August 1968 | Volume 19, Issue 5
July 30, 1755, dawned clear and bright in Draper’s Meadows, a tiny log-cabin t community in what one day would be Blacksburg, Virginia. Soon most of the settlement’s men and women were working in the scattered wheat and maize fields or expanding the unforested glades to increase their tillable land. One of the few to stay indoors was Mary Ingles, a raven-haired, blue-eyed matron who at twenty-three had already known an eventful life.
Her name had been Mary Draper when, in 1748, she first entered the New River valley. She came with her widowed mother and her brother, John, together with Thomas Ingles, his three sons, and a handful of pioneers enticed by the Loyal Land Company.
Draper’s Meadows was the first organized English settlement that far west in the Allegheny Mountains, and Mary especially, of all its inhabitants, had several “firsts” to her credit. In 1750 she had accepted the proposal of one of Thomas Ingles’ sons, William, and become the first English bride in that part of the mountains. A year later the couple’s first son, Thomas, arrived—the first white child to be born on that frontier.
And now, on this summer’s day, Mary and her mother were keeping an eye on two-month-old George and hoping that little Tom wasn’t getting into mischief outside. He wasn’t, but others were—a band of Shawnee warriors hungry for plunder and eager to prove their bravery by acquiring scalps. The settlers at Draper’s Meadows had little reason to fear an attack. True, Indians of many tribes—Shawnees to the west, Cherokees to the southwest, Catawbas to the southeast, and various Souian clans in eastern Virginia—used the main trail that followed the New River westward through the mountains toward the Kanawha and Ohio rivers. But Virginia’s treaties with the Iroquois Confederacy had generally spared the area from disturbance by the Indians to the north and south; and except for isolated incidents of pilferage and harassment, the western Indians had left the Meadows pretty much alone.
What these secluded pioneers did not yet know was that almost two weeks earlier General Edward Braddock’s force of British regulars and Virginia militiamen had been disastrously beaten by the French and Indians at Fort Duquesne, some three hundred miles to the north. Perhaps it was that that put the Shawnees into a warlike frame of mind; perhaps it was merely their own unpredictable temperament. At any event, this particular Shawnee band, previously undetected, were now exploding from their forest camouflage.
It is moot how many of that day’s atrocities Mary Ingles observed. Her mother was tomahawked. Her brother’s wife, Betty, attempted to flee with her baby, but she was brought down by an Indian’s bullet that shattered her arm. Betty’s baby was seized by a Shawnee who swung it by its heels, pulverizing its head against a log wall. At another cabin, fiery old Colonel James Patton, one of the land company’s magnates, attempted to defend himself with his sword. Against impossible odds, he dispatched two of the savages before a bullet got him. Elsewhere in the settlement Casper Barrier fell dead, James Cull was seriously wounded, and Henry Leonard was knocked senseless. Mary, clutching her sons, was seized but was unharmed. She, the two boys, and Betty Draper were flung onto settlers’ horses and driven off.
Out in the fields Will Ingles paused from his labors when he saw smoke, from the area of the cabins, threading upward above the towering canopy of forest. Although unarmed, he ran homeward; so did the other men, but they must have known they were too late. Most of the cabins were already crackling boxes of flame.
By then the raiders and their prisoners were well away and travelling fast. The Indians paused briefly at the lonely hut of Phil Barger, an old hermit. Enraged to discover nothing worth stealing there, they hacked off the old man’s white-bearded head and took it along with them. A little farther on their way, they dropped the grisly souvenir on the doorstep of a Mrs. Lybrook.
They pressed on at a pace that was brutally punishing to the wounded Betty Draper; Mary, riding alongside, supported her sister-in-law as best she could. Fortunately, Tom and his baby brother, riding in the clutch of a murderer, seemed to think the cavalcade a grand lark. Their exuberance looked like bravery to the Shawnees, who from then on treated the boys with primitive respect and kindness.
True to their traditional values, the Shawnees spared themselves no more than they did their mounts or their prisoners. There were only brief halts, to eat rations of leathery jerked venison or to drink from springs. Seeking to outdo one another in endurance, the braves somehow slept as they rode; the children napped leaning against them, and Betty was in a merciful half-coma. Only Mary dared not doze at all.
The party travelled down the New River some forty miles before crossing to its western bank. They left the New at its junction with the Bluestone and went up and over Flat Top Peak. Then they made a short cut around some unfavorable terrain and came again to the river, now broadened by the waters of many tributaries into the Kanawha River, not far from present-day Charleston, West Virginia.
