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The TALES you probably never heard about


More About David Price

By Mrs. A. H. Sternaman, Owosso, Mich.

[Welland Tribune, August 1897]

               I am descended from four of the pioneer families of Welland county, namely, Abraham Neff, Michael Gonder and Jacob Morningstar, who were my great grandparents, and David Price, who was my grandfather. Uncle Johnny Price is my own uncle. My mother, Sophia Margaret Price Neff, was his oldest sister, and was the oldest of the family. She was born at old Niagara, February 6th, 1802, and at the time of the war of 1812, she, with her parents, moved to Chippawa Creek or where Welland now is. She was married to John Neff of Wainfleet, December 6th, 1818, and I am their seventh child. About my own and parents’ life, I have not much to write, but it is of my grandfather, David Price’s life, as a prisoner among the Indians that I am going to speak. What Uncle Johnnie has written about is about the same as I have heard my mother relate, with the exception of a few variations which we can overlook, considering his great age.


             I have often heard my mother say that she never heard her father mention but two circumstances that happened that he remembered of his father. The once instance was when he (grandfather) was about three years old, when his mother sent him and Joseph, his elder brother, to call his father (who was in the clearing chopping) to dinner. When they got to where their father was he had chopped a tree with an owl’s nest in it, so he gave each of the boys an owl to carry to the house. They hadn’t gone far when my grandfather got tired, so he put his owl down so as to rest himself, and when he went to pick it up it would turn and look at him; so he walked around on the other side of it, but it would look at him as before; so he got a stick and hit it and then tried to take it, but it would still look at him; so he kept hitting it until he made it behave as supposed, then he picked it up and followed his father and brother home, they having gone on and left him.


             My grandfather (David Price) related  that while the Indians were making preparations to march on the following morning, that the chief told the dreamer to lie down early so as to dream of what should befall them while on the march. So the next morning my grandfather kept close to the chief so as to hear the dreamer relate his dream-of how soon after they set out on the march they would come on some tracks which they would suppose to be men’s tracks, but on investigation they would find them to be bear’s tracks, but going on farther they would come to men’s tracks and that they would be chased, too. Grandfather said that they had not proceeded far on their march when they came across a track; a short distance farther on they came to another, then another, and another, until they had passed upwards of fifty tracks all going the same way, and on investigation they proved to be bear’s tracks, as the dreamer predicted. After marching a couple of hours longer they came across men’s tracks, and they proved to be their enemies; and they were chased too, as the dreamer said they would be. After marching all day they arrived just in the evening on the banks of the Susquehanna river which they were obliged to ford so as to get out of the enemy’s reach; by the time they had all got safely over it was getting dark and was beginning to freeze. So the old chief got his tinder box and with flint and steel and some punt tried to start a fire, but, not succeeding he handed it to an Indian, but he not being successful gave it back to the chief, who handed it to another Indian and so on till a dozen or more had tried to start a fire but all failed. In the meantime, my grandfather had got some dry chips from an old dry log near by, so he went to the chief and asked for flint and steel to try his luck, and he soon had a good fire started from which the Indians took the branch and they soon had many fires to warm themselves by and to dry their clothing.


             Early one morning my grandfather, two Indians and a squaw, set out on a hunting expedition. The squaw went along to do the cooking. They camped in an old hut on the low land along the Susquehanna river. They had been there but a few days when there came on a terrible rainstorm, when my grandfather came to the camp, and told the squaw to cook supper quickly for they were going to have a freshet. So the squaw put some beans over in a brass kettle to cook for supper, but they hardly commenced to boil when the water came into the camp and put the fire all out. So one of the Indians took their pony and fled to the high lands and was never heard of more. The other Indian ran and climbed a tree; and my grandfather and the squaw climbed up in the camp on to the beams, there being no upper floor and there they had to stay the whole night. The next morning the Indian in the tree came to the camp on the ice, it having froze during the night to form ice strong enough to bear him up. They then packed up their goods and went to the high-lands. My grandfather said there were cattle, hay-stacks, and even small barns floating down the river, and a rooster was crowing in one of the barns.

             My grandfather related how at one time they were many days without anything to eat excepting whortleberries. Finally an Indian chanced to shoot a snipe and the chief cut it up and divided it among the company of nearly three hundred in number-you can imagine how large each one’s share was. A few days after there was a wolf killed, which was again divided, but there was one Indian who said he could not eat wolf meat, a few days after that an Indian killed a nice deer, then there was another dividing, then the Indian who couldn’t eat wolf meat got a double portion of the deer meat.

