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"Mary Ingles' Escape Story Like 'Thriller' Fiction Tale"

Charleston Daily Mail
June 4, 1937

Draper's Meadows and Ingles Ferry were two early settlements in Kanawha county settled by the Draper and the Ingles families. The settlements were on what is now New River.

In 1744, according to tradition, Thomas Ingles and his eldest son, William, then a youth, made an excursion to the wilds of southwest Virginia from Pennsylvania, penetrating the wilderness as far as New River.

Of the details of this expedition no record has been preserved. On this trip they probably made the acquaintance of Colonel James Patton, who held a grant for 120,- 000 acres of land west of the Blue Ridge, and in the valley of Virginia. :

George Draper and his young wife, whose maiden name had been Elenor Hardin, came from County Donegal, Ireland, in l729,and settled at the mouth of the Schuylkill river, within the present limits of the city of Philadelphia. Here two children were born to them, John In 1730 and Mary in 1732.

Between 1740 and 1744, they, with their two children, came to Virginia, and located at Colonel Patton's settlement (Pattonsburg), on the James river.

While the Drapers lived at Pattonsburg, George Draper started out on a game-hunting and land- seeking expedition, westward. He never returned, and was never again heard of by his family. It was supposed that he was killed by the Indians.

At about this time, (1748), Thomas Ingles and his three sons, Mrs. Draper her son and daughter, Adam Harmon, Henry Lenard, and James Burke left for the west and made the first settlement west of the Allegheny Great Divide. The name used for this settlement was Draper's Meadows.

William Ingles, son of Thomas, had married Mary Draper in the first white wedding east of the Alleghenies. John Draper, Mary's brother, had married Betty Robertson.

Indians Start Attacks

The friendliest of relations had existed up to this time between the settlers and the Indians but as the French had been stirring up trouble this state did not last long. On July 8, 1755, the day before the defeat of Braddock's army at Fort Duquesne, a party of Shawnees from Ohio fell upon the Draper's Meadow settlement and killed, wounded or captured every person there. Colonel Patton, Mrs. George Draper, Jasper Barrier and a child of John Draper were killed. Mrs. John Draper, Mrs. James Cull were wounded and Mrs. William Ingles, Mrs. John Draper and Henry Lenard were made prisoners.

William Ingles at the time was away from home but he saw the smoke from the burning buildings. When he reached the scene, he realized that single-handed, battle would be fruitless so he sought safety in flight. He was pursued by the Indians but succeeded in escaping by hiding in the brush. It is not recorded where John Draper was at this time but apparently he was not near.

The Indians escaped with their plunder, stolen horses and prisoners and by the time that organized. pursuit began it was too late to overtake them.

Decapitated Old Man

About a half a mile or a mile to the west, on their route, they stopped at the house of Philip Barger, an old man, cut off his head, put it in a bag and took it with them to the house of Philip Lybrook, on Sinking Creek, where they left it, telling Mrs. Lybrook to look in the bag and she would find an acquaintance.

In 1774, 19 years later, the family of John Lybrook, son of Philip, was attacked by a party of Indians. John Lybrook himself succeeding in eluding them by secreting himself in a cave in the cliffs but. five of his children were murdered. About the same time, Margaret McKenzie and three Snidow boys were captured in the neighborhood. Two of them, Jacob and William soon escaped and returned but John, a small boy, was taken on to the Indian towns. He was recovered by his family after some years of captivity during which he had almost forgotten his mother tongue, and meanwhile had acquired so strong a taste for lndian life that he returned to the Indians and spent his life with them. Margaret McKenzie was recovered after 18 years of captivity, returned to Giles county, married a Mr. Benjamin Hall, and lived to a very old age, dying about 1850.

The general course of retreat of the Indians with the prisoners and spoils of the Draper's Meadow massacre was down New river.

The experience was especially painful to Mrs. Ingles, who was nearing childbirth. Neither this, in her case, however, nor a broken arm in the case of Mrs. Draper, were allowed to stand in the way of their making the trip. They were permitted to ride the horses carry the children and make themselves as comfortable as the circumstances allowed, but go they must.

On the night of the third day out, Mrs. Ingles, far from human habitation, in the wild forest, gave birth to an infant daughter.

