The Story of Frances Slocum
aka "The Lost Sister Story"
THE MORNING REPUBLICAN: Scranton (PA),
Saturday, June 19, 1869
From the Chicago Standard
THE LOST SISTER, FRANCES SLOCUM.
A Visit to Her Descendants.
BY G. S. BAILEY, D. D.
The story of Frances Slocum is one of thrilling
interest. She was stolen by the Delaware Indians from her father's
house near Wilkes-Barre, in Wyoming Valley, Luzerne county, Pa., on the
second day of November, 1778, when she was a child five years of age.
They took her from the house in broad daylight before the eyes of her
mother, and that mother never saw her child again. The brothers of
Frances, Joseph and Isaac Slocum, grew to manhood and advanced to old
age, making inquiry and search for their lost sister whenever they
could hear of any white woman among the Indian tribes who they thought
might be their sister, sometimes offering large rewards in money for
her discovery. More than sixty years passed away before they found the
lost sister. She was at last discovered, as the widow of an Indian
Chief, living on the banks of the Mississenawa(sic) river, about seven
miles from its mouth, where it empties into the Wabash, near Peru in
Indiana.As I was born in the same county from which
Frances Slocum was stolen and acquainted with many of her relatives,
and had heard my mother tell the story when I was a child and before
she was discovered, and having read the accounts given in the several
histories of Wyoming concerning her, I had a strong desire to visit her
descendants, and her Indian home. Finding myself unexpectedly at Peru,
Indiana, a few days ago, I made inquiries in regard to her and her
discovery, and was happy to learn that the man who first found her was
still residing at Peru--James T. Miller, exq., now the county treasurer
of Miami county. I had the pleasure of hearing from him the particulars
of the story.
Mr. Miller was a Indian trader and interpreter, making
Peru the headquarters of his operations, and had lived there from
childhood, and learned the Miami Indian tongue, and for many years the
savages were almost his only neighbors and associates. Col. Geo. W.
Ewing was the Indian agent stationed at Logansport, Ind. In January,
1835, Mr. Miller and Col. Ewing were traveling through the forests, and
being belated and the Colonel not feeling well, Mr. Miller proposed
that they should go and stop over night with the white woman among the
Indians. Colonel Ewing had never heard of any white woman among the
Indians there, but Mr. Miller assured him there was one, the wife of
the Deaf Man, as her husband was called by the whites, because he
became totally deaf when between thirty and forty years of age. They
soon fell into a trail in the snow, made by the white woman's
son-in-law, Brouillette, who had killed a deer and taken it home.
Colonel Ewing suggested to Mr. Miller that they should find out the
history of this white woman, and if possible make her known to her
relatives. They were kindly and hospitably received at her log house on
the bank of the Mississenawa, and found her in such poor health that
she thought she would not live long. She was then an old woman and
being under the impression she would soon die she was more than ever
before ready to give some items of her history. Mr. Miller drew her
into conversation about herself, and Col. Ewing sat behind her and
noted down the items which he caught from the conversation.
She remembered that the Delaware Indians came to her
father's house and carried her off when she was a very little girl;
that her father was a Quaker, wore a broad-brimmed hat and a round
coat, and his name was Slocum; that he lived on the Susquehanna river
near a fort. Several of the family were away from the house when the
Indians came, but her mother, sister, and brother were there. The
Indians took what things they wanted from the house, and while they
were pillaging, Frances and her little brother hid under the stairs.
But the Indians discovered her, picked her up and carried her off
screaming. Her elder sister caught up her little brother and ran off
with him, and thus saved him from the savages. A boy that was living
with the Slocums was shot by the Indians as he was grinding a knife
near the door. Two other children, whose name she thought was Kingsley,
were taken by the Indians at the same time, but as they cried
constantly, the Indians became tired of them and killed them. They
stopped the first night in a cave, where the Indians had left their
blankets and other articles while they went out on this raid. Frances
soon learned the Indian language and forgot her own. They wandered a
different times from place to place, living for while near Niagara,
then near Detroit, then at Fort Wayne, and finally on the Mississenawa.
