Steven Myers:Information about Phebe Tucker
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Phebe Tucker (b. 1761, d. 1845)Phebe Tucker was born 1761 in England, and died 1845 in Freed, Calhoun County, West Virginia.She married Thomas Cunningham on April 1776 in Prickett's Fort, son of Hugh Cunningham and Nancy O'Niel.
Notes for Phebe Tucker:
Copy of Narrative contained in the Chronicles of Border Warfare commencing on page 272.
In 1785, six Indians came to Bingamon creek, (a branch of the West Fork) and made their appearance upon a farm occupied by Thomas and Edward Cunningham. At this time the two brothers were dwelling with their families in separate houses, but nearly adjoining, though not in a direct line with each other. Thomas was then on a trading visit east of the mountain, and his wife and four children were collected in their room for the purpose of eating dinner, as was Edward with his family, in their house. Suddenly a lusty savage entered where were Mrs. Thomas Cunningham and her children, but seeing that he would be exposed to a fire from the other house, and apprehending no danger from the woman and children, he closed the door and seemed for a time only intent on the means of escaping.
Edward Cunningham had seen the savage enter his brother's house, and fastened his own door, seized his gun and stepping to a small aperture in the wall next the house in which was the Indian, and which served as well for a port hole as for the admission of light, was ready to fire whenever the savage should make his appearance. But in the other house was a like aperture, and through it the Indian fired at Edward, and shouted the yell of victory. It was answered by Edward. He had seen the aim of the savage only in time to avoid it, -- the bark from the log close to his head, was knocked off by the ball and flew into his face. The Indian seeing that he had missed his object, and observing an adze in tbe room, deliberately commenced cutting an aperture in the back wall through which he might pass out without being exposed to a shot from the other building.
Another of the Indians came into the yard just after the firing of his companion, but observing Edward's gun pointing through the port hole, he endeavored to retreat out of its range. He failed of his purpose. Just as he was about to spring over the fence, the gun was fired and he fell forward. The ball however only fractured his thigh bone, and he was yet able to hobble over the fence and take shelter behind acoverlet suspended on it, before Edward could again load his gun.
While the Indian was engaged in cutting a hole in the wall, Mrs. Cunningham made no attempt to get out. She was well aware that it would draw down upon her head the fury of the savage; and that if she escaped this, she would most probably be killed by some of those who were watching around, before the other door could be opened for her admission. -- She knew too, that it was impossible for her to take the children with her, and could not brook the idea of leaving them in the hands of the savage monster. She even trusted to the hope that he would withdraw, as soon as he could, without molesting any of them. A few minutes served to convince her of the fallacy of this expectation. When the opening had been made sufficiently large, he raised his tomahawk, sunk it deep into the brains of one of the children, and throwing the scarcely lifeless body into the back yard, ordered the mother to follow after. There was no alternative but death, and she obeyed his order, stepping over the dead body of one of her children, with an infant in her arms and two others screaming from horror at the sight, and clinging to her. When all were out he scalped the murdered boy, and setting fire to the house, retired to an eminence in the field, where two of the savages were, with their wounded companion. -- leaving the other two to watch the opening of Edward Cunningham's door, when the burning of the house should force the family from their shelter. They were disappointed in their expectation of that event by the exertions of Cunningham and his son. When the flame from the one house communicated to the roof of the other, they ascended to the loft, threw off the loose boards which covered it, and extinguished the fire; --the savages shooting at them all the while, and their balls frequently striking close by.
Despairing of accomplishing farther havoc, and fearful of detection and pursuit, the Indians collected together and prepared to retreat. Mrs. Cunningham's eldest son was first tomahawked and scalped; the fatal hatchet sunk into the head of her little daughter, whom they then took by the arms and legs, and slinging it repeatedly against a tree, ended its sufferings with its life. Mrs. Cunningham stood motionless with grief, and in momentary expectation of having the same dealt to her and her innocent infant. But no! She was doomed to captivity; and with her helpless babe in her arms, was led off from this scene of horror and of woe. The wounded savage was carried on a rough litter, and they all departed, crossing the ridge to Bingamon creek, near which they found a cave that afforded them shelter and concealment. After night, they returned to Edward Cunningham's, and finding no one, plundered and fired the house.
