The trip took several days. Each night, Kenton was staked spread-eagle and naked on the ground as the torture continued. Upon reaching Chillicothe, women and children were allowed to join in on the torment as a young Tecumseh watched. Caesar, a negro who was adopted by the Shawnee after they killed his master and mistress, made his way to Kenton. Pretending to be abusing Kenton, Caesar informed him his captures were waiting for the principle Shawnee, Chief Blackfish, to return from a raid on Boonesboro. (see ) At that point, he would be condemned to death. In the hunting ground the Shawnee gave Caesar was a creek. If he could get away, Kenton could travel south down what Caesar called Caesar Creek, which still bears that name today, until he came to the Little Miami River. That would take him to the Ohio River and freedom. Unfortunately, Kenton was unable to escape.
The next morning, Kenton was forced to run a quarter mile gauntlet. All natives, including women and children, beat Kenton with sticks and clubs as he ran towards the safety of the council house, or msi-kah-mi-qui. As Kenton spotted the freedom of the doorway, a warrior jumped in his path. A blow to the nose sent the native flying into the crowd, yet a club to the head took Kenton to the ground. Forced to run the gauntlet again, a squaw bested him at the last minute with a club to the neck. The natives surrounded the motionless white man and continued to beat him even after he blacked out.
Kenton woke to a young native nursing his wounds. She told Kenton of Blackfish’s soon arrival, after which a council would deem him cut-ta-ho-tha, or condemned to death. After the official vote, Kenton was painted black noting he would be burned at the stake. Knowing the importance of their prisoner, it was decided Kenton’s execution should be a major event and held at Wapatomica, the central area of the Shawnee nation southeast of present day Bellefontaine, Ohio. During the days long trip, Kenton was forced to run the gauntlet in each settlement they arrived in. As Shawnee traveled to see Bahd-ler and get in their own licks before his death, the gauntlet lines grew with more and more people. After each event, he was nursed back to health.
Facing his sixth gauntlet, Kenton broke free and took off through the woods. The naked prisoner outran his captures and believed he finally escaped. However, he ran directly into Shawnee war chief, Blue Jacket. (see ) Unable to outrun the native’s horses, a violent blow to the head with the butt of Blue Jacket’s tomahawk downed Kenton, depressing a piece of skull a quarter inch into his head, a visible wound that plagued Kenton the rest of his life. Upon his return to Bo-nah, the unconscious Kenton was again beaten mercilessly. The oldest Shawnee chief, Moluntha, stopped the assault and tried to overturn the execution claiming the brave man had been punished enough. However, another council upheld his death sentence.
Following several days of healing, Bo-nah dragged Kenton to the council house to determine the time of his execution. Reprieve met him once again as a war party returned with several captured white men. Kenton’s proceedings paused as the natives dealt with the new captives. After one of the lead warriors finished his rendition of the events, he approached Kenton and studied his eyes. Throwing a blanket down, the man invited Kenton to sit and began asking him questions. Finally he intently inquired, “Who is it?” He did not recognize Kenton, but Kenton knew his dear friend Simon Girty.
With a smile, Kenton reminded the man of their time together at Fort Pitt and scouting during Point Pleasant. (see ) “Don’t you remember Simon Butler?” With tears in his eyes, Girty hugged Kenton and listened closely as Kenton recounted all that occurred since his capture. In a passionate plea, Girty approached the council and appealed for Kenton’s life to be spared. When the Revolution began, Girty remained loyal to the British and helped the natives against white settlers as Boone and Kenton joined the Patriots. Reminding the council of his faithful service to them, he requested a favor, of which he had never done before. After his heartfelt speech, they agreed to spare Kenton and accept him into the Shawnee nation, as they had done Boone.
Kenton’s adoptive mother, Sugar Tree, renamed him “Great White Wolf”. He replaced the son she lost during Blackfish’s raid on Boonesboro the previous year. Guilt overshadowed Kenton’s relief of being spared as he realized he may very well have been her son’s killer.
The next couple weeks, Kenton traveled the area with Girty, yet fate intervened again. Red Pole returned to Wapatomica after a defeat by white men, furious of Kenton’s adoption and demanded his original death sentence be carried out. Girty tried again to save his friend, but it was hopeless. However, he did persuade them to perform the execution at Upper Sandusky where all tribes, not just the Shawnee, could witness the momentous event. Kenton was once again placed in Bo-nah’s control as they set out for the new site. On the way, Kenton faced his 9th gauntlet. Too tired to care, he walked the 30 yards, amazing those participating as no-one dared do such a thing. Therefore, they believed he must be under the protection of the Great Spirit. Meanwhile, Girty entreated the Mingo’s Chief Logan, a mutual friend of the two Simon’s, to help.
Tied to a pole surround by firewood, Kenton made peace with his death. Then literally out of the clear blue sky, rains drenched the prisoner and firewood. There would be no burning today, which bought just enough time for British Captain Peter Drouilliard, encouraged by Logan, to intervene. A temporary delay was agreed upon on November 12, 1778, so Drouilliard could question Kenton in Detroit. Once Kenton was in the hands of the British, they convinced Bo-nah the prisoner's information was too valuable. Therefore, they sent the native away with gifts and supplies in exchange for the American. On the eve of June 3, 1779, Kenton and two others escaped, heading towards present-day Fort Wayne and then down to the Falls of the Ohio across from Louisville, where they arrived in July.
