Graphic Enterprises - Home of the Pioneer Times - A Web Site for Living History



 The Pioneer Times   July - September 2005

The Battle of Peckuwe Re-Enactment George Rogers Clark Park - Springfield, Ohio

By Jim Cummings

The crowd waiting for the action to begin.

WOW! I’ll say it again. WOW! It was the 225th Anniversary of the Battle of Peckuwe - when George Rogers Clark and his Kentuckians went against the Shawnee Indian town of Peckuwe.

Clark brought 1000 men and cannon, crossing the Ohio River and going up the Little Miami River to the first town of Chillicothe. But the Indian scouts had spread word of his arrival and the Indians had fled Chillicothe.Clark burned the town and it’s crops to the ground. He then advanced the 12 miles to Peckuwe. There the Shawnees had consolidated with Miami, Delaware and Mingo Indians. This is were the Indians decided to stand and fight and for their land.

The line had been drawn and they were not going to move.

And now on with the re-enactment. The organizers of this show deserve 6 Huzzahs for a job well done. I salute you. The folks from The George Rogers Clark Heritage Association wanted to make this living history re-enactment memorable and they exceeded far beyond expectations.

I for one was totally entertained and so were the estimated 1800 to 2000 spectators. The battle lasted for aproximately 45 minutes. There were two cannons including a brand new brass 6 pounder, that made a big bang! The crowd loved it and there was also a three pounder that was kept busy throughout the battle.

This was one of the best regional battle re-enactments I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen a few.) It was well coordinated, well planned and well organized.

The George Rogers Clark Heritage Association drew some of the best re-enactors from the area. The men portraying Clark’s Kentuckians did an excellent job.

And as always the organizers were worried about Indians. Because you can’t have a battle without the Indians.

Well, not to fear they had plenty of native re-enactors. Everyone pitched in and there were even woman dressed as Indians. I was talking to a group of about 8 Indians and 4 of them were women. It really blew me away. Two were women I had known for some time and didn’t even recognize them. They looked great.

I would estimate that there were about 125 or more re-enactors present that took an active part in this great living history event.

One of the things that made this event special were the pyro technichs. When a cannon was fired at one end of the field an explosion occurred at the other end of the field as if a cannon ball was striking the ground, complete with a little ground shake.

Then as the Indians were being forced back by Clark’s men and the cannon fire, God opened the heavens and it began to rain. Not a drizzle, but a full fledged downpour. At one point it came down so hard that you could not see the other end of the field.

You might say, hey a little rain won’t hurt you. And you would be right. But digital camera equipment isn’t so lucky. When the rain started people were covering cameras with arms, shirts, hats and umbrellas. I didn’t have an umbrella with me and a very kind man offered me one of his. And I will be forever greatful to him. Thank you, sir. As I was hustling to get my camera gear secure and safe I thought, well that will be the end of the show. Then all of a sudden I heard a big boom. It was the 6 pounder. And then from the other end of the field near the Indian village came a thud and a great plume of smoke.

They didn’t stop. I couldn’t believe it. They weren’t stopping. The crowd started to cheer and clap. Clark’s army was still advancing down the field. The Indians continued to fire even as they were being forced back. It was inspiring. This was great. Really great. They continued to fire and I continued to take pictures from under my borrowed umbrella. At thias point I firgured my camera couldn’t get any wetter ands if the stouthearted re-enactors were going to continue - so was I.

Then I noticed something in my view finder and I zoomed in. No re-enactors were smiling as we usually see. Neither the military or the Indians. I don’t know if they felt it or sensed it - they were in a zone. Everything was coming together and nothing else seemed to matter. The only thing that matters when this happens is the task at hand. Runners call it the wall. Once they hit the wall they can go on forever.

I captured some of this in my lens. The re-enactors were in a zone. See if you can spot it in the photos. I too, was in a zone that day. I kept snapping and snapping taking photos as much caught up in it as they were. 

 So, to the great folks from George Rogers Clark Heritage Association, the staff of George Rogers Clark Park and the volunteers and re-enactors - you did a great job.

From the veteran re-enactors to the newbys - a job well done. And a special salute to the women that portrayed Indian warriors - a special salute. This is what re-eancting and living history is all about.