             Grandfather related that at one time while in camp the chief and his warriors held a long council and at its close the chief ordered the Indians to dig a pit, and when it was completed gave orders to seize an old gray-headed squaw (who was sitting on the ground near by crying) and bury her; so they stood her in the pit and buried her alive, leaving only her head above the ground; the squaw pleading piteously for her life. When all was completed they broke camp and left the poor squaw to her fate, whether to be devoured by wild beasts or starve to death. My grandfather asked one of the Indians why they had buried her, and they told him she was a bad woman. By the way they acted about it grandfather took it that they believed she had been guilty of witchcraft.


             One warm summer day my grandfather and an Indian started out on a deer hunt. Later in the afternoon they came to a deserted Indian camp, and being tired they thought it best to camp for the night; so they started a fire to keep the mosquitoes from bothering them, and lay themselves down and were soon fast asleep. Sometime in the night my grandfather awoke and sat himself up, and there was a huge bear on the opposite side of the fire looking at them. So my grandfather took a firebrand and threw it at the bear, at the same time yelling at the top of his voice. The bear ran for his life, not even looking back. My grandfather’s yelling awoke the Indian; he sat up and looked around in a daze, and asked my grandfather what the matter was.


             Uncle Johnny mentions a hard winter and scarcity of game and about a deep snow falling, and that they could tomahawk the deer the snow being so deep that the latter could not get out of the way. I  have heard my mother relate the same circumstances many times. She also mentioned that during the time that the snow was so deep my grandfather and an old Indian put on their snowshoes and started out on a deer hunt. They hadn’t gone far when they saw a deer at a distance standing in the deep snow; the snow being so deep that it could hardly move, and the Indian told my grandfather that he was going to to kill it, when my grandfather reminded the Indian of his age, telling him that he himself was young and could out run the Indian so he would kill it, but when my grandfather got to the deer it made a lunge and caught my grandfather’s snowshoe and tripped him up. In the meantime the Indian came up and killed the deer with his tomahawk, after which he helped my grandfather to his feet, saying: “Didn’t I tell you I would kill the deer?”


One day several Indians went off on a scout and towards evening they returned bringing with them a prisoner, a young man about twenty or twenty-one years old. He was nude and had a piece of bark tied around his neck by which they led him along. When they got in sight of camp the Indian who was leading him along gave a yell, whereupon the young Indians armed themselves with their tomahawks and went forth to meet them. As soon as they got to the prisoner they commenced hacking him with their tomahawks until they had him literally hacked to pieces, and he fell down dead.


              My grandfather related that once while they were in camp he got thinking of home and was homesick. So one evening, it being very warm, he went outside the camp and lay himself down on the ground on his back, and was looking up in the sky, and was thinking of home, when all of a sudden there appeared written in the sky in italic letters, “war, war, war,” three times, the writing being the color of the stars. And it is noteworthy that he lived through three wars, viz: The old French war, the Revolutionary war, which was then pending, and the war of 1812.


              Uncle Johnny has related about my grandfather finding the Starky children, same as I have heard my mother relate it. But he has not mentioned anything about the children of Milledge Farr, west of what is now the town of Welland. I will relate it as I have it from my mother.

              Their names were Richard, William and Ira, children of Milledge and Sally Farr. One day they went out in the edge of the bush to gather hickory nuts, and going from one hickory tree to another, they got out in the bush so far that they didn’t know which way was home, and so were lost. It being late in the afternoon and they not coming home, their parents became alarmed, so set out to look for them, and not finding them they called out the neighbors to help in the search, which lasted until it was dark, when they had to give up the search for that day. In the morning at peep of day the whole neighborhood came together, when they formed themselves in a line at a certain distance from each other, and there were no shots to be fired until the children were found. My grandfather was one of the number, but he was not at all pleased with the way they were doing, so he started out by himself with his dog and gun. After wandering about for some time he came where there was quite tall grass and it looked as if some animal or something had wallowed through the grass; at the same time his dog took the track in the grass for a short distance, then came back, when my grandfather sent the dog on the track again. He had not gone into the grass far when one of the children began to cry, then my grandfather called to them to come to him, when they called back for him to wait for them; after waiting awhile the oldest child came crawling through the grass, in a little while after the second child came, then there was a long waiting, and just as my grandfather was losing hope of finding the third one, the little fellow came in sight. My grandfather then fired three shots so as to notify the company that the children were all found. He then peeled some bark from a tree and with it tied the youngest child on his back and then started for home, the two elder children following him. When they arrived at their father’s home, he opened the gate and they ran into the house to their mother, who was overjoyed at their return, she having been nearly distracted on their account.

