian captivity narrative. Learn more about Massy Harbison at the Fort Pitt Museum’s new exhibition, Captured by Indians.

This is her deposition, in which she outlines her circumstances as a former captive and requests government support.

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives, in
General Assembly met.

The petition of Massy Harbison respectfully represents—That your petitioner was married to John Harbison in the year 1787, in Washington County, Pennsylvania. In the year 1789 my husband and I removed to the Allegheny river, near Reed’s station; about four miles and a half below where Freeport now stands. In the year 1791, in March, my husband enlisted under Captain John Guthrie, and marched out under the command of General St. Clair, in Major Clark’s battalion, to the Miami. During the period of my husband’s enlistment, which was six months, although out nearly nine, I remained at Reed’s station, washing and working for the scouts, until my husband returned, wounded in the body. My husband having recovered from the wound, was in March following, engaged as a spy, and continued as such until Wayne’s treaty with the Indians, on the 22d of May, 1792. During my husband’s absence on a scouting party, a party of Indians came to my house and destroyed every thing they could not carry; killed two cows; took away two horses, and killed my second child, three years of age, by stabbing and scalping it in my presence. They then beat me in a barbarous and inhuman manner, and took me and my two remaining children across the river to the island at Freeport. Then in addition to my former misery, they scalped my oldest child, a boy, five years of age, on the shore, close by where I was standing.

They then, under wounds and bruises, compelled me to walk with my youngest child on my breast, to the Connequenessing, in Butler county, near where the Borrough of Butler now stands. Here they kept me until the morning of the second day. A short time before day break, when finding those who were guarding me asleep, I made my escape with my child. I travelled during the whole day without food, and lay at the root of a tree all night. In the morning I started again and travelled until dark, when hearing some person coming after me, I hid in a tree top. I remained during four days without food, when I arrived at the six mile island, above Fort Pitt.—On the following day I was taken to Fort Pitt, and made affidavit of my sufferings, before Squire Wilkins, which was published in the newspapers. At that time my husband having heard that I was at Pittsburgh, came for me, and brought me up to Coe’s station. As soon as I had recovered from the wounds and sufferings I endured, I commenced washing and cooking for the soldiers again, and there I remained until 1795, when the country became settled. We then settled on Bull creek, where we resided for a number of years. We then removed to Buffalo creek, Armstrong county, where we lived until 1822, when my husband died, leaving me in very straitened circumstances indeed, although at that time I was able to work and support myself; but age, and the fatigues and hardships of younger days have rendered nature so frail at sixty-five years of age, as to appeal to your Honorable bodies for a support hereafter; and trust that although I have not shouldered a musket, yet, that my services and sufferings will draw forth the feelings of your Honors, and render the eve of my life free from penury. As there is a more detailed account of facts given in the small book which is published, I would refer your Honorable bodies thereto,

Granting relief to an old soldier’s widow, in needy circumstances, will much serve,

Your obedient servant,

her
MASSY x HARBISON.
mark.