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Captive Pioneer Mary Lewis Born: August 26, 1763

This Week in WV History
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WV Humanitites Council

Mary Lewis was born in New Jersey on August 26, 1763. After marrying Joseph Kinnan, she moved to Randolph County in 1787 and settled in the Tygart Valley.

Four years later, Shawnee raiders entered their home and killed Joseph and a neighbor child. Mary Kinnan fled the house with her young daughter, but a pursuing Indian killed the child and captured her.

It’s believed Mary was taken to the Buckhannon River, then down the Little Kanawha to the Ohio River, and eventually to a village near Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was sold several times before becoming the property of an Indian woman and settling about 20 miles from Detroit.

Nearly two years later, Mary Kinnan slipped an Indian trader a note, which found its way to her old childhood community in New Jersey. In 1794, she was rescued by her brother and brought back to New Jersey, where she lived the rest of her days, dying in 1848 at age 84.

Despite having lived in our region for only four years, Mary Kinnan’s harrowing experience has been a staple of West Virginia history books.


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