Capture of Frances Slocum From Harpers Weekly 1856

THE MORNING REPUBLICAN, Scranton, PA, Saturday, June 19, 1869
From the Chicago Standard

A Visit to Her Descendants.


The story of Frances Slocum is one of thrilling interest. She was stolen by the Delaware Indians from her father's house near Wilkes-Barre, in Wyoming Valley, Luzerne county, Pa., on the second day of November, 1778, when she was a child five years of age. They took her from the house in broad daylight before the eyes of her mother, and that mother never saw her child again. The brothers of Frances, Joseph and Isaac Slocum, grew to manhood and advanced to old age, making inquiry and search for their lost sister whenever they could hear of any white woman among the Indian tribes who they thought might be their sister, sometimes offering large rewards in money for her discovery. More than sixty years passed away before they found the lost sister. She was at last discovered, as the widow of an Indian Chief, living on the banks of the Mississenawa(sic) river, about seven miles from its mouth, where it empties into the Wabash, near Peru in Indiana.

As I was born in the same county from which Frances Slocum was stolen and acquainted with many of her relatives, and had heard my mother tell the story when I was a child and before she was discovered, and having read the accounts given in the several histories of Wyoming concerning her, I had a strong desire to visit her descendants, and her Indian home. Finding myself unexpectedly at Peru, Indiana, a few days ago, I made inquiries in regard to her and her discovery, and was happy to learn that the man who first found her was still residing at Peru--James T. Miller, exq., now the county treasurer of Miami county. I had the pleasure of hearing from him the particulars of the story.

Mr. Miller was a Indian trader and interpreter, making Peru the headquarters of his operations, and had lived there from childhood, and learned the Miami Indian tongue, and for many years the savages were almost his only neighbors and associates. Col. Geo. W. Ewing was the Indian agent stationed at Logansport, Ind. In January, 1835, Mr. Miller and Col. Ewing were traveling through the forests, and being belated and the Colonel not feeling well, Mr. Miller proposed that they should go and stop over night with the white woman among the Indians. Colonel Ewing had never heard of any white woman among the Indians there, but Mr. Miller assured him there was one, the wife of the Deaf Man, as her husband was called by the whites, because he became totally deaf when between thirty and forty years of age. They soon fell into a trail in the snow, made by the white woman's son-in-law, Brouillette, who had killed a deer and taken it home. Colonel Ewing suggested to Mr. Miller that they should find out the history of this white woman, and if possible make her known to her relatives. They were kindly and hospitably received at her log house on the bank of the Mississenawa, and found her in such poor health that she thought she would not live long. She was then an old woman and being under the impression she would soon die she was more than ever before ready to give some items of her history. Mr. Miller drew her into conversation about herself, and Col. Ewing sat behind her and noted down the items which he caught from the conversation.

She remembered that the Delaware Indians came to her father's house and carried her off when she was a very little girl; that her father was a Quaker, wore a broad-brimmed hat and a round coat, and his name was Slocum; that he lived on the Susquehanna river near a fort. Several of the family were away from the house when the Indians came, but her mother, sister, and brother were there. The Indians took what things they wanted from the house, and while they were pillaging, Frances and her little brother hid under the stairs. But the Indians discovered her, picked her up and carried her off screaming. Her elder sister caught up her little brother and ran off with him, and thus saved him from the savages. A boy that was living with the Slocums was shot by the Indians as he was grinding a knife near the door. Two other children, whose name she thought was Kingsley, were taken by the Indians at the same time, but as they cried constantly, the Indians became tired of them and killed them. They stopped the first night in a cave, where the Indians had left their blankets and other articles while they went out on this raid. Frances soon learned the Indian language and forgot her own. They wandered a different times from place to place, living for while near Niagara, then near Detroit, then at Fort Wayne, and finally on the Mississenawa.

