James Sluss (1832-1911) to brother John Sluss (1834-1911):
"I visited the site and area where the Sluss family was massacred. The date not definitely known but is believed to be Aug 2nd, 1769 at Sharon Springs, about two miles from Ceres, Va. I saw the graves of the two Sluss men that was buried at Sharon Lutheran Church Cemetery. The Church is 140 years old - also saw the graves of Mary Sluss Criggar, the baby that was left alive in the trundle bed at the time of the massacre at Kimberly Church at Black Lick. Also the grave of Polly Ann Sluss Sharitz at St. Johns Lutheran Church at Wytheville, Va. (Elizabeth Sluss Groseclose - at Sharon Lutheran Church , Ceres, Va.) Susan Sluss presumably by the first marriage was buried near Kingsport, Tenn. It seems that Jared's first children were married and away from home at the time of massacre, which accounted for the small number of the family that were killed. The mother and 3 of the children were killed (part of letter missing)."
James Sluss (1832-1911) to Rev. C. W. Cassell, Rural Retreat, VA - Sept.4, 1897:
"My father, Henry Sluss, was out in the fields with his father, Jared Sluss, when the Indians came to the house. The Indians had been there and killed the mother and 2 of his sisters and one brother . They missed getting the baby Mary, who lived and married Michael Criggar who died at Black L ick at the age of 103 years. My father, Henry Sluss died here at Mud Fork at the age of 90 and was buried at Tip Top, Va. Uncle Frederick moved to Missouri, Uncle David lived in Scott County, Va. John was killed accidentally from a falling tree. Our Aunt Polly Ann Sluss married a Sharitz. Susan married W. M. Ketron and was buried near Kingsport, Tenn. Our Grandmother was named Anna. Grandfather Jared Sluss and my Grandmother were direct descendants from Germany, when they arrived at Sharon Springs where my father Henry was born. From Sharon Springs they moved to Wythe County, Va."
The Massacre of the Sluss Family (Southwest Virginia Enterprise): Interesting Paper Tells of Massacre Which Occurred at Sharon Springs, in 1774.
"Through the courtesy of our townsman, Mr. R. P. Johnson we are able to give the readers of t e Southwest Virginia Enterprise, an interesting article, written by Mr. S. H. Williams, of Lynchburg, one of the descendants, on the massacre of the Sluss family.
According to the tradition a number of the Sluss family were members of the St. Paul's Lutheran Church on the Lee Highway west of Wytheville and they would walk from Ceres for the 11 o'clock sermon and back home that afternoon. The women of the family would accompany the men when they attended service, making the trip across the mountains on foot.
The massacre of the Sluss family occurred at Sharon Springs in what was then Fincastle County ( now Bland) near the present village of Ceres, Virginia, August 2, 1774, the year of the Indian uprising known as "Lord Dunmore's War" and just two months prior to the famous battle of Point Pleasant.
It was common knowledge among the settlers of this section of Southwest Virginia that Indians , particularly the Cherokees and Shawnees, had been on the war path since early spring and were committing depredations along the Ohio and Kanawha rivers and that scattered bands were gradually making their way up New River and across the Alleghany mountains toward the fertile valley where game was to be found in abundance, massacring all with whom they came in contact.
Warning of the close proximity of marauding savages had repeatedly sent the pioneers scurrying with their families to the protection of a blockhouse fort surrounded by dugouts or rifle pits, (constructed by them for just such an emergency) only to learn after days of self imprisonment that the rumors were without foundation, when they would return cautiously to their homes.
Like the story of the shepherd and the wolf, these false rumors had caused so much inconvenience and waste of time that crops in the valley were getting little or no attention, yet time after time, in response to repeated warnings they retreated within the walls of the block house to defend themselves against red skins that never put in an appearance.
Late in July 1774, rumors were rife that Elinipsico, son of the famous Shawnee Chieftain, Corn stalk, with a party of fifty or sixty braves were infesting the neighborhood and that a family in Giles County by the name of Lybrook had been massacred by them. Jared Sluss, the pioneer, believing this to be another wild rumor and loath to lose the remainder of his crop, decided to remain at home while keeping a vigilant watch for any indication of the presence of Indians in the vicinity, thinking he would then have time to seek refuge within the fort. Never permitting himself to get beyond sight of his house for four days and satisfied that the Indians were no where about, on the fifth day he and his eldest son, James, a lad twelve years of age, proceeded to work in a field just over the brow of a hill and out of sight of home.
