Big Bottom Massacre

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Big Bottom Monument.jpg

The Big Bottom Massacre was a famous encounter between Northwest Territory settlers and local American Indian tribes in 1791.

During 1789 and 1790, the residents of Marietta were in some dire straits. Many of the residents faced starvation due to poor harvests and a lack of game. In early 1790, some of these people decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Several of them moved north to an area that would become known as the Donation Tract. These people established the community of Big Bottom on the Muskingum River. For protection and shelter from both the environment and American Indians, the settlers immediately constructed a blockhouse. Unfortunately for these people, they decided not to chink (place mud) between the logs. Large gaps thus existed between the logs. The residents also failed to post sentries to watch for unfriendly natives. This was a grave mistake. Big Bottom was an isolated settlement, and tensions remained high with the Indians, who were upset with whites encroaching upon their land.

As dusk fell on January 2, 1791, the natives, including members of the Delaware and Wyandot tribes, decided to attack. The settlers were inside of the blockhouse, preparing their supper. The Indians were able to walk right up to the blockhouse undetected. Many of the natives fired through the gaps in the logs, while other Indians crashed through the door of the structure. The natives killed eight of the residents inside the blockhouse. They captured another five whites. This attack became known as the Big Bottom Massacre.

As a result of the attack, most whites in southeastern Ohio moved closer to Marietta, hoping that the Indians would not attack the whites in a more populous area. The United States Congress also played a greater role in the Ohio Country at least partly because of the attack. To encourage more settlement of the Northwest Territory, the United States Congress donated 100,000 acres of land to the Ohio Company and Associates, the organization responsible for Marietta's founding. The Donation Tract was meant to create a buffer zone between Native Americans and settlements within the Ohio Company's claims. Any adult white man willing to live within the Donation Tract was given one hundred acres of land. The Congress hoped that white Americans would flock to the Donation Tract for the free land. These people would hopefully serve as a buffer zone between white settlements like Marietta and the hostile Indians.

Today, the Ohio Historical Society maintains a monument at the site of the Big Bottom Massacre.

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