Colonel Ewing, on his return to Logansport, desired to make some effort to discover her relatives, as they were still probably living. He wrote the facts which he had learned, to the Postmaster of Lancaster, Pa., and suggested their publication. The Postmaster received the letter, but thinking it all a hoax, threw it aside as worthless. After his death his wife found the letter among his old papers, some two years after it was written, and sent it to an editor in Lancaster, who published it in his paper. A copy of this paper fell into the hands of Joseph Slocum, then residing in Wyoming Valley, who immediately recognized the facts as those connected with his lost sister. He at once wrote to Colonel Ewing, and became satisfied that this was his lost sister Frances.

Isaac Slocum, another brother, had moved to Ohio, near Sandusky. On learning of the discovery of his sister, he started at once to find her. In May 1838, he came to Peru, Indiana, stopped at the hotel, and sent at once for Mr. Miller, who kept a store in the village; but Mr. Slocum not sending word as to his name or errand, Mr. Miller was told that an old gentleman, a stranger, was at the hotel, and wished to see him. He replied that he was busy and could not go. Soon a boy came with a request that Mr. Miller should come immediately, as the old man was very anxious to see him. He sent word that he would come in half an hour. Soon the boy came back and said the old man was very anxious to see him at once. Mr. Miller then went, leaving two Indian girls in the store till he should come back. They were the daughters of Frances Slocum! Mr. Miller went to the hotel and instantly recognized the old man as a brother of the white woman, by their strong family resemblance, and at once went up to him and called him Mr. Slocum. The old man asked how he knew his name was Slocum.

"By your resemblance to the white woman who lives among the Indians."
Mr. Slocum burst into tears.
"Is it possible that I have found her at last, after a search of sixty years?"

"Yes, you must be her brother. Two of her daughters are now in town and at my store."

"I want to see them. I will go with you."

"Yes, I wish you to see them, but I think I had better see them first, and you come down to my store with this boy in about twenty minutes."

Mr. Miller went and told the girls that he had found their uncle. They did not believe it.
"Yes, he is certainly your uncle. He looks very much like your mother."

"No, we do not believe he is our uncle. Others have claimed to be our relatives when they were not."

"Well, he is coming yonder with that boy. Now you look at him and see if he does not look like your mother."

They stood and watched him as he came up. The oldest girl was convinced and greeted him cordially and shook hands. The youngest girl ran to the back end of the store and began to cry. Mr. Miller tried to pacify her.
"Yes, I know it is my mother's brother, and he has come to take my mother and carry her off."

"No, he has only come to see her and make her a visit."

Mr. Miller at length persuaded her to come and speak to her uncle, though she was evidently afraid he had come to carry off her mother.

It was then late in the afternoon, but Mr. Slocum insisted on going that night to see his sister, some eight or nine miles distant. Mr. Miller accompanied him, but was careful to send the girls home by the shortest route to apprise their mother of their coming, while he purposely took a longer route. When on the way he asked Mr. Slocum if she had any certain mark by which he could recognize his sister.

"Yes; a lock of hair over one ear was perfectly white, while all the rest was sandy."

"Well, but all her hair may be white now. She is an old woman. Have you any other mark?"

"Yes; my brother one day hit her finger with a hammer on the anvil in the shop, and pounded off the end of her forefinger on her left hand. That mark she must carry still."

They reached the banks of the Mississenawa, just opposite her house, which stood so near the bank that subsequently it had to be moved to a higher point a few rods distant. Mr. Miller requested Mr. Slocum to remain on the bank until he crossed and saw the white woman. He forded the river, went to the house, and shook hands with the woman. The fingers on the right hand were all perfect. He took up the left hand, and the end of the forefinger was gone. He was fully convinced. The girls were already at home and had told the story. Mr. Miller went back and came over with Mr. Slocum. The long separated brother and sister were soon clasped in each other's arms. There was no reserve. She at once recognized the family resemblance, and acknowledged the relation. She could talk but very little English. Mr. Slocum was overcome and wept. The fountains pent up so long during his disappointed search, were now opened. He had found his lost sister, and his grateful emotions could only be expressed in a flood of tears. She was more composed. Supper was prepared. Mr. Slocum could not eat. He was too happy, too excited. When Mr. Miller retired to rest, the brother and sister were sitting side by side on a bench, talking as best they could. When he awoke in the morning they were sitting in the same place talking still. He thought they had talked all night.

