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Westervelt Massacre in Kentucky

posted Jan 2, 2017, 2:19 PM by Pam Ellingson
This is a very very LONG email, but very interesting story about the Westerfield family history and the massacre that welcomed them to Kentucky in 1780 - then a county of Virginia. You may want to print it out and keep it. Feel free to do so.

Carolyn Leonard, Dutch Cousins 2017 President,
See you in Frankfort in September!

The Westervelt (Westerfield) Massacre in Kentucky

conversations between
  • Lynn Rogers of Ohio, coordinator for 2017 Dutch cousins and history buff.
  • Gary Stanford of California, Westerfield descendant, family history researcher and FindAGrave volunteer. See his Memorial page for Jacobus Westervelt
  • Ron Belcher of Florida, Bullitt County Kentucky native, retired engineer and management professional, researcher of the Westerfield Massacre and a Westerfield descendant.
  • James Thomas Moore, Kentucky native, family history researcher, Jacobus Westerfield descendant.
  • Doris Sanders of Texas, Author, Westerfield descendant, and family researcher.
  • Dr. Steve Henry of Louisville, orthopedic surgeon, former Lt Gov of KY, Westerfield Descendant and history buff.
…and the search goes on to pinpoint the location. All comments appreciated – especially with sources. 


Statement by Gary Stanford
In the summer of 1780, Jacobus Westervelt hired John Thixton to guide the family from Low Dutch Station to Harrod’s Town. Thirty settlers joined the Westervelt family, forming a caravan of about forty-one people. At the end of their first day of travel, the travelers set camp for the night a few miles below Low Dutch Station. Twenty men, women and children were killed during the night when Native Indians attacked the sleeping settlers. This tragic event became known as the “Westervelt Massacre”.

SENT BY Lynn Rogers, 2017 Coordinator, to Gary Stanford
Dec 9

I am thinking that it would be appropriate to have the Westerfield Massacre on the Dutch Cousins 2017 program. I am the Coordinator for Dutch Cousins Gathering 2017, fuzzy title, fuzzy duties. I surfed the web and found Gary Stanford and his Find-A-Grave, who led me to Doris Sanders, who led me to Ron Belcher.

I’m not a Westerfield descendant but have studied the reports on this massacre. Here’s my connection: Among other children, Samuel Demaree had 4 daughters; Antjin m Henry Banta (leader of the Kentucky Low Dutch Company), Maria (m Jacobus Westerfield Sr - your ancestors, who were the massacre victims), Rachel (m Gerardus Ryker, who was killed at Floyd’s Defeat), and Tryntie/Catherine (who m Jacob Smock).

Ryker and Smock had children who married each other (first cousins). They had a child, and I descend from him; Samuel Demaree is my ancestor twice, and I am my own cousin, my Dutch Cousin connection.


SENT BY Dr. Steve Henry
Dec 11
Hello to all Dutch Cousins. Please send me the location of the Massacre site on a current map. My foundation will be purchasing land in the area i.e., Bardstown, Louisville Turnpike, and additional land for parkland. There are several developments in the area so timing is of importance. I believe we need to secure the site if we know we are historically accurate. Thixton Lane is several miles from Salt River; however, we do see references that call Floyd's Fork as “A fork of the Salt River” and at the time of the attack the creek would have been better known as Salt River.
Also what was the full name of the guide Mr. Thixton?

SENT BY Gary Stanford
Dec 11
This is from the information sent to me, but many other documents have the guide’s name listed as John Thixton

We know Thixton (the guide) covered the distance between the 3am massacre and to within earshot of Clear’s Station by daybreak; if at the mouth of Broad Run, 10 miles over extremely rugged terrain. Not impossible, but challenging; Thixton would have had to have been both superbly conditioned and knowledgeable of the route. Probably no moonlight, but some buffalo traces were 3 foot deep and several feet wide, therefore, easily followed blindfolded. This route? The Westerfield convoy knew that there were hostile Indians close by. Did they start out on the standard routes, Wilderness Road, Harrods Trace? Most likely, we will never know. I have a lot of respect for Ron Belcher's research. I may have offended him in our email exchanges, for which I am sorry.

