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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: Isaac Knight

It's time for another peek into the archives ...

The Capture of Isaac Knight

When you think of tales of the white man against the Native American, what comes to mind? Custer’s Last Stand? Wild Bill Hickok? Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill? Or any number of other cowboy and Indian legends? What about the adventures of little Isaac Knight of Henderson, Kentucky?

Isaac Knight was just a boy when he helped drive his family’s livestock from the east through the dense woods to the Red Banks (now Henderson). The sparsely populated area seemed to promise a safe habitat and a dependable environment for raising cattle, but, as the Knight family would soon discover, this would prove to be a utopian delusion. As Isaac Knight recounts in “A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Isaac Knight from Indian Barbarity”, he and four friends were playing along the bank of the Ohio River on April 8th, 1793, when a band of Pottawatomie natives ambushed the boys, scalping two of them and abducting the others, beginning Isaac’s two years and six months of captivity. The remaining boys were forced to watch as the natives roasted and ate the meat of the scalps of their companions.

Despite the fact that Isaac was intensely ill with smallpox, he was made to travel on foot day and night for over two weeks until they reached camp. When they finally arrived, a squaw, in an attempt to cure Isaac, took him to an island in the Illinois River, scraped the smallpox scabs from his body, rubbed tree bark over the wounds, and made him bathe in the Illinois River. As a result of the flawed therapy, much of the village caught the disease, and many, including the squaw and Isaac’s “father”, died of it. This was particularly disheartening to the boy, as his new owner coerced him to work the fields all day with no food, punishing him for attempting to eat the hogs’ food and feeding him only entrails.

To be continued. . .

To find out what became of Isaac, look for next week’s “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entry, or come visit us at the library. Visit our genealogy webpage to see what else we have to offer. You can also read previous “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries.

Photo is of “Capture of Isaac Knight” by Nelson Wilson; Collection of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science. Special thanks goes to the Evansville Museum for the photo!

1 comment:

Mary Fairchild-Bunney said...

Isaac Knight was my great-great-great-great grandfather. The story of his capture and survival always amazes me.