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1793 Spencer

Oliver Spencer was captured near Cincinnati in 1792, age 11. He was taken to Shawnee Town and adopted into the tribe. His parents had connections and they managed to have him released to Colonel Richard England at Detroit. Spencer spent a month at Detroit before starting his long journey home. This account was written for publication in the Western Christian Advocate in 1834, forty years after his captivity. Spencer became a Methodist Episcopal minister in Cincinnati.

Colonel England had been instructed by Gov. Simcoe to receive me, to provide clothing, and every thing necessary for my comfort, and to send me on to Fort Niagara, as soon as the navigation of Lake Erie should open. He had beside been informed about my family, and particularly my relatives; and was personally acquainted with some connections of my mother; so that from his sense of duty, as well as from a disposition to oblige his friends, I would have been assured of a favourable reception. But, independently of these considerations, being both a gentleman and a man of great humanity, he received me with much kindness; and regarding my wretched appearance, with sympathy for my condition, followed only the generous impulse of his nature, in ministering to my relief and comfort. After asking me some brief questions, and kindly assuring me of my future welfare, addressing himself to Lieut. Andre, an officer of the same regiment, (who also expecting me, had, on hearing of my arrival, repaired to the colonel's quarters,) said, he committed me to his charge, observing that Mr. Andre would of course take pleasure in making the necessary provision for me. Mr. Andre immediately took me by the hand, and led me to his quarters in the same barracks, only a few doors distant, and requesting me to sit down, retired from the apartment. In a few minutes a servant entered, and set before me some tea, and bread, and butter, on which having supped, I arose, and was retiring from the table, when two women, whom mere curiosity, as I supposed, had kept standing at one end of the room, looking at me intently while I was eating, now advanced, and each, unceremoniously taking me by the hand, and leading me out of the apartment, conducted me to a chamber. Here, stripping off all but my shirt, carefully throwing my clothes out a back window, beyond the palisades of the town, and seating me in a large washtub, half filled with water, they tore off my shirt, which had fast adhered to the bandage round my shoulder, before I had time to tell them I was wounded, and so suddenly, inflicting for a moment acute pain, as to extort from me a loud scream. Their surprise at this soon ceased, when I told them that an Indian had stabbed me in the shoulder; and when they saw the blood from the open wound running down my back, one of them, alarmed, ran to inform Mr. Andre; the other, with a rag immediately staunching the blood, deliberately proceeded to scour my person with soap and water, and by the time the surgeon arrived had effected a complete ablution. On probing the wound, which he found to be about three inches deep, the surgeon pronounced it to be not dangerous; fortunately, he said, the knife, in entering, had struck the lower, posterior point of the right shoulder blade, and taken a direction downward; but had it entered either an inch lower, or nearer the spine, it would probably have caused death. From the want of clothes, it was late next morning before I could get up; but receiving at length a temporary supply of a roundabout and pantaloons, from the wardrobe of Ensign O'Brian, (brother of Mrs. England) and a pair of stockings and slippers, from one of the women, I made my appearance in the breakfast room, and was introduced to Mrs. Andre, wife of the lieutenant. She very kindly took my hand, and congratulated me on my deliverance from the Indians; though she could not help smiling at my singular appearance, dressed, as I was, in clothes, which, although they fitted the smallest officer in the garrison, hung like bags on me. Mrs. Andre made very particular inquiries about my mother, (whose maiden name was Ogden,) and my relatives on her side; and telling me that she had been a Miss Ogden, made our relationship to be that of third cousins. This unexpected information gave me great pleasure; for to find among strangers, and in highly-polished society, one who was not ashamed to acknowledge, as a relative, a destitute boy, far from friends and home, could not but be truly gratifying. But Mrs. Andre possessed none of the false pride of those who, governed wholly by factitious circumstances, while they "have respect to the man in gay clothing," feeling as if degraded by condescension to the unfortunate, "say to the poor, Stand thou there." She was kind and amiable, as she was handsome and accomplished; and although quite young, apparently not more than twenty, supplied to me the place of a mother. Her husband, a brother of the unfortunate Major Andre, and one of the handsomest men I ever saw, very affable in his manners, and frank in his disposition, treated me with great kindness; and after seeing that I was comfortably, and indeed genteelly dressed, introduced me to the families of Mr. Ersk, and Commodore Grant, (where I found boys and girls of nearly my own age, who cheerfully associated with me,) and took pleasure in showing me the town, the shipping, the fort, and whatever else he thought would afford me gratification. Here, too, I frequently saw Moore, who, through the influence of Col. M'Kee, a countryman, and an old friend of his father, had obtained his liberty, and given him employment in the agency. He seemed quite contented, and even happy; amusing himself, in his leisure hours, in shooting at a mark; or in running, wrestling, jumping, or other athletic exercises.

