Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Cousins Abducted by Indians– Saved by Daniel Boone and The Callaways–52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


One of the scariest yet most exciting and some say romantic stories of all my ancestors is the story of three young girls, my cousins,  being stolen by Indians and their rescue by Daniel Boone and a group of settlers! This story has been told in at least two books, numerous newspaper articles, and is in Wikipedia as well. James Fenimore Cooper included the story in his novel  The Last of the Mohicans!  I am going to include one of  the stories here for you, then introduce the players and my ancestors afterwards:


From W.S. Lester’s “The Transylvania Colony, published in 1935, based upon “The Draper Manuscripts”
The most romantic event of early pioneer Kentucky took place near the Boonesborough settlement about the middle of July, 1776. Late Sunday afternoon, the fourteenth, Elizabeth and Frances, the daughters of Colonel Richard Callaway, and Jemima, the daughter of Captain Daniel Boone, were canoeing on the Kentucky River just below the town. Elizabeth was a little less than sixteen years old, while the other two girls were not more than fourteen. The three girls steered their canoe toward the side to gather flowers…. While the canoe was near the shore, an Indian came suddenly out of the canebreak and began to push it toward the land. At first the girls thought he was a Negro slave, who had recently run away from the settlement. One of the Callaway girls tried to jump into the water, but was prevented; while her sister fought the captor unsuccessfully with her paddle. Four other Indians now quickly appeared, and the girls were immediately taken ashore and the boat set adrift. The cries and shrieks of the girls were hushed by threats of flourished knives and tomahawks. Jemima, who had an injured foot, refused to proceed with her savage kidnappers until she was threatened with death and she was provided with moccasins. The clothing of the three was cut off at their knees to facilitate their walking through the woods. The cliff-like hill was climbed with difficulty, but the party made swifter progress when it reached the more even ground beyond. As they went along the young captives made shrewd use of every available means to mark their trail for the benefit of their rescuers, who were sure to follow….When the captors observed these maneuvers, they shook their tomahawks over the heads of the girls, caught them by their hair, drew a knife around their throats, and threatened to scalp them if they continued their efforts. On the other hand the Indians, who consisted of three Shawnees and two Cherokees, took every precaution to deceive their pursuers and prevent rapid following….By night-fall they had gone six or eight miles, when they made their camp within three miles of the present town of Winchester….. Early Monday forenoon they came upon a pony, which the Indians had left tied or was a stray. The captors wanted the girls to ride, particularly Jemima on account of her injured foot. The former thus hoped to secure more speed, but their captives were equally cunning. When the girls were placed on the back of the pony, they tickled him in the flanks with their feet. This caused him to rear, then the riders would tumble off, which meant a loss of time….The kidnappers soon realized that the pony ridden in this manner was a hindrance to progress and abandoned him. Whether the screams of the captured girls were heard in the town or the story of the capture was told by the little girls left on the south river bank is not definitely known. But not long after the capture Callaway and Boone got together a party of men for pursuit. Among this number were Samuel Henderson, who was engaged to be married to Elizabeth Callaway within a short time, and John Holder and Flanders Callaway, who were lovers respectively of Fannie Callaway and Jemima Boone. Only one canoe was available–the one the Indians had sent adrift–and the rescue party had to wait until John Guess could swim over the river and bring it back….By this time the sun was only half an hour high. Daniel Boone with five others…now crossed the river, while Colonel Callaway, Captain Nathaniel Hart, Captain David Guess, Flanders Callaway, and five or six others, rode a mile down the riverside and forded the river. In a little while the two parties were joined and the trail of the Indians found. On Boone’s advice it was decided that his footmen should follow the trail, while Callaway and his horsemen should go by path to the Lower Blue Licks to cut off the retreat of the kidnappers. The first group followed the trail for about five miles before being forced by darkness to strike camp. They camped at an unfinished cabin, which was being built by nine men. Early Monday morning they resumed their pursuit. They were joined by three of the cabin-builders–John McMillen, William Bush and John