The Frances Slocum Story

The Story of Frances Slocum “The Little Lost Sister of Wyoming”
by Judy Dawe (edited by Jonathan Pineno)

Many times as children, my mom and grandma would tell us the story of Frances Slocum, a young child of Jonathan and Ruth Tripp Slocum, whose ancestors had settled in Rhode Island in 1639. They were members of the Society of Friends, known as Quakers, and peace loving people.

In the autumn of 1778, Jonathan and Ruth Slocum moved from Rhode Island to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania. They were some of the original settlers at that time. Jonathan was a blacksmith. He and his wife had nine children all of who were born in Rhode Island. They settled on three acres of land on the west corner of what is now Pennsylvania Avenue and North Street in the city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Jonathan built a log home large enough to house his family and a smaller structure in the back suitable for a “smithy.”

The winter of 1778 was very torublesome in the Wyoming Valley. The weather was unusually severe and conditions around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Albany, New York and all along the Lackawanna and Sullivan trails were very dangerous. The “Yankee” Patriots were trying to regain their strength and were preparing to renew their battles with the British and the Indians in the spring.

Jonathan Slocum was told to flee and return to Rhode Island, but being a peaceful Quaker with very strong beliefs, he felt that no one would harm him or his family. His wife Ruth was about to give birth to their tenth child and was not able to travel.

Then early in July 1778, the bloody “Battle of Wyoming”, Wyoming, Pennsylvania left many settlers dead. The Slocum family escaped those tragic days, but in late October instead of remaining in the safety of the nearby Fort, they went back home to harvest their crops.

On Monday morning on November 2, 1778, Jonathan Slocum and his two sons, William and Benjamin, went to harvest corn on the Wilkes-Barre flats. Giles, an adult son, was on duty as a militian man at Fort Wyoming. Mrs. Slocum was as home with the younger children including Frances Slocum.

Suddenly a rifle shot was heard outside the home. Ruth flung open the door and found a neighbor boy shot to death and a Deleware Indian standing over his body. The Indian hurled himself through the door of their home. Ruth Slocum picked up her infant child and called the other children to run for their lives.

Young Frances Slocum, born March 4, 1773, hid under the stairs. Five other children remained at home including Judith Slocum an older sister. Three year old Isaac Slocum headed for the swamp while Mary Slocum, a ten year old, ran toward her mother already in the swamp carrying her year and a half old baby, Joseph Slocum. Ebenezer Slocum had a crippled foot and remained in the home.

The house was ransacked by at least three Delaware Indians and Frances Slocum was dragged out from under the stairs and carried away. Not heeding her own safety, Ruth Slocum rushed back to plead with the Indians, but was shoved aside. Ebenezer was left because he was crippled and would likely hold back the Indians as they traveled. Frances was flung over the shoulder of the foremost Indian. She looked back amid a tangle of curls and tried to wave, but was stopped as the War Party disappeared into the forest.
The men from Fort Wyoming were summoned to try to follow the trail, but the wilderness engulfed them. It is widely believed that Frances was hidden in the caves or by the rock overhangs in what is now known as Frances Slocum State Park in Pennsylvania. She was taken through the Pennsylvania towns of Falls, Tunkhannock, Wyalusing, Tioga poing and on to Niagra Falls, New York.

The search began systematically as early as 1784 when Giles and William Slocum followed the Indian trails and went to Fort Niagra. From there they journeyed into the upper wildernes of Ohio and offered rewards for any information that would lead to their lost sister Frances.
By 1789, a new treaty was made with the many Indian tribes at Tioga Point in Pennsylvania. At that time many white children were returned, but not Frances. Three years later the brothers set out again to find their sister. This time they traveled through Canada and across the Great Lakes to Detroit. Still no sign of Frances Slocum.

Before Ruth Slocum died in 1807, she made her family promise to continue their search for their lost sister. They sent letters to settlers in the West and into Canada. They kept searching, but there was no sign of Frances.

In 1835, Colonel George Ewing conducted and Indian Trading Post at Loganville, Indiana. As he was traveling one stormy night, he sought shelter in a Native Indian settlement called “Dead Man's Village.” Here he asked for lodging at the house of Maconaquah. She was an old Indian woman whose husband Shepoconah, before his death, had been the chief of the settlement. Maconaquah prepared a meal for her guest.

