Rescue of Jenny Stoops

Thank you to Deborah Kennedy and to Barbara Harper, widow of Bob Harper, for preserving this area history for us.

Deborah Kennedy wrote on Feb. 25.2011:

 

At 12:47am, I received this today from Barbara Harper, widow of Bob Harper.

After going through his papers, she wanted me to have it.  I shared a common interest in history with her beloved husband, who died a year ago on February 24, 2010.


Perhaps you are aware of Stoops’ Ferry, named after William Stoops, the 19th Century Riverboat Captain, or have traveled on Stoops Ferry Road, sometimes called “Stoops’ Ferry Hill.”

 

But how many of you knew the story of Jenny Stoops?

 

Isn’t HISTORY exciting?

 


More about our donor:

 

Cornell School District honored the late Robert E. Harper (1946-2010) by naming him as an Alumnus to their HALL OF FAME  in the Summer of 2011:

 

Robert E. Harper 1946—2010 Coraopolis High School Graduate Class of 1964

 

Robert E. Harper was born and raised in Coraopolis and graduated from Coraopolis High School in 1964 where he played baseball, played trumpet in the marching band, and punted for the football team.

 

Bob graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968 with a degree in economics.

 

Mr. Harper served honorably as a first lieutenant in Vietnam. Upon leaving the Army, he returned home and was conferred a law degree by the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 and practiced law for 36 years.

 

He served as Moon Township supervisor from 1980 to 1983 and was active in numerous civic organizations. He was instrumental in bringing infrastructure improvements to the township and was responsible for bringing Montour Heights Country Club to its current location on Coraopolis Heights Road.

 

The Thorn Run Interchange has been named in his memory.

 

Mr. Harper was a lifelong member of the Coraopolis United Methodist Church He is survived by his wife Barbara Harper (Cornell Elementary teacher) for 38 years and three sons, Robert Evan (Caitlin), Reid Andrew and James Randall, two grandchildren and a brother Jack.

 


 

Barbara Harper was also honored at the same time for rendering distinguished service to the Cornell School District for teaching Grade 1 for 16 years as a teacher, 8 as a substitute, and total years in education: 31.

 


 

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Samuel Brady to the rescue!


 

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Visiting the Coraopolis History Society’s Museum (December 8, 2015), I found this information and  photographs with the help of  historians Donna Buchman and Joe DiVito.

 

Here’s Stoops Ferry RR station, looking west from the Sewickley Bridge area.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And looking west TOWARDS the Sewickley Bridge(and Pittsburgh) is this view:

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Joe DiVito, former Mayor of Coraopolis and Councilman, says he remembers when as a teen-ager, he frequented Hawkin’s Drive-In Theater on the same spot where Stoops Ferry and then the Stoops Ferry R.R. Station used to be.  We found this picture-ad in one of the books there


 

From Bob Harper:

 

This is the text of an account given by Joseph White in February 1964.  I do not know how much of it is true or false, but am presenting it here for its references to locales which we recognize.

 

I have kept the words used by Mr. White, though much of his vocabulary is derogatory in its depiction of Native Americans.  No offense is intended by me in reproducing it verbatim.

 

Here then is his account of:

 

The Rescue of Jenny Stoops 

In March 1779,

 

Colonel Daniel Brodhead succeeded General McIntosh in command at Fort Pitt.

 

Our Brodhead Road recalls his activities here, and until recently, a log cabin on the deceased Ed Hawes’ property at Carnot was said to have usefully served him.

 


 

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General George Washington gave orders:


 

On April 21, 1779, General George Washington, apparently disturbed by the frequent Indian depredations upon the settlers of this region, addressed the following forceful communication to the newly appointed commander:  “As it is my wish, however, as soon as it may be in our power, to chastise the Western Savages by an expedition into their country.  You will endeavor to obtain in the meantime and transmit to me every kind of intelligence which will be necessary to direct our operations, as precise, full and authentic as possible.”

 

Promptly upon receiving these orders, Sam Brady, famous scout, was directed by Colonel Brodhead to penetrate the Indian Country and bring back full information.  This Dan-Sam deal plays a vital role.

 

Now to the rescue of Jenny Stoops. 

 

Jenny was the daughter of Joseph Sherer, who emigrated to this country in 1734 from Londonderry, Ireland.  We have no direct means of reporting what our heroine looked like, except to state what the whole world knows: Londonderry girls always have been noted for their incomparable pulchritude.