Martin. Soon they came upon the spot where the Indians and girls had camped the night before. In spite of the useful signs of broken twigs, torn clothing, and shoe prints left by the girls, the pursuers had great difficulty in detecting the trail. Following up each of the several diverse trails purposely made by the Indians caused delay. Boone’s superior knowledge of Indian habits and trickery served his party well. He soon discovered that the pursued group was making better progress than his own and advised that the latter leave the trail and pursue a straight course toward the Scioto River for two reasons; first, their passage would be more speedy; and, secondly, he feared if they continued to follow the trail, they would be seen by the rear guard of the captors first, and the captives be put to death rather than permitted to be retaken. Boone’s proposal was adopted. The pursuing party frequently crossed the trail. Its progress was now more rapid; it made about thirty miles that day, passing close to the present towns of Winchester, North Middletown and Carlisle. At dawn Tuesday morning it resumed its course. By ten o’clock it came to Hinkson’s Fork of Licking. When it crossed this the members of the party observed that the tracks of the pursued were fresh and the stream still muddy where these had crossed. Boone now counselled that the kidnapers had by this time become less cautious and that the whites might again follow the trail, which they did. In the meantime the girls were experiencing alternately hope and despair. Jemima and Fannie were crying most of the time, but Betsy was more courageous and tried to cheer them with the certainty of rescue. Throughout Monday the Indians did not halt to cook any food, for fear that a fire might reveal them to the whites, but gave the girls dried venison and smoked buffalo tongue. …As also was the almost universal custom of the Indian race, the captors attempted no improprieties with their female captives. Just as Boone had predicted the savages became more careless on Tuesday morning, and grew bold enough to kill a buffalo, from which they cut a choice portion….They quickly built a fire, and their weapons laid aside. The girls were sitting tied, the two younger ones with their heads in the lap of Betsy, who was trying to console them by telling them that their lovers would resue them. Soon after they had crossed Hinkson the members of Boone’s party entered the Great Warriors’ Path, which they pursued intermittently, just as the Indians had followed now the Path, now a buffalo trace, to elude the whites. Having gone eight or nine miles they came upon the slaughtered buffalo. A little later as the party came to a small stream the trail disappeared, and again Boone rightly conjectured that the Indians and their captives had waded in the water for some distance to deceive their followers, and that they were now preparing their meal. As they rapidly approached the vicinity where the Indians were secluded, the whites divided into two groups and proceeded cautiously. The Indian sentinel had left his post to light his pipe at the fire. In the thick cane the pursuers got within thirty yards, or less, of the enemy and saw them first. Although forbidden to do so, the foremost white fired at the Indians without waiting for his companions to come up. His aim was poor, but Boone and Floyd came up almost instantly and fired, each mortally wounding an Indian. Fannie and Jemima were watching a large Indian called “Big Jimmy” spitting meat. When Jemima saw the blood spurt from his breast and heard the gun-fire, she cried “That’s Daddy’s gun.” “Big Jimmy” grasped his side and ran away half bent. His companions followed, leaving practically everything except one gun. One of them, as he ran, flung his tomahawk at Betsy’s head, which it barely missed. The whites rushed in quickly with a low yell. Betsy, who was a decided brunette and whose color was still further enhanced by fatigue and exposure, was mistaken by one of the men for an Indian. He raised his gun and was about to strike her with the butt of it, when his arm was arrested by Boone…. The party gathered the plunder left by the savages and returned joyfully toward Boonesborough. Just before reaching the Kentucky River it was joined by Colonel Callaway’s group of horsemen, who had crossed the trail of the retreating Indians, and, concluding that the girls had been rescued, returned to Boonesborough. During the month of August Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Callaway were married, and in the following year marriages also took place between Frances Callaway and Colonel Holder, and Jemima Boone and Flanders Callaway.

©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

Joseph Callaway Jr. 1680-1738, was my 7th great-grandfather from Virginia. His son William is my 6th great-grandfather, but today we are going to focus on his son Col. Richard Callaway, my 6th great-uncle, and his and Daniel Boone’s families. 

