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Jane Dowling Story

Indian Ambush of the Maguire and Donnelly Families


Contributed by Nan Hunt



Valley Rural Electric Newsletter Penn Lines, October 1973 issue -


There's an interesting gravesite in Huntingdon County near the new multi-million Raystown Dam and Halloween seems an appropriate time to write about the unusual circumstances surrounding it's fame.


Although the gravestone marks the death of Jane Maguire Dowling in 1839 at the age of 78, the significant event in her life occurred when she was only 16 years of age. It was then that young Jane Maguire escaped being massacred by the Indians by holding on to the tail of a stampeding cow! Granted, it was an odd incident, so here are the details.


The Maguire and Donnelly families lived a little west of the town of Huntingdon in 1777, but decided to move to the Fort for protection from the Indians. Fort Standing Stone was located along the same creek as the Valley Rural Co-op offices. Both the fort and the creek, now known as Stone Creek, derived their names from a tall, erect stone along the banks of the stream which the Indians used as a gathering place and place of worship.


The two families gathered up some of their goods and their cattle and headed east along the Juniata River to reach Fort Standing Stone. Suddenly Indians ambushed and killed the young Donnelly boy. His father caught his body as it fell and tried to keep it on the horse so the Indians would not be able to scalp him. Seeing the older Donnelly struggling to keep his son's body, Maguire came to his aid and the pair traveled with the body between their two horses so as to prevent the Indians from desecrating it.


However, the Indians fired another volley, which killed the older Donnelly and grazed Maguire. After both Donnellys fell, Maguire rode "forward with all haste" according to historians, even passing the stampeding cattle and Jane Maguire who was on foot.


The Indians scalped the two Donnellys and then went after Jane, apprently intending to make her a prisoner. With a "yell of delight" one of them overtook her and grasped part of her dress. Fortunately for Jane, the dress tore and she fled, leaving the garment in the hands of the pursuing Indian. In her fright, the desperate girl grabbed the tail of one of the startled cows and the cow proceeded to race at a terrific speed. The cow (with young Jane in tow) passed Mr. Maguire and made it to the fort in much haste, it was reported.


Maguire had by this time recomposed himself and shot at the Indian who took shelter behind a nearby rock.


The peaceful grave now looks down on what will soon be the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi, and the cemetery is part of a quiet and lovely rural scene. And to those who don't know about this exciting day in 1777, Jane Dowling's burial site offers no hint of that memorable pioneer day when she was 'saved by a cow's tail'!



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