The Abduction of Katy Sage

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Southwest Virginia Project
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From Source:Coale, 1878

The story of Katy's return is described under at Dreams_and_Portents#Granny_Moses.


The preceding chapter is a truthful narrative of the abduction of Katy Sage, of Grayson county, in 1792, and this chapter will explain by whom the cruel outrage was perpetrated, and the motive prompting the bad man who cast this broad shadow- upon an innocent family.

James Sage, the father of Katy, was a native of Maryland, and a soldier of the Revolution. He belonged to the brigade of General Enoch Poor, and was in the battles of Brandywine, Monmouth and Germantown, endured the sufferings and privations of that terrible winter at Valley Forge, and was an eye-witness of the last act in the great drama-the surrender Lord of Cornwallis at Yorktown. He married at Fredericktown, Maryland, in 1780, and after the close of the war the next year removed with his young--wife to the "back woods," and settled on Cripple creek, Wythe county, Virginia. He remained here some ten years and then removed to Elk creek, in what is now Grayson County, where he resided whep his child was stolen, the homestead being still in possession of his descendants.

Owning several fine horses, and more than he needed for his then small farming operations, as did also two of his neighbors by the names of Delp and Cornut-names still flimiliar in that county-they concluded to turn them into the range, which, at that early day, was very fine, and sufficient to keep them, even in winter, in good condition, without additional food. This was early in the spring of 1792 and the horses had been out but a f'ew weeks when Mr. Cornut, on going out to salt them, discovered that three of most valuable were missing. The three neighbors, with as little delay as possible, packed up provisions for the jounrney, shouldered their rifles and started in pursuit. They were not long in finding the trail, which led them along the bank and toward the source of that crooked and turbulent stream now known by the name of Holston, to the base of White Top mountain. Here the trail divided one of the horses keeping along the side of the mountain, the others slightly diverging from the regular trace.

This was doubtless done for the purpose of baffling pursuit and made it apparent that there were at least two thieves. Mr. Sage followed the track of the single horse, and his companions followed those of the two. When the the former reached the summit 6f that part of White Top known at this day as Elk Garden, the long swag connecting White Top and Balsam, even yet the most luxuriant and nutritious pasturage in all that vast range, he came upon three of the horses hobbled and quietly grazing, but the thieves, who were doubtless enjoying themselves in the cabin of one of the few squatters of that wild and almost inaccessible region, eluded their search. He soon called up his companions, and catching and mounting the horses whichh had their halters on them, they made their way back to the settlement.

Suspicion had been directed to a man by the name of Talbert as the principal thief, who had been dodging about from settlement to settlement without apparent business or visible means of support, and who had been seen on Elk creek a day or two before the disappearance of Katy Sage. He was never seen there afterwards, and it was the opinion of the community that he had stolen the child, and that the motive was revenge for the loss of the horses he had stolen from the father.

Katy informed her brothers, through an interpreter, that she had been stolen by a white man, who picked her up in his arms, mufiled her head and face with a handkerchief; and threatened to kill her if she gave any alarm. He carried her with considerable speed until he thought himself safe from pursuit, made his way to the Cherokee Nation, disposed of her there, disappeared, and she never heard of him afterwards.

Katy's subsequent history being given in the preceeding chapter, these facts are given to illustrate how slight a provocation may sometimes induce a bad man to commit a most inhuman crime. The child could be of no benefit to him, farther than the trifle the Indians might give - for her with the hope of securing a ranson, but the distress of the father in the loss of the little one, far more bitter than if it had died in his arms, was the gratification sought by her abductor, appropriately termed the Horse-thief's revenge.