In December 2015, Eddie Cozine took Vince Akers and me on a tour of the Bullitt’s Lick area. At the mouth of Broad Run, there was heavy construction equipment operating; maybe Steve Henry's project?

To have the Westerfield Massacre on the DC17 program is a maybe, but, what are your thoughts?

Regards, Lynn
Mr Lynn Rogers, PhD
Former Kentucky Colonel

SENT BY Doris Barfield Sanders

The location is the problem. We know it was about 12 miles out of the Dutch Station, but it could be along one of the several paths then used toward Harrods town. We know from Canadian records, "Rebel Prisoners at Quebec 1778=1783", Chris McHenry, compiler, 1981" p.54, from the original Microfilm Roll A-765, Public Archives of Canada, that my ancestor, Deborah Westervelt (Westerfield) was taken in April 1781 (the date of the massacre) in Virginia (Kentucky then was part of Virginia) and returned in 1782. She married in 1784 in Lincoln Co., KY to James Baxter.

We know her father,Jacobus Westervelt (James Westerfield), was killed along with others in the massacre and that his widow and at least one son returned to the
site and buried the victims. Draper's Manuscripts.

Ronald Clay Belcher has published in "Bluegrass Roots", Vol 38 #2, pp 30-35 an article on "Westervelt Massacre in Kentucky in 1780" (see above notation on Canadian Records concerning date). On pages 32 and 33 he has reconstructed a roster listing survivors and victims which would be a much better one than I could offer, however, he lists Lea Westervelt, daughter of Jacobus as killed and I do not think she was killed.

SENT BY Lynn Rogers
Dec 11

The Westerfield Massacre (WM) extremely likely occurred at 3am Tuesday April 3, 1781. (This interpretation accepts the historical accuracy of: 1) Deborah and Mary Westerfield were captured during April 1781; 2) the attack occurred at 3 am on some Tuesday, and 3) Samuel Westerfield was appointed administrator of the estate of John Westerfield on April 4 1781 (which was a Wednesday).)

As to where the WM occurred, I defer to those much more qualified. As to where to place a memorial, I am not a Westerfield descendant, so I do not get a vote. The historical records available do provide clues. Perplexing to me is that they knew there were hostile Indians about; why did they not have sentries?

In my previous email, I meant Floyds Fork, not Salt River. Eddie, Vince & I were at the location where Broad Run Road crosses Floyds Fork, approximately one mile northeast as the crow flies from Thixton. My under-standing is that Ron Belcherbelieves the Massacre happened at/near the mouth of Broad Run stream at Floyds Fork. There was construction happening there on our weekend in Dec 2016.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Cousins Gathering Sep 2017 program: What does this group recommend? Possibly a one person review of known historical records? Then discussion?

SENT BY Gary Stanford
Dec 11
I do know that the Westervelt family first went to the Louisville area in 1779. Jacobus Westervelt's son, Samuel Westervelt went there in 1779 to scout out the area for settlement. The Westervelt Massacre is believed to have occurred on June 27, 1780 at about 3:00 AM. The year 1780 would also be very possible as they had already been in that area before 1780 (in 1779).

Some people even went so far as to say (and document) that it happened in 1784 or 1785, but by now we know it happened much earlier than that. 1781 is still a possibility, but several witness accounts claim 1780 was the year of the Westervelt Massacre. These same sworn testimonies from witnesses who were there that night claim the date was June 27, 1780.

On 21 June 1780, Jacobus Westervelt had just registered 400 acres of land in the east Louisville area and that is why they were traveling there (six days later). This also supports the fact that the Westervelt Massacre did in fact take place in 1780.