Rejoining General George Rogers Clark, Kenton participated in more raids on the Indians until the end of the Revolutionary War. As Indians continued to attack settlers, Kenton served under General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, yet missed the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1784, as he recovered from illness. This conflict witnessed the defeat of Blue Jacket and the British removal from all forts in the Northwest Territory. (see and )
On February 8, 1783, Kenton’s first child, Simon Ruth Kenton, was born out of wedlock. While his mother married one of Kenton’s friends, Simon kept his father’s name and always held a special spot in his father’s heart. Around the same time, Kenton discovered Leachman survived his attack 12 years earlier. Therefore, he resumed his given name, having gone by Simon Butler this whole time, and invited his family to join him in Kentucky. He settled both Limestone, renamed Maysville in 1787, on the Ohio River, and Kenton Station a few miles inland. His parents, several siblings, and extended family accepted. However, his father died en route in Pennsylvania.
In the families that accompanied Kenton to Limestone, the 32-year-old fell in love with 14-year-old Martha Dowdem. They wed several years later on February 15, 1787, and had four children together. While pregnant with their 5th child, Martha and the baby died on December 13, 1796, as a result of a cabin fire. A little over a year later, on March 27, 1798, Kenton married Martha’s cousin, Elizabeth Jarboes, who was born the day Simon had been captured. This couple had six children.
While in captivity, Kenton vowed to return to the area in Ohio someday. With Kentucky becoming civilized, he decided it was time to move to the vast land of Ohio Country. Some family and friends accompanied him to the area just north of what would be Springfield, Ohio, which his wife Elizabeth named, arriving on April 5, 1799.
Kenton had claimed thousands of acres in Kentucky and Ohio, becoming the largest land owner in each of the two states for a time. Kenton believed in settling the West and made great efforts to encourage immigration. In 1775, he and Thomas Williams planted the first corn crop grown by white settlers in this area of the wilderness. As families traveled to Limestone, he provided them with 5 acres they could live on and cultivate while they remained there, which was returned to him when they moved on. In other instances he outright sold land to new settlers. As families moved to Ohio, he provided them with free food and other supplies as they started their new life.
Kenton saw battle again in the War of 1812 as a Brigadier General, where he fought in the Battle of Thames. This conflict resulted in the death of Tecumseh on October 5, 1813, a native Kenton faced numerous times over the years on both peaceful and hostile terms. (see ) American soldiers were eager to grab a piece of the fallen chief as a souvenir, yet despite the hell the Shawnee put him through, Kenton respected his native foe and misidentified the body. This allowed the Shawnee to properly bury the unharmed Tecumseh.
Born April 3, 1755, in Prince William County, Virginia, to an Irish immigrant and former indentured servant, Mark Kenton, Sr., and his Scotch-Welsh Virginian wife, Mary Miller Kenton, Simon avoided education. (see ) Unable to read or write except his name, Kenton often completed transactions with just a handshake. Not one to take advantage of others, he did not expect others to do so either. He was wrong. Kenton spent years in lawsuits and debtors prison, losing the vast majority of what he'd rightfully claimed to partners, family members who mismanaged it, taxes, and other government red tape. By the end, he survived primarily on a $20 pension from the government.
The family lived in Urbana Ohio, before the aging pioneer and his wife settled on their daughter’s farm a little farther north in Zanesfield, where he died on April 29, 1836. While both Kentucky and Ohio contended for his remains, they were eventually buried in Urbana under a large memorial provided for by the state.
For decades, Kenton’s fame was widely known in the lands that he was born and settled in, yet his tales primarily stopped at their borders. Several towns, counties, and schools bear Kenton’s name throughout Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. Following the publication of Allan W. Eckert’s The Frontiersmen in 1967, which recounts Kenton’s life and associations with Boone, Girty, and Clark, Kenton received national recognition, yet like so much of our forefathers, he is once again lost to history.
Liberty, men like Kenton and Boone are the heart of America. They forged their own path, seeking liberty and independence. Yet progressives today want to demonize them and erase them from history, needing to destroy America’s past of freedom because it is the only way to convince the population it must be replaced with socialism. Education is the answer, Liberty. Having not received one himself, Kenton paid for many natives and Negroes to go to school so they would not be taken advantage of. Do likewise, Liberty. Learn and then teach as the key to our future is knowing and understanding our past.
That’s my 2 cents.
April 29, 2019
Leachman’s body lay motionless. Simon knew he was going to hang for murder. A year prior, William Leachman had married Simon’s true love, Ellen Cummings. The public thrashing he received on the wedding day from Leachman after calling him out needed to be avenged and today was the day. Yet it didn’t go quite as planned.
