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Sketches of Virginia
Chapter XI. - The Captivity and Escape of Mrs Inglish 1756


Captivity by the Shawanees, or their confederates in Ohio, was not a singular event in the progress of civilization in the Valley and mountains of West Virginia. Commencing in murder, plunder, and the burning of habitations, it was a continued series of exposures, privations and dangers, ending in adoption, ransom, or escape. Sometimes the captive remained cheerfully, to share the joys and sorrows of the barbarians. In all these particulars there is a sameness in the histories of Indian captivities, while each narrative is diversified with some personal display of courage, activity and endurance of suffering. The circumstances of some are so full of thrilling interest and exciting events that the narrative may be a fair specimen of the almost innumerable instances of loss of freedom, of property, and of friends by savage hands. One of these types is the captivity of the Draper family, embracing the surprise, bloodshed, plunder, house-burning, exposure, kindness, escape, ransom, and naturalization to Indian life, the prolonged bondage and the caprice of the savages in their cruelty and kindness to their captives.

Mr. George Draper removed from Pennsylvania about the year 1750, and took his residence, in advance of the wave of population moving south-westwardly, on the top of the great Allegheny Ridge, in the present bounds of Montgomery County. The place he chose for a residence was, for a length of time, called Draper’s Meadows. Passing into other hands it took the name of its owner and was called Smithfield; and is now in the possession of the Preston family. Draper’s residence or fort, stood between the residence of ex-Governor Preston and his son. On top of the main Ridge of Virginia mountains, the meadows presented a beautiful extent of rolling country, very fertile, and healthy, and containing within its bounds abundant springs of pure water, some of which find their way to the Atlantic through the James, and the Chesapeake Bay; and others that mingle their streams with the Ohio and Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. In the space of a few moments one can drink of waters that flow eastward through the “ancient dominion,” and turn and wash himself in those that wander by the numerous Western States, to make a part of the mysterious Gulf-stream.

To this beautiful spot his son John with his wife, and his daughter Mary with her husband, William Inglis, accompanied him. The "meadows” were glades with few trees or marshes, and fed herds of buffalo and deer. For seclusion, abundance of the means of living, and the pleasure and excitement of hunting, Draper’s meadows might have been an enviable spot. And some few years passed away in quietness and enjoyment. At a distance, other families, drawn by the same inducements, took their abode, following each other at intervals. Proximity of residence encroached upon the freedom and abundance of the chase; and the families that chose the Allegheny top for a home, like Moore in his valley, preferred solitude to the sight of human habitations. In this situation of the family, Mr. George Draper died.

The Shawanees in their expeditions against the Catawbas frequently passed the Draper settlement, which was in the direct line of one of their great war paths, without molestation or signs of displeasure, till the year 1756. Excited by the French, and jealous of the rapid encroachment upon their hunting grounds, the Alleghenies being already scaled, the Shawanees made a sudden descent upon Draper’s meadows in the midst of harvest, while the men were all in the field securing their crop unarmed and unsuspicious of danger. The savages surrounded the dwellings in which were the women and children, and the arms of the families, and of the men who had come to aid in the harvest; and murdered the widow of George Draper, and also Colonel James Patton from Tinkling Spring, in Augusta, who was on an exploring expedition, and spending a few days at the meadows to refresh himself from his journey and some illness that had come upon him. The wife of John Draper, and Mrs. Inglis and her two sons, Thomas of four years of age, and George of two years, were made prisoners to be taken to the Indian towns. Mr. Inglis hearing the noise at the house hastened home in alarm. He approached very near the dwelling before he discovered the Indians; hoping to aid his family he drew still nearer. Two stout Indians discovered him and rushed at him with their tomahawks. He fled to the woods; they pursued, at a little distance from each other, one on each side of Mr. Inglis to prevent his secreting himself by turning aside. He perceived that the Indians were gaining upon him, and attempting to jump over a fallen tree he fell, and gave himself up for lost. Owing to the underbrush, the pursuers did not see him fall, and passed by on each side of him as he lay in the bushes. In a few moments he was upon his feet and escaped in another direction. The harvest hands deprived of their arms, believing resistance ineffectual, left the Indians unmolested and secreted themselves in the woods around the meadows.

