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Early American Pioneers Held Captive or Killed by Indians

Early American Pioneers Held Captive or Killed by Indians


VANBIBBER & Associated Families

Stories about Early American Pioneers Held Captive or Killed by Indians

Stories of Horror

    BRIGETTA VAN BIBBER The story of Brigetta Van Bibber, member of a pioneer family of West Virginia's earliest days, which has left numerous descendants in the state today and an honorable record, bears further testimony to the heroism of the pioneer women of the state. To live along the frontier was in itself an act of heroism. History of the Van Bibber family tells how "the men worked with rifles strung to their backs. The women stood guard and moulded bullets, blanched with fear, for the intrepid men as they stooped at the loops or met the enemy in the open." Rhoda, the attractive daughter of John Van Bibber, 19 years of age and possessed of an abundant suit of auburn hair, was killed by Indians in 1787 and her brother, Joseph, was taken prisoner. The girl was scalped and her scalp with its long red hair was taken to Detroit and the British commander of the fort there paid the Indians a bounty of $60 for it. Joseph said afterwards that he saw many barrels filled with scalps of women and children during the years of his captivity.

    John and Peter Van Bibber settled in 1781 on the bank of the Ohio river, just below the mouth of the Great Kanawha. Their sister, Brigetta, who had married Isaac Robinson, lived on the north side of the Kanawha, near the mouth of Crooked creek, now in Point Pleasant. It was only a few weeks after the murder of Rhoda Van Bibber that Indians attacked the Robinsons at their home. Isaac Robinson, a man who was helping him with the farm work, and a baby boy some two years old, were slain. The house was burned, and Brigetta and two sons were taken prisoners. The older boy, Isaac, was about eight and John some four years old. The latter, unable to stand the strain of rapid travel, was slain by the Indians and his little body was left by the roadside where his father's brother, John Robinson, found it a few days later. Two days and two nights, without resting, the prisoners were forced to march and though he tried, Robinson could not overtake them. One night after a long day's march and before the Indians had reached their destination, somewhere in the vicinity of Detroit, Brigetta Robinson gave birth to a child. Carrying the little one in her arms, she was compelled to keep on the march the next and several other succeeding days. Then the Indians thought the babe to great a burden for the weakened woman, so the beat its head against a tree, threw the body at her feet and left it there as prey for the wild beast as they kept on their way. Mrs. Robinson was kept for five years in virtual slavery before a French trader bought her release and sent her back to her girlhood home in Botetourt county, Virginia. Meanwhile, Isaac had been carried away to some other habitation of the tribe, so she had to leave him behind, when she started for her old home. But, three years later, during a period of peace between the Indians and the whites, this woman of iron nerve started back to hunt her son. Two of her children had been brutally killed before her eyes, a third was held a captive by the Indians and her heart yearned for him. In one of the Indian villages where she sought him, smallpox was raging and taking its prey by thousands, and she was stricken. It was many months before she could go on, and she too had to make her temporary home among the Indians. After his eight years of life among the wild tribe of Indians, she found her son, Isaac, so weaned away from civilization that he refused to return to the white habitations and all the restrictions of conventional life. But, the heroic mother finally won him over after weeks of persuasion, she induced her son to return with her to Point Pleasant. There his health gave way and he lived but a few years, though his mother, Brigetta Van Bibber, born of heroic mold, lived until almost a hundred years of age, and delighted in telling the descendants of her brothers the stories of her early adventures. But Brigetta Van Bibber and Mary Draper Ingles were not the only mothers who were forced to see their infant children killed or deserted in the days of Indian cruelties. The ways of the Indian sometimes came home to his own people. From Logan county comes the tale of a heroic Indian mother forced by her own people to desert a baby boy, who was found and cared for by a kindhearted white couple, and who grew up to be the head of a distinguished West Virginia family. --

    George Summers The West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, Volume Twenty-five, Supplemental Series, West Virginia Women. Edited and Published by Jim Comstock, Richwood, West Virginia, 1974. Pages #280 - 282.

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