Tag Archives: #OhioRiver

Betty Zane (Ohio River I) (1903)

Heroism of Miss Elizabeth Zane, 1851

Popular Graphic Arts; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-2355

Charles Francis Press, New York, 1903

Parents’ Magazine Press, 1947

In this busy progressive age there are no heroes of the kind so dear to all lovers of chivalry and romance. There are heroes, perhaps, but they are the patient sad-faced kind, of whom few take cognizance as they hurry onward. But cannot we all remember some one who suffered greatly, who accomplished great deeds, who died on the battlefield–some one around whose name lingers a halo of glory? Few of us are so unfortunate that we cannot look backward on kith or kin and thrill with love and reverence as we dream of an act of heroism or martyrdom which rings down the annals of time like the melody of the huntsman’s horn, as it peals out on a frosty October morn purer and sweeter with each succeeding note.

Betty Zane portrait from Zane Grey novel. Credit: West Virginia Division of Culture and History

Betty Zane portrait from Zane Grey novel.
Credit: West Virginia Division of Culture and History

The 1700’s was was a time when American Indians were becoming increasingly hostile. No wonder. The invaders were moving farther and farther west and were basically squatting on American Indian land. I can’t say I would be too happy about that myself.

These reckless bordermen knew not the meaning of fear; to all, daring adventure was welcome, and the screech of a redskin and the ping of a bullet were familiar sounds; to the Wetzels, McCollochs and Jonathan Zane the hunting of Indians was the most thrilling passion of their lives; indeed, the Wetzels, particularly, knew no other occupation. They had attained a wonderful skill with the rifle; long practice had rendered their senses as acute as those of the fox. Skilled in every variety of woodcraft, with lynx eyes ever on the alert for detecting a trail, or the curling smoke of some camp fire, or the minutest sign of an enemy, these men stole onward through the forest with the cautious but dogged and persistent determination that was characteristic of the settler.

They at length climbed the commanding bluff overlooking the majestic river, and as they gazed out on the undulating and uninterrupted area of green, their hearts beat high with hope.

The keen axe, wielded by strong arms, soon opened the clearing and reared stout log cabins on the river bluff. Then Ebenezer Zane and his followers moved their families and soon the settlement began to grow and flourish. As the little village commenced to prosper the redmen became troublesome. Settlers were shot while plowing the fields or gathering the harvests. Bands of hostile Indians prowled around and made it dangerous for anyone to leave the clearing. Frequently the first person to appear in the early morning would be shot at by an Indian concealed in the woods.

General George Rodgers Clark, commandant of the Western Military Department, arrived at the village in 1774. As an attack from the savages was apprehended during the year the settlers determined to erect a fort as a defense for the infant settlement. It was planned by General Clark and built by the people themselves. At first they called it Fort Fincastle, in honor of Lord Dunmore, who, at the time of its erection, was Governor of the Colony of Virginia. In 1776 its name was changed to Fort Henry, in honor of Patrick Henry. (From prologue)

As we see from Zane Grey’s prologue the men who set out to settle new land did not care what it took to acquire that land.

Back then a common term for the American Indian was savage. I imagine a term like that made it easier for the people coming to conquer lands to justify their deeds. Like the many stories of people coming from other places and taking land from the natives, this era in the history of the US nation is something one needs to regret. While both sides of the battle for land were guilty of atrocities, there is no doubt which side bears the greater blame. That does not exclude individuals from being able to perform heroic deeds to save their own group from destruction. Elizabeth Zane was such a person.

Elizabeth “Betty” Zane McLaughlin Clark (July 19, 1765 – August 23, 1823) was a heroine of the Revolutionary War on the American frontier. She was the daughter of William Andrew Zane and Nancy Ann (née Nolan) Zane, and the sister of Ebenezer Zane, Silas Zane, Jonathan Zane, Isaac Zane and Andrew Zane. (Wikipedia)

The main attraction of the story about Betty Zane’s deed for me is the fact that we finally get to hear about a woman being the great example to follow. Zane Grey’s stories are filled with women who are strong. But he cannot help himself when he lets patriarchy shine through his depiction of his ancestor and the other women of his stories.

Elizabeth Zane - Poem from St NicholasBut what can women do in times of war? They help, they cheer, they inspire, and if their cause is lost they must accept death or worse. Few women have the courage for self-destruction. “To the victor belong the spoils,” and women have ever been the spoils of war.

