Zimmer massacre

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The Zimmer massacre was a massacre of an Ohio family that took place in September, 1812.[1]

Two weeks after the removal of the Greentown Indians, Martin Ruffner and the Zimmer family, who lived on the Black Fork about five miles (eight kilometres) north of the site of the burned village, were murdered. The deed was supposed to have been committed by a portion of Armstrong's band in retaliation for the injuries they had suffered and it was also supposed they had a grudge against the Zimmer family, as members of that family had, on different occasions, tied clapboards to the tails of their ponies. Their ponies were allowed to run loose in the woods trail, which annoyed Mr. Zimmer by getting into his corn-field. Any insult to their ponies was made a personal matter and resented accordingly.[2]

Martin Ruffner[edit]

Martin Ruffner came from Shenandoah County, Virginia, and settled in Pleasant Township, Fairfield County, Ohio in 1807. He was accompanied by his mother, brother Michael, and a sister, who married one Richard Hughes. Martin Ruffner returned to Virginia a year or two before he settled in Richland County, and married. In the spring of 1812, he and his relatives located on what is now Staman's Run, in Mifflin Township, half a mile (800 m) a little north of west of the present village of Mifflin. He was of German origin, a bold, fearless backwoodsman, and an uncompromising enemy of the Indians, several of his friends and relatives having been murdered by them. On his arrival in Mifflin he built a cabin on the brow of the hill, not far from the Black Fork, about five minutes walk from the present residence of Mr. Jacob Seaman and on the latter's farm. While building this cabin and clearing around it, with the help of a bound boy named Levi Franghiser, his mother and brother Michael boarded with his brother-in-law. Richard Hughes, while he and Franghiser kept "bachelors hall" at the cabin. They had just entered their lands at Canton, and were preparing for a permanent residence.[2]

The Zimmer family[edit]

Mr. Zimmer, with his family, came about the same time, located his land and built his cabin about two and a half miles (four kilometres) southeast of Mr. Ruffner. His family consisted of his wife, a beautiful daughter named Kate, and his son Phillip, aged nineteen. He was an old man, not able to do much work, and, desiring to prepare some fifteen or twenty acres (60,000 to 80,000 m2) for corn, he employed Michael Ruffner to assist his son Phillip.[1]

Note on spelling of "Zimmer"[edit]

This has generally been written "Seymour," but the correct name has been ascertained to be Zimmer. The settlers in that direction (including this family) were Germans, and their pronunciation of the name Zimmer sounds very much like "Seymour," hence the mistake.[2]

Events of massacre[edit]

Early in September, one afternoon, while Michael Ruffner was walking along the trail leading from the cabin of Frederick Zimmer to that of his brother, he met a party of Indians (One account makes the number two, another three, another four, and still another, five.), who were well armed with guns, knives and tomahawks and appeared very friendly. They asked him if the Zimmers were at home, and, upon receiving an affirmative reply, passed on. Having his suspicions aroused, he hastened to the cabin of his brother Martin, and informed him of his meeting with the Indians. Martin's suspicions were aroused, and, taking down his rifle, he mounted a fleet mare, and rode rapidly down the trail to the Zimmer cabin. He arrived before the Indians; and after a short consultation it was decided that Phillip Zimmer should hasten to the cabin of James Copus, who lived about two miles (three kilometers) further south, on the trail, give the alarm in that neighborhood, and return with assistance. Meanwhile the brave Ruffner was to remain and defend the family. Phillip Zimmer hastened to Mr. Copus' cabin, and from there to John Lambright's, two miles (three kilometers) further south on the Black Fork. Lambright returned with him, and, joined by Mr. Copus, they all proceeded together to the Zimmer cabin, where they arrived in the early part of the evening. Finding no light in the cabin, and all being silent, fears were entertained that the inmates had been murdered. Mr. Copus moved cautiously around to the back window, and listened a moment; but, hearing no movement, he crept quietly around to the door, which, on examination, he found slightly ajar, and, pressing upon it, found some obstruction behind it. He at once suspected the family had been murdered; and, on placing his hand upon the floor, found it wet with blood. There was no longer any doubt. Hastening back to Phillip and Lambright, who were concealed a short distance from the cabin, he stated his discoveries and convictions.[1]

