Ordeal of Phoebe Tucker Cunningham
Glen D Lough's History of Marion County
As Told by my Great-Great Grandmother
Leah Hardman Beall Granddaughter of Phoebe
by Jack B. Berthy
Grandma(Phoebe) and the children were eating dinner when the shadow of an Indian tomahawk fell across the threshold. Grandpa had gone to Pittsburgh to buy need things was expected home and grandma had set place at the table for him. Grandma and Grandpa were both born in 1761 and were married at 19 years old by a minister Haymond at Pricketts Fort in 1780. Henry was 4, Lidia3,Walter2, and Thomas was 6 months when killed by the Indians.
At first Grandpa and Grandma settled on Ten Mile Creek, but later moved to land on Bingamon Creek where Thomas' brother, Edward and his family then lived. Edwards wife was Sarah Price. The day the Indians came Grandma, 24 years old, a tiny women and always very charming had washed a beautiful red and white coverlet and put it on the fence to dry. The Indians came up from the woods and crouched behind the coverlet. Signs told they had been there for two or three hours watching. One of the savages, a tall, very fat one, painted for war, all red and yellow and black crossed the yard and entered the cabin at noon time. On the table were bear meat, new potatoes, fresh peas, apple sauce, a fresh baked vinegar pie and sweet milk. The Indian went to the table and fingered a potato saying " Do week dah" which is potato in Wyandotte tongue, and popped it into his mouth. He then ate the pie and drank all the milk. Afterward he went to the window that opened next to Edward's house which was 60 feet away. It was then that Edward looking out the window saw him and told Sarah to get his rifle. A moment later the Indian fired at Edward and Edward fire back but with no harm done. The Indian then asked how many were in Edward's house and Phoebe held up her hands and the Indian said " aug. sigh". Later when a captive Phoebe learned this was ten. The Indian ate another potato, then pulled the tick off the beds and set them afire causing a think smoke. When the house was filled with smoke he jerked Grandma out of her chair and shoved her across the room. At that moment another Indian ran from the woods into the yard. Edward shot him and he crawled off under the fence into the woods. The Indian in the house watched until his companion was out of sight, then drove his tomahawk into 2 year old Walter's head and took the little brown haired fellow's scalp. The Indian then led her from the house with the baby in her arms and Henry and Lydia hanging onto her skirts. She and the children were hidden from Edward's view because of all of the smoke. Grandma and the children were taken into the woods where there were the wounded Indian as well as others. Henry and Lydia were murdered and Grandma and little Tommy were taken off.
The wounded savage was carried on a rough litter and they all departed crossing the ridge to Binghamton Creek where they found a cave where Phoebe and the baby were concealed for shelter. Grandma said she and the baby were taken over the hill to a large over-hanging rock where the Indians had heaped up brush and logs and made a den. Here they were for four days until the wounded Indian died. On the fifth day they were taken from the den and the journey to the far west of the of the Ohio river began. On the ninth day little Tommy was chopped to death and left in the open for the wolves.
Grandma was taken to the territory which later became Madison County, Ohio to Wyandotte village where the chief was a kindly Indian called "Darby". Big Darby Creek was about 20 miles west of what is now Columbus, Ohio. She was not treated badly after she became acquainted with the Indians and their white captives, some of whom became her friends. Three years later a conference preparatory to a treaty between the whites and the Indians was pending, when one evening she noticed a unusual commotion in the village and learned that the great Simon Girty occasioned it. She determined to as him to interced for her release and on the following day, seeing him passing by on horseback, she went to him and lay hand on his stirup and implored his interference in her behalf. He recieved her release, made provisions for her ransom, and had her conveyed to the commissioners who negotiated the treaty.
During the autumn of 1788 she was taken to the great Indian conference at the foot of the Maumee rapids and while here, Captain Girty brought the case before the British agent( Alexander McKee) who furnished the trinkets for the ransom, and she was set free. From there she went to Kentucky with two gentlemen who came to the conference in quest of their captive children. After much difficulty she reached the home of Edward in Harrison County and found that her husband Thomas, on hearing of her release, had gone in quest of her. She was depressed by the disappointment of not meeting him and by the danger and peril that attended his every footstep. But in a few days her husband, hearing that she was home, returned and with unspeakable joy, clasped to his bosum again his long lost wife.
Though the remberance of the tragic fate of their children shadowed the joy of their reunion, time alleviated their sorrow and seven more fortunate children came to bless their home. From these children are descended no small percent of of the present population of Ritchie and Marion Counties. Thomas and Phoebe settled in now Ritchie County 1807. Thomas died there on the homestead in 1826. He was the first Methodist Minister in Ritchie County. Phoebe spent her last years in Calhoun County (Freed) with her daughter, Mrs. Isaac Collins ( Rachel Cunningham). Phoebe died in 1845. She is buried at the Gainer-Shimer Cemetery on Leading Creek Road in Calhoun County. The D.A.R has erected a monument in her honor. Thomas is buried on the Barker Farm, on Fonzo Road near Smithville, West Virginia--- submitted by Capt. Jack
There is a book on Marion Co. History called " Long ago and far away" written by Glen D. Lough that you may want to see if you can get your hands on. We (the family) believe that this "Phoebe" story is the most accurate of a bunch of articles written on her, because my Great Grandmother was the narrator and she and Phoebe were very close. I am told by the experts that Glen G. Lough's data is always very accurate. Dorthy Beall Moffett of Clarksburg ( a genealogy expert on the Beall Family) has asked that I pass this information on to you. She is past President of the Harrison County Historical Society .....Jack
I am quite familiar with the story of Phoebe Tucker Cunningham. She was my great-great-great-great Aunt by marriage. Her husband Thomas Cunningham was a brother of my great-great-great grandfather Edward Cunningham. The brothers had adjacent cabins on Cunningham Run in northern Harrison County, WV. Edward shot one of the Indians who abducted Phoebe; the Indian reportedly died soon after.
