Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

The Story of Gilberts' Mill

In 1775, the Gilbert family moved to a settlement along Mahoning Creek in Pennsylvania to establish a mill.  Dodsons lived near them. 

John Dodson accompanied Captain John Smith to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.  Samuel and his family settled in Pennsylvania.  They were among John's descendants. 

On April 25, 1780 the entire Gilbert family were among fifteen settlers who were captured by the Indians and abducted. 

Dodsons lived on a little flat prairie a few miles from Gilbert's Mill.  There was no stream running through their property, so the children took turns going to the mill each morning on horseback, with containers which they filled with water.  Abigail was 13 years old.  It was her turn that morning to go to the mill. 

When she arrived at the Gilbert settlement, she immediately suspected something was wrong.  Three Indian braves came from the buildings and descended upon her immediately.  One took her horse's bridle in hand, while another ordered her to dismount.  Then one of the men held his hand over her mouth while the third brave tied her hands behind her back.   

Abigail soon found herself prisoner with the other settlers.  Their lives were spared because they were Quakers, and the Indians knew they did not pose a threat to their existence.  However, that didn't stop the natives from destroying their property and taking their possessions. 
The men, women and children watched while the Indians ransacked the buildings, then set fire to them, including the mill. 

As they left the scene, the entire settlement was ablaze.  They followed trails closely along the river but avoiding any settlements so that they would not be seen.   

Abigail ended up with a tribe near Niagra Falls, and her cousin Thomas negotiated her release and brought her home nearly five years later.  Meanwhile, Gilberts were held prisoner about two years.  Benjamin died while they were in captivity.  His widow eventually sold the mill site to Joseph Longstreth.   

Abigail was a cripple for life, suffering severe arthritis caused by exposure while she was held captive.  For awhile, her job was to block the entrance to an Indian lodge with her body to keep the cold air out at night.  She was sometimes given turkey entrails to eat and if she gagged over the food she was expected to consume, she was severely beaten. 

She lived with five Indian tribes, and finally fared better in Canada when she was sold to a half-breed French and Indian man named De Goyer.   

Abigail's sister Mary married Stephen Harrison, Jr.   Among their daughters were Susanna and Caroline.  Susanna married Asahel Fellows, while Caroline married her cousin, Stiles Richard Dodson.
Both sisters eventually settled on claims across the river from Hotel Manning.   

(Abigail's life story is included in Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as well as a vivid account in Thomas P. Ege's Dodson Genealogy.) 

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick