Historical Marker #859 in Union marks where Mary Draper Ingles, most likely the first white woman in Kentucky, made her escape from the Shawnees. Most of what is known about Mary Ingles' escape from Indian captivity comes from a narrative account of the Ingles Family written by Mary's son, Colonel John Ingles, about a decade after her death. Since Mary probably could not write, the narrative may be regarded as a first-person account, especially since she often recounted her experiences to John and her other children, as well as her grandchildren.
Mary Draper was 18 years old when she married 21-year-old William Ingles in 1750. They set up their home near their parents in a place called Draper's Meadows, a settlement of 10 people, in Augusta County, Virginia. Although relations with the Indians had been relatively peaceful, it all changed on Wednesday, July 30, 1755. The Shawnee attacked Draper's Meadows, killing or capturing most of the inhabitants. The prisoners included Mary Ingles, her two children, Thomas and George, and her sister-in-law, Bettie. William, Mary's husband, was away at the time and was not captured.
When they arrived at the town of Sonnontio, Mary was separated from her sons and they were adopted into the tribe. Mary was set to work, initially making clothes. Some weeks later she was taken to Big Bone Lick, more than 100 miles west, to help make salt – a grueling task in the mid-summer heat. Sometime about the 19th of October, Mary decided to escape from Big Bone.
Although it's not certain, it seems most likely that she headed immediately for the mouth of Landing Creek, the first of the 145 creeks and rivers she would have to cross on her way to the mouth of the Kanawha River, 250 miles up the Ohio. She probably reached the Kanawha, a little more than half of her journey, around the 7th of November. From there, it was 95 miles to the Falls of Kanawha, and then up the New River for an additional 85 to 90 miles of the most rugged and difficult terrain she had to pass. The entire journey took forty-two and a half days. She arrived home near the first of December, surviving incredible hardships.
After her journey, Mary lived a long and healthy life, and had several more children. She died in 1815 at the age of 82 or 83.