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John Mansker and the Frontier Wars


John Mansker was born circa 1765 in Pennsylvania and died Dec 1813 in Randolph Co, Illinois. He was the son of John Minsker and therefore a grandson of Ludwig Mäintzger.

It isn't known exactly when John Mansker left Pennsylvania, but he appears to have lived a very colorful and exciting life on the new American frontier. Although the Treaty of Paris in 1783 marked the official end of the American Revolution, the concept of peace was unknown on the frontier. American settlers moving past the Appalachians came up against Native American tribes who were a little more than reluctant to simply step out of the way. Hostilities were inevitable, and skirmishes, battles and wars were an almost daily part of life between 1783 and 1789, when a new "peace" treaty was finally signed between the new nation and the warring tribes.

The Native Americans were supported by both the British and the Spanish, both of whom had profound territorial and economic interests in keeping the settlers on the east side of the Appalachian Mountains. It was, of course, a case of "too-little, too-late". By the time the Treaty of Paris was signed, there were already more than 50,000 settlers who had moved west of the mountains.

Naturally all of these expansionists, meeting with resistance from the Native Americans who already lived there, wanted protection from the new government. Unfortunately for them, however, congress had basically dissolved the national army after the war, with the idea that state and territorial militia organizations would be sufficient to protect the populace. A national army of 840 men was all that was left, and it was woefully inadequate.

Congress, bending to the "will of the people" increased the size of the standing army by 25% to deal with the increasing skirmishes along the new borders. Although the army did attempt to enforce an official policy of removing settlers from Native American lands, the raids continued and more settlers were killed.

When two expeditions were defeated on the frontier, the army was increased yet again in order to meet the challenges of the Native Americans. In addition, militia units were called into service to fight alongside the army. By October 1791, General Arthur St. Clair was leading another expeditionary force from Fort Washington (Cincinnatti, Ohio) to what is present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was ambushed by a superior Native American force. In the attack he lost 890 men, 30 women and an unknown amount of supplies and provisions.

John Mansker was one of the members of the militia that accompanied St. Clair. John was wounded in the battle, and somehow managed to make his way several hundred miles to the south, to Mansker Station,Tennessee and the home of his uncle, Kasper Mansker, where he appears to have spent the winter recuperating.

By May 1792, he apparently had recovered enough to be married: In Jefferson County, Kentucky; on the 15th of May, a bond was posted for the marriage of John "Mansco" and Margaret (Peggy) Robinson, daughter of William Robinson.

By the summer of 1793 John was in the Kentucky militia, where he is listed as a private on the muster roll of a "Company of Volunteers, Kentucky Militia, under the Command of Captain Robert Floyd, in the service of the United States, Adair's Regiment, Major General Charles Scott's Command". He was mustered in on 23 September 1793

John was also a member of "Flinn's Company of spies", and a muster roll of Major William Price's Battalion, Mounted Volunteers, Captain John Arnold's Company, dated June 13 to October 26, 1794, lists a Corporal John "Manscow", joined from Floyd's Company, and that he lost his horse on October 19. Unfortunately for posterity, we don't know exactly how his horse was "lost".

Beginning in July 1824, Samuel Mansker, the oldest son of John Mansker, starting writing in a ledger book the beginning of his family history:

"John Mansker, my father, was born about the year 1765. He came through Pennsylvania into Kentucky. He was a Captain in the Spy Company under St. Clair and Wayne in the French/Indian War [sic], and served as a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War. He received seven wounds in St. Clair's defeat by the Indians, and saved himself by a miracle from the dreadful carnage.

"When the two companies moved to Tennessee, John was sent to his uncle, Kasper Mansker, a wealthy and prominent citizen of the State of Tennessee, who lived on Mansker Creek near Goodlettsville, to recuperate from his wounds. While he was away from the fighting, he met and married a sixteen-year-old girl by the name of Margaret (Peggy) Robinson [Roberson] who was born about 1771. The next year he was sufficiently recovered to join General [Mad Anthony] Wayne in his action against the savages from which he returned safely."

Until 1801, John and Margaret appear to have lived near Beargrass Creek, at the head of the falls of the Ohio, in the vicinity of present-day Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1850, Samuel continued his father's history:

"My father moved his family in 1801 and settled in what is now St. Genevieve County [Missouri] on the Mississippi River. There was no settlement within 8 miles. He had been out some 4 or 5 years earlier to make some improvements, and might have secured 640 acres of land if he had attended to it, but the past 9 or 10 years he was not able to do anything and my mother had to provide for the family. In 1807, my father moved before he died to a large island called Liberty, 12 miles below Kaskaskia [Illinois]. He had some 20 acres and made plenty to live on, and had some cattle and hogs, when he took a notion to move to the place I now live. And the next year after he moved, he died and left his family in a log cabin where my mother died two years later without making much improvement except 2 or 3 acres it being very timbered with cottonwood and sycamore, and then my family broke up."

John and Margaret Mansker left an estate of three hundred and twenty-eight dollars. They were buried together near the Mississippi River; on 10 February 1853, Samuel wrote:

"In consequence of the river wearing, I have changed my burying to the hills or beside them on a high bench due north from the 'old place' near half a mile. Three of my children that was buried there I moved to the foot of the hill but the other coffins were so rotten I could not move them and put it off until time after time and so it remains."

Since the graves of John and Margaret Mansker don't seem to be in the Old Mansker Cemetery, Samuel most likely never quite got around to moving them.