They camped at the Kanawha near the mouth of Campbell’s Creek to take advantage of an adjacent salt lick. The Shawnees put Mary to work helping them boil down brine. During these several days Mary found opportunities to bathe and poultice Betty’s broken arm; Betty was well on her way to recovery by the time the Shawnees loaded the salt on their newly acquired pack animals.
They followed the Kanawha until it joined the Ohio at Point Pleasant, and thence pursued the Ohio westward to a point opposite the mouth of the Scioto. There, on the north bank of the Ohio, was their principal town—the site of today’s Portsmouth, Ohio. On the Indians’ efficient ferry rafts the whole company crossed the river and were received in Shawnee Town with bonfires, dancing, and banqueting.
Mary soon found herself inside a malodorous thatched building. Squaws stripped her and divided her clothes among themselves; they pinched and prodded her, giggling at the whiteness of her body. Reclad in buckskins, she was led out again for a humiliatingly intimate inspection by some of the men.
That none of the prisoners was tortured or killed bespeaks the casual and mercenary motives of these Shawnees, who had perpetrated the massacre more to gain booty and to display their courage than to start a blood feud. The young Indians recounted their heroic and profitable adventure; they proudly displayed the scalps they had taken, and were recognized as braves by their elders. The major items of plunder, such as horses or slaves, were community property of the whole tribe and were assigned for use at the discretion of the chiefs. Betty was sent to Chillicothe, an outlying Shawnee village. She went, wan and submissive, having cared about nothing since her baby’s murder. Mary’s boys were taken from her; the distraught mother bade them show the same courage that they had exhibited thus far.
For a while thereafter Mary merely existed, letting the days wash over her, doing what she was bidden, eating scraps of unappetizing food, and sleeping on the vermin-ridden pallet allotted to her.
Gradually she came alive again, realizing that survival depended upon her proficiency as a worker. She was an able seamstress, and her skill with herbs, displayed in caring for Betty’s shattered arm, qualified her to minister similarly to the Indians. Clearly she was more valuable alive than dead.
She knew it was inconceivable that Will Ingles could ever track the party that had brought her to the mouth of the Scioto. The only hope for her return—and, with luck, the return of her sons—was for Mary to escape and walk the uncountable miles home.
Mary Ingles discovered that hers was not the only white face in Shawnee Town. Occasional French traders and coureurs de bois came to bargain muskets and manufactured goods for the Indians’ furs, but Mary doubtless realized that none would imperil his lucrative trade, much less his life, by helping a captive to escape.
There was also another white woman in the town. In traditional accounts she has been called only “the Dutch woman,” and much speculation has arisen about her. It became popular belief that she was old, fat, phlegmatic, and bestialized from long captivity. She was also generally believed to have come from Pennsylvania. But a recently published history of Virginia’s Montgomery County contends that the Shawnees, returning from Draper’s Meadows, had in fact visited one more homestead on the New River. There, according to this version, the Indians bedevilled old Henry Bingamin and carried off his wife. The Bingamins were of German extraction, and the traditional accounts may have confused “Deutsch” with “Dutch.” Since the Bingamins later settled in Pennsylvania, their name probably passed from memory—hence merely “the Dutch woman” and hence the mistaken assertion that Pennsylvania was the place of her abduction.
At any rate, about two months after she was brought to the Shawnee town, Mary and Mrs. Bingamin were compelled to accompany an Indian party on a trek to the tribe’s chief source of salt—Big Bone Lick, some one hundred miles to the west and across the Ohio in what today is Boone County, Kentucky.
Big Bone was a sight to see, for although it was surrounded by an unwholesome swamp, the lick itself had been a gathering place for animals from time immemorial. (A decade later Colonel Thomas Bullitt and his company of explorers and surveyors are said to have used the tusks and vertebrae of mastodons for tent poles and for stools and benches.) And even in Mary’s day herds of buffalo and elk were still beating paths to the site. Such trails, as potential avenues to freedom, did not escape Mary’s notice.
In addition to their duties in the camp itself, she and Mrs. Bingamin customarily foraged on the borders of the swamp for wild grapes, berries, and nuts to augment their diet.
When Mary first proposed flight, the older woman tried to discourage her. But Mary’s resolve was so great that one afternoon her fellow prisoner reluctantly agreed to accompany her.
