Untold Stories From the Virginia Frontier:
Captivity, Conflict, & Competition
by Ellen Apperson Brown
Original Art Work…
Special thanks to artists from Christiansburg Elementary School
Quotes from thank you letters…
“The part of the story I liked was when the little boy shot the rifle at a wolf
and killed one and the other two ran away…”
“My favorite part was when we had to do role playing and dress-up like
people ‘back then’…”
“She was an amazing person. It is an honor to be related to such an
amazing woman. I could not have walked 850 miles on foot.”
“I really appreciate it when you came and talked to us. My favorite part
was when you told us about Thomas shotting the wolfs …”
“We made some drawings and Mrs. Edwards said she might send them to
June 1, 2005
What motivated me to want to give this talk?
• In a letter to the editor (Roanoke Times) someone accused me of bragging
about my ancestor (Andrew Lewis), saying he had fought Indians…
Some historians would say our history books are too Eurocentric…
How can we do a better job of telling a multicultural narrative?
• One wonderful source…the dozen or so books by James Alexander Thom…
To get a perspective… look back at Virginia textbooks
About the warfare on the border, and about captives returning home…
Here is a little quiz…
• What’s her name? …The woman who was captured as a young woman by
the Shawnee, returned to Virginia, and lived to be a great grandmother?
• Are there others you know of who spent time in captivity, but returned to
the frontier, reunited with their spouses or remarried, and had more
See next slide….
How many can you name…?
• Mary Draper Ingles (Mrs.
• The Old “Dutch” Woman
• Betty Robinson Draper
• Mary (?) Ingles (Mrs. John)
Who else did you think of?
Do you know the names of men or boys who were
captured and later returned to Virginia?
• Four year old, who returned at age seventeen…?
• Young man captured at Fort Vause…taken to Ohio, adopted into the tribe, married
an Indian woman (who died in child birth) and then returned to Virginia?
• Young man captured on the Ohio River in 1790…came back to Virginia and became
a prominent businessman…?
The stories I’m thinking of are…
• Thomas Ingles
• Peter Looney
• Charles Johnston
Life events for Thomas Ingles
• Oldest child of William and Mary Ingles, b. 1751…
• Captured (along with his brother, George, and his mother) in the summer
of 1755 (Drapers Meadows)
• Was adopted into the family of an older man, a chief
• Incident with the wolves – c. 1758
• William Ingles made several attempts to “rescue” him and bring him back
• 1768 – Thomas decides to return
• 1770- 1773 – attended Thomas Walker’s school in Albemarle County
• Fought (under William Christian) at the Battle of Point Pleasant
• 1782 – his family was attacked at Burkes Garden, and in a botched rescue
attempt, the two oldest children were killed
• Always restless, he moved further west, first to Knoxville, and then to the
Mississippi. Son… Thomas (see portrait)
We know details about Thomas Ingles because of stories he told about his life
among the Indians (i.e. wolf story) to his younger siblings at Ingles Ferry, and
because, as an adult, he made occasional visits back to Virginia. He
apparently asked his younger brother, John Ingles, to write the narrative we
now call Escape from Indian Captivity.
This portrait is of Thomas Ingles,
son of Thomas, and grandson
of William and Mary Ingles
Peter Looney was captured at
Fort Vause, summer of 1756
Among the prisoners taken captive at Fort Vause were:
• African American slave (Tom?) who was adopted into a Shawnee tribe
• Mary Ingles (wife of John Ingles) who later returned to Virginia and
married John Miller. She eventually requested money from the Colony to
repay her for her husband’s losses, but it was denied…They knew all
about Mrs. Ingles, but were confusing her with Mary Draper Ingles, wife
• Captain John Smith (saw his son killed at Fort Vause… was traded as a
military officer, eventually returning to Virginia)
• Wife and daughters of Ephraim Vause (one daughter, famously, left
messages written in charcoal, thus helping her father to follow their trail)
• Robinson brothers…(both brothers of Betty Robinson Draper, who was
captured at Drapers Meadows one year earlier)
• Peter Looney, soldier
Charles Johnston was captured in …
March 1790…on the Ohio River
Notice that these captivity
narratives cover a period
of 35 years!
John Long, History Professor at
Roanoke College and Director
of the Salem Museum, edited the
Clash of Cultures…living in a multicultural society
• Captives who returned to the colonies often found themselves trapped
between two conflicting worlds and cultures…
• Mary Ingles never told her own children about leaving her infant behind…
it was just too painful…and how could anyone understand her ordeal?
• Thomas Ingles was known to be uncomfortable with the clothing,
language and customs of his Virginia family. He must have been
conflicted about fighting against Shawnee in 1774, at Point Pleasant, and
he must especially have felt anguish when his own wife and children were
captured in a raid on Burke’s Garden, in 1782. (His wife and infant
survived, but his son and daughter, William and Mary, were killed)
• As the Revolution brewed, many German families were unwilling to take
up arms against the British, causing them to be labeled Tories…
Competition for land and property…
Surveyors, hunters, missionaries, indentured servants, and
Colonel James Patton, Thomas Lewis, and William Preston
Land Grants: Borden Tract, Patton’s grant
• Loyal Land Company
• Greenbrier Company
• Ohio Company
Two early settlers who competed:
William Preston and William Ingles
• Both men were at Drapers Meadows on the morning of the attack, 1755
• William Ingles settled at Ingles Ferry , starting about 1760…
• William Preston lived at Greenfield (near Fincastle) until 1772, when he
moved his family to land at Drapers Meadows (Smithfield)
• Court records indicate litigation about the placement of roads
• William Preston had an advantage: he was the county surveyor
• William Ingles may have had financial backing from a wealthy uncle
(William’s father, Thomas, had been a wealthy merchant). Also of note –
William Ingles was accused of being a Tory, but the case was never
proved. However, records indicate that he was told to put up $100,000
bail! And, William Preston was the chief officer of the committee that
conducted the trial.
