Monday, September 19, 2016

Native Americans capture Quaker Frances Slocum 1773-1847


From Europe to the Atlantic coast of America & on to the Pacific coast during the 17C-19C, settlers moved West encountering a variety of Indigenous Peoples who had lived on the land for centuries.

Frances Slocum (1773-1847), called Maconaquah, "The Little Bear," an adopted member of the Miami tribe, was taken from her family home by the Lenape in Pennsylvania, on November 2, 1778, and raised in the area that became Indiana. Frances was born into a family of early Quaker settlers of the Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys, near Wilkes Barre.


Her parents, Jonathan Slocum and Ruth Tripp, came to Pennsylvania from Warwick, Rhode Island. Frances had 11 siblings, among them brothers Ebeneezer and Benjamin. These brothers found her 59 years later living on an Indian Reservation near Peru, Indiana. Despite the pleadings of her brothers, Frances refused to leave her family. She had been married twice and was the mother of four children.


Painting of Frances Slocum by Jennie Brownscombe, from the book, Frances Slocum; The Lost Sister of Wyoming, by Martha Bennett Phelps, 1916.

"I can well remember the day when the Delaware Indians came suddenly to our house. I remember that they killed and scalped a man near the door, taking the scalp with them. They then pushed the boy through the door; he came to me and we both went and hid under the staircase.

"They went up stairs and rifled the house, though I cannot remember what they took, except some loaf sugar and some bundles. I remember that they took me and the boy on their backs through the bushes. I believe the rest of the family had fled, except my mother.

"They carried us a long way, as it seemed to me, to a cave, where they had left their blankets and traveling things. It was over the mountain and a long way down on the other side. Here they stopped while it was yet light, and there we staid all night. I can remember nothing about that night, except that I was very tired, and lay down on the ground and cried till I was asleep.




"The next day we set out and traveled many days in the woods before we came to a village of Indians. When we stopped at night the Indians would cut down a few boughs of hemlock on which to sleep, and then make up a great fire of logs at their feet, which lasted all night.

"When they cooked anything they stuck a stick in it and held it to the fire as long as they chose. They drank at the brooks and springs, and for me they made a little cup of white birch bark, out of which I drank. I can only remember that they staid several days at this first village, but where it was I have no recollection.

"After they had been here some days, very early one morning two of the same Indians took a horse and placed the boy and me upon it, and again set out on their journey. One went before on foot and the other behind, driving the horse. In this way we traveled a long way till we came to a village where these Indians belonged.

"I now found that one of them was a Delaware chief by the name of Tuck Horse. This was a great Delaware name, but I do not know its meaning. We were kept here some days, when they came and took away the boy, and I never saw him again, and do not know what became of him.

"Early one morning this Tuck Horse came and took me, and dressed my hair in the Indian way, and then painted my face and skin. He then dressed me in beautiful wampum beads, and made me look, as I thought, very fine. I was much pleased with the beautiful wampum.

"We then lived on a hill, and I remember he took me by the hand and led me down to the river side to a house, where lived an old man and woman. They had once several children, but now they were all gone—either killed in battle, or having died very young. When the Indians thus lose all their children they often adopt some new child as their own, and treat it in all respects like their own. This is the reason why they so often carry away the children of white people.

"I was brought to these old people to have them adopt me, if they would. They seemed unwilling at first, but after Tuck Horse had talked with them awhile, they agreed to it, and this was my home. They gave me the name of We-let-a-wash, which was the name of their youngest child whom they had lately buried. It had now got to be the fall of the year (1779), for chestnuts had come.

"The Indians were very numerous here, and here we remained all the following winter. The Indians were in the service of the British, and were furnished by them with provisions. They seemed to be the gathered remnants of several nations of Indians. I remember that there was a fort here.

"In the spring I went with the parents who had adopted me, to Sandusky, where we spent the next summer; but in the fall we returned again to the fort—the place where I was made an Indian child—and here we spent the second winter, (1780).

"In the next spring we went down to a large river, which is Detroit River, where we stopped and built a great number of bark canoes. I might have said before, that there was war between the British and the Americans, and that the American army had driven the Indians around the fort where I was adopted. In their fights I remember the Indians used to take and bring home scalps, but I do not know how many.

"When our canoes were all done we went up Detroit River, where we remained about three years. I think peace had now been made between the British and Americans, and so we lived by hunting, fishing, and raising corn...

"The reason why we staid here so long was, that we heard that the Americans had destroyed all our villages and corn fields. After these years my family and another Delaware family removed to Ke-ki-ong-a (now Fort Wayne). I don't know where the other Indians went.

