Mary Ingles, Early American Heroine Part 6

March 28, 2024

The Lower Towns of the Shawnee stretched along both sides of the Ohio River and was the strangest thing Mary Ingles had ever seen. The village residents let out blood curdling screams upon the return of the Indian warriors and their captives. It gave Mary goosebumps and put her in fear for her life and that o fher children.

She was held in good favor however because of her deeds on the travel following her capture. The chief told her that she and her children would be safe.

Some of the other captives, including Mary’s sister-in-law Eliza Draper were not so fortunate. The warriors were gone for nearly two months and with their return the residents of the village wanted sport. The Indians shrieked and gyrated about as they formed and stood in two long rows that contained a cross-section of the village – braves, children, old men and women. They each held sticks, clubs and other weapons used to scrape and gouge.

Mary had heard of the Indian gauntlet and she could tell by the way two o fthe braves held Eliza that her life was in danger.

“Eliza is not well and cannot do this gauntlet,” she implored to the chief. “I’ve nursed her for a month to make her well. Don’t make her do this.”

“You and your children are safe,” he answered. “Don’t ask more. You must hush your tongue.”

Mary’s attention turned to the long building at the end of the gauntlet. It was up to a hundred feet long she thought and it was covered with tree bark. Mary immediately realized that this was the council center of the village. Then her attention was drawn back to the restless Indians as the two braves held Elizabe between the two rows at the point farthest from the council house. They were awaiting the chiefs signal to start the game. All Mary could do was watch and pray. Although in fear for her life and limbs Eliza knew she had no choice but to face the gauntlet. She would have to pass through the passageway of a hundred feet or so and decided she would attempt the passage as quickly as possible. Her plan was sound because she wouldn’t have to contend with the Indians and their weapons once they were passed. Although Eliza’s heart was racing quickly she stood at ease waiting for the signal.

When it finally came she immediately darted down the center of the line and thereby avoided several striking efforts toward her. Other blows hit less than flush and Eliza was encouraged as she rushed somewhat low to the ground. She was perhaps a third of the way through the gauntlet when a heavy blow struck her flush on the bridge of the nose. Eliza fell on her back with a sharp pain. Warm blood spewed from her nose reminding her to keep moving without delay as additional blows struck her exposed knee and the back of her head. A snarling mongrel rushed out and grabbed her ankle prompting Eliza to role over in a continuous motion which resulted in her regaining her feet and she again moved swiftly through the maze of shrieking Indians. She felt a sharp poke to her breast and another stinging slap at her shin as an attempt was made to bring her down. As she continued she felt a sharp hit against the side of her face and other scrapes and pokes against her body yet she continued moving. Her thoughts at this juncture were of amazement. Eliza was amazed that she had passed through perhaps two-thirds of the gauntlet and she could see the end ahead.

A heavy blow then struck her already injured right arm sending a sharp pain from shoulder to fingertip. Eliza tried to move it instinctively and couldn’t. Her attention was temporarily distracted from the task at hand but soon another heavy blow hit her across the cranium sending her to the ground with her face pushed against the soft moist earth. The excitement in the village was at its peak as the six Indians at that point beat and poked at Eliza with their weapons. She thought of giving up before the prodding of a sharp weapon at her neck caused her to resist. Grabbing at the sharpened lance which she noticed was held by an Indian squaw. Eliza jerked it so hard it pulled the middle-aged Indian across the passageway and sent her tumbling into and bowling over several other Indians who were reaching to whack at Eliza’s bloody frame. The effort gave Eliza momentum which she couldn’t have mustered otherwise as she put her head down and charged toward the finish. She took several more blows to the head but the end was at hand and Eliza would not be denied. She charged across the finish line, falling face down into the cool earth. Her body was covered with cuts, pokes and scrapes and she was bleeding from several places but mostly from her head which was red with blood. Mary Ingles went to her and rubbed her injuries gently with a wet cloth. Eliza’s right arm lay limp, broken. Mary was saddened that she had fretted about her own plight. Now her thoughts were of Eliza and all she had faced. Eliza’s baby had been taken from her and killed. She was shot in the arm and her frightful wound had festered on the long trip. Yet she continued walking and even carried Thomas on her back for many days and many miles. Now her body was beaten and broken. Mary sobbed as she tended to Eliza but made every effort to muffle her noises. “I’ll take care of you Lizzie,” she said softly, feeling the heat of her body as she held her close. “Don’t you worry Sis. I’ll take of you. Mary determined then that she would not attempt to escape until she helped nurse Eliza back to health.

Copyright 2024 Jadon Gibson.

Jadon Gibson is a widely read Appalachian writer. His stories are both historic and nostalgic in nature. Thanks to Arnett and Steele Funeral Home, Long’s Pic Pac, Brook’s Tire, Gen. Paul Phillips, Harrogate Hospital for Animals, Elmer Kincaid Coal, the Museum of Appalachia and Lincoln Memorial University for their assistance.

Long's Pac-Perks