There are several sources of information about Phoebe Tucker Cunningham and her abduction and captivity by Indians. The best account of which I am aware is in “Long Ago and Far Away”, a history of Marion County, WV, written in part by Mr. Jack Sandy Anderson. The book contains a chapter on Phoebe’s captivity that is narrated by Mrs. Leah Beall, Phoebe’s granddaughter, who supposedly heard the story directly from her grandmother. Her story ends with Phoebe still in captivity, but the chapter concludes Phoebe’s ransom from the Indians and return to her husband Thomas by relating that portion of the story taken from Minnie Kendall Lowther’s book “History of Ritchie County WV”. Mrs. Lowther’s book and also Colonel Alexander Withers’ book “Chronicles of Border Warfare” contain the story of Phoebe’s abduction and captivity, but the version told by Mrs. Beall may be the most accurate. The story and the genealogy of their children and descendants is also related in an extensive genealogy prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Blech of Kendallville, Indiana, entitled “Colonial Cunninghams of the Virginias and Their Descendants”.
There was also a version of this event published in the Spring of 1994 in a publication titled “Traditions” (the origin of this publication is unknown to me) which was titled “Red Deer: The Story of Phoebe Tucker Cunningham”. This story contains numerous errors or anachronisms, which lead me to believe it is a complete fable.
Phoebe and Thomas had a total of either 10 or 11 children. There is some disagreement on the number in the records that I have. The first four were murdered by the Indians during the raid in which Phoebe was abducted. After she was reunited with her husband they had either six or seven more children. William was the first born, followed by John and then Rachel.
The story surfaces from time to time that Phoebe had children during her captivity, fathered by an Indian. In all the accounts of her captivity that I know about there is no indication that this happened. Some accounts state that she was fairly well treated by the Indians. I personally do not believe that she gave birth to any such child or children. The location of the village to which she was taken, by the way, is supposedly on or near Big Darby Creek southwest of Columbus, Ohio.
Simon Girty played a role in her ransom from the Indians. There is a new biography of Girty that has just been published, written by Mr. Phillip W. Hoffman, in case anyone interested in Phoebe Cunningham’s story might want to read about Mr. Girty. (There is mention in this book that Indian males did not sexually molest captive white women.)
I have several photographs of Phoebe’s gravestone at the Gainer Cemetery in Calhoun County, WV, as well as photos of the valley of Cunningham Run where the raid took place in Harrison County, WV, and also a photo of a brass plaque that is mounted on a stone in the Cunningham Run valley noting the location of the cabins where Thomas and his brother Edward were living at the time of the raid. I also have a photograph of the gravestone of Phoebe’s husband Thomas, who is buried on a farm near Fonzo, WV, if anyone is interested.
Robert Cunningham, Akron, Ohio
Phebe Tucker Cunningham born in England and being of Scottish parentage was born in 1761. She and her husband Thomas along with their eight sons (Adam, Ephraim, Benjamin, Joseph, William, Walter, Edward and Thomas) came to American in 1807 and settled on the what is now the W.E. Hill and the Fredrick Homesteads. In 1785 Phebe and four of her children were captured by the Indians. Her children were brutally killed by the savages. Phebe was held as a prisoner for three long years. In 1788 there was a great Indian conference at the foot of Maumeee Rapids on or near the present site of Perrysburg, Ohio. While there Captain Girty brought the case before the British agent, McKee, who furnished the trinkets for her ransom and she was set free. The complete tale can be read in the book Border Warfare. This is part of the history of Ritchie and Calhoun County's West Virginia
In 1785, Phoebe was kidnapped by Indians and taken by them to Ohio. She was released in 1788, with the help of Simon Girty and returned to her husband, Thomas. Her first four children were killed by the Indians. After her return, she and Thomas had seven more children.
Just above the Leading Creek road on the hillside is where Phoebe Cunningham (1761-1845) is buried beside the Shimer, Snider and Collins, including Issac Collins (grandson of Pheobe Cunningham) who died in 1833 and Issac (1792-1871) and Rachel (1794-1882) Collins.
Children of Phebe Tucker and Thomas Cunningham are:
Rachel Cunningham, b. May 1794, d. December 15, 1882,
Henry Cunningham, b. Abt. 1778, d. 1785.
Lydia Cunningham, b. Abt. 1780, d. 1785.
Walter Cunningham, b. Abt. 1782, d. 1785.
Thomas Cunningham, b. 1784, d. 1785.
William Cunningham, b. 1789, d. date unknown.
Phebe Cunningham, b. 1795, d. 1871.
Sira Leah Cunningham, b. 1796, d. August 13, 1874.
Barbra Cunningham, b. 1797, d. date unknown.
Richard Benjamin Cunningham, b. April 1800, Harrison County Virginia ( West Virginia), d. May 24, 1853.
John Cunningham, b. 1802, d. 1851.
Phebe Tucker Cunningham
Birth 1791 in England
Died 1845 age 83-84 in Freed, Calhoun County, WV
Burial Gainer Cemetery Calhoun County, WV