The true story of Tom Quick, legendary on contraversal Indian fighter by Vicki Moon
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The True Story of Westfall Relative Tom Quick, Indian Fighter, By Vicki Moon, 01 June 2011
Nothing is more riveting than stories about the conflicts between our European ancestors and Native Americans. Violence erupted between the two groups mostly over land, but also because of the cultural shock of two completely different societies living side by side. This is one of those stories.
Vicky's research suggests that Tom Quick's great aunt was Rymerig Westfall, daughter of Jurien Westfall and Mary Hansen. She married Tom's uncle Thomas, senior, in Kingston, New York in 1672. Tom's parents were Thomas Quick and Margaret Decker. The Decker family was close neighbors and relatives of the Westfall family in New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Vicky's research shows that among Tom Quick's cousins by blood were Westfall men and women. Tom's sister Margaret married John Westfall in 1757; Tom's brother Cornelius married Marie Westfall in 1752. This is according to "A Genealogy of the Quick Family in America (1625-1942), 317 Years," by Arthur Craig Quick, privately published in Michigan, 1942. Our story begins in 1756, almost two years after the start of the French and Indian War, which had a tremendous impact on the Westfall and other families.
One day in October 1756, the 66 year-old Thomas Quick Sr., his son Tom, and his brother-in-law, Solomon Decker, went up the frozen Delaware River, to cut hoop-poles for their use. They were unarmed and were soon engaged in their work. As they proceeded around a ridge near the bank, they were sighted by a party of Indians who were plotting an attack on the Quick settlement at Milford. The Indians set up an ambush, a little below where the stream Van de Mark empties into the Delaware. When the Quick's came near enough in their work, the Indians fired a volley. A ball from a rifle fired by an Indian by the name of Muswink or Modeline, mortally wounded Tom's father.
The only hope of the party was to flee. They struggled to carry Tom's fatally wounded father with them. The senior Quick told them that, as he was dying, leave him and try to escape to save the family. They left him and made for an escape on the ice across the Delaware, in full view of the Indians, who were good sharp shooters. Tom and his companion sought the cover of an over-hanging rock as they ran for the river. Quick and Decker were excellent runners, but before they had reached the middle of the river the Indians appeared on the bank behind them, yelling like demons. They were some distance away from them before the Indians could get a clear shot. For awhile the pair kept the shots of the Indians from having an effect by running in an oblique direction and in a zigzag pattern, keeping far apart. Suddenly a ball hit Tom on his boot heel and knocked his foot from under him and he fell. Then the Indians set up a terrific yell. But Tom was uninjured and was soon on his feet and running.
Both men escaped and finding that no one pursued them, turned cautiously back to see what became of Tom's father. Tom heard the scalping war-whoop and saw the rejoicing of the Indians over his father's prostrate form. Tom saw an Indian pull some silver buttons and buckles off his father's clothing. It was at this moment that Tom, frantic at what he saw, resolved that he would avenge the death of his father. After the Indians had departed, Tom and Solomon gathered up the fatherís body and later gave him a Christian burial. Afterward, Tom made his famous oath on the grave of his father.
One romanticized version of Tom Quick's oath says that Tom took his knife in his right hand and his rifle in his left, looked up to Heaven and exclaimed: "By the point of the knife in my right hand and the deadly bullet in my left; by Heaven and all that there is in it; by earth and all that there is on it; by the love I bore my father; here on this grave I swear eternal vengeance against the whole Indian race. I swear to kill all and spare none; the old man with his silver hair; the lisping babe without teeth; the mother quick with child and the maiden in the bloom of youth shall die."
Tom seldom talked and only to hunters or to those upon whom he could rely to keep his secrets; but he talked a great deal to himself and his gun, which he named "Long Tom." It was of the largest size, 7 feet, 4 inches long and carried a ball an inch in diameter. It was an old saying that when one of Tom's bullets went through an Indian it made two windows in him and a hall between. He carried that gun until the stock wore almost through. In all his adventures with the Indians, he managed to retain possession of it as long as he lived. Eventually, he cut it down to five feet. He would hide his guns and ammunition in the hollows of old trees in different places in the forest so he would never be without them in a dangerous situation.
Tom would often come upon an Indian while hunting. Hearing a gunshot, he would investigate and come upon an Indian skinning a bear or dear. It was then an easy matter to kill the man from the cover of the woods. Some accounts state the Tom killed as many as 100 of his foes, including women and children. Others say the number was no more than 20. When he was old, he retired to the house of James Rosencranse. He died of the smallpox in 1796 and Rosencrantz buried Tom near his home.