General Sources of Conflict…and Competition
• Land Ownership…confusion
about surveys, patents, deeds,
• Poor system of record keeping
(including poor spelling, low
rate of literacy)
• Changing governments…
• Geographical factors (roads,
rivers, distance from other
• Weak or barely functioning
Shawnee, Cherokee, French, Colonial governors (esp. Pennsylvania and Virginia),
European Settlers (from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Eastern Virginia)
• Treaties, proclamations,
disputed borders between
• Global War between England
• Braddock’s War (1755)
• Attack on Cherokee villages
• Battle of Point Pleasant
• Tories on trial (1779-81)
Some of the men who competed for land on the frontier…
• George Draper
• William Preston – more
about him later today at
• Andrew Lewis
• Patrick Henry
• George Washington
• Thomas Jefferson
• William Christian
• William Ingles
• John Draper
• Adam Harmon
John Draper’s Story, Part I
• In the summer of 1755, at one stroke, he lost his mother, wife, and baby
boy… in the raid at Draper’s Meadows.
• His only remaining kin, brother-in-law William Ingles, developed a plan to
approach the Governor and ask for a retaliatory strike against the
• John and William visited the Cherokee and won their cooperation in a
raid, to be known as the Sandy Creek Expedition. The effort launched in
February, 1756…and it was a disaster.
• John’s sister, Mary Draper Ingles, reappeared on the scene, in late
November 1755, after walking about 800 miles…
• Mary and William decided to move to the relative safety of Bedford
County. We don’t know much about John during those years
• In 1761, John was reunited with his wife, Betty, after she had spent 6
years in captivity
John Draper’s Story, Part II
• John fought in numerous battles against Indians, including a raid led by
William Christian against Cherokee villages, in 1760, and served in the
militia to protect forts, etc. through the Battle of Point Pleasant, in 1774.
• Not long afterward, he decided to trade his military warrant on the Blue
Stone for a mother/daughter pair of slaves (Rachel Finley and her
• Betty died after having seven or eight children. John soon remarried, the
widow Crockett…and his son, John Draper, Jr. married the widow’s
• Many artifacts and documents suggest that John (Sr.) had hallucinations
and acted strangely…perhaps a classic case of PTSD.
• Based on research by Mary Kegley, his attitude toward Indians and slaves
was arrogant and unsympathetic.
• Ironically, he and his children and grandchildren lost a fortune…all
because of a hasty deal John made, trading land for slaves.
Place Names (Early Settlements)
• Draper’s Meadows
• Fort Vause
• Ingle’s Ferry
• Town House
• Dunkard’s Bottom
• Graham’s Forge
• Fort Chiswell
• Big Lick
• Lovely Mount
Exercise …Taking about 10-15 minutes, have a conversation with your
neighbor, asking each other the same questions…
Find out as much as possible about the other person’s hometown or county
during the eighteenth century, including
• name of local museum
• names of “famous people” (or maybe captive narratives?)
• Interesting place names
• “Reference Room” at library?
• Book store for tourists?
• History programs for children?
• Well written narrative history on the town website?
Jot down some notes and return the info to me… That way I’ll
learn about each of you and the communities you come
Have you ever heard about Indians who were
captured and enslaved by Europeans?
Mary Kegley has done extensive research,
and published the story of White Cloud, a
Catawba Indian captured (illegally) by
Virginia traders (about 1705) and held in
slavery for the rest of her life. Her
grandchildren, who were still enslaved in
the 1770s, sued for their freedom and
eventually won…although it took many
Virginia passed laws in the eighteenth century saying it was
illegal to import Native Americans as slaves
• White Cloud…and her “English” name became Chance
• Her owner’s last name was Clay…
• His grandson, Mitchell Clay, took Chance’s granddaughter to the western frontier to
avoid the court ruling, setting her free.
• Mitchell Clay traded her to John Draper in exchange for Draper’s military land grant
• Mitchell told John Draper, and his brother in law, William Ingles, that Rachel and
her daughter were Negro slaves
• Decades later, Rachel finally won her freedom in court, and the verdict was soon
followed by many other lawsuits, eventually causing the John Draper and his
descendants to lose all or most of their slaves.
• Mitchell Clay’s heirs lost everything when the Drapers came after them in court, all
because they had misrepresented the facts, saying that Rachel was a Negro.
Becoming History Detectives…Sources – How do we know what happened?
• Family traditions
• Court House Records (i.e. Chalkley’s
• Archival documents
• Newspapers, contemporary
• Written family histories, genealogy,
• County histories
• Historical fiction
• Professional historians
The task of an historian:
Figure out which of the sources are likely to be most accurate,
…putting the story into context, & relating the events to the larger picture?
Some good examples of community history:
Detective Work: How to resolve conflicting information…and
sift through all the romanticized versions?
Find one or two historians you can trust to give a general overview
Identify a person, event, or place
name that you feel really deserves
• Tell the story!!!
• Look at my website, and think
about whether your town or
city could start a similar
Investigate: What does your community have to offer?
Museums, reference rooms at the libraries? History lessons on the town
website? Book store with local histories available for sale?
• Books by James Loewen
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a group of
individuals in your city or town, who are
trained to be Community Historians?
• Consider making arrangements to offer classes and workshops to train
volunteers… to do research, write brochures, create exhibits, and mentor
With some practice, you can come to see Virginia as others saw it…as
evidenced by this wonderful map, by the Marquis de Chastellux, a French
Officer who toured the frontier in 1782…