The next day they went to Peru, where Isaac Slocum entertained his Indian relatives and they thus returned his visit. After a few days Mr. Slocum returned (to) his home in Ohio. Subsequently Joseph Slocum and his two daughters visited Frances at her Indian home. They endeavored to pursuade her to return home with them, but she was completely an Indian in language, habits, associations, and everything except blood, and she had no desire to leave those who had always treated her kindly, and abundantly provided for her. She was then an old woman, and could not expect to live many years. She was a queen among the Indians, and could never expect to feel at home in civilized society. She died in 1847. Her relatives had secured a grant of a section of land for her and her descendants. She had two sons and two daughters. The oldest daughter was married to Jean Baptiste Brouilette, a half-breed French and Indian. Her second daughter has lost three husbands, and is now living with the fourth, Wa-sa-pe-tah, now the Rev. Peter Bondy, a Baptist minister who preaches to his people in their native tongue.

The day following my interview with Mr. Miller, I went in company with Rev. Mr. Trenneman, in a buggy, to visit the descendants of Frances Slocum. We crossed the Wabash on a bridge at Peru, and some two or three miles beyond we crossed the Mississenawa, a mile or two from its mouth, also on a fine covered bridge. This is a beautiful stream of clear, crystal water, running over a rocky bottom, and bordered by beautiful woodlands or richly cultivated bottom lands. This fine brick two-story farm house just before us, with a nice garden, orchard, and out-houses, is the home of Godfrey, the half-breed war chief of the tribe. Those men there at work with wagon and team are Indians, and those boys at work in the garden have also the tawny hue, though in all other respects they seem like other boys. About half the houses we pass are the homes of Indians, though we cannot guess from any of the surroundings, whether the owners are whites or Indians. Here we are upon the banks of the Mississenawa, some twenty or thirty feet above its surface, and beneath us, forming the perpendicular bank, are some curiously formed bluffs of lime rock, with caves and grottoes in which pic-nic parties sometimes find a pleasant resort. The river has made a large bend, and now we reach it and ford its bright, clear waters, which do not quite reach our feet in the buggy.

Passing now a group of homes and a mill or two, a rather shabby village called Peoria, very different from the beautiful city of that name in Illinois, a mile beyond we reach the home of Frances Slocum, the lost sister. On a beautiful rounded knoll, some twenty rods from the Mississenawa, and perhaps fifty feet above its surface, stands a double log house with a wide passage between the two parts, but one roof covering the whole, with porches the whole length both front and rear, and plain home-like look about the yard. This was the home of the white woman, and here resides her daughter O-sou-wa-pak-shin-quah, Yellow Leaves, (so named because born in autumn, when the leaves are changing,) now the wife of Wa-pa-pe-tah which means all over white, as he was born in winter when the ground was white with snow. His English name, as I have said, Peter Bondy.

We are cordially greeted by brother Bondy, whom we had met before and are introduced to his wife a matronly looking woman, who cordially shakes hands, and looks both pleased and interested as I tell her that I came from the county from which her mother was stolen when a child, and that I was acquainted with her relatives. But she speaks not a word of English. We enter one part of the spacious log house. A bed stands on each side of the door and another in another corner, on which, partly reclining, is her daughter, recently injured by the kick of a horse; an educated, sensible young lady of about twenty years, ready to converse and act as interpreter when required. She spoke good English. A daughter of Brouillete also was present, a girl of sixteen or eighteen. Her father and mother are both dead and lie buried in the yard near the house, as also do Frances Slocum and her husband.

We immediately entered into conversation.

"What was Frances Slocum's Indian name?"


"What did that name mean?"

"The Young Bear."