“Probably no single man accomplished more than did Colonel Richard Callaway in laying the foundation that culminated in the admission of Kentucky into the Union on June 1, 1792”.  This was a quote by R. Alexander Bate A.B., M.D, in an article published in The Filson Club History Quarterly [volume 29, no. 1, January 1955, Louisville, Kentucky].

In George W. Ranck’s “Boonesborough” it is said that Colonel Richard Callaway, after the French and Indian Wars, evidently moved from Virginia to the Yadkin region of North Carolina but returned to Virginia just before the Revolution. While in the Yadkin region Callaway was a neighbor and friend of Daniel Boone and it was this friendship that led to Colonel Callaway’s association with the Transylvania Company and his participation in the founding of Boonesborough.  The Transylvania Company was formed in 1774. Colonel Richard Henderson of North Carolina was the principal organizer. Associated with him were John Williams, Thomas Hart, Nathaniel Hart, James Hogg, William Johnston, John Luttrell, David Hart, and Leonard Henley Bullock.  The Transylvania Company was a great land company which successively bore the names of the Louisa Company

The “Journal of the Proceedings of the House of Delegates or Representatives of the Colony of Transylvania” shows that Colonel Richard Callaway was one of the six delegates elected for Boonesborough. The others were Squire Boone, Daniel Boone, William Cooke, Samuel Henderson and William Moore. Harrodsburg, Boiling Springs and St. Asaph’s were also represented.

Three of my first cousins, 7x removed were involved in this story–Richard’s son Flanders Callaway went along on the rescue mission–as he was in love with Daniel Boone’s daughter Jemima, one of the girls abducted. Flanders and Jemima Boone later married and had 13 children together.

Callaway, Flanders and jemima's home in Missouri

Flanders Callaway and Jemima Boone’s home in Missouri

Two of Richard’s daughters were abducted along with Jemima Boone–Ellizabeth and Frances, called Fanny. 16 and 14 respectively, Elizabeth later married Samuel Henderson of the rescue party, while her sister Fanny married Capt. John Holder. This little story about Fanny circulates ancestry.com, unfortunately the author is not known:

Fanny was born into the luxuries of a Colonial Virginia Plantation, as the daughter of Colonel Richard Callaway and his first wife Frances Walton (my 6th great grand uncle and aunt.) Her life proved to have a string of ups and downs however. At the age of 13 her mother had passed away and she found herself among the early pioneers of Kentucky, at Fort Boonesborough. Her father helped carve this small piece of civilization out of the wilds of early America at the side of Daniel Boone.
On July, 14, 1776, She along with her older sister Elizabeth, and Daniel Boone’s daughter, Jemima, were captured and abducted by Indians. It took two terrifying days but the girls were rescued by two search parties headed up by their fathers. Eventually all three of the girls married members of the search parties, and this romance is reported to be the inspiration for James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “Last of the Mohicans.”
In 1777, Francis married John Holder, one of America’s early military heroes. He started his career as a chain carrier for a young George Washington, then a surveyor. Later he fought at the side of Washington, and eventually ended up on the western frontier of Kentucky where he fought the Indians. He built a financial fortune and Francis became one of Clark County Kentucky’s leading ladies. (Together they had ten children.) Then her life seemed to take another turn, when her husband posted bond for an acquaintance that turned out to be more than he was aware of. Francis and John Holder found out they were broke and were forced to send their children to relatives while they got back on their feet. John died shortly after losing everything, in 1799, Francis ended up marring Colonel John McGuire, in 1802, only to pass away herself within a years time.

Samuel Henderson who married Elizabeth Callaway  is described in this entry of the  Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Volume 3, H-K. Edited by William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988. (DcNCBi 3)

Samuel Henderson was an American Patriot–
He was in the party that opened Boone’s Trace en route to a large tract of land, that became known as Fort Boonesboro, KY, that had been purchased from the Cherokees by his brother, Richard Henderson, a land speculator and representative for North Carolina on the western Virginia/North Carolina survey team and a jurist. That party of men established Fort Boonesboro.