When the savages withdrew in the evening, Cunningham went with his family into the woods, where they remained all night, there being no settlement nearer than eight or ten miles. In the morning, proceeding to the nearest house, they gave the alarm and a company of men was soon collected to go in pursuit of the Indians. When they came to Cunningham's and found both houses heaps of ashes, they buried the bones which remained of the boy who was murdered in the house, with the bodies of his brother and little sister, who were killed in the field; but so cautiously had the savages conducted their retreat that no traces of them could be discovered, and the men returned to their homes.
Some days after, circumstances induced the belief that the Indians were yet in the neighborhood, and men were again assembled for the purpose of tracing them. They were now enabled to distinguish the trail, and pursued it near to the cave, where from the number of rocke on the ground and the care which had been taken by the Indians to leave no vestige, they could no longer discover it. They however examined for it in every direction until night forced them to desist. In thinking over the incidents of the day; the cave occurred to the mind of Major Robinson, who was well acquainted with the woods, and he concluded that the savages must be concealed in it. It was examined early next morning, but they had left it the preceding night and departed for their towns. After her return from captivity, Mrs. Cunningham stated, that in time of the search on the day before, the Indians were in the cave, and that several times the whites approached so near, that she could distinctly hear their voices; the savages standing with their guns ready to fire, in the event of their being discovered, and forcing her to keep the infant to her breast, lest its crying might point to the place of their concealment.
In consequence of their stay at this place on account of their wounded companion, it was some time before they arrived in their own country; and Mrs. Cunningham's sufferings, of body as well as mind were truly great. Fatigue and hunger oppressed her sorely, -- the infant in her arms, wanting the nourishment derived from the due sustenance of the mother, plied at the breast for milk, in vain -- blood came in stead; and the Indians perceiving this, put a period to its sufferings, with the tomahawk, even while clinging to its mother's bosom. It was cast a little distance from the path, and left without a leaf or bush to hide it from beasts of prey.
The anguish of this woman during the journey to the towns, can only be properly estimated by a parent; her bodily sufferings may be inferred from the fact, that for ten days her only sustenance consisted of the head of a wild turkey and three papaws, and from the circumstance that the skin and nails of her feet, scalded by frequent wading of the water, came with her stockings, when upon their arrival at a village of the Delaware’s, she was permitted to draw them off. Yet was she forced to continue on with them the next day. -- One of the Indians belonging to the village where they were, by an application of some sanative herbs, very much relieved the pain which she endured.
When she came to the town of those by whom she had been made prisoner, although receiving no barbarous or cruel usage, yet everything indicated to her, that she was reserved for some painful torture. The wounded Indian had been left behind, and she was delivered to his father. Her clothes were not changed, as is the case when a prisoner is adopted by them; but she was compelled to wear them, dirty as they were, -- a bad omen for a captive. She was however, not long in apprehension of a wretched fate. A conference was soon to take place between the Indians and whites, preparatory to a treaty of peace; and witnessing an uncommon excitement in the village one evening, upon inquiring, learned that the Great captain Simon Girty had arrived. She determined to prevail with him, if she could, to intercede for her liberation, and seeing him next day passing near on horseback, she laid hold on his stirrup, and implored his interference. For a while he made light of her petition, -- telling her that she would be as well there as in her own country, and that if he were disposed to do her a kindness he could not as his saddle bags were too small to conceal her; but her importunity at length prevailed, and he whose heart had been so long steeled against every kindly feeling, every sympathetic impression, was at length induced to perform an act of generous, disinterested benevolence. He paid her ransom, had her conveyed to the commissioners for negotiating with the Indians, and by them she was taken to a station on the south side of the Ohio. Here she met with two gentlemen (Long and Denton) who had been at the treaty to obtain intelligence of their children taken captive some time before, but not being able to gain any information respecting them, they were then returning to the interior of Kentucky and kindly furnished her a horse.
