BEFORE ROLAND CURTIN
It's difficult to fathom that there were many bloody conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers in Central Pennsylvania less than 20 years before Roland Curtin arrived in the Bald Eagle Valley in 1797.
In fact, tales of brutal attacks involve Woapalanee (meaning Bald Eagle), a Delaware Chief in the Muncee tribe, for whom Bald Eagle Mountain, Creek, and Valley are named. An important east-west trail ran along the West Branch of the Susquehanna, up what is now known as Bald Eagle Creek, and from there to Snow Shoe, Clearfield, Punxsutawney, and Kittaning. Woapalanee traveled along the length of this trail and settled for a brief time at the confluence of Logan Branch and Bald Eagle Creek, near present day Milesburg. (Logan Branch may be named for Chief Logan, born Tah-gah-jute ca. 1723 near current day Sunbury. He was son of the Iroquois Chief Shikellemus, or Shikellamy.)
On August 8th, 1778, militiamen were guarding harvesters at Smith's Farm, on Turkey Run, near Wiliamsport. Protection was necessary, because Peter Smith's wife and four children had been killed by Natives about a month earlier. Allegedly, on that August morning, Woapalanee was among attackers who killed a number of the farm workers and their guards. One militiaman of note, James Brady, was shot, struck with a tomahawk, and scalped (he had long red hair). Amazingly, he regained consciousness and staggered to a nearby cabin belonging to Jerome Vaness. Vaness bandaged his wounds and got word of the attack to Frot Muncy. A party of men fetched Brady and took him to Sunbury, where his mother was residing. James survived for five days*, long enough to relate the harrowing events and identify Woapalanee, known to him previously, as one of the attackers. Brady's brother Samuel vowed revenge,
Revenge may have been satisfied less than a year later. By one account, Woapalanee was killed in June, 1779 on the Allegheny River, near the mouth of Red Bank Creek, fifteen miles north of Kittaning. (a large bend on the Allegheny near the spot is now known as Brady Bend.) Captain Samuel Brady commanded a party of about 20 men searching for Natives thought responsible for tomahawking a Mrs Frederick Henry, bashing the head of her baby against a maple tree, and taking serval other children hostage. (An older child escaped to hide in a cornfield and as able to describe events). The militiamen came upon a band of Natives and killed them. Among the dead was Woapalanee.**
If the hills around Curtin could talk ...
* Truly amazing, since scalp wounds bleed profusely. I saw many people with far less grievous wounds require aggressive infusion of fluids or blood to get them out of shock. That he survived being shot, bashed with a tomahawk, and scalped taxes credulity.
** A less believable legend is that Woapalanee was killed by three hunters and floated down the Monongahela propped in a canoe with a cigar in his mouth (or stuffed with journey-cake).. Only after floating downstream for a distance was the canoe run aground and discovered by a Mrs. Province.
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Jerry is a retired general surgeon and a new Board Member of the Roland Curtin Foundation. He has Curtin roots extending back to 1831, through four previous generations.