I learned from Mrs. George Slocum, who lives near them, that the Indians gave her this name because when they stole her she cried for a long time and they tried to pacify her by giving her nice things, but she would strike them from her in anger, like a young bear, hence they called her Ma-coon-squah.
"What was her husband's Indian name?"

"The whites called him the Deaf Man, because he was totally deaf for many years. His Indian name was She-bak-o-nah."

"What does She-bak-o-nah mean?"

"Ah me no English."

"Well, can't you give some idea of it?"

He went to his bureau and took out a small iron rod about sixteen inches long, with a hole in the one end and pointed at the other. Holding it up he said, "That is the name. That is She-bak-o-nah."
"An Arrow?"


"A spear?"

"No, not a spear."

"Well, what is it?"

"Me no English."

"Well, what do you do with it?"

"Me kill deer, kill bear, kill buffalo, put string through this hole, stick it through meat, slip it on the string, hang it up to dry. This is She-bak-o-nah."

That is, a big needle to string venison with, to dry. He shows me two tomahawks, the handles ornamented with silver bands, and inlaid with silver images of rabbits, a pipe constituting the upper part of the tomahawk the handle answering for the stem to smoke through. One of these and his shebakonah he gives me for the cabinet of curiosities in our Theological Seminary in Chicago.
Taking the tomahawk he put it by his side as if in a belt, and said, "Me carry this when wild Indian, savage."

"What did you carry it for?"

"Me shoot deer' come up to him, he not quite dead; me hit him."

"Did you ever carry it in war, in battle?"

He shook his head and answered, "No."

He said, "white man cheat Indian; cheat Indian bad-fifty dollars for tomahawk."

He showed me his wooden mortar and pestle where he pounded corn into meal. Several bushels of ears of seed corn were hung up by the husk, the ears having a half dozen different colors of corn on each.

We went to the grave of Frances Slocum, but two or three rods from the house, where are perhaps a dozen graves. One was marked with a marble stone, that of Rev. Jean Baptiste Brouillette, who died two years ago, universally esteemed as an earnest Christian minister.

Frances Slocum found her home surrounded by white settlements, and felt the need of some friend to protect her rights. She desires either her brothers settle near her. This they could not do, but George Slocum, her brother Isaac's son, settled near them in 1847. He was an earnest Christian and a member of a Baptist church.

He learned their language and interested himself in their tenporal and spiritual welfare to the time of his death, some five or six years ago. I visited his widow and was most hospitably entertained at dinner. Brother Slocum had the satisfaction of seeing three Indian Baptist churches raised up there, and others have emigrated to Kansas and formed an Indian Baptist church there also. Brouillette was the first convert. Wa-pa-pe-tah (Peter Bondy) was also convicted about the same time, and both of them became Baptist preachers.

The Indians are quite poetic in their names, all of which seem to have a meaning. Brouillette's daughter, whom I saw, was born when he was past fifty years of age, and he called her O-se-nah-kis-a-me-quah (The Last Rays of the Setting Sun). Her English name is the unpoetic one of Nancy.

Some years ago the government removed most of the Miamis to the Indian Territory. This they regarded as a great hardship, and would only go as they were compelled to, by an armed force sent for that purpose. When leaving, I was told, they would fall prostrate on the ground, kiss the earth and weep bitterly to leave their dear Mississenawa valley, and each carried away a little bag of the Mississenawa earth with him when he left. About six hundred removed to the West, while only about three or four hundred remained. These are now cultivating farms and have increased to about eight hundred, while those who removed have dwindled to three hundred, a proof that Indians can live and prosper as farmers.

The name of the civil chief of the tribe is Mo-shin-go-ma-sha, who, with those around him, occupies ten or twelve square miles of land, a few miles away from the home of Frances Slocum.

How singular the providence of God in the captivity and life of this lost sister! Yet as a final result many of that benighted people have become Christians, and several connected with her family have become faithful ministers of Christ.

Copyrighted By Ralph W. Robinson, II.

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