Colonel Ewing, on his return to Logansport, desired to
make some effort to discover her relatives, as they were still probably
living. He wrote the facts which he had learned, to the Postmaster of
Lancaster, Pa., and suggested their publication. The Postmaster
received the letter, but thinking it all a hoax, threw it aside as
worthless. After his death his wife found the letter among his old
papers, some two years after it was written, and sent it to an editor
in Lancaster, who published it in his paper. A copy of this paper fell
into the hands of Joseph Slocum, then residing in Wyoming Valley, who
immediately recognized the facts as those connected with his lost
sister. He at once wrote to Colonel Ewing, and became satisfied that
this was his lost sister Frances.
Isaac Slocum, another brother, had moved to Ohio, near
Sandusky. On learning of the discovery of his sister, he started at
once to find her. In May 1838, he came to Peru, Indiana, stopped at the
hotel, and sent at once for Mr. Miller, who kept a store in the
village; but Mr. Slocum not sending word as to his name or errand, Mr.
Miller was told that an old gentleman, a stranger, was at the hotel,
and wished to see him. He replied that he was busy and could not go.
Soon a boy came with a request that Mr. Miller should come immediately,
as the old man was very anxious to see him. He sent word that he would
come in half an hour. Soon the boy came back and said the old man was
very anxious to see him at once. Mr. Miller then went, leaving two
Indian girls in the store till he should come back. They were the
daughters of Frances Slocum! Mr. Miller went to the hotel and instantly
recognized the old man as a brother of the white woman, by their strong
family resemblance, and at once went up to him and called him Mr.
Slocum. The old man asked how he knew his name was Slocum.
"By your resemblance to the white woman who lives among the Indians."
Mr. Slocum burst into tears.
"Is it possible that I have found her at last, after a search of sixty years?"
"Yes, you must be her brother. Two of her daughters are now in town and at my store."
"I want to see them. I will go with you."
"Yes, I wish you to see them, but I think I had better
see them first, and you come down to my store with this boy in about
Mr. Miller went and told the girls that he had found their uncle. They did not believe it.
"Yes, he is certainly your uncle. He looks very much like your mother."
"No, we do not believe he is our uncle. Others have claimed to be our relatives when they were not."
"Well, he is coming yonder with that boy. Now you look at him and see if he does not look like your mother."
They stood and watched him as he came up. The oldest
girl was convinced and greeted him cordially and shook hands. The
youngest girl ran to the back end of the store and began to cry. Mr.
Miller tried to pacify her.
"Yes, I know it is my mother's brother, and he has come to take my mother and carry her off."
"No, he has only come to see her and make her a visit."
Mr. Miller at length persuaded her to come and speak to
her uncle, though she was evidently afraid he had come to carry off her
It was then late in the afternoon, but Mr. Slocum
insisted on going that night to see his sister, some eight or nine
miles distant. Mr. Miller accompanied him, but was careful to send the
girls home by the shortest route to apprise their mother of their
coming, while he purposely took a longer route. When on the way he
asked Mr. Slocum if she had any certain mark by which he could
recognize his sister.
"Yes; a lock of hair over one ear was perfectly white, while all the rest was sandy."
"Well, but all her hair may be white now. She is an old woman. Have you any other mark?"
"Yes; my brother one day hit her finger with a hammer
on the anvil in the shop, and pounded off the end of her forefinger on
her left hand. That mark she must carry still."
They reached the banks of the Mississenawa, just
opposite her house, which stood so near the bank that subsequently it
had to be moved to a higher point a few rods distant. Mr. Miller
requested Mr. Slocum to remain on the bank until he crossed and saw the
white woman. He forded the river, went to the house, and shook hands
with the woman. The fingers on the right hand were all perfect. He took
up the left hand, and the end of the forefinger was gone. He was fully
convinced. The girls were already at home and had told the story. Mr.
Miller went back and came over with Mr. Slocum. The long separated
brother and sister were soon clasped in each other's arms. There was no
reserve. She at once recognized the family resemblance, and
acknowledged the relation. She could talk but very little English. Mr.
Slocum was overcome and wept. The fountains pent up so long during his
disappointed search, were now opened. He had found his lost sister, and
his grateful emotions could only be expressed in a flood of tears. She
was more composed. Supper was prepared. Mr. Slocum could not eat. He
was too happy, too excited. When Mr. Miller retired to rest, the
brother and sister were sitting side by side on a bench, talking as
best they could. When he awoke in the morning they were sitting in the
same place talking still. He thought they had talked all night.