No wonder Silas Zane and his men weakened in that moment. With only a few charges for their rifles and none for the cannon how could they hope to hold out against the savages? Alone they could have drawn their tomahawks and have made a dash through the lines of Indians, but with the women and the children that was impossible.

“Wetzel, what can we do? For God’s sake, advise us!” said Silas hoarsely. “We cannot hold the Fort without powder. We cannot leave the women here. We had better tomahawk every woman in the block-house than let her fall into the hands of Girty.”

“Send someone fer powder,” answered Wetzel.

“Do you think it possible,” said Silas quickly, a ray of hope lighting up his haggard features. “There’s plenty of powder in Eb’s cabin. Whom shall we send? Who will volunteer?”

Three men stepped forward, and others made a movement.

“They’d plug a man full of lead afore he’d get ten foot from the gate,” said Wetzel. “I’d go myself, but it wouldn’t do no good. Send a boy, and one as can run like a streak.”

“There are no lads big enough to carry a keg of powder. Harry Bennett might go,” said Silas. “How is he, Bessie?”

“He is dead,” answered Mrs. Zane.

Wetzel made a motion with his hands and turned away. A short, intense silence followed this indication of hopelessness from him. The women understood, for some of them covered their faces, while others sobbed.

“I will go.” (Chapter XIV)

And so Elizabeth gets the chance to shine, to show the world that women are more than they are allowed to be in a society where women are thought to the be the nurturers not the protectors. She shows that if there are people in war who have courage it is the women who are expected to support but not chance their own lives. Not matter what my views are on the conflict between the various sides of the American Revolution and the Anglos against the Native Americans, Elizabeth Zane is to me a person whose courage shines as the sun.


Available at Lambertville Library (with illustrations by Louis F. Grant)





  • Bosnian: Posljednji graničar; Kapić, Dika; Sarajevo, Oslobođenje, 1990.
  • Croatian: Betty Zane (Posljednji graničar); Lakomica, Omer; Rijeka, Otokar Keršovani, 1960.
  • Czech: Betty Zane; Vorel, Josef, Brno, Návrat, 1927.
  • Dutch: Betty Zane (Een kind van het Westen); Roldanus, Jr., W J A; Utrecht, A.W. Bruna & Zoon’s. Uitgevers-Maatschappij, 1925.
  • Estonian: Betty Zane; Tallinn, Olion, 1996.
  • Finnish: Betty Zane (seikkailukertomus Pohjois-Amerikasta intiaanisotien ajoilta); Nyman, O. E.; Helsinki, Kirja, 1925.
  • German: Betty Zane (Heldenmädchen von Fort Henry); Werner, Baudisch, Paul; Berlin, Th. Knaur Nachf., 1928.
  • Hungarian: Betty Zane: regény (A vadon leánya); Zigány, Árpád; Budapest, Palladis Rt. Kiadasa, 192-.
  • Italian: Betty Zane; Pitta, Alfredo; Milano, Sonzogno, 1932.
  • Norwegian: Betty Zane; Thue, Hans Fr.; Oslo, Fredhøi, 1920. (Gratis tilgang Nasjonalbiblioteket for norske IPer)
  • Serbian: Betty Zane; Kumanac, Vlado; Zagreb, HRT Naklada, 1944.
  • Slovakian: Neodovzdaný list; Dzurillová, Elena & Schnitzer, Teodor; Bratislava, Mladé letá, 1985.
  • SpanishLa heroína de Fort Henry: Betty Zane; Gols, Joan; Barcelona, Juventud, 1929.

    • Catalan Spanish: Betty Zane; Jané, Jordi; Barcelona, Joventut, 1989




Posted by on 2014-07-13 in Books


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The Spirit of the Border: A Romance of the Early Settlers in the Ohio Valley (Ohio River II) (1906)

Treaty William Penn with the Lenni Lenapes; Artist: Nathaniel Currier

Treaty William Penn with the Lenni Lenapes;
Artist: Nathaniel Currier

A.L. Burt Company, 1906
Double Action Western Magazine, January 1936

The beginning of The Spirit of the Border has its roots in the peace treaty William Penn made with the Native Americans in 1682. The peace forged then ended by Governor Gordon at the Council at Conestoga, May 26, 1728. Naturally bad feelings started developing at this breach of trust. The Delaware People of the area tried to uphold their end of the peace. (Peace Treaty)

Artist: John Watson Davis

Artist: John Watson Davis

In his introduction to Spirit of the Border Zane Grey writes:

“The author does not intend to apologize for what many readers may call the “brutality” of the story; but rather to explain that its wild spirit is true to the life of the Western border as it was known only a little more than one hundred years ago.