Each of the women had secreted a blanket, and each possessed a dull tomahawk which the Indians allowed them to use in gathering firewood. Mary managed to trade hers to a Frenchman in exchange for a sharper one, but the women were far from able to provision themselves properly for a long trek.
On the day of their decision, the two put all possible distance between themselves and the Shawnee camp, taking pains, however, to double back from their true course to throw off possible pursuers. At sundown, they hid among leaves and branches, waiting fearfully for the search they were sure must follow. Search the Indians did, but probably thinking that the women had fallen prey to wild beasts, they soon gave up. At dawn the women crept from hiding, unaware that the Indians had abandoned thought of further pursuit. Regaining their track, they angled back to the edge of the Ohio River. It does not strain credulity to surmise that the two women were overseen by a guardian angel. Most of their route would be through country that had never felt the tread of a white foot, through forests that had been standing for untold centuries, through the haunts of beasts that had seldom seen an interloper. In that land and in those days, animate danger did not lurk; it leapt unafraid. And even though explorers and land promoters later admitted that this countryside teemed with wildcats, bears, cougars, and wild boars, traditional accounts maintain that Mary Draper Ingles and Mrs. Bingamin never encountered anything even as fearsome as a polecat. But they would find that not all the dangers in these forests were four-footed.
For Mary this was no unthinking plunge into the unknown. She knew well enough what a stupendous chunk of country lay between her and home. Had there been a string-straight path from Big Bone Lick to Draper’s Meadows, with not a single hill along the way, it would have measured two hundred and eighty miles. No one will ever know the exact length of the tortuous, up-and-down path the women had to travel—but it was close to eight hundred miles.
Their only certain pointer to the east and civilization was the Ohio River. Their starting point, on that morning after the escape, was some forty miles downstream and across the river from the bend that would someday sprout the city of Cincinnati. They trudged eastward, and for the first week or so the trip was almost pleasurable. It was the end of September, and the days seemed to take warmth from the flaming autumn foliage; the women averaged thirty miles a day. If their diet of pohickory nuts, chinquapins, papaws, and scuppernongs got monotonous, at least there was a sufficiency of it. The nights were getting crisper, but by burrowing deep into great banks of dead leaves and huddling together under their blankets, they slept without too much discomfort.
The only habitations they passed were a few beaver houses half-submerged in small wayside streams. But their trek was taking them through the squares and along the streets of many a city-to-be. Between Big Bone Lick and their first landmark—Shawnee Town, on the other side of the river—they wended through the future Kentucky market towns of Covington, Newport, Augusta, Maysville, and Vanceburg. They would have tried to add meat to their vegetarian menu, but their only weapon was one tomahawk—Mrs. Bingamin had either lost hers or got tired of carrying it—and Mary had scant idea how to use the thing for hunting game.
When the travellers came abreast of Shawnee Town they made a cautious detour inland. It added several miles to their trek but brought them good fortune. At dusk, they found a falling-down, deserted cabin. Beside it was a strangled patch of corn in the midst of which was a swaybacked old horse wearing a bell. They slept in the cabin and breakfasted on ears of raw corn, a welcome change from their accustomed diet.
When they moved on they took the horse. He was a wretchedly woebegone old skate that should have been riding, not ridden. But he was a source of encouragement for the women, who took turns riding and walking. Thus they passed the sites of present-day Ashland and Catlettsburg and came to the Big Sandy River where it debouches into the Ohio from the south. They found it uncrossable. Neither could swim, and they despaired of ever constructing a serviceable raft. They had to turn southward along the Big Sandy until it was shallow enough to ford. This took them more than twenty miles off course, to the Y where the Big Sandy is formed by the confluence of the Tug and Levisa forks. So much driftwood had piled up at the junction that it formed an unbroken but shifty bridge from one side to the other. After some hesitation, the women decided to brave it. They tried to get the horse over, too.
The women had to clamber precariously from tree trunk to stump to taproot as the mass of flotsam turned, skidded, or floated away beneath their weight. Halfway across, the melancholy old plug plunged through a drift and was stranded, bellied over a thick bole. The women tried heroically to free him, but they were helpless without a hoist of some sort. Finally they had to leave the poor nag marooned. They hurried on without looking back, and he let them depart without audible reproach.
