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Mythbuster: Laura’s Sister Was NOT Captured by Indians

“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.

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6 responses to “Mythbuster: Laura’s Sister Was NOT Captured by Indians”

  1. Shelley

    This is fascinating because just the other day my father was watching a movie on TV about the Mary Ingles who was captured by the Shawnee. He asked me if my Mary Ingalls had ever been captured by Indians and I told him no and gave him a quick recap of her life. My dad was sure the woman in the movie had said that her name was Mary Ingalls. I didn’t know what to tell him since I did not know of this Mary Ingles. I just thought it was a coincidence. Now I have more of an explanation for him!

  2. Jeanine

    There is a wonderful book about Mary Ingles called “Follow the River” – I think that the movie Shelley is talking about has the same name. A very, very good read.

  3. Eliza Jane

    When I saw the title of this post, I thought you must be referring to yet another over the top extreme Michael Landon vision of Mary’s life episode of Little House tv show.

  4. Rebecca

    I am reading the first of the Little House books, and heard the story of Mary Draper Ingles a few years ago. I was wondering how in the world they could be the same woman – and resorted to the Google to find an answer. Thanks for your informative post!

  5. Jade Chevalier

    I came across the story of Mary Ingles online while searching for a photo of Mary Ingalls. Without knowing the name of the heroine, I had recently ordered “Follow the River” from Amazon for my aunt. Next time I talked to her, I told her I had come across a story that sounded remarkably like the book she just bought. She informed me that they were one and the same. I borrowed the book and fell in love with it. I would recommend it to anyone, not just history buffs. I thought the story was fascinating. I bought the movie, too, but of course the book is better.

  6. Madison

    I thought it was fantastic to be educated about Mary’s amazing escape from the Shawnee Indians and walked thousands of miles back to her home in Virginia.
    :)

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