This monument located on U.S. 36 east of Piqua near Fletcher reads "THE DILBONE MASSACRE - In memory of Henry and Barbara Dilbone who were killed by the Indians on their farm to the north August 18, 1812. Buried in this place. - Top photo courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society -
The Dilbone Massacre
Millwheel Monument Sign of Long Ago Tragedy
By Judy Deeter
PIQUA - Few motorists stop to look at the old “millwheel monument” on US Route 36 near Fletcher. The monument recalls an unimaginable day of terror and the people who perished nearby. The “day of terror” was August 18, 1813 and the family involved was that of Henry Dilbone, Jr.
In about 1806, when Henry and his wife, Barbara, were in their early twenties, they left their Pennsylvania home and migrated west to Ohio.
The Ohio countryside in those days was a dangerous place and it took a hardy individual to live here. Most pioneers made their living from the then-uncivilized Miami County land—where animals were wild and sometimes people were wild too.
Henry Dilbone was determined to make a good life in Miami County. He staked his claim on 160 acres of government land at a cost of 50 cents an acre. He made his first payment on the land, but failed to make the second. When he defaulted on the second payment, the land went back to the government. Nevertheless, Henry did not give up. He found a job, saved his money and re-entered the land. The second time, he made all his payments, and in fact, bought 20 more acres.
On the last day of their lives, life was pretty good for Henry and Barbara Dilbone. They had a homestead on the bank of Spring Creek (east of Piqua) and with the addition of four children—John age 7, Margaret age 5, Priscilla age 3 and nine month old baby William—their family had grown to six. They had good neighbors and were generally on good terms with the Shawnee Indians.
Though the Dilbone family liked the local Natives and often traded their family bread for deer and turkey meat, Henry sometimes spoke out against the Shawnee named Techumseh, who advocated violence against the white settlers. A few other Shawnees were also considered “troublemakers”; one of them was Mingo George.
The “world” of Mingo George would soon collide with the “world” of the Dilbone Family.
August 18, 1813, was a hot day. It may have been because of the heat that the Dilbone’s waited until late afternoon to work in their flax field. They ate what was to be their last meal together; then Barbara Dilbone grabbed some extra clothing for her children to play on and shepherded her children and a dog to the stump of a black walnut tree near the flax field. She left young John in charge of his four siblings while Henry went to a spring to fill a jug of water. Upon Henry’s return, they began to work in the flax field.
As the Dilbone’s worked in their field, the children played together - except for Margaret, who went to the family cabin for a drink. The scene was idyllic...
Suddenly at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the family was alarmed when the dog let out a “fearful” bark. The bark was a signal of the trouble to come.
Many years later, John Dilbone told Albert Cory of The Valley Sentinel (in Sidney, Ohio) that when the dog barked, he saw his father look up, straighten up; then he heard a shot and saw his father hit. His screaming parents ran into a woods and:
“Just then he saw an Indian come out of the corn on the north side of the flax patch and start in pursuit of his father & mother with a tomahawk and a butcher knife. The mother soon turned in the direction of her three children; the Indian came up to Mrs. Dilbone at the edge of the corn on south-west side of the flax patch were he split her head open with his tomahawk, after which he scalped her in the presence of her three children, about seven rods from them. The Indian then started in the direction of the children, about which time John says that he heard the report of another gun south of them, and the Indian walked up to within about 20 feet of them, when he halted and seemed to be in study. He turned and walked away in a westerly direction. It is probable that he feared that help was at hand. That was the last that John ever saw of the Indian.”
Seven-year-old John and his siblings hurried back to their house. They met Margaret, who had gone for water, and John told her what happened as the children scurried for the safety of their cabin.
A 19th Century manuscript at the Troy Miami County Local History Library states: "On her return through the intervening corn, she (Margaret) met John, with the babe and her little sister, and she heard the sorrowful tale that the Indians had shot their father and tomahawked their mother, and that they were orphans. This little group of sorrow-stricken and bereaved children returned to what had been their happy fireside, shut the door on the world outside that sacred precinct, their home, pulled in the string that lifted the wooden latch, lulled their baby brother to sleep in his cradle, and all three crawled into their dead mother’s bed. And thus the weary hours of that August afternoon wore on until at length a woman’s hand was thrust through an opening in the wall beside the door, the latch was lifted and a neighbor woman stood within the house with the earnest inquiry: ‘What does this mean children? Why are you all in bed?’