The next day they went to Peru, where Isaac Slocum
entertained his Indian relatives and they thus returned his visit.
After a few days Mr. Slocum returned (to) his home in Ohio.
Subsequently Joseph Slocum and his two daughters visited Frances at her
Indian home. They endeavored to pursuade her to return home with them,
but she was completely an Indian in language, habits, associations, and
everything except blood, and she had no desire to leave those who had
always treated her kindly, and abundantly provided for her. She was
then an old woman, and could not expect to live many years. She was a
queen among the Indians, and could never expect to feel at home in
civilized society. She died in 1847. Her relatives had secured a grant
of a section of land for her and her descendants. She had two sons and
two daughters. The oldest daughter was married to Jean Baptiste
Brouilette, a half-breed French and Indian. Her second daughter has
lost three husbands, and is now living with the fourth, Wa-sa-pe-tah,
now the Rev. Peter Bondy, a Baptist minister who preaches to his people
in their native tongue.
The day following my interview with Mr. Miller, I went
in company with Rev. Mr. Trenneman, in a buggy, to visit the
descendants of Frances Slocum. We crossed the Wabash on a bridge at
Peru, and some two or three miles beyond we crossed the Mississenawa, a
mile or two from its mouth, also on a fine covered bridge. This is a
beautiful stream of clear, crystal water, running over a rocky bottom,
and bordered by beautiful woodlands or richly cultivated bottom lands.
This fine brick two-story farm house just before us, with a nice
garden, orchard, and out-houses, is the home of Godfrey, the half-breed
war chief of the tribe. Those men there at work with wagon and team are
Indians, and those boys at work in the garden have also the tawny hue,
though in all other respects they seem like other boys. About half the
houses we pass are the homes of Indians, though we cannot guess from
any of the surroundings, whether the owners are whites or Indians. Here
we are upon the banks of the Mississenawa, some twenty or thirty feet
above its surface, and beneath us, forming the perpendicular bank, are
some curiously formed bluffs of lime rock, with caves and grottoes in
which pic-nic parties sometimes find a pleasant resort. The river has
made a large bend, and now we reach it and ford its bright, clear
waters, which do not quite reach our feet in the buggy.
Passing now a group of homes and a mill or two, a
rather shabby village called Peoria, very different from the beautiful
city of that name in Illinois, a mile beyond we reach the home of
Frances Slocum, the lost sister. On a beautiful rounded knoll, some
twenty rods from the Mississenawa, and perhaps fifty feet above its
surface, stands a double log house with a wide passage between the two
parts, but one roof covering the whole, with porches the whole length
both front and rear, and plain home-like look about the yard. This was
the home of the white woman, and here resides her daughter
O-sou-wa-pak-shin-quah, Yellow Leaves, (so named because born in
autumn, when the leaves are changing,) now the wife of Wa-pa-pe-tah
which means all over white, as he was born in winter when the ground
was white with snow. His English name, as I have said, Peter Bondy.
We are cordially greeted by brother Bondy, whom we had
met before and are introduced to his wife a matronly looking woman, who
cordially shakes hands, and looks both pleased and interested as I tell
her that I came from the county from which her mother was stolen when a
child, and that I was acquainted with her relatives. But she speaks not
a word of English. We enter one part of the spacious log house. A bed
stands on each side of the door and another in another corner, on
which, partly reclining, is her daughter, recently injured by the kick
of a horse; an educated, sensible young lady of about twenty years,
ready to converse and act as interpreter when required. She spoke good
English. A daughter of Brouillete also was present, a girl of sixteen
or eighteen. Her father and mother are both dead and lie buried in the
yard near the house, as also do Frances Slocum and her husband.
We immediately entered into conversation.
"What was Frances Slocum's Indian name?"
"What did that name mean?"
"The Young Bear."
I learned from Mrs. George Slocum, who lives near them,
that the Indians gave her this name because when they stole her she
cried for a long time and they tried to pacify her by giving her nice
things, but she would strike them from her in anger, like a young bear,
hence they called her Ma-coon-squah.
"What was her husband's Indian name?"
"The whites called him the Deaf Man, because he was totally deaf for many years. His Indian name was She-bak-o-nah."
"What does She-bak-o-nah mean?"
