Angels Along the River: Retracing the Escape Route of Mary Draper Ingles

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Don't miss this one! I am a descendant of Mary Draper Ingles and very much enjoyed reading this book. Long ago, my mother had said that there was some story in our family history of a woman who was taken captive by Indians and escaped and got back to her family, but she did not know her name or any details. Only about 3 years ago on ancestry. Mary Draper Ingles. It was so inspiring to me, especially since the child I am descended from was born after the ordeal.

It warms my heart to see how other people even if not descended from her are inspired by her story. Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Following the River by James Alexander Thom is one of my all time favorite books--the true story of an incredibly strong, brave and resourceful woman who was determined to return to her family against all odds.

I was thrilled to discover this account of another, similar woman who fought against 20th century obstacles as she retraced as much as possible Mary's steps along the Ohio River in The first goal was to reach back in history, touch an inspiring event, and through this event she was inspired to accomplish her own adventure. Mary's true story is dramatically told by James Thom in Follow the River and Eleanor's story has many parallel themes of spirit and strength.

Her second goal, in my opinion, was to honor and give thanks to the many people or "angels" who helped her along the way. These "angels" were ordinary people, in most cases, who significantly changed Eleanor's direction in life- changed her attitudes, her perceptions, and her fears. It's been a long time since I have read a story with so much courage, substance, and tenacity of the human spirit.

I would recommend this book to anyone who hungers for this experience and a sense of adventure. Sue Kennedy. One person found this helpful. She read it in a day not bad for an 88 year old woman! Great book!!!!! My husband is now reading Follow the River as a precursor to reading Angels Along the River, and I am going to read it when I finish the book I am currently reading. This is the kind of book that you can't wait to get back to in order to see what happens next! I was not disappointed. She tells the story of Mary along with her own story and with respect and grace interweaves the two together.

You will feel like you are walking right along the river with her as she describes the highs and lows of her journey. One must read Follow the River, by J. Thom first. I found this book to be very inspiring. Lahr is amazing. I could only dream to do what she accomplished. However, one must read "Follow The River" by J.

Thom, or this book may lose you. I feel indeed there were angels along both her river and Mary Ingles river, both seen and unseen. Kudos to Lahr for a job well done. Then I remembered the reason for the walk [hike]. See all 18 reviews.


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On the day of their decision, the two put all possible distance between themselves and the Shawnee camp, taking pains, however, to double back from their true course to throw off possible pursuers. At sundown, they hid among leaves and branches, waiting fearfully for the search they were sure must follow. Search the Indians did, but probably thinking that the women had fallen prey to wild beasts, they soon gave up.

At dawn the women crept from hiding, unaware that the Indians had abandoned thought of further pursuit. Regaining their track, they angled back to the edge of the Ohio River. It does not strain credulity to surmise that the two women were overseen by a guardian angel. Most of their route would be through country that had never felt the tread of a white foot, through forests that had been standing for untold centuries, through the haunts of beasts that had seldom seen an interloper.

In that land and in those days, animate danger did not lurk; it leapt unafraid. And even though explorers and land promoters later admitted that this countryside teemed with wildcats, bears, cougars, and wild boars, traditional accounts maintain that Mary Draper Ingles and Mrs. Bingamin never encountered anything even as fearsome as a polecat. But they would find that not all the dangers in these forests were four-footed. For Mary this was no unthinking plunge into the unknown. She knew well enough what a stupendous chunk of country lay between her and home.

No one will ever know the exact length of the tortuous, up-and-down path the women had to travel—but it was close to eight hundred miles.

Mary Draper Ingles

Their only certain pointer to the east and civilization was the Ohio River. Their starting point, on that morning after the escape, was some forty miles downstream and across the river from the bend that would someday sprout the city of Cincinnati. They trudged eastward, and for the first week or so the trip was almost pleasurable.