This is what I have written about the exact date of the Westevelt Massacre: On 21 June 1780, the first day of summer, Jacobus Westervelt registered ownership of 400 acres of land along Silver Creek, situated two day’s journey beyond Harrod’s Town.17 Jacobus’ land registration likely prompted the Westervelt relocation to Harrod’s Town. Squire Boone and Colonel John Harrod traveled Harrod’s Trace to settlements along Beargrass Creek in the spring of 1780.

2007 at Old Mud: James Moore, Carolyn Leonard, Steve Henry, Vince Akers.

SENT BY James Moore
(better known as Grandpa Westervelt)
By James Thomas Moore
December 11 at 6:47pm · Bowling Green, KY

I wrote the following in 2008. Hope that this is at least entertaining.
This is a story about the tragic incident that took place called the Westerfield Massacre. Our ancestors were early immigrants to Kentucky and helped settle the state. 

Jacobus Westervelt immigrated to Kentucky in 1780 and his son, James Westerfield, immigrated in 1785. Jacobus Sr. traveled as part of the Dutch Reformed Church group known as the Banta Party, arriving in the spring of 1780 in what would become Jefferson County, Kentucky.

His son, James, lead a church group of around eighty people down the Ohio River to the Louisville area arriving in 1785. James built the Westerfield Station in what is now Shelby County that same year. (I do not know exactly where this station was).

Among both parties were several family members with the surnames Westerfield, Demaree, Cosine, and others. 
Our ancestors originally came from the Netherlands in the mid to late 1600s. They settled in New Amsterdam (present day New York). From there they moved to New Jersey. They lived in New Jersey for several generations. During the years surrounding the Revolutionary War, our ancestors moved to Kentucky via Conewago, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, now West Virginia.

My fourth great-grandfather, Jacobus/James Westervelt, Jr., served as a Revolutionary Soldier, Indian Fighter and Kentucky Frontiersman. He lived from 1755 to 1826. He was known by several names as his Dutch name transitioned through the process of becoming anglicized. Records indicate that he went by Jacobus Westervelt, Jacobus Westervelt, Jr., Jacob Westervelt, James Westerfelt , James Westerfield and other variations of these names. He is buried behind the Old Mud Meeting House in Mercer County, Kentucky. Records also indicate that James Westervelt served as a Revolutionary Soldier from the summer of 1776 until sometime after June, 1778. His military records show that he was a Corporal in the Dutchess County, New York Militia in Freer’s Regiment. He was wounded in both legs during his first battle of the Revolution, the Battle of Long Island.

There is an interesting story about how he fell in love with our fourth great-grandmother (Phoebe Cozine) while recovering from his wounds in her brother’s New Jersey home. {Editor’s Note: we have not been able to document this story but it is fun to imagine.}

James Westervelt Jr.’s father, Jacobus Westervelt (Sr), was born in 1737 and was killed by Indians in the spring of 1780. The following transcriptions of various documents tell the story much more accurately than I can. 

The first account is from the E. A. (Ethan Allen) Westerfield Manuscript. Ethan was born about 1868. He wrote A Brief History of the Westerfield Family in Americasometime between 1902 and 1926.

Even though he did not realize it, E. A. Westerfield’s story is a composite story of Jacobus Sr. and Jacobus Jr.’s journeys to Kentucky. After you read the Draper Manuscript excerpts, you will be able to see how the two stories were combined through family lore that had been passed down for decades. The Draper Manuscript testimonies are much more reliable than E. A. Westerfield’s story, because they are the testimony from children and grandchildren of those who were present at the Westerfield massacre. Some of the testimonies are from our family members and some are not. Mr. Draper’s interviews allow us to separate E. A. Westerfield’s account into two distinct immigrations to Kentucky: one in 1780 and the other in 1785.

E. A. Westerfield’s story begins with the Revolution.
A Brief History of the Westerfield Family in America

...James (Jr.) and (probably his brother) William (Westervelt) with a number of others had been worsted in a skirmish with a party of British foragers from Staten Island...enlisted in General Green's division... (This was sometime in the summer of 1776 between late June and August 22.) (They) participated in the Battle of...(Long Island)... James was wounded at Brooklyn Heights...(He was) shot through the legs...(He) was taken to Dobbs Ferry and across into New Jersey to the house of John Cozine where he remained until able to be returned to duty.

