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Early Boone County (KY) Baptist Minister
had Two Sons Kidnapped by Indians

By John Matson

North Bend, July 12th, 1845.

     Mr. Cist:
     Your friend John Hindman is in error, alleging that Tanner's Creek, Indiana, derived its name from young [John] Tanner being killed by the Indians on its waters. Tanner was not killed at all, although doubtless believed to be by the neighborhood, at the time Hindman left the Great Miami, which was soon after Tanner had been carried away by the savages. I knew the whole family well - the old man Tanner being the first clergyman, I ever heard preach at North Bend, and for some time the only one.

      Tanner the father, owned the land, where Petersburg, Kentucky, is now built; and resided on it, being about three miles below the Miami, and opposite the creek which derived its name as the station also did, from Tanner who was the principal man settled there. Hogan, Tanner's son-in-law, who lived with him, and was a first-rate hunter, gave name to the creek just above Aurora.

     In May, 1790 John Tanner, the youngest boy, and nine years of age, was out in the woods gathering walnuts, which had been lying over from the previous season among the leaves, when he was made prisoner by a party of Indians, and carried to the Shawnese towns, in the first place, and afterwards taken away to the head waters of the Mississippi. Nothing was heard of him by his friends for 24 years, except that in 1791, the next year, a party of Indians, composed partly of the same individuals, prowling in the neighborhood, captured Edward Tanner, a brother of John, and nearly fifteen years old. After travelling two days journey in the wilderness, the boy appearing contented, and supposing that he would be discouraged from attempting to make his escape, at such a distance from home, his captors relaxed their vigilance, and the boy watching his opportunity regained his liberty, being obliged in the hurry to leave his hat, which was of undyed wool, behind, and which the Indians carried to their home. They had told him on their way out, that they had carried a boy off from the same place the year before. John Tanner recognized the hat as soon as he saw it as his brother's.

      Nothing was known of John, as already stated, for many years, although Edward attended the various treaties for successive years, and traveled to distant points, even west of the Mississippi. The Indians with whom John was domesticated, had been for years settled on the Upper Mississippi, and traded with the Hudson Bay Company, which of course baffled the search thus made. In 1798, the Tanner family left

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Kentucky for New Madrid, [MO] where old Tanner died, after marrying in the mean time a third wife.

      In 1817, soon after the close of the war, Tanner, who by this time had married an Indian wife, and had six children by her, with a view of learning something about his relations, and expecting to receive a share of the family property came down the chain of lakes to Detroit, and there reported himself to Gov. Cass, as an Indian captive, taken from opposite the mouth of Big Miami, in Kentucky, in 1790. He gave the family name as Taylor, which was as near as he could recollect or probably articulate it. Cass gave notice of the fact through the medium of the press, adding that the individual would be present at a treaty to be held with the Indians at St. Mary's, formerly Girty's town, and now the county seat of Mercer County, Ohio. The Tanner family had removed years since to New Madrid, and with the exception of Edward Tanner, was composed of the widow and children, born of the later marriages, since John's capture. But a nephew by marriage of the young men named Merritt, who lived where Rising Sun has since been built, having seen the notice, was firmly persuaded, that the individual, although improperly named, was his long lost and long sought uncle Tanner, and under that conviction went to the treaty ground, and found the case as he supposed it to be. The two started off for the Miami region together. Tanner, although in febble health, having fever and ague at the time, was with difficulty persuaded to sleep in the cabins which they found on the route, preferring to camp out, and to gratify him, one fine night, Merritt, having selected a suitable spot for repose, went to a neighboring house, got coals, and attempted to kindle a fire, which as the leaves and brush were wet, burned with difficulty. Tanner who had become thoroughly Indian during his long residence among them, now got up in a pet, kicked the fire to pieces, and flashing powder from his rifle made his own fire, remarking, White man's fire no good. Indian fire, good! They stopped all night at my house on their way to the lower country, and there I obtained these particulars. When they reached New Madrid, it so happened that Edward was out on one of his excursions to hunt up his brother, and John after waiting a few days, became impatient to get back, and left for home without even seeing his brother, who had sought him so anxiously for years. Soon after reaching his Indian home, Tanner had a quarrel with an Indian and was badly shot, but after lingering a great while, recovered so far as to set out with Col. Long, and a party who were on their way to Detroit. His strength gave way on the journey, and they were obliged to leave him on the road. He finally recovered and was employed by the United States authorities as interpreter among the Indians at the Sault St. Marie at the outlet of Lake Superior, which is the last I heard of him.

     Tanner's life was published years ago, but I never saw a copy of it, and do not know whether it is now extant.

Respectfully yours,
J[ohn]. MATSON.
[From Charles Cist, editor, The Cincinnati Miscellany, 1846, pp. 62-63. The original title is "A Legend of Kentucky." This document provided by my son, James K. Duvall. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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