              The next summer following, as my grandfather with his dog and gun came by the school house at the hour of noon, he stopped awhile to talk with the teacher, when he heard one of the scholars tell another that that was the dog that came to them in the cranberry marsh, at the same time my grandfather noticed the little fellow eying him, so my grandfather asked him if he had ever seen him before. The little fellow said, “yes, sir,” so grandfather asked him where he had seen him, when he answered, “in the cranberry marsh, sir.”

              I often heard my mother say that while they lived at Niagara my grandfather sent many a young man to school at his own expense, and after they moved to the Chippawa home taught several terms of school. I often heard her say that old David Thompson was one of his pupils and a school-mate of her’s and she used to say nobody thought at that time he would be so great a man.

              I have often heard my mother tell that when she was about 15 years old, one day my grandfather was out in the wood pile making an axe helve, he chanced to look up to see an old Indian coming towards him, when my grandfather threw down the axe helve and started toward him. When they met they clasped each other around the neck, at the same time laughing and crying together-they were so overjoyed at meeting again. My grandfather then brought him into the house and introduced him to his family as the chief who took him prisoner, whom he had not seen since he obtained his freedom. The chief having heard where my grandfather lived, came to see him. I often heard my mother say that she didn’t believe that a father and son could have been more glad to meet again, after not having seen each other for so many years.


  1. On 25 August 2012, Greg Hurst Said,

    Thank-you for posting this article on my great, great grandfather – David Price. My grandfather E.A. Hurst and grandmother Florence Hurst spoke of him but until I read this article I did not know much of him at all.


    Greg Hurst
    Orangeville, Ontario

  2. On 28 August 2012, Bev Said,

    Hi Greg

    Wonderful to hear from you. I am the granddaughter of Gertrude and Alex Hurst and daughter of Maxine. My grandmother spoke often of your grandparents. By all accounts David Price was a valued pioneer and a real treasure to those who knew him. I would have loved to have sat down and had a conversation with him and his family. Thank you for writing.

  3. On 14 November 2013, Greg Hurst Said,

    Hi Bev,

    I would have loved to have met and talked with him as well. I was told there there is a box with some of his posessions and a portrait at the Welland Museum. I talked with someone who worked there and they said that they would bring it out for viewing but she wasn’t sure what the fee charged would be and I haven’t been down that way in over a year to make the arrangements and pay their fees but hope to next summer. If you would like to contact me pls do so. gdhurst at yahoo dot com

  4. On 18 November 2013, B Said,

    Morning Greg

    I wrote you with a picture included last week so hope you received it. If not, please let me know. B

  5. On 11 February 2017, Brian porter Said,

    Very much enjoyed this story. I’m a 6th generation from David Price. David’s son marries a Stoner, then into McCaul’s. Very much interested how these ancestor’s fit into the war of 1812.

  6. On 20 February 2017, B Said,

    Hi Brian

    Thank you for writing. I have no family information regarding the War of 1812. Would be of interest to research this. B

  7. On 20 February 2017, Brian porter Said,

    I have at least 2 relatives who were in the war. If I have 2, there must be more. I know from the history that I have read on my own, David Price was important to the Indians, I have copies of a family research which were from the welland tribune from the very earliest days. Someone from my family said we were related to Laura Secord but I cannot find any truth to this when searching ancestry.


  8. On 21 February 2017, B Said,

    i went through my family records last evening and didn’t find any connection to Laura Secord..In my research i will continue to look. Thank you Brian for bringing this to my attention.

  9. On 4 March 2018, Greg Hurst Said,

    Hi Bev, hope you are well. I did send this info and pic that you sent to my first cousins. They as I were grateful for the pic.

    Hi Brian, I talked to some of my relatives and they had never heard of any connection to Laura Secord either.

    My wife and I are planning on a day trip to the Welland Museum again this spring or summer.


  10. On 5 March 2018, B Said,

    Hi Greg

    I have been in touch with a family member through the Millers, and if you would like to connect, I am sure he would be pleased.

  11. On 5 March 2018, Greg Hurst Said,

    Hi B, I would like that. Greg

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