The neighbor woman was Mrs. George Cavin. Her husband’s brother, John, lived on the other side of Dilbone property and, in fact, she had walked across the Dilbone property to get to her brother-in-law’s house earlier in the day. Terrified, Mrs. Cavin ran from the cabin (and the children) to her own home. There she gathered her own children and fled to a place of safety.
Although he did not know it at the time, the shot young John heard was that of neighbor David Garrad also being killed.
Some time later, neighbor William McKinney came to the Dilbone cabin. He found the frightened children and he too asked John Dilbone what had happened. Supposedly, McKinney did not believe John’s tale of terror until John took him to the flax patch. The 19th Century manuscript says: "There lay Mrs. Dilbone on her face, her right knee doubled up to her breast, a ghastly wound in the back of the neck low down between the shoulders. Mr. Dilbone was nowhere to be seen. Near where the children had sat was found the Indian’s gun, blanket and scalping knife.
John’s story of the murder, as he witnessed it, was that on the crack of the rifle, his father uttered a loud exclamation and ran off into the corn, and, almost instantly, two Indians jumped the fence into the field (one a boy) and came toward his mother, and that he knew the Indian with the gun and that she knew him and called him by his name ‘George’ (Mingo George) saying, ‘George, don’t kill him,’ meaning her husband—and George answering in English, told her to ‘hush or he would kill her.’ Mrs. Dilbone then commenced screaming and from the position in which she was found lying it was supposed she was running when the fatal hatchet arrested her forever."
William McKinney took Mingo George’s gun and the children and headed for his home. McKinney was supposedly over-excited and almost shot his neighbor George Cavin on the way (Cavin was looking for his wife). McKinney explained to Cavin what had happened. By midnight, the entire neighborhood was gathered at McKinney house and a decision was made to travel by night to Winan’s Station six miles away.
One or two people decided to carry baby William Dilbone. Some stories say that a young woman carried baby William; other stories say it was a man and wife by the name of Roys. Whoever was in charge of the baby, they fell behind the rest of the travelers. No call for help was made since it was imperative that the journey be made in silence. They fell behind, lost their way in the darkness and eventually laid down behind a log until daylight returned. They arrived at Winan’s Station the next day.
A military unit under the command of Capt. Benjamin Dye had just returned from Greenville. Although they were scheduled to be mustered out of the US Military that day, the eight or ten men volunteered to remain in service and hunt for Mingo George.
Capt. Dye led the group back to the flax patch. They found Barbara Dilbone’s body and then Capt. Dye thought he found a faint call. It was Henry Dilbone. He was still alive about thirty yards from the flax patch. He had used his shirt to stop the flow of blood. They rushed him to the neighbor Phillip Simmons farm where there was a blockhouse.
The next day, Henry Dilbone asked to see Barbara and the children. He didn’t realize that Barbara was dead. After his neighbors explained what had happened, Henry asked to see Barbara’s body. The 19th Century manuscript says: “They brought her remains to him, and, endeavoring to raise himself on his elbow to give her one last endearing look, he suddenly fell back and died.”
A group of settlers—friends and neighbors—set out to find Mingo George and the young boy with him. Mingo George and the boy had traveled north into Shelby County, stopping for food at the home of Robert McClure. Only daughter Rosanna, age 16, was at home. She knew nothing of the Dilbone tragedy so she fed them.
Dilbone family friend and former Revolutionary War Captain Gardner Bobo asked for help from Barbara Dilbone’s brother-in-law William Richardson. Bobo and Richardson waited for Mingo George near the Miami-Shelby County line. When the Indian appeared Bobo and Richardson shot him and punched his body with a pole until it went into the quagmire on the Miami River bank.
Neighbors raised the Dilbone children and saved the farm for the Dilbone children.
Today, the old millstone monument is a reminder of one terrible day in Miami County history and of the courageous family who lived here so long ago.