Simon Girty
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By Dan Beard

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Old Simon Girty,
the Renegade

In this chapter we are going to learn how to make a pushmobile.  Just what a pushmobile has to do with pioneering it might be hard to explain, but the preceding chapters have given part of the evolution of the little coasting cart that every city boy knows how to make, and the pushmobile has been evolved from the primitive coasting wagon, so it naturally takes its place here.  In fact, if it were left out, the boys, having been led so far in the wagonmaker's art, would miss the pushmobile and be flooding the author with letters demanding an explanation and reason for omitting it from this book.

So here it is in all its detail.  But first and beforehand, that this chapter shall not be lacking in backwoods flavor, we will have a short account of a notorious American who, although he at first won honorable notches for his gunstock, also won so many bad marks that the notches are forgotten and lost.

Every Son of Daniel Boone should be familiar with the story of Simon Girty, so that he may avoid any act which would give occasion to his companions for giving him that name.

Boys who give away the secrets of their clubs or societies outsiders, boys who join a club or Fort of the Sons Daniel Boone and then desert it, are called Simon Girtys. though the Society was founded by the author four years ago, so far there has been no

Simon Girty

reported; but some boys do not seem to have a fair chance in this world; their surroundings in childhood and boyhood are such as to give them a wrong impression of life.   These surroundings often serve as a kindergarten training for evil in place of good.  There appears, however, to have been nothing remarkably bad about Simon Girty's father, and from all accounts his mother seems to have been a very estimable woman.  Thousands of just such people inhabited our old frontier and their children and descendants often made the best type of American citizens.

Simon Girty, the renegade, Simon Girty, the savage, was the son of old Simon Girty, the packer, an Irishman who drove pack-horses through the wilderness and saved enough money from his wages to start himself as an unlicensed Indian trader.  He married an English girl by the name of Mary Newton and they had four children. Tom, who was the eldest; Simon, born in 1741; then came Jim in 1743 and George in 1745. 

In 1748 old Girty became a regular licensed Indian trader.  The four Girty boys were good, wholesome children and under proper conditions might have become fine types of men, but they lived in the most notorious of backwoods settlements, known as Chambers-in-Paxtang, now known as Fort Hunter, in Dauphin County within walking distance of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Chambers-in-Paxtang was a place where the whites and Indians had many boisterous revels. One day old man Girty became quarrelsome and was killed by "The Fish," an Indian.  According to the unwritten law of the backwoods it was the duty of the dead man's dearest friend to continue the quarrel.

Old Girty's most intimate friend was a fellow named Turner, who lived in the same house with Girty. Turner, upon the first opportunity, killed "The Fish," after which he married Mrs. Girty and thus became the stepfather of Simon and his brothers Tom, Jim, and George.  But the old backwoods law was still in working order and some time afterward the Indians and children they subjected him to horrible tortures and finally took his life.

Such was the kindergarten training which young Simon Girty received, and it is not strange that he grew up to be more savage than the savages and became a cruel, unprincipled man, a traitor to his country, a renegade and leader among our Indian foes, a coarse, low type of a Benedict Arnold-the most hated man on the border. There is no doubt about his treachery and blood-thirsty cruelty or that he led the red man under orders from the British, yet he was not totally bad at heart, for he was true to his former comrade, Simon Kenton, and showed kindness to other prisoners, but to personal enemies he was brutal and cruel in the extreme.

Many of the stories and legends about him are untrue, and outrages and acts committed by other people have been laid at his door; still the fact remains that during the Revolutionary War, after first enlisting with the Americans, he went over to the British and was used by them as interpreter, scout, and also for the purpose of leading and inciting the Indians against the American settlers.  He was present at the terrible torture of Col. William Crawford, and, if he took no part, he made no effort to help him.   He threatened and used most terrible language to the captive missionaries.   Girty led a number of forays, scalping the white settlers after the manner of the Indians, and wreaking a most terrible vengeance upon his former neighbors.

Girty was a brutal character.  He could see women and children killed without disturbing his tough conscience, and could even take part in the forays where these acts were committed, and it is not improbable that he himself had a hand in them.  But he was not always unkind. 

On one occasion he patted a boy prisoner on the head and took him on his knee, as I have seen even a low type of criminal do.  Neither was he always profane and threatening in his language in the presence of prisoners, although he seldom went out of his way to be kind to them; but as a rule the boy prisoners were better treated by Girty than any others, and this may have been because he himself remembered the time when, a little fellow, a prisoner among the Indians, he was compelled to witness the terrible scenes when white captives were brought in.

According to the written and verbal accounts that have come down to us, Simon Girty looked his character.  He had very dark hair, dark eyes, a livid scar on his forehead, a short neck, and a heavy frame.  He was by no means an Indian in character.  He was much worse than the savages, for he lacked their many noble traits.

Girty was simply a mean type of a very bad white man.  He is described on various occasions as being dressed as an Indian, but this was, probably, not his usual custom.   We must remember that in those days all the backwoodsmen wore practically the same garb as the natives, omitting, of course, the feathered head-dress, which was replaced by the white pioneer's bearskin and coonskin caps.  Girty sometimes wore a brace of silver mounted pistols in his belt, which were probably furnished him by the British.

He was an excellent hunter and woodsman.  At times he became very abusive, quarrelsome, and noisy.

We must remember that Simon Girty was by no means one of the buckskin knights of American chivalry.  He is the villain in the story of these old times, and, because his name is mentioned so frequently in story and legend, it becomes necessary to give a short account of him along with those of our grand old pioneers, for he lived at the same time as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and Jonathan Chapman, affectionately known on the border as "Appleseed Johnny." (This brief sketch of Girty is useful, if for no other purpose than as a shadow, or dark side, of a picture, which is always necessary to give greater luster to the high lights.)

After the war of the Revolution was over Girty went to Canada and settled there.   He was not killed in war, as many of the accounts declare, but lived to be a half-blind, rheumatic old man, and at length died, in Canada, from natural causes, February 18, 1818.

Game of Renegade

Kit Carson Pushmobile

The Boy Pioneers






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Kit Carson Pushmobile ]

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Foreword ] Daniel Boone ] Appleseed Johnny's Day ] Simon Kenton ] [ Simon Girty ] Audubon's Day ] Form a Boy's Club ] Initiation Boy Pioneers ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Boy Pioneers ] Outdoor Handy Book ] Scouting ] American Boys Handy Book ] Shelters, Shacks, Shanties ] Field & Forest Handy Book ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.