Dirty Simon Girty

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Girty’s Notch is a rock formation located along the western bank of the Susquehanna River just south of Liverpool, Pennsylvania, along Routes 11 and 15. It is such a popular spot that the state Department of Transportation installed some picnic tables and a small parking area a the foot of the rock outcropping.

But historians have called ‘Dirty’ Simon Girty as he was known during his lifetime, one of the most unsavory characters to ever hail from Pennsylvania.

He was born near Halifax, Dauphin County, in 1744. When he was ten, his father was killed in a bar room brawl near Fort Hunter. His mother remarried and moved to Fort Granville, near Lewistown. While there, his step-father was killed by Indians and the family was taken captive and split among various tribes.

Girty was adopted by the Seneca Indians and was raised as one of the tribe. During the French and Indian War,1 Girty served the English as a scout and interpreter. He befriended Colonel William Crawford and asked for the colonel’s daughter in marriage, but she refused.

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, Girty was an officer in the militia at Fort Pitt (present day Pittsburgh), but he switched sides, rejoined the Indians and attacked the colonial settlements along the Ohio River. He was blamed for many atrocities during the war, however the Pennsylvania militia massacred an entire village of Moravian Indians near Sandusky, Ohio six months after Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown, Virginia.2

The Pennsylvania militia launched a second campaign to quell the uprising after the Moravian Massacre, this time led by Girty’s old friend Colonel Crawford. When Crawford’s men reached the Ohio River, Girty and the Indians attacked - all the militiamen were killed or captured. Crawford was taken prisoner, tortured and burned at the stake.

Girty was vilified through history for not saving his friend, but recently historians have said that Girty was helpless and would have been subjected to the same fate as Crawford if he had tried to interfere. Girty moved to Canada where he supposedly froze to death at the age of 74.

1The Seven Years War in Europe.2A typical case of the victor writing history.

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