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
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
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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