About the year 1782, James Westervelt, having been honorably discharged from the Continental Army for disability, removed with his wife (Phoebe Cosine Westervelt) and two children, John? {Editor’s note: the son (Dr.) John D. wasn’t born until 1786, so perhaps an earlier son John died young?} and Maria “Polly” (b. 1780) to the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia not far from Harpers Ferry where he remained for a short time.

Then he (James Westervelt Jr.) returned to New Jersey and headed a colony of immigrants of 18 families and some 75 or 80 persons, whom he conducted to near Harpers Ferry (now West Virginia) where they passed the winter (of 1783-1784) preparing for their journey to Kentucky.

The following spring in March (1784) the (Westerfields) started across the mountains with twenty wagons containing their household goods and farming utensils. These wagons were mostly drawn by cows and two bulls, the latter heading the caravan. They arrived at the Ohio River somewhere near Wheeling, West Virginia early enough in the summer (1784) to enable each family to clear and plant a patch of ground with corn and vegetables and build shelters for their convenience and comfort, during the next winter (1784-85) log cabins and a stockade for better protection against the Indians.

During the fall and winter they also built a flat boat in which to sail down the river, constructing it close to the water so the spring rise would enable them to float it. They felled an immense yellow poplar tree from which they hewed a large beam 70' long and 4' wide and 16 inches thick. This they split with whip saws making two broad planks for the side of the boat, and planks for the bottom being obtained in the same laborious manner. The whole being put together and strongly fastened with wooden pins. In this they embarked and floated away with the spring (1785) rise, having taken aboard all their effects and such of their cattle as they had not killed and salted. The wagons were taken apart and the (wagon)bodies used as shelter.

They were attacked by Indians while floating near the Indiana shore and several of the cattle were wounded. The immigrants sheltered themselves behind the low sides of the boat, but James Westervelt (Jr.), being the leader of the expedition and captain of the boat, stayed bravely at his post, steering. He was wounded in the abdomen by an Indian bullet. Except for this casualty all aboard landed safely two days afterwards (1785) on the Kentucky side about two miles above where Louisville now stands.

There they remained for several days to allow their cattle to feed on the bear grass from which a small stream (Bear Grass Creek) entering the Ohio at that place takes its name…

Floyd’s Station was first located at the mouth of the Beargrass in Louisville on the corner of 3rd Street and the Ohio River. This is where their party landed and stayed a few days before continuing their journey into the Shelby County area where James quickly built what became known as the Westerfield Station.

This ends the portion of E. A. Westerfield’s story of James Westervelt, Jr.’s 1784-1785 journey to Kentucky.

Next E. A. Westerfield skips back in time to 1780 and describes Jacobus/James Westervelt, Sr.’s arrival into the state . 
A few (30) of the Banta party, including James Westervelt, Sr., hired a guide to go to Fort Harrod. They were attacked during their 1st night’s rest. They (James Westervelt, Sr.’s group) hitched up their (wagons) and load(ed) their goods, removed to Bullitt’s...Station (I am unsure where this is, but he may be referring to Bullitt’s Lick. There was a Clear’s Station near Bullit’s Lick in Bullitt County, Kentucky) where there was a small stockade or fort.

The station was crowded with immigrants, a very muddy and uncomfortable place. So they preferred remaining out of the fort. Twenty members camped on a small stream nearby. The next morning, before daylight, they were attacked by Indians. The Dutch were able to drive the attackers off, but Jacob Westervelt, Sr. was shot. He had been firing with a large double gun, one lock of which was carried away by the bullet, which also penetrated his brain… (spring 1780)

Bullitt’s Lick is a prehistoric salt lick three miles northeast of Shepherdsville in what is now Bullit County Kentucky. To get there, take exit 177, then take Hwy 44W from Shepherdsville.

The Draper Manuscripts paint a different picture and give us additional facts from various prospective including some from non-family members.

