Mary Draper Ingles

Mary Draper Ingles, my 6th great grandmother, was truly a heroic figure. She was born in 1732 in Philadelphia, PA to George Draper and Eleoner Hardin of Ireland. She and her family moved to Draper's Meadow in Virginia and in 1750 she married William Ingles. They were the first white couple married West of the Allegheny Mountains.

Mary and William had two sons. They lived at Draper's Meadow next to Mary's brother John and his wife Betty. Mary's mother also lived there, but her father had been killed by Indians on a hunting trip in Kentucky.

On 8 July 1755, while William Ingles and his brother in law John Draper were in the fields working, Indians attacked the settlement where Mary and William lived. They captured Mary and her sons, George and Tommy. Mary, Tommy, and George were taken along with Mary's sister-in-law, Betty Draper and some other settlers of Draper's Meadow. Mary's mother, Eleoner Hardin Draper was scalped as was the baby of Betty Draper. Betty suffered a broken arm which Mary tried to take care along the way.

William Ingles and John Draper were in the fields when they heard the Indians, but without weapons. They later followed, but were not able to find them. William and John spent the next months continually looking for Mary and John's wife Betty. They established a ferry called Ingles Ferry to help the settlers have an avenue of escape from the Indians in the future. Mary would never return to Draper's Meadow.

The captives were taken into totally uncharted territory where no white person had ever been. It was a hard and grueling trek with some killing of the settlers along the way. Mary kept her wits about her however, and made notes of different landmarks so that she could escape and get back home. She made knots in a rope belt she worn around her waist for each day of the journey so that she would know how long they walked.

When they finally arrived at the Indian Camp, most of the captives were forced to run the gauntlet. Mary had shown such tremendous courage on the journey that the Indians did not make her do this.

There were French Trapper's at the Indian village and Mary made blankets and shirts for the Indians and French in exchange for being allowed to keep some blankets for her sons. Eventually, Mary's sons Tommy and George were sold away from her. George was 3 and Tommy 4. George died soon after the separation. Mary knew that the only chance she had to get her sons back was to get back to Will and tell him where they were.

Mary escaped after several months and she and a German lady, who had been captured on a raid in the Pennsylvania area, began their walk back to Virginia. Along the way they encountered incredible cold and hardship. Things became so desperate that at one point the German woman tried to eat Mary. She finally made her way home and sent a rescue party for the German lady. When Mary returned home at 23 years old she had lost all of her teeth and her hair was snow white.

Mary had made a trip which no white man or army had so far made. She had done this without food or clothes and under the worst of all conditions. Because of what she had seen and accomplished, Mary was able to help the army chart this territory.

Not long after her return, Mary and Will found themselves alone at a fort. Will had taken Mary there because she had such a strong feeling the Indians were going to attack again. She was right and the Indians did begin to attack. There were so many of them, that Will began to run out of ammunition and so Mary made the bullets as fast as Will could fire them.

Mary and Will had 4 more children following her return from Indian Captivity. After 15 years with the Indians, Will and Mary were able to ransom Tommy back. Some years later Tommy's own wife and children were captured in the very same manner that he and his mother had been.

Mary and William continued to contribute to the establishment of this country. William was a Colonel in the Revolution and all of their children went on to contribute equally as well. Thomas was close friends with Thomas Jefferson and two of their daughters married Generals in the Army. William died in Virginia April of 1782. Mary lived to be 83 and died in Feb. of 1815 at Ingles Ferry in Montgomery Co., Virginia.

Mary's courage and fortitude in all she went through continue to remind me of the strength and courage it took to found this country. She is a constant inspiration to me in my daily life.

If you have any information on this family
please e-mail Carol Whitehead

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