He was a defender of Boonesboro, Ky, under Daniel Boone and Richard Callaway. He was in the party that rescued three girls who had been captured by the Shawnee indians.. He was a colonel in the American Revolutionary War.

The only known published obituary appeared in the March 21, 1817 issue of the newspaper The Raleigh Minerva : “DIED Lately in Tennessee, Col. Samuel Henderson, aged about 80 years. Col. Henderson was a native of North Carolina, and a man distinguished by a strong and clear understanding.”

It appears Samuel and Elizabeth had a more stable life than her sister, and raised a large family together also. 

I am truly blessed to have found these stories about my ancestors. They make me stand in awe of the courage and fortitude they had, and they strengthen me as I hope they do all of us, their descendants!  However, I also realize the lack of political correctness in these historical accounts, and I hope that it will be seen in that historical light and not offend anyone racially. Thanks for reading and visiting with me. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.  On top of that, I wish you always and only the best, Helen

Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

19 thoughts on “Cousins Abducted by Indians– Saved by Daniel Boone and The Callaways–52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

  1. I have read of this in a book written by Robert Morgan. What a great story to have in your family.


  2. That’s a reference I’m not familiar with– will look it up. Thanks for reading and commenting . I have missed you Charles! And your posts– what’s on your mind these days? Take care.



  3. Pingback: 52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 6 Recap | No Story Too Small

  4. I love this story, Helen! I am intending to do more research on this and the Callaway community in Franklin County.


  5. Thank you so much Beverly! I can hardly wait to see what you find! I love seeing you here! Thank you! Love you dearly, Helen


  6. Wonderful story, Helen! I enjoyed reading it and thanks for sharing!


  7. Hi Vickie! Its so great seeing you hear! I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment. Hope you will come back angain! You are such a great historian yourself! Love ya, helen


  8. My 5th Great Grandfather was with Boone as well, that day his personal Journal reads the second day they pushed over 40 miles to the spot of the rescue. He was Col. John Floyd. Nice read ty for posting

    J Floyd.


  9. What a great addition to this story! Aren’t you blessed to have his personal journal! That is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing! Helen

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes very blessed. What was left that didn’t get lost in the river when he lost everything from his Saddle Bag s, he also had stuff stolen from them. The story was no love story tho until many many years later in most eyes, the Last of the Mohican versions led to that filling. My grandfather was also Mixed Native American also something History for some reason keeps leaving out. You can read his Journal s that have been saved as well . There is an awesome book called “The life and letters of a Frontier Surveyor. Edited by Neal O. Hammon.


  11. How cool is that! I will try to get that book and read it! I’m sure you are right and it was not a love story at the time! It must have ben horrifying for all involved! But when I think about the fact that you and I are here to talk about this together in 2016– over two hundred years after our ancestors were together also (!) –well, that is just incredible! I am so happy you wrote! If you want to , you can keep in touch on facebook or at helenholshouser@gmail.com Thanks for sharing!


  12. All your very much welcome, i hope you are well and wish you the best of Health especially to help keep up with the grandchildren. Im the baby of 11. Family is everything. Its very awesome we can share this, ive met one other women s son in law year’s ago that she was the granddaughter of one of the Callaway daughters thanking me still today for him and his part in saving her Grandmother allowing for there many happy Generation s of family. I must say it was An Honor. I take care of his sons Grave that was Born 2 weeks later after his death. John Floyd jr. My 4th G grandfather. also such a great honor. God Bless you! I hope you enjoy the read. Ty for posting your family’s story as well.


