Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Spring Afternoon with Duaine Fuoss - Part One

  (NOTE: It would of been best to of had this post uploaded sooner, but with other material already planned and expected time wise, this was as early as was feasible. Now I can relate this interview to the public at large. Better late than never, so enjoy!-Admin)


   First, if I may give a brief background on Duaine, partly gleaned from the article from the Tribune Review and most available from his own words when he visited me:

 Duaine Fuoss, 65 and a resident of Mount Pleasant, has been a collector of Pennsylvania Native American artifacts since the 1950's. That would be over fifty years on. As a boy of 6, he found something unique on a farm neighboring his home in Owensdale,  south of Everson and Scottdale while hoeing the soil. It was a side-notched Indian spear said to be 3,000 years old. He quickly showed it to Don Keffer of Dawson, an old collector of Native American artifacts and the empathy of their relationship and his historical passion were sealed forever, as if by fate.

 So began the nucleus his careful collecting while hunting and fishing these hills and dales, soon becoming more and more fascinated by is findings. By the decade of the 1960's he was uncovering Indian sites in southern Westmoreland and areas of north Fayette County here in Pensylvania. He has gathered thousands of beads, implements and spearheads in his time, kept in 40 display cases and going the whole way back to the last ice age and beyond! 

An Invitation and an Acceptance

  On a nice early June morning here, on a tip from Nancy, (connected with the 'Connellsville Canteen' Project, who kindly sent me a link to an article in the Tribune from February of this year). I hastily decided to make the call to him from my little paneled, sun porch hideaway and try to arrange a meeting. Let me explain, this is in reference to hooking up with an intriguing local outdoorsman and collector of Indian artifacts, who was born in Fayette County.  He quickly called me back and said "are you busy"? I immediately replied, "no, not really". "Right, then, I'll meet you in 10 minutes". Great, here we go, I thought luckily, no messing about here with this guy. I believe I just accepted my own invitation to talk to Duaine!

    Meeting Up

   Well, we soon made our greetings and I invited him in, but he elected to stay on the back porch where it is easy to watch the birds and a few squirrels and chipmunks we regularly indulge in feeding here in the late spring sunshine. I drank coffee, as usual, deciding against a wine cooler, while Dwaine politely, but steadily, refused any refreshments as he wasn't thirsty. So began an interview of sorts and in a sense, a take on his version of a history lesson from an exceedingly knowledgeable fellow, living in M. Pleasant. This was literally and figuratively, 'right up my alley', something I could sink my history buffer teeth into. I only hope there isn't much that was missed between recollections and sporadic note taking.

    A Discussion and Interview with Mr. Duaine Fuoss


   Fuoss' first find was a fascinating Indian spear head, of all things, possibly of the Woodland Culture of what is considered Prehistoric Indian ancestors, in nearby Owensdale, where he says there are quite a few areas with remnants of Indian culture, if you knew where to look. Eventually, he began making a habit out of closely searching the various local fields and creeks around these parts where he heard told there were old Native America encampments...

    Duaine did accomplish another unearthing of a different caliber, when finding his Indian roots. An ancestor from Scotland, one James Logan Colbert, moved to Oklahoma in the 1800's, becoming a trader and married a woman of the Chickasaw tribe named Mintahoyo. His descendant, Issac Colbert moved from South Carolina to Liberty, Fayette County, Pennsylvania where he took up the occupation of a blacksmith. That was his great, great grandfather. He is known as 'Meadow Walker' by the Lakota Sioux tribe. He is also related to the Overholts and a few of the other prominent old families around the area.

   We discussed, many things, some a bit off topic, which I won't enumerate in detail, including Braddock's Road at the Stewart's Crossing, versus his theory the crossing took place at nearby Broadford, to the northwest of Connellsville, (where there was a ford that Washington once crossed), even his thoughts on those odd 19th century stories of giant skeletons, even UFO's and bigfoot! So there is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind, going the gamut, and yet avoid gullibility. Speculations with something to prop them up can, and many times do, lead to insights if one, very gingerly, walks the fine line between legend, tradition and facts. Personally, I'm no stranger for unusual ideas, this I do confess without much hesitation. I was glad he seemed to be at home talking to me.

