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Blog post by Randi Richardson

Family reunions bring families together with bountiful tables and information to share.  On August 28, 1921, descendants of George and Elizabeth “Betsy” (Smith) Skirvin got together for a family reunion in a shady grove about four and a half miles east of Bloomington.

George and Betsy reportedly settled that part of the country many years ago.  Although one can’t be certain of their exact date of arrival, George and his probable wife and six children were living in Monroe County in 1830 and both he and his son, Simpson Skirvin, were taxpayers in Monroe County by 1842.

Bloomington land records indicate that George purchased 40 aces in Section 31 of Benton Township in 1834.  According to information from the family reunion, he paid the small sum of twelve cents an acre for the property that in 1921 was known as the William Kerr farm.  In 1852  he also became the owner of 80 acres in Section 31 of Benton Township when he was granted bounty land for his military service in the War of 1812.

Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981) is one of George Skirvin’s many direct descendants affiliated with Bloomington yet today.  Photo courtesy of Indiana University Photo Archives.

George and Betsy were the parents of six children:  Loretta, Simpson, Perry, Hartwell, Henderson and Franklin.  The family was largely supported by George’s farming endeavors and the substantial amount of time he devoted to his cooper shop.  Most of his living descendants reportedly settled near the old homestead and engaged in farming which was, by 1921, considerably less drudgery than it was in the early days.

It was told that George had a brother, Joel.  Both were said to serve in the French and Indian War and both were captured by Indians.  George reportedly was treated fairly by the Indians because of his bravery and was given a squaw.  In honor of the occasion, a big dance was held and the liquor flowed freely.  George, who only pretended to drink, waited until the others were drunk.  Then he made his escape by swimming across the Ohio River.

Joel was not so lucky.  He remained with the Indians several years.  Finally he became very sick because of the treatment he received at the hand of the Indians and the living conditions he endured.  Death seemed his fate.  The Indians were “horror stricken” and wanted to get rid of the pale face.  They gladly sold him to the British for a keg of whiskey.  The British gave him his freedom.

Although this story makes for good telling, at least in some respects it is highly unlikely.  The French and Indian War took place from 1756 to 1763 well before George was born c. 1892.  If, in fact, George was captured by the Indians, it is more likely to have occurred during the War of 1812.  As noted above, George was granted bounty land as partial compensation for his service during that period of military conflict.

It is impossible to know the person responsible for misidentifying the war in the reunion article, but a number of George Skirvin’s grandchildren were yet living in 1921 and were yet young enough to remember their grandfather who died in Monroe County in 1879 and was buried in the Mt. Gilead Cemetery.  Therefore, the story of George’s capture by Indians does have a ring of truth to it, although it can neither be proven nor corroborated at this late date.

Source:  Bloomington (IN) Evening World, September 7, 1921, p. 1.