  13. Hi. In your Blog entry, the drawing of the rescue of the three girls .. is that from the Wikipedia entry? The citation is to William Craft, Pioneers in the settlement of America, but I have looked at the book and do not find this picture of any mention of the event. Do you have further information on this , as in the true source? Fannie Callaway is in my direct line. not sure how many greats back. Her daughter Katherine Holder married by GGG grandfather Richard Gott. So, I guess she is my GGGG mother ?? thanks


  14. Hi, my name is Laura London Weathers Holl, I am a great to the 5th granddaughter of Col. Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Callaway Henderson. My Grandmother Susan Cowan Weathers is the daughter of Robert Cowan who is the son of Julia Barnett (Yanny) Cowan who is the daughter of Julia (Yanny) Henderson Barnett who was daughter of Susan Henderson the 1st white child to be born 1779 in Kentucky to my 5th great grandparents Col Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Callaway Henderson. My grandmother had always said we were daughters of the American Revolutionary War and she was a member of DAR’s chapter in Alabama. So my 5th Great Grandmother Elizabeth (Betsy) Callaway Henderson was the 16 year old who left clothing and hair behind for her father Col. Richard Callaway and Daniel Boone to find and rescue them.

    I’ve known that these lineage papers as they are called “The Henderson Papers” that my great grandfather did research on in the 60’s were around…but, did not know where my father had put them, he passed away in 1986. My sister came upon them stuck in a desk. Once I saw, I started reading and googling names and just found out that we are descendants of American Pioneers. I asked my Aunt if this was all true and she also a member of the DAR organization and she told me the story is true. I am still unsure and in awe as to why after all these years I had no clue as to the
    deep root of American History my family came from…I had just thought we had men in our family that fought for freedom. This has been very w=exciting for me to discover, I only wish I had known all of this when my father and grandmother were alive.

    Thank you for sharing our family history and looks like we are cousins. Welcome to the family!

    Laura London Weathers Holl


  15. Hi Laura, it is so exciting to meet a new cousin! I have written you an email and am thrilled to share family history with you. Looks like we are 8th cousins, which now that I have been steeped in genealogy, no longer sounds so long distance to me! That means we have the same 7th Great Grandparent, and indeed we do in
    Joseph, Jr. Callaway
    BIRTH 1680 • Lunenburg, Virginia, USA
    DEATH 10 JUN 1738 • Essex, Virginia, USA
    7th great-grandfather
    Catherine Browning
    BIRTH 1690 • Lunenburg County, Virginia
    DEATH 1732 • Essex County, Virginia
    7th great-grandmother

    Looking forward to getting to know you better! Helen


  16. Hello! It looks like you and I are cousins through the Callaways and your husband and I are cousins through the Holshousers. Joseph Callaway is my 8th great-grandfather and Andreas (Andrew) Holtzhauser is my 6th great-grandfather.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Lorene, how wonderful to “meet” you! It looks like that you and Max are fourth cousins 2 x removed. and that you and I are 9th cousins sharing a common 8th Great-grandparent! That is amazing! Thanks so much for letting me know. I’ll try to email you, Helen


  18. Hi Helen! Thanks for sharing your family’s story. I believe it is my family’s story as well, as recounted in a book called “Our Pioneer Heritage” by Pauline(?) MacDonald, published in the 1960’s. My sister has our mother’s copy, our mom was named Mary Frances after Fanny Callaway, but I don’t recall the details of the lineage. Anyway, growing up our mom always told us we were direct descendents of one of the girl’s depicted in the kidnapping in The Last of the Mohicans, and then later showed us her copy of Our Pioneer Heritage, with her notes tracing our lineage penciled into the margins. Always loved the story, and reading your story last night, and all the comments, makes me want to call my sister and get that book from her! I do recall some of the details from a couple of generations later, my ggg grandfather was named Tilman Johnson, married to Pernecia Ross, and they lived in Weakley County, TN in about the 1820’s-1840’s. From there the family left for Texas and ended up farming in Anson. My great-grandfather Albert Harris Johnson founded a bank and an opera house there, but my grandfather Rupert Harris Johnson ran away from home and joined the army in 1917, fought in Europe, got a field appointment to study at West Point, and after graduating married his roommate’s sister (my granny) and went into business in the northeast, only going back to Texas to visit his mother and sisters but never again living there. My great-aunts were all DAR and maintained the family genealogy, which I believe is what inspired my mom’s and my sister’s interest – and now my interest! Anyway, thank you again for sharing your story, certainly one of the most romantic in American history.


  19. Hi cousin Jian! How interesting! Thanks for sharing! I wii have to see if I can connect us! Will let you know! Helen


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