You all know I write Historical Fiction based on interesting people that I uncovered when doing my family genealogy. Since you'd have to be kin or know my kin, there's small odds anyone else would beat me to the story. Well-l-l. Not necessarily the case! Judge Hugo C. Songer published an excellent Purty Old Tom Montgomery book in 2009.
My next story was to be about Purty Old Tom Montgomery. He's my fourth great grandfather who was quite well known in Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana back in the mid 1700's early 1800's. He descended from notable ancestors from Normandy and Britain, maybe going back to Roger Montgomerie's association with William the Conqueror.
This Indian fighter and frontiersman caught my eye because he is primarily remembered for his good looks--tall, dark hair and fit as a fiddle with spectacular features and physique. Gifted with incredible stamina and courage, he was also a sharpshooter with a rifle.
When a boy of twelve, he stood at the door of his cabin protecting his mother and siblings during an Indian raid. It is reported he wounded an attacking Indian who later died. When asked why, he said, "It was foight or doi." He married Mattie Crockett (cousin to Davy) and they reared a number of sons and daughters while living in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. Mattie died and the restless, heartbroken Indian fighter found himself in an entanglement over the validity of his land title. He decided the West was his destiny. The Indiana Territory in particular.
First, Old Purty on his own scouted the area (now Gibson County, Indiana) for a suitable place to settle his family. He marked a tree with a hatchet and headed home. Gathering most of his family together, a few personal slaves, and his dogs, they walked from Kentucky to Indiana only to find someone else had taken the land he had marked with the hatchet. But never mind. You could almost count the existing settlers on two hands and one foot. He settled near Owensville. Somewhere during a stop on his first trip to Indiana, he met Caroline Anderson and their association became memorable for both. Later, she arrived in Indiana with the part of her family who had chosen to immigrate West. Speculation has it that her heart was set on Owensville. What isn't speculation is that she and the widower, Old Purty, married.
Tall in his saddle, he became a leader of the settlement and most likely the one to be in the middle of the skirmishes when Indians raided. There is some speculation--hearsay, no proven fact--that the 102 deer he's credited killing near the Black River may have been Indians rather than deer. In the heat of battle, his companions on several occasions thought Old Purty had met his match and been killed by pursuing Indians. Not to be. One of his comrades called to the others, "War't you know it. I'll be damned. I'd know that gun anytime." The horse and rider seen racing through the woods and splashing across the creek was no other than the escaping Old Purty.
Folklore has it that well past his mid-years, Old Purty enlisted as an active recruit and walked to the Battle of Tippecanoe. At age seventy four, he is said to have walked to Princeton and carried a large anvil around the courthouse with ease.
As civilization grew, Purty's twin sons, Tom and Isaac, vied for the state legislature, Isaac winning. His daughters and granddaughters married into the Skelton (remember Red Skelton) and Warrick families.
His historical credentials are numerable and pristine. He served under George Rogers Clark defending frontier forts, protected his family and neighbors during Indian massacres, and more formally, was a notable fighter in the Battle of Tippecanoe with William Henry Harrison. The wilderness road and early settlements like Boonesboro were personal to him.
The history of this remarkable man is well documented in the book The Buffalo Trace to Tippecanoe written by (Judge) Hugo C. Songer (c. 2009). You don't need Montgomery or Warrick blood flowing through your veins to appreciate and enjoy Old Purty.
MY MONTGOMERY ANCESTRY
|Minnie Montgomery w/ Wesley Leland Ellis|
|James Montgomery Family|