For the Love of Virginia – Part 1

Every man carries within him a world which is composed of all that he has seen and loved, and to which he consistently returns, even when he is traveling through, and seems to be living in, some different world.”   Chateaubriand 1803

Several years ago my son asked me to help him prepare a report on his ancestors and the countries (perhaps England, Scotland, France or Italy) in which they once lived.  I started to explain to him about all the different nationalities in our family tree, but stopped short, realizing that it would be easier, and more meaningful, to have him tell about his Virginia ancestry. Both sides of my family trace to individuals who settled on the Virginia frontier well before the Revolutionary War.  I realized I could tell David how my father’s forebears emigrated to southwestern Virginia from New York, and my mother’s from Philadelphia (arriving in the Virginia wilderness with Col. Patton in 1748.)

I chose to tell David all about my mother’s ancestor, Mary Draper Ingles, and her remarkable story.  She and her two children were captured by the Shawnee Indians in 1753 [1755] and taken to a village near present-day Cincinnati.  Mary gave birth to a baby girl during the journey westward and won the respect of the Indians through her courage and intelligence.  About six weeks later she escaped from the Indians, leaving her infant and her two boys behind, and walked back to Virginia through the forest, accompanied by a German woman (who had been captured in Pennsylvania).  Starving and exhausted, Mary reached a neighbor’s cabin about 20 miles from her home (Drapers Meadows – in present day Blacksburg).

She survived, was reunited with her husband, bore four more children and lived to be a great-grandmother.  Her infant and her youngest son died in captivity.  Her oldest son, Thomas, grew up among the Indians, but, at seventeen, was brought back, perhaps against his will, to his family in Virginia, after his father had spent years bartering and negotiating for his return.

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