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Simon Girty (1741-1818)

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Simon Girty 
Simon Girty
Birth: 1741 Chambers Mill, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: 18 February 1818 Essex County, Ontario, Canada
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Simon Girty was born 1741 in Chambers Mill, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States to Simon Girty (c1720-1751) and Mary Newton (c1720-) and died 18 February 1818 in Essex County, Ontario, Canada of unspecified causes. He married Catherine Malott (c1750-1852) .

OVERVIEW

From Dodderidge and Dodderidge, 1912.

There were four of the Girty sons—Thomas, Simon, James and George. Then there was a half brother, John Turner. The first Girty, Simon, Sr., came from Ireland. In this country he married an English girl named Mary Newton. They made their home at Chambers Mills, on the east side of the Susquehanna, above Harrisburg, now Dauphin county, Pa. Here Simon Girty, Jr., the second son, was born in 1741. In 1749 the family removed to Sherman's Creek, in Perry county, along with a number of other settlers, to engage in farming. But the Indians regarded this as an unauthorized encroachment upon their lands, and they protested to the government. Evidently this protest was accounted well-grounded, for the authorities forcibly expelled the settlers and burned the houses they had built. The Girtys then returned to Chambers Mills, where the father was killed in 1751 in a drunken frolic by an Indian called "The Fish." In 1753 Mrs. Girty married John Turner, who had been a boarder in the family. Turner took them back to the Sherman's Creek valley in 1755, and here all fell into the hands of Indians when the latter captured and destroyed Fort Granville there on the Juniata. All were brought over the mountains to Kittanning. The Indians recognized John Turner as one who had injured their race, so in retaliation they sacrificed him at the stake. Gordon's " History of Pennsylvania " says they tied him to a blackened post, made a great fire, danced around him, heated gun barrels red hot and run them through his body, and after three hours of such torture scalped him alive. Then a savage held up to him a boy who gave him the finishing stroke with a tomahawk. If this is not an exaggerated tale, Turner must have been a man of extraordinary endurance to withstand such treatment so long.

Mrs. Turner and her son John Turner were claimed by the Delawares, who baptised them and carried them off into the wilderness, to Fort Delaware. The other four boys were kept by the Indians for a while at Kittanning. Thomas was recaptured when Lieut. Col. John Armstrong attacked Kittanning in September, 1756. Simon, James and George had been .taken west by the routed savages, but all eventually got back with the whites. Thomas had been a captive for only 40 days. Simon was 15 years old when he returned. All three were brought back from the woods when the French had been expelled from the country, and English domination had become assured. Simon had been taken with the Senecas, George with the Delawares and James with the Shawnees. Mrs. Girty and her son John, when delivered up by their captors, made her home in Pittsburgh. It is not known when she died. The Girty boys proved to be a bad lot. This sketch, however, deals chiefly with Simon. He was wholly uneducated, but was a man of talent, and of great influence with the Indians. > He made his early home at Fort Pitt, as did his brothers, where he was a laborer, trader, hunter, scout, interpreter, anything, indeed, he could get to do within his capacity.

At the opening of the Revolution Girty joined the militia at Fort Pitt, says one historian. In 1778 he asked for a captain's commission in the Continental service, which was denied him. This is said to have embittered him, and to have been one of the reasons why he joined with Capt. Alexander McKee in deserting to the British. This desertion took place on the night of Saturday, March 28, 1778, from McKee's house at McKee's Rocks, because McKee and some of his Tory associates were suspected, and with good reason, of instigating the Indians to make -war on the colonists, thus aiding the British. " Until within a few weeks of this flight," says Hassler's " Old Westmoreland," " Girty had been a faithful servitor of American interests. In the absence of positive knowledge of any reason for his desertion, he is believed to have been tempted by McKee with promises of preferment in' the British service. James Girty, brother of Simon, was then with the Shawnees on the Scioto, having been sent from Fort Pitt by the American authorities on a futile peace embassy. He had been raised among the Shawnees, was a natural savage, and at once joined his brother and the other tories. For 16 years Capt. McKee, Mathew Elliott and the Girtys, were the merciless scourges of the border. They were the instigators and leaders of many Indian raids, continuing their hostility until long after the close of the revolutionary war. They were largely responsible for the general war 1790-94." In the dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia as to which had authority over the territory of the Pittsburg region Simon Girty, singularly, sided with Virginia. He was active in behalf of Lord Dunmore in this matter, and also as a scout and interpreter for him when on his way to attack the Shawnees and Mingoes. In the matter of importance of service to Dunmore, and trustworthy discharge of responsible duties, Girty seems to have ranked with those other great lieutenants of the Virginia governor, George Rogers Clarke, Simon Kenton and John Gibson. But in the end he and all his brothers identified themselves with the savages in their bloody border struggles with the white settlers. Girty's life is so fully described in the frontier literature of recent years that it is needless to reproduce an epitome of it here. (See Butterfield's "History of the Girtys.") After his flight from Pittsburgh in 1778 Girty's course was one of consistent enmity to the Americans, with occasional manifestations of personal friendship. He showed no such feeling, however, to Col. Wm. Crawford, with whom he was well acquainted, and whom it is believed he could have saved from burning at the stake on the Tymochtee.

Girty's career south of Lake Erie came to a close with.the surrender of Detroit to the Americans in 1796. On March 6, 1798, the British gave him a farm of 1(54 acres near Fort Maiden, in Essex county, Canada, not far from Detroit. Here he lived on his half-pay from the government, on such money as he got for his services as an interpreter, and on the produce of his farm. He had married Catherine Malott, of Detroit, but she had left him in 1797, after the birth of their last child, Prideaux Girty,because of long continued ill-treatment. But when he had lost his eyesight, and was no longer able to take care of himself, she returned to him and nursed him until his death. The renegade had surely secured a good wife. Girty died on this farm Feb. 18, 1818, and was buried there. English soldiers from Fort Maiden fired a salute over his grave.

It is hardly worth while to undertake the framing of a personal description of Girty when one historian says " his eyes were black and penetrating" and another speaks of " his gray sunken eyes." Mrs. Girty died in January, 1852. Their children were all thoroughly respectable. John Turner, Girty's half brother, died May 20, 1840, on Squirrel Hill, in the city of Pittsburgh, south of the mouth of Four Mile Run, where he lived on a farm.

The histories relate a good many instances of kindness by Simon Girty, especially to the young. When Christian Fast was captured by the Indians at Lochry's defeat he was about 17 years old. He was adopted by a family of Delawares to take the place of a son who had been killed, and was initiated into the tribe. This was in 1782. Fast was taken to live with the Delawares at Pipestown, on the Tymochtee. But he was discontented and melancholy. In the woods one day, brooding over his captivity, and supposing himself to be alone, he was suddenly accosted by Girty, who inquired of what he was thinking. Fast gave him an evasive answer. " That is not it," replied Girty. " You are thinking of home. Be a good boy and you shall see your home again." And Girty made good as to this promise to Fast. He is said to have always been kind to young prisoners. Says Jonathan Alder: " I knew Simon Girty to purchase at his own expense several boys who were prisoners and take them to the British and have them educated. He was certainly a friend to many prisoners."

References

An Essay on Simon Girty's life could be found at Essays in History but is not on that site in April 2013. An objective account of his life is also to be found at Ohio History Central.



Children


Offspring of Simon Girty and Catherine Malott (c1750-1852)
Name Birth Death Joined with
At least one child
Prideaux Girty (c1795-)
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Sources and notes

‡ General



Contributors

  WMWillis, Robin Patterson


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