After supper she had more wood thrown on the fire, sat in a nearby chair, and began telling a story in an Indain language that Colonel Ewing understood. Maconaquah began-- “I have not long to live and I have a secret which I do not wish to die with me. You think I am an Indian, but my blood is as white as yours. I was taken from my home when I was a child. How many moons ago is impossible to say.” Ewing tried to gather more information, but she had no memory of where she really came from. All she could remember was somewhere in Eastern Pennsylvania by a big river.

Since Colonel Ewing did not know anyone in Pennsylvania, he sent a letter to the Postmaster in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He knew Lancaster was an important old town on the Susquehanna River. The letter arrived at the post office and was put aside.

Two years later the letter from Colonel George Ewing was discovered at the Lancaster post office and was published in the Lancaster Intelligencer newspaper. Reverend Samuel Bowan, an Episcopal Minister, read the letter in the newspaper. He spent his early years as a minister in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and had heard the stories about a young Quaker girl named Frances Slocum who had been captured by Indians and was never seen again. Reverend Bowman knew of the Slocum family and sent a copy of the newspaper to Joseph Slocum who still resided in Wilkes-Barre.

The Slocum family immediately contacted Colonel Ewing and made the journey to Peru, Indiana to meet with him. He asked them: “Do you have any way to prove that Maconaquah is your sister Frances?” They replied: “Yes, our sister had the tipof her left forefinger smashed by a hammer blow when she was a little child.”

After making the proper arrangements, they met at the local hotel in Peru, Indiana and were astonished when Maconaquah entered the room. One of the brothers exclaimed: “This can't be our sister!” William Slocm walked over to her and took her hands and held them. There was no mistaking the distinct smashed left forefinger. It had to be their lost sister Frances Slocum!

With the help of an interpreter, they talked for a long time. They told Maconaquah her English name-Frances Slocum. She smiled and repeated it over and over. As they continued talking, they discovered that Frances was first taken by Delaware Indians to Fort Niagra where she was dressed in Indian clothing and had her face painted. She was adopted by an older Deleware Warrior and his wife whose children died. They eventually moved west from Fort Niagra to Sandusky, Ohio and even as far north as Ontario, Canada.

When Frances, now known as Maconaquah, was in her early twenties, she married a young Indian chief and had several children. After his death, she married a Miami Indian Chief, Shepoconah, and had two daughters-”Cut finger” and “Yellow Leaf.” Later the new family moved near Peru, Indiana.

Despite the Slocum family pleas, Maconaquah did not want to leave her tribe. She had been living as a Miami Indian for more than fifty years. She had adjusted to her new life and enjoyed being part of her new family. The Slocum family visited Peru, Indiana several more times to visit with their sister, but she never returned to the Wyoming Valley.

Because Maconaquah was “white,” she was allowed to have land originally owned by the Miami Nation. When the tribe was forced to move further west, she remained on the land that she was given. This land just outside Peru, Indiana is now the Frances Slocum State Park of Indiana. There is also a Frances Slocum State Park near her original home in Pennsylvania.

Frances Slocum, Maconaquah, died of pneumonia on March 9, 1847 and is buried next to her beloved husband Shepoconah in a cemetary just outside Peru, Indiana. Many of her decendants still live, work and promote their Miami Indian heritage throughout that area.

(This article was first printed in “Dawe's Pause” in June 2002 and is edited to include some updated information.)

About the author: Judy Dawe is an avid history reader and writer from the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania area.

To learn more about Frances Slocum, order your copies of “Frances Slocum: Child of Two Americas”
The historically accurate account of the capture, life and times of Frances Slocum or Maconaquah, as she was known, was carefully researched and compiled by professional educators. The Musical Score by Jonathan Pineno includes hauntingly beautiful original music and adaptations of Native American music. Additional music was provided by the Twigh Twee Singers, Miami Indian Nation of Indiana.

Locations include the site of Frances Slocum's 1778 abduction in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and her home among the Miami Indians near Peru and Wabash, Indiana. Most of the actors in the documentary film were amatuers, while some have worked professionally in other films and on stage.

When you watch the documentary film, Frances Slocum: Child of Two Americas, you will get a sense of what it was like to lose a daughter and gain one too. Frances Slocum is truly a remarkable American Woman. 

Order Copies of Frances Slocum: Child of Two Americas Today!