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July 30, 1782

Major Sam McColloch Memorial stone at Short Creek Cemetery, near Wheeling, WV.The picture to the right is of the stone monument that is in the McColloch section of Short Creek Cemetery, near Wheeling, West Virginia. The inscription reads:

In memory of

Erected by his Grandnephew
Alexander McColloch

Maj. Sam won fame by his bravery and daring deeds fighting Indians during the early settlement of the country, and by his leap from the summit of Wheeling Hill down a steep declivity of 310 feet. He was killed by the Indians who abstracted his heart and ate it, "To make us brave like him" - Erected 1932 -

The above photo was taken in September, 2002, by Leo Gene Zugner, husband of Lisa (Crooks) Zugner, when they visited Short Creek Cemetery to pay their respects to our ancestors.

*(See Source below for the following excerpt)

This is just one version of the incidence of Major Sam's Death

robably nothing that occurred during Indian times occasioned more serious lamentation among the settlers, than the killing of Major Samuel McColloch, which occurred on the 30th of July, 1782, at a spot inside our present borders, but very near the line separating Brooke from Ohio County. At that time, he was in command of Fort Van Metre,.

On the 30th of July, 1782, work in the harvest fields demanding attention, and many of the men being within or about the fort, arrangements were made to go to work. As a measure of precaution, the Major and his brother John undertook the duty of reconnoitering the neighborhood to ascertain whether there were any lurking Indians about. Leaving early in the morning, on horseback, the brothers proceeded together some distance, when impelled by some impulse, the Major turned back and going to the Fort, deposited with the wife of his brother John his watch and several other articles and gave directions for their disposition in the event of his not returning. Whether he had observed any signs of danger, or whether this was the effect of a premonition of his fate, as the historian of the occasion intimates, can never be known; but the occurrence is given as a fact. Having left his valuables in the care of his sister-in-law, he again mounted and soon rejoined his companion.

They traversed the path lying along Short Creek and made their way up the river until they reached Beech Bottom, about half way between Buffalo and Short Creek, then returning they ascended the steep and singularly appearing ridge pointing toward the creek's mouth, still known as "Girty's Point," and pursued a path through the woods on the ridge toward Fort Van Metre. Riding along, they came to a tree top at the head of a ravine, around which it was necessary to pass, and John being in advance heard the growl of a large dog which accompanied them, which caused him to look around. Just as he did so several shots from the tree top were fired and Samuel fell from his horse fatally hit. Before the body had hardly touched the ground, a stalwart savage sprang from the cover and with knife in hand rushed forward to secure the scalp. While in the very act, John, who was unharmed, fired and shot the Indian, as was supposed, mortally, as he sprang into the air and fell. John then made his escape at full speed to the fort, the rider less horse following him, his hat and clothes perforated with bullets.

The next morning a party from the fort found the mutilated remains. The Indians had disemboweled the corpse, hung the entrails on a limb of a large tree and as was afterwards learned, taken out the heart to be eaten, according to their superstitious notions, in order that their own courage and manliness might be increased by eating the heart of an enemy who was known to them for his courage and hardihood.

It was subsequently ascertained that the party, a detachment of which killed McColloch, consisted of not less than a hundred warriors in all, and that they were on their way to attack Fort Van Metre, though it is not probable that more than a very few composed the immediate party that did the deed. At any rate the attack was not made; the Indians knowing from the escape of the brother, that to surprise the fort was out of the question, started hastily for their towns west of the Ohio, and were not pursued any great distance.

The remains of Major McColloch were interred at or near Fort Van Metre amid great lamentation; and to this day his name is associated most prominently with the occurrences of early times, and he is remembered as a man of many noble qualities. He had married but six weeks before his death, a Miss Mitchell, who afterwards became the wife of Andrew Woods, and the McCollochs and Woods are yet prominent families in the vicinity. The place where he was killed is, as near as can be identified, about two miles from the river, on lands owned by James Ridgely (1881). The sugar tree upon which the initials "S. McC." were cut at the time, died thirty years ago, but a grove of young walnuts exists at this time at the precise spot.

*Source: Brooke County, West Virginia History to 1882. [database online] Provo, UT:, 2000. Original data: J. G. Jacob, Brooke County: Being a Record of Prominent Events Occurring in Brooke County, West Virginia from the Settlement of the Country, until January 1, 1882.

Note: There are a couple of versions of Major Sam's death in different historical publications and from the hand written records of those who were told the story at the time or passed down from their ancestors. The basic story in all accounts is the same with only minor differences. This version does point to the important differentiation of Fort Van Metre and  Van Meter's Fort that was known as Black's cabin or the Court House Fort. With that short bit of note, I will let the story be as there are others much more qualified than I to go into this subject matter.

PLEASE also see the important document below for a most recent account of Maj. Sam's death:

The Death of Major Samuel McCulloch: Historical Record and Oral History (PDF file) by Dr. Bruce D. Bonar. This article is posted on the West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly section of The West Virginia Historical Society web site. Bruce and his aunt own the old Bonar farm where Maj. Sam was killed. **Thanks again to Sam McColloch, for imparting to me the information regarding the recent posting of this article.

 Last Updated  ~  December 08, 2013


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