“I hate to tell you this,” my friend’s husband told her once as we were setting off to hike the Mary Ingles Living History Trail. “But there is no way that blind woman walked 400 miles down the banks of the Ohio River.”
“Ohhh!” exclaimed a teacher at my mother’s school upon learning of her Laura interest. “Did you know her sister Mary used to live where I’m from in Virginia?”
Do the rest of you Laura fans get this stuff too, or is it just because of my location here on the former Virginia frontier? I hear it all the time. People are always confusing Mary Ingles with Mary Ingalls.
They lived over a century apart in different parts of the country and don’t even spell their last name the same way, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference. Folks around here are convinced that the frontier woman who was captured by the Shawnee Indians in 1755 from her home near present-day Radford, Virginia, was Laura’s blind sister Mary, who lived on the midwestern prairies more than a hundred years later. Since Mary Ingles became famous for her escape from captivity and subsequent walk following the Ohio, Kanawha, and New Rivers back to her home, these same people really marvel at the idea that she not only accomplished such an amazing feat… but did it blind. (Mary Draper Ingles was NOT blind.)
I enjoyed teaching my 8-year-old Mary Ingalls fan about another Mary Ingles today at a living history encampment. Unlike many adults, she had no trouble comprehending that this was a different Mary.
If you’d never heard of Mary Ingles before, and have run into folks who try to tell you crazy stories about how Mary Ingalls was captured by Indians, now you understand where their confusion comes from. And now you can explain it to them and help educate the public until this ridiculous myth is forever dispelled.