By KELLY SULLIVAN Jonathan Slocum and his wife, Ruth (Tripp), decided to leave their farm in Warwick and settle on what they hoped would be more fertile ground somewhere in Pennsylvania. They traveled by covered wagon with their 10 children and Ruth's
Jonathan Slocum and his wife, Ruth (Tripp), decided to leave their farm in Warwick and settle on what they hoped would be more fertile ground somewhere in Pennsylvania.
They traveled by covered wagon with their 10 children and Ruth’s father, Isaac, finally putting down stakes in Wilkes-Barre. Once they set up housekeeping in a small log home, they took in four boarders – a couple and their two sons.
On Nov. 2, 1778, three men belonging to the Delaware Indian Tribe arrived in town and appeared at the Slocum home. One of the two boys who boarded there was standing in the doorway and was immediately shot dead. As Jonathan and Isaac were not home, Ruth and her female boarder grabbed the children and raced from the house to take shelter in the nearby woods.
Five-year-old Frances wasn’t safe with her mother, however. She had secreted herself underneath the loft stairs. The three tribal men tore through the house and were preparing to leave when one of them noticed a child’s feet sticking out from under the stairs. He grabbed a hold of them and pulled her out.
The other young male boarder, a disabled 12-year-old, was still in the house as well and the Delaware began dragging both children from the house. When the boy’s mother saw this, she ran from the woods screaming, pointing out her son’s lameness and begging the man to let him go.
The boy was released but the Delaware picked up Frances and slung her over his shoulder. Ruth began screaming as well while her daughter was carried away, reaching back and crying out, “Mama!”
In the days that followed, search parties went out to try and locate Frances but were unsuccessful. Ruth was inconsolable and sent her sons out to look for her on their own. Their little redheaded sister had seemingly disappeared.
For years, the boys traveled the country, offering rewards for any information concerning their sister. It was their mother’s dying wish that they never stop. She passed away on May 6, 1807, at the age of 71.
In 1837, the brothers received word that a man had gone into a village in Indiana and met an Indian woman who had white skin and red hair. He said the woman could not speak English but, in the language of the natives, shared that she had been captured by Indians as a child and that her family name had been Slocum.
The brothers went to the village where they found their sister, now in her 60s, clad in full native dress and buckskin moccasins. Through an interpreter, they asked her questions and the answers confirmed that their search had finally come to an end.
They learned that when she was 25 years of age, her Indian father had married her to the war chief of the Miami Tribe, “Meshekinnoquah.” She was widowed now and the mother of two girls, Kekesequa and Ozahwahshingqua.
Though it was an emotional conclusion for the Slocum brothers, Frances was allegedly less affected. She was happy to see her brothers and stay in contact but she no longer considered herself to be Frances Slocum, a Rhode Island Quaker. She was Maconaqua, a Native American. She explained that the tribe had always been good to her and had given her a good life. They were her family and she had no desire to leave them.
After Frances died peacefully on March 9, 1847, she was laid to rest there in Indiana, in the Native burial ground. Ruth Slocum lies at eternal rest in Wilkes-Barre, almost 600 miles away from the daughter she never got back.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.