Person:Betsy Henry (3)

Betsy Henry
b.bef. 1750
m. est. 1730/32
  1. James Henry, of the Borden Tract, Augusta County, VAabt 1732/35 - Bef 1809
  2. Samuel Henryabt 1746 - Bef 1789
  3. Betsy Henrybef 1750 -
m. est. 1764-1767
  1. Sarah HenryEst 1764-1767 -
Facts and Events
Name Betsy Henry
Gender Female
Birth? bef. 1750
Marriage est. 1764-1767 Indian Settlementto Unknown Delaware Indian Chieftain

Accounts of the Saga of Betsy Henry

An account of the kidnapping of Betsy Henry by Indians abt. 1750-1753:

There is documentation from a reliable secondary source that definitively places the Henry family somewhere in Pennsylvania, most likely on the frontier, prior to their move to Virginia. The story revolves around an Indian raid of the frontier settlements that resulted in the capture of a number of English settlers, one of them being Betsy Henry. She was taken west of the Ohio River, probably into modern day Ohio, where she was eventually accepted into the tribe. When she came of age, she married a young Delaware chieftan whose ancestry was half Indian and half French. Apparently, their relationship was quite happy, and, when a number of white captives were brought to Fort Pitt, modern day Pittsburgh, about 14 years later, for exchange, she was with her husband and refused to return to white society. This was in the early to mid 1760s, probably 1764 or 1767. If the 14 year “captivity” time is correct, then the original abduction must have taken place in Pennsylvania sometime between 1750 and 1753. It seems that her father had already passed away at an unknown date, since several of her brothers, one being James Henry, persuaded her to accompany them home to visit her old mother before the old woman passed away. Betsy agreed to make the family visit, and James accompanied her. At this point there are two versions to the subsequent events. One is that Betsy was pregnant at the time and delivered a baby girl along the way, and the other story is that she brought along her young daughter. Regardless, her husband was so devoted to her that he vowed that he would renounce his chief status in the tribe and live in white society just to be with his wife. He was never heard from again, and the suspicion was that several of Betsy’s brothers, probably including James, murdered their sister’s husband. The daughter, Sally Henry, was raised by James, and she married William Alexander, son of William Alexander and grandson of Robert Alexander. James Henry settled on a farm he purchased near the present site of Spottswood Station in Augusta County, Virginia. This story seems to jive with certain documented facts for James Henry, which are outlined below.33

    The saga of Betsy Henry notes that the Henry family lived in Pennsylvania at the time of her abduction, which appears to have taken place sometime between 1750 and 1753. James Henry’s first appearance in Augusta County records was not until 1758, so the family probably moved to Virginia a few years after their kidnapping tragedy. At the time of the captive exchange at Fort Pitt, which is believed to have taken place between 1764 and 1767, James Henry owned 340 acres of land in the southwestern corner of the Beverly Grant, which corresponds to area around the modern day Spottswood Station. If the part of the story about the possible murder of Betsy Henry’s Delaware husband is true, it occurred while James Henry was living in Augusta County, Virginia. In the winter of 1781 Robert Alexander’s will was proved, and it noted that James Henry was an adjacent landowner. In addition, Robert’s son William, the father of the William Alexander who married Betsy’s daughter, Sally, was mentioned in the will. The close proximity of the Robert/William Alexander family lends further credence to the connection of Betsy Henry to this James Henry. Finally, in James Henry’s 1806 will, which was proved after 1809, he identifies Sarah Alexander as the wife of William Alexander, but also notes a daughter named Sarah who still retains her maiden name, further supporting additional elements of the abduction story. The 1812 document identifies this daughter as later marrying James Poage and moving to Ohio. In essence, the basic elements of the Betsy Henry saga, as they apply to her brother James Henry, can be supported by primary source records from Augusta County. The bottom line is that the combination of reliable secondary source data and unquestionable primary source data provide a rich and robust illumination of James Henry’s life, not to mention a tightly focused and detailed view of the raw and sometimes violent elements of life, as well as a rather personal view of the clash and melding of European and Native American cultures on the colonial American frontier. 

One account of Betsy Henry's kidnapping by Indians:


The Frontier Forts in the Cumberland and Juniata Valleys. By Jay Gilfillan Weiser.

In the same year Robert Robinson in his Narrative states that there was a murder committed by the savages in close proximity to this fort, given in the following language: "I forgot to give you an account of a murder done at our own fort in Sherman's Valley in July, 1756. The Indians waylaid the fort in harvest time, and kept quiet until the reapers were gone; James Wilson remaining some time behind the rest, and I not being gone to my business, which was hunting deer for the use of the company. Wilson standing at the fort gate, I desired liberty to shoot his gun at a mark, upon which be gave me his gun and I shot. The Indians on the upper side of the fort, thinking they were discovered, rushed on a daughter of Robert Miller and instantly killed her, and shot at John Simmeson; they then made the best of it they could and killed the wife of James Wilson and the widow Gibson, and took Hugh Gibson and Betsy Henry prisoners. The reapers, being forty in number, returned to the fort, and the Indians made off. While the Indian was scalping Mrs. Wilson, the relator shot at and wounded him, but he made his escape."