By: Donald E. Clare, Jr.
Originally published: August 7, 2008 in the Boone County Recorder
If you live in Boone County or have traveled from the crossroads above Rabbit Hash Hill Road north along Route 18 toward Belleview, then you have witnessed the breathtaking panoramic view of the Ohio River and Laughery Island. Did you know that this panoramic scene is actually eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Register Historic Vista? Well, it could!
Those of you interested in Boone County history might find this interesting. Laughery Island and Laughery Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River on the Indiana side, get their names from Colonel Archibald Lochry, an American Revolutionary War officer. In August of 1781, at the request of General George Rogers Clark, Lochry was bringing his Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania militia to rendezvous and join Clark's force at Fort Henry in Wheeling for a campaign against the British at Detroit.
Lochry and his militia numbered just over one hundred, only a third of the number Clark requested. They were playing catch-up, as Clark had to move his troops down river away from the settlements, due to desertions by his men. He left word for Lochry to meet at the mouth of the Little Kanawha River. The meeting never happened and more men deserted. So Lochry just kept in pursuit. Unlike Clark, he had no boats. They were traveling on foot and horseback along the left bank of the river, not nearly making the time Clark was. So Lochry ordered a halt and constructed seven boats over four days and then continued pursuit. After many days, Lochry's men came upon several of Clark's soldiers and a boat which Clark ordered to wait for Lochry to carry his horses, which were necessarily impeding his downriver progress because they were still traveling the shore. They were to rendezvous at the mouth of the Great Miami River
By this time, they were desperately low on provisions. So Lochry sent several men ahead in a boat to try to overtake Clark and obtain help. He also sent out two hunters who never returned. A few days later, Lochry picked up a couple of the men he sent ahead. They informed him that they had been followed and “attacked by savages.” The Indians killed and scalped several and intercepted the note intended for Clark. Lochry then ordered his troops to travel on with no stops until they met with Clark's force.
Fatigue and hunger eventually overtook the men. They had spotted a buffalo on the right bank of the river (the Indian bank) at the mouth of a creek and made straight for it. As they were butchering the beast and building the cooking fire, they were fired upon in ambush, killing many of them. Those not killed in the first volley scattered for their rifles and returned fire and began escaping out into the river, only to be met by another flank of Indians reportedly coming off the Kentucky shore in pursuit In all probability, the Indians were hiding and coming off the island.
Forty men were killed, and another 60 or more captured. The Indians divided the prisoners among each participating tribe to march to Detroit for the bounty offered. But a group of wild Shawnee braves decided to dispatch their share right there and then. Lochry was among those unfortunates, as one of the braves buried his tomahawk into his skull from behind and scalped him even before he was dead. Triumphant war whoops were the last sounds Lochry ever heard.
Lochry Creek is the creek separating Ohio County and Dearborn County Indiana where it enters the Ohio. Lochry Island is the well known landmark seen in the middle of the river in the fantastic panoramic view. This is the site of Lochry's massacre. At some point over the past 227 years, Lochry erroneously became Laughery.