Sunday, November 9, 2008

The McLane Massacre of 1840 - Part Three

This is the original "lightard" or pine knot used by Native American warriors in the attack on the McLane cabin.
It is still in the possession of members of the family.
In this post, we continue to excerpt the chapter on the McLane Massacre from my new book, The Early History of Gadsden County. For more information on purchasing the book, please visit
McLane Massacre Excerpt - Part Three
Disappointed in their effort to set the cabin on fire, the warriors now tried to decoy McLane from the cabin by pretending to leave, but he did not emerge so they returned for one final attack. A group of warriors appeared on the west side of the house and began making as much noise as they could in order to distract his attention while a lone warrior with a torch approached the cabin from the east:

…Finally the Indian on the east end left his pine tree and came hopping as it were in a stooping posture toward the house. I had my old musket pointed in the loop-hole, and waited until he had got within twenty or twenty-five feet from the house, when I pulled the trigger and let the big charge of slugs loose. I had aimed at his breast, but I think he hopped just as I pulled the trigger, for he got the whole load in the bowels. The recoil of the old musket set me backward sprawling on the floor, but as I fell I heard the most unearthly screech and yell that ever came from a human throat, and I knew enough about Indians to know it was his death-scream.

The other warriors rushed to the aid of their fallen comrade and McLane soon heard a “low, plaintive wail” and became convinced that he had shot either a chief or the son of a chief. The war party soon disappeared, but the young man had no way of knowing whether they had really gone or if it was merely another ruse.

To his relief, however, he soon saw his step-father returning home with his mule and cart and rushed to the door to signal him to be careful. After learning the situation, the older man instructed McLane to ride for help while he went out to search for the missing women. The warriors were still in the vicinity and pursued the younger man, but he outdistanced them on horseback and soon made it safely to the nearby settlements. His father also escaped and, although he had been unable to locate the females of the family, he arrived safely at the neighboring settlement during the night.
A courier was sent to Fort Braden on the Ochlockonee and a company from there reached Pickett’s settlement the next morning. Riding warily back to the McLane home, they found the cabin in ashes and the farm thoroughly looted. After a thorough search of the surrounding area, the bodies of the mother and children were found:

The next day we found them near the bank of the creek, where they had been murdered. My mother was shot in the forehead and her throat was cut. My sister was shot in the breast, her throat was also cut and she was scalped. She had long, beautiful hair. The two little ones had been brained with a lightwood knot. No language could possibly express my feelings at this moment, knowing that my dearest relatives were lying out there brutally murdered by those red devils.

John K. McLane’s account, given to Rev. Woodward sixty-two years after the fact, mirrors remarkably well with the newspaper reports that appeared within days of the attack. Memories often fade or change over time, but the events of that day were obviously so intense that he remembered them without change for the rest of his life.
The troops from Fort Braden immediately tried to track down the war party responsible for the attack, but once again the warriors disappeared into the swamps and could not be found. The chagrined editor of the Tallahassee Floridian lamented, “We know not how or when these depredations are to be ended.”

The attacks, in fact, were far from over. While the McLane Massacre is well-remembered in Gadsden County, largely because John K. McLane went on to live a long and productive life, it was not the only attack that took place that spring. In fact, within days Pascofa’s warriors unleashed a flurry of violent attacks on Gadsden County, a possible indication that McLane’s surmise about killing the son of a chief may have been correct.
(Note: As mentioned above, this post was excerpted from the new book, The Early History of Gadsden County. The book is available online directly from the printer at and can also be ordered by mail from the West Gadsden Historical Society. To obtain their address, please visit their website at


Travis said...

Very nice historical account. We are descendants of John McLane and live in Leon county.

Tammy said...

John Kenzie McLane is my great great grandfather by way of his daughter Margaret McLane. I remember going to family reunions in the 70's and the grown ups would go visit a monument in the woods. I am now working on a family tree and came across your articles on the McLane Massacre. They are very informative and I thank you very much. I hope to visit the site myself sometime this year.

Dale said...

Tammy, I dropped you an email back but I'm not sure if I had your correct email. If you don't receive it, please let me know.

I'll never tell... said...

Tammy, I'm hoping you see this post or Dale, hopefully, you can put me in touch with Tammy? I would love to see the family tree. My grandfather is Charles Edwards and his grandmother was Nettie McLane. My grandparents live just a mile or so from the old McLane homestead and I was just with them this evening talking about the McLane family and how they are connected with the Edwards family.

Dale Cox said...

I posted this for you, so hopefully Tammy will see it. By the way, I have some original military accounts of the McLane massacre that I found since posting this article. Also, are you related to the John McLane who lived in Marianna during the 1860s-1870s? He was on the front porch of a boarding house with a group of Southerners when they were fired on by Carpetbagger assassins.