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The Wood River Massacre

 

 

The Wood River Massacre

Source:  The Alton Evening Telegraph, January 8, 1899

"A Reliable and Trustworthy Account" by Volney P. Richmond

After Consultation with the Descendants of the Moore Family

         

             Since my earliest recollection, I have heard and read of the Wood River massacre and have often had the place pointed out me where it occurred and my first acquaintance was with Capt. Able Moore and his brother, and with several of Capt. Moore's children. Major Frank Moore cannot tell when he did not know me. I used to often stop and hear pioneer stories from his father. I knew, but was not intimately acquainted with the others. Some years ago someone published an account of the Wood River massacre, and so far from correct that I answered it and told what I knew. By that paper the scene was laid near where the two railways and wagon road bridges crosses Wood river at a place called Milton, some two miles or more from where I knew it to have taken place. Not long after I met Major Moore and after thanking me for making the correction, said that I was nearer to it than anyone who had written before me, out that I was still somewhat off. I said to him I would try again and with his help and his sister's, Mrs. Lydia Williams, I thought I could get a correct history. There has been nothing heretofore written (not even my own) that is perfectly reliable and this being a part of the early history of Madison county and an Indian massacre of the War of 1812 to 1815 should be. Of course, there is no one who could personally vouch for the truth, but the children of Capt. Able Moore would be the nearest to the mark. They have often heard the story from father and mother, and I too have heard it from their father.

 

          The Wood River massacre of the township of Wood River, and county of Madison and State of Illinois, took place on the 10th day of July 1814, in the southeast quarter of section 5 of Wood River township. The parties massacred were Mrs. Rachel Reagan and her two children, Elizabeth (Betsey) aged 7 years, and Timothy, aged 3 years; two children of Capt. Abel Moore, William aged 10 and Joel aged 8 years, and two children of William Moore, John aged 10 and George aged 3 years. The party started from the house of Reason Reagan to spend the day at Wm. Moore's, the farm now owned by Mrs. Wm. Badley. Returning in the afternoon by way of Able Moore's farm (now owned by Geo. Cartwright) two of whose children, William and Joel, started home with them to get some green beans. Miss Hannah Bates, Mrs. Abel Moore's sister, visiting there, also started with them, to remain at Mrs. Reagan's, but after going a part way, suddenly changed her mind, as if warned by some presentment, and against the earnest entreaties of Mrs. Reagan, retraced her steps and hastened back home. From where she turned back she could not have been more than two or three hundred yards from where the body of Mrs. Reagan was found. Mrs. Reagan and the children were all tomahawked and scalped, and they remained on the ground where they fell all night, the Indians having stripped them of all their clothing.

 

          William Moore, having returned that day from Fort Butler, near the site of the village of St. Jacob, to look after the women and children at home, became alarmed as night approached, the children not returning, and went in search of them, going by Abel Moore's. Mrs. Wm. Moore, who was a sister of Mrs. Reagan, also went on horseback, going a different route from that her husband had taken. Although they did not meet until after they had returned home, they both found the lifeless bodies in the darkness lying by the wayside, and each placed a hand upon the bare shoulder of Mrs. Reagan. Mr. Moore returned by way of Abel Moore's to notify them and prepare for what might come to pass. At first Mrs. Moore thought the children being tired, had fallen asleep and stooped to pick up the youngest child, but as she did so a crackle and a sudden flash of light from a burning hickory tree nearby prevented her. Thinking it was the Indians in ambush, she sprung upon her horse and reached home before her husband. Mrs. Reagan and her two children were killed nearest to the place from where they started on their return. The others were lying farther on two at a place. One, the youngest child, three years of age, was living when found. A message was sent to Waterloo for the nearest physician, who dressed the wounds of the little one, but it did not survive the operation.