Two of his daughters being away from home at the time (one of them afterward married a Mr. Groseclose and the other a Mr. Sharitz) he left three of his children, Marion aged seven, Hazel ten, and Laura aged four, playing in the bright sunshine of a perfect summer morning, their laughter ringing in his ears as he passed out of sight. They had been cautioned to go no farther away than the "spring" a short distance from the house and to keep a sharp lookout Indians. Christine, the mother, after rocking her six-months old baby, Mary, to sleep, had placed her tenderly in a cradle and shoved it under a high bed in a corner of one of the rooms to keep the flies from annoying her while she slept, little knowing that this act would save the child from a horrible death.
Unaware that savages lurking in the underbrush a short distance away had their beady eyes upon them, the children continued innocently at their play.
The mother was busy with her housework and the first intimation she had of danger was a terrified scream from one of the children closely followed by others from the trio. Looking through a partly opened door she beheld a sight against which she had for years vainly tried to steel herself. A party of Indians had stealthily worked themselves between the children and the house and before any one was aware of their presence had out off all avenue of escape within doors, forcing them to fly for their lives in the direction their father and brother had gone earlier in the day. A rail fence some fifty yards distant obstructed their way. Laura was almost immediately overtaken and her brains dashed out with a war club. Hazel managed to climb over the fence and was well on her way to safety when glancing back she discovered that her seven year old brother, Marion, would certainly be caught before he could get over unless someone went to his assistance. Without further thought of trying to save herself she darted back and bracing herself against the top rail, reached over and lifted him across, shielding his body with her own as best she could while they ran. But for this heroic act, she paid with her life.
The twang of a powerful bow-string drawn its full length and released from the grip of a Herculean savage and an arrow sped through to its mark piercing her frail body through and through while the impact caused its shaft to quiver for seconds in her lifeless form after she had fallen.
The sudden appearance over the brow of the hill of father and son just at this time who, greatly alarmed by the screams they had heard were on a dead run for home, was a moment too late to save this little heroine but did have the effect; however, of momentarily halting the pursuers, thereby enabling the boy to make his escape.
Meeting his father and brother he was told by them to hurry to the fort for help and that was the last time he saw them alive. Arriving at the fort bruised and bleeding, the little fellow through his tears implored those within to hurry to the rescue. After some deliberation, a party sallied forth and reached the scene of the massacre without sighting the enemy. The scene they beheld was long to be remembered. James, though a lad of tender years, and fought and died valiantly by his father's side. The habit of the Indians to invariably carry off their dead and wounded made it impossible to estimate the extent to which they inflicted casualties upon their adversaries, but the condition of their bodies, the ground about them and scattered pools of blood was mute evidence they had sold their lives dearly in defense of their loved ones . Both had been scalped.
The body of the girl lay just over the fence, her scalp missing and arrow still in the wound . The mother was found just outside the kitchen door, her body hacked to pieces by tomahawks , her scalp torn away, her forearm broken and bearing other evidences of a terrible struggle , but still alive. She afterward regained consciousness and was able to relate some of the terrible details of the tragedy, but was unequal to the heart rendering struggle for life and after three days of indescribable suffering with her torn and mutilated form, the light from Heaven streamed down through the gathering mists of death and her soul was wafted into that world of blessedness where the great riddle of life, the meaning of which we can only guess at here below, was unfolded to her in the quick consciousness of a liberal reward.
While their victims were being buried the people grouped around their graves could plainly hear the war whoops, howls and jeers of the Indians who had appeared on a ridge in the distance in full view dancing in glee and defying the settlers to pursue them for their deed. Of three of the survivors the writer has been able to learn no more than has been mentioned in a previous paragraph, but Mary, the six-months old babe who was found in her cradle under the high bed in the corner where loving hands had tenderly placed her, somewhat fretful at having been so rudely awakened but otherwise unharmed, under the care of a friendly neighbor grew to womanhood and married Nathaniel Cregar. A daughter of this union, Mahala, married Abraham Goodman. Another daughter, Delilah, married John Moore who for years drove a stagecoach between Christiansburg and While Sulphur Springs, having many hair raising experiences. He was member of the Moore family of Abbsvalley, most of whom were massacred or taken captive by the Indians some ten years after the tragedy which practically wiped out the Sluss family. John Moore's brother, married Maria Zimmerman and lived at Wytheville, Virginia, for several years.
