Mary Ingles, Early American Heroine Part 5

March 15, 2024

Mary Ingles gave birth to a healthy baby daughter on the third night of their journey to the Shawnee Indian village in Ohio following her capture by Indians on July 8, 1755.

She knew her captors would rise early the following morning and she would have to climb on the horse and keep up with the procession, not slowing their travel. Her life and that of her children depended on it.

Mary’s heartiness allowed her to do just that as she held her daughter while her son George snuggled close behind and two-year old Thomas sat immediately in front. She must have gained more admiration from the Indians because of her steadfastness.

After the Indians and the captive pioneer women and children moved away from the Greater Kanawha River and passed the Bluestone and New Rivers, their route brought them again to the Greater Kanawha. They crossed to the east side where they proceeded to a salt spring where the Indians began manufacturing salt to take along to the Ohio village.

The salt lick spread over an area of about ten acres and there were hundreds of large bones, bones of the mastodon and the arctic elephant lying about on the ground. Some of the teeth weighed as much as ten pounds and were seven inches long and five inches across. Mary didn’t know what animals they were from but she knew they were old so she had no fear. She had a greater fear of bears in the wild which she occasionally saw while looking for herbs and roots.

The prisoners were kept in two areas while at the salt licks and Mary was separated from her two sons. She was allowed to keep her infant daughter nearby however. Mary’s condition improved greatly in the days that followed but her sister-in-law’s arm was greatly inflamed.

The Indians permitted Mary to travel deep into the woods in search of roots and herbs that she used to make a poultice for Eliza’s frightful wound. She was watched carefully at first but after awhile the Indians felt they could trust Mary and gave her free reign of her actions. She had many chances to escape but couldn’t bring herself to leave her children and Eliza although she did find herself thinking of escaping every day.

The Indians stayed at the salt spring for several weeks and during this time Mary and Eliza’s healthimproved greatly. The chief and other braves exhibited more than a casual interest in them as well.

Mary gained the respect with her doctoring and with her cooking and sewing. She knew her position and that of her children was more secure and her actions conveyed it. She had full reign of the camp and environs. When it was time for the party to break camp and proceed on to the Ohio Indian village, Mary directed Eliza to mount one of the horses and proceeded to assist George in getting atop the horse behind her.

“She must ride,” she said to the chief with implied consent. “She can take my little boy with her. It is enough for me to take Thomas and my baby. Eliza and George must ride.”

The chief leered at her as he thought about it for a few moments before turning his attention to other matters. No further thought was given to Eliza riding the horse.

They followed the Kanawha River until reaching the Ohio River near present day Point Pleasant, West Virginia. They crossed the river but then remained near the present site of Gallipolis, Ohiofor several days before proceeding on to the Indian settlements at the mouth of the Scioto River where it pours into the Ohio.

The returning warriors let out an eerie “scalp halloo” and soon it was taken up by similar shrieking from those in the villages on both sides of the Ohio. The residents of the village – older warriors, adolescents, squaws and wolfish dogs came forward to meet the returning warriors and their captives. Guns were fired into the air and many of the Indians brandished knives.

The war whoops caused Mary and the other captives much discomfort. Even the old Indian women, shriveled with age, gave distorted hideous howls and shrieks that caused goosebumps to rise over Mary’s body. She thought the hour of her death was at hand but the chief who befriended her said that she and her children, although separated, would not be harmed.

The following morning Mary saw the immensity of the Indian village. It stretched along both sides of the Ohio River. There were as many as a hundred houses on the north side of the river and forty to the south. She noticed there were up to 300 men in the village. She wondered if she would again have an opportunity to escape.

Thirty days had passed since the Indians raided and burned her cabin and took them prisoner. It had been thirty days but it seemed like much more.

Copyright 2024 Jadon Gibson

Editor’s note: Mary’s sister-in-law is forced to run the Indian gauntlet in Jadon’s From the Mountains next week. Jadon Gibson is a widely read Appalachian writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historic and nostalgic in nature.Thanks to Elmer Kincaid Coal, Arnett and Steele Funeral Home, Long’s Pic Pac, Brook’s Tire, Gen. Paul Phillips, Harrogate Hospital for Animals,Lincoln Memorial University and the Museum of Appalachia for their assistance.

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