 

          A young man named John Harris, living at Able Moore's, was sent that night on horseback to Fort Russell, located in the township of that name, Captain Moore commanding, and to Fort Butler, Captain Whitesides commanding, to give the alarm. Leaving the latter place about one o'clock the same night about seventy of the rangers from both forts, among whom were James and Solomon Preuitt, and arrived at Moore's fort on the farm owned by the late Wm. Gill, now by a German named Klopmeyer, about sunrise, and proceeded to the scene of the tragedy. They were enabled to follow the track of the broken limbs on the bushes which the Indians did, as was supposed to tantalize the helpless women, thinking there were no men near enough to pursue them, and further on by the way they made through the tall prairie grass, and also by blood. The Indians when they learned they were pursued frequently bled themselves to facilitate their speed and give them greater endurance. In hot pursuit the Rangers pressed upon the fleeing red men, overtaking them between sunset and dark at a small stream near Sangamon river, about seventy miles distant in Morgan county, named Indian creek in honor of the event. One was shot and killed in the top of a fallen tree. A bullet from the rifle of James Preuitt stopped with him. The other nine (they being ten in number) died from exhaustion, except one who survived and escaping reached camp, and afterward repeated the facts at the New Orleans treaty, 1815. Dark overtaking the Rangers, they camped at the creek and returned home the following morning.

 

          The morning after the "massacre" the relatives and friends prepared to bury their dead and this was no small undertaking. There was nothing like any sawed lumber in the whole country. They had very few tools, other than axes and hoes. They decided to bury them where a few of the first settlers had been buried some time before, and the first burying ground in this part of the county in section 24 and four miles nearly east from their homes. The only way to move there was by oxen and rough-made sleds. The graves being dug there was a vault sunk at the bottom, the shape of a coffin and lined with slabs split from the trees nearby, and as near as possible to the form of planks, and the vaults lined with them and covered with the same. They were buried in three graves, Mrs. Reagan and her children in one, Capt. Moore's two children in another, and Wm. Moore's two children in the third.

 

          When I was first at this graveyard, there was a heavy growth of timber and an old church, built by setting posts in the ground and siding up with rough split boards, and covered with the same. "Moore's Settlement" in the forks of Wood River, was began in 1808 by George, William and Abel Moore, William Bates, Ransom Reagan, Mr. Wright, Samuel Williams, Mr. Vickery and some others and their families. On George Moore's farm was a fort, where the residents used to assemble when there appeared to be danger from Indian raids. At the time of the massacre, but one man remained at the fort. That was Geo. Moore, a gunsmith, who made and repaired rifles for the Rangers and neighbors. Of those who took refuge in the fort that night, there is probably but one now living, Mrs. Nancy Hedden, a daughter of Captain Abel Moore. She resides at San Diego, Cal., and was then about a year and a half old.

 

          Such is the true history of the Wood River Massacre, 1814. I have taken much time to trace out all necessary facts and I believe the foregoing to be perfectly true. I have been on the grounds and passed in sight many times. I have been well acquainted with many of the families all my days and am interested in a true statement.   V. P. Richmond

 

 

The Wood River Massacre

Source: History of Madison County, Illinois, Illustrated, With Biographical Sketches of Many Prominent Men and Pioneers

Published By W. R. Brink & Co., Edwardsville, IL; 1882: Pages 81-82

 

