“Sufferers’ Land” Post #17 – Murder on the Portage River

In late April 1819, disturbing news reached the village of Norwalk. Indians on the Portage River northwest of town had murdered two men. Sally, along with all the settlers, was alarmed and anxious to know more. As the days went by, more news came in. The victims were two trappers, John Wood and George Bishop. John was a married man, a tavern-keeper in Venice, Ohio, and George was single, a sailor on the Great Lakes who lived in Danbury Township.

At that time, much of the Firelands was still wilderness and game was plentiful enough to make trapping and hunting a profitable enterprise. In early April, a company of men, including John Wood and George Bishop, had gone on a trapping expedition up the Portage River on the peninsula, in what is now Ottawa County. The others in the party soon went home, but John and George stayed on. They were relatively successful, and by late April had settled into a cabin on the Portage River where they continued to work their trap lines. It was in that cabin that their bodies were discovered.

For a few more days the suspense continued, then came the welcome news that authorities had captured the murderers. Three Indians had confessed to the crime and were on the way to Norwalk to stand trial.
When the Indians arrived in the village, authorities confined them in a log cabin belonging to Daniel Raitt, located just north of Main Street on what is now Hester Street. Mr. Raitt and another man named Charles Soules guarded them twenty-four hours a day.

With the Indians safely confined to the jail, Sally and the other inhabitants gathered around the men who brought them in anxious to learn the full story of the murder. [1]

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Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

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One Response

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