Mary Draper Ingles

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Mary Draper Ingles
Born1732 (1732)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died1 February 1815(1815-02-01) (aged 82–83)
United States
Known forEscape from Indian captivity in 1755
Parent(s)George and Elenor (Hardin) Draper

Mary Draper Ingles (1732 – February 1815), also known in records as Mary Inglis or Mary English, was an American pioneer and early settler of western Virginia. In the summer of 1755, she and her two young sons were among several captives taken by Shawnee after the Draper's Meadow Massacre during the French and Indian War. They were taken to Lower Shawneetown at the Ohio and Scioto rivers. Ingles escaped with another woman after two and a half months and trekked 500 to 600 miles, crossing numerous rivers, creeks, and the Appalachian Mountains to return home.

Two somewhat different accounts of Mary Draper Ingles' capture and escape, one written by her son John Ingles,[1] and the other by Letitia Preston Floyd,[2] an acquaintance, are the two primary sources from which the story is known.

The story became well-known following the 1855 publication of William Henry Foote's account in Sketches of Virginia: Historical and Biographical,[3] based on Mary's son's manuscript. It was further publicized in 1886 with the publication of an embellished version in John P. Hale's Trans-Allegheny pioneers: historical sketches of the first white settlements west of the Alleghenies.[4]


Early life[edit]

Log cabin next to the New River, near present-day Radford, Virginia, where Mary Draper Ingles and her husband William lived out their lives. Photo c.1890

Mary Draper Ingles was born in 1732 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to George and Elenor (Hardin) Draper, who had immigrated to America from Donegal, Ireland in 1729.[4][5] Between 1740 and 1744, the Draper family moved to the western frontier of Virginia, settling in Pattonsburg on the James River. Around 1744, George Draper went on an exploratory trip into what is now West Virginia, and never returned. In 1748 or 1750 his family established Draper's Meadow, a pioneer settlement on the banks of Stroubles Creek near modern-day Blacksburg, Virginia.[4][1]

In 1750, Mary married fellow settler William Ingles (1729-1782). They had two sons together: Thomas, born in 1751, and George, in 1753.[6]

Draper's Meadow massacre[edit]

On July 30 (or July 8, according to John P. Hale [4] and Letitia Preston Floyd[2]), 1755, during the French and Indian War, a band of Shawnee warriors (then allies of the French) raided Draper's Meadow and killed six settlers, including Mary's mother and her infant niece.[7][8] They took five captives, including Mary and her two sons, her sister-in-law Bettie Robertson Draper, and her neighbor Henry Lenard (or Leonard).[9][10][11] Mary's husband was nearly killed but fled into the forest.[6][12]


A captive runs the gauntlet between Shawnee warriors.

The Indians took their captives, along with several horses loaded with items taken from the settlers' homes, northwest along the New River, then along the Ohio River. They traveled for a month to Lower Shawneetown, located at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio rivers. Upon arrival at the town, the prisoners were made to undergo the ritual of running the gauntlet although, according to her son, Mary was not required to do this. Mary was separated from her sons,[13] who were adopted by Shawnee families. According to John P. Hale, Mary's oldest son Thomas was taken to Detroit, her sister-in-law Bettie was taken to what is now Chillicothe, Ohio, and her youngest son George was taken to an unknown location and died soon afterward.[4] One source states that another captive, Mary's neighbor Henry Leonard, later escaped, although no details are given.[14]

Letitia Preston Floyd and other sources state that, soon after being taken prisoner, Mary gave birth to a daughter[2][4][15] although there is evidence to the contrary.[9] As a prisoner, Mary sewed shirts using cloth traded to the Indians by French traders and was paid in goods for her work.[6] In October 1755, about three weeks after reaching Lower Shawneetown, she was taken to the Big Bone salt lick to make salt for the Indians by boiling brine.[11] A contemporary newspaper account states that Mary was also assigned "to attend [the Indians] as Servant, to dress their Victuals, and stretch the Skins they might procure." [16]

Escape and journey home[edit]

