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The Creek War of 1813 and 1814
The Kimbell - James Massacre
by Halbert, H. S. and Ball, T. H.


Ransom Kimbell with his family came from South Carolina to the Tombigbee River, settling near McGrew's Reserve about 1807, but in 1812 the family removed into the Bassett's Creek Valley, near to the home of a settler whose name was Sinquefield. When the stockade was built bearing this pioneer's name. as a protection from the dreaded Muscogee incursions, the Kimbell family with the others in that neighborhood left their plantation home for a residence in the stockade. After a time, no Indians appearing east of the Alabama, and the small stockade being crowded, the Kimbell family and the family of Abner James retired to the cooler and more roomy plantation cabin. They were spending there the days of that last week in August, 1813, knowing indeed that there was danger, but not thinking how unexpectedly Indians from the eastward might come upon them.

On Tuesday evening, August 31st, quite late in fact into the night, as young Isham Kimbell and a daughter of Abner James were sitting up with a sick member of the household, "the dogs ran out furiously and barked violently, while the sounds of running human feet were so distinctly and alarmingly heard, that Miss James, with admirable presence of mind, blew out the candle."* [* Isaac Grant, Editor at Grove Hill, Alabama; for thirty-eight years a valued friend: a careful student of local history and a first-class authority. T. H.B.] Yet when the morning came the families neglected to return to the stockade. It was their last opportunity. It seems to be deeply imbedded in human nature not to heed warnings. On Wednesday September 1, 1813, at about three o'clock in the afternoon, suddenly from the Creek bottom, Francis, called the prophet, and his warriors appeared. Ransom Kimbell was away from home. Abner James and a visitor named Walker were in sight within the house, upon whom the Indians fired; but neither man was wounded, and without stopping to make any defense for the helpless women and children, which in the circumstances was no doubt hopeless, taking along his son Thomas, fourteen years of age, and his daughter, Mary, Abner James with Walker started with all possible speed for Fort Sinquefield. These four reached the stockade in safety. Isham Kimbell, a youth of sixteen, with a little brother was at the blacksmith shop, distant from the house one hundred and fifty yards. Hearing guns and immediately after seeing the Indians in his father's dooryard killing the inmates of his home he also started at once with his brother for the stockade. The distance was a little more than a mile. The brothers avoided the roadway. The Indians saw them and fired a gun, the shot cutting, the chincapin bushes near them but harming neither. Crossing a little stream that flows between the two localities, the elder brother fell. Regaining his feet and looking round, to his surprise his little brother was not in sight. He was with him when the gun was fired, and was not hurt. and that seems to be the last certainly known of this child. Of his death or of his captivity among the Indians nothing was ever heard. Like the disappearance of Ginevra of Modena, all that was ever known was the brief record that he was not. On the first day of September, 1813, that young Kimbell boy passed strangely out from the knowledge of all the white dwellers in Clarke.

The young Isham Kimbell, finding himself alone, hurried on towards the stockade. Uncertain in regard to its direction, he walked up the inclined body of a prostrate pine to get a better view around him, but hearing Indian voices on the roadway, he hastened down from his exposed position. He was soon met, almost exhausted as he now was, by Thomas Matlock and John O'Gwynn, who had heard the guns and left the stockade to reconnoitre; and they returned with him to the fort.

Of the onslaught at the Kimbell home, in the door yard, quick, savage, and merciless as it must have been, there were no witnesses, except the helpless victims and the Muscogees. There was not much scattering of the families after the two men and the four children made their hasty retreat. The savage blows from clubs and tomahawks fell thick and fast. Scalps were removed, the domestic animals were killed, the house was pillaged, and in a short time the Muscogees were out of sight in the densely wooded region that bordered on the creek, leaving of women and children, all supposed to be dead, fourteen bodies in the house and door yard. It is said above, in a short time, and short it must have been, perhaps not more than twenty minutes, for Ransom Kimbell, away on horseback, hearing the guns, started for his home. He reached it in time only to find the work of death completed, and the Indians, like a destroying cyclone, gone, he knew not where. Seeing the fearful desolation at his lately peaceful home, sick at heart we may well know, he, too, retired to the stockade. We might suppose that on his arrival there with his grief-laden report, a force would have immediately proceeded to the home spot to care for the dead. But the men were mostly absent at their plantations, and when they came in at night-fall, not knowing the number of the Indian band, nor how soon their stockade would be attacked, they were busy posting pickets and preparing for defense. So the dead were left in the care of God. Night and darkness came, and then a gentle rain. One of the scalped women, Mrs. Sarah Merrill, a daughter of Abner James, although struck senseless by a war club, was not dead. In the night, perhaps with the cool rain drops falling on her, she revived. Her thoughts were soon for her little child. There were two children in the house, of the same size and age, and how, in the darkness, among the bloody, dead bodies, could she recognize her own? The dress of one fortunately was fastened with buttons, the dress of the other only with strings.* [* Authority: Mrs. Mary Bettis sister of Major W. J. Hearin, in 1882 a commission merchant in Mobile. Mrs. Bettis was born in 1804, and was a woman of a remarkable memory.] This the mother well knew. She found her little one, a boy one year of age, and its body was yet warm. She nursed it for a few moments and it revived. Its short hair had saved it from being scalped, and, with her living child in her arms standing with difficulty upon her feet, she, too: left that fearful spot, where there seemed to be no more life, and started slowly for the fort. At length almost exhausted, she placed her child in a hollow log, and dragged herself along. In the early morning the inmates of the fort were startled by the slow approach of a feeble, scalped woman. Soon they recognized her, some went immediately for the child, and both mother and child lived.

The remaining bodies of the dead were brought up the next day and buried near the stockade. Ransom Kimbell did not long survive. He died at Fort Madison.

NOTE.

The preceding diagram shows the locality of Fort Sinquefield and of the massacre. The letter K is used to indicate the latter as Fort S. designates the former. The squares, as marked out, are sections or square miles. The curved shading east of the fort indicates where the slope for the valley begins.

The table land here is about one hundred feet above the creek bottom, and gives to one standing there a fine view eastward to the Alabama.

In 1877, I made a special examination of the massacre locality, and wrote the following as the memorandum.

"Everything now on and around the scene of this tragic event is in keeping with what a poet or historian would like to find. Sixty-four years have passed away. The one survivor is an aged man. A growth of young pines, covering several acres, extends over and around the place of the massacre, extending westward about twenty rods. The shade is dark and deep in this pine grove. An old china tree, and the roots and decaying body of another, and a younger looking cedar, are near where the house once stood."

"It seems a pity that this solitude should ever be disturbed. It certainly ought to be left for the sunshine and the birds."

Isham Kimbell, the one survivor of the Kimbell family, became an influential citizen in Clarke county. He was for many years clerk of the Circuit court, and held other public offices. He started with nothing and accumulated by diligent effort property amounting in value to forty thousand dollars. He has many descendants now living.

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