Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Maiden Foot and Mary Means

One of the resources I’ve been using in doing research for The Return is The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania by C. Hale Sipe. It contains a wealth of fascinating information about the Native Americans in Pennsylvania during the colonial and Revolutionary War. The following is an edited version of the moving, true story of a Delaware warrior and a little white girl that Sipe includes in the book, which he quotes from Boucher’s History of Westmoreland County. It touched me deeply, and I hope you find it meaningful too.

"Young Delaware Indian"-- Randy Steele
After the end of the French and Indian War, friendly Delaware Indians often visited Fort Ligonier. In the spring of 1763 a young warrior named Maiden Foot was at the fort when a settler named Means, who lived a short distance away, arrived with his wife and little daughter, Mary. She was just eleven years old, and Maiden Foot took a great liking to her. When it came time for him to leave with his companions, he became sad and thoughtful. Before they parted, he gave the little girl a gift of a sting of beads.

A short time later the great chiefs Pontiac and Guyasuta led an uprising against the British. Alarmed by rumors of attacks in the area while Mr. Means was away, his wife and daughter left their home and headed for the fort. On their way they were captured by two Indians, who took them into the woods, tied them to a tree, and left them. Soon Mrs. Means and Mary heard gunshots from the Indian assault on the fort. After the passage of some time, Maiden Foot unexpectedly appeared. It may be that he had been sent to scalp them, but as soon as he recognized them he cut their bonds and took them by a roundabout route back to their home. Mr. Means had returned and met them there. Maiden Foot urged the family to flee to the mountains and directed them to a ravine where they could hide until the warriors left the area. Before he left them, Maiden Foot took Mary’s handkerchief. Her name was embroidered on the white cloth in black silk thread.

A number of years afterward the Means family moved to the vicinity of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mary’s parents died, and she married an officer named Kearney, who later commanded a company under General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of the Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. Afterward, Kearney and some companions found an elderly Indian man sitting on a log on the battlefield. He told them that he had been a warrior all his life and that he had fought at Ligonier, at Bushy Run, on the Wabash against St. Clair, and at the recent battle against Wayne. He had had enough of war, he said, and he desired henceforth to live in peace with all men. Searching in his pouch he took out a white handkerchief. On it was embroidered in black thread the name Mary Means.

Kearney had heard his wife tell the story of Maiden Foot many times, and he took the old Indian home with him. It had been thirty-one years since they parted near Fort Ligonier, but Mary and the Indian immediately recognized each other. Maiden Foot explained that shortly before he met her, he had lost a sister about her age and size, and that by giving her the gift of the string of beads he was in effect adopting her as his sister.

Maiden Foot was taken into the Kearney family and lived with them until his death four years later. He was buried in a graveyard at Cincinnati, and the tablet erected at his grave bore the following inscription: “In memory of Maiden Foot, an Indian Chief of the Eighteenth Century, who died a Civilian and a Christian.”

In reading this story, I was reminded that the love God bestows knows no boundaries of age or race or culture, but endures beyond time. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”