The frontier in 1777 produced white men so savage as to be men in name only. These outcasts and renegades lived among the savages, and during thirty years harassed the border, perpetrating all manner of fiendish cruelties upon the settlers. They were no less cruel to the redmen whom they ruled, and at the height of their bloody careers made futile the Moravian missionaries’ long labors, and destroyed the beautiful hamlet of the Christian Indians, called Gnaddenhutten, or Village of Peace.


The border needed Wetzel. The settlers would have needed many more years in which to make permanent homes had it not been for him. He was never a pioneer; but always a hunter after Indians. When not on the track of the savage foe, he was in the settlement, with his keen eye and ear ever alert for signs of the enemy. To the superstitious Indians he was a shadow; a spirit of the border, which breathed menace from the dark forests. To the settlers he was the right arm of defense, a fitting leader for those few implacable and unerring frontiersmen who made the settlement of the West a possibility.”

Lewis Wentzel loads on the run; Artist:

Lewis Wetzel loads on the run (17 yrs old); From Conquering the Wilderness; Or, a New Pictorial History of the Life and Times of the Pioneer Heroes and Heroines of America; by: Colonel Frank Triplet, 1883

Lewis Wetzel did not become a hater of the Native Americans by chance. He and his brothers 13 and 11) were captured by Wyandot raiders in 1777.  Three days after capture the boys managed to escape in spite of Lewis being shot across the sternum.

From then on Lewis Wetzel made it his mission to become the best frontiersman that he could. Skills needed for that were fighting, tracking and deductive abilities. He fought the enemies of his people as well as he could, took the scalps of the enemy and sometimes rescued captured.

Consensus was that he was just killing “varmint” and doing society a service by getting rid of those pesky red-skins. Literature, propaganda and other media of the time reflected this vision of the Native Americans.

So well was he known among the Native Americans that he gained the name “Deathwind”.

Spirit of the Border is supposed to be based on the journal of Zane Grey’s ancestor, Ebenezer Zane. We continue on from Grey’s first historical novel, Betty Zane. The time is close to the time of the Moravian massacre. Most of the characters of The Spirit of the Border are based on real life characters. Artistic license has been taken with their presentation.

Nell Wells and her sister Kate have gone West with their uncle to be Moravian missionaries to the Native Americans living there. On the way there she had met Joe Downs. Joe had come West with for adventure. Adventure always sounds so much fun. Then you are in the middle of it, and well – sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.

I wanted to come West because I was tired of tame life. I love the forest; I want to fish and hunt; and I think I’d like to—to see Indians.

Joe seems to have fallen for Nell, makes his intentions clear, is rebuffed (except the rebuff was made toward his almost identical brother Jim). Zane Grey’s career as a romance writer is now a fact. So is his tendency to create love triangles. Joe, Nell, Jim and Kate are not real life characters.

Looks are not the only thing Jim and Joe have in common. Their interest in Nell is very much similar. Differences are clear to the reader, the brothers and their friends. Jim is a Moravian preacher while Joe is anything but.

Seeing things with hind-sight is always a wonderful way to read a story. Because I am an Asperger I get side-tracked easily while maintaining my focus on the main story. Facts are seductive to me. Simon Girty had been adopted into one of  the Seneca tribes as a child. Both sides in the American Revolution used Girty to their own ends. When the Americans arrested and tried Girty for treason he felt no incentive to help them any longer.

“He’s a traitor, and Jim and George Girty, his brothers, are p’isin rattlesnake Injuns. Simon Girty’s bad enough; but Jim’s the wust. He’s now wusser’n a full-blooded Delaware. He’s all the time on the lookout to capture white wimen to take to his Injun teepee. Simon Girty and his pals, McKee and Elliott, deserted from that thar fort right afore yer eyes. They’re now livin’ among the redskins down Fort Henry way, raisin’ as much hell fer the settlers as they kin.”

Joe is quite the prankster. Pranks always have unintended consequences, some of them more serious than others. Pranks across cultures are extremely difficult to pull off and Shawnee chiefs might not be the best people to pull one on. In fact Joe and Jim get captured by the same chief and his warriors not long after.