Ordinarily this would have been equivalent to a death warrant to the mother and child, for if they had not both died, under the stress of circumstances, the Indians would have tomahawked them, to avoid the trouble and the necessary delay of their journey. But Mrs. Ingles was an extraordinary woman, and due to her perfect physical constitution, she seems to have borne the baby with almost as little suffering and loss of time as one of the wild Indian squaws themselves. She was next morning able to travel, and did resume the journey, carrying the baby in her arms, on horseback.

Indians Wanted Ransom

One strong reason why Mrs. Ingles and infant were not tomahawked was that the Indians counted upon getting a handsome sum for the ransom of herself and her children. It was not tender humanity but cold business calculation that prevailed.

From the mouth of Indian creek the Draper's Meadows party came down the river, on the west side, to the mouth of Bluestone river, when they left New river, going up Bluestone a short distance, thence crossing over Flat Top Mountain, and probably following very much the route of the present Giles, Raleigh and Fayette turnpike, to about the head of Paint creek, thence down it to the Kanawha river.

Upon reaching the salt spring just about the mouth of Campbell's creek, then well-known to the Indians, they stopped and rested, and feasted themselves on the abundance of fat game they killed as it came to the "licks" for salt.

Made Supply of.Salt

While the Indians hunted, rested and feasted themselves at the salt spring they put the prisoners to boiling brine and making a supply of salt to take with them to their homes beyond the Ohio.

Mrs. Ingles took part in this salt making, and she, together with the other prisoners, were undoubtedly the first white persons who ever made salt, not only in this valley but anywhere west of the Alleghanies.

After several days the party again loaded up the pack-horses and resumed their onward march down the Kanawha and down the Ohio to the capital town of the Shawnees, at the mouth of the Sonhioto, or Scioto river, which they reached just one month after leaving the scene of the massacre and capture at Draper's Meadows.

Soon after their arrival at the Indian town there was a general gathering of old and young welcome back the raiding party, and celebrate the event. The prisoners, according to custom, were required to "run the gauntlet," except Mrs. Ingles, whom, on account of her condition, they excused. Mrs. Draper, notwithstanding her lame arm, was subjected to this painful ordeal.

Spoils Divided

A few days later there was a meeting of the Indians who had made the last raids to divide out the spoils. The prisoners were all separated and allotted to different owners, and not again allowed to see or communicate with each other.

Four-year-old Thomas, named after his grandfather Ingles, was taken up to or near Detroit; the youngest son, George, named after his grandfather Draper, now two years old, was taken somewhere into the interior, and Mrs. Draper went up to the region of Chillicothe. What became of the prisoners then or afterward is not known.

Shortly after this division of prisoners some French traders came into the Indian town for the purpose of trading and bartering with the Indians. They had a stock of check shirting, and as check shirts were in great demand among the Indians and Mrs. Ingles a good seamstress she was put to making check shirts. Her proficiency in this line so increased her value and importance to them that she was treated with unusual leniency and consideration.

'Heap Good White Squaw'

When a shirt would be finished and delivered to its owner, the buck would stick it on the end of a pole and run through the town exhibiting it, singing the praises of the "heap good white squaw."

After this trading and shirt making had continued for two or three weeks, a party of Indians with these Frenchmen was made up to go to the "Big Bone Lick" to make salt. Mrs. Ingles and some other prisoners, among them a Dutch woman, were taken along.

This Big Bone Lick is about 150 miles below Scioto, and about three and a half miles, by the creek, from the Ohio river, in Boone county, Ky. Some of the largest mastodon bones ever discovered, and the largest number ever found together, strewed the ground here or were partially buried beneath the surface.

Colonel Thomas Bullitt and other early explorers here in after years used the immense ribs and tusks for tent poles and the skulls and vertebra for stools and benches. The huge bones, tusks and teeth were taken in large numbers to enrich many museums both in this country and in Europe. Many of the tusks were eight or ten feet long.

Planned Her Escape

While at the Big Bone Lick, Mrs. Ingles resolved to make her escape, and, if possible, find her way home. The elderly Dutch woman, agreed to go with her.

Mrs. Ingles now had to make the supreme decision of her life. She well knew that if she attempted to take her baby with her, its cries would betray them both to recapture and death. And, even if she should possibly escape recapture, she knew too well what she would have to encounter and endure to suppose it possible to carry the infant and succeed in her effort.

It is difficult to conceive of the agony of a young mother compelled to decide such a question. But Mrs. Ingles was a woman of no ordinary nerve. She did decide and act, and the baby was left behind.

She gave the baby her last parting kisses and baptism of tears, tore herself away and was gone, never to see it again in this world, and knowing or having every reason to believe that it would be murdered as soon as it was known that she was gone.

