Draper's Meadow massacre
|Draper's Meadow Massacre|
|Location||Draper's Meadow, Virginia|
|Date||July 8 or July 30, 1755|
In July 1755, a small outpost in southwest Virginia, at the present day Blacksburg, was raided by a group of Shawnee Indian warriors, who killed at least five people including an infant child and captured five more. The Indians traveled back with their hostages to a Shawnee village in Kentucky. One of the captives, Mary Draper Ingles later escaped and returned home on foot through the wilderness. Although many of the actual circumstances of the incident, including the date of the attack is uncertain, the event remains a dramatic and inspirational story in the history of Virginia.
The original 7,500 acre (30 km²) tract that became known as Draper's Meadow was awarded to Colonel James Patton, an Irish sea captain turned land speculator. This land was bordered by Tom's Creek on the north, Stroubles Creek on the south and the Mississippi Watershed (modern-day U.S. Route 460) on the east; it approached the New River on the west. The settlement was situated near the present day campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. At the time of the attack, the area had been populated by a group of around twenty settlers who were a mix of migrants from Pennsylvania of English and Germanic origin. A marker commemorating the massacre is located near the Duck Pond on the Virginia Tech campus.
Rising tensions between the natives and western settlers were exacerbated by fighting in the French and Indian War and the encroachment on tribal hunting grounds. Recent victories by the French over the British, although north of Virginia, had left much of the frontier unprotected. In the summer of 1755 several settlements had been ravaged by the Indians. On July 30 (see disagreement of sources about the date below) a group of Shawnee (then allies of the French) entered the sparsely populated camp virtually unimpeded and killed at least five people and wounded at least one person and burned the settlement. Among the victims were Colonel James Patton, a neighbor (Caspar Barger), and two people in Mary Draper Ingles' family: her mother (Elenor Draper), and the baby of her sister-in-law (Bettie Draper), who (the baby) was killed by dashing its head against the wall of a cabin. Other children in the settlement may have been killed in a similar way. William Preston (Colonel Patton's nephew), William Ingles (Mary's husband) and John Draper (Bettie Draper's husband, Mary's brother) were not at the settlement at the time of the attack, as they were working on the field, and survived the incident. One of the victims, Barger, was described as an old man and was decapitated by the Indians; they delivered his head in a bag to a neighbor, explaining that an acquaintance had arrived to visit. Five settlers were captured and taken back to Kentucky as captives to live among the tribe, including Mary Draper Ingles and her two sons, Thomas (4) and George (2). Mary escaped at Big Bone, Kentucky, without her children, and made a journey of more than eight hundred miles (1300 km) across the Appalachian Mountains back to Draper's Meadow. One of his sons, Thomas Ingles, lived among the Indians for many years and never fully gave up the Shawnee way of life; his brother George died in captivity. One of the sources mentions that Mary was pregnant when captured and gave birth to her daughter in captivity, and she abandoned her baby when decided to escape.
In the aftermath, Draper's Meadow was abandoned - as was much of the frontier for the duration of the French and Indian War. William Preston, who had been in Draper's Meadow on the morning of the attack but left on an errand and so was saved, eventually obtained the property, which became Smithfield Plantation. Out of the surviving family members, only the Bargers returned later to re-claim their land and settle.
Except for a few scattered references to these events in contemporary reports and letters, the main sources of information are the written accounts by John Ingles (son of Mary Ingles and William Ingles, born after Mary's return) and Letitia Floyd (daughter of William Preston, a survivor of the attack). There are some differences in the two narratives, suggesting that the Ingles and Preston families had developed distinct oral traditions. The disagreements between these original written sources include the date of the incident (July 30 vs July 8, according to Ingles and Floyd, respectively), the number of casualties, the age of Mary Ingles' children, and several other aspects.
The story of Ingles' ordeal has inspired a number of books, films, and living history programs, including the popular 1981 novel Follow the River by James Alexander Thom, a 1995 ABC television movie of the same name, and the 2004 film The Captives.
- "Drapers Meadow: Few traces remain of the site of a bloody 1755 Indian attack". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- Brown, Ellen A. (2012). "What Really Happened at Drapers Meadows? The Evolution of a Frontier Legend". Virginia History Exchange. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Kegly, Mary B. (1980). Early Adventures on the Western Waters . Vol. I: The New River of Virginia in Pioneer Days. 1745 - 1800. Orange, Virginia: Green Publishers. p. 352.
- "Historic Structure Report: History Narrative". University Libraries, Virginia Tech. Retrieved 2007-11-14.[dead link]
- "Mary Ingles' Escape Story Like 'Thriller' Fiction Tale". Charleston Daily Mail, June 4, 1937. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
- Federal Writers' Project (1996). The WPA Guide to Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky. p. 240. Retrieved 24 November 2013.