"This was now our home, and I suppose we lived here as many as twenty-six or thirty years. I was there long after I was full grown, and I was there at the time of Harmar's defeat. At the time this battle was fought the women and children were all made to run north. I cannot remember whether the Indians took any prisoners, or brought home any scalps at this time. After the battle they all scattered to their various homes, as was their custom, till gathered again for some particular object. I then returned again to Ke-ki-ong-a. The Indians who returned from this battle were Delawares, Pottawatamies, Shawnese and Miamis.

"I was always treated well and kindly; and while I lived with them I was married to a Delaware. He afterwards left me and the country, and went west of the Mississippi. The Delawares and Miamis were then all living together.

"I was afterwards married to a Miami, a chief, and a deaf man. His name was She-pan-can-ah. After being married to him I had four children—two boys and two girls. My boys both died while young. The girls are living and are here in this room at the present time.

"I cannot recollect much about the Indian wars with the whites, which were so common and so bloody. I well remember a battle and a defeat of the Americans at Fort Washington, which is now Cincinnati. I remember how Wayne, or ' Mad Anthony,' drove the Indians away and built the fort.

"The Indians then scattered all over the country, and lived upon game, which was very abundant. After this they encamped all along on Eel River. After peace was made we all returned to Fort Wayne and received provisions from the Americans, and there I lived a long time.

"I had removed with my family to the Mississinewa River some time before the battle of Tippecanoe. The Indians who fought in that battle were the Kickapoos, Pottawatamies and Shawnese. The Miamis were not there. I heard of the battle on the Mississinewa, but my husband was a deaf man, and never went to the wars, and I did not know much about them."


George Winter 1810-1876 Francis Slocum

At the conclusion of this account of her capture, life and wanderings with the Indians for so many years, there was a pause for a few minutes. Every one present seemed deeply impressed with the story and the simple, artless manner in which it was related. In a short time the conversation was resumed, "We live where our father and mother used to live, on the banks of the beautiful Susquehanna, and we want you to return with us; we will give you of our property, and you shall be one of us and share all that we have. You shall have a good house and everything you desire. Oh, do go back with us!"

George Winter 1810-1876 Francis Slocum and daughter 

"No, I cannot," was the sad but firm reply. " I have always lived with the Indians; they have always used me very kindly; I am used to them. The Great Spirit has always allowed me to live with them, and I wish to live and die with them.

"Your wah-puh-mone [looking glass] may be longer than mine, but this is my home. I do not wish to live any better, or anywhere else, and I think the Great Spirit has permitted me to live so long because I have always lived with the Indians. I should have died sooner if I had left them.

"My husband and my boys are buried here, and I cannot leave them. On his dying day my husband charged me not to leave the Indians. I have a house and large lands, two daughters, a son-in-law, three grand-children, and everything to make me comfortable; why should I go and be like a fish out of water?"


When her birth family could not convince her to leave the village, the Slocum family hired George Winter to paint a portrait of Frances & her daughter. Winter wrote descriptions of her family in his journals.  The artist wrote of Frances in 1839, "Frances Slocum's face bore the marks of deep-seated lines. The muscles of her cheeks were like corded rises, and her forehead ran in almost right angular lines. There was indication of no unwanted cares upon her countenance beyond time's influence which peculiarly marks the decline of life...She bore the impress of old age, without its extreme feebleness. Her hair which was evidently of dark brown color was now frosted. Though bearing some resemblance to her family, yet her cheek bones seemed to bear the Indian characteristic in that particular - face broad, nose somewhat bulby, mouth perhaps indicating some degree of severity. In her ears she wore some few ear bobs."





Susan Sleeper-Smith, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes (Amherst:University of Massachusetts Press, 2001)

Susan Sleeper-Smith, Enduring Nations: Native Americans in the Midwest, ed. R. David Edmunds (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008)

John F Meginnes, Women in America from Colonial Times to the 20th Century: Biography of Frances Slocum (New York: Arno Press, 1891, reprint 1974)

Stewart Rafert, The Miami Indians of Indiana: A Persistent People 1654-1994 (Indiana Historical Society, 1996)

James Axtell, The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985)

 Jim J. Buss, "They Found and Left Her an Indian: Gender, Race, and the Whitening of Young Bear." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Jun 01, 2008; Vol. 29, No. 2/3, p. 1-35.

"Winter's Description of Francis [sic]Slocum," Indiana Quarterly Magazine of History 1:3 (1905)


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