While working at Big Bone Lick, in late October 1755, Mary persuaded another captive woman, referred to as the "old Dutch woman" but who may have been German,[Note 1] to escape with her. The next day (probably 19 October) they asked permission of the Indians to go into the forest to gather wild grapes, and set off, retracing the route the Indians had followed after Mary was taken captive in July.[18] They wore moccasins and carried only a tomahawk and a knife (both of which were eventually lost), and two blankets. As they were leaving the camp, they met three French traders from Detroit who were harvesting walnuts. Mary traded her old dull tomahawk for a new one.[6]

The women went north, following the Ohio River as it curves to the east (see map). Expecting pursuit, they tried to hurry at first.[1] As it turned out, the Shawnee made only a brief search, assuming the two women had been carried off by wild animals. The Shawnee told this account to Mary's son Thomas Ingles, when he met some of them many years later after the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.[6]

After four or five days the women reached the junction of the Ohio and Scioto rivers, where they could see Lower Shawneetown in the distance, on the opposite riverbank. There they found an abandoned cabin, which contained a supply of corn, and an old horse in the back yard. They took the horse to carry the corn, but he was lost in the river when they tried to take him across what was probably Dutchman's Ripple.[6]

They followed the Ohio, Kanawha, and New rivers, crossing the Licking, Big Sandy, and Little Sandy rivers, Twelvepole Creek, the Guyandotte and Coal rivers, Paint Creek, and the Bluestone River.[19] During their journey, they crossed at least 145 creeks and rivers—remarkable as neither woman could swim. On at least one occasion they "tied logs together with a grape-vine [and] made a raft" to cross a major river.[2] They may have traveled as much as 500 to 600 miles, averaging between eleven and twenty-one miles a day.[1]

Once the corn ran out, they subsisted on black walnuts, wild grapes, pawpaws,[1] sassafras leaves, blackberries, roots and frogs but, as the weather grew cold, they were forced to eat dead animals they found along the way.[2] On several occasions they saw Indians hunting and each time managed to avoid being seen.[16]

By now the temperature had dropped, it was starting to snow, and the two women were weak from starvation. At some point, the old Dutch woman became "very disheartened and discouraged", and tried to kill Mary.[6] (Letitia Preston Floyd's account reports the two women drew lots to decide "which of them was to be eaten by the other."[2]) Mary managed to "keep her in a good humor" by promising "a sum of money" to be paid to her by Mary's father-in-law upon their safe return to Draper's Meadow. Soon after they reached the mouth of the New River, the old Dutch woman made a second attempt on Mary's life, probably about 26 November, but Mary "got loose...and outran her."[1] She hid in the forest and waited until dark, then continued along the riverbank. Finding a canoe, Mary crossed the New River at its junction with the East River near what is now Glen Lyn, Virginia.[4]

Mary continued southeast along the riverbank, passing through the present-day location of Pembroke. Four or five days after leaving the old Dutch woman, she reached the home of her friend Adam Harman on or about 1 December 1755, 42 days after leaving Big Bone Lick. Shortly afterward, a search party went back and found the old Dutch woman.[6] Harman took her to the fort at Dunkard Creek, where she joined a wagon party traveling to Pennsylvania.[4]


A postcard of Ingles Ferry, ca. 1908

After recovering from her journey and reuniting with her husband, Mary and her husband resumed farming at Dunkert Bottom until the following spring. Concerned about continued Shawnee raids on neighboring settlements, they moved to Fort Vause, where a small garrison safeguarded the residents. Mary remained uneasy, however, and persuaded her husband to move again, this time to Bedford County, Virginia. On June 25, 1756 Fort Vause was attacked by Shawnee Indians and all its inhabitants killed, including Mary's two brothers-in-law.[17]

The Ingles had four more children: Mary, Susan, Rhoda (b.1762), and John (1766-1836).[20][21] In 1762, William and Mary established the Ingles Ferry across the New River, and the associated Ingles Ferry Hill Tavern and blacksmith shop.[22] She died there in 1815, aged 83.[1] The site of her former log cabin, with a stable and a family cemetery, is protected as part of the Ingles Bottom Archeological Sites.

