Friday, January 6, 2012

Story of Jacob Roller


Found this story about Jacob Roller Jr. the son of Jacob Roller, Sr., who lived in Juniata County, PA after migrating from Germany. He is related in the following way:

Jacob Roller, Sr had a son John Roller (the brother of Jacob Roller, Jr.); who had a daughter Sarah (married Johann Fox) who had a son Henry. Henry then had a son George who had a daughter Eva (married Walter Fox) who had a daughter Fern - my grandmother.

Most importantly - enjoy the story! (from History of Juniata County, page 225, written by Israel Daniel Rupp) in 1847. A very different time and place.

"In 1781, Jacob Roller, Jr. and a man named Bebault (Mathias Beebout) were massacred by Indians in Sinking Valley. Few particulars’ of this massacre are known, and many contradictory stories still exist in regard to it. We give Mr. Maguire's version of it, but would at the same time state that he did not vouch for the authenticity of it, as he gathered it from the exaggerated rumors that in those days followed the recital of current events.

Roller, it appears was an active and energetic frontier-man, bold, fearless, and daring; and the common belief was that his unerring rifle had ended the days of many a red-skin, Be that as it may, however, it is certain that the Indians knew him, and marked him out for a victim long before they succeeded in dispatching him. Several small roving bands were in the habit of coming down into the valley after the mines were abandoned; but no favorable opportunity offered for a long time to kill Roller.

On one occasion, four of the settlers had met at Roller's house for the purpose of going on a hunt for deer. Early in the morning, when just ready to start, Roller heard the breaking of a twig near his cabin. He peered out into the deep gloom of the misty morning, and discovered three Indians crouching near an oak tree. It was very evident that the Indians had not been close enough to the house to ascertain the number within and the inmates were in a state of doubt as to the number of savages. Profound silence was observed and it was resolved to shoot from the window as soon as the light was sufficiently strong to render their aim certain. The Indians were evidently waiting for Roller to come out of his house. At length, when they thought the proper time had come, the settlers gathered at the window and thrust out their rifles as silently as possible. The quick eyes of the savages saw, even by the hazy light, that there were too many muzzles to belong to one man, and they took to the woods with all the speed they could command, leaving behind them a quantity of venison and dried corn, and a British rifle.

On another occasion, Roller had an encounter with a single Indian in the woods, which probably stands unparalleled in the history of personal encounters between a savage and a white man. Roller left home about seven o'clock in the morning, in search of deer. He had ranged along the edge of the mountain an hour or two when he heard a rifle-shot but a short distance from him, and a minute had scarcely elapsed before a wounded doe came in the direction where he stood. To shoot it was but the work of an instant, because he supposed that one of his neighbors had wounded it; for the thought of the presence of Indians never entered his head. Yet it appears that it was an Indian who fired. The Indian mistook the crack of Roller's rifle for that of a companion left at the base of the mountain. Under this impression, the Indian, anxious to secure the doe, and Roller, intent on bleeding her, both neglected one of the first precautions of the day, - via: to reload their rifles. Roller was leaning over the doe, when he heard the crust of snow breaking in a thicket near him. He jumped to this feet, and was confronted by the Indian, - a tall, muscular fellow, who was quite as large as Roller. The savage, well aware of the fact that neither of the rifles were loaded, and probably satisfied in meeting, "a foeman worthy of this tale, " deliberately placed his gun against a tree by the side of Roller's and drawing his tomahawk, he cast a glance of savage delight at the white man before him, which seemed to imply that he would soon show him who was the better man of the two. Roller, anticipating his intentions, drew his tomahawk and stood on the defensive. The savage made a spring, when Roller jumped aside, and the Indian passed. The latter suddenly wheeled, when Roller struck him upon the elbow of the uplifted hand, and the hatchet fell. Fearing to stoop to regain it, the savage drew his knife and turned upon Roller. They clinched, and a fearful struggle ensued. Roller held his hatchet, and in this manner they struggled until they both were tripped by the carcass of the doe; still both retained their hold Roller, fortunately grasped his knife lying beside the doe, with his left hand, and thrust it into the side of the Indian. The struggle now became terrible and by one powerful effort the savage loosened himself and attempting to close again, the savage stabbed Roller in the shoulder and in the arm. Roller had dropped his hatchet in regaining his feet, and the combat was now a deadly one with knives. They cut and thrust at each other until their buckskin hunting-shirts were literally cut into ribbons and the crusted snow was dyed with their blood. At length, faint with the loss of blood, the combat ceased, by mutual consent as it were, and the Indian, loosening himself from Roller's grasp, took his rifle and disappeared. Roller stanched with frozen snow and some tow, the only dangerous wound he had and managed to reach his home. He was stabbed in four or five places, and it was some weeks before he fully recovered from his wounds. The skeleton of the savage with his rifle by his side, was found the succeeding summer on the top of Warrier Ridge.

The time of Roller's death is not positively known. Mr. Maguire thought it was in the fall of 1781.From subsequent evidences three Indians came down from the mountain avoiding the fort of Jacob Roller, Sr. which was located at the head of Sinking Valley and passed on down through he valley to the house of Bebault whom they tomahawked and scalped.

From thence they went to the hours of Jacob Roller, Jr. who was alone at the time, his family being at this father's fort. He was murdered and scalped while at work in his corn-field. His absence from the fort at night created alarm, and early next morning a party went down to his house to see if anything had befallen him. While searching for him, one of the men discovered blood on the bars, which soon led to the discovery of his body in the field."




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