The Indians soon learned where he was buried and some of his remains were dug up. They distributed them among various tribes and gloated over them. Then smallpox broke out among them and many died. People said that like Samson of old, He slew more in his death than in his life. His bones were dug up and on the 28th day of August 1889, his descendants unveiled a monument to his memory in the presence of a thousand persons. This monument stands in a street 60 feet wide, one of the leading pleasure drives of Milford, Pennsylvania. Nearby is the stream, the Van de Mark, which comes for a distance among the hills at the north and west and empties into the Delaware at Milford Eddy.
There are several inscriptions and emblems on the monument. On the side looking east, there is an emblem of a wreath, and on the die, it says that Tom Quick was the first white child born within the limits of the Borough of Milford. On the base next to the die is "Tom Quick, the Indian Slayer" or "The Avenger of the Delaware." On the side of the monument looking south, is a tomahawk, canoe paddle, scalping knife, wampum, and an inscription which states, "Maddened by the death of his father, he never abated his hostility to the Indians till his death, 40 years afterwards."
On the base next to the die, is the time and place of his death. He was buried on the farm of James Rosencrantz on the banks of the Delaware five miles from the spot, on what is now "The Rose Cemetery," two miles south of Matamoras. His remains were taken up on the 110th anniversary of the Battle of Minisink, July 22nd, 1889, and placed beneath the monument. On the north side of the shaft is a plow, and an inscription telling where his father came from and when he settled along the Delaware. It says that he was the first white settler in this part of the upper Delaware.
The first author to publish the story of Tom Quick was James E. Quinlan. James Eldridge Quinlan published in 1851 a novel titled, "Tom Quick, the Indian Slayer; and the Pioneers of Minisink and Wawarsink" (Monticello, NY; DeVoe and Quinlan Publishers, 1851). From his "To The Reader" section of that book, "Many of the following chapters were written for the columns of a newspaper entitled the 'Republican Watchman,' of which the writer is the Junior editor. Notwithstanding their many imperfections, they were received with much favor by the public, and a very general desire was expressed for copies of the work in a form convenient for preservation. To gratify this desire, our little volume is published."
Although described as a novel, this work was actually an account of Tom Quick's life based as much as possible on the memories of old men who knew Tom Quick. In the book, Quinlan wrote, "We have seen and conversed with several aged men who were acquainted with him. They describe him as having been six feet in height; and taken altogether, rather a raw-boned man; his cheek bones were high; his eyes gray and restless; his hair, before it had been silvered by age, was of a dark brown. He was not in the habit of talking very much-in fact, was taciturn and very quiet in his demeanor. His features were grave and dignified, and seldom relaxed into a smile. He was quite temperate, and seldom drank alcoholic liquors, except cider, of which, like all of Holland blood, he was very fond. Tom was taken sick, and was never afterwards able to go from the house of Rosencranse, where he died of old age in the year 1795 or 1796. He was buried on the farm of Rosencranse. Notwithstanding the assertion that Tom had a beautiful daughter who bore the pretty name of 'Omoa' the Indian Slayer was never blessed with wife or child."
NOTE by Ron Wall
When judging Tom Quick we must remember that his exploits began in the French and Indian War. It was a time when white settlers often faced extinction by Native American tribes. Many in his time saw him as a hero avenging the death of a loved one, something to which many of them could relate, and more importantly, protecting them as well. From the time he was a young boy, Tom was immersed in native culture and spoke the Delaware language fluently. Early in Tom's life Indians often lived with the Quick family and took to the young boy. Many times they took him gifts and taught him to hunt. The skills and attitudes instilled in him as a youth, allowed Tom Quick to pursue his decades long search for revenge without a glimmer of regret until the day he died.
Perhaps that is how we should judge him. It is certain that contemporaries judged him that way. Those who knew him protected him when authorities came to put a stop to his killings. Today, in more enlightened times Tom Quick would simply be a pathological serial killer. No one would erect a monument in his honor and his history would be of the kind found for notorious killers like Jack the Ripper, if not forgotten altogether. The stories he told of his exploits condemn him with his own words. That statement will probably make me controversial with many Quick family descendants.
Was Tom Quick an American Hero or shameful mark on our history? on the next page we continue the story by describing some of Tom's disturbing encounters with Indians. After reading these tales, make your own decision.
1. Orange County History and Genealogy , AHGP Book , NY History and Genealogy.
2. GEORGE WILLIAM (BILL) GILLETT FAMILY HISTORY, Tom Quick, Indian Slayer.www.genyourway.com
3. Tom Quick - Indian Slayer, By THEO. D. SCHOONMAKER, ESQ., of Goshen, N. Y., March 7th, 1904. www.jrbooksonline.com/tom_ quick_schoonmaker.htm
Ronald N. Wall & Vicki Moon
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Added: 07 JUNE 2014