“On March 8 and 9, 1782, a group of Pennsylvania militiamen under the command of Captain David Williamson attacked the Moravian Church Mission founded by David Zeisberger at Gnadenhutten. The Americans struck the natives in retaliation for the deaths and kidnapping of several Pennsylvanians. Although the militiamen attacked the Christian Indians, these natives were not involved in the previous incident. The Christian Delaware had abandoned Gnadenhutten the year before, but had returned to harvest crops that were still in the fields.

On March 8, the militiamen arrived at Gnadenhutten. Accusing the natives of the attack on the Pennsylvania settlement, the soldiers rounded them up and placed the men and women in separate buildings in the abandoned village overnight. The militiamen then voted to execute the captives the following morning. Informed of their impending deaths, the Christian Delaware spent the night praying and singing hymns. The next morning the soldiers took the natives in pairs to a cabin, forced the natives to kneel, and proceeded to crush their skulls with a heavy mallet. In all Williamson’s men murdered 28 men, 29 women and 39 children. There were only two survivors, who alerted the missionaries and Christian Indians of what had occurred.” (Jim Cummings)

The Spirit of the Border available on Gutenberg




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Posted by on 2014-07-12 in Books


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The Last Trail (Ohio River III) (1909)

Helen being captured by Indians - By J Watson Davis

A.L. Burt, New York 1909
Double-Action Western Nov, Dec 1936, Jan, Feb 1937 (Galactic Central)

The Last Trail is the last of the Ohio River stories. It is the last novel in which we will meet Lewis Wetzel and the Zane family of yon times. Outing Publishing were the publishers.

“In 1762 two brothers, Isaac and Jonathan Zane, aged 9 and 11, were kidnapped by Indians while returning home from school” (Myeerah)

Jonathan Zane and Lewis WetzelHelen Sheppard is traveling with her father to Fort Henry. Their guide is leading them straight into a trap but something goes wrong and the trap does not close. Instead they meet Jonathan Zane and Lewis Wetzel. The Sheppard’s were incredibly glad to have gotten away from trouble scot-free and thanked Colonel Ebenezer Zane when they arrived at Fort Henry.

Sheppard Sr. has come to Fort Henry for land. What he does not seem to have realised yet is the extent to which the place gets attacked. Colonel Zane tells them more about what to expect when it comes to attacks and the two men who rescued them.

Earnestly, as a man who loves his subject, Colonel Zane told his listeners of these two most prominent characters of the border. Sixteen years previously, when but boys in years, they had cast in their lot with his, and journeyed over the Virginian Mountains, Wetzel to devote his life to the vengeful calling he had chosen, and Jonathan to give rein to an adventurous spirit and love of the wilds. By some wonderful chance, by cunning, woodcraft, or daring, both men had lived through the years of border warfare which had brought to a close the careers of all their contemporaries.

One of the younger women in the area is kidnapped by one of the tribes in the area. Jonathan suspects that if the Girtys see Helen that she will be next.

Once again we meet Betty Zane. The Zane sister has become a widow. We also meet the third Zane brother, Isaac and his wife.

Jonathan and Helen carry the romantic element of the story with all of the complications that would become part and parcel of Zane Grey’s romantic stories of the West. Both of them are real life people along with most of the other characters of the story of the settling of Ohio by Anglos and the removal of the Native Americans in the area.

Blue Jacket (1740s-1810s);

Blue Jacket (1740s-1810s);

… the name “Ohio” is an Iroquoian Indian word? It came from the Seneca name for the Ohio River, Ohiyo, which means “it is beautiful”.

Most Native Americans were forced to leave Ohio during the Indian Removals of the 1800’s. These tribes are not extinct, but except for the descendants of Ohio Indians who escaped from Removal, they do not live in Ohio anymore. They were moved to Indian reservations in Oklahoma instead. (Native American tribes of Ohio)

Blue Jacket led Native Americans at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794 against General Anthony Wayne’s forces. It was a major defeat for Blue Jacket, resulting, ultimately, in the Treaty of Greenville (1795) which turned over half of Ohio to the Americans. (Ohio Biographies)


The Last Trail available on Gutenberg

The Last Trail available as audiobook on YouTube










Posted by on 2014-07-11 in Books


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