The savages taking what plunder they pleased and the four prisoners, moved off towards New River, advancing slowly on account of the thick underbrush, and not apprehending any pursuit from the circumstances of the families in and around the meadows; and striking that river they leisurely proceeded down the stream. The captors were partial to Mrs. Inglis, and having several horses permitted her to ride most of the way and carry her two children. Mrs. Draper, who was wounded in the back and had her arm broken in the attack upon the settlement, was less kindly cared for. As usual all the prisoners suffered from exposure, and privations, and confinement on their march. Mrs. Inglis had more liberty granted her than Mrs. Draper. The Indians permitted her to go into the woods to search for the herbs and roots necessary to bind up the broken arm and the wounded back of her fellow captive, trusting probably to her love for her children for her speedy return. They kept the little boy of four years, and his little brother of two, as her hostages; and were not mistaken. She stated afterwards that she had frequent opportunities of escaping while gathering roots and herbs, but could never get her own consent to leave her children in the hands of the savages, and was always cheered by the hope of recapture or ransom. When the party had descended the Kenawha to the salt region, the Indians, as was usual, halted a few days at a small spring to make salt. After about a month from the time of their captivity the party arrived at the Indian village at the mouth of the big Scioto. The partiality for Mrs. Inglis exhibited by the captors, during the march, was more evident upon reaching the village. She was spared the painful and dangerous trial, of running the gauntlet; while Mrs. Draper with her wounds yet unhealed was compelled to endure the blows barbarity might inflict. When the division of the captives took place, Mrs. Inglis was subjected to the great trial of being parted from her children, and prohibited the pleasure of intercourse with them, or even of rendering them any assistance.

Some French traders from Detroit visiting the village with their goods, Mrs. Inglis at her leisure moments made some shirts for the Indians out of the checked fabrics. These were highly prized by savages as ornaments, and by the traders as a means of a more rapid sale of their articles, at a high price; and both waited on the captive to exercise her skill as a seamstress. When a garment was made for an Indian, the Frenchmen would take it and run through the village, swinging it on a staff, praising it as an ornament, and Mrs. Inglis as a very fine squaw; and then make the Indians pay her from their store at least twice the value of the article. This profitable employment continued about three weeks; and the seamstress besides the pecuniary advantage secured the admiration of her captors. Mrs. Draper’s wounds preventing her from sharing in the employment or advantage, she was held in less estimation, and employed in more servile offices.

Mrs. Inglis was soon separated entirely from Mrs. Draper and the children. A party setting off for the Big Bone Licks, on the south side of the Ohio River, about 100 miles below, for the purpose of making salt, took her along, together with an elderly Dutch woman captured on the frontiers, and retained in servitude. This entire, and in her view, needless separation from her children, prompted by a desire in the savages to wean them from the mother, brought her to the determination of attempting an escape. The alternative was sad, to endure lonely captivity among barbarians, or the dangers and sufferings of a flight through a wilderness, with exposure to enraged Indians, hunger, and wild beasts. After mature consideration, she resolved to make the attempt to reach home, preferring death" in the wilderness to such captivity. She prevailed upon the old woman to accompany her in the flight. The plan was to get leave to be absent a short time; and proceed immediately to the Ohio River, which was but a short distance from the Licks, and follow that river up to the Kenawha, and that river to New River, and so to the meadows, or some nearer frontier. They must travel about one hundred miles along the Ohio before they passed the village at the mouth of the Scioto, and consequently be in danger hourly of the severities that might follow a recapture. Their resolution was equal to the danger and trial. They obtained leave to gather grapes. Providing themselves each with a blanket, tomahawk, and knife, they left the Licks in the afternoon, and to prevent suspicion took neither additional clothing nor provisions. When about to depart, Mrs. Inglis exchanged her tomahawk with one of the three Frenchmen, had accompanied the Indians to the Licks, as he was sitting on one of the Big Bones, cracking walnuts. They hastened to the Ohio, and proceeded unmolested up the scream, and in about live days came opposite the village at the mouth of the Scioto. Here they found a cabin and a cornfield, and remained for the night. In the morning they loaded a horse, found in an enclosure near by, with as much corn as they could contrive to pack on him, and proceeded up the river. In sight of the Indian village, and during the day within view of Indian hunters, they escaped observation, and passed on unmolested. It is not improbable their calm behavior, and open unrestrained action, prevented suspicion in any keen-sighted savage that might have seen them from the village, as they were plucking the corn and loading the horse. This route being on the south side of the Ohio, was unexposed to savage interference, except an occasional hunting-party, and none of these crossed their track after they left the mouth of the Scioto.

