Between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany mountains, in the northern part of the State of Virginia, is located Shenandoah county, which derives it's name from the beautiful river, one branch of which flows through it's entire length, from South to North. It's county seat is Woodstock, a thriving town, with a population of between one and two thousand inhabitants.
The place was settled previous to the French and Indian war by hardy German yeomanry from Pennsylvania, who were tempted to leave the Keystone State, and change their quarters, by the glowing reports which had reached their ears of the surprising fertility and surpassing beauty of the valley of the Shenandoah. Gathering up their household goods they turned their backs, with a feeling akin to reluctance, upon the homes of their first choice, and took their way through pathless forests to "the promised land." Arrived at their new home, they selected the site of the present flourishing town as the nucleus of the settlement, and commenced, with a will, the laborious task of felling the forest and the erection of their homes. Astockade fort was erected as a protection against the incursion of predatory bands of Indians, and a short time sufficed to place them in circumstances which, if not actually flourishing, were comparatively thrifty, and so far promising as to the future, that they were led to look forward with hope and bright anticipations to a long continued prosperity. They were a plain, frugal and industrious people, unacquainted with the luxuries and only desiring the substantial requisites of an humble mode of life, which were furnished in abundance by the fertile soil of the valley in which they had taken up their abode. A traveler among them during the French and Indian war thus speaks of their happy condition.
"I could not but reflect with pleasure upon the situation of these people; and think, if there is such a thing as true happiness in this life, they enjoy it. Far from the bustle of the world, they live in the most delightful climate and richest soil imaginable. They are everywhere surrounded by beautiful prospects and sylvan scenes-lofty mountains, transparent streams, falls of water, rich valleys, and majestic woods; the whole intersperced with an infinite variety of flowwering shrubs, constitute the landscape surrounding them. They are subject to few diseases, and are generally robust, and live in perfect liberty. They are ignorant of want, and are acquainted with few vices. Their inexperience of the elegancies of life precludes any regret that they have not the means of enjoying them; but they possess what many princes would give half their dominions for,-health, content, and tranquility of mind."
Among others who had been attracted to their beautiful valley by the glowing accounts of it's fertility and comparative security, were two heads of families by the names of Sheits and Taylor. The former was of German parentage, the latter of English birth, but having both married American women, and being drawn together by the invisible bond of sympathy which, in a new country, where danger is a common heritage, unites with a stronger tie than that of blood,--they were more like one family than two separate households.
Being driven from their homes by the massacre of two of their neighbors and their famalies, they hastily collected a few necessaries, placed them, with their wives and children, in a wagon,to which was attached their respective horses, and started in search of a new home. Woodstock was the nearest town, or station, where there was a fort, and toward that place they directed their steps.
The family of Taylor embraced himself, wife, and three children; while that of Sheits numbered but three-himself, wife and one child. The few articles which the limited room in the wagon, and the hurried nature of their departure allowed them to remove, were a chest of drawers, which was a gift from the parents of Mrs. T., a feather bed, also a parental gift of Mrs. S., a brass kettle or two, some few culinary articles, and the axes and rifles of the men. These and their horses, and a stout farm wagon, were all they had saved, yet they were well content to come off with their lives, and trudged along satisfied if they could but reach a haven of safety from the barbarities which had been inflicted upon their less fortunate neighbors and friends.
The greater portion of their way lay through the forest, wher every sound to their affrighted ears gave token of an enemy lurking in their path, and the rustling of a leaf, or the sighing wind, awoke their fears and called up their latent courage. This had been passed, however, in safety, and they had reached the brow of the hill from whence they had a view of the beautiful valley below, where they hoped to find a haven of rest. Pausing for a moment to admire the scene which opened before them, they gave vent to their feelings in eulogies upon the lovely landscape, and words of encouragement to their wives and children. Alas! as they spoke, the deadly rifle of a concealed foe was leveled full at their breasts, and the savage red-skin was thirsting for their blood, within a few feet of them. Hidden by the thick underbrush which grew up by the side of the road, five tawny warriors, painted and bedecked with their war feathers, lay crouching like wild beasts, ready to spring upon their prey. Just as they started to resume their way and descend the hill toward the settlement, the crack of two rifles, the whizzing of two leaden messengers, and the fall of their husbands, alarmed the women and widowed them at the same instant. The aim had been sure, and both the men fell without a groan, pierced through the heart with the fatal bullet from an unerring rifle. Quick as the flash from a summer cloud were all their fondly cherished hopes of safety and future happiness blasted, and stricken to earth with the fall of their husbands. No cry escaped the now bereaved women. Their feelings were too deep for utterance, nor was there any time for grief or repining. Left in an instant self dependant, they looked around for the foe and for means of defense. Nothing was in reach but the axes of their husbands, and these they seized and awaited the onset of the savages. They had not long to wait. Pushing aside the foliage, five stalwart warriors sprung, with a grunt of satisfaction, from the thicket into the road, and made for the wagon to secure their prisoners. The first who came up seized the son of Mrs. Taylor and endeavored to drag him from the wagon, but the little fellow resisted manfully, looking meanwhile up into his mother's face as if to implore protection at her hands. The appeal was not lost upon her. Seizing, with both hands, the axe of her husband, and swinging it around her head, she brought it down with all the vengeful force of her arm upon the shoulder of the Indian, inflicting a wound which sent him off howling with pain. Turning to another she served him in like manner, while Mrs. Sheits had sent a third back to his lair with a severe blow across the hand which severed all his fingers. The other two were wise enough to keep without the reach of their blows, but endeavored to intimidate them by their terrific yells and brandished tomahawks. Nothing daunted, however, the brave and heroic women maintained their threatening attitude of defense, until wearied of their endeavors, and fearing the approach of relief from the garrison of the fort, the two unwounded Indians rushed into the thicket again for their rifles, to end the conflict. Taking advantage of this opportunity the women started the horses, and the red-skins not daring to pursue them, they were permitted to reach the fort in safety, from where a party set out to bring in the dead and scalped bodies of their husbands.