Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Oct. 2, 2000

HL history: Dustin Massacre witness speaks

This is an article from an early 1900s issue of the Howard Lake Herald.

By Fred Ceser

The only remaining witness of the many events of the tragedy (Dustin Massacre) tells the story.

I will now try to give you a correct history of the killing of the Dustin family.

John Morris, Daniel Means, William Gess, and myself started out for Kingston hunting ginseng.

Near Swan Lake, we divided; Jack Morris and William Gess going on the south side of the lake.

In the afternoon, about two or three o'clock, we returned to the lake weary and thirsty, and there being a spring nearby, we went and knelt down to drink.

While drinking, a gun was heard fired and buckshot flew all around us, but neither of us was injured. Mr. Means spoke, "There are Indians," and I asked him how he knew.

We got up and went into a large willow bush and from there watched from where the shots were being fired. We saw an Indian rise up from out of a patch of cane near Sucker creek, the inlet of Swan Lake. He was about two hundred yards from us, but we could see him plainly.

"Dan" said to kill him but we had only one muzzle-loading gun and the ramrod was broken, so I said to Dan, "If I kill him, there is hard telling how many there are here," so we decided not to do it, thinking it best to return to camp and meet the other two, Jack Morris and William Gess.

While making our escape from the willow bush, another shot was fired by the same Indian, the shots flying all around us like beans, but we escaped safely.

After searching the camp for the other two, Jack and Bill also returned. It was getting to be supper time. We asked them what they had seen and they answered, "Tracks of Indians."

Then we told them that we had seen an Indian and he had fired at us, so we all decided it was best to move that night, this being about sunset.

The house we had been camping in was built by Mr. Airs. After going a mile from our shanty we turned to look back, only to find that it had been set on fire.

We were driving a team of oxen, so William and Jack drove and Dan and I walked ahead about a quarter of a mile. Going down a hill in the woods, we spied a deer standing in a marsh, and I shot him.

Dan gave an Indian whoop when he fell, and I told him, "Now you have done it, for you have frightened the other boys. They will think it is Indians."

We waited for the team to come, but waited in vain, for no team came, so we turned back to find the boys. We found the team, but the boys had fled, thinking there were Indians.

We called for them, but got no answer, but finally found them lying behind a log in the woods. I asked Bill why he ran, and he said he thought the Indians had killed us. We gathered our belongings up, and started to land at what is known as Mooers Prairie, where Henry Mooers still resides, telling him our story, but he could not believe that there were Indians around.

We went home to Howard Lake that same night. The was on a Thursday evening and as I had decided to go to Watertown to the fair on Saturday, I went to call on Mr. Morris that evening, he having owed me some money I wanted to get.

While waiting at his house I heard someone talking and Jack Morris came up to the house for his gun. I asked, "What is the matter Jack?" He replied, "The Indians have killed the Dustin family." I asked him how he knew, and he told me that their oxen returned and were all bloody, so we set out to find them.

Mr. Lindsley and Mr. Cochran took the old road and Mr. Morris and myself cut across where Mr. Miles Wegner now resides. When Mr. Kingsley and Mr. Cochran got opposite Doyle's store they came back and stopped us, telling us that they had seen an Indian. So the four of us together walked down to where they had seen the Indian.

There was a drove of cattle and a dog jumped up and went for them. Said I, "That is the Dustin dog," so on reaching the place, we found Mrs. Dustin and the two children, they having walked there from the McCallie place after Mrs. Dustin had been shot thru her back, the arrow coming thru her stomach.

I ran back to the house and got a blanket, in which we carried Mrs. Dustin. I took the baby boy and gun on my arm, the little girl being able to walk. We took them to the home of Mr. Cochran where Mr. Lafayette Morgan now resides.

That night, we gave the alarm and got a hundred men and started out to find the rest of the family. We fund three dead bodies in the wagon, Mr. Dustin was lying in the front seat, shot thru the heart by an arrow and his left hand cut off and an arrow in his cheek.

His mother was sitting in the back seat, her face being pounded and cut up so that she could hardly be recognized and her hand also cut off.

Her son, a boy of about 12 years of age, was also shot thru the heart. The remains were placed in coffins and set to Waverly for burial.

Fifty men returned to their homes and the remaining number went to Mooers Prairie. Mrs. Dustin lived a day and a half after being shot.

This was the only family killed around there because the Indians had a grudge against them, for when out hunting they would stop there and ask for food which was refused. So telling Mr. Dustin they would remember them, they departed, returning later to murder them.


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