Wabash County Legends and Folklore
The Story of Frances Slocum
Wabash County has one of the richest heritages of Indian lore to be found in the State of
Indiana, for here was the last Indian stronghold in the state. One of the most interesting stories in
the history of our nation concerns the Indian capture of a five-year-old Quaker girl in
Pennsylvania and a reunion with her family 60 years later.
On March 4, 1773, Frances Slocum was born to Jonathan and Ruth Tripp Slocum in the state of Rhode Island. In 1777 they moved to Pennsylvania to live in the beautiful Wyoming Valley to escape the war on the east coast. For a year the Slocum family lived peacefully on their Wyoming Valley farm. This peace ended abruptly on July 3, 1778, when the Wyoming Massacre took place, forever changing their lives. Many of their neighbors were killed by the British-led Indians. Because of Slocum's friendship with the Indians, the family was not harmed, but without his father's consent, Giles Slocum, their 18-year-old son, joined an expedition sent out to track down the Indian raiders. The Indians, thinking that Jonathan Slocum had betrayed them, planned revenge. And on November 2, 1778, a ban of marauding Indians attacked the Slocum household while Jonathan was working the fields. During the attack the Indians kidnapped young Frances and a neighbor Wareham Kingsley. The last view Mrs. Slocum had of her daughter was that of Frances holding the hair out of her eyes with one hand and reaching for help with the other, crying "Mother, Mother." Wareham Kingsley found his way back to his family after a few years with the Indians and reported that Frances was alive as far as he knew and the Indians were treating her kindly.
That was the last ever heard of Frances until 1835. In that year, George Ewing, Logansport, had a busy trade with the Indians and one day while on a trading trip, he found himself several miles from Peru when night fell. Rather than risk riding after dark, he stopped at an Indian homestead and asked if he might spend the night. The home was a happy one and seemed to center around an old lady who stayed pretty much in the background. After the others had gone to bed, the old woman called Ewing and indicated she wanted to talk to him. He spoke Miami and the two were able to carry on a conversation. She told Ewing her name was "Ma-con-a-quah" which means "Little Bear Woman" because she was so strong. Then she pulled up her shawl and showed Ewing a snow-white arm. Ewing was amazed and listened spellbound to her tale. She had been stolen from a Quaker family when she was about five. They had lived in the east and her father's name was Slocum. She couldn't remember her own first name, but thought it sounded like "Franca". She said she was an old woman and wanted to tell her story before she died. But she cautioned Ewing not to tell anyone her story until after she died. She was happy there. She had married a Miami chief who had been very good to her, and she had borne him four fine children, though both her sons had died. She had a large home and was actually quite wealthy. Ewing could not keep the story to himself and after a period of time the story was published in the Lancaster Intelligencer newspaper. Word finally reached the Slocums and plans were made for the family to pay Frances a visit. At first Frances treated them coldly. She thought they were there to rob her of her home and possessions and couldn't believe they were her family. The identification was made complete when her brother Joseph remembered he had accidentally cut off the end of Frances' finger before she was stolen. Sure enough, Ma-con-a-quah had that same stub finger. Convinced now that these were really her relatives, she became friendly and through an interpreter, she told them the story of her life among the Indians.
When the Slocums returned to the east, they tried to persuade Frances to return with them, But she had promised her husband that she would never leave the Indians and preferred to stay among them. Two years later Joseph returned bringing his two daughters with him. And in 1846 a nephew, George Slocum brought his family from Ohio to live near Frances at her request. He brought all his farm implements with him and tried to introduce better methods of farming to the friendly Indians. It was to George Slocum that Frances told the entire story of her life with the Indians.
On March 9, 1847 at the age of 74, Frances Slocum died. She was given a Christian burial but with much Indian influence and custom. A monument was built and erected on May 17, 1900 and is now one of the chief Indian memorials in the state. The Frances Slocum State Forest across her beloved Mississinewa from her home, the Frances Slocum Trail and the monument over her grave immortalize her memory.
Above information taken from: "The Lost Sister Among the Miamis" by Otho Winger.