• David Joyce

Mary Draper Ingles and the Settling of Augusta County, Virginia

Updated: Jan 2


The history of the Virginia frontier, representative of hardships and stories of courage, is also known for its tales of tragedy. This was equally true for Orange and Augusta County, Virginia. Formed from Orange County in 1745, Augusta County was a true wilderness. Unlike the more established towns of the Colony, it had just been established and was quickly expanding. With pioneer families constructing neighborhoods in unsettled areas on the fringes of society, this way of life proved challenging. Although, it wasn’t long until these settlers faced a more threatening situation: attacks from Native Americans. While it is common for stories of these struggles to be lost to time, the journey of Mary Draper Ingles is an exception.


When Mary and her husband, William Ingles, arrived in Augusta County around 1750, Native Americans in the area were “still friendly” to Europeans.1 However, this relationship did not last. As pioneers built new settlements further west, it was oblivious the two cultures would eventually clash. For Mary and her family, they experienced this first hand. One day after being taken captive by “a party of Shawnees,2 her life was changed forever.


Documented by her son, Colonial John Ingles, her experiences remind us of the dangers of living on the frontier. According to John’s narrative, it wasn’t only Mary Draper Ingles who was taken, but her two children, Thomas and George, and her sister, were also vicitims.3 Although, Mary and her children were treated fairly by their capturers, her sister was not. Upon their arrival, Mary watched as “Aunt Draper” was forced to run the gauntlet.4 With her arm already injured “Aunt Draper” had to run between two lines of Native Americans that were hitting her with “switch sticks, or such things as they could provide.”5 A form of initiation, it helped determine the fate of the prisoners.6 But, Mary’s fortunate circumstances did not last.

A couple of days later, “her children [were] taken [a]way from her, and consigned to different owners, and was not permitted to associate together at all.7 Despite this, she had earned their trust by sewing together “linen or check shirts” for her capturers. 8 Prized by Native Americans as a rare commodity, her reputation as a sewer would allow her to escape. After being taken to Big Bone Lick in what is now Kentucky,9 she and another Dutch prisoner sneaked out of the camp.


Surviving off roots, black walnuts, and grapes, she and her companion followed the Ohio river until they neared the location where she was taken prisoner. It was at this point where the Dutch woman, out of desperation and fear, tried to kill Mary Draper Ingles.10 Fortunately, she escaped and reunited with her husband with the assistance of a previous neighbor, Adam Harman.

After her five-month ordeal, Mary and husband moved to Fort Vauses in Bedford County,11 Virginia. Still “very restless and uneasy” about her previous capture,12 they preferred the safety of a fortified settlement. During the fall, however, Fort Vauses was attacked and plundered by Native Americans, but thankfully, Mary and her Husband were not present.


Passing away in 1815, 13 Mary Draper Ingles, knew the thrill and danger of living on the frontier. Determined to build a new life for herself, it was not uncommon to experience skirmishes with the Natives Inhabitants. While she was eager to live near the Blue Ridge Mountains, the risks she took helped establish the colony of Virginia. Because of the stories of survivors, like Mary’s, we can better understand the trials and tribulations of the time, and how the exploration of Virginia was achieved.



Documentation and Suggested Readings:


1. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 4.

2. Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824, 4.

3. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 4-5.

4. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 6.

5. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 7.

6. John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder, History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations: Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States, Volume 12 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania : Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1876), 218; digital image, Google Books (http://www.books.google.com : accessed 2 May 2019).

7. Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824, 7.

8. Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824, 7.

9. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 8.

10. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 10.

11. Ann Chilton, Bedford Co. VA Deed Book A-1 1754-1762 (Signal Mountain, Tennessee : Mountain Press, 1987), 28; Ann Chilton, Bedford Co. VA Deed Book B 2 1761-1766 (Signal Mountain, Tennessee : Mountain Press, 1992), 44; Ann Chilton, Bedford Co. VA Deed Book C-3 (Signal Mountain, Tennessee : Mountain Press), 42.

12. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 15.

13. Col. John Ingles, The Narrative of Col. John Ingles c. 1824 (Boone County Public Library : Burlington, Kentucky, 2008), 18.

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