          The most startling and cruel atrocity ever committed by the Indians within the limits of Madison county was the Wood River massacre, on the tenth of July 1814, by which seven persons, one woman and six children, lost their lives. This tragedy took place in the forks of Wood river, between two and three miles east of the present Upper Alton. The victims were the wife and two children of Reason Reagan, two children of Abel Moore, and two children of William Moore. At the beginning of the War of 1812-14, the citizens of the county, who lived at the exposed locations on the frontier, sought refuge in the forts and block-houses; but, as no Indians made their appearance and the Rangers were constantly on the alert, scouring the country to the north and east, the most began to feel so secure that in the summer of 1814 they returned to their farms and dwellings. There were six, or eight families residing at that time in the forks of Wood river. The men were mostly absent from home in ranging service. At the residence of George Moore on the east branch of Wood river, a block-house had been built to which the women and children could flee should danger be apprehended. The massacre occurred on a Sabbath afternoon. Reagan had gone two, or three miles from home to attend church, leaving his wife and two children at the house of Abel Moore, which was about a mile distant from where he lived, and half-way between his house and the block-house. About four o'clock in the afternoon Mrs. Reagan started back to her own dwelling, intending to return to Abel Moore's in a short time. She was accompanied by her own two children, and the four children of Abel and William Moore. A little afterward two men of the neighborhood passed along the road in an opposite direction to that taken by Mrs. Reagan. One of them heard at a certain place, a low call, as of a boy, which he did not answer, and for a repetition of which he did not delay. When it began to grow dark uneasiness was felt at the absence of the Moore children, and William Moore came to Abel Moore's, and not finding them there passed on toward Reagan's, while his wife started in a direct line, not following the road, for the same place. William Moore now came back with the startling that some one had been killed by the Indians. He had discovered a human body lying on the ground which by reason of the darkness and his haste, he was unable to identify. The first thought was to find a refuge in the block-house! Mr. Moore desired his brother's family to go by the road directly to the fort, while he would pass by his own house and take his own family with him, but the night was dark, the road passed through a heavy forest, and the women and children chose to accompany William Moore though the distance to the fort, by the road only one mile, was thereby nearly doubled. The feeling of the party, as they groped their way through the dark woods, may be more easily imagined than described. Sorrow for the supposed loss of relatives and children, was mingled with the horror at the manner of their death, and fear for their own safety. Silently they passed on till they came to the dwelling of William Moore, when he exclaimed, as if relieved from some dreadful apprehension, "Thank God, Polly is not killed!" The horse which his wife had ridden was standing near the house. As they let down the bars and gained admission to the yard, his wife came running out , exclaiming, "They are killed by the Indians, I expect." The whole party then departed hastily for the block-house, to which place, all the neighbors, to whom warning had been communicated by signals, gathered by daybreak. It has been mentioned that Mrs. William Moore, as well as her husband, had gone in search of the children. Passing by different routes, they did not meet on the way, nor at the place of slaughter. Mrs. Moore who was on horseback, carefully noted, as she went, every discernable object till at length she saw a human figure, lying near a log. There was not sufficient light to tell the size, or sex, of the person, and she called over again and again the name of one and another of her children, supposing one of them to be asleep. At length, she alighted, and examined to object more closely. What must have been her sensations as she placed her hand upon the back of a naked corpse, and felt, on further examination, the quivering flesh from which the scalp had recently been torn? In the gloom of the night she could indistinctly see the figure, of the little child of Mrs. Regan's sitting so near the body of its mother as to lean its head, first one side, then the other, on the insensible and mangled body, as as she leaned over the little one said --- "The black man raised his axe and cutted them again." She saw no further, but thrilled with horror and alarm, hastily remounted her frightened horse, and quickly hurried home where she heated water, intending by that means, to defend herself from the savage foe. There was little rest that night at the fort. The women and children of the neighborhood, with the few men who were not absent with the Rangers, crowded together, not knowing but that at any minute the Indians might begin their attack. Seven were missing, and the bodies of these lay within a mile, or two, mangled and bleeding in the forest. At three o'clock in the morning a messenger was dispatched with the tidings to Fort Russell. At dawn of day the scene of tragedy was sought, and the bodies gathered from burial. They were buried the same day, in three graves, carefully dug, with boards laid beneath, beside, and above the bodies. There were no men to make coffins. "The Indians had built a large fire, and also blazed the way to make the whites think that there was a large party. The news soon spread, and it was not long before Gen. Whiteside, with nine others, gave pursuit. Among the number were James Preuitt, Abraham Preuitt, James Stockden, Wm. Montgomery, Peter Wagoner and others, whose descendants now live in Moro and Wood River. The weather was extremely hot, and some of their horses gave out and fell beneath their riders. Gen. Whiteside gave out entirely. His orders was to keep up the pursuit. It was on the second day in the evening, that they came in sight of the Indians, on the dividing ridge of the Sangamon river. There stood at that time a lone cottonwood tree on the ridge, and this several Indians had climbed to look back. They saw their pursuers, and from that tree they separated and went in different directions, all making for the timber. When the whites came to the spot where the Indians had divided, they concluded to divide and pursue the Indians separately. James Preuitt and Abraham took the trail of one of the Indians. James Preuitt having the fastest and best horse, soon came within sight of his Indian. He rode up to within thirty yards of him and shot him in the thigh. The Indian fell, but managed to get to a tree top that was blown down. Abraham Preuitt soon came up, and they concluded to ride in on the Indian and finish him, which they did by Abraham shooting and killing him where he lay. In his shot-pouch was found the scalp of Mrs. Regan. The Indian raised his gun, but was too weak to fire, and had also lost his flint, or perhaps he might have killed one of the pursuers. The rifle is supposed to be in the hands of the Preuitt family yet. It was somewhere near where Virden now stands that the party came upon them. The Indians hid in the timber and in a drift in the creek. Night coming on is all that saved them. It was ascertained at the treaty afterwards at Galena that only Indians escaped, and that was the chief. The Indians bled themselves on account of the heat to prevent them from fainting. Solomon Preuitt, who was not in pursuit, assisted in the burial of Mrs. Reagan and the children. He hauled them in a little one-horse sled to the old burial ground south of Bethalto, where a simple stone marks their last resting place. There is also buried in the same burying ground an Indian girl who was captured by Abraham Preuitt during one of the campaigns in the War of 1812. The Indians had been pursued into the Winnebago Swamps, and Abraham Preuitt hearing firing in a distant part of the swamp concluded to go and see what was the matter. On nearing the spot he found David Carter and one other firing at the little Indian child who was mired and could not get out. He called them cowards and ordered them to cease firing on the little Indian child and brought it home with him. She lived to the age of fifteen, being about six years old at the time of capture. She was always of a wild nature."* [*From an article furnished by E. K. Preuitt.]

