Polly Van Metre Evans

POLLY (VAN METRE) EVANS—In the corner of a field to the right of the State Road leading from Martinsburg to Charles Town and on the east side of Opequon Creek and adjoining the old bridge across that stream is a scattered pile of stone which is all that remains of John Evans Fort, and Polly Van Metre Evans was its heroic defender. This was a stockade fort, which was really two forts in one. The outer defense was a stockade, the inner a block house type, built of logs with a stone foundation. This fort was substantially though hastily constructed in the late spring of 1755, after the outbreak of the French and Indian War, by John Evans II, and was a refuge for the settlers of this region when, attacked by the Indians. Polly Van Metre was the daughter of Jacob Van Metre, and when quite young had married John Evans II., a young man of that region. They lived quietly and peacefully, tilling their farm on the Opequon River and had reared a family of boys and girls when the French and Indian War suddenly burst upon them with all of its relentless fury. Polly Evans had learned to use the rifle quite as well as her father. Abraham Van Metre, who, was a hunter as well as a farmer, she accompanying him on several occasions on his hunting expeditions when she was a young girl. She owned her own rifle but had laid it aside for the more peaceful occupation of rearing her family. But when the Indian hostilities began she again took it up in the defense of her home and carried it for a number of years strapped to her shoulder. Tradition relates that when she was prepared for burial her attendants found a depression in the skin across her shoulder caused by the constant wearing of the strap of her rifle. In those days nurses were unheard of and doctors were so few and so far away that it was almost impossible to procure their services in case of sickness, so Polly Evans was the doctor and nurse of the region. She nursed the sick and attended most of the new-born babies of that community. She owned a large dog of the Great Dane breed, who always accompanied her on her expeditions. He could “smell Injun” for a great distance if one happened to be in the vicinity, and would indicate the fact by his incessant restlessness and loud barking. 

The above fort was visited by General Edward Braddock on his march to Fort Duquesne and he remained here the better part of two days, as was indicated by his secretary's account of that expedition.

On one occasion none but the women and children of the neighborhood were at the fort when it was suddenly attacked by the Indians. Polly Evans made the women load rifles and she did the shooting from one port hole after another and kept up such a raking fire on the Indians that they abandoned the attack, supposing, from the incessant firing from the fort, that it was heavily garrisoned. 

On another occasion she was returning to the fort from visiting a sick neighbor, when a large savage warrior suddenly darted from behind a tree and grabbed both arms around her and started to carry her off, deciding, no doubt, to capture a valuable prisoner alive. The dog, for some reason had not accompanied her on this visit. She immediately began calling for him. He suddenly came bounding through the forests and attacked the warrior with such vicious onslaughts that he was obliged to let his captive go in order to defend himself against the dog. This gave Mrs. Evans the opportunity to unsling her rifle, when she shot the Indian dead. 

Many a savage warrior boasted that her scalp, with its long tresses, would dangle from his lodge pole, but it never did. She was dreaded by the Indians, yet was respected by them. They gave her the name of “Wa-hon-da,” which signified in the Shawnee language, “Squaw Chief”. This fort was attacked several different times by the savages—on two occasions led by a white man, supposedly a Frenchman, but were driven off each time. She, together with her husband, were buried within a short distance of the fort. For many years their graves were undisturbed, but were at last desecrated by the plow, and now no mark remains as the resting place of the builder of this fort or its faithful defender.


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