Fort Ashby in the Youghiogheny Glades page 10
lliams built a log school-house and church at "Piney Bottom." One of the first teachers was Ralph Thayer, and one of the first circuit riders was the Rev. Samuel King. William died in 1876 and the mother of the author and the entire Gortner family attended the funeral. The Ashby cemetery is located on a slight rise between the Matthews house and the Youghiogheny River. Here repose in peaceful accord the mortal remains of the Ashby pioneers.
Two years after William Walton built the fort to protect his family and those of his neighbors, he felt it his duty to enlist in the cause of American independence. But what of his family? There had been instances, and some with tragic consequences, where the patriot left his family exposed to excessive danger and privation. William wisely decided that his household should have the protection of Fort Ashby, as previously indicated, on Patterson Creek, as this was always garrisoned by soldiers.
At this time, the frontier was more vulnerable than ever. The Indians camped in inaccessible nooks of the wilderness, making surprise attacks for the purpose of massacre and pillage. They became ruthless gangsters, like the lawless whites of the wild west. William suddenly found himself in a dual role: he had to do some Indian fighting mixed in with battles against the British.
The following is the account of what happened, as told to the author by Dorsey L. Ashby when ninety years of age (June, 1946):
"Early one morning in autumn three women rode horseback from the fort (Patterson Creek) to a berry patch several miles away. That night they did not return. It happened that William Ashby had just returned to the fort at the time. Being apprehensive, William and two other men, one an Irishman, went to the berry patch in the hope that they were still there, as often folk in those days would camp out over night. At the berry patch they found a small shred from one of the women's garments. The imprint of horses' hooves was unmistakable. They took up the trail, and scattered along its course were other shreds of evidence of the same nature, secretly dropped by the women. From an elevation that looked down on the Potomac they saw smoke rising along the river in the cool quiet air at what is now Westernport, Maryland. The river was quite low at the time. So crawling up the almost dry river bed they soon were opposite the camp and were unobserved. There they saw the three women tied to trees and three Indians crouching around the fire gorging themselves with venison. The rescuers brought the enemy into their gunsights. After each decided which Indian to shoot, William commanded that the shots be fired simultaneously. 'I cannot shoot my savage; I shake too freely,' admitted the Irishman. 'Stand by . . . and as soon as we fire hand me your gun,' snapped Ashby. Two rifles cracked and two Indians fell dead. The third one jumped and ran. Ashby grabbed the gun of the Irishman and wounded the fleeing Indian in the leg. As Ashby ran up to him the Indian exclaimed, 'How do do, broder, how do do.' I'll brother you for kidnapping our women,' and with this threat he took the tomahawk of the Indian and with one blow at his scalp-lock ended forever the kidnapping of this hostile savage. The men quickly released the three hostages from the trees, roasted more of the venison and served the famished women who had not eaten for two days. After the six had dined the men recovered the horses grazing nearby. Then lifting the women onto the animals they led them back to the fort where there was much rejoicing and celebration."
Rev. J. C. Breuninger
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland
22 x 15 cms
Editor: Felix G. Robinson
Western Maryland, 1750-1963