Just outside the town of Beallsville stands a statue of a woman holding a baby in one arm, a musket in the other and a small child clutching her waist.
How many times have you driven past this statue not knowing its significance, wondering why it’s there? This statue, The Madonna of the Trail, was dedicated Dec. 28, 1928. Each state along the National Old Trails Highway, 12 in total, dedicated an identical statue that year. Themonuments, commissioned by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, were intended to symbolize the spirit and courage of pioneer women.
On July 4, 1928, at the dedication of the Ohio Madonna of the Trail, Harry Truman said of these women, “They were just as brave or braver than their men because, in many cases, they went with sad hearts and trembling bodies. They went, however, and endured every hardship that befalls a pioneer.”
When I see the statue outside Beallsville, I cannot help but think of the Heroine of Miller’s Blockhouse, Ann Rowe Hupp.
Little is known of the early life of Ann Rowe Hupp. It is believed she was born sometime in 1757 in Pennsylvania, and at the age of 18 married John Hupp and settled in Washington County near the Dutch Fork settlement. As was the case with most people living on the Pennsylvania frontier in the 18th century, she lived in constant fear of raids by Native Americans. On Easter Sunday of 1782 this fear became a reality for Ann, her husband, and their four children.
On this particular morning, settlers in the area were on full alert. There had been warnings of Shawnee warriors being seen in the region. Ann and her family took refuge in Miller’s Blockhouse, located near present-day Dutch Fork Lake, along with Jacob Miller Sr. and his family, the family of Edward Gaither and an older gentleman by the name of Matthias Ault. Meanwhile, Gaither himself and many other men were about two miles away at Rice’s Fort, as they believed this would be the likely target should the Shawnee attack. Ann may have believed otherwise. It is said the previous night she dreamt of her husband being bitten by a snake. Ann feared her dream might instead be a premonition, so when John informed her he and Miller were leaving the safety of Miller’s Blockhouse to search for a lost colt, Ann begged her husband not to leave. Despite her warnings, the two set out. Soon after, a shot rang out followed by a Shawnee war cry. John Hupp had been shot dead, and Jacob Miller Sr. had been slain by Shawnee warriors wielding tomahawks. Back in the blockhouse, fearing the worst, Ann dispatched young Frederick Miller to Rice’s Fort to ask for help. He did not make it far before coming face-to-face with the Shawnee. He turned quickly and ran back toward the blockhouse. He was fired upon, and just as he made it to the door of the blockhouse a round ball struck his arm. Wounded, he fell into the arms of Ann and was dragged inside. Thinking fast, Ann grabbed a musket and fired it in the direction of the oncoming warriors. In a letter to Washington County historian Alfred Creigh, dated March 31, 1861, Dr. John C. Hupp, descendant of Ann and John Hupp, wrote:
“Again, in this crisis of terrible trial, Ann Hupp proved equal to the emergency. Encouraging the trembling Ault and the weeping women with the consoling language of hope – nerving her arm and steeling her heart to the severe duties of the moment, she, with true Spartanism, snatching up a rifle fired at the approaching savages, and then ‘ran from porthole to porthole,’ protruding its muzzle in different directions – to convey the idea of great forces in the house – at each presentation causing the savages to cower behind trees or other objects for protection. This happily conceived and promptly executed strategy of this pioneer heroine, without doubt, saved the inmates from what was otherwise inevitable – an immediate and horrible death.”
While Ann held the Shawnee at bay, the men who had been garrisoned at Rice’s fort, hearing the shots fired, made their way to Miller’s Blockhouse. Upon arrival they rushed through the line of Shawnee and into the blockhouse. The warriors continued to fire at the blockhouse, but by nightfall realized they had missed their chance to take the blockhouse and thus retreated. Two men died that Easter Sunday of 1782. If not for the fortitude and bravery of Ann Hupp, many more lives may have been lost.
Ann would go on to remarry, and her union with John May produced three children. She died on June 26, 1823, and was buried in the Miller Family Cemetery – only 200 yards from the site where she defended the blockhouse from the Shawnee War party. Today, more than 200 years later, her legacy lives on. She is remembered as the Heroine of Miller’s Blockhouse, and is the embodiment of all that the Madonna of the Trail monuments were meant to symbolize.
Clay Kilgore is the executive director of Washington County Historical Society and graduate of Penn State Behrend with a degree in history.