A few years ago I was driving up north to do some birding along Lake Erie when I noticed a small sign saying, ‘Crawford Memorial Next Right’. It didn’t occur to me right away, but later on I realized what memorial the sign was marking. I told myself the next time I go up that way, I would check it out. And next year, I went and visited the place.
Crawford County is in northern Ohio. It is very agricultural- farms line the roads; a little over 40,000 people call it home. I enjoyed the scenery as I drove through. It is off the beaten path, which is exactly the kind of place I like to visit.
Crawford County takes its name from a Revolutionary War veteran, Colonel William Crawford. As a matter of fact, a memorial to this man was my destination.
A small park sits at a rural crossroads in Crawford County. There is a sign and a memorial plaque.
My last post discussed the Gnadenhutten Massacre, where 96 peaceful Christian Native Americans were murdered by militiamen bent on revenge for Indian attacks on the frontier in 1782.
Colonel William Crawford, a veteran of Lord Dunmore’s War and the American Revolution, led militia on attacks against hostile Indian forces near Sandusky in Ohio later that year. Under his command were the infamous militiamen led by David Williamson that had perpetrated the massacre, though Crawford had no role in that infamous act.
Crawford’s militia successfully fought the Native American forces, though afterwards when his forces were split he was captured by them. The Native Americans were hot for revenge for the Gnadenhutten Massacre, and took it out on Crawford. We know what happened from another captive who survived, a Dr. John Knight.
Crawford’s ordeal was carried out by tribesmen who were related to the Gnadenhutten victims, under Chiefs Pipe and Wingenund. Crawford protested that he had nothing to do with the massacre; his captors charged him with having those who committed the deed under his command. Chief Wingenund had been friends with Crawford, and could not bear to watch his friend killed, and left the area after talking to him. Simon Girty, the (in)famous white man who had joined the Native Americans, allegedly tried to ransom Crawford with money. He was told that if he persisted in trying to save Crawford that he too would be killed.
The stage was set. Crawford suffered days of torture, which I will not go into here, and was finally killed. The details can be read about in The Frontiersmen, Allan Eckert’s narrative history of the Old Northwest Territory frontier.
Not far from this small memorial park is a small cemetery. Graves ranged from modern to the early days of Ohio statehood.
If you look at enough historical graves, you start to get a sense of how old the tombstones are just by their style and the symbols they use. This is an example of early-to-mid 19th century engraving. Inscriptions are fading on some of the older tombstones.
In this cemetery was a memorial to Crawford erected in 1994.
A horrible act of violence had spawned a terrible retaliation. This was the sinister nature of the conflict on the frontier.
David Williamson and his men never faced justice for the Gnadenhutten Massacre.
William Dean Howells, a 19th century author who (as a man of his times) wrote of these violent acts, stated:
I have thought it well to recount his story, for without it we could not fully realize what the white people of that day underwent in their long struggle with the Ohio Indians. Cruelty so fiendish could never have a cause, but it cannot be denied that the torture of Crawford was the effect of the butchery of the Christian Indians. That awful deed was an act of even greater wickedness, for it was the act of men who were not savage by birth or race or creed. It was against the white man’s law, while the torture of Crawford was by the red man’s law. It is because of their laws that the white men have overcome and the red men have gone under in the order of mercy, for whenever we sin against that order, contrary to our law, or according to our law, we weaken ourselves, and if we continue in our sin, we doom ourselves in the end to perish.