Thursday, October 27, 2011

The 1794 Massacre of William Casteel's family

  Knox County, TN, History; Published 1853

Amongst other acts of Indian hostility perpetrated in Knox county, was one which occurred on the 22nd April 1794. William Casteel lived south of French Broad, about nine miles above Knoxville, and two miles from the then residence of Doctor Cozby. The latter had been an old Indian fighter, from the first settlement of the country, he was, of course, held in deadly hatred by the Indians, and had often been selected as a victim of their vengeance. He had his house always prepared for defense, and never allowed himself to be taken by surprise.
At evening, of the 22nd, his domestic animals gave the usual tokens of the presence of Indians, when, observing from his house, he could discern, obscurely, the stealthy march, in Indian file, of twenty warriors passing across the end of a short lane and concealing themselves in the fence corners and the adjoining woods. The door was at once barricaded, the fire extinguished, two guns primed afresh, and with these he prepared to defend his castle and his family, consisting of his wife and several children, one of whom only could shoot.
A space of more than one hundred yards had been cleared around his building, and there was light enough to see the approach of an assailant within that distance. From the port-holes, in each angle of the house, a constant watch was kept, and orders were given by Cozby, in a loud voice, to the members of his family, as if commanding a platoon of soldiers. The stratagem succeeded. An hour before day the Indians withdrew, and went off in the direction of Casteel's cabin.
Early next morning Anthony Ragan came to Casteel's, and found him dead, from a lick received on his head from a war club; he was scalped, and lying near the fire, dressed, and with leggins on, having arose early for the purpose, as was supposed, of accompanying Reagan to a hunt, which had been agreed on the preceding day. Mrs. Casteel was found on the floor, scalped in two places - a proof that it required two warriors to conquer he - her night cap with several holes cut through it, a butcher knife stuck into her side, one arm broken, and a part of the hand of the other arm cut off. She seemed to have made resistance with an axe, found near her, stained with blood. One of the daughters received a stab, which, piercing through the body, went into the bed-clothes. She and two brothers were scalped. The youngest child, two years old, having the cranium entirely denuded of the scalp, was thrown into the chimney corner.
Elizabeth, the oldest daughter, ten years old, now Mrs. Dunlap, still living near the scene of the horrible massacre of her father's whole family, was found weltering in her blood, flowing from six wounds inflicted with a tomahawk. Besides these, she was also scalped. Reagan gave the alarm to the settlement; urgent pursuit was immediately made, but the savages escaped. While preparations were made for the interment of the massacred family, Elizabeth showed signs of life, moaning when an attempt was made, by Col. Ramsey, who was present, to close one of the gashes upon her head. She was taken to Mr. Shook's, who then owned Major Swan's mills, where Doctor Cozby dressed her wounds. She did not recover for two years. The rest of the family, six in number, were buried in one grave, under a black-oak tree, still standing.
Mr. Casteel was a soldier of the Revolution, from Green Brier county, VA, and had never received anything for his services. Of the heroic wife and mother, nothing more is known. An effort has been made to procure a pension for the surviving daughter. Thus far it has been fruitless.

(ANNALS OF TENNESSEE by J.G.M. Ramsey; pages 592-593; 1853)
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Susan D. said...

What a terrible event and such a graphic account of it. It certainly brings alive the dangers our ancestors faced in those days.

PalmsRV said...

I'll be thinking of the Casteel family the next time through Knoxville.

Pamela Steele said...

I am a Casteel and would love to exchange info with anyone who has researched this line. Thank you.


Beth Livingston said...

My maiden name is Elizabeth Casteel and my father's name is William Casteel. He is from Knoxville and his family once owned a farm about where the West Town Mall is located now.