You have raised the bar of re-enacting to a new height. If other events can match what you’ve achieved. living history re-enactments will soar to new heights! 

Click Here to go to the photo page for The Battle of Pecuwe

July 2005


Melungeon Fact or Fiction
Conference in Frankfort, KY

DruAnna Overbay gave a presentation on the Vardy community of Hancock County, TN. Claude Collins, who also lived in the Vardy community area and attended the Vardy School for Melungeon children, assisted her.

Back to the Mountain

Story and photos by Helen E. McKinney

For many centuries, Melungeon heritage has been suppressed. This has done nothing for the self-confidence of Melungeon descendants, whose ancestors were a mix of some combination of European whites, African Americans, Native American (primarily Cherokees), Portuguese, Spanish, Moors, Berbers and Turks. Twenty-first century descendants are now realizing just where they came from, and finding answers to their genetic makeup; answers that satisfy so many questions they were once cautioned not to ask. 

Melungeons: Fact or Fiction? was a two-day conference held on Saturday, July 29-30, 2005 at the Holiday Inn Capital Plaza in Frankfort, KY. Sponsored by the Melungeon Heritage Association, many Melungeon descendants came forward to share their narratives and publicly make known the stories that have been stifled for decades. 

It was a weekend of story telling, but not of the fairly tale, happily-ever-after sort. Melungeons are real people, who faced real problems. They were persecuted for the way they looked and stigmatized for certain surnames that families carried. The Melungeon peoples have been pushed as far away from “civilization” as their more European-looking counterparts could drive them.

Ron Bryant

The day began with keynote speaker Ron Bryant, Kentucky historian and genealogist specialist. In his own words, Bryant was once ”one of the more severe critics” of the Melungeon culture. A ninth generation Kentuckian, he doubted the many theories surrounding the evolution of Melungeons. Did they come from the Lost Colony of Roanoke, were they slaves dropped on the Carolina coasts by Sir Frances Drake in 1586, explorers from de Soto’s 1540 expedition party, or remnants of the 1566 Spanish settlement of the Santa Elena colony in Florida? “Melungeons represent the ’melting pot’ of America,” said Bryant. While some of the theories can’t be rejected, they can’t be proved either. 

Today’s Melungeon researchers have to look for “what is history vs. what is not history,” said Bryant. Once classified on census lists as FC (Free Persons of Color) or as Portuguese, the Melungeon’s suppressed their heritage and identity, afraid to admit to who they really were. They were neither purely Caucasian nor African American, and were shunned by both races. “People don’t understand things that are different from them,” Bryant said.  

Their stories were hidden, in the hopes that future generations would look “white” enough to assimilate into the mainstream culture through marriage. Those who could pass for light-skinned Europeans could better themselves without anyone knowing of their Melungeon lineage. As decades passed, even they didn’t know of their own past, with no written or oral traditions being passed on. They were denied the right to be proud of their past and carry on Melungeon traditions to the future. “Being different was not healthy, “said Bryant. “ mixed heritage was unacceptable,” in the past, he said.

Questions and conversation were the order of the day.

A roster of speakers for the day included Terry Mullins, a direct descendant of Melungeons from Hancock County, TN. His grandfather, John H. Mullins, Sr., left Sneedville, TN in 1900, traveling up the Clinch Valley to Tazewell County, VA. Both were isolated areas, said Mullins. His grandfather was “escaping prejudice.”

Today Mullins teaches at Bluefield College in Tazewell County, VA but began to delve into his background while attending college. He discovered the truth about his relatives and has never been the same since. “Society is unwilling to accept that diversity,” that is Melungeon, said Mullins. The solution has been to “live our lives separate from the mainstream,” he said.

Just before WWII, Hitler sent a group to Virginia to study W. A. Plecker’s quest for racial purity. Walter Ashby Plecker was the head of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1936. Plecker had claimed the world must be rid of Melungeons and as early as 1924 urged the Virginia legislature to pass the Racial Integrity Act,” which specified that only those with one-sixteenth or less Indian blood could be considered “White.” He used the 1924 Racial Integrity Act to classify Virginia Indians and mixed-race individuals as "colored," and therefore denied basic civil rights under Virginia's system of segregation. Plecker went so far as to demand the removal of bodies from white cemeteries. “As a result, many Melungeons fled into the mountains, “said Mullins.

