Massey (Massa)was born on March 18, 1770. She married John Harbison in 1787. John was wounded in battle while serving under General Arthur St. Clair. I am assuming his wounds may have been during St. Clair’s defeat in Ohio in November of 1791. The soldiers were terribly defeated while fighting the natives during this conflict. Regardless, John was given lighter duty as a scout along the Allegheny frontier of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. John spent a lot of time away from him. Massey would eventually divorce the man.
The Escape of Massey Harbison by Larry A. Smail
At the time of her abduction, the Harbisons had a log cabin, across the Allegheny river, just south of present-day Freeport, Pennsylvania. (Freeport, PA is in southern Armstrong County.) A blockhouse was within site of the cabin. This was a place of safety in the event of an Indian uprising. On Sunday, May 22, 1792, a group of Indians invaded the log cabin pulling Massey and her two eldest children from their beds. They began plundering.
She was in her sleeping nightgown only. One of her children was killed on site when he cried and fussed. Massey managed to get outside and scream towards the blockhouse. This act of defiance almost cost her life. One of the Indians stopped the tomahawk of another claiming her as her squaw.
They proceeded to a site east of present-day, Freeport and began to go down a steep river hill. A horse fell and injured Massey’s other son. He was killed on Todd Island as they crossed. Massey stated , later, there were 32 Indians (Delaware and Seneca) with two of them being white men. The group continued on to a site about two miles north of, present-day, Butler, Pennsylvania. Most of Indians left this site leaving two Indians to guard Massey. From this site she managed to escape.
The Indians took up her trail in pursuit. At one point, she hid among a tree top while a native stood and waited. He had heard the noise of the baby. Apparently, he believed he was hearing things and left. She used her hand and cloth to keep the baby silent. Imagine the terror she must have felt at this time. (This is the scene depicted in my painting.) On May 27th, 1792, Massey reached the Allegheny near,the present-day, Six Mile Island north of Pittsburgh.(Just above Sharpsburg, PA.) She had been close to death. She had, barely, survived the elements. She had came close to giving up, but thoughts of her baby helped her persevere. Another day in the wilderness would have, no doubt, killed her. Providence!
Massey passed away on December 9, 1837.
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