The Draper Manuscript, Series CC Vol. 13, pp 11-12
 Testimony of Mrs. Strong about her father John Thickston (the Westervelt’s guide). 
…After the campaign under Logan, he (John Thickston) went to take some families up to Harrod’s old town. Two Westerfelts (Jacobus/James Westervelt Sr. and his brother, Jan or John, b. 1734) were at Floyd’s Station. (The second location of Floyd’s Station was on the middle fork of Beargrass Creek, six miles from the Falls of the Ohio. It was settled by Col. John Floyd in 1775.)

Father (John Thickston) took loads on his 2 horses, to go and carry a load for them. He wanted to see the place. (He) Had a thought of moving there…John (or Jan who is Jacobus/James Westervelt’s brother and)…Christopher Westerfelt,… Jas. Swan, …Jas: McGaughlin, an Irishman, …Thos. Pyburn, a Dutchman, all were killed.

Polly & Debby, two of (the) Westerfelt’s daug.(s), a cousin, Betsy Swan, & Garrett Westerfelt...were all taken prisoners.

The Indians made a terrible fuss; at length one of them stepped up and tomahawked him,(Garrett Westerfield). Father (John Thickston) was shot across the back of the neck. Didn’t hurt him a great deal. His cousin, Wm. Thickston was shot slightly across the back of the hand in two places.

He (John Thickston) saw three Indians standing by the fire, looking at his gun which he always kept very bright, and he could see it shine by the fire. He went up and seized the gun out of the Indian’s hand. The Indian raised his tomahawk. He turned the breech of his gun, and knocked the Indian down and cleared himself. Father had 16 bullet holes shot thru his blanket, as he rose up. He thought it was a loud clap of thunder, the firing came on them in such a volley and so together. He jumped up and ran till he stumbled over a log. Here he stopped to look, and saw the Indians throwing in the packsaddles and everything they could get into the fire & screaming. He rose up again and ran till he came to Clear Station, near Bullit’s Lick, ( Clear Station and Bullit’s Lick are in Bullitt County, Kentucky.) (He was) guided by the crowing of the roosters.

The attack was about 3 o’clock, I think Monday morning. Thos. Pearce was wounded through the ribs... The widows of McLaughlin and Pyburn, (who were killed), were afterwards living in our station.

Old Mrs. Westerfelt, (Maria Demaree Westerfield) and her son Jan, (Sam b. 1760) escaped...Next day they returned, and dug a great hole, and buried about 20 all together...Betsy Swan had been wounded in the shoulder…(The Indians) thought too badly, and tomahawked her.

Polly (daughter of John Westervelt) and Debby (born 1768 daughter of James Westervelt, Sr.) were exchanged at Detroit. These were all the prisoners…

The following is testimony by Hiram Stafford, grandson of Jacobus/James Westerfield, Sr., son of Leah Westerfield who escaped during the attack. 
The Draper Manuscript, Lyman C. Draper, Boone Papers, Series C, Vol. 24, pp 145, 145-1, 145-2, 28 March 1865

…My Grandfather, James Westerfield (Jacobus/James Westervelt, Sr.) was a large man weighing 333 pounds. He and family left Berkeley County, Virginia about 1780 and emigrated to Kentucky by way of Pittsburgh to Louisville intending to go to Harrod’s Station, in now Mercer Co. Ky. He and company (of) about 30 persons started from Louisville to the station. (They) camped for the night on the waters of b’argrass about 12 miles out and sometime in the night was attacked by a party of Indians while asleep, and but few escaped death.

The old man (James Westervelt, Sr.) and two of his daughters (were) among the number killed. The old lady (Maria Demaree Westervelt) saved 3 children (Catharine/Catrina 10 yrs, Leah, Rebecca age 1, a baby, and maybe another child instead of Leah) by hiding in a sinkhole. One child (was) in her arms and two (were) under her clothes to keep them from crying.

