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"Follow the River" The True Mary Draper Ingles' Story
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom is based on a true story of a young woman who was kidnapped by Shawnee Indians and taken down the New River. This woman was Mary Draper Ingles, mother of two little boys; and expecting a third child when she was kidnapped along with her two young sons and two other adults besides her.
Mary Ingle's Story
This took place after having family and friends brutally murdered, including her own mother right in front of her.
Can you imagine the physical and mental condition of this mother and her children? This reads like a cowboy and Indian tale but it is all too true and the bodies strewn everywhere are very real and the beginning probably for someone squeamish was the hardest to read through.
The Indians then kidnapped a pregnant Mary and her two sons and they have such a horrible trip down the New River mountain trail. The excitement of the book is knowing it is all a true story and so unbelievable that a woman could survive this ordeal in the condition Mary is in. She is only twenty-four and besides being pregnant is watching her two young sons, no doubt screaming and crying being man handled by savages!
What is in their minds to make them even want a mother and two young boys? Do they plan to kill them later? Make slaves of them perhaps or sell or trade them for that purpose? It really amazed me that they choose certain ones and killed the rest. It makes me wonder if they didn't watch this family of people and decide which they would allow to stay alive to take back with them that they could handle and could make the trip.
Was it for economic reasons possibly because they needed a larger tribe for some reason I wonder? What possible reason to come this very long way for what little they could possibly carry back and hostages with little to offer other than trouble?
Being brave isn't the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.— Bear Grylls
Book based on factual research
This book is over thirty years old and I read it over ten years ago for the first time. I do not think I have read another quite like it. In fact I was running my own book shop when I read this and we could never have enough copies of it. It was the most ever requested.
I love non-fiction books and books written based on fact, so liking it so well did not surprise me. But this book was written so extremely well you can never believe it is only based on gathered fact. Facts achieved by the author seeking to find what this young twenty-four year old woman must have gone through going along this river.
Then believe it or not, struggling eventually back along it to her husband! With no choice but to give up her baby or even a chance to consider her two young boys. She has lost three children in a matter of speaking, gone through so very much and yet her heart is set on doing the impossible.
Eye of the beholder
I was also shocked seeing what others said about this book. Although many like me simply found it outstanding with no fault whatsoever, many criticized the author for writing it! Many thought it was too horrible for a mother to read because of things Mary witnessed and decisions she made to get back home.
Reading others reviews on this book reminded me of the game of whispering a secret to someone next to you and then having it pass down the line to see what it turned out to be in the end. I surely won’t give away the major part of the book to ruin the reading for anyone but I can tell you if you think you know about it by reading reviews, you better think again. I have never heard of so many versions of one book and so completely different, down to the sex of the baby Mary had, that she left her home in Virginia carrying.
Many could not finish the book with all the horrors Mary went through being so bad as to make them sick they say. I think about movies today that most people can watch without flinching and wonder if these same people watch those.
This was a very brave young woman and if she lived it I can’t see why it would be so hard for someone to know this piece of very important history I would call it. These things that happened on the American frontier more than once that is a part of our history and accepted as such. This one tale in particular; letting us know of what many endured. How many more were this intelligent and determined; I wonder.
I knew this river the Shawnee took Mary down and was familiar enough myself to know what a rough way she had to go and all the time it must have taken and then for her to find her way and survive getting back it is simple amazing!
I recommend this book to all and I think men and women alike or even teens would learn very much from it and be very entertained.
Follow the River
Have you read the book or seen the movie?
After escaping and making it back up New River; Mary Draper Ingles reunited with her husband and in 1762 they established Ingles Ferry; across the New River with a tavern and a blacksmith shop. Here Mary died in 1815.
Mary's son Thomas and sister-in-law Bettie were ransomed from the Indians, eventually, but the others who were kidnapped at Draper's Meadow died in Indian captivity.
Walking in her shoes
I still; after all these years, can put myself right beside Mary as I did years ago first reading, living with these Indians and making her plan. Although it has been a few years since I have read this book I remember it well and have two copies I would never part with. There are other books out there about Mary Ingalls and all that happened to her. I cannot say I would not read them, given the opportunity, but I feel sure none could be better than James Alexander Thom's account, who it is said married an Indian who was an aid in his book.
I promise I have given little of the adventures in this book away and you will have a wonderful read. So please pick it up at your local bookstore, Amazon or one of many other places online new and used or perhaps find it at your local library. It most certainly will be an unforgettable read. It would make a great present for a child or young person in your family too; to teach them history of America and a great adventure of a very tough woman in early America.
An interesting video about the kidnapping by the Shawnee Indians.
© 2012 Jackie Lynnley