Monday, November 10, 2008

Mary's Story

Last week, I showed you some photos from this historic church and cemetery in my town.  In addition to being a beautiful place to visit, it is also quite interesting.  There are 35 Revolutionary War soldiers interred here, as well as two United States' senators, one member of the House of Representatives, and at least one slave.  

But here is the story of  a simple wife and mother, who lived an extraordinary life:  

This is the gravestone of Mary Kinnan.  Sorry about the quality of the photo -- I had a hard time getting a clear shot of it.  It is very faded.  But here is Mary's story:

She was born Mary Lewis in Basking Ridge in 1763.  At the age of 15, she married Joseph Kinnan.  Together they moved west to farm in a place called Tygart's Valley, Virginia.

Eventually, they shared their home with two sons and a daughter.  Also living with them was Mary's brother, Jacob Lewis, and a woman named Margaret Ward and her son.  Margaret was the widow of a soldier who had served in the Revolutionary War with Mary's husband, Joseph.

In 1791, three renegade Shawnee braves attacked the farm, killing Joseph and their daughter.  Mary's two sons, her brother Jacob, and Margaret and her son all managed to escape.  Mary was taken captive to Ohio, and then to the Detroit area.

After three years, she managed to get a message to an Army courier, who promised to deliver it to Mary's brother back in Basking Ridge.  Unfortunately, the courier contracted yellow fever, and died before he could deliver the message.  He was quickly buried.   But because it was determined that he was carrying important Army messages, his body was exhumed.

Mary's message was found and delivered to her brother, who travelled to Detroit, rescued her, and returned her to Basking Ridge. 

 She lived to a ripe old age of 85.

What an amazing life this woman led!

My thanks to church historian, George L. Fricke, who compiled this and many other interesting stories from the cemetery at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Mary. I love reading this kind of history, and your photos are stunning.

  2. Very interesting! It sounds like a movie plot! It is hard to imagine what else she must have gone through while she waited fro rescue. WOuldn't you love to know more?

  3. That is an incredible story. One wonders at her strength of character and how she was able to carry on; a lesser person would've given up. Do you know more of her story?

  4. Good morning, Mary -
    Thank you for sharing Mary's story with us. I love to hear about those who struggled and survived. We don't even begin to realize how many people who went before us had stories like this. I love to know bits and pieces of local history. I should do some research about some of our local ancestors. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Now that's a truly amazing story. There were many, many "Mary's" in our history. I suggest seeking out a book called "This Cruel War" which is an almost complete set of letters between a husband and wife during the Civil War. It's a fascinating look into the lives of everyday people during that time.

    - Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife

  6. Is that just the greatest story! Wow!

  7. That is amazing, could you just imagine the despair, and hope that the poor woman must have gone through. Fortitude, that would be a good description of what those people had.

  8. What a story! I just love this church and cemetary! So full of history and probably many more amazing stories!
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Have a great week!

  9. That is a fantastic story. I love all the old captivity narratives I had to read in American Lit. Beautiful place there.

  10. I love reading this sort of history. I also really enjoy tromping through old, historic cemeteries.

  11. Oh wow. That gave me chills. What a hard life Mary had. Kind of makes me feel a little bad, griping about my everyday, relatively easy life. But what a nice way to honor her existence by writing that little story about her. Do you have any more? You should do a weekly story hour! just let me know what day! :)

  12. Good heavens. The next time I'm feeling sorry for myself I'll remember Mary. What a wonderful brother to come rescue her; what a story of love.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  13. What a great story. I wonder how many people today would survive such circumstances ??

    We think we have it rough when the lights go out or the car dies, imagine poor Mary...that is sure some inner strength huh ??

    Oh I loved this story; hmmmm her name was Mary huh ???

    I am woman hear me roar !!!

    Kathy :)

  14. This is beautiful post with really interesting story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  15. What a beautiful story! I love history and I am always amazed by the strength that those who came before us had.
    Thanks for shedding a new light on my day.

  16. Great story! My husband and I both enjoy visiting cemeteries and reading the headstones!

  17. Great story! I love the stories I turn up as I work on my genealogy. Some really amazing stories.

  18. Dee from Tennessee

    What a story!

    I recently learned that my grandfather's family was living in our little town around 1812, maybe earlier.... my mother still owns a tiny tiny speck of that land on which they walked, cut wood, only had candlelight, etc. I've slowly and finally realized that where I live now was my family's "little house in the wilderness." I shouldn't complain and whine when I think of the hard life that they must have had.

    Thanks so much for the "history lesson"....would love to hear more.

  19. Hi and thank you for the story about Mary, Mary! :) Poor lady, she went through a lot of hardships.I love to walk among the headstones in old graveyards.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  20. Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures. I love hearing about the past. I see by the comments that I am not the only who likes to wander through old cemeteries and wonder about all the dear people who are laid to rest there. I, also. love old farmhouses, barns, sheds, etc. I just wish the walls could talk. Debbi

  21. That is an amazing story. I love reading the history of our early settlers and learning what their lives were like. To think that Ohio and Detroit were the wild west is a bit much for my brain to grasp, yet even New York, Atlanta and Miami were unsettled at some point in our history.

    I think it is wonderful that you posted this so close to Veterans Day, since the Army helped in her rescue.

    Speaking of Veterans Day, please remember to thank those that have given so much so that we can be free.

  22. Mary,

    I loved this story.Do you have any other information about her? Did she ever remarry?

    Congrats on getting your picture in this great book! Your photography is great!

  23. Wow and sometimes we whine over the smallest irritations. Makes me want to be a better, or at least more patient, person.


  24. Incredible story. I was thinking ... did she get all of that from a grave stone? LOL!

    Life was so much more difficult back then. What a heartbreak to lose her husband and daughter : (



Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I love to hear what you have to say!