 

The Wood River Massacre

Source: History of Madison County, Illinois, Illustrated, With Biographical Sketches of Many Prominent Men and Pioneers

Published By W. R. Brink & Co., Edwardsville, IL; 1882: Page 416

 

          Abel Moore, one of the pioneers, was a native of North Carolina, and migrated to Kentucky in 1804, and thence to Illinois in 1808. He located in section 4, now Wood River township. His family then consisted of his wife, Mary (nee Bates), and two children, William and Joel, then respectively ten and eight years of age, both of whom were among the victims of the Wood River massacre. Eight other children were born at the old homestead in section 4, as follows: John, Nancy, Sarah, Joshua, Rachel, Lydia, Anna, and Franklin. Only three of this large family are now living; Nancy, who resides in California; Lydia, widow of Madison Williams, who lives near Bethalto, in section 2; and Major Franklin Moore, of Upper Alton. The latter has a history as eventful as his father before him, having served with distinction through the entire late war. Indeed, he has the honor of holding the first commission in the state under the "Three-hundred-thousand call." Such were the services he rendered his country on the battle-field, that he received the soubriquet of "Fighting Frank." Able Moore died in 1846, at the age of 63. Mrs. Moore died the day before her husband, aged 61. They lie side by side on the very spot of ground where their pioneer cabin was constructed. In the sale of the old homestead the children reserved this sacred spot as a lasting tribute to their departed parents. The old farm is now owned by George Cartwright. George and William Moore, brothers of Able, came with the latter and their father as far as Ford's Ferry, on the Ohio river, where they separated from Abel, and went to Boon's Lick, Missouri, where their father died. The following year the brothers and their families came to Illinois, and settled, near their brother Abel in section 10. William's family consisted of his wife and two sons, John and George, both of whom were also victims at the Wood River massacre. Two children were afterward born to the family. They all moved to Pike county, Illinois, in 1830. George had no children when he came, but two were born while residing her, Margaret and Walter. The family migrated to Independence, Mo., in 1837. Mr. William Gill now occupies and owns his farm. Both William and George were gun-makers, and followed their trade in the township. The latter also manufactured powder. Ransom Reagan and family came about the same time as the Moores, but we have been unable to glean any satisfactory history of their nativity, etc. A lone apple tree now stands near where their cabin was located, at the time of the death of Mrs. Reagan and her children at the hands of the Indians."

