Indian captive Mary Kinnan (August 26, 1763-March 12, 1848) was born Mary Lewis in New Jersey. In 1778, she married Joseph Kinnan. They moved to Randolph County in 1787, settling in the Tygart Valley.
In May 1791, three Shawnee raiders entered the Kinnan home. Joseph Kinnan was fatally shot by the Indians and a neighbor child was also killed. Among those who escaped was Jacob Lewis, Mary’s brother. Mary fled the house with her young daughter, but a pursuing Indian seized and killed the child. Kinnan herself was captured and held prisoner. It is believed that she was taken by her captors to a point near the Buckhannon River, then down the Ohio by way of the Little Kanawha. She was then taken to a village near Fort Wayne on the Maumee River, an Ohio tributary. She was sold several times and eventually became the property of an Indian woman. They settled about 20 miles from Detroit.
Nearly two years passed before Kinnan could identify herself to an Indian trader, Robert Albert. She later gave him a note to send to her friends. In 1793, Kinnan’s letter arrived in her old community in New Jersey and was read to a Presbyterian congregation. A collection was taken up and her brother, Jacob Lewis, was sent to rescue Kinnan. After almost a year he arrived in Detroit, visited the Indian encampment and saw his sister. In October 1794, Lewis rescued his sister. They eventually returned to New Jersey.
Kinnan never returned to her home in (West) Virginia, living the rest of her life in New Jersey.
Last Revised on December 07, 2015
Phelps, McKinnie L. The Indian Captivity of Mary Kinnan, 1791-1794. Boulder: Pruett Press, 1967.
Cite This Article
e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Mary Kinnan." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 07 December 2015. Web. 28 March 2017.