John and Delilah Moore's daughter, Emzy Ann, married Creed Shelton and a daughter of that uni n, Mary Jane, married Robert P. Williams of Thompson's Valley, Virginia, who died in 1890. In the year following his death, she married John M. Yost of Richlands, Virginia, and became an ardent and powerful worker in the cause of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in its early struggles against the liquor traffic. Upon the death of her second husband she moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, to reside with a son of her first marriage, S. H. Williams, where she died May 14, 1928 , at the age of 62.
Just before her death she willed to her son a spinning whell given her by Mary Sluss and whi h was in the Sluss home at the time of the massacre. Two daughters of her second marriage, Mrs . E. A. DeJarnette of South Boston, Virginia, and Mrs. Ro Nero of Jacksonville, Florida, survive her. Mary Sluss (Cregar) died in 1878, having attained the ripe old age of 104.
The mother of the writer was twelve years of age at that time and the story of the massacre f the Sluss family was related to her in detail by Mary Sluss (who was the babe in the cradle) and she in turn related it to me as has been sent forth in this article. The exact spot where the Sluss home stood can be located on a farm owned by a Mr. Elbert Crabtree and known as the old Crab tree place not far west of the North and South Highway near a stiff curve which leaves the valley to approach Walker mountain. The graves of the victims are in an old cemetery near Ceres. The fort itself was only torn away about forty years ago."
S.H. Williams - 1106 Federal St. - Lynchburg, Va. - July 11, 1928
Sluss Family Massacre - From Frank Repass Brown's records:
:One of the stories my mother liked to tell us children, and one we liked best to hear, was the story of the massacre of the Sluss family...I feel my mother knew more about this than most people who wrote or told about it. She had lived near where her grandmother, Polly Sharitz, lived, and was eleven years old at the time of her death. Also, she lived in the neighborhood where Aunt Mary Crigger spent most of her life, and was thirty-two when Aunt Mary died. Thus she was personally acquainted with with two members of the Sluss family who had escaped being massacred...
As to where the bodies of the victims were buried, the traditions do not agree. According to most, they were buried in the cemetery at the Sharon Lutheran Church, just across the hill from the scene of the massacre.
But this church was not organized until a number of years after the tragic event. It is hardly likely that there was a cemetery here before the church was organized. There are no grave markers with inscriptions on them of this early date in this cemetery. There, however, two grave markers bearing the Sluss name, both to boys in their teens. One was to Joel, who died in 182 5 and the other to David who died in 1827. This is a whole generation after the massacre. There are a number of graves just east of these and just west of the church that are not marked. Whose they are, no one knows.
Another tradition gives the place of burial as near where they were killed. There is a knoll near there where the land slopes three ways about 200 or 300 yards north of the of the house that seems to be a suitable place for the burial. It is about 20 or more feet wide and 75 or more feet long. There are several large boulders and numerous field rocks scattered over it . There is a large old locust stump...[but] no plants such as you often find where there are graves out in a field. The rotten remains of a rail fence are scattered over the place, showing that it has been enclosed for some purpose, otherwise most of it could have been cultivated with the adjoining land. This, it seems to me, is the most probable burying ground of the victims of the massacre...
In regard to the number and names of the persons killed and escaped the accounts do not agree . My mother's account is as follows:
Those killed were Christina the second wife of John [Jared?] Sluss, their daughters Katy and Hazel, and their crippled son David. Those who escaped were John, the two sons James and Joel , and four daughters.
The daughter Polly married Daniel Sharitz. She was my great grandmother. She was eleven years old at the time of the tragedy. It was she who, when the Indians were seen, ran from the house to give the alarm to the father and brothers.
Elizabeth married Peter Groseclose Jr., who lived in the neighborhood just west of the Sluss house. I think she was married and living in her own home at the time.