The situation of Detroit, on the western bank of the strait, connecting Lake Huron with Lake Erie, and about ten miles south of Lake St. Clair, is familiar to all; though but few here have any knowledge of what it was more than forty years since. It was then a small town containing only wooden buildings, but few of which were well finished; surrounded by high pickets, inclosing an area of probably half a mile square, about one third part of which, along the bank of the river, (as the strait is called,) was covered with houses. There were, I think, three narrow streets, running parallel with the river, and intersected by four or five more at right angles. At the south end of the town, adjoining on the west the second street, at the ends of which were the entrances, (secured by heavy wooden gates,) into the city, was a space about two hundred feet square, inclosed on a part of two sides with low palisades, within which a row of handsome three story barracks, for the accommodation of the officers, occupied the south side, and buildings of the same height for the soldiers' quarters, stood on the west and a part of the north side. The open space was occupied as a parade ground, where the troops were every day exercised by the adjutant. In the northwest corner of the large area, inclosed with pickets, on ground a little elevated, stood the fort, separated from the houses by an esplanade, and surrounded, first by an abatis of tree tops, having the butts of the limbs sharpened and projecting outward about four feet high; then by a deep ditch, in the centre of which were high pickets; and then by a row of light palisades, seven or eight feet long, projecting horizontally from the glacis. The fort, covering not more than half an acre of ground, was square, having a bastion at each angle, with parapets and ramparts, so high as to shelter the quarters within, which were bomb proof, entirely from the shot of an enemy. Its entrance was on the east side, facing the river, over a drawbridge, and through a covered way; over which, on each side, were long iron cannon, carrying twenty-four pound shot, and which the officers called, the "British lions;" while on each side of the other sides were planted two, and on each bastion, four cannon, of various calibre; six, nine, and twelve pounders. The fort was garrisoned by a company of artillery, under the command of Capt. Spear; while two companies of infantry, and one of grenadiers, of the 24th, (Col. England's regiment,) were quartered in the barracks; the balance of the regiment was at Michilimakinak, and other northern posts. By the side of the gate, near the end of the officers' barracks, as a twenty-four pounder; and for the protection of the east side of the town, there were two small batteries of cannon, on the bank of the river. In the spring of 1793, there were anchored in the river, in front of the town, three brigs of about two hundred tons each; the Chippewa and the Ottowa, new vessels, carrying each, I think, eight guns; the Dunmore, an old vessel of six guns, and a sloop, the Felicity, of about one hundred tons, armed only with two swivels; all belonging to his majesty, George III., and commanded by Com. Grant. There were beside, several merchantmen, sloops, and schooners, the property of individuals.

I had spent almost four weeks very agreeably at Detroit, becoming much attached to Col. England, and particularly so to Mr. and Mrs. Andre, who treated me with great kindness, and to the family of Mr. Erskine, who were very friendly and polite to me; and when, near the close of March, the lake being entirely clear of ice; and when, though there was some danger to be apprehended from easterly storms, it was thought that the navigation to Fort Erie would be tolerably safe, orders were issued for the sailing of the Felicity. I felt a momentary regret I was so soon to be separated from these kind friends and acquaintances. Every thing being in readiness, and the sloop beginning to weigh anchor, I took leave of Mr.and Mrs. Andre, thanking them with tears for their parental kindness; and so affected was I, that I could scarcely pronounce the word farewell. Of Col. England, also, who wished me a prosperous voyage, and safe return to my friends, I took a long affecting leave, acknowledging with gratitude my obligations to him; then, with a small bundle containing a few shirts and stockings, accompanying the sailor who was waiting to conduct me, proceeded to the sloop's boat, and in a few minutes more was safe on board the Felicity.


See Also:

The Indian Captivity of O. M. Spencer. Edited by Milo Milton Quaife. NY: Citadel Press, 1968.

Peckham, Howard H. Indian Captives Brought to Detroit. Detroit Historical Society Bulletin 1956 12: 4-9.