It was the end of September, and the days seemed to take warmth from the flaming autumn foliage; the women averaged thirty miles a day. If their diet of pohickory nuts, chinquapins, papaws, and scuppernongs got monotonous, at least there was a sufficiency of it. The nights were getting crisper, but by burrowing deep into great banks of dead leaves and huddling together under their blankets, they slept without too much discomfort. The only habitations they passed were a few beaver houses half-submerged in small wayside streams. But their trek was taking them through the squares and along the streets of many a city-to-be.

Retracing the Escape Route of Mary Draper Ingles

Between Big Bone Lick and their first landmark—Shawnee Town, on the other side of the river—they wended through the future Kentucky market towns of Covington, Newport, Augusta, Maysville, and Vanceburg. They would have tried to add meat to their vegetarian menu, but their only weapon was one tomahawk—Mrs. Bingamin had either lost hers or got tired of carrying it—and Mary had scant idea how to use the thing for hunting game.

When the travellers came abreast of Shawnee Town they made a cautious detour inland. It added several miles to their trek but brought them good fortune. At dusk, they found a falling-down, deserted cabin.

Mary Draper Ingles - Wikipedia

Beside it was a strangled patch of corn in the midst of which was a swaybacked old horse wearing a bell. They slept in the cabin and breakfasted on ears of raw corn, a welcome change from their accustomed diet. When they moved on they took the horse. He was a wretchedly woebegone old skate that should have been riding, not ridden.

But he was a source of encouragement for the women, who took turns riding and walking. Thus they passed the sites of present-day Ashland and Catlettsburg and came to the Big Sandy River where it debouches into the Ohio from the south. They found it uncrossable. Neither could swim, and they despaired of ever constructing a serviceable raft.

They had to turn southward along the Big Sandy until it was shallow enough to ford. This took them more than twenty miles off course, to the Y where the Big Sandy is formed by the confluence of the Tug and Levisa forks. So much driftwood had piled up at the junction that it formed an unbroken but shifty bridge from one side to the other. After some hesitation, the women decided to brave it. They tried to get the horse over, too. The women had to clamber precariously from tree trunk to stump to taproot as the mass of flotsam turned, skidded, or floated away beneath their weight.

Halfway across, the melancholy old plug plunged through a drift and was stranded, bellied over a thick bole. The women tried heroically to free him, but they were helpless without a hoist of some sort. Finally they had to leave the poor nag marooned. They hurried on without looking back, and he let them depart without audible reproach. After crossing the Big Sandy the two women found the going no longer easy or rapid. With October came colder weather. Their clothes were now tattered and their moccasins worn out. Even at night, curled up under shelving rocks, the women suffered greatly from exposure.

Rains severely cut their fare, too. The trees and bushes were fast losing their fruit; nuts and berries fell and rotted on the ground. Often their only meal of the day was pieces of soft bark, roots, or any other edible-looking flora.

Bingamin began to speculate on which of them would be driven to eat the other. They even drew lots. When Mary lost, she tried to insure that the grisly jest not become serious. Bingamin was larger and stronger than Mary, but the younger woman managed to placate her and still her tirade against having been inveigled into leaving the Shawnees to starve in the wilderness.

Mary, too, was disheartened at the number of times they had to backtrack along an intervening stream before being able to cross it, and then having to come back all that way without having made a mile of homeward progress. The success that the fron tier s women enjoyed in this heartbreaking trek was less mysterious to them than to anyone today who retraces their line of march.

More than luck and guardian angels led Mary and Mrs. Bingamin to their primary goal, the Kanawha River, which they could follow to the New River and the home valley: the Indian paths, or traces, through the forest primeval were evident to them. A number of streams might be confusingly similar to the one they sought, but the great east-west road paralleled only the Kanawha.

It must have been thus that the women found the river. Mary rejoiced as they turned along its western bank and headed directly south toward her beloved Meadows. But there was as much cause for despair as rejoicing. Their journey was only half over; the mountains lay ahead; and the pilgrims were in sad shape. The weather was becoming increasingly bitter. In the foothills of the Alleghenies the women were blasted by icy winds sweeping down from the peaks. They bound shreds of their clothing around their feet with strands of the leatherwood shrub.

