Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1998

Frances Slocum

Many school children and adults of this area are familiar with the story of Francis Slocum who was stolen from her home near Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania in November of 1778 and was discovered in her Indian home near Peru, Indiana in 1835 by George W. Ewing, an Indian trader. Mr. Ewing concluded that he would write to someone in Middle Pennsylvania in hopes that something would be published. He wrote to Lancaster but the owner of the paper there did not take the matter seriously and merely threw the letter in a stack of old papers.

About two years later when a new owner of the paper discovered the letter he published it and an inhabitant of Wilkes Barre and friend of the Slocum family sent a copy to Joseph Slocum, a brother of Francis. Soon Mr. Ewing received a letter from Jonathan - son of Joseph which said in part:

"We have received, but a few days since, a letter written by you to a gentleman in Lancaster... upon a subject of deep and intense interest to our family. How the matter should have lain so long wrapped in obscurity, we can not conceive. An aunt of mine-sister of my father -was taken away when five years old by the Indians, and since then we have had only vague and indistinct rumors upon the subject. Your letter we deem to have entirely revealed the whole matter, and set everything at rest. The description is so perfect and the incidents ... so correct that we feel confident."
"Steps will be taken immediately to investigate the matter, and we will endeavor to do all in our power to restore a lost relative who has been sixty years in Indian bondage."

Joseph Slocum, Mary Town, a sister, and Isaac Slocum, a brother came to Peru and went to Francis family home. From HISTORY OF MIAMI COUNTY by John H Stephens 1896 we have this description of the meeting:

"They had been searching for sixty years, had made long journeys, had offered large rewards, had enlisted the services and sympathy of traders and trappers, and now when they were all quite old, they were to meet the object of their long, long search! When they saw the venerable Indian queen, the brothers were overwhelmed with emotion, the sister wept. The long lost sister was perfectly indifferent, iron-hearted, cold as an iceberg. Long years among the Indians had made her thus. She had been taught to be suspicious of the whites. She said her father's name was Slocum, a Quaker, wore a broad brimmed hat, and lived on a great river near a fort; that she had seven brothers and two sisters; that her finger nail had been hammered off by her brother. This settled it. Here was the dear, little Frances, that they had pictured in their mind's eye thousands of times. She would say very little because she did not like the interpreter, Mr. Miller. At another time however, a colored man, who lived on the east end of the reservation, came to the house to interpret for a man who came to buy some stock. Through this colored man, she was induced to tell her whole story."

"...on the next Sunday, she, her two daughters and her son-in-law Brouillette, rode into town in Indian style and met the party... But before any intimacy would be established between the two parties, it was necessary, according to Indian custom, to give and receive a pledge of friendship. The oldest daughter of Frances presented a package wrapped in a clean, white cloth. This act was performed in a very solemn and formal manner, and according to instructions from the interpreter, Mrs. Town received it in the same manner. When the cloth was removed, it was found that the package contained a hind quarter of a deer, which was probably hunted for the occasion...."
The brothers urged Frances to return with them, offering to share with her all they had but she said,
"No, I can not. I have always lived with the Indians; they have always used me kindly; I am used to them. The Great Spirit has always allowed me to live with them, and I wish to live and die with them. Your looking-glass may be larger than mine, but this is my home. I do not wish to live any better, or anywhere else, and I think the Great Spirit has permitted me to live so long because I have always lived with the Indians. I should have died sooner if I had left them. On his dying bed my husband charged me not to leave the Indians. I have a house and large lands, two daughters, a son-inlaw, three grand children, and everything to make me comfortable; why should I go, and be like a fish out of water?"

"They then asked her to make a visit to her early home. She replied: "I can not. I can not. I am an old tree. I was a sapling when they took me away. It is all gone past. I am afraid that I should die and never come back. I am happy here. I should not be happy with my white relatives. I am glad enough to see them, but I can not go."

