THE CAPTURE, TORTURE AND
ESCAPE OF SIMON KENTON
"Young Kenton's Triumph Over His Rival"
Taken from Conquering the Wilderness; or a New Pictorial History & Life and Times of Pioneer Heroes and Heroines of America by Frank Triplet (1885).
Digitized by Google Books.
Map of the State of Ohio
Rufus Putman, Thomas Wightman, and Thaddeus Mason Harris. Boston: Manning & Loring, 1805. Library of Congress.
Copyright © 2020 by Mark Strecker
"Simon Kenton at the Age of 76"
Taken from Conquering the Wilderness; or a New Pictorial History & Life and Times of Pioneer Heroes and Heroines of America by Frank Triplet (New York: N.D. Thompson Publishing Co., 1885). Digitized by Google Books.
Modified and enhanced by Mark Strecker.
"Kenton Rescues Boone"
Taken from Conquering the Wilderness; or a New Pictorial History & Life and Times of Pioneer Heroes and Heroines of America by Frank Triplet (New York: N.D. Thompson Publishing Co., 1885). Digitized by Google Books.
   The Shawnee council members took up a warclub to signify their vote. Passing it on meant the prisoner would live. Striking it hard against the ground signaled death. Simon Kenton understood not a word of Algonquin, but seeing the warclub strike the ground more times than not, he knew he’d been sentenced to death. After more debate and another vote, the form of execution was decided. He would burn at the stake.
   Kenton was no stranger to life threatening situations. His first such moment had occurred when he was just sixteen and living in Fauquier County, Virginia, where he was born on May 15, 1755. He’d accidentally killed a man in a fight and now he needed to flee into the wildlands of the West else he’d surely be executed for murder. He’d gotten himself into this situation because of his adolescent lust for revenge. He was upset that Ellen Cummins, the woman he loved, had chosen to marry William Leachman, so on the day of their wedding he either challenged Leachman to a fight outside the church or confronted him during the reception. In the first case the source says Leachman beat Kenton soundly. In the second, Leachman’s brother lured Kenton outside where he and some friends beat Kenton. No matter which version is correct, the outcome was the same. Kenton wanted to fight Leachman.
   As to when the fatal encounter occurred, again the two primary sources we have about Kenton differ significantly. One puts it a few days after the wedding on April 6, 1771, and the other says it was months later by which time Kenton had grown to over six feet in height and bulked up. Both sources agree he found his opponent in an isolated place, challenged him to a fight, and this time grabbed Leachman by his long hair, securing it to a sapling. With Leachman hobbled, Kenton pommeled him to the point where he spat up blood and collapsed dead.  Or so Kenton thought. Thirteen years later he learned Leachman hadn’t died after all.
   During his journey west, necessity taught Kenton woodcraft. Arriving along the Cheat River, which is in modern West Virginia, he acquired a rifle and became a hunter and trapper. Going by the name Simon Butler, at Fort Pitt (modern Pittsburgh) he met a woodsman named Simon Girty who became a friend and mentor. In 1774 the two fought alongside one another during Lord Dunmore’s War, a landgrab by Virginia’s governor, John Murray, Lord Dunmore.
In 1768 the Iroquois granted the British all lands east and south of the Ohio River when they signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The trouble was it wasn’t theirs to give away. The Delaware, Shawnee and Mingoes considered this their land. In addition to that, a 1763 royal proclamation forbade American colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains, although those already living there, mostly French subjects, could remain.
   The British didn’t want colonists moving into the area because they lacked the resources to defend and govern new settlers. Any American colonist who went there was a squatter who had no legal claim to the land. One of the reasons Americans rebelled against King George III in 1775 was a frustration that all that land on the other side of the mountains couldn’t be claimed. This was one of the reasons George Washington, a major land speculator, took up the cause of independence.
   In 1774, militant white settlers stirred up by a propaganda letter written by fur trader George Croghan crossed the Ohio and massacred several Mingoes along the Yellow River. Those murdered included several family members of the Mingo war chief John Logan, whose Native American names were Soyechtowa and Tocaniadorogon. Up until this time Logan had been a good friend to settlers. Enraged, he attacked colonists along the frontier. Lord Dunmore used this unrest as an excuse to launch a military expedition against the Shawnee, who had nothing to do with Logan’s attacks, forcing them to capitulate and give up some of their land.
   Kenton served as a spy during this conflict. After it ended, he and Thomas Williams headed down the Ohio River to the mouth of the Big Sandy River (between modern Catlettsburg, Kentucky, and Kenova, West Virginia) where they planned to winter and hunt. Early in the spring of 1775 they found good land in a place now known as Limestone, West Virginia. Here they settled and grew some corn. In the fall Kenton ventured south and encountered Michael Stoner, who’d come west the year before with Daniel Boone. Stoner informed Kenton that there were settlements to the south in Kentucky. Kenton and Williams visited these and decided to relocate.
   In 1777 the Shawnee launched three attacks against Boonesborough, the settlement founded by Daniel Boone where Kenton was then living. During the first attack, Boone and thirteen others including Kenton were caught outside the fort with the Shawnee between them and the gate. During the ensuring fight, Boone was shot in the leg, the bullet breaking his bone and forcing him to collapse onto the ground. A Shawnee warrior raised his tomahawk to end Boone’s life, but it never struck home: Kenton shot the fellow, earning Boone’s praise.
   In 1778 Boone led an attack on a Shawnee village along Paint Creek. An unexpected skirmish with Shawnee warriors on the way there prompted Boone to return home because element of surprise had been lost. Kenton and another man, Alexander Montgomery, stayed behind to spy on the Paint Creek settlement. For two days they watched. Then came a chance to steal two horses, which they did, a success that gave them a taste for horse thievery.
   Around September 1, 1778, Kenton, Alexander Montgomery, and the flaming red-haired George Clark (the older brother of William Clark, he of Lewis and Clark fame) headed out to spy on the Shawnee town of Chillicothe. The name meant “principal town,” a place that served as a seasonal capital. The town Kenton and Montgomery spied upon was located along the Little Miami River near Xenia, Ohio, and has no relationship to the modern Ohio town of Chillicothe.