After the Indian depredations connected with Braddock’s war had ceased, and friendly intercourse was again established, the Shawanees could scarcely be made to believe that Mrs. Inglis was alive. They said the party at the Licks became alarmed at the prolonged absence of the grape-gatherers, and hunted for them in all directions, and discovering no trail or marks of them whatever, had come to the conclusion that they had become1 lost, and wandering away, had been destroyed by the wild beasts. There had been no suspicion of any escape, the difficulties in the way had appeared so insurmountable; on the north side of the Ohio were the Indian tribes and villages, and on the southern side, obstructions too great, above Kentucky, to encourage hunting-parties, Or permit war paths. It seemed to them impossible, that two lone women, unprovided with any necessaries for a march, or arms for defence or to obtain provisions, could possibly have accomplished so uninviting a journey.

The fugitives travelled with all the expedition their circumstances would permit, using the corn and wild fruits for food. Although the season was dry, and the rivers low, the Big Sandy was too deep for them to cross at its entrance into the Ohio. Turning their course up the river for two or three days, they found a safe crossing for themselves on the drift-wood. The horse fell among the logs and became inextricable. Taking what corn they could carry, they returned to the Ohio, and proceeded up the stream. Wherever the water courses that enter that river, were too deep for their crossing at the junction, they went up their banks to a ford, and returned again to the Ohio, their only guide home. Sometimes, in their winding and prolonged journey, they ventured, and sometimes were compelled to cross the crags and points of ridges that turned the course of the rivers with their steep ledges; but as speedily as possible they returned to the banks of the Ohio. The corn was exhausted long before they reached the Kenawha; and their hunger was appeased by grapes, black walnuts, pawpaws, and sometimes by roots, of whose name or nature they were entirely ignorant. Before they reached the Big Kenawha, the old Dutch woman, frantic with hunger, and the exposure of the journey, threatened the life of Mrs. Inglis, in revenge for her sufferings and to appease her appetite. On reaching the Kenawha, their spirits revived, while their sufferings and exposures continued, and their strength decreased. Day after day they urged on their course, as fast as practicable, through the tedious sameness of hunger, weariness, and exposure by day and by night; yet unmolested by wild beasts at night, or the savages by day.

