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Martin Wetzel

Brother of Lewis Wetzel

-- Steenrod, Blanche. "Potpourri." Wheeling News-Register [Wheeling, WV] 3 Apr. 1938, III sec.: 12. 

In McReary cemetery, Marshall county, is the unmarked grave of Martin Wetzel, eldest brother of the famous Lewis Wetzel and who, like Lewis, streaked a bloody path on the frontier trails of this district, killing Indians with the greatest of satisfaction and pleasure. His body lies between those of his wife and daughter, a sandstone slab marking all three.

Determined to avenge the death of his father and other members of his family at the hands of the savages, Martin led a life of hate against the redmen, as unrelenting as his more noted brother. Whereas Lewis was an expert rifleman and could put a bullet hole squarely through an Indian's head at almost unbelievable distances, his elder brother excelled with precision and deadliness than any man on the border. Aside from his hatred of the Indian, Martin is said to have been a genial companion, a true friend and trusted citizen.

Martin Wetzel was born in the wilds of Pennsylvania in 1762, the son of John Wetzel, poor farmer and "up country Dutchman.' in 1764, the Wetzel family emigrated to Sand Hill district, Marshall county, where Martin grew to manhood and spent the rest of his days.

The free land of the west attracted the Wetzels to this vicinity. They seemed to be acquainted with the Zanes before leaving on the journey, which was made in a wagon drawn by two asses. On arrival they made their home in the wagon until the father completed the cabin. For over 10 years they lived there in perfect contentment or until the Indians in the surrounding region became warlike.


In this environment Martin was reared. He loved to hunt wolves, bear and deer and early gained renown as a marksman. Following the murder of his father by the savages, he swore revenge.

His first opportunity came in 1780, when an expedition set out on foot against the Indian towns on the Coshocton, a small branch of the Muskingum river. The main place of rendezvous was at Wheeling. Colonel Brodhead assumed command of the little army of 400 men and the march was started. Martin was among the volunteers and as he made ready to depart, he uttered: "There is no peace for an Indian but what a bullet gives him."

Colonel Brodhead's force secretly reached the towns on the Coshocton, surrounded one and captured every man, woman and child without the firing of a rifle. Sixteen warriors were among the prisoners. A council of war was held to determine the fate of the braves and they were doomed to die.


In turn, each warrior was bound, taken a short distance below the town, tomahawked, speared and then scalped. The first tomahawk raised was in the hand of Martin Wetzel.

Early on the following morning, an Indian presented himself of the opposite bank of the river and asked for the "big captain." Colonel Brodhead asked the Indian what he wanted , to which the savage replied: "I want peace.""Send over some of your chiefs," said Brodhead."Maybe you kill," retorted the red man."They shall not be killed," answered the white leader.

Everything agreed upon, one of the chiefs paddled across the river and entered in conversation with the colonel. Neither saw nor heard the approach of Wetzel, as the revengeful youth crept behind the chief, tomahawk concealed in his hunting shirt. In one leap, martin grabbed his weapon and buried in deep into the Indian's skull.

For this treacherous killing, the commander had no power to deal justice, as practically the entire army approved of the deed.

Brodhead's army began their return the following day, 20 Indian prisoners entrusted to the militia. It was not long before the whites started a wholesale carnage among the Indians and commenced killing them. Again was the steady hand and sharp tomahawk of Martin Wetzel much in evidence. All prisoners were slaughtered with the exception of several squaws and children, who were taken to Fort Pitt.


A number of years later, Martin was taken prisoner by the Indians while hunting in the forest and borne away to their village in the northern part of Ohio. The young man's cheerfulness and bravery won him the love of the Indians and they decided to adopt him.

Within a year Martin's apparent contentment disarmed the Indians of all suspicion that he would ever attempt escape, but in the youth's mind was the spirit of revenge, lingering ever. He desired not only to make his escape but to slay several of the red men while effecting it.

In the fall of the year, three young chiefs departed on a hunting expedition to supply the inhabitants with meat for the winter. They were glad of Wetzel's company, when he urged to be taken along, and after a journey of several days, pitched teir camp near the head of the Sandusky river.

Martin, in addition to cooking and other incidental jobs, found time to hunt but always returned to camp in ample time to have meals prepared. One evening he encountered one of his companions and demonstrated his ability with the rifle, remarking that his father had taught him. Martin awaited an opportunity and when the Indian's head was turned in an opposite direction, shot full in the chest, scalped him and covered the body with logs and brush.

He hurried to camp and was engaged n the routine work when the other two braves returned. Expressing fear as to the whereabouts of the other savage he was calmed with laughter from his companions, who were not disconcerted in the least over his absence.


The next day, when the two warriors set out to hunt, Martin cautiously followed. Night was near when Wetzel strode to his companions and detained one while the other walked away. Then, with one sepp of his tomahawk, he split the savage's head, crying out in vengeance. Back to camp he trotted and, as the remaining brave came back with the burden of game, martin asked to relive him of it. As the red man stooped, Wetzel again swung his tomahawk and his vengeance was complete.

He was in no danger of pursuit and selecting what he needed in the way of provisions, started for Wheeling.

These are only a few of such incidents that marked the life of Martin Wetzel. He died at the old Wetzel homestead on Big Wheeling creek about the year 1830, of an unknown disease.The father of J.t. McCreary, Sr., 83, now living on McCreary Ridge, Marshall county, was the undertaker at the funeral and brought the body Of Wetzel from the home to the cemetery where it now lies.

Descendants of Martin Wetzel now living in Marshall county are the McWhorters, McCrearys, Caldwells, Weeklys, Briggs, Wetzels and other prominent families of the West Virginia Panhandle.


When I but think how I was sorely sad,
Left with my thoughts all was inward gloom;
I sometimes wonder that I can be glad
Even in violet time when orchards bloom.
Each time I think I sigh. And yet
They are not the happiest days,
When I forget.

-- Florence B. Arbenz

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