DruAnna Overbay gave a presentation on the Vardy community of Hancock County, TN. Claude Collins, who also lived in the Vardy community area and attended the Vardy School for Melungeon children,

Wayne Winkler, president of The Melungeon Heritage Association

assisted her. Born in 1942, Overbay is a direct descendant of Vardeman Collins (also called Vardy or Navarrh) for whom the area is named. She is on a “life-long quest to dispel the stereotypes associated with my family and friends.”

For the longest time, Overbay said she “couldn’t understand why we needed to be ashamed of who we were.” Like many others, Overbay came to the point where she questioned who she was and went in search of the answers. Many descendants have penned books about their heritage and when her parents, Alice and Dru Williams, did decide to talk, their “cooperation was priceless,” said Overbay.

Overbay has a traveling exhibit of photographs of the Vardy School and Melungeon peoples entitled, Windows on the Past.” She often shares memories of her childhood in the Vardy community along with Claude Collins.

Writer Helen McKinney studies the photo exhibit.

Collins was attending the University of Tennessee when he first heard of the word Melungeon. Opening up a copy of the Saturday Evening Post, he saw a picture of his aunts and uncles. He read the article and later questioned his mother whose reply was, don’t you name that word again.” 

Photo from a Dr. C.M. Lipsey slide from the school at Vardy

For Elizabeth Hirschman, who was born in Kingsport, TN, she had always looked Hispanic or Mediterranean. Both of her parents are of Melungeon origin. In her book, Melungeons: the Last Lost Tribe in America, Hirschman has concluded that a good portion of Melungeons were Moorish, Berber and Sephardim Jews. “There’s nobody like us,” she said. 

Elizabeth Hirschman

Hirschman recently spent three weeks in Morocco with her 19-year-old daughter Annie. She immersed herself in the culture, noticing the physical traits, mannerisms and dialect of the Mediterranean people.

She has also spent the last four summers in Scotland, collecting research for a book she has co-authored with Don Yates. When Scotland Was Jewish details three large waves of Jewish people who immigrated into Scotland, a country normally thought of as having a Celtic origin.

 For many of those assembled at the Melungeon conference in Frankfort, it was a day of storytelling. The Melungeons are a people just waiting to be heard. Centuries have pushed their ethnic culture into the mountains, making them ashamed of themselves and their ancestors and leaving behind very few written records of their lives. Now the time has come to unearth so many secrets that were once locked tightly away. The present generation’s heritage will provide their children with a future. Overbay said it best by commenting, “I wear my ancestry with pride.” 

*Special thanks also to Wayne Winkler and Brent Kennedy who shared their insight into the Melungeon culture for previous articles.

Click here to go to the Online Store. Also available Melungeon T-Shirt

Also visit the Melungoon Heritage Association website at

September 2005


The Legacy of Mary Ingles

by Jim Cummings

Winfield, WV - Pioneer Times covered an event for the first time the third week of September. It was entitled “The Legacy of Mary Ingles.” We were very surprised at what we saw and heard.

This Mary Ingles event is in it’s 18th year and I am surprised that it is not at the top of the list for both re-enactors and educators. It was a really great event. It was not a “Battle - bang bang shoot ‘em up event that re-enactors flock to. It was an educational event that other educators could learn from.

Located in the beautiful mountain valley of the Kanawha River in Winfield, West Virginia. The event took place on private land in a small valley surrounded by mountains and with a creek snaking through it.

On one side of the mountain in the clearing was a natural amphitheater with four or five wild apple trees. Up to this point it was like a school day at any re-enactment. After the kids went through the settlers camps and talked to the interpreters, parents and teachers guided the approximately 300 students toward the hillside amphitheater.

After they were all seated there was still a lot of noise and milling about by the students as there always is. Well this lasted about 15 minutes and the roar from the kids was getting louder at the 92 degree temperature seemed to be getting even hotter. And I said to myself there is going to be no way to settle these youngsters down.

