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The Settlement of the Appalachian Frontier: Our Amazing Ancestors

The Settlement of the Appalachian Frontier

Sharing information, stories, and ideas for teaching students about the settlement of the Appalachian Frontier. Focusing on the little-known people and history of Southwestern Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and Eastern Kentucky.

Location: Nickelsville, Virginia, United States

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Our Amazing Ancestors

Mary Draper Ingles was a young mother of three. Her third baby was actually due to be born any day. On July 8, 1755, Shawnee Indians raided her settlement on the New River of Virginia (near Blacksburg), killed many of her neighbors, and even her mother. Then they abducted her, her two little boys, her sister in law Bettie, and a neighbor named Lenard. They were taken into W. Virginia through the New River Gorge, on to the mighty Ohio River, and into Southern Ohio (present site of Portsmouth). Mrs. Ingles' life was scattered, devastated and all but destroyed. Eventually, after a few weeks as a captive, she lost the rest of her family. Her sons were adopted and taken to still another faraway Shawnee settlement. Bettie was given as a wife to a Shawnee man, and Mary herself was sold to French traders, along with a new friend, Ghetel, an elderly Dutch widow. Her life further ruined and disrupted, she made a fateful decision; either try to return home to Virginia and to her husband William, or life was not worth living. Will was all she has left to remind her of who she truly was. She felt she must return home to him. Her story is told in the book and movie, “Follow the River”, and the long running drama, “The Long Way Home.”

And she was only one of many women who faced a similarly tragic situation:
Jenny Wiley, Polly Alley, Elizabeth Livingston, Mary Jemison, and countless others were carried off by Shawnee or Cherokee Raiding Parties and forced to make similar choices. Many did not live to tell their stories. Those that did, leave us amazed by the hardships they overcame and the fortitude they somehow found within themselves.