When they had gotten within about fifty miles of Draper’s meadows, the old woman in her despondency and suffering, made an attack upon Mrs. Inglis to take her life. It was in the twilight of evening. Escaping from the grasp of the desperate woman, Mrs. Inglis outran her pursuer, and concealed herself under the river-bank. After a time she left her hiding-place, and proceeding along the river by the light of the moon, found the canoe in which the Indians had taken her across, filled with dirt and leaves, without a paddle or a pole near. Using a broad splinter of a fallen tree, she cleared the canoe, and unused to paddling contrived to cross the river. She passed the remainder of the night at a hunter’s lodge, near which was a field planted with corn, but unworked and untended, and destroyed by the buffaloes and other beasts, the place having been unvisited during the summer on account of the savage inroads. In the morning she found a few turnips in the yard which had escaped the wild animals. The old woman, on the opposite side of the river, discovered her, and entreated her to recross and join company, promising good behavior and kind treatment. Mrs. Inglis thought it more prudent to be parted by the river. Though approaching her former home, her condition seemed almost hopeless. Her clothing had been worn and torn by the bushes until few fragments remained. The weather was growing cold; and to add to her distress a light snow fell. She knew the roughness of the country she must yet pass; and her strength was almost entirely wasted away. Her limbs had begun to swell from wading cold streams, frost, and fatigue. Travelling as far as possible during the day, her resource at night was a hollow log filled with leaves.. She had now been out forty days and a half, and had not travelled less than twenty miles a day, often much more. In this extremity she reached the clearing made in the spring by Adam Harman, on New River. On reaching this clearing, seeing no house or any person, she began to hallo. Harman and his two sons, engaged in gathering their corn and hunting, were not far off. On hearing the hallo, Harman was alarmed. But after listening a time, he exclaimed, “Surely,-that is Mary Inglis!” He had been her neighbor, and knew h.er call, and the circumstances of her captivity. Seizing their guns, as defence if the Indians should be near, they ran and met ner, and carried her to their cabin; and treated her in a kind and judicious manner. Having bathed her feet, and prepared some venison and bear’s meat, they fed her in small portions ; and the next day they killed a young beef, and made soup for her. By this kind treatment, she found herself in a few days able to proceed. Mr. Harman took her on horseback to the Dunkards’ Bottom, where was a fort in which all the families of the neighborhood were gathered. On the morning after her arrival at the fort, her husband and her brother John Draper came unexpectedly. They had made a journey to the Cherokees, who were on friendly terms with the Shawanees, to procure by their agency the release of the captives. On their return they lodged about seven miles from the Dunkards’ Bottom, in the woods, the night Mrs. Inglis reached the fort. The surprise at the meeting was mutual and happy. Thus ended the captivity and escape, embracing about five months. Of this time, about forty-two and a half days were passed on her return.

Mrs. Draper was released after about six or seven years, when friendly relations had been restored ; and the frontiers were relieved from the inroads of barbarians.

While Mrs. Inglis was at Harman’s lodge, she entreated her host to go, or send for the old woman. He positively refused, both on account of her bad treatment of his guest, and also that he knew she would come to a cabin on her side of the river. To this cabin she came, and found in it a kettle nearly full of venison and bear’s meat, the hunters had prepared and just left. She feasted and rested herself a day or two ; and then dressing herself in some clothing left by the hunters, and making a bark bridle for an old horse left there, she mounted him, and proceeded on her way. When within about fifteen or twenty miles of the Dunkards’ Bottom, she met some men going in search of her. They found her riding, carrying the bell she took from the horse left in the river, and had brought along through all her journey, and halloing at short intervals, to attract the attention of hunters. Nothing is known of her after her arrival at the fort; the only remarkable event in her life was her escape with Mrs. Inglis.

Having remained at the Dunkards’ Bottom till spring, Mr. Inglis, oh account of the unwillingness of his wife to remain on the frontiers, removed to a stronger post on the head of Roanoke, called Vause’s fort, where a number of families were collected. For the same cause he afterwards removed east of the Blue Ridge, and took his residence in Botetourt County. This was a very providential movement, as in the fall of the year a large force of French and Indians surprised and took the fort, and murdered or made prisoners of all the families. John and Matthew Inglis, connexions of William, had their families in the fort at the time it was taken. When the attack was made, John was out. Hearing the noise, he rushed to the fort, and notwithstanding it was surrounded by the enemy, he attempted to get in. The savages closed upon him. He fired his gun, and used it as a club, and beat off the assailants. The stock breaking, he used the barrel with great force, and approached very near the fort; but before he could enter, he was overpowered and killed. Matthew was taken prisoner. The Indians having secured what plunder they desired, encamped near the fort. Matthew was unbound, and being offended by some of the Indians, seized a frying-pan, twisted otf the handle, and began laying about him with great effect. The savages were so pleased with his boldness, that they treated him afterwards more kindly than the other prisoners. After remaining some years in Bedford, William Inglis and family returned to New River. Some families having ventured to settle further west, the meadows and New river were considered comparatively safe. Mr. Inglis’ house became a fort, to which, in times of alarm the neighbors gathered ; and from the brave men there assembled the savages received an effectual check. A party of eight or ten passed the fort, and went to Smith’s river, east of the Blue Ridge, and returned with a woman and three children prisoners, and a number of horses loaded with plunder, encamped about six miles from Inglis’ fort. Being discovered by a person hunting horses, some eighteen men were rallied, and, with Mr. Inglis, set off to attack the savages. On reaching the encampment in the morning they found it deserted; pursuing the trail, they came upon the party cooking their breakfast; approaching unobserved, they fired, and rushed in upon the enemy. But two or three escaped. The prisoners and plunder were all recovered, but with the loss however of one of the assailants. The New River settlements were never again disturbed.