Phillip became frantic with grief and excitement, and desired to rush into the cabin to learn the whole truth. In this he was prevented by the others, who feared that the Indians were yet concealed in the cabin awaiting his return. Persuading Phillip to accompany them, they hastened back to the cabin of Mr. Copus, and, taking the latter's family, they all proceeded as rapidly as possible to Mr. Lambright's. This family was added to their numbers, and they pushed on to the cabin of Frederick Zimmer, Jr., Phillip's brother, and he and his family joined the fugitives. They hastened along an Indian trail, near where the village of Lucas now stands, and stopped at the cabin of David Hill, where they remained until the next morning, when, accompanied by the family of Hill, all proceeded to the block-house at Beam's mill. This fort was then occupied by a company of soldiers under Capt. Martin. A party of these soldiers, accompanied by Mr. Copus. Phillip and Frederick Zimmer, Hill and Lambright, all well-armed, proceeded by the most direct route through the forest, to the cabins of Martin Ruffner and Richard Hughes. They found the cabin of Ruffner had not been disturbed, the boy Franghiser having slept there alone the night before; and the cabin of Hughes was also undisturbed. Ruffner had, a short time prior to this; upon the surrender of Hull, sent his wife and child to Licking County, to a Mr. Lair, or Laird, an uncle, who lived about one and a half miles (two kilometres) from Utica. At Ruffner's cabin, they were joined by Franghiser, Michael Ruffner and Mr. Hughes, and all hastened down the trail to the Zimmer cabin.[1] Entering it they found the old gentleman, the old lady and Catharine, all dead upon the floor, and dreadfully mangled. The gallant Ruffner was lying dead in the yard. There was every evidence that he had made a desperate struggle for his life and that of the Zimmers. His gun was bent nearly double, and several of his fingers had been cut off by blows from a tomahawk. The struggle had finally ended by his being shot twice through the body. The details of this butchery could never be certainly known as the prominent actors were all killed; all had also been scalped. It appeared that the table had been set with refreshments for the savages, and most of the food remained. Whether any of the Indians were killed, is not known; they would have taken their dead away with them, and destroyed all evidences, if such a catastrophe had happened to them. It is supposed that eight or ten Indians were engaged in this tragedy.[3]

There is a tradition among the early settlers, that an Indian by the name of Kanotchy was taken prisoner some years afterward, and related the story of this massacre. It appears from this statement that the Indians entered the cabin and seated themselves very sullenly, while the terrified Kate was setting refreshments for them, as was usual. The heroic Dutchman was the only guard of consequence, as Mr. Zimmer was too old to make much resistance. The Indians made the attack very suddenly Ruffner not having time to fire, clubbed his rifle, broke the stock in pieces and bent the barrel double in the terrible fight. The odds were too much for him, and he soon went down before superior numbers. As soon as he was out of the way, they killed and scalped the old people. At the commencement of the affray. Kate fainted and fell to the floor, and, until aroused from this state of syncope, was unaware of the murder of her parents. When she came to her senses she looked about upon a scene of blood and horror, and burst into a paroxysm of weeping. She begged the savages to spare her life, but all to no purpose. They first ascertained from her where her father's money was concealed and then buried the tomahawk in her brain. While she was in a senseless condition a consultation had been held over her to decide whether they should kill her or take her prisoner. It was decided that her life should be taken, but still they hesitated as no one wished to do the deed. At length it was decided that the one who should perform the deed, should he considered as possessing the greatest heart, whereupon this same Phillip Kanotchy stepped forward, exclaiming, "Me kill white squaw, me got big heart." When Kate saw the tomahawk descending, she raised a beautiful white arm to ward off the blow, which, falling upon the arm, nearly severed it in twain; a second blow did the work-one quiver, and the lovely life went out.[3]

She was engaged to be married to Mr. Henry Smith, who was at that time in the East, attending to some business; they were to be married upon his return.[3]

Martin Ruffner and the Zimmers were buried on a little knoll near the cabin, in one grave, where the remains still lie. The farm is now owned by a Mr. Culler. After performing the last sad ceremonies over the remains of the murdered pioneers, they returned to the block-house at Beam's, and Michael Ruffner, his mother, and Hughes and family returned to Fairfield County, where they remained.[3]

The settlers were thoroughly aroused by the tragedy, and all fled to the block-house for safety.[3]

On September 15, 1812 the Copus Massacre occurred in which 3 Militiamen and James Copus killed; 2 militamen and Copus daughter wounded. 70 Years after the massacres, monuments were placed at each site.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Graham, Albert Adams (1880). "Indian Troubles". History of Richland County. p. 278. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  2. ^ a b c Graham, Albert Adams (1880). "Indian Troubles". History of Richland County. p. 277. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Graham, Albert Adams (1880). "Indian Troubles". History of Richland County. p. 281. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 

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