My Mother (Leah, then age 13? -born 1764 would be 16) then single also, escaped to a fort not far off…

Those that were prisoners was separated a little way from each other until they could find out which was capable to travel. Those (detrmined) unfit to travel was tomahawked and scalped. One woman (was) sitting by and seeing all of her children one after another slain…they went to her to take her infant out of her arms, her fortitude gave way…(She) held on to the child screaming for its safety (and she ) was killed on the spot by the hatchet and scalped. (The Indians) then took the infant by the heels and beat out its brains against a tree.

They then took each of the others as they intended to take with them and ripped open the beds scattering the feathers, gathered their plunder and left.

After killing the old man (Jacobus Westervelt, Sr.) they seemed to think they had killed a giant, three buttoned themselves in his big coat and danced.

Deborah Westerfield and her cousin Polley (were) taken as prisoners to Detroit, then sold to the French as servants, (They) was badly treated…(and later) sold into another family. They remained (with them) until exchanged and finally got home…(two years later).

While (the girls were) in captivity…the old lady (Mrs. Westervelt age 45) was taken (by Indians) on her return from a friend’s house (in Shelby County). (She) had her horse shot (out from) under her and (was) taken not far from Ketcham’s Station in now Shelby Co. Ky. (Editor’s note, added later: After the horse was killed, she {Maria} was made to run and pack her saddle about four miles on to a creek in the hills called bullskin.) (She was) taken a few miles off secreted for the night, until they could steal horses for their journey. (They) came back before day with the horses, (and) gave (Maria) choice (of horses to ride). She took a favorite one which she knew well… (She) put on her saddle...mounted and on. She was taken to Detroit in great hope of meeting with her daughter (Deborah) and cousin, (Polley Westerfield) but to her disappointment they…(had been) released and (had) gone home around Easter. She remained there about one year and finally got back (1782-83). 

All of which is respectfully narrated as I learned it.

H.R. Stafford 
Carroll County Mar 28th, 1865
The Draper Manuscripts, Boone Papers, Series C, Vol. 2, pp 148, 148-1, 148-2, 16 May 1865

This is the 2nd testimony of Hiram Stafford, son of Leah Westerfield, who escaped during the massacre. 

Carrolton, Carroll Co., Ky May 16, 1865

Mr. Lyman C. Draper, Esq

Dr Sir,…My Father was born in Amelia Co., Vir. in 1753. (He) came to Ky when Col. Boon moved his family out on his second trip. My father resided in Ky until his death June 1820- 67 years old. Married Leah Westerfield, 16 years old, near Dicks River (in) 1783. I have no record by which I can give (a) positive date. It is from information received mostly from others...

So far as recollected, my grandfather, James Westerfield, (Sr.) emigrated to Ky (in) 1780 from Berkeley Co. Virginia. (He) landed at Louisville, Ky in the spring with others... by way of Pittsburgh down the Ohio. Left Louisville for Harrod’s Station. (They) camped about 12 miles out, (and were) attacked by a party of Indians while in camp.
All the movers (were) massacred, except my grandmother, Leah, Deborah, Isaac, Rebecca, Catharine - My Mother, Leah late Westerfield---Deborah and Polly Westerfield, daughter of John Westerfield, her distant cousin was taken to Detroit, hence to Montreal. (They) remained in captivity (for) two years. (They) got released and returned by way of Philadelphia, PA…

The Draper Manuscript, Lyman C. Draper, Series CC, Vol. 13, p 84
…Westerfelt family killed going to Harrodsburgh, near Bullit’s lick. (Bullit’s Lick is in Bullitt County, Kentucky.) Samuel Westerfelt, and his sister got back. This the same summer of 1780… 
Interview with Miss Campbell, Feb 1780

I hope this gives you more insight into our family’s tragic adventures in the Jefferson County area.
James Thomas Moore
son of Helen Westerfield
daughter of Tymer Westerfield
son of Isaac Know Westerfield
son of David Westerfield
son of Cornelius Westerfield
son of James Westerfield, Jr.
son of Jacobus Westervelt, Sr.