Colonel William Crawford Burn Site Monument
Just East of the village of Crawford right before you reach the Ritchey Crawford Cemetery you will see a bronze Ohio Historical Marker about Colonel William Crawford. If you turn left and go down the lane towards a group of trees into the cemetery, the monument sits beside the road at the west edge. It was placed in 1994 by a group of Wyandot county residents to commemorate the capture, torture and execution of Colonel William Crawford which occurred on June 11, 1782 during the Crawford expedition of the American Revolutionary War. The actual site of execution and burial is unknown, so this nearby site was chosen to provide reachable access to the public.
Backstory and Context
Beginning on May 25, 1782, towards the end of the Revolutionary War, Colonel Crawford led an expedition into Ohio with the intention of bringing the Indians in the region under control. This was to be achieved by destroying the villages of the Wyandot and Delaware Indians near the Sandusky and Scioto Rivers (present day Upper Sandusky). This Sandusky Campaign or Crawford Expedition was believed to be the key to ensuring safe settlement on the frontier by taking out the Native American allies of the British. Crawford set out with 480 men under his command and headed towards Sandusky Plains. However, he was unaware that as they moved their location was being relayed back to the British at Fort Detroit by Indian scouts.
When they reached Sandusky Plains, British troops along with their Native American allies were waiting to stop the Americans. Fighting began at the Battle of Sandusky on June 4th, in the middle of a wooded area within the prairie. After 2 days of fighting, Crawford’s army was defeated, and they began their disorderly retreat. Crawford himself was separated from his troops when they dispersed and was captured by a group of Delaware Indians on June 7th. A few days later on June 11th, Colonel Crawford was tortured and executed. The following is a detailed eyewitness account of the incident:
“He was tied to a post and seventy shots of powder were fired at his body. Indians then cut off his ears, prodded him with burning sticks, and tossed hot embers at him. [He] continued in the extremities of pain for an hour and three quarters or two hours longer... when at last, being almost totally exhausted, he laid down on his belly; they then scalped him. An old squaw got a board, took a parcel of coals and ashes and laid them on his back and head, after he had been scalped. Colonel Crawford then raised himself upon his feet and began to walk around the post; they next put a burning stick to him as usual, but he seemed more insensible of pain than before. Crawford finally died from his wounds, but not before begging those around him to end his misery with a bullet” (Touring Ohio).
The actual site of execution and burial is unknown, but "every eyewitness whose statement has been preserved agrees on three points, (1) that it was on the righthand side of Big Spring Trace going north; (2) that it was on the east bank of Tymochtee Creek; (3) that it was on the low bottom lands near a little grove of hickory and white oak trees" (Brown, 1985, p. 61). Members of the local community placed an original marker in 1877, in a location that many believed to be the execution site, however, it is on private property and no longer accessible to the public. Many have since searched for the exact site and based on eyewitness statements from long ago it is believed to be Southwest of the 1877 marker. The most recent monument, which is East of the 1877 marker, was placed in 1994 by a group of Wyandot county residents to provide reachable access to the public.
The importance of Colonel Crawford and his expedition is scarcely appreciated by most people today. He had a great record as a soldier of the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and he was a close personal friend of General George Washington. The expedition he led against the Indians was the result of careful thought in an effort to put an end to the devastation being committed by them against the early settlers. The feeling which spread throughout the country over his terrible death created an atmosphere which did much in bringing about and shaping of the Greenville treaties and which finally made it possible for people to settle here in safety. It gave the pioneers the opportunity to develop this part of Ohio and the great Northwest.
Brown, Parker. The Search for the Colonel Crawford Burn Site: An Investigative Report. The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine. January 1985. 43 - 66.
Col. William Crawford, Touring Ohio. Accessed February 19th 2020. http://touringohio.com/history/crawford.html.
Sterner, Eric. Burning Colonel Crawford, July 26th 2018. Accessed February 19th 2020. https://emergingrevolutionarywar.org/2018/07/26/burning-colonel-crawford/.
Brown, Parker. The Search for the Colonel Crawford Burn Site: An Investigative Report. The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine. January 1985. 44