William and Mary Inglis had six children. Before the captivity, Thomas and George were born; after the captivity, Susan, Rhoda, Polly and John. George died in captivity while a young child. The other five became heads of families. Of these children, Thomas was left in captivity when his mother escaped — the separation of himself and brother from her being the immediate cause of her flight. He remained thirteen years among the Indians. Frequent efforts were made for his recovery, but in vain. After peace was concluded, a Mr. Thomas Baker, who had been a prisoner among the Indians, visited the tribe at the solicitation of the father, and purchased the lad for about $150. The squaws greatly opposed the return of the boy, and used every exertion to persuade him to remain. Mr. Baker kept him in partial confinement till he had passed the villages some forty or fifty miles, and then set him entirely free. At night he lay down to sleep with the boy in his arms. In the morning he found himself alone. He returned in search of him, but the squaws refused to give him up, or disclose the place of his concealment. Some two years after, Mr. Inglis, accompanied by Mr. Baker, went by Winchester to Pittsburg, on their way to visit the Shawanees, in quest of his son. There the journey was ended on account of fresh hostilities all along the frontiers. When peace was restored, the father, accompanied by Mr. Baker, made another journey in quest of his son, and to propitiate the Indians, took with him a number of small kegs of rum. The first village he entered was greatly excited upon hearing of the rum, and persuaded the anxious father to gratify their appetites. In the intoxication which followed, his life was in danger, and his preservation was owing to the kindness of the squaws. On reaching the Scioto, where his son had been living, he learned, to his sorrow, that the old Indian father had taken the. boy to Detroit. While waiting about a fortnight for his return, Mr. Baker renewed his acquaintance with the Shawanees, and Mr. Inglis became very popular, and matters wer’e in a favorable train before the old man and boy came back. When the boy heard his father was come, his feelings were greatly moved ; and finding which was he, expressed a fondness for him, and a willingness to return home with him. The old Indian gave him up upon receiving a second ransom for him; and the son set off with his father very cheerfully. On'the journey he gave evidence of an increasing, fondness for his father, without the least desire to return to the Scioto. The mother’s joy was great on recovering her long lost eldest son, who was now seventeen years of age, small in stature, unable to speak English, and an entire savage in his manners and appearance. The habits of civilized life were not pleasing to him, and with difficulty he was persuaded to remain with his parents. He would sometimes go to the woods, and remain for days, his parents fearing he would never return. By continued kindness he was persuaded to leave off his Indian dress, the use of the bow and arrow, and to learn the English language. His father placed him at school in Albemarle County, in the family of Dr. Walker. In the course of three or four years of study he acquired what was esteemed a good English education, and was greatly improved in manners. He never did, perhaps never could, entirely put off his Indian habits.

