In 1835 while visiting a well-established trading post in Indiana known as Deaf Man’s Village, Colonel George Ewing made a fascinating discovery: a Native-American woman, whom he observed to be of light skin with red hair, confided in him that she was once abducted from her white family and later raised by a couple from the Miami tribe.
The woman, Frances Slocum, soon became famous across America. Countless newspapers reprinted her tale. The story of her abduction, adoption, and life among the Miami captivated thousands of readers.
The tale began in 1777, when Frances’s parents moved their family from Rhode Island to Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. As a family of Quaker pacifists, they mistakenly believed that they were insulated from the wartime battles that surrounded them. They were wrong.
In July of 1778, the Battle of Wyoming Valley took place on their doorstep. Over 300 American settlers were killed by British troops and their Native American allies. Frances was abducted by Native American forces. Her family searched in vain, but never located the girl.
Frances was eventually traded by her captors to a kind Miami Indian couple, who named her Maconaquah. The couple taught her tribal ways of life and culture. Such was her indoctrination into the Miami way of life that when Frances met her white siblings years later, she had to speak through a translator.
In 1779, Frances’s adoptive parents took her to present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana, after being forced from their land by the Continental Army. As Frances matured, her beautiful looks and skill in foot races and games played on horseback caught the attention of many young men in her tribe.
In 1790, she married a man from the Delaware tribe by the name of Tuck Horse. The marriage was unhappy, with allegations of physical abuse. Frances eventually returned to her adoptive parents’ home, the Native American equivalent of a divorce.
Slocum later wed a Miami brave named Shepoconah. The couple moved to his village near the Mississinewa River in present-day Peru, Indiana, Shepoconah eventually became chief of the local Miami tribe. The couple had four children.
After losing his hearing, Shepoconah gave up his position as chief and moved his family upriver. There, he established a trading post known as Deaf Man’s Village.
It was here, after the death of her husband, that Frances encountered Colonel George Ewing. His newspaper account eventually reached the eyes of Frances’s brother, Isaac. He visited Indiana in 1838 to confirm her identity. Visits with other family members followed. Although her white family asked Frances to move back to Pennsylvania with them, she refused. Frances chose to remain among her children and grandchildren in Indiana.
In 1840, the United States government made a treaty with the Miami people ceding Miami lands in Indiana. The tribe was forced to relocate to Kansas. In 1845, Frances appealed to Congress asking to retain ownership over her land, using her fame and identity as a “white woman” as leverage. Congress subsequently granted Frances 640 acres, transferable to her descendants upon death. While the rest of the Miami tribe left Indiana, Frances and twenty-one of her relatives were allowed to remain.
Frances died on March 9, 1847. She is buried near her home along with Mississinewa River. A historical marker was later erected to commemorate her unusual story, and Pennsylvania honored her memory by establishing Francis Slocum State Park.