This left them garbed only in their stolen blankets, now nearly threadbare. Food was just about nonexistent. Often, in desperation, they would seize and devour anything that was green and growing. As often as not this avidity would leave them doubled up with agonizing cramps or limp from vomiting or diarrhea. But even at such times, despite her pain or weakness, Mrs.

Bingamin was still able to find strength to blame Mary and revile her with frightenine malevolence. They had only one filling meal during the whole time they struggled along the Kanawha. It is nauseating to contemplate, even from a distance of two centuries. All agree, however, that it was in an advanced state of decomposition. Its fetid odor sickened the women even as they tore into it.

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But eat it they did, ravenously, and they carried the few remaining scraps of meat with them when they went on. They groped along the Kanawha to Coal River, far up that stream, across it, back down again to the Kanawha, and on past the future site of Charleston. Daily they saw deer and other game foraging, but there was no way to run them down. Bingamin was getting more rabid by the mile, her rage against her companion increasing with her pangs of hunger. From here the journey became a nightmarish treadmill. Every league of the leafless forest was exactly like the one they had just covered.

They crossed an interminable series of creeks, then unknown and unnamed—Rush, Pens, Fields, Slaughters, Kellys, Paint—each seemingly just like all the others. When they worked their painful way around the falls of the Kanawha, the monotony of the country changed—for the worse.

They were in regions that Mary had not seen with the Shawnees, because their overland short cut on the way out had bypassed this long loon of the river. Marv soon discovered that the Indians had had good reason to steer clear of the water route. For the two women had passed from the Kanawha valley into the awesome New River Gorge, which is said to be the only eastern rival of the Grand Canyon. For miles the river rampages like a millrace between grim rock cliffs and precipitous mountains that tower a thousand feet above the water.

An experienced team of well-fed, well-equipped mountaineers would find the gorge an estimable test of skill and strength, even in the best of weather. The two emaciated women clutched at their flimsy blankets and bucked into the canyon against a fanged November gale. To the wretched women every one of these, whatever it might be called by a later generation, was an inimical, appalling barrier.

They fought against brush and vines that choked the canyon bottom; briars clawed through their blankets, and rocks shredded the rags wrapped around their feet. They scrabbled over boulders that had toppled down from the cliffs. They crept gingerly across talus slopes of avalanche debris.

Angels Along the River: Retracing the Escape Route of Mary Draper Ingles

They wriggled under fallen trees and over slippery mudbanks. Often the riverbank would become a solid crag before them; the only way around was to wade out waist-deep into the blood-freezing cold of the river itself. Somehow they made it through the gorge. They inched around the menacing butte of Flat Top Peak near the present town of Hinton to find that the going was easier, even though they were now impeded by the wide mouth of the Bluestone River. As they had done so often before, they turned upstream along the Bluestone until they could ford, and came back down it to the New again.

The worst was over now, had they but known it.

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But if Mary had met and surmounted all that nature had thrown at her, she had yet to confront one of the most frightening dangers of all. They were about opposite the mouth of the East River, not more than forty-five miles in a straight line from home. It was twilight. Suddenly, according to the Ingles family account, the hunger-maddened Mrs.

Bingamin leapt on the tired and unsuspecting Mary. So near collapse were both women that even this feeble tussle could have resulted in the death of one or both of them. Horrified, Mary fought back. Mary finally wrenched free, and then fled—running, falling, running again—into a wilderness that was now less cruel than her erstwhile companion.

When she could run no more, Mary lay gasping in the shelter of a birch copse, praying that the gathering darkness would conceal her. But eventually the sounds of her pursuit faded away down the riverside. Mary stayed where she was until the moon rose. She had no choice but to continue upriver in the direction Mrs.



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