Mary was a baby in the cradle. She in her cradle had been pushed back under the bed, and was not discovered by the Indians. She married Michael Crigger.
The fourth daughter to escape, Susan, must have been married and away from the old home at the time of the massacre. She married a Mr. Katronand moved to Tennessee, northeast of Kingsport. Years ago I visited in the homes of some of her descendants and the cemetery where she was buried. There were no markers with inscriptions to give any information. Her descendants knew little of the story, except that she was from the Sluss family.
The year and the time of year of the massacre varies with the various sources of traditions. Some would set the date early in the 1760s, some in the late 1790s. According to the tradition in our family, our great grandmother Polly Sharitz was eleven years old at the time. She was born in 1775. That would make the date of the massacre 1786. But Aunt Mary Creggar was believed to have been 103 or 104 years old when she died in 1880. As she was a baby at the time of the massacre that would indicate 1776 or 17 77. As to the time of year the traditions vary from late spring to late summer. The date I believe most probable is April of May 1778 or 1779.
I have not given gruesome details of the tragedy as some have attempted to do, and for this reason. There were no living eye witnesses. No one escaped from the house or yard who saw the massacre to give the details of it, or just how it happened. The mother and children were at home as usual, not expecting anything unusual to take place, so could not have put up much of a fight. Polly, the one who escaped to give the alarm, ran when she saw the Indians approaching so could not have given the details of the horrible tragedy. Then the Indians knew they must make quick work of it and get away safely, knowing the men of the family and neighbors would soon hear of the tragedy and would be after them, and that no mercy would be shown them if caught . Almost all the traditions say, "The Indians made a quick and safe getaway."
If now, 175 years or more after the tragedy, the traditions do not agree as to the number killed, or even the number who escaped, or the date of the event, or the place where the victims were buried, how could we be expected to know the details of the tragedy? My mother never ga e us children a number of them."
About Frank Repass Brown:
Frank Repass Brown lived near Rural Retreat, Virginia. He was born March27, 1887, the son o f Michael Dallas Brown and Emily V. Repass. He married Virginia Umberger. He died in 1973 and was buried at Marvin Methodist Church Cemetery, Wythe County.
Frank Brown loved family and local history, spending much of his adult life studying and recording local history. The following story of the Sluss massacre was photocopied from alarge loose-leaf binder containing his memoirs. Although undated, it was possibly written about 1953 because he wrote this account "175 years or more after the tragedy" and speculated the massacre of the Jared Sluss family took place in April or May 1778 or 1779.
It should be noted that there is much speculation and various theories concerning the date of the massacre to be found today in books and publications. Frank Brown was the great-grandson of a survivor, Polly Sluss Sharitz, and grandnephew of another survivor, Mary Sluss Creggar. Emily V. Repass Brown, Frank's mother, lived near both survivors. She was 11 years old when her Grandmother Polly Sharitz died and was 32 years old when her Aunt Mary Creggar died. Frank Brown's conclusions regarding the tragedy come not only from oral history from the family--mai ly from his mother -- but from a considerable amount of investigation on his part. For these reasons, his written history merits inclusion with other accounts of the event.
At present, most of Frank Brown's records are in the possession of his niece, Martha Brown De ord who lives in western Wythe County.
- Beverly Repass Hoch, June 1997
Sluss Family Murders - Jonas Huddle's Account:
Beverly Hoch and Mary Kegley found in a trunk of Huddle family papers the following handwritten account of the Sluss Family massacre. It was by Jonas Huddle, son of Henry Huddle (or Heinrich Hottel), born Woodstock VA, 1768-1846.
"There is living in Black Lick a lady who was an infant in the cradle when the murderous tomahawk of the red man was used in killing the family of which she was a member and from the best information which can now [sic] ascertained was in the year 1784[.] Having frequently heard my father relate the circumstance who at the time had his home near the place where the tragedy occurred and thus he was the first person that got to the murdered family having outrun his companions and found said child in its cradle and that it was then about 18 months old. The above depredations were committed in the Rich Valley now Bland County on the farm owned by Mr. Crabtree.
There is no history on record of the above that I know of and the murdered family was named Sluss."