The first warning the settlers had of an attack by the Indians was when cattle belonging to Jeremiah Payne ran bellowing toward his house, their sides full of arrows and spears. He at once took his wife, Sarah (McCoy), and little son, Lewis, to the fort at Vienna. Then he started through the woods toward the house of his brother, Elias Payne, five miles away. He later stated that he ran in what he called a “turkey trot” all the way, but he arrived there too late. The red fiends had been there before him and had already done their deadly work. Elias’s wife, Rachel, and seven children had been killed and scalped and their mangled and mutilated remains cremated in the burning house.
Elias Payne and his neighbor, Isaac Coffman, were in the woods a few miles from their homes robbing a bee tree when they were suddenly fired upon by the Indians. Isaac was killed instantly and was scalped. It was not until several years afterward that his bleached bones were found. Elias Payne was shot and fatally wounded but managed to escape from the savages and made his way several miles through the forest. His faithful dog, apparently realizing his master’s helpless condition, returned to the Vienna blockhouse the next day and led Jeremiah Payne to the place where his brother lay unconscious and dying, but before help could be brought to him the wounded man was dead. Jeremiah buried him on the spot lest any prowling Indiana find and mutilate the body.
The Indians visited several of the houses simultaneously in an effort to strike a telling blow and make their escape before an organized resistance could be made against them. Mrs. Richard Collings and her seven children were caught by the Indians as she was trying to make her way to the home of her father-in-law. Her husband was away from home in government Ranger Service at the time. A foot log across Pigeon Roost Creek marked the spot where they died.
Mrs. Rachel (Huffman) Collings, wife of Henry Collings, was also caught by the redskins as she was returning to her home from a visit to the cabin of Elias Payne. She was mangled in a most revolting manner, her unborn baby being scalped and laid in her arms after the Indians had worked their will with her. The incentive to such a diabolical deed was the five dollar British reward offered for each American scalp!
However, at the cabin of William E. Collings the savages received a severe setback, losing a half-dozen of their band. At the time he was entertaining his old friend, Captain Norris. They were sitting in front of the cabin eating watermelon when they spotted the savages in war paint skulking through the bushes and immediately knew that they were on the war path.
William Collings was famed throughout the country west of the Alleghenies as a dead shot with the old flint-lock rifle. Well knowing his deadly aim, the savages sought to surprise him and his family, but were foiled in this by his keen eyesight. Before the attackers could either reach the cabin or get out of range two were killed. Another standing in the doorway of Henry Collings’ cabin was made a “good Indian” by one of the elder Collings’ bullets. A fourth redskin pursuing thirteen-year old John Collings, who had been sent to drive up the cows, with upraised tomahawk and almost within reach of the lad was shot through the heart by the old rifleman. John dashed safely into the shelter of the cabin.
Henry Collings was shot through the head while working in a flax field. He was found in a corner of the rail fence two days later with barely enough life in him to tell the name of the Indian who shot him. “I started to jump the fence, but Little Kill Buck shot me!” were his last words, showing that he knew his mind, and proving that the attackers were known to the settlers.
John Morris, another of the settlers was away serving in the Militia at the time of the attack. His mother, wife and children were all killed by the Indians as they were trying to make their way to the home of William Collings. What a shock he must have received on his eventual return home!
One of the most tragic events of the massacre was the death of the baby of Mrs. Jane (Collings) Biggs. Late in the afternoon Mrs. Biggs with the baby and two other children, went to look for their cow. Pausing at the edge of the clearing as she was returning, she was horrified to see her cabin surrounded by a howling and dancing band of painted savages, who had set fire to the structure. She started back through the woods toward the fort of her brother, Zebulon Collings, about five miles away, but on the way was overtaken by the redskins. She crouched in the bushes alongside the path, while the Indians passed by within a few feet of her. Just as they had passed her place of concealment the baby began to cry, and the Indians halted. Mrs. Biggs, to stifle the baby’s cries, thrust the corner of her shawl into its mouth. The child struggled to free its face in an effort to breather and made a slight sound. Mrs. Biggs, in her fierce anxiety to still the sound held the shawl even closer to the little face until the Indians finally passed out of sight. As soon as they were gone, she withdrew her hand only to find that in her fear she had suffocated her child. She reached her brother’s blockhouse at daybreak the following morning after wandering all night in the woods carrying the corpse of her baby.
Dr. John Richey, who lived about five miles southwest of his father-in-law, William Collings, was at work in the field when he espied the enemy. He hastened home and told his wife, Sichy, what he had seen. Taking her upon his back he went through the cornfield to the woods, where quietly and cautiously they waited for the dawn. When they dared risk traveling, they left their hiding place and sought refuge at her brother’s fort. On October 12, 1812, about five weeks after the massacre their first child, Richard, was born. It is said that Dr. John Richey and Sichy Collings were the first couple to be married in Scott County.
Mrs. Betsy Johnson, wife of Dan, and sister of Mrs. Elias Payne also reached the fort without being molested. During the afternoon she had heard the shooting and the screams of children and justly realizing the cause left her home and started to the blockhouse at once. While on the way to the fort she looked back and saw her cabin being consumed by flames. She was thankful she had not tarried there.
Ben Yount, who also lived in the community, hearing the shooting of guns and comprehending the danger, put his wife on his horse behind him. They took their children in their arms and made their way to the fort on Silver Creek, eight miles southeast of Vienna. That very night they became the proud, but anxious parents of another daughter, whom they named Rachel.
A Mrs. Beal, who lived in the settlement and whose husband was with Captain Buckner Pittman at Vincennes at the time, heard the frenzied Indians. Taking her two little ones she went to a sinkhole for protection. There she remained until eight or nine o’clock that night. Then under cover of darkness she made her way to the fort on Silver Creek, arriving there at about two o’clock the following morning. These people, with the four who were at the successfully defended cabin of William E. Collings, were all that were left of the Pigeon Roost Settlement.
At the cabin of William E. Collings, the Indians realized they had serious opposition to contend with. One of them tried the stratagem of putting on the dress and shawl of Mrs. Henry Collings, and approaching in that disguise. But the keen eye of Collings detected the deception and his deadly rifle ended the life of one more redskin. After that the enemy kept carefully under cover, and apparently divided their forces, part going west in search of easier prey and part remaining to watch the Collings house. But the occupants of the house were alert and vigilant and gave no opportunity for attack while daylight lasted. The defense of the Collings house, though the active part of it lasted hardly more than an hour, served as a check that probably saved many lives, for evening was approaching, and the sound of the firing served as a warning to the scattered settlers.
After dark Collings and Norris realized that the situation was more dangerous, as the Indians might succeed in setting fire to the cabin, and they decided to slip away from it and get to the blockhouse of Zebulon Collings. John, Lydia and Capt. Norris went ahead, taking one of the guns, and Collings guarded the rear. The first three gained the adjoining cornfield without molestation, but as Collings passed the corncrib, an Indian who was concealed behind it fired at him, but without hitting him. He raised his rifle, but found that the Indian’s bullet had broken the loc, and the gun could not be fired. He called to Capt. Norris to bring back the other gun, but Norris either did not hear or did not heed. As the Indians did not attempt to come to close quarters, he made his way into the corn, where he became entirely separated from the others, and the Indians followed him. He passed through the corn and went through the woods until he came to the cabin of his son-in-law, Dr. John Richey, where he hid behind a large log. He heard the Indians looking for him, but they did not find his hiding place. At daybreak he started for Zebulon’s fort, which he reached without further trouble.