Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume II, Page 535

A prisoner in Close Quarters. In the fall of 1781, a man named Conrad Edick, (This was the German name Ittig. He died at Frankfort, NY about the first of September, 1846, aged nearly 80 years.) was captured in the vicinity of Fort Plank. The prisoner was captured by seven Indians, and hurried off into the wilderness. At night the party halted at a deserted log tenement in that part of Danube know as Otsquago, (This is the Indian name for the creek which runs into the Mohawk at Fort Plain and signified "The Springs," alluding to its source.Joseph Wagner.) or as usually spoken, the Squawke. As the weather was cold the Indians made a fire, and after partaking of a scanty supper, gathered round it to talk over the result thus far of their expedition. They had, as they stated, taken but a few scalps, very little plunder, and but one prisoner, who, they concluded, was hardly worth taking to Canada alone. They there resolved to have a pow-wow in the morning, kill and scalp the prisoner, return toward the Mohawk, and seek among the defenseless or unguarded whom they might plunder or slay.

The enemy, after discussing thus freely their future plans in the Mohawk dialect, laid down upon the floor to rest, with their feet to the fire. The prisoner was compelled to lie down between two Indians, under cords fastened to their bodies, which crossed his person over the breast and thighs, and not long after, all, save the prisoner, were in a sound slumber. If the Indians were soon dreaming of rich hunting grounds, human scalps, "beauty and booty," the case was far otherwise with the poor captive, who understood every word they had said, and had listened with horror to his own approaching fate. Believing his foes all under the padlock of morpheus, he began to tax his ingenuity for some means of escape. Hope of procuring those means was fast fading from his excited mind, when, in moving his hand upon the floor, it accidentally rested upon a fragment of broken window glass.

No sooner did the prisoner seize the glass, than a ray of hope entered his bosom, and with the frail assistant he instantly set about regaining his liberty. He commenced severing the rope across his breast, and soon it was stranded. The moment was one of intense excitement; he knew that it was the usual custom for one or more of an Indian party to keep watch and prevent the escape of their prisoners. Was he then watched? Should he go on, with the possibility of hastening his own doom, or wait and see if some doom, or wait and see if some remarkable interposition of Providence might save him? A monitor within whispered, "Faith without works is dead," and after a little pause in his efforts, he resumed them, and soon had parted another strand; and as no movement was made, he tremblingly cut another; it was the last, and as it yielded he sat up. He then was enabled to take a midnight view of the group around him, in the feeble light reflected from the moon through a small window of a single sash. The enemy still appeared to sleep, and he soon separated the cord across his limbs. He then advanced to the fire and raked open the coals, which reflected their partial rays upon the painted visages of those misguided heathen, whom British gold had bribed to deeds of damning darkness; and being fully satisfied that all were asleep, he approached the door.

The Indians had a large watch dog outside the house. He cautiously opened the door, sprang out and ran, and as he had anticipated, the dog was yelling at his heels. He had about 20 rods to run, across a cleared field, before he could reach the woods; and as he neared them he looked back, and in the clear light of a full moon, saw the Indians all in pursuit. As he neared the forest, they all drew up their rifles and fired upon him, at which instant a strong vine caught his foot and he fell to the ground. The volley of balls passed over him, and bounding to his feet, he gained the beechen shade. Not far from where he entered, he had noticed, the preceding evening, a large hollow log, and on coming to it, he sought safety within it. The dog at first, ran several rods past the log, which served to mislead the party, but soon returned near it, and ceased barking without a visit to the captive's hiding place.

The Indians sat down over him and talked about their prisoner's escape. They finally came to the conclusion that the had either ascended a tree near, or that the devil had aided him in his escape, which to them appeared the most reasonable conclusion. As morning was approaching, they determined on taking an early breakfast and returning to the river settlements, leaving one of their number to keep a vigilant watch in that neighborhood for their captive until afternoon of the following day, when he was to join his fellows at a designated place. This plan settled, an Indians proceeded to an adjoining field, where a small flock of sheep had not escaped their notice, and shot one of them. While enough of the mutton was dressing to satisfy their immediate wants, others of the party struck up a fire, which they chanced, most unfortunately for his comfort, to build against the log, directly opposite their lost prisoner. The heat became almost intolerable to the tenant of the fallen basswood, before the meat was cooked; besides, the smoke and steam which found their way through the worm holes and cracks, had nearly suffocated him, ere he could sufficiently stop their ingress, which was done by thrusting leaves and part of his own clothing into the crannies. A cough, which he knew would insure his death, he found it difficult to avoid; to back out of his hiding place would also seal his fate, while to remain in it much longer, he felt conscious he could not.

After suffering most acutely in body and mind for a time, the prisoner (who was again such by accident) found his miseries alleviated when the Indians began to eat, as they then let the fire burn down,and did not again replenish it. After they had dispatched their breakfast of mutton, the prisoner heard the leader caution the one left to watch in that vicinity to be wary, and soon heard the retiring footsteps of the rest of the party. Often during the morning, the watchman was seated or standing over him. Not having heard the Indian for some time, and believing the hour of his espionage past, he cautiously crept out of the log; and finding himself alone, being prepared by fasting and steaming for a good race, he drew a bee line for Fort Plank, which he reached in safety: believing, as he afterwards stated, that tall the Indians in the State could not have overtaken him in his homeward flight. --Dr. Z. E. Bingham, corroborated by others.

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