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HOPE ON THE TUSCARORA
The Pennsylvania Gazette of June 24, 1756, described the attack on Fort Bigham, located in the Tuscarora Valley of Central Pennsylvania, on June 11, 1756:
The following is a list of persons killed and missing at Bigham’s Fort, viz: George Woods, Nathaniel Bigham, Robert Taylor, his wife and two children, Francis Innis, his wife and two children, John McDowell, Hannah Gray, and one child missing. Some of those supposed to be burnt in the fort, as a number of bones were found there. Susan Giles was found dead and scalped in the neighborhood of the fort. Alexander McAllister and his wife, James Adams, Jane Cochran, and two children missed. McAllister’s house was burned and a number of cattle and horses driven off. The enemy was supposed to be numerous, as they did eat and carry off a great deal of beef they had killed.
This saga focuses on Robert Taylor’s captivity as he and other survivors of this despicable attack were conveyed westward into captivity at Kittanning and, after Armstrong’s attack, to Fort Duquesne. Taylor was adopted by the natives and spent the winter of 1756–57 in the village of Pymatuning. Later he was detained at Conneaut on the shores of Lake Erie, Fort Niagara, where he worked as a slave laborer and at Buckaloons on the Allegheny River.
Taylor made his daring escape down the Allegheny River in a dugout canoe to above Kittanning and then across the mountains to Fort Bedford and eventually back home to the Tuscarora Valley. He was haunted by the absence of his family, but his philosophy centralized on an unrelenting hope that his family would return and their lives would be restored to normalcy.
This novel offers insight into the cruelties and complexities of the clash of two diverse cultures on the Pennsylvania frontier. It exhibits the undaunted pioneering spirit of people who will go to great lengths to survive their hostile environment and overcome numerous adversities. Torture, malnourishment, isolation, abandonment, and despair pervaded Taylor during his captivity, but he also observed the other side of his Native American adversaries, that of a loving and compassionate people, which dispels the conventional image of a savage culture. This narrative also reveals the early stages of the emerging rift between the colonies and Britain, which would evolve into the War for American independence.
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