From W.S. Lester's "The Transylvania Colony, published in 1935
based upon "The Draper Manuscripts"



The most romantic event of early pioneer Kentucky took place near the Boonesborough settlement about the middle of July, 1776. Late Sunday afternoon, the fourteenth, Elizabeth and Frances, the daughters of Colonel Richard Callaway, and Jemima, the daughter of Captain Daniel Boone, were canoeing on the Kentucky River just below the town. Elizabeth was a little less than sixteen years old, while the other two girls were not more than fourteen. The three girls steered their canoe toward the side to gather flowers.... While the canoe was near the shore, an Indian came suddenly out of the canebreak and began to push it toward the land. At first the girls thought he was a Negro slave, who had recently run away from the settlement. One of the Callaway girls tried to jump into the water, but was prevented; while her sister fought the captor unsuccessfully with her paddle. Four other Indians now quickly appeared, and the girls were immediately taken ashore and the boat set adrift. The cries and shrieks of the girls were hushed by threats of flourished knives and tomahawks. Jemima, who had an injured foot, refused to proceed with her savage kidnapers until she was threatened with death and she was provided with moccasins. The clothing of the three was cut off at their knees to facilitate their walking through the woods. The cliff-like hill was climbed with difficulty, but the party made swifter progress when it reached the more even ground beyond. As they went along the young captives made shrewd use of every available means to mark their trail for the benefit of their rescuers, who were sure to follow....When the captors observed these maneuvers, they shook their tomahawks over the heads of the girls, caught them by their hair, drew a knife around their throats, and threatened to scalp them if they continued their efforts. On the other hand the Indians, who consisted of three Shawnees and two Cherokees, took every precaution to deceive their pursuers and prevent rapid following....By night-fall they had gone six or eight miles, when they made their camp within three miles of the present town of Winchester..... Early Monday forenoon they came upon a pony, which the Indians had left tied or was a stray. The captors wanted the girls to ride, particularly Jemima on account of her injured foot. The former thus hoped to secure more speed, but their captives were equally cunning. When the girls were placed on the back of the pony, they tickled him in the flanks with their feet. This caused him to rear, then the riders would tumble off, which meant a loss of time....The kidnapers soon realized that the pony ridden in this manner was a hindrance to progress and abandoned him. Whether the screams of the captured girls were heard in the town or the story of the capture was told by the little girls left on the south river bank is not definitely known. But not long after the capture Callaway and Boone got together a party of men for pursuit. Among this number were Samuel Henderson, who was engaged to be married to Elizabeth Callaway within a short time, and John Holder and Flanders Callaway, who were lovers respectively of Fannie Callaway and Jemima Boone. Only one canoe was available--the one the Indians had sent adrift--and the rescue party had to wait until John Guess could swim over the river and bring it back....By this time the sun was only half an hour high. Daniel Boone with five others...now crossed the river, while Colonel Callaway, Captain Nathaniel Hart, Captain David Guess, Flanders Callaway, and five or six others, rode a mile down the riverside and forded the river. In a little while the two parties were joined and the trail of the Indians found. On Boone's advice it was decided that his footmen should follow the trail, while Callaway and his horsemen should go by path to the Lower Blue Licks to cut off the retreat of the kidnapers. The first group followed the trail for about five miles before being forced by darkness to strike camp. They camped at an unfinished cabin, which was being built by nine men. Early Monday morning they resumed their pursuit. They were joined by three of the cabin-builders--John McMillen, William Bush and John Martin. Soon they came upon the spot where the Indians and girls had camped the night before. In spite of the useful signs of broken twigs, torn clothing, and shoe prints left by the girls, the pursuers had great difficulty in detecting the trail. Following up each of the several diverse trails purposely made by the Indians caused delay. Boone's superior knowledge of Indian habits and trickery served his party well. He soon discovered that the pursued group was making better progress than his own and advised that the latter leave the trail and pursue a straight course toward the Scioto River for two reasons; first, their passage would be more speedy; and, secondly, he feared if they continued to follow the trail, they would be seen by the rear guard of the captors first, and the captives be put to death rather than permitted to be retaken. Boone's proposal was adopted. The pursuing party frequently crossed the trail. Its progress was now more rapid; it made about thirty miles that day, passing close to the present towns of Winchester, North Middletown and Carlisle. At dawn Tuesday morning it resumed its course. By ten o'clock it came to Hinkson's Fork of Licking. When it crossed this the members of the party observed that the tracks of the pursued were fresh and the stream still muddy where these had crossed. Boone now counselled that the kidnapers had by this time become less cautious and that the whites might again follow the trail, which they did. In the meantime the girls were experiencing alternately hope and despair. Jemima and Fannie were crying most of the time, but Betsy was more courageous and tried to cheer them with the certainty of rescue. Throughout Monday the Indians did not halt to cook any food, for fear that a fire might reveal them to the whites, but gave the girls dried venison and smoked buffalo tongue. ...As also was the almost universal custom of the Indian race, the captors attempted no improprieties with their female captives. Just as Boone had predicted the savages became more careless on Tuesday morning, and grew bold enough to kill a buffalo, from which they cut a choice portion....They quickly built a fire, and their weapons laid aside. The girls were sitting tied, the two younger ones with their heads in the lap of Betsy, who was trying to console them by telling them that their lovers would resue them. Soon after they had crossed Hinkson the members of Boone's party entered the Great Warriors' Path, which they pursued intermittently, just as the Indians had followed now the Path, now a buffalo trace, to elude the whites. Having gone eight or nine miles they came upon the slaughtered buffalo. A little later as the party came to a small stream the trail disappeared, and again Boone rightly conjectured that the Indians and their captives had waded in the water for some distance to deceive their followers, and that they were now preparing their meal. As they rapidly approached the vicinity where the Indians were secluded, the whites divided into two groups and proceeded cautiously. The Indian sentinel had left his post to light his pipe at the fire. In the thick cane the pursuers got within thirty yards, or less, of the enemy and saw them first. Although forbidden to do so, the foremost white fired at the Indians without waiting for his companions to come up. His aim was poor, but Boone and Floyd came up almost instantly and fired, each mortally wounding an Indian. Fannie and Jemima were watching a large Indian called "Big Jimmy" spitting meat. When Jemima saw the blood spurt from his breast and heard the gun-fire, she cried "That's Daddy's gun." "Big Jimmy" grasped his side and ran away half bent. His companions followed, leaving practically everything except one gun. One of them, as he ran, flung his tomahawk at Betsy's head, which it barely missed. The whites rushed in quickly with a low yell. Betsy, who was a decided brunette and whose color was still further enhanced by fatigue and exposure, was mistaken by one of the men for an Indian. He raised his gun and was about to strike her with the butt of it, when his arm was arrested by Boone.... The party gathered the plunder left by the savages and returned joyfully toward Boonesborough. Just before reaching the Kentucky River it was joined by Colonel Callaway's group of horsemen, who had crossed the trail of the retreating Indians, and, concluding that the girls had been rescued, returned to Boonesborough. During the month of August Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Callaway were married, and in the following year marriages also took place between Frances Callaway and Colonel Holder, and Jemima Boone and Flanders Callaway.

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
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