From Frances Slocum to Little Bear Woman and Back Again
Delaware Indians kidnapped Frances Slocum and she quickly adopted the Indian way of life. She hid her white origins for decades until Colonel Ewing came to visit.
In 1845, John Quincy Adams made a passionate speech in Congress, arguing in favor of a bill that B.A. Bidlack of Pennsylvania introduced. The bill provided that one mile square of the land in Indiana, then occupied by the Miami Indians and including the house and improvements of Frances Slocum, should be granted in fee to her and her heirs forever. The bill became a law and she occupied this special reserve until she died in the spring of 1847.
Delaware Indians Kidnap Frances Slocum
Frances had a remarkable history that validated this Congressional action. She was the daughter of a Quaker who lived in the Wyoming Valley during the American Revolution. Several months after the Wyoming Valley massacre of 1778 where the Iroquois and Loyalists defeated more than 300 American Patriots, a party of marauding Delaware Indians kidnapped five-year-old Frances from her home near Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. They escaped before anybody could rescue her.
About a month later, Indians shot her father while he worked in a field near his house. In time, Mrs. Slocum accepted the death of her husband, but she could never forget her child. The last she had seen Frances was in the arms of a brawny Indian, struggling and calling piteously for her parents to help her.
Somehow Mrs. Slocum went on with her life and raised the remainder of her children. Her sons became prosperous businessmen. After the Revolutionary War ended, they tried to recover their lost sister. In 1784, two of them visited Niagara, where many Indians camped. They made diligent inquires and offered liberal rewards for any information about Frances. After searching for several weeks, they returned home convinced that she was dead.
Colonel George Ewing Visits Deaf Man's Village
Mrs. Slocum never lost faith that her daughter lived. She believed that Frances waited somewhere to be clasped in her arms, and she searched continuously until she died in 1807. On her deathbed, her sons promised her to use every effort to find out what had become of their little sister abducted nearly 30 years before.
The Slocum brothers kept their promise to their mother. In 1826, they made a long and expensive journey to upper Sandusky to see a woman who might be Frances. Disappointed again, they finally came to the conclusion that Frances was dead. This time, they called off the search for their sister Frances.
Eight years later, in January 1835, Colonel George W. Ewing, a gentleman connected with the public service among the Indians, visited an Indian Village on a branch of the Wabash River in Indiana. The Indian town was called the Deaf Man's Village. Colonel Ewing spoke several Indian languages and when he asked for lodging in the Deaf Man's Village, the Indians received him hospitably at a respectable dwelling. Tired and unwell,
Colonel Ewing ate and lay down on some skins in the corner.
Frances Tells the Colonel Her Story and Her Secret
The household consisted of a venerable woman and many children who treated her with the greatest deference. Finally, they departed to their own houses, and Colonel Ewing and the woman were alone. As Colonel Ewing lay on his pallet, he watched the old lady moving around. Her noticed particularly the color of her skin and hair.. After examining her for a time, he deteermined that she was a white women. He talked to her for a long time.
The old woman said that the Indians had stolen her when she was a very small child and that she had been adopted into Tuck Horse’s family. She had easily adapted to Indian customs and enjoyed the Indian way of life much more than she had white ways. By the time she grew to adulthood, Tuck Horse’s family lived near Kekionga, the site of modern Fort Wayne, Indiana. She wasn’t happy in her first marriage to a Delaware Indian, so she returned to live with her adopted family.
Eventually Frances married a Miami chief, Shepoconah, whom her family had rescued after he was wounded in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. Shepoconah called Frances Maconaquah, which means Little Bear Woman and he took her to live with his people along the banks of the Mississinewa River near Peru, Indiana.
When Shepoconah became hard of hearing he turned over his duties as Chief to his successor and established a settlement known as Deaf Man’s village further up the Mississinewa River which consisted of himself, Frances, and their four children. By 1835 Shepoconah had died and the Miami and Potawatomi Indians of the area had sold most of their property to the Americans.
