The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Henry Harman - Indian Fighter

By Wm. C. Pendleton © 1920

Issue: December, 1991

Editors Note: The following story was taken from Pendleton' s History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia. It may be purchased from the Crab Orchard Museum, PO Box 12, Tazewell, VA 24651. The cost is $30.00. Virginia residents add $1.35 tax. There is a $3.00 charge for shipping and handling for mail orders. It is a hardback book. Be sure to ask for a catalog of other local history books the museum offers for sale.

Early pioneers found the Blue Ridge to be a land of plenty but it was not free. There were almost daily encounters with danger and many often paid with their lives or the lives of their loved ones. The following story about Henry Harman and his two sons illustrates the tough as nails character of early mountain pioneers. (See December 1991 BACKROADS tour at mile 15.4.)

"In the fall of 1784, Henry Harman and his two sons, George and Matthias, and George Draper left the settlement to engage in a bear hunt on Tug River..."

The group was attacked by seven Indians. According to the story, George Draper left the group and hid and was not involved in the fight.

"They immediately surrounded the three white men, who had formed a triangle, each man looking out. The old gentleman bid Matthias to reserve his fire, while himself and George fired, wounding as it would seem, two of the Indians. George was a lame man, from having had white swelling in his childhood, and after firing a few rounds, the Indians noticed his limping, and one who fired at him, rushed upon him thinking him wounded. George saw the fatal tomahawk raised, and drawing back his gun, prepared to meet it. When the Indian had got within striking distance, George let down upon his head with the gun, which brought him to the ground; he soon recovered, and made at him again, half bent and head forward, intending, no doubt, to trip him up. But as he got near enough, George sprang up and jumped across him, which brought the Indian to his knees. Feeling for his knife, and not getting hold of it, he seized the Indian's [knife] and plunged it deep into his side. Matthias struck him on the head with a tomahawk, and finished the work with him."

"Two Indians had attacked the old man with bows, and were maneuvering around him, to get a clear fire, at his left breast. The Harmans, to a man, wore their bullet-pouches on the left side [to protect their hearts], and with this and his arm he so completely shielded his breast, that the Indians did not fire till they saw the old gentleman's gun nearly loaded again, when one fired on him, and struck his elbow near the joint, cutting one of the principal arteries. In a second more, the fearful string was heard to vibrate, and an arrow entered Mr. Harman's breast, and lodged against a rib. He had by this time loaded the gun and was raising it to his face to shoot one of the Indians, when the stream of blood from the wounded artery flew in the pan and so soiled his gun that it was impossible to make it fire. Raising the gun, however, had the effect to drive back the Indians, who retreated to where the others stood with their guns empty."

"Matthias, who had remained an almost inactive spectator, now asked permission to fire, which the old man granted. The Indian at whom he fired appeared to be the chief, and was standing under a large beech tree. At the report of the rifle, the Indian fell, throwing his tomahawk high among the limbs of the tree under which he stood."

"Seeing two of their number lying dead upon the ground, and two more badly wounded, they immediately made off, passing by Draper, who had left his horse, and concealed himself behind a log."

"As soon as the Indians retreated, the old man fell back on the ground exhausted and fainting from loss of blood. The wounded arm being tied up and his face washed in cold water, soon restored him. The first words he uttered were, 'We've whipped, give me my pipe.' This was furnished him, and he took a whiff, while the boys scalped one of the Indians."

"When Draper saw the Indians pass him, he stealthy crept from his hiding place and pushed on for the settlement, where he reported the whole party murdered. The people assembled and started soon the following morning to bury them; but they had not gone far before they met Mr. Harman and his sons, in to good condition to need burying."