Fall Creek Massacre
The Fall Creek Massacre was a slaughter of nine Indians of uncertain tribal origin in 1824 by white settlers in Madison County, Indiana. Seven white men participated in the crimes. Four were captured and charged with murder. All four were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.
Sometime between November 1823 and February 1824, a small party of Indians came to the area near Pendleton, Indiana, to hunt and collect maple syrup.[note 1] The townspeople developed a friendly relationship with the band, which was headed by Chief Logan, a "venerable old chief" and "a friend of the white men". The party included two other men, Ludlow and M'Doal (or Mingo), three women, two boys and two girls.
The tribal origins of the group remain a mystery. Early sources close to the case, such as the Federal Indian agent John Johnston, described them as a mixed band of Seneca and Shawnee, or Mingo, from Logan, Ohio, named for the chief. Some other, slightly later sources, suggested the band included Delaware and Miami, and mixed-race members having some European ancestry. By this time, bands with remnant members from numerous tribes in the Old Northwest were quite common, but the precise backgrounds of all the members will never be known.[note 2]
Thomas Harper, a frontiersman who drifted into the area early in 1824, was an obsessive hater of Indians. He convinced four other men to help him attack the small group. Two of the men were relations, his brother-in-law John T. Bridge, Sr. and Bridge's 18-year-old son John Bridge, Jr. The other two men were James Hudson and Andrew Sawyer. Another teenage boy, Andrew Jones, accompanied the attackers.
The men approached the band on March 22, 1824 and asked for help in tracking horses that had escaped from Harper's farm. Logan and Ludlow agreed to help, and they walked with the white men toward a wooded area, joking as they went. In the woods, Harper and Hudson fell behind, and shot the two Seneca men in the back. Harper and Hudson returned to the camp, where they killed the women and children. M'Doal was not in camp but witnessed the killings as he returned. He was wounded while escaping. In all, Harper's party killed nine people: two men, three women, and four children. They stole everything of value from the Indian camp and returned to their homes.
The next day, a local farmer discovered the scene of the murder and reported it. News of the crime spread quickly, and settlers feared retribution from the Native Americans of the local Delaware villages. The perpetrators had bragged of the massacre. Within a week they were all in custody, except for Harper, who had taken the stolen goods and fled to Ohio.
While the accused men awaited trial, William Conner, an interpreter and community leader, and Indian agent John Johnston traveled to the local Indian villages to talk with the people. They assured them that the men who had attacked their people had been caught and would face justice. As a result, the threat of Indian retaliation for the murders subsided.
The trials and executions
The four men who had been arrested were tried in Madison County Court. Governor William Hendricks employed Senator James Noble to serve as prosecutor. Hoping to maintain peaceful relations with the Indians, Hendricks requested the court show no mercy on the men if they were found guilty. The cases were tried before a three-member circuit court panel, consisting of judges William Wick, Samuel Holliday, and Adam Winsell.
James Hudson was tried first. Andrew Jones, the teenager who had accompanied the men, was a key witness in the trial. The case generated nationwide attention. Some people were surprised when Hudson was found guilty. Hudson was sentenced to death by hanging, with an execution date of December 1, 1824. It was the first time any white man in the United States had been sentenced to capital punishment for killing a Native American.
Hudson appealed to the Supreme Court of Indiana, then in session at Corydon, Indiana. The court issued an opinion on November 13, written by Chief Justice Isaac Blackford that upheld the lower court's decision and rejected all points of Hudson's appeal. Two days later, Hudson escaped from jail, and hid beneath the floor of a vacant cabin, where he suffered frostbite and dehydration. He was recaptured ten days later, when he came out of hiding to find water. While he was missing, the execution date was rescheduled to the following January.
On January 12, 1825, a large crowd, which included several Seneca Indians, gathered to witness the historic execution. The condemned man had to be carried to the gallows due to the frostbite he had suffered while in hiding.
The remaining three men were tried on May 9, 1825. All three were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. However, while the jury found John T. Bridge, Jr. guilty of first degree murder, it recommended that he be pardoned due to the influence of his father and uncle. Additionally, a petition on his behalf was signed by 94 local men (including many members of the jury, the court clerk, several attorneys and a minister) and submitted to the Governor of Indiana, James Brown Ray. The petition cited "his youth, ignorance, and the manner which he was led into the transaction." However, by the appointed date of execution, it had not been answered.
On June 3, another large crowd, including numerous Indians, gathered for the executions. These were conducted one at a time. Andrew Sawyer was hanged first. John Bridge, Sr. was executed next. His 18-year old son, John Bridge, Jr., witnessed the hangings of his father and uncle before being led to the gallows and fitted with a noose and hood. However, at that point, Governor Ray stepped out from the crowd and stopped the execution. Presenting the pinioned teenage prisoner with a written pardon, the governor announced, "you are pardoned" and the young prisoner was immediately set free.
By prosecuting white men for the murders of the Native Americans, authorities set a precedent by the trial of recognizing the civil rights of Native Americans.
Thomas Harper, the ringleader of the murderers, was never apprehended. John Bridge, Jr. returned to his home in Ohio for a time. Later he moved to Carroll County, Indiana, where he became a storekeeper. He died in 1876.
In Fall Creek Park in Pendleton, a stone marker reads "Three white men were hung here in 1825 for killing Indians."  In 1991, the Pendleton Historic District (Pendleton, Indiana), which includes this historical resource, was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1966, the Indiana Sesquicentennial Commission erected an historic highway marker noting the incident on State Route 38 in Markleville, Madison County. It reads: "In 1824, nine Indians were murdered by white men near this spot. The men were tried, found guilty and hanged. It was the first execution of white men for killing Indians." 
- John Johnston, Recollections of Sixty Years in Leonard U. Hill, ed., John Johnston and the Indians in the Land of the Three Miamis, p. 162 and J. J. Netterville, Centennial History of Madison County Indiana, p. 71, suggest they arrived in the fall of 1823. Some other sources indicate an arrival in the late winter of 1824
- See Murphy 2010, chapter 2, for details on a variety of sources for the tribal origins.
- Allison, Harold (1986). The Tragic Saga of the Indiana Indians. Paducah: Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 0-938021-07-9.
- Doerr, Brian (March 1997). "The Massacre at Deer Lick Creek, Madison County, Indiana, 1824". Indiana Magazine of History (Bloomington, Indiana) 93 (1): 19–47.
- Funk, Arville (1983) . A Sketchbook of Indiana History. Rochester, Indiana: Christian Book Press.
- Murphy, David Thomas (2010). Murder in Their Hearts: The Fall Creek Massacre. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press.
- West, Jessamyn (1975). The Massacre at Fall Creek (fiction). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0151578206.