Headed Toward The Ohio

They started late in the afternoon, and bent their steps toward the Ohio river. There were no roads, no guides; they knew but little routes, distances, or points of the compass.

When they failed to return to the camp at or later than the usual time, the Indians became uneasy, thinking they had strayed too far and lost their way, or had been killed by wild beasts.

Some of the Indians went some distance in the direction they had started but which course they had reversed so soon as out of sight, and fired guns to attract their attention if they should be lost. They gave up the search that night, however, and did not renew it the next day.

Did Not Pursue Them

Their conclusion was that the women had been killed by animals and gave themselves no farther concern about them. They did not at all suspect that the women had attempted an escape.

These facts were learned by William Ingles from the Indians many years after at an Indian treaty conference at Point Pleasant, when they (the Indians) learned for the first time what had become of the missing women.

The women kept the Ohio river in view, and tramped and toiled their weary way up its course, cheered by the knowledge that every miles they made took them one mile nearer their far-off homes.

Acquired Old Horse

Days later, near an Indian village near the site of the present city of Portsmouth, 0., they found an old horse grazing about, loose. They "appropriated" this horse, gathered what corn they could manage to carry, and getting away from the neighborhood of the settlement as quietly and quickly as they could, resumed their onward movement.

The horse was a most valuable acquisition. Sometimes they rode him on the "ride and lead" plan, alternating, and sometimes both would have to walk lead, depending upon the nature of the ground.

After several days of travel, having passed the sites of the future towns of Greenup, Riverton, and Catlettsburg, they reached a stream (the Big Sandy), which they were unable to cross near its mouth, and they traveled up it a long distance before they could cross. At length they came to a lodgement of driftwood, extending clear across the stream.

They tried it and found it would bear their weight but when they tried to take the horse across its legs broke through and they had to abandon it.

Followed the Ohio

They now started down the upper or east side of Big Sandy, and retraced with weary steps, the distance to the Ohio again, and thence up it, sometimes along the river bank, and sometimes along the ridges, with the river in sight.

As they did with the Big Sandy, so they had to do with every stream they came to, from first to last. When they would not wade the stream at the mouth, they had to go up it until they could, and many of the streams required days and days of weary travel up to a point of practicable crossing, and back again to the main stream, their only guide, thus increasing very greatly the distance traveled, perhaps nearly doubling a direct river line.

Frequently, in going up or down these side streams, they could see that the stream made a large bend, and to save distance, they would go across the ridge, having to pull themselves up the steep hills by the bushes and sods until they reached the top, when, from fatigue and exhaustion, they would move, slide than walk down, bruising and scratching themselves severely as they went.

Since the loss of the horse, the old woman had become greatly disheartened and discouraged. She blamed Mrs. Ingles for having persuaded her to leave the Indians, to starve and perish in the wilderness.

Attempted Violence

In her desperation she threatened to kill Mrs. Ingles, and even attempted violence. The old woman was much larger and stronger than Mrs. Ingles, but the latter was younger and more active, and managed to keep out of reach, though both were so exhausted from hunger and fatigue that they could little more than walk.

The weather was getting cold, and they suffered greatly from exposure. They had long since worn out their shoes or moccasins, and their clothes were worn and torn to shreads and rags by the bushes and briars. At night they slept under shelving rocks or in hollow logs, on leaves, moss, or such stuff as they could rake together.

When they failed to find nuts and berries enough to sustain them, they were often driven by hunger to pull up small shrubs or plants, and chew such as had tender bark on their roots, without the slightest idea of what they were, or what their effects might be; the cravings of hunger must be appeased by whatever they could chew and swallow.

Used Dresses on Feet

They protected their feet, as best they could, by wrapping them with strips torn from what was left of their dresses, and tied on with strings made from soft, flexible bark of the young leatherwood shrub.

After 40 days Mrs. Ingles figured that she was 30 miles from home and had not seen a fire since she left the Indians.

When about 12 miles from home she reached the cabin of Adam Harmon. Here she remained for a few days before going on to her home. The Dutch woman had become lost in her wanderings but fortunately she had come upon a party of hunters who took care of her. Eventually they were united at the Ingles home. Later the Dutch woman started back home by way of Winchester. Her name was not preserved.

William and Mary Ingles were happy to be together but they could never banish the thought that the fate of their children at the hands of the Indians was unknown.

Sources on Mary Draper Ingles