"Ah me no English."
"Well, can't you give some idea of it?"
He went to his bureau and took out a small iron rod
about sixteen inches long, with a hole in the one end and pointed at
the other. Holding it up he said, "That is the name. That is
"No, not a spear."
"Well, what is it?"
"Me no English."
"Well, what do you do with it?"
"Me kill deer, kill bear, kill buffalo, put string
through this hole, stick it through meat, slip it on the string, hang
it up to dry. This is She-bak-o-nah."
That is, a big needle to string venison with, to dry.
He shows me two tomahawks, the handles ornamented with silver bands,
and inlaid with silver images of rabbits, a pipe constituting the upper
part of the tomahawk the handle answering for the stem to smoke
through. One of these and his shebakonah he gives me for the cabinet of
curiosities in our Theological Seminary in Chicago.
Taking the tomahawk he put it by his side as if in a belt, and said, "Me carry this when wild Indian, savage."
"What did you carry it for?"
"Me shoot deer' come up to him, he not quite dead; me hit him."
"Did you ever carry it in war, in battle?"
He shook his head and answered, "No."
He said, "white man cheat Indian; cheat Indian bad-fifty dollars for tomahawk."
He showed me his wooden mortar and pestle where he
pounded corn into meal. Several bushels of ears of seed corn were hung
up by the husk, the ears having a half dozen different colors of corn
We went to the grave of Frances Slocum, but two or
three rods from the house, where are perhaps a dozen graves. One was
marked with a marble stone, that of Rev. Jean Baptiste Brouillette, who
died two years ago, universally esteemed as an earnest Christian
Frances Slocum found her home surrounded by white
settlements, and felt the need of some friend to protect her rights.
She desires either her brothers settle near her. This they could not
do, but George Slocum, her brother Isaac's son, settled near them in
1847. He was an earnest Christian and a member of a Baptist church.
He learned their language and interested himself in
their tenporal and spiritual welfare to the time of his death, some
five or six years ago. I visited his widow and was most hospitably
entertained at dinner. Brother Slocum had the satisfaction of seeing
three Indian Baptist churches raised up there, and others have
emigrated to Kansas and formed an Indian Baptist church there also.
Brouillette was the first convert. Wa-pa-pe-tah (Peter Bondy) was also
convicted about the same time, and both of them became Baptist
The Indians are quite poetic in their names, all of
which seem to have a meaning. Brouillette's daughter, whom I saw, was
born when he was past fifty years of age, and he called her
O-se-nah-kis-a-me-quah (The Last Rays of the Setting Sun). Her English
name is the unpoetic one of Nancy.
Some years ago the government removed most of the
Miamis to the Indian Territory. This they regarded as a great hardship,
and would only go as they were compelled to, by an armed force sent for
that purpose. When leaving, I was told, they would fall prostrate on
the ground, kiss the earth and weep bitterly to leave their dear
Mississenawa valley, and each carried away a little bag of the
Mississenawa earth with him when he left. About six hundred removed to
the West, while only about three or four hundred remained. These are
now cultivating farms and have increased to about eight hundred, while
those who removed have dwindled to three hundred, a proof that Indians
can live and prosper as farmers.
The name of the civil chief of the tribe is
Mo-shin-go-ma-sha, who, with those around him, occupies ten or twelve
square miles of land, a few miles away from the home of Frances Slocum.
singular the providence of God in the captivity and life of this lost
sister! Yet as a final result many of that benighted people have become
Christians, and several connected with her family have become faithful
ministers of Christ.
"An Index of the Frances Slocum Cemetery"
with full inscription of the monument to Frances Slocum
View an early postcard with portrait of Frances Slocum,
by J. M. Wilmore.
This page was written on 23 August 1997
and updated 23 Feb 2007
Many thanks to RALPH W. ROBINSON II ("Robbie"),
a third great grandson of Frances Slocum's brother, Benjamin Slocum.
His donations and encouragement have made this page a reality.
Fran Richards is a 3rd great granddaughter of Frances Slocum's brother, Jonathan.
Send Comments or Additions to:
Debby Beheler / Kokomo, Indiana / Email me!
Other sites with information about Frances Slocum
Frances Slocum Genealogy
Slocum - RI to PA
Indiana State Historical Marker
Return to Miami Co., INGenWeb