After crossing the Big Sandy the two women found the going no longer easy or rapid. With October came colder weather. Their clothes were now tattered and their moccasins worn out. Even at night, curled up under shelving rocks, the women suffered greatly from exposure. Rains severely cut their fare, too. The trees and bushes were fast losing their fruit; nuts and berries fell and rotted on the ground. Often their only meal of the day was pieces of soft bark, roots, or any other edible-looking flora. Getting nearer to Mary’s home—by imperceptible stages, but getting there—she and Mrs. Bingamin began to speculate on which of them would be driven to eat the other. They even drew lots. When Mary lost, she tried to insure that the grisly jest not become serious. She regaled her companion with tales of Will Ingles’ wealth and of the reward he would pay the older woman for helping Mary get home. Mrs. Bingamin was larger and stronger than Mary, but the younger woman managed to placate her and still her tirade against having been inveigled into leaving the Shawnees to starve in the wilderness. Mary, too, was disheartened at the number of times they had to backtrack along an intervening stream before being able to cross it, and then having to come back all that way without having made a mile of homeward progress.
The success that the fron tier s women enjoyed in this heartbreaking trek was less mysterious to them than to anyone today who retraces their line of march. More than luck and guardian angels led Mary and Mrs. Bingamin to their primary goal, the Kanawha River, which they could follow to the New River and the home valley: the Indian paths, or traces, through the forest primeval were evident to them. A number of streams might be confusingly similar to the one they sought, but the great east-west road paralleled only the Kanawha. It must have been thus that the women found the river.
They passed the site of today’s city of Huntington, detoured around the Guyandot River, forged northward through West Virginia’s present Cabell and Mason counties, and then, where Point Pleasant now stands, came to the mouth of the Kanawha. Mary rejoiced as they turned along its western bank and headed directly south toward her beloved Meadows.
But there was as much cause for despair as rejoicing. Their journey was only half over; the mountains lay ahead; and the pilgrims were in sad shape. The weather was becoming increasingly bitter. In the foothills of the Alleghenies the women were blasted by icy winds sweeping down from the peaks. They bound shreds of their clothing around their feet with strands of the leatherwood shrub. This left them garbed only in their stolen blankets, now nearly threadbare. Food was just about nonexistent. Often, in desperation, they would seize and devour anything that was green and growing. As often as not this avidity would leave them doubled up with agonizing cramps or limp from vomiting or diarrhea. But even at such times, despite her pain or weakness, Mrs. Bingamin was still able to find strength to blame Mary and revile her with frightenine malevolence.
They had only one filling meal during the whole time they struggled along the Kanawha. It is nauseating to contemplate, even from a distance of two centuries. Accounts vary as to whether it was a deer’s head they found caught in driftwood or whether it was a raccoon. All agree, however, that it was in an advanced state of decomposition. Its fetid odor sickened the women even as they tore into it. But eat it they did, ravenously, and they carried the few remaining scraps of meat with them when they went on.
They groped along the Kanawha to Coal River, far up that stream, across it, back down again to the Kanawha, and on past the future site of Charleston. Daily they saw deer and other game foraging, but there was no way to run them down. Mary’s tomahawk was also lost by now. Mrs. Bingamin was getting more rabid by the mile, her rage against her companion increasing with her pangs of hunger. Mary had grown used to privation and the natural hazards they encountered; but the older woman’s mounting madness was no natural thing, and Mary knew no defense.
They came at last to the salt lick near Campbell’s Creek where Mary’s party had camped on the way out. From here the journey became a nightmarish treadmill. Every league of the leafless forest was exactly like the one they had just covered. They crossed an interminable series of creeks, then unknown and unnamed—Rush, Pens, Fields, Slaughters, Kellys, Paint—each seemingly just like all the others.
When they worked their painful way around the falls of the Kanawha, the monotony of the country changed—for the worse. They were in regions that Mary had not seen with the Shawnees, because their overland short cut on the way out had bypassed this long loon of the river. Marv soon discovered that the Indians had had good reason to steer clear of the water route. For the two women had passed from the Kanawha valley into the awesome New River Gorge, which is said to be the only eastern rival of the Grand Canyon. For miles the river rampages like a millrace between grim rock cliffs and precipitous mountains that tower a thousand feet above the water. An experienced team of well-fed, well-equipped mountaineers would find the gorge an estimable test of skill and strength, even in the best of weather. The two emaciated women clutched at their flimsy blankets and bucked into the canyon against a fanged November gale.
The gorge has landmarks now—Penitentiary Rocks, Pope’s Nose, Lovers’ Leap, Hawk’s Nest, War Ridge, Castle Rock, Stretcher’s Neck. To the wretched women every one of these, whatever it might be called by a later generation, was an inimical, appalling barrier.