   Mr. Fuoss adamantly asserted he has documentation for many of his views, especially his Native American material and can back them up, as he has been well vetted on previous occasions. I am curious to be privy to some of his valuable research papers if that can be managed some time in the near future. It's not often you get to meet a knowledgeable free thinker as himself.

    He told me that spring is the best time to search for artifacts, but he claims not to dig down amid  the soil and stones because of the chances of doing damage to Indian graves, a thoughtful sentiment entirely. I expressed some skepticism that artifacts could be found in this way in recent times considering how rare such possible findings would be on the land surface. He agreed it would be difficult. We also were in agreement as to the requirement of taking land ownership into consideration being a must, so unless you had express permission, when you think of all the 'No Trespassing' postings there are anymore, searching around many areas is normally off limits.

    Apparently, one such site is near the old Sony buildings near Ruffsdale and Mt. Pleasant. I have some info as to the supposed Jacob's Cabin area on the way to Braddock's Road to Hunker, with some documentation, so I am partial to the stories concerning him and the Kittanning Expedition where he was burned in his cabin there by Colonel Armstrong. Duaine is skeptical of the reality of a Captain Jacobs, at least in this area, near northern Fayette and southern Westmoreland counties. On this subject I tend to respectfully disagree, assuming the Captain Jacob's was the same man said to be the Delaware, or possibly Shawnee Indian, responsible for terrorizing raids on Fort Granville and Sideling Hill. Jacobs was said to be active here in the 1700's near Everson, the hamlets of Ruffsdale and Tarrs and northwest of Mount Pleasant and, perhaps mistakenly, near the Greenlick Dam near Hammondville and above Woodale. You can click on the links for more history on those half forgotten places near and dear, referred to in the above paragraph.

Since it felt a bit daunting scribbling rushed note on a tablet while listening to him, I purchased a digital recorder for such a future purpose and can go easy on my ability to read my own notes!

     A Rundown On Indian Information

     Now, this is a good time to elaborate on the bigger picture by giving you a quick rundown of general Indian research before continuing with the discussion about some of his knowledge:

    So, hang in there a minute, as there is need to orient the discussion slightly as to prehistoric and later aspects from to the years of Henry Hudson and the later explorers. Naturally, we won't be able to address many issues too far and get into all the substance of that here: the forms of hierarchical functions of the governance of communities, the seasonal and specific rituals or the different movements of the Indians, or their wars with the projected mortality rates and the settling of the nationalities of white traders and some of their depredations and epidemics. A fair bunch of written material available is based on a large amount of calculations bordering on speculation of many tribes breaking up or being conquered near the approach of European contact. We are assured very little initial contact took place anywhere near this part of the state, only distantly to the  north and southeast, mostly in other state's like Virginia, Connecticut and New York.

   Some relatively unknown or minor tribes of debatable origins were scattered throughout western PA, like the Honniasont, a possibly Siouan language group people, the Wenro, or the Black Mingo's, which according to books like the 'Encyclopedia Of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1', lived south of Lake Erie along with others as the Conestoga's, (known as the Sussquehannock), further northeast and their descent toward Maryland near where the Nanticoke Confederacy of the Delaware had settled.