In consequence of the great danger attending a journey through the wilderness which lay between the settlements in Kentucky and those on the Holstein, persons scarcely ever performed it but at particular periods of the year, and in caravans, the better to defend themselves against attacks of savages. Notice of the time and place of the assembling of one of these parties being given, Mrs. Cunningham prepared to accompany it; but before that time arrived, they were deterred from the undertaking by the report that a company of travelers, stronger than theirs would be, had been encountered by the Indians, and all either killed or made prisoners. Soon after another party resolved on a visit to Virginia, and Mrs. Cunningham was furnished a horse belonging to a gentleman on Holstein (which had escaped from him while on a buffalo hunt in Kentucky and was found after his return,) to carry her that far on her way home. Experiencing the many unpleasant circumstances incident to such a jaunt, she reached Holstein, and from thence, after a repose of a few days, keeping up the Valley of Virginia, she proceeded by the way of Shenandoah, to the county of Harrison. Here she was sadly disappointed in not meeting with her husband. Having understood that she had been ransomed and taken to Kentucky, he had, some time before, gone on in quest of her. Anxiety for his fate, alone and on a journey which she well knew to be fraught with many dangers, she could not cheerily partake of the general joy excited by her return. In a few days however, he came back. He had heard on Holstein of her having passed there and he retraced his steps. Arriving at his brother Edward's, he again enjoyed the satisfaction of being with all that was then dear to him on earth. It was a delightful satisfaction, but presently damped by the recollection of  the fate of his luckless children -- Time assuaged the bitterness of the recollection and blessed him with other and more fortunate children."
Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 7/16/1914.
Monument to be Erected
The descendants of Phebe Tucker Cunningham, one of the most noted women of pioneer days, whose capture by the Indians is familiar to every reader of Indian warfare, will dedicate a monument to her memory on July 18, in the old Collins burying ground, at Freed, this county, where she lies at rest. Her husband Thomas Cunningham, sleeps at Frederick's Mills, in Ritchie county, on his old homestead, and a movement is on to mark his grave, also.
Few pioneers have a more interesting history or a longer line of descendants scattered throughout the state.
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) Jack B. Berthy Dec.1997
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 sause, 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 wich 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 remberence 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 decended 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 Issac 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, Wv--- submitted by Capt. Jack
There is a book on Marion Co. History called " Long ago and far away" witten 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
More About Phebe Tucker:
Burial: Unknown, Shimer Cemetery, Center District, Calhoun County, WV.
Fact 1: 1785, Pheobeand her 4 children were attacked by 6 Indians while eating dinner.
Fact 2: One child was killed during the battle.
Fact 3: The other 3 were killed one by one on their treck to a Deleware Village.
Fact 4: Bet. 1785 - 1788, Pheobe lived as a slave with the Indians for 3 years.
Fact 5: 1788, In the fall of that year Pheobe met the Renegade, Simon Girty.
Fact 6: She was taken to the present site of Perrysburg, Ohio.
Fact 7: There Girty presented her case to the British agent who furnished the ransom.
Fact 8: She left for Kentucky with 2 men who were searching for their captured children.
Fact 9: After considerable delay she found Thomas and they settled in Lewis Co. WV.
More About Phebe Tucker and Thomas Cunningham:
Marriage: April 1776, Prickett's Fort.
Children of Phebe Tucker and Thomas Cunningham are:
- +Rachel Cunningham, b. May 1794, d. December 15, 1882, Freed, Calhoun County,West Virginia ; Gainer - Shimer Cem, Freed.
- 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, Ritchie County Virginia ( West Virginia ).
- John Cunningham, b. 1802, d. 1851.