John Heckewelder’s Writings

John Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary made a journey over the trace in 1792and noted that a herd of 110 cattle and 30 drovers left the Falls area for Vincennes by the trace

He started out in October and was traveling with a party of 23, including “16 Indian chiefs, a squaw, 2 guides, and 2 soldiers.”  Mr. Heckewelder noted that the odor of ripe persimmons made the first day’s travel “very agreeable”.  The guides, Kentucky hunters, shot 5 turkeys for the evening meal of the group.  The next day was less pleasant and saw the travelers struggling to get through overgrown land and many grape vines and bushes.  Eventually they encountered “steep, disagreeable mountains” and came to the “mud holes” where Mr. Heckewelder had heard “as many as 500 buffalos could be seen in June, July, and August.”  The mud holes, a large buffalo wallow,  was in DuBois County, close to White Oak Springs (present day Petersburg).

He noted the spot is several acres in size and is so trodden down and grubbed up that not a blade of grass can grow and the woods around the area are quite bare. Many heads and skeletons of buffalo are to be found where they have been shot or died. Many trails lead out from this spot.

The group spent the night at the mudhole, and upon starting out the next morning without their hunter-guides, who had gone hunting, took the wrong path of many that radiated out from the wallow.  They had not gone a great distance when the guides returned, and set them right once again.

Once back on the right path… we saw a herd of buffalo coming directly towards us and if they intended to run us down. We fired into them, killing one, wounding another and took the meat of the former. The Native Americans ate so much buffalo they became sick.

Their travel continued without incident until, only about 18 miles from Clarksville, they were beset by thunderstorms.  Having no “huts or covering”, the only prospect was to plow through the wind and rain.  When Mr. Heckewelder stepped down from his horse, “water oozed out the top of his boot” and the party was thoroughly drenched.