They fought against brush and vines that choked the canyon bottom; briars clawed through their blankets, and rocks shredded the rags wrapped around their feet. They scrabbled over boulders that had toppled down from the cliffs. They crept gingerly across talus slopes of avalanche debris. They wriggled under fallen trees and over slippery mudbanks. Often the riverbank would become a solid crag before them; the only way around was to wade out waist-deep into the blood-freezing cold of the river itself.
Somehow they made it through the gorge. They inched around the menacing butte of Flat Top Peak near the present town of Hinton to find that the going was easier, even though they were now impeded by the wide mouth of the Bluestone River. As they had done so often before, they turned upstream along the Bluestone until they could ford, and came back down it to the New again. The worst was over now, had they but known it. On this bank of the river it was a difficult way, but not an impossible one, to Draper’s Meadows. But if Mary had met and surmounted all that nature had thrown at her, she had yet to confront one of the most frightening dangers of all.
They were about opposite the mouth of the East River, not more than forty-five miles in a straight line from home. It was twilight. Suddenly, according to the Ingles family account, the hunger-maddened Mrs. Bingamin leapt on the tired and unsuspecting Mary. So near collapse were both women that even this feeble tussle could have resulted in the death of one or both of them.
Horrified, Mary fought back. The woman’s hands were around her as they grappled on the frozen ground. Mary finally wrenched free, and then fled—running, falling, running again—into a wilderness that was now less cruel than her erstwhile companion.
When she could run no more, Mary lay gasping in the shelter of a birch copse, praying that the gathering darkness would conceal her. “The Dutch woman” lurched past, fearfully close to Mary’s hiding place. But eventually the sounds of her pursuit faded away down the riverside.
Mary stayed where she was until the moon rose. She had no choice but to continue upriver in the direction Mrs. Bingamin must have taken; so she went cautiously, stopping often to listen. And Mary’s luck seemed to turn again: half hidden, half submerged under the riverbank lay an abandoned bark canoe.
She frenziedly bailed it out with cupped hands, unmindful as they turned blue and rigid with cold. The canoe was weatherbeaten and waterlogged, and Mary had never handled one. Nevertheless, with only a piece of driftwood for a paddle, she launched her leaky craft. Fortunately the water was low and her strength sufficient to reach the eastern bank.
Still, it seemed, good fortune was with her. Not far from her landing, Mary found a tumble-down log cabin, probably some trapper’s summer camp. Protected from the elements, she dropped gratefully to its earthen floor, and slept. In the cold, gray overcast of morning, she found a patch of ground that had once been a garden. Anxiously she searched every inch of it, and made her breakfast of two small, gnarled turnips.
Resuming her journey, she was startled to hear someone hailing her. It was Mrs. Bingamin, calling frantically from the opposite bank, begging her to come back and promising to behave. Disregarding the pleas for forgiveness and help, Mary maintained her pace. Even if she could trust the woman, she could not trust the canoe again, and there was no other way of getting across. Fortunately for Mary’s peace of mind, Mrs. Bingamin eventually had to detour inland around a riverside marsh, out of sight and hearing.
But Mary soon had other worries. The canoe had delivered her from one predicament into another. Except for the menace of Mrs. Bingamin, the lay of the land on the other side of the river made for much easier going. Here on Mary’s side, where the New River hugged the rugged base of Wolf Mountain, was the worst terrain she had yet encountered.
To traverse the mountainside she had to make her way through miles of rhododendron thickets called “laurel hells.” Then there was Wolf Creek, covered with skim ice, through which she made a hesitant passage. Beyond was another mountain to whose subsequent appellation, “Angel’s Rest,” Mary doubtless would have taken strong exception. After fording more ice-rimmed water at Stony Creek, she saw before her Salt Pond Mountain. Here, in the late November snow, she edged her way for two miles around the fringe of almost perpendicular cliffs that abut the riverside. Just before sunset several days later, having met seemingly interminable new barriers, each more formidable than the last, Mary came to what most would have considered a dead end. It was Anvil Rock.
In the last light of day the limestone of this aSo-foot cliff gleamed eerily and appeared to be devoid of footholds or ledges. As a final discouragement to a climber, it leans outward from the vertical, arching up to an overhanging crown.