In the campaign against the Shawanees, he belonged to the regiment of Col. Christian which reached Point Pleasant the night after the battle. Remaining at the Point till the treaty of peace was signed, he found among the Indians many of his old acquaintances, and went with them on a visit to their towns. After his return he married Miss Ellen Grills, and settled on Wolfe Creek, a branch of New River. From this place he removed to a valuable tract of land on the head of Bluestone; but being annoyed by the Indians passing and repassing, during the war of the revolution, on their plundering expeditions, he removed to Burke’s garden, with settlements around him at the distance of ten or twelve miles., and but one white person in the garden, an old bachelor about two miles off, by the name of Hix, with whom lived a black boy. Here he was unmolested till the spring of the year 1782. While with his black boy in a field ploughing, his house was surrounded by Indians. Perceiving he could render no assistance, he mounted a horse and went with speed across to the head of Holston for help. Here meeting a militia muster, some fifteen men immediately volunteered and went with him. Old Mr. Hix had come on a visit to the family, and was in sight when the attack was made; he hastened in another direction and gave the alarm, and returned with volunteers, about the same time Mr. Inglis came. From the smoking ruins of the house they pursued the marauders, who had gone through a part of the Clinch settlements to go down the Big Sandy. When clear of the Settlements the Indians moved carelessly and left marks of their trail. At this time their pursuers were about twenty, under the command of Capt. Maxwell of the militia. On the seventh day in the evening the spies discovered the Indians. Before they were completely surrounded the Indians saw their pursuers. Mr. Inglis with a part of the men had approached very near and was waiting for Capt. Maxwell coming up on the other side. According to custom the Indians began tomahawking the prisoners. Mr. Inglis was very near and rushed to save his wife and children; but the efforts were vain. All were tomahawked. The boy about three years of age soon died, the girl about five lived a few days. Mrs. Inglis had many wounds which were not fatal. The Indians in flying came suddenly upon Capt. Maxwell’s company; and in rushing past, one of them discharged his gun at the Captain, conspicuous by his white hunting-shirt, and gave him a mortal wound. They all escaped. The Captain soon died, and was buried with the little boy. His name was given to the Gap where he was slain. At the head of Clinch, Mr. Wm. Inglis met his son, and wife, and infant, having a Doctor in company. The little girl died soon. Mrs. Inglis was able to return to New River. Before she recovered thirteen pieces of skull bone were taken from her head.

In about a year, Thomas Inglis removed to Tennessee, and settled on the Watauga, a tributary of the South Fork of Holston; in a position exposed to the incursions of the Cherokees. But in a few years, though comfortably situated, dissatisfied that the country was filling up so fast, he removed further down the river to Mossy Creek, in the midst of grass-fields and cane-brakes. The coming of settlers caused him once more to remove, and he took his residence near where Knoxville now stands. Here he seemed to be fixed for life, owning several tracts of land, and having a daughter married. But in pursuit of a debtor he visited Natchez, and although meeting with losses by the upsetting of his boat at the Muscle Shoals, every thing being left in the river but his saddlebags, and failing to get any satisfaction from his debtor, he was so pleased with that country, that he speedily sold his possessions and removed to Mississippi. There he ended his days, an inveterate lover of frontier life, and never under any circumstances losing the tastes and habits he acquired in his thirteen years of captivity when a boy. The Shawanees loved him when a captive for his bravery and endurance; and in after life the Cherokees admired and feared him for the same cool adventurous bearing, and never disturbed him in Tennessee, though exposed in his lonely habitations.

Susan, the eldest daughter of William and Mary Inglis, married General Trigg, a man well known in public life; her two daughters, Mrs. Charles Taylor, and Mrs. Judge Allen Taylor, died at an advanced age, eminently pious members of the Presbyterian Church, and noted for their amiable qualities. Polly married a brother of John’s wife. The youngest son, John, had eight children, was a member of the Presbyterian Church, of which he was long an elder in Montgomery County; and part of his children were members. Mr. William Ingiis died in 1782, aged 53 ; Mrs. Mary Inglis enjoyed good health till far advanced in years, and died in 1813, aged 84. Her descendants are numerous, and they contemplate, with wonder and admiration, the energy, boldness, and endurance manifested by the subject of this chapter in her eventful captivity. And it will ever be a matter of surprise that murders, captivities, and plunderings multiplied to an extent almost incredible, did not stop the tide of emigration in Western Virginia. The boldness and rapidity of its extension before the Independence of the United States was acknowledged, was but a precursor of that unresisted tide that has already broken the barrier of the Rocky Mountains.


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