 

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          The first monument erected as a memorial to the victims of the Wood River Massacre was dedicated Sept. 11, 1910. It was placed near the actual location of the massacre, in the ravine just beyond the Hill-Top sales barn and about the spot where Hannah Bates left the group to return to the Abel Moore house.

 

"TO THE MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE WOOD RIVER MASSACRE JULY 10, 1814 WILLIAM & JOEL AGED 10 & 8 YRS. SONS OF CAPT ABEL & MARY MOORE. JOHN & GEO MOORE AGED 10 & 3 YRS SONS OF WILLIAM MOORE. RACHEL REAGAN & HER CHILDREN ELIZABETH & TIMOTHY AGED 7 & 3 YRS THIS OCCURRED ABOUT 300 YDS IN THE REAR OF THIS MONUMENT.   DEDICATED SEPT. 11 1910 BY THE DESCENDENTS OF CAPT. ABEL MOORE."

 

 

    

                  

          A new monument (photos shown below) was dedicated Sept. 24, 1980 in a more visible spot for public viewing. It is almost directly across the Highway 140 entrance to the Gordon Moore Alton Community Park. Gordon Moore was no relation to the other Moores, however the park was built on the farm of the pioneer Abel and Mary Bates Moore. Abel Moore and Mary Bates Moore are buried where their house formerly stood, just a short distance from the new monument.

 

In Remembrance Of The Pioneer Days Of This Area, And To The Memory Of The Victims Of The Wood River Massacre, Who Were Killed By Indians Near This Site On July 10, 1814.

Rachel Reagan, Elizabeth 7, Timothy 3, Wife And Children Of Reason Reagan.

John 10, George 3, Sons Of William Moore.

William 8, Joel 11, Sons Of Capt. Abel Moore.

 

 

The Victims Are Buried in Vaughn Cemetery, On Highway 111 South Of The Airport.

Capt. Abel And Mary Moore Are Buried 100 Yards North Of This Site.

Gravesite Of Abel & Mary [Bates] Moore

 

 

Gravesite Of Abel & Mary [Bates] Moore

Small Stone Inside The Burial Site

   

 

Click here to view the Vaughn Cemetery where the massacre victims are buried.         Read Capt. Moore's obituary

 

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WOMAN AND CHILDREN MURDERED BY INDIANS NINETY-FOUR YEARS AGO - GRAVE TO BE DECORATED

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 23, 1908

On the 30th day of May this year, memorial exercises will be held in the Vaughn cemetery east of East Alton under the bluffs, south of the Callahan farm. The farm upon which the historic old cemetery is located is still owned by a Vaughn, Charley Vaughn being now the possessor and occupant. Many pioneer citizens and prominent men and women in the development of the county are buried there, and there also rests the bodies of the woman and six children who were massacred by the Indians near East Alton on Sunday afternoon, July 10, 1814. The woman was Mrs. Reason Reagan, and two of the children were hers. Two others were children of Mr. and Mrs. Abel Moore and two the offspring of Mr. and Mrs. William Moore. The Indians caught them away from the block house and far from help, and killed and scalped them. Their graves this year will be covered deep with flowers, and regular memorial services will be conducted in the cemetery. An address will be delivered by County Superintendent of Schools Uzzel, of Alton.

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MONUMENT TO THE WOOD RIVER MASSACRE .... GRANDCHILDREN OF CAPT. ABEL MOORE HAVING MONUMENT ERECTED