About to lose again, Simon found his opportunity. He tangled Leachman's hair in a tree and beat him mercilessly. Unable to revive his opponent's lifeless body, Simon believed he killed Leachman. Therefore, the 16-year-old of a week fled to the wilderness with just the clothes on his back, bound to get as far from his home as possible. In addition, he assumed the name Simon Butler to avoid detection.
Taking up with George Strader and John Yeager, they taught the young man to live in the wilderness. Traveling the Ohio River in 1771, they learned the ways and language of the natives. Setting up camp at present day Charleston, West Virginia, they survived by hunting and trading. A cold, rainy winter day in 1773, as they waited for dinner to cook while their leggings and moccasins dried by the fire, the men simultaneously noticed several natives charging their camp before immediately realizing their rifles lay out of reach. Yeager was shot and scalped as Strader and Simon escaped with their lives and the shirts on their backs. Scantily clothed, barefoot, and unarmed, they wandered through the wilderness towards the Ohio River for a week until they were found and cared for by a compassionate couple.
As more whites moved westward, conflicts between the natives and settlers increased. A man well over six feet and close to 200 pounds, Simon used his skills to scout for surveyors. During this time he met his best friend Simon Girty, Daniel Boone, and George Rogers Clark, all who become extremely important to Simon and the expansion of the West. Like Girty, Simon often communicated with the Indians, building relationships with several tribes and leaders. During Lord Dunmore’s 1774 campaign against the Shawnee, they scouted together for the British. (see ). They delivered messages to General Andrew Lewis both before and after the Battle of Point Pleasant and accompanied Dunmore to Camp Charlotte where the natives surrendered their hunting grounds south of the Ohio River.
As the Revolutionary War commenced, Simon joined Boone at Boonesborough as a scout as Kentucky’s first settlement was under constant Indian attack. (see ) Able to reload his rifle while running, the skilled hunter and shooter was dubbed, “The man whose gun is never empty” by the natives. He proved his aptitude during a battle at Boonesborough on April 24, 1777. While witnessing a Shawnee setting his sights on Boone, Simon quickly and precisely eliminated the immediate threat. Soon after, a bullet struck Boone’s ankle, breaking it. Boone turned to see a Shawnee standing over him ready to strike with his tomahawk before suddenly dropping to the ground. While charging the attacker, Simon had shot the Indian before striking another with the butt of his gun. Scooping Boone onto his shoulder, Simon zig-zagged his way through the enemy back to the fort, carrying Boone to safety and saving him a second time that day. With all thankfulness and praise, Boone complimented the 21-year-old saying, “Well, Simon, you have behaved like a man today. Indeed you are a fine fellow.”
The following year, Simon accompanied Colonel George Rogers Clark to take Fort Sackville during the Revolution. He also joined Boone on an attack on Chillicothe, a Shawnee settlement near present-day Oldtown, Ohio. The Shawnee took Boone here when they captured him in January. (see ) That September, Simon "Butler" Kenton found himself here in the same predicament.
After retrieving several stolen horses from the Shawnee at Chillicothe, Colonel John Bowman sent Kenton, Alexander Montgomery, and an unseasoned George Clarke back to the settlement to observe and do a report. Once he collected the necessary information, Kenton decided to take some Shawnee horses. During the attempt, spooked horses alerted the nearby natives causing them to discover the men. They rode for days, yet were trapped at the ragging Ohio River.
Hoping to cross in the calm of the morning, the horses still refused to cooperate as the sun rose. Kenton instead found himself surrounded by the natives. The chase was over for Kenton on September 13, 1778, with one severe blow from Bo-nah. After binding Kenton, several natives took off after Montgomery as Bo-nah guarded his price. A shot in the distance rang in Kenton’s ears as he prayed for his companion’s safety, yet hope was dashed when the warriors returned with Montgomery’s scalp. Clarke managed to cross the river on a piece of wood and escape the fate of his more experienced partners.
Stripped of all clothing, the natives began beating their prisoner, starting with slapping him repeatedly with Montgomery’s bloody scalp. They then prepared it on a willow hoop and hung it in front of Kenton for him to gaze upon. (see ) Shortly after, a Shawnee arrived that recognized who they actually captured, crying, “Bahd-ler, Bahd-ler,” or “The man whose gun is never empty.” This valuable prisoner would bring not just Bo-nah, but the whole tribe, pride and recognition with all other natives. Only Boone held a higher position in the eyes of the Indians. While his identity brought him reprieve from death, if only for a short time, it was replaced with endless torment and beatings for weeks.
Kenton was bound and tortured throughout the night, including being hit, spit on, urinated on, covered with ants and bugs, and his exposed groin kicked and stomped on. The following morning, he was set on a wild colt backwards with his ankles bound together underneath the beast’s belly, his hands behind his back, and a noose around his neck that was attached to the horses’ neck. The animal was released to wildly buck and bounce throughout the woods and sharp bushes as Kenton hung on for dear life. Meanwhile, his bare body was beaten and torn with branches and thrones. After what seemed like an eternity, the colt finally stopped from exhaustion. Kenton was dressed and turned front-facing on the horse’s back before the group set out to return to their Chillicothe settlement.