By Vicki Priest (c) (All Rights Reserved)
This is an amazing tale of Edward Petit’s firstborn son,* which so far as I have seen from genealogies is unknown, and of crazy “coincidence.” It’s also an example for remembering that when, historically, folks report how many children they have or had, they usually only give the number that have survived past infancy or early childhood. In Edward’s case, Victoria Louise is said to be his oldest child and the child that is the subject of the article below was not in his will, for whatever reason. To me, anyway, there’s no reason to doubt the story. The only oddity I’ve noticed so far is that it took so long for the son to meet the father (the mother, Henriette Victoria Stevens, died in 1873, and the Civil War ended in 1865; Edward died in 1875, so the meeting must have occurred very shortly before Edward died). The article is reproduced as it was posted in The Times Herald, May 16, 1891 (page 6), and includes historically important information beyond the story of Henry.
“Romance of an Abduction (Indianapolis Journal)” [no date is provided for the reprinted piece]
There is a barber named Henry Petit who has a rare tale of adventure to tell concerning himself, of how he was stolen when four years old by the Indians, and how he finally found his father. Petit was born in 1838 at the Indian trading post near Port Huron, Michigan, where his father had an exchange store and was patronized by the Indians.
In 1842 Turkey Foot, chief of the Black Creek Indians, got into a difficulty with the father of Petit, claiming that he had given him a “wildcat” dollar in making change. This was denied by Petit, who would not take back the money. The Indian went away mad, and vowing that he would get even. The Indians about this time sold their lands about port Huron, and were being removed to a reservation near the present city of Sandusky. This Indian at once executed a plan to get revenge on Petit.
The night before Turkey Foot left he stole the boy in this manner: He found out that Petit was not at home one night, and he entered the house about midnight. Walking lightly across the floor he jerked the sleeping babe from the arms of the mother, who awoke in alarm only to find that her baby was gone. A diligent search failed to find a trace of the missing boy, and he was given up as dead. The Indian took the lad, now four years old, to Ohio, where an old squaw took charge of him.
There was a white man with the tribe named Timothy Crocker, whom the Indians sent back to Port Huron to tell Petit that his boy died in Canada. Thus the parents were made to believe that their boy was dead. The lad lived with the Indians until 11 years old, when a man named Howser, of Williamsport, Pa., who was among these Indians, bought the boy for a small consideration and took him back to his home. The boy there learned the barbers’ trade, but as to where the Indians got him he could not remember. He was sent to school at Republic, O., where he received a license to teach. He was there going by the name of Timothy Crocker, and in 1855 he was married to Miss Catherine Eckert, who lived at Delphi, Indiana where he purchased a barber shop.
When the war commenced he enlisted in the Ninth Indiana infantry. While this regiment was with Sherman in the “march to the sea” and in Alabama, “Crocker” was approached by a man who asked him his name. “Crocker” told him, and the man denited it, saying that he was the very counterpart of a Mr. Petit, at Port Huron, Mich.; that he must be the missing son, long since supposed to be dead. The stranger took the name of the town where “Crocker” lived, and told him that when the war closed proof would be presented showing that “Timothy Crocker” was Henry Petit, the son of Edward Petit.
After the war “Crocker” settled at Westville, near La Porte, where he soon heard from the mysterious person who had told him such a strange story while in the army. This was soon followed by a telegram from Edward Petit, of Port Huron, saying, “Come at once and lose no time.” “Crocker” went hardly knowing what to think would be the outcome of the trip. He arrived at Port Huron, and upon stepping from the train he met his father face to face—two men almost the exact image of each other. There could be no mistaking the fact that one was the father and the other the son. The mother had died many years before. [The End]
* Edit of January 15, 2018: Actually, Edward F., born and died in 1837 (Lakeside Cemetery, Port Huron), is very probably Edward and Victoria’s first-born child. He has Edward’s name, just as the first girl born to them has her mother’s and grandmother’s name–Louise/Louisa Victoria (b. 1841). A news entry from when Victoria died in 1873 says that she and Edward had 10 children, but only 4 were still living at the time. These would’ve been Louise, Marshal (1849-1939), Franklin (1855-1910), and John/Jean B. (1857-1917). There was a Basil born to them in 1855, and now we know about Henry (b. 1838) (and Edward F., b. 1837), leaving three more that are unknown; the gaps in births are between 1842 and 1848, and 1850-1854.