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 23, 1910

Under the supervision of Dr. _. Moore, a son of the late Major Franklin Moore, a fine monument is being erected on a little piece of ground on the Fosterburg road which will be in memory of the tragedy that happened on that farm which has long been known as the "Wood River Massacre." The massacre happened on the 10th day of July, 1814, and seven persons were murdered by the Indians. The house in which the massacre occurred was the home of Capt. Abel Moore, father of the late Major Franklin Moore, and two sons of Capt. Moore were among the seven murdered. Two others were nephews of his. There are twenty-one grandchildren of Capt. Abel Moore in this vicinity, and they have been considering for some time building a monument to the memory of the victims of the massacre. Last winter they got together and decided to appropriate $250 for a monument, and placed the matter in the hands of Dr. Moore, who is having the monument built. Work of building it has been progressing several days, and it will probably be completed by Wednesday evening. The contract for the construction of the monument is in the hands of Rev. Farley, a preacher from Wichita Falls, Texas, who is a friend of John Moore of that town. The contract was to have been given to an Ohio man, but Mr. Moore sent the preacher here to do the work, as he is an expert in concrete construction work. Rev. Farley was having his vacation from his church in Wichita Falls, and this is the manner in which he is spending his vacation. The monument is being constructed of concrete, and will be six feet square on the ground, tapering to a point twenty feet high. A little piece of ground has been set aside for the monument in the corner of the farm on which the massacre happened. The square of land is next to the road leading from Upper Alton to Fosterburg, and the monument will be in plain view to people passing along the road. The farm on which the massacre occurred is between the Roberts place and the Minard Joehl farm. The little square of ground on which the monument will stand will be fixed so it will never be sold, no matter how many different hands the farm goes through in years to come. A dedication service will be held at the new monument some Sunday afternoon after the work is completed, and the grandchildren get together to make arrangements for its dedication.

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WOOD RIVER MONUMENT UNVEILING SOON

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 2, 1910

Attorney Riley Owens will deliver an address on early settlers of Madison county at the unveiling of the Moore monument to the victims of the Wood River massacre next Sunday. The forbears of Mr. Owen came to Madison county in 1802, and the family has always since been prominent in the county. The Wood River massacre occurred in 1814.

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LARGE CROWD AT MONUMENT DEDICATION - CROWD WAITS HOUR IN SUN

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 12, 1910

The dedication of the Wood River massacre memorial monument on the Fosterburg road, east of Upper Alton, Sunday afternoon, drew an immense crowd. It was a quiet, reverential crowd that assembled, and notwithstanding the fact that the sun was beaming down with its rays uninterfered with by any covering, an immense crowd waited patiently for an hour after the starting time, for the program to begin. J. Nic Perrin of Belleville, who was one of the principal speakers, failed to get there on time, but he got there finally after the program was under way and he took his part. The monument, paid for by the grandchildren of Able Moore, was erected by a Methodist preacher of Wichita Falls, Tex., who was taking his vacation and came here to help raise money for his church. He claimed to be an expert concrete worker and he took the job. The monument is 20 feet high and has a 9 foot base. On one fact of the lower part is the inscription: "To the memory of the victims of the Wood River massacre, July 10, 1814; William and Joel 10 and 8, sons of Capt. Abel and Mary Moore; John and George 10 and 3, sons of William Moore; Rachel Reagen and Elizabeth and Timothy, 7 and 3. This occurred about 100 yards in the rear of this monument. Dedicated Sept. 11, 1910 by the descendants of Capt. Abel Moore."   Frank E. Moore of Chicago, a newspaper man, served as chairman for the program. A quartet consisting of Jay Dodge, Alan Atchison, Fidel Deem and Joel Williams sang several numbers, opening with "America." Rev. T. N. Marsh offered the invocation, followed by the opening remarks by Frank E. Moore. The quartet sang "The Sword of Bunker Hill." The unveiling recitation given by Miss Edith Culp was a brief historical account of the incident that was being commemorated, and at the close of her address the string was pulled by Miss Hazel Moore of Wichita Falls, Tex., and the monument was unveiled. Miss Edith Culp then formally made the presentation of the monument to the county, and it was accepted by John U. Uzzell. The quartet then sang "Illinois."  Norman G. Flagg gave a historical address reciting the story of the massacre of the Moore and Reagen children and Mrs. Reagen by Indians, and the subsequent attempts of the settlers to avenge their deaths. Mr. Flagg made a good address that was instructive, and he showed ability as a public speaker.  J. Nic Perrin then gave a brief historical talk on the troubles with the Indians in the early days. E. K. Preuitt, one of the oldest of the old settlers, then made a talk recalling the early days. The program was closed with singing of "Nearer by God to Thee."  The wagon road was shoked with buggies and automobiles for a long distance in the neighborhood of the monument, and there were many who went on foot to attend the dedication.

 

 

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