Then a gentleman stepped forward. He was one of the best “opening acts” I’ve ever seen. He encouraged the kids to scream on command and also to be quiet on his command. It worked like a charm and soon the audience was listening to every word. For the first time you could hear a gentle breeze through the leaves of the trees and birds singing. The children were ready for the first speaker.

First came an introduction about what was about to begin. The speakers were all historical figures from the local area from over 200 to 250 years ago.

The highlights of the day for me were Mary Draper Ingles and Chief Logan. The story of Mary Ingles started in an area in nearby Virginia in 1755. Mary Ingles and several of her family members were attacked and captured by Shawnee Indians and taken from their settlement of Draper Meadows.

 Ingles traveled and lived with the Indians for several months before she escaped in the company of an Old Dutch woman. The two were accompanying Indians and French traders on a salt making expedition to Big Bone Lick located in northern Kentucky. From there Mary Ingles by the shear determination of her willpower traveled back along the Ohio, the Kanawha and the New River. It was a journey of almost 45 days with little food and almost no supplies. She arrived home nearly naked and starved to death. Her hair had turned completely white.

But this is where it really got good. No, not just good but great. This was not just re-enacting this was theater. Like a play with different acts. When these folks took the stage it was magic. No PA system but actors booming out their lines. The sound carried well in the natural amphiyheater and the kids sat silent and watched and listened with great intent.

I must say I was spellbound at what I was seeing. It was a little touch of Broadway on a West Virginia hillside. And the historical content was well researched and written.

And then it got even better for me. For I was in one location taking pictures and Kathy was in another. We were shooting from different angles across the sea of faces. And from across the two angles we began to capture the emotional look on the kids (and their parents and teachers) faces . The actors had these kids right where they wanted them. In the palm of their hands.

Anther nice touch was their interaction with the crowd. Several of the actors moved through the crowd. One of the Indians even entered from behind them, surprising the crowd. You could see spellbound faces and small hands reaching out to touch the garments. When the salt maker held out a bowl of the red tinged salt that would have come from the area she was nearly mobbed with kids wanting to see and touch.

Chief Logan told his story and recited his famous speech. Rebecca Boone also told of coming through the area on the way to Kentucky.

But my favorite by far was the older Mary Ingles who came to tell her life story. 

She told of living in Draper Meadows with her family and being attacked and captured by Shawnee Indians. She told of her escape with the old Dutch woman from Big Bone Lick in Northern Kentucky. She told of her arduous journey to get back home ti Virginia.

Mary Ingles was played by Brenda McBrayer and man could she act. When she belted out her lines you could hear them in downtown Charleston. If I thought the kids had been engrossed earlier - this lady had them spellbound. Her gestures and the eye contact she made with the kids was superb.

Her lines were low and clear, her inflection was precise and with feeling and she made me believe she was Mary Ingles.

After the performance the kids had lunch on the grounds and then broke up into small groups to visit the campsites. This was one of the three school days these folks put on.

I only wish we could have attended on the weekend too. Instead of amphitheater style the performances are given along the trail. We walked the trail with two Indian guides and it was amazing. The trail guides are listed in the program as “land agents.” They walk guests through the wooded trail were they meet the very same performers that we had seen on school day.

The Mary Ingles Trail Associates who put on this event get three huzzahs from me. I would rate this program five tomahawks out of six. The re-enactors performances and historical content especially the natives all rate a six. The dress of the participants for the time period could have been a little better, Overall a really great event.

More About The Journey of Mary Ingles


Walking in Their Footsteps

By Kathy Cummings

Do you ever look around and realize that you might be standing on the same ground as a famous historical figure.

To me, growing up in Cincinnati in the 50’s - going to Kentucky meant one thing. My great Aunt and Uncle had a farm near Petersburg, KY. To us the adventure meant crossing the Ohio River on the Anderson Ferry. Once on the Kentucky side we followed the curvy mountainous roads to “The Farm.” The journey took about an hour. Today with the addition of I-275 you could make it in less than half that. The remodeled old farmhouse sat on a hillside high above a bend in the Ohio River. We lazed in the hammock and watched riverboats go by far below. The property reached down to the river but aside from a stray cow (we could hear the cowbells) no one ever traversed the hillside all the way down.

