Sturdy Self-Reliance and a Readiness to Sternly Chastise

“Dar am mighty pore help, when de Injuns am out dar killing the calves.”

E. I. Blair, Early History of Grime’s County  (1930)

I recently told the story of the congregation of Fairview Church standing up to the drunken ruffians, Stevens and Macrae, and suggested that the sturdy self-reliance of the Fairview Christians was a worthy example to us all.  After Stevens and Macrae were sternly chastised by the Fairview Christians, you will recall that they rode away to a place called Roans Prairie to recruit “guns” for a counterattack, that they returned to Fairview some hours later, and that they were, once again, sternly chastised by those sturdy and self-reliant Christians.

Stevens and Macrae likely retreated from Fairview to Roans Prairie on a road that is nowadays called County Road 218.  This was once a thoroughfare of some consequence, but it fell into obscurity when the State made straighter and smoother highways a little distance east and west of it.  Here is County Road 218 today, one hundred and thirty years after Stevens and Macrae galloped down it in the dark, their hearts full of vengeance and their bellies full of strong corn liquor.

Before there were state highways and the odious policy of numbering roads, County Road 218 was called the Kennard Road.  In the 1840s, a man named Anthony. D. Kennard lived a short distance northeast of where this picture was taken, and his neighbor to the south was a man named Joshua Hadley.  Hadley’s house stood at the top of a small sandstone knob known as Ratliff Hill, which you can see the road beginning to climb just before it disappears into the trees.  Because Hadley’s house was sturdier than those of his neighbors, it was called Hadley’s Fort and used as a community redoubt when Indians descended on the settlement on Roans Prairie.

Here is the old Kennard Road where it mounts the flank of Ratliff Hill.

Anthony Kennard was a man of some consequence, so it seems his house was also sturdy and used as a community “fort.”  It was therefore to these two “forts” that the people of Roan’s Prairie who were more modestly housed retreated when Indians made their last deadly attack on the settlement in 1841.

The Indians, who may have been Comanche, killed and scalped a woman called Mrs. Taylor, the grisly business likely occurring on the flank of Ratliff Hill, someways east (left in the photograph) of the Kennard Road. 

When the alarm was first raised, Mrs. Taylor retreated with her two children to Hadley’s Fort, while her husband, at work in a distant field, retreated to Kennard’s, a mile or so away.  When it appeared that the Indians had been repulsed and were gone, Mrs. Taylor, “who had become greatly excited,” flew from the fort with her children, running down Ratliff Hill towards Kennard’s house and her husband.  The impetuous Mrs. Taylor was, alas, captured, slain, scalped, and later buried where she fell.  Her grave, now lost, was marked with a chunk of sandstone pulled from Ratliff hill.  Her two children, a boy and a girl, were taken captive, the boy incommoded by an arrow through his hand.

The two Taylor children were, I am happy to say, recovered and returned to their father by a posse of men who did not waste time sucking their thumbs and wondering what they had done to deserve such abuse from the Indians.  They were instead marked by 

Sturdy self-reliance and a readiness to sternly chastise.

* * * * *

Sarah Kennard was the wife of Anthony, and she appears to have been neither stern nor disposed to chastise.  Although no doubt lovely in any number of ways (she bore Anthony eight children), she was timid and meek and all too easy for ruffians and marauders to push around.  At least she was so when an old negro woman rushed into the Kennard house and informed her mistress that a band of Indians was in the pasture butchering the Kennard calves.  With agitation not unlike that which overtook the unfortunate Mrs. Taylor just before her impetuous and fatal flight down Ratliff Hill, the old negro woman asked Mrs. Kennard, “What shall we do?  What shall we do?”

To which Mrs. Kennard passively (and no doubt correctly) answered that they could do nothing but “trust in the Lord.”

Since I have not myself strode into a pasture to singly remonstrate with a band of Indians who were butchering my calves, I cannot fault Sarah Kennard too harshly.  And I must, of course, remove my hat to her trust in Providence. But I know in my heart that the old negro woman had something closer to the proper spirt of self-reliance when she threw up her hands and answered Mrs. Kennard in these words:

“Dar am mighty pore help, when de Injuns am out dar killing the calves.”

2 thoughts on “Sturdy Self-Reliance and a Readiness to Sternly Chastise

  1. Pingback: Sturdy Self-Reliance and a Readiness to Sternly Chastise | Reaction Times

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