Mary's son George died in Indian captivity, but Thomas, who was 4 when taken captive, was ransomed and returned to Virginia in 1768 at the age of 17; after 13 years with the Shawnee, he had become fully acculturated and spoke only Shawnee. He underwent several years of "rehabilitation" and education under Dr. Thomas Walker at Castle Hill, Virginia.[23]

Thomas Ingles later served as a lieutenant under Colonel William Christian in Lord Dunmore's War (1773-1774) against the Shawnee. He married Eleanore Grills in 1775 and settled in Burke's Garden, Virginia. In 1782, his wife and three children were kidnapped by Indians. Thomas came to rescue them and in the ensuing altercation, the two older children were killed. Eleanore was tomahawked but survived.[13] Thomas rescued her and their youngest daughter.[24]

In 1761, Mary Ingles' brother John Draper attended a gathering of Cherokee chiefs at which a treaty to end the Anglo-Cherokee War was prepared. He found a man who knew of his wife, Bettie Robertson Draper, who had been taken captive in 1755. At that time, she was living with the family of a widowed Cherokee chief.[23] She was ransomed, and John took her to New River Valley.[25]

Historical accounts of Mary Draper Ingles' journey[edit]

The two primary sources of information are:

1) The 1824 written account by John Ingles[6] (1766-1836, son of Mary and William Ingles, born after Mary's return);[Note 2]
2) Parts of an 1843 letter by Letitia Preston Floyd[2] (1779-1852, wife of Virginia Governor John Floyd and daughter of Colonel William Preston, a survivor of the Draper's Meadow massacre).

Differences between the two narratives suggest that the Ingles and Preston families had developed distinct oral traditions. They differ on the date of the massacre (July 30 vs July 8, according to Ingles and Floyd, respectively), the number of casualties, the ages of Mary Ingles' children, and several other aspects.[9]

John Peter Hale,[26] one of Mary Ingles' great-grandsons, claimed to have interviewed Letitia Floyd and others who knew Mary Ingles personally. His 1886 narrative contains numerous details not cited in any previous account.[4] There were some references to Mary Ingles' escape in contemporary reports and letters, which were gathered in later efforts to document people who had been taken captive by Indians.[7][16]

In popular culture[edit]

The story of Ingles' ordeal has inspired a number of books and films, including:

  • Thom, James Alexander (1981). Follow the River. A novel.
  • Follow the River (1995). A television movie adaptation of the novel produced by ABC, starring Sheryl Lee.
  • The Captives (2004), a film based on these events.
  • The Long Way Home, an outdoor historical drama produced each summer from 1971 to 1999, at the Ingles homestead, relating the history of Mary Draper Ingles and her family. The General Assembly identified it as the "official" outdoor drama. While it attracted thousands to the city, the production was finally closed. (Since 2010, other efforts have been made to develop aspects of tourism heritage related to the Ingles history.)[27]


Plaque on the chimney stone memorial of Mary Draper Ingles in the West End Cemetery in Radford, VA.
  • Radford University, located near Draper's Meadow, has residence halls named Draper Hall and Ingles Hall in honor of Mary Draper Ingles.[28]
Monument of chimney stones in Radford's West End Cemetery
  • A monument dedicated to Mary Draper Ingles is located in West End Cemetery, Radford, Virginia. It was built using stones from the chimney of a home where Ingles lived after her return in 1755.
  • Mary Ingles Elementary School in Tad, West Virginia is named for her.
Boone County Library statue of Mary Draper Ingles