  In brief, there were certain complex differences of totem clans and lineages of planter-gatherers, fishing, hunting and farming, contrasted between the developmental distinctions and divisions of various cultures as they migrated in and out of these regions. This also involves climatic trends as well as the essential time framing, as interpreted by linguists and archeologists of the early and later periods. This also extends to the interpretations toward those specific classifications regarding the ancient roots of the main stocks; noteworthy are the Algonquians and Iroquoian. Beginning with the Beaver Wars of 1608 to the French and Indian War major changes and conflicts were created and actvely fought. Some of the Indians were soon taken to the designated reservations and much of their former lands ceded to the new country partly to compensate for the part they chose in the American Revolution. This led to further rebellions and establishment of the American Fur Company heading far west with the steady growth of the system. There were those known as the 'half-breeds', mostly north and west of this part of PA made up of part French or Scotch and Irish, sometimes mistaken for pure blooded natives. Meanwhile, the Indians continued to back the losing side as in the War of 1812 for example, and the Indian Removal Act of 1830. So you see, this is an exhaustive focal subject requiring deep study. I, for one, am hardly an expert in this field.

    More Discussion 

     Now, you could say my information collecting is not too up to snuff, but, here is a piecemeal of what was generally related on Native Americans around here. Duaine Fuoss made mention of the Chickawa, Ottawa and Kanhawa Indians near here and the Indian associations of the quarry at Dawson and at Adelaide which is between Dawson and Broadford still in Upper Tyrone, a township of Fayette County. He is particularly noted as covering and walking large tracts of the surrounding townships while searching for Indian remains and valuables. Also, he talked of Indian graves near the old Laurel Mall; Indian remnants and forts at the King farm area of Kingview and a mile north on Dexter Road, near where Abraham Stauffer had a saw mill and where his sons ran the mines and coke ovens; that there was an old cemetery at where 'Busy Beaver', the hardware store at the mall south of Mt. Pleasant; of the finding of what many would feel to be controversial-giants bones near some areas in Fayette County. Furthermore, he is related to the Overholts, an illustrious farming and distilling family that gave rise to Henry Clay Frick with his monopoly on the Coal and Coke industry; the old settlers of Owensdale and the famly of the Sterrett's, related to Daniel Boone. This and much else, had me excited and left me almost gasping... for more!

   He proceeded to tell me of his great grandfather who owned much of the Iron Bridge area, when I mentioned my article 'The Meeting Of The Townships', on the old railroad crossing and home of the very first Iron Truss bridge built in the U. S, ( in conjunction with historical research of Lannie Dietle, published a little while ago). He also confirmed what I'd heard and read about where there once existed an Indian burial ground located on the northwest part of the old Mennonite Cemetery south of Everson which I already planned to include in a future post.

   Reluctant Goodbyes

   Eventually, he had to move along and I reluctantly shook hands and said good bye to quite a character and good speaker on these wonderful and colorful old subjects. I suggested he consider a Presentation for an organization such as the Bullskin Township Historical Society, only seeking their permission. They may well be as rooted to the spot, almost spellbound as I was with a gentleman that is an old treasure all by himself.

  Altogether, I had a very enlightening and fortuitous time spent that day, listening to him for approximately 2 hours with an occasional interjection from myself, now and then. He gave me permission to use his information in an article cart blanche, so here it is in a condensed form. I hope it was half as interesting to others as it was to me.

  I do plan a follow up to continue soon in a Part Two, offering more of his detailed material with photos of some of his prized artifacts, as well. Keep your fingers crossed and thanks for reading.


  1. Thats my Dad. He's willing to discuss more with you or he will give a talk to anyone who invites him.

    1. Duane Damage: Sorry to take so long, yes I would still like to talk more (though we did have a nice discussion years ago). Not sure of his whereabouts or info as of now. If you are the son I met at the Bullskin Historical Society building, I recall giving you a phone no. & looking forward to an invitation to a meeting of your Indian tribe folks! That didn't happen. Had problem with the new camera later and it's sad those photos didn't work out, so I didn't finish with only the audio recordings I had of your dad for a 2nd post. Thanks for contacting me and maybe we can still get together again as he has his own ideas, yet such a very interesting, knowledgeable man in this region!

    2. The tribe thing fell apart. Long story. But yea, the phone number for him is still the same. He is living in Mount pleasant.


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