Frances was afraid that she might have to resettle with the rest of the Indians on reservations in Kansas. She appealed to the Great Spirit to allow her to stay in her home and she told George Ewing the great secret she had been hiding from everyone for most of her life. She had been born a white woman.
Frances Slocum, White Woman, Indian Woman,
She bridged the gap between white and Indians worlds, and she forged bonds of love and connection between the white and Indians branches of her family.
Frances Slocum was not an Indian, but one of the hated white people. She said that she was now so old that she felt she could not live much longer, and if any of her friends were living, she would be glad to see them. She remembered distinctly that her father's name was Slocum, but she did not remember her own name.
Colonel Ewing Writes a Letter to Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Colonel Ewing was so impressed with Frances' story that he wrote a long letter detailing everything she had told him and sent it to the postmaster at Lancaster, Pa. He had never heard of the Slocums, but he judged from certain answers of the old lady that her home had been somewhere in Pennsylvania. The letter reached Lancaster, but when the postmaster read it, he thought the letter was a hoax. He flung it aside among some waste papers, where it lay for two years.
After two years, the postmaster died, and his widow found Colonel Ewing's letter. She had never heard the name of Slocum, but thinking the letter might be real, she sent it to the Lancaster Intelligencer. The editor printed the letter and a copy of the Intelligencer fell into the hands of Reverend Samuel Bowman who knew the Slocum family well.
Reverend Bowman mailed the paper to a brother of Frances who lived in Wilkes Barre. The entire community of Wilkes Barre got excited about the letter. No one doubted that the Indian woman was Frances, but two years had passed since the letter had been written and it said that the old lady at the time felt that her death was near. Had she died in the meantime?
Frances Sends Directions to Her Home in Indiana
John J. Slocum, a nephew of Frances, sent a letter to Colonel Ewing. A prompt reply, dated at Logansport, Indiana, came back saying that the old lady was still alive and would be glad to see them. The letter contained minute directions to her house.
Isaac Slocum and Mrs. Mary Town, brother and sister of Frances, lived in Ohio. They made preparations to go to Indiana. Joseph Slocum of Wilkesbarre, another brother, started in his carriage, taking his sisters. Isaac went in advance, after arranging to meet his brothers and sisters at Deaf Man's Village. Isaac reached the village ahead of the others and accompanied by an interpreter, called upon the lady. She received them pleasantly, but with reserve.
To Isaac's way of thinking, the old woman looked like a perfect Indian, but he had a foolproof test of her identity. Before Frances had been carried away 59 years before her brother Ebenezer had crushed the fore finger of her left hand with a hammer. Taking hold of the old woman’s hand and raising it, Isaac saw a star. "What caused that?" he asked her.
"My brother struck it with a hammer a long time ago," she told him.
Frances Remembers Her Name
Isaac talked to her for a long time, but the woman did not seem at ease. He returned to the village of Pern to await the arrival of his brother and sister. When they arrived, the three visited Frances again. She treated them with the same kindness as before, but was stoical and unmoved. When she saw tears in their eyes, she looked displeased. The only time she showed any signs of emotion was when they asked her name. She replied that she had forgotten it.
"Is it Frances?" her brothers asked her.
Her dusky features suddenly lit up and she nodded her head. "Yes, yes, Franca, Franca."
Frances Is the Bridge Between Her Indian and White Families
Her brothers and sisters stayed for several days. Some months later they visited her again, bringing some of their children to meet Frances and her descendants. During the next ten years, Frances became reacquainted with her white family and grew attached to them. She offered her brothers half of her land if they would live near her. Her white family petitioned and won immunity for France's entire family to remain in Indiana. They helped her teach her adult grandchildren to adjust to living in the white man's world. Frances Slocum - Maconaquah - died in 1847, happy in the love and friendships of her white and Indian families.
Maconaquah’s Story: The Saga of Frances Slocum, Kity Dye, Leclerc Publishing Company, 2000
Biography of Frances Slocum, John Franklin Meginness, General Books, 2000