  1. ^ Jennings (1968) identifies her as a "Mrs. Bingamin", wife of Henry Bingamin, both German immigrants. In his book History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia: 1748-1920 (1920) William Cecil Pendleton states that her name was "Frau Stump" and that she had been kidnapped from a settlement near Fort Duquesne. Ed Robey ("Who was the Old Dutch Woman?") believes that she was the wife of "Dutch Jacob," and was kidnapped during an attack on a New River community on 3 July, 1755.[17]
  2. ^ In 1824, John Ingles, who heard the story from his mother Mary, wrote The Story of Mary Draper Ingles and Son Thomas Ingles. The original manuscript is at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collection in the University of Virginia library. It is very difficult to read, with little punctuation and poor spelling. It has been reproduced in an edition by Roberta Ingles Steele which retains the eccentricities of the author; copies are available at the Radford Public Library. This is probably the most significant primary document.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Duvall, James (2009). Mary Ingles and the Escape from Big Bone Lick (PDF). Boone County Public Library.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Floyd, Letitia Preston. Memoirs of Letitia Preston Floyd, written Feb. 22, 1843 to her son Benjamin Rush Floyd.
  3. ^ William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia: Historical and Biographical, Vol. 2; William S. Martien, 1855; p. 149.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i John P. Hale, Trans-Allegheny pioneers: historical sketches of the first white settlements west of the Alleghenies, Cincinnati: The Graphic Press, 1886.
  5. ^ "About the Ingles Family" (PDF). Virginia History Exchange.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ingles, John (1824). The Narrative of Col. John Ingles Relating to Mary Ingles and the Escape from Big Bone Lick (PDF).
  7. ^ a b "A Register of the Persons Who Have Been Either Killed, Wounded, or Taken Prisoners by the Enemy, in Augusta County, as also such as Have Made Their Escape". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. II. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Historical Society. June 1895.
  8. ^ Duvall, James. The Context of Captivity: Mary Ingles at Big Bone Lick (PDF). Paper presented at Northern Kentucky History Day, 2009.
  9. ^ a b c Brown, Ellen Apperson. "What Really Happened at Drapers Meadows? The Evolution of a Frontier Legend" (PDF). Virginia History Exchange.
  10. ^ Cummings, Kathy. "Walking in Their Footsteps: The Journey of Mary Ingles". Pioneer Times.
  11. ^ a b Jennings, Gary (August 1968). "An Indian Captivity". American Heritage Magazine. 19 (5).
  12. ^ Pendleton, William Cecil (1920). History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia: 1748-1920. W. C. Hill Printing Company. p. 270.
  13. ^ a b Peyton, John Lewis (1882). History of Augusta County, Virginia. Samuel M. Yost & Son. pp. 212–14.
  14. ^ Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia: Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, 1745-1800, Volume 2. Augusta County (Va.): The Commonwealth Printing Company, 2010; p. 510.
  15. ^ Davis, Thomas D. (1901). "Pioneer physicians of Western Pennsylvania: The president's address of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania". Pennsylvania. pp. 20–21.
  16. ^ a b c "Contemporary newspaper account of Mary Ingles' escape" (PDF). Mercury. New York. 26 January 1756. p. 3 col. 1.
  17. ^ a b Lewis Preston Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1870, J.L. Hill Print. Company, 1903.
  18. ^ Lahr, E.M. & Thom, James Alexander (2011). Angels along the River: Retracing the Escape Route of Mary Draper Ingles. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  19. ^ "Mary Draper Ingles map". History and Culture. National Park Service.
  20. ^ "John Ingles".
  21. ^ "Mary Draper Ingles". The Kentucky Encyclopedia.
  22. ^ "Historic Ingles Ferry and Farm Permanently Protected". Virginia Outdoors Foundation. August 2009.
  23. ^ a b Addington, Luther F. (1967). "Captivity of Mary Draper Ingles". Historical "Sketches of Southwest Virginia. Southwest Virginia Historical Society. Publication No 2.
  24. ^ Inglis, Thomas Jr. (1854). Data for a Memoir of Thomas Ingles of Augusta Kentucky (PDF). Manuscript held at the Boone County Public Library.
  25. ^ "Bettie Robertson Draper". Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine. 106. University of Michigan. 1972. p. 230.
  26. ^ "John Peter Hale (1824-1902)". Encyclopedia of West Virginia.
  27. ^ Bell, Heather (25 November 2011). "Reviving the Long Way Home: City holds public forum to discuss new historic drama". Radford News Journal.
  28. ^ Radford University map
  29. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  30. ^ Mary Draper Ingles Bridge in Summers County WV
  31. ^ "The Making of the Mary Draper Ingles Statue," Boone County Public Library, 7 Nov 2017.
  32. ^ "KENTUCKY - State and Chapter Web Sites".

External links[edit]