The beautiful Ohio

After a recent trip to Big Bone Lick State Park a strange thought occurred to me. Mary Ingles and The Old Dutchwoman must have crossed the very land where I played as a child. I ran my finger along the map and traced the route from Big Boone Lick along the Ohio River and sure enough it crossed the property.

The Story of Mary Ingles

Mary Draper Ingles was captured by Shawnee Indians from Draper Meadows in 1755. Draper’s Meadow was in Virginia and was one of the first settlements west of the Allegheny Mountains. Of those present at the settlement that fateful day, 4 were killed, 2 wounded and three were captured along with two children. Although pregnant, Mary Ingles along with her children - 4-year-old Thomas and 2-year-old George and sister-in-law Bettie were taken by the Indians. Another settler named Henry Lenard was also captured. Bettie Draper’s infant child was pulled from her. The baby was killed. Bettie suffered a broken arm. The captives were taken back along the New River to the Kanawha to the Ohio River to the Shawnee towns.

Although some accounts differ most agree that Mrs. Ingles bore her third child, a daughter along the trail. In a true testament to her courage and fitness, she continued on the trail shortly after the birth without causing any delay to the Indians. For many a captive such an event would have spelled imminent death. Babies who cried or women who could not keep up the pace were often killed along the trail. Mrs. Ingles was permitted to ride a horse, along with her children for much of the way. It is believed that this concession was granted her to increase her value as a captive – either for ransom or for the adoptive value of her three children. Shortly after arriving into Ohio at the Shawnee towns her two sons were separated from her and adopted into other families. The infant daughter that she had borne along the trail remained with her.

William Ingles, her husband, saw the flames from the burning settlement and knew of his family’s fate but was powerless to do anything about it. Arriving on the scene unarmed and way outnumbered would have been certain death for him.

The life decisions we make today pale in comparison to the life and death decisions made by our ancestors. 

Mary Ingles managed to stay alive although Henry Lenard did not. She helped to care for Bettie’s broken arm and the Indians allowed her to bind it and apply a poultice to it.

From the Indians plunder of the homes in Draper’s Meadow she managed to salvage her sewing basket. By indicating to them through signs that she would mend garments for them they had returned the basket to her. It was this same skillful sewing that kept her alive when they reached the Ohio country. There were two French traders in the camp. From them she got cloth and she sewed the white man’s hunting shirts that the Indians favored.

While in captivity she continually contemplated escape. She knew that her older children were lost to her - but her husband remained. She did not want to become the wife of a Shawnee Indian. On hearing that she was to go with a party of Indians on a salt expedition she was excited. To be back on the Ohio River meant she was that much closer to home. But to her dismay the party turned westward going instead to the area we know today as Big Bone Lick. Here the ancient mastodons had become mired in the heavy salt bogs and only their bones remained. The Indians came to this area to boil the water to obtain the salt.

Accompanying the party was a young Indian woman. She cared for the Ingles’ baby while Mary cooked and worked. There was also another, older woman whom history remembers only as “The Old Dutchwoman.” Spending several weeks at the site the two who were responsible for cooking the meals managed quite a bit of freedom. Although there was a language barrier between them, as the only two white women they did manage to communicate.

Mary Ingles still had two great decisions to make. Taking her infant daughter on the journey she was contemplating was certain death to the infant. If she could survive the hardships, which would be doubtful there was still the chance of being recaptured. That too would be certain death to both of them. But if she left the baby behind she would be raised by the young woman who obviously cared greatly for her. This infant would never know any other life or any other family. It was a heart wrenching decision but probably the wisest choice she could make.

Some accounts fail to mention this third child, born along the trail. Some of the Ingles descendants say they had no proof of it. That the family never talked of another child. Others said that maybe it was simply easier never to talk about that child left behind for her own safety. 

The other decision facing Mary Ingles concerned “The Old Dutchwoman”. Should she tell her of her plans? If the woman did not want to risk the escape, would she give her secret away. But although “The Old Dutchwoman” did not have as driving a need to return as did Mary, she longed for the German cooking, big meals and the familiar life she remembered. A lifetime with the Shawnees was not appealing to her.

So while out gathering wild grapes, walnuts and hickory nuts the two women risked their escape. They had managed to secure a tomahawk from one of the Frenchmen. After using it to crack nuts the day before, they had carefully hidden it for their journey along with a blanket.

