Document:The Capture of Margaret Handley, 1779



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Original Source: The original source for the following has not been seen, but is supposed to be in the Draper MSC. The original may be a first person account by Margaret Handley Erksin, of her capture and captivity.
Intermediate Source: Johnston, 1906. The same basic story is told on the website of Randall J. Handly . The two presentations are largely identical, but differ in a few ways, including most importantly, the name of Margaret's husband. The Johnston account gives his name as "John Pauley", while the Handly account gives it as "James Pauley". In either event, both John and James Pauley were killed in the same Indian attack that left their wives captives. The differences are sufficient however, to warrant concern that perhaps Johnston, 1906, or the Handly website have errored in the extraction of information. It is possible that the Handly website made use of additional family information to augment what was in Johnston, 1906. In either case, examination of Margaret's narratives is needful to verify what's said in the sources available to us at the moment. For the moment, I am assuming that the correct presentation is that of Johnston 1906.


Indian Captivity Stories of the Cowan Family
Analysis:Captivity Stories for Ann Walker Cowan, and Mary Walker Cowan


Margaret Handley (1753-1842) married John Pauley about 1777. By 1779 they had a young son, and Margaret was with child again. In the fall of that year the Pauley's set out for Kentucky from Handley's Fort near Union, VA. Their party consisted of two brothers, James and John Pauley, their wives, the young son of Margaret, a Mr. Wallace, and Bruce Miller. They followed the East River south and were attacked by Native Americans about five miles upstream from the point where it enters the New River. One of the Pauley men was killed outright; the other was mortally wounded but made it back to Wood's Fort, where he died the next day. Margaret's child was killed, and she herself made prisoner, along with the wife of her husband's brother. The Indians took them north to the Indian towns on the Miami, where she gave birth to the child she was carrying. According to one source she was "adopted by Chief White Bark". Eventually Margaret was released and returned to her people at Union, Va., around 1785. She remarried to a Michael Tridly Erskine. Hence her full name is sometimes given as Margaret Handley Pauley Erskine.


Some sources hold that Margaret's release was due to the intercession of Simon Girty, a white who adopted the Indian lifestyle, sided with the British during the Revolution, and led raids on the settlers along the Virginia Frontier. An Essay on Simon Girty's life can be found at Essays in History. An objective account of his life is also to be found at Ohio History Central. It is interesting to note that the Thomas Carter version of the Ann Walker Cowan Captivity story identifies Simon Girty as the leader of the raiding party which captured Ann and her nephew William Walker. Draper notes, in his marginalia to the story, that Girty was not in the area at the time of the raid.