Sluss Family Massacre
The Sluss family lived in what we know now as Ceres, Virginia in 1779. The settlers in this area depended on each other. It was not uncommon to have reports of Indian attacks. Often the attacks never happened, and the settlers were beginning to grow tired of living in constant fear of the Indians. This very thing happened with the Sluss family in July 1779.

Jared Sluss lived with his wife and seven kids, and had heard many rumors of Indians attacking in their area. He knew that he couldn’t live in constant fear. He understood that, while staying indoors would most likely be the best method of keeping everyone safe, things needed to be done, gardens needed to be planted, wood needed to be gathered and none of those things could be done while hiding inside.

He finally came to a realization that it was not possible to be safe. He knew he had to go out and work to keep his family alive. However, he also realized that it would be best if he just stayed in sight of his house, so he could see any oncoming “company”.

One July morning, the entire Sluss family, oblivious to what would happen later that day, arose and started a day that seemed like so many others. Jared and his twelve-year-old son, James went out to work in a field that was just beyond seeing distance from their house. Two of their children weren’t at their home at the time. Christina Sluss, the wife of Jared, was inside rocking her six month old daughter, Mary, to sleep, while three of her other children were playing in their front yard. Christina, when she finally realized that the baby had fallen asleep, laid her in her cradle, which she placed under a high bed to prevent the flies from bothering her while she was sleeping. However, she had no idea, that her decision, saved her baby from the terrible death that the majority of the family would face that day.

She carried on her house work, while she listened to her children, obviously enjoying the particular game that they were playing. All was well, until suddenly Mrs. Sluss heard a terrifying scream that came from the first child that realized that the Indians had been hiding in the brush surrounding their house. The rest of the children quickly caught onto the events that would soon follow, and they too screamed in absolute fear.

As Christina looked through the crack in the partially opened door, the saw her children, one by one, being attacked by the Indians. At first the children tried to run. Laura, age four, was the first to be captured before she could reach the fence that surrounded the property. Hazel, age ten, was able to reach and climb over the fence, when she looked back to see her brother, Marion, age seven struggling to make it to her. She quickly snatched him up over the rails, providing protection to her brother. As she was just setting the child down, Hazel was pierced with an arrow that was intended for her brother.

Suddenly Jared and James appeared at the top of the hill, but it was too late to save their family. Marion, being the only one known to have escaped at the time, ran to his father and brother for refuge. Jared commanded Marion to run on to the fort to receive help. Marion, terrified and slightly wounded, ran to the fort. Unfortunately when the help arrived, they discovered that that family had been overtaken by the Indians.

James and Jared were found first. It was obvious that the two had fought with all of their might to keep the Indians from doing further damage, but they lost their battle in the end. James was found laying in a pool of blood beside his father who was dead and had been scalped. Hazel was found just past the fence, with the arrow still through her, and without her scalp. Laura was found just as the others. Christina was laying just outside her kitchen door. She had been cut to pieces, scalped, and had a broken arm, along with many other injuries. However, she was found alive. She was rushed to immediate medical attention and was able to tell some of the details of the horrific day, but died three days afterward.

The family was being buried by their loved ones and they could still hear the whoops and celebration coming from the Indians in the surrounding woods. They almost seemed to be daring those present to pursue them in battle, promising that they too would meet the same fate.

Later, the baby, Mary was found, alive and well where she had been placed by her mother’s loving hands. She had been hidden from the attacks under the high bed and had been untouched. Mary lived to be 104.

The property on which the Sluss family massacre occurred, is somewhat of a memorial. White flowers that Mrs. Christina Sluss planted still come up to this day, every spring. They serve as a reminder of our heritage.

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Heather Looney
Local History