"Joseph Slocum was not satisfied with his first visit and in September, 1839 he, with his youngest and oldest daughters....made another visit. This time Frances received her relatives with more warmth and talked more freely... they learned the whole story of her life."

The captivity as Frances told it: "Three Delaware Indians came suddenly to our house. They killed and scalped a man by the door. A boy ran into the house and he and I hid under the stair case. The Indians came into the house and up stairs. They took some loaf sugar and some bundles of other things.

They carried us through the bushes. I looked back, but saw no one except my mother. They carried us over the mountains -it seemed to me a long way-to a cave where they had left their blankets and some other things. There was a bed of leaves and there we lay all night. We reached this place while it was yet light. I was very tired, and I lay down on the ground and cried until I fell asleep.

"The next morning we set off early, and we traveled many days in the woods before we came to an Indian village. When we stopped at night, the Indians would make a bed of hemlock boughs, and make up a great fire at their feet which would last all night. They roasted their meat by sticking a stick into it and holding it to the fire. They drank at the brooks and springs, and made me a little cup of birch bark to drink out of. The Indians were very kind to me; when they had anything to eat, I always had the best; when I was tired, they carried me in their arms; and in a short time I began to feel much better and stopped crying. I do not know where the Indian village was at which we first stopped; we only staid there a few days.

"Very early one morning two of the same Indians took a horse, and set the boy and me on it, and set off upon a journey. One Indian went before and the other behind driving the horse. We traveled a long way when we came to the village where these Indians belonged. I now found that one of them was an Indian chief whom they called Tuck-horse. I do not know what that name means. Early one morning, Tuck-horse took me and dressed my hair in the Indian fashion and painted my face. He then dressed me up and put on me beautiful wampum beads and made me look very fine. I was much pleased with the wampum. We then lived on a hill not far from a river, and I remember, he took me by the hand and led me down to the river side to a house where lived an old man and woman. They had once several children but now they were all gone-either killed in battle or died very young. When the Indians thus lose all their children they often adopt some new child as their own and treat it in all respects as their own. This is the reason they often carry away the children of white people. I was brought to these old people to have them adopt me if they would. They seemed unwilling at first, but after Tuck-horse talked to them awhile, they agreed to it and this was my home.

"It was now the fall of the year, for chestnuts had come. There were a great many Indians here, and here we remained all winter. The Indians were furnished with ammunition and provisions by the British. We went from Niagara to near Detroit, where we lived three years. My adopted father made chairs, which he sold; he also played on the fiddle, and frequently went into the white settlements and played and received pay for it. My adopted mother made baskets and brooms, which she sold. The British made them presents of ammunition and food, which they had to go after in the night.

"In the spring we went down to a large river-Detroit river-where the Indians built a great many bark canoes. When they were finished we went up Detroit river, where we remained three years.
"There had been war between the British and Americans, and the American army had driven the Indians away from around the fort where I was adopted. In their fights the Indians use to bring home scalps. I don't know how many. When peace was made between the British and Americans, we lived by hunting, fishing and raising corn. The reason why we staid here so long was that we heard the Americans had destroyed all our villages and corn fields.

"After three years, my family and another Delaware family removed to Ft. Wayne, after Wayne's victory. I do not know where the other Indians went. This was now my home and we lived there thirty years I suppose. We lived on Eel river, not far from Ft. Wayne. I was there at the time of Harmer's defeat. At the time of this defeat the women and children were all made to run north. I do not know whether the Indians took any prisoners or brought home any scalps at this time. After the battle they all scattered and returned to their homes. I then returned to Ft. Wayne again. The Indians who returned from this battle were Delawares, Pottawattomies, Shawnees and Miamis.

"I was always treated kindly by the Delawares; and while I lived with them I was married to a Delaware by the name of Little Turtle. He afterwards left me and went west of the Mississippi. I would not go with him. My old mother staid here, and I chose to stay with her. My adopted father could talk English, and so could I while he lived. It has been a long time since I forgot it all.
"The Delawares and Miamis were then living together as one.