At first the Indians merely thought they had gotten lost in the woods. The two women only had one plan - to follow the river. Whatever else they did, they must stay along the course of the river to reach home. The harrowing account of their journey has been chronicled in many writings. Follow the River by James Alexander Thom is the most notable although it is historical fiction. Trans-Allegheny Pioneers by John Hale includes narratives by Ingles’ descendants.

It is estimated that Mary Ingles and “The Old Dutchwoman” traveled over 1,000 miles to return home to Draper Meadows. By the end of their harrowing journey they were starved, nearly naked and half crazed. The final days included scaling the rock walls along the New River. Even for an experienced climber this is difficult. For a woman who had been traveling without hardly any provisions for weeks it seems next to impossible. But the force driving Mary Ingles was strong. Her will overcame her circumstances.

Each small creek had to be forded…..

The most amazing thing to me was that neither woman could swim. When they came across a. creek or stream that emptied into the river they had to cross it. If it was too deep or too wide they backtracked up that creek until it was shallow enough to cross. This added days and mile to their journey. After a harrowing 43 days with little food they both managed to make it back to Virginia. Although in the final days they had parted ways. The old Dutchwoman had become so starved, that half out of her mind, she had attacked Mary Ingles. Fighting her off Ingles had managed to find a canoe and crossed to the other side of the river. They finished their journey on opposite sides of the river but both did survive.

Ingles stumbled into a camp belonging to Adam Harmon, a former neighbor. He recognized the starved and naked woman in amazement. It had been four months since the attack at Drapers Meadow. He and his sons tended to her carefully before taking her back to the nearest fort. Her long awaited reunion with her husband was still a few days off. He had traveled down to Cherokee country to see if he could learn any news of his family. The Cherokee Indians were friendlier to the settlers at that time and it was thought that they might be able to negotiate for prisoners from the Shawnee.

 Mary Ingles was reunited with her husband Will and they continued to live in the area. They started a ferry, aptly named Ingles Ferry where they lived for many years. She long outlived her husband who died in 1782. Mary Ingles lived to be 84 dying in 1815. They had 4 more children after her return from captivity.

Her sister-in-law Bettie Draper spent 6 years with the Shawnee before they could arrange her release. From her, the Ingles learned that their youngest son, George, had died shortly after his adoption into the tribe. Their son Thomas was found and bought back from the Shawnees for $150. But he had spent almost 13 years in the native environment. He was never completely at ease in either culture. He continually moved and lived on the edge of the frontier. Ironically his own wife and children were taken in an Indian raid years later.

The road to my Aunt and Uncle’s farm is mostly grown over now. It really ceased being a working farm after my Uncle died in 1959. Although he was an architect that made the trip to and from his office in Cincinnati every day he managed the help that kept the property running. He was also restoring the 150 year old farmhouse at the time of his death of a heart attack.

My Aunt kept the farm until she died in 1999. She spent weekends there with her sisters well into the late 1970’s. It was then that the house was burned down one cold night to hide a robbery on the vacant property. By the time the flames were noticeable to the nearest neighbor, over a mile away, even the stonewalls and chimney had buckled under the great heat.

It seems somehow fitting to me that the property has returned to nature. For these were the hills walked by the Shawnee Indians. This was the path that the first white woman in Kentucky traversed. I wonder if I could stand on that hillside today would I still see the passing riverboats – or would my mind now see instead the ghosts of the past. Hear the footfalls of Mary Ingles and the Old Dutchwoman on their long journey back to Virginia. Would I hear the echoes of the settlers on flatboats as they were ambushed by Indians. Or would I see the spirits of George Rogers Clark and his men coming from Ft. Pitt. Across the river on the Indiana side just a bit further south Archibald Lochry and his men were ambushed while going ashore to feed their horses.

And so the thought remains - who has walked before us on this land we call Kentucky.

For further reading:
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom

Trans-Allegheny Pioneers by John P. Hale edited by Harold J. Dudley

The Photo Gallery of Events

18th Century Living History Events

Fort Boonesborough Events

19th Century Living History Events

Civil War Living History Events

Timeline Events

Indoor Trade Events

Museums, Workshops, Schools and Other Events