Archive for the ‘Wyoming Massacre’ Category

“Frances Slocum: The Lost Sister of Wyoming”

Jonathan Slocum, the father of FRANCES SLOCUM, was a Quaker from Rhode Island who had visited Wyoming Valley (see previous post) and, pleased with what he saw, brought his wife Ruth Tripp and their children there in 1777, settling on land in Wilkes-Barre a short distance from the fort. After the Massacre in July of 1778, Jonathan and his family, who had been spared, did not join the settlers who fled believing that their Quaker principles and friendly relations with the Indians would protect them. They were wrong.

In November three Delaware Indians approached the house in which were Mrs. Slocum, her four young children and the two Kingsley boys the family had taken in after Indians had made a prisoner of their father. The Indians killed and scalped Nathan Kingsley; nine-year-old Mary, with great presence of mind, fled with her baby brother Joseph. The Indians, however, seized Frances, four years and seven months old, her brother Ebenezer, and the other Kingsley lad. Mrs. Slocum pleaded with them not to take Ebenezer as he was lame; they left him behind but took the other two. An alarm was given and the area searched to no avail. Several weeks later Mr. Slocum, his father-in-law, and a boy named William were gathering fodder for their cattle in a field when they were attacked by Indians. The boy escaped but the two men were killed and scalped. Mrs. Slocum bore these terrible tragedies as best she could, knowing at least that two of her loved ones, though dead, were buried. But she still agonized over the fate of Frances. Was she alive or dead?

In 1906, a descendant of the Slocums, Martha B. Phelps, compiled information from various sources, including her grandfather, and wrote the story of Frances Slocum, the Lost Sister of Wyoming. According to her account this is what subsequently happened.

The two sons of Mrs. Slocum, grown to manhood, searched for their sister after the Revolution in the area of Niagara, offering a reward for information about her. With no success. In 1788 the two journeyed into the Ohio wilderness on the same quest. Once again they could find no trace of her. Mrs. Slocum made the trip to Niagara in 1789 where a group of captives held by the Indians had been assembled. She could not identify any as her beloved Frances. Mrs. Slocum died in 1807 without knowing the fate of her child. The remaining family members promised her not to give up the search.

In 1835 while traveling in Indiana, a Colonel Ewing, who did business with the Indians, discovered an aged white woman in an Indian lodge where he stopped for the night. In the course of the evening she told him her name was Slocum and recounted her story in the tongue of the Miami Indians which Ewing understood. Ewing wrote a letter to the postmaster of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, asking that the information he had gleaned be published in a local newspaper in the hope that a Slocum relative or friend might see it. Here is what he wrote:

There is now living near this place, an aged white woman, who a few days ago told me, while I lodged in the camp one night, that she was taken from her father’s house, on or near the Susqueha0nna River, when she was very young . . . by the Delaware Indians, who were then hostile toward the whites. She says her father’s name was Slocum; that he was a Quaker, rather small in stature and wore a large-brimmed hat; was of sandy hair and light complexion and much freckled; that he lived about half a mile from a town where there was a fort; that they lived in a wooden house two stories high, and had a spring near the house. She says three Delawares came to the house in the daytime, when all were absent but herself, and perhaps two other children; her father and brother were . . . working in the field. The Indians carried her off, and she was adopted into a family of Delawares, who raised her and treated her as their own child. They died about forty years ago, somewhere in Ohio. She was then married to a Miami, by whom she had four children; two of them are now living—they are both daughters—and she lives with them. Her husband is dead; she is old and feeble, and thinks she will not live long.
These considerations induced her to give the present history of herself, which she would never do before, fearing that her kindred would come and force her away. She has lived long and happy as an Indian, and, but for her color, would not be suspected of being anything else than such. She is very respectable and wealthy, sober and honest. Her name is without reproach. . . . She had entirely lost her mother tongue, and speaks only in Indian, which I also understand. . . .
I have been much affected with the disclosure, and hope the surviving friends may obtain, through your goodness, the information I desire for them. If I can be of any service to them, they may command me. . . .

The story continues in the next post.

Biography of Frances Slocum, the Lost sister of Wyoming: A complete Narrative of her Captivity and Wanderings Among the Indians, John Franklin Meginness (Williamsport, PA: Heller Bros. Printing House, 1891). Also Frances Slocum: The Lost Sister of Wyoming, Compiled and written by her grand niece Martha Bennett Phelps for her Children and Grandchildren (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1906), available online HERE.

posted August 3rd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Indians,Pennsylvania,Slocum, Frances,Wyoming Massacre

The Wyoming Massacre

I was born and grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, not far from Wilkes-Barre. My earliest impressions of the Wyoming Valley, bisected by the Susquehanna River, were physical. Of the anthracite or hard-coal fields in the area: a landscape dotted with collyeries, steam locomotives and railroad sidings, mine shafts and culm banks, refuse heaps which were often burning fueled by bits of discarded coal. Eventually this sort of mining deep underground became too expensive and was replaced by surface or strip mining which further ravaged the land until laws were passed requiring reforestation. Some of the area today still resembles the dead landscape of the moon.

As I grew up I also became aware of the early history of the Wyoming Valley—in the 1760s when the beautiful lands and fertile soil bordering the Susquehanna were claimed by Connecticut according to its founding charter. Many settlers from that colony, and some from Rhode Island, moved into the area. Periodically, conflict broke out between the locals and the “intruders” but nothing like what happened in 1778 in what is known as the Battle of Wyoming and the subsequent “Massacre.”

During the Revolution the British sought to put pressure on the American rebels by harassing frontier settlements with the assistance of the Indians who felt they had been displaced from land which was rightfully theirs. Settlers in the Wyoming Valley feeling exposed and insecure constructed several small forts for their protection. In July of 1778, British Colonel John Butler put together a force of some 1,000 consisting of British soldiers, Tories, and Seneca Indians and marched to the head of Wyoming Valley intending to clear out the settlers. Receiving news of this impending raid a small band of patriot soldiers and citizens hurriedly assembled, under the command of a Continental Army officer named Colonel Zebulon Butler, and attempted to repel the invaders. A battle ensued in which the heavily outnumbered soldiers and settlers were completely routed. Rampaging Indians slaughtered and scalped some 225 fighters and in the following days killed civilians and devastated the area, destroying dwellings and crops. Survivors fled to the east where many perished in the wilderness that was the Pocono Mountains.

Living in the area I also knew of the township of Slocum but had no idea of the derivation of its name. Research led me to the story of Frances Slocum, her connection with the Wyoming Valley, and her abduction and captivity by the Indians. More of Frances’ story in the next post.

posted July 30th, 2015 by Janet, comments (2), CATEGORIES: Battles,Indians,Patriots,Pennsylvania,Slocum, Frances,Wyoming Massacre

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