Hopeful of wading in the river around the cliff’s base, Mary tested the depth of the water, but she found that she could not plumb it. The waters swirled crazily in uncertain whirlpools. Overcome by weariness, dampness, and cold, Mary searched in despair for a sheltered spot to rest for the night. She found no cave, no hollow log, no bower of limbs and leaves. After having come so far, tantalizingly near home, she appeared doomed to end her journey and her life in the snow at the foot of Anvil Rock.
In the morning she rose stiff, swollen, and sore. As much from desperation as from hope, she scanned Anvil Rock again, knowing that to climb around and over it was her only chance. Since morning shadows reveal the perspectives indicative of ledges which are concealed by the shimmering rays of the setting sun, Mary Draper Ingles found a devious way to ascend what had appeared to be an unscalable cliff. It was now only another mountain, albeit a steep and tall one.
Slowly, with frequent pauses, the half-starved and nearly exhausted woman reached the summit of Anvil Rock. It took her most of a day, during which she had often been tempted to let herself fall, to exchange her suffering on the heights for surcease on jagged rocks or in icy depths below. With vehemence, Mary always afterward referred to this as her “most terrible day.”
Fearful that her already overtaxed powers would fail her, Mary forced herself to begin her descent while it was yet light. From the summit of Anvil Rock there was a long, gradual slope to the east. Not far from its bottom she found a patch of corn. She shouted to bring its owners to her aid; there was no answer. But she had been heard. Soon three white men stood over her, Adam Harmon and his two sons, Mary’s former neighbors at Draper’s Meadows; after the massacre, they had moved about twelve miles west. The next thing Mary knew, she was in the Harmons’ little cabin, swaddled in blankets and lying on a pallet before a cheery fire. Her lacerations had been bandaged. It was the first real shelter, the first warm clothing, the first bed, the first fire, the first decent food she had known in forty days.
During the next few days, Mary’s periods of consciousness gradually lengthened between periods of deep sleep. Despite the fact that the Harmons’ larder was full of venison haunches, Adam decided that what she needed was good English beef tea; he slaughtered one of his priceless cows to provide it.
When Mary was well enough to travel, Adam rode along with her the dozen miles to Draper’s Meadows. The community had recovered remarkably since July go, but its inhabitants had panicked at rumors of a new Indian raid and fled to the safety of a newly constructed fort at Dunkard’s Bottom, near the spot where Will Ingles had recently established a ferry service across the New River.
At the fort, Mary’s friends and neighbors greeted her first with disbelief and then with real joy. Her husband and her brother, John, were not there to welcome her, however. They had gone to seek information about their kidnapped wives from the Cherokees in northeastern Tennessee. Unknown to those at the fort, Will and John had completed their fruitless mission and had returned to within a few miles of Dunkard’s Bottom. Their arrival at the small blockhouse the next morning was a wonderful reunion after nearly five months of separation.
Before Mary had recovered her strength in the Harmons’ cabin, she had begged them to form a party to rescue Mrs. Bingamin from her mad wanderings on the west bank of the New River. The Harmons had been so horrified to learn that one of their neighbors had attacked another with cannibalistic intent that they had refused Mary’s plea. But now they finally consented to look for Mrs. Bingamin. When they found her, she was nearby and in much better health than Mary had been, for she had found food, clothes, and a horse at a deserted cabin. When the two women met at Dunkard’s Bottom they were quick to forgive each other. Because of renewed Indian raids, many homesteaders in the westernmost settlements retreated eastward. Most, like the Ingleses, moved only as far as Bedford, Virginia, about seventy-five miles east of Draper’s Meadows. But the Bingamins pushed up the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester en route to Pennsylvania, and they never went back to Virginia. It is not unreasonable to suppose that they were ashamed of Mrs. Bingamin’s threats against Mary, and that they decided to move away from the reproachful and suspicious eyes of their neighbors on the New River.
As the years went by and settlers penetrated farther into the western wilderness, word drifted back of the fate of the other captives. Eventually Mary learned, with a grief that no number of intervening years could soften, that her baby George had died within a year of his capture. But the others fared better. Betty Draper was found and ransomed some six years after Mary’s return. Young Tom, too, came home, a long thirteen years after his good-bye to his mother. Will made many journeys into the Shawnee country before he tracked him down, and had to haggle long and hard before the lad’s fellow braves would give him up.
Meanwhile, Will and Mary raised a large family. In the fullness of her years, Mary became the beloved matriarch of a considerable clan of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She lived to be eighty-three. By the time she died, in 1815, she had seen the new United States born, and had watched it push its frontier westward. But she had been there first.