 

Upon marrying young Jim Stoops, the courageous couple cleared some land in the fertile Chartiers Valley and, near present Crafton, built for themselves a log cabin, unusually sturdy, realizing this vicinity was subject to Indian raids.

 

One evening in 1780, fearing an Indian attack, James, barricading Jenny and his 5 year old son in the cabin, set out for the Fort to get protection.

 

Later that night, a band of Indians surrounded the cabin and crashed in the door.  Their chief snatched the child.  The band [took] Jenny, and fled quietly down the Valley under the cover of darkness. James, returning with a group of frontier men, picked up and followed their trail along the southern edge of the Ohio [River] until arriving at the well-known stretch called the “Narrows,” so named because of the confined width of the stream.

 

(Here our Narrows Run Creek empties into the Ohio and thus, derives its frontier-days’ name.

 

In later years, William Stoops, a descendant of Jenny, operated at this same location a flourishing ferry).

 

The pursuing group crossed the river on a makeshift raft and entered the dangerous North Country [now the area around Sewickley Heights].  Upon getting deeper into the wilderness, the trail of the marauding Indians was lost.  After a fruitless search, the disappointed party returned to the Fort.

 

The abducting Indians, in the meantime, had moved deeper into their own country, their chief in the lead riding a horse.  Craftily, he had tied the little boy to his own body to serve as a hostage-like protection, in case of sudden attack or sniping from the underbrush.

 

Following were a group of Redskins, [and] at the end trudged Jenny, accompanied by an Indian squaw. By this time exhausted, Jenny realized the chances of being rescued by her husband were slim.

 

Desperate, she was trying to squeeze some little comfort from the fact that the Indians, so far, had not molested her and in no way committed any of their heralded atrocities against her son or herself, and there was no evidence that any were planned. Alas, these little comforting thoughts were suddenly shattered.

 

A sharp shot rang out in the stillness of the woods.  The Indian chief, with boy attached, fell lifeless to the ground.  Instantly, a war-painted savage leaped from the underbrush, whooping and screeching orders to his followers concealed in the thicket behind.  So unexpected and so frightening, the entire Indian band panicked, as the screaming painted Redskin rushed madly at the crouching terrified Jenny.

 

When within touching distance, even hearing and feeling his heavy breathing, Jenny closed her eyes, bowed her head, trembling, momentarily expecting….NOT these soft, soothing words:

 

“Be not fearful, Jenny;  I’m Sam Brady in Indian disguise;  I’ll rescue you from these bloodthirsty savages and take you safely back home.  But you  must follow me as quickly, as I’m all alone and used my last round of ammunition on that coward riding the horse.”

 

This is what had so fortuitously happened.  Sam Brady’s party, returning from Colonel Brodhead’s perilous assignment had run short of food and ammunition.  Brady, ever-courageous, disguised himself for safety, as a warlike Indian and with but one round of ammunition, set out into the dangerous woods, hoping to get a deer to satisfy his hungry, grumbling followers.

 

But before sighting a deer, he encountered Jenny’s party, led by the crafty chief.  Realizing the danger of getting him, without shooting the child, Sam patiently followed for some distance before getting a clear bead.  Then upon firing-as already narrated, along, with only imaginary followers, and without ammunition, he routed the entire band of Indians and rushed to the heroic rescue of Jenny Stoops.

 

What happened to the child?

 

The Indians recovering from Brady’s ruse, rushed to their chief, and revengefully struck the child on the head with a tomahawk and would have brutally mashed him to death, if the Indian squaw had not leaped to the boy’s protection and softened the hearts of the savages with her pathetic appeal.

 

Three years later, imagine the joy of the parents when their precious child was returned safe and sound, save for the tomahawk scar, which legends say, he boastfully carried to his grave.

 

But…. sense, if you can, the sword that pierced poor Jenny’s heart, when the little brat pleaded to be sent back to the Indians, there to enjoy their adventurous days under the indulgent guidance of his squaw foster mother!

 

POSTSCRIPT:  “Why should I waste my Saturday nights watching phony Westerns when such local stuff can be enjoyed at one’s fingertips.”   Joseph White   Feb. 1964

 

 

 

PPS:  A 1940 U.S. Census finds that our great storyteller, Joseph White, was 55 years old, born in 1885 in Massachusetts.   His wife was Loretta (48),  and there were 3 children: Alice (19), Martha (17), and Joseph (11).  Also living with them was “Jin” Milice, 80 years old at the time.

 

So, at the time of the telling of this tale, storyteller Joseph would have been 79 years old.