Narrative of Marie Le Roy and Barbara Leininger

In the library of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a rare little pamphlet: “Die Erzehlungen von Maria le Roy und Barbara Leininger. Welche vierthalb Jahr unter den In dianern gefangen gewesen, und am 6 ten May in dieser Stadt glucklich angekommen. Aus ihrem eignen Munde nie der geschrieben und zum Druck befordert. Philadelphia gedruckt und zu haben in der teut schen Buchdruckerey das Stuck vor 6 Pentz. M.DCCLIX.”  The translation was made by the late Rt. Rev. Edmund de Schweinitz, of Bethlehem.

The Narrative of Mary le Roy and Barbara Leininger. Who for four and a half years were captive among the Indians, and on the 6th May 1759 arrived happy in this city. From her own lips never written and promoted to the Press. This manuscript gives an account of the captivity and escape of these two girls, whose families lived on Penn’s Creek, in the present Union County, Pennsylvania. It also provides a lengthy list of names of other prisoners met by the two ladies in their captivity.

Marie le Roy was born at Brondrut, in Switzerland. About five years ago she arrived, with her parents, in this country. They settled fifteen miles from Fort Schamockin. 1 Half a mile from their plantation lived Barbara Leininger with her parents, who came to Pennsylvania from Reutlingen, about ten years ago. 2

Early in the morning of the 16th of October, 1755, while le Roy‘s hired man went out to fetch the cows, he heard the Indians shooting six times. Soon after, eight of them came to the house, and killed Marie le Roy‘s father with tomahawks. Her brother defended himself desperately, for a time, but was, at last, overpowered. The Indians did not kill him, but took him prisoner, together with Marie le Roy and a little girl, who was staying with the family. Thereupon they plundered the homestead, and set it on fire. Into this fire they laid the body of the murdered father, feet foremost, until it was half consumed. The upper half was left lying on the ground, with the two tomahawks, with which they had killed him, sticking in his head. Then they kindled another fire, not far from the house. “While sitting around it, a neighbour of le Roy, named Bastian, happened to pass by on horseback. He was immediately shot down and scalped.

Two of the Indians now went to the house of Barbara Leininger, where they found her father, her brother, 3 and her sister Regina. Her mother had gone to the mill. They demanded rum; but there was none in the house. Then they called for tobacco, which was given them. Having filled and smoked a pipe, they said: ” We are Alleghany Indians and your enemies. You must all die!” There-upon they shot her father, tomahawked her brother, who was twenty years of age, took Barbara and her sister Regina prisoners, and conveyed them into the forest for about a mile. There they were soon joined by other Indians, with Marie le Roy and the little girl.

Not long after several of the Indians led the prisoners to the top of a high hill, near the two plantations. Toward evening the rest of the savages returned with six fresh and bloody scalps, which they threw at the feet of the poor captives, saying that they had a good hunt that day.

The next morning we were taken about two miles further into the forest, while the most of the Indians again went out to kill and plunder. Toward evening they returned with nine scalps and five prisoners.

On the third day the whole band came together and divided the spoils. In addition to large quantities of provisions, they had taken fourteen horses and ten prisoners, namely: One man, one woman, five girls, and three boys. We two girls, as also two of the horses, fell to the share of an Indian named Galasko.

We traveled with our new master for two days. He was tolerably kind, and allowed us to ride all the way, while he and the rest of the Indians walked. Of this circumstance Barbara Leininger took advantage, and tried to escape. But she was almost immediately recaptured, and condemned to be burned alive. The savages gave her a French Bible, which they had taken from le Roy‘s house, in order that she might prepare for death; and, when she told them that she could not understand it, they gave her a German Bible. Thereupon they made a large pile of wood and set it on fire, intending to put her into the midst of it. But a young Indian begged so earnestly for her life that she was pardoned, after having promised not to attempt to escape again, and to stop her crying.

The next day the whole troop was divided into two bands, the one marching in the direction of the Ohio, the other, in which we were with Galasko, to Jenkiklamuhs, 4 a Delaware town on the “West branch of the Susquehanna. There we staid ten days, and then proceeded to Puncksotonay, 5 or Eschentown. Marie le Roy‘s brother was forced to remain at Jenkiklamuhs.

After having rested for five days at Puncksotonay, we took our way to Kittanny. 6 As this was to be the place of our permanent abode, we here received our welcome, according to Indian custom. It consisted of three blows each, on the back. They were, however, administered with great mercy. Indeed, we concluded that we were beaten merely in order to keep up an ancient usage, and not with the intention of injuring us. The month of December was the time of our arrival, and we remained at Kittanny until the month of September, 1756.

The Indians gave us enough to do. We had to tan leather, to make shoes (moccasins), to clear land, to plant corn, to cut down trees and build huts, to wash and cook. The want of provisions, however, caused us the greatest sufferings. During all the time that we were at Kittanny we had neither lard nor salt; and, sometimes, we were forced to live on acorns, roots, grass, and bark. There was nothing in the world to make this new sort of food palatable, excepting hunger itself.

In the month of September Col. Armstrong arrived with his men, and attacked Kittanny Town. 7 Both of us happened to be in that part of it which lies on the other (right) side of the river (Alleghany). We were immediately conveyed ten miles farther into the interior, in order that we might have no chance of trying, on this occasion, to escape. The savages threatened to kill us. If the English had advanced, this might have happened. For, at that time, the Indians were greatly in dread of Col. Armstrong‘s corps. After the English had withdrawn, we were again brought back to Kittanny, which town had been burned to the ground.

There we had the mournful opportunity of witnessing the cruel end of an English woman, who had attempted to flee out of her captivity and to return to the settlements with Col. Armstrong. Having been recaptured by the savages, and brought back to Kittanny, she was put to death in an unheard of way. First, they scalped her; next, they laid burning splinters of wood, here and there, upon her body; and then they cut off her ears and fingers, forcing them into her mouth so that she had to swallow them. Amidst such torments, this woman lived from nine o’clock in the morning until toward sunset, when a French officer took compassion on her, and put her out of her misery. An English soldier, on the contrary, named John, who escaped from prison at Lancaster, and joined the French, had a piece of flesh cut from her body, and ate it. “When she was dead, the Indians chopped her in two, through the middle, and let her lie until the dogs came and devoured her.

Three days later an Englishman was brought in, who had, likewise, attempted to escape with Col. Armstrong, and burned alive in the same village. His torments, however, continued only about three hours; but his screams were frightful to listen to. It rained that day very hard, so that the Indians could not keep up the fire. Hence they began to discharge gunpowder into his body. At last, amidst his worst pains, when the poor man called for a drink of water, they brought him melted lead, and poured it down his throat. This draught at once helped him out of the hands of the barbarians, for he died on the instant.

It is easy to imagine what an impression such fearful instances of cruelty make upon the mind of a poor captive. Does he attempt to escape from the savages, he knows in advance that, if retaken, he will be roasted alive. Hence he must compare two evils, namely, either to remain among them a prisoner forever, or to die a cruel death. Is he fully resolved to endure the latter, then he may run away with a brave heart.

Soon after these occurrences we were brought to Fort Duquesne, where we remained for about two months. “We worked for the French, and our Indian master drew our wages. In this place, thank God, we could again eat bread. Half a pound was given us daily. We might have had bacon, too, but we took none of it, for it was not good. In some respects we were better off than in the Indian towns; we could not, however, abide the French. They tried hard to induce us to forsake the Indians and stay with them, making us various favourable offers. But we believed that it would be better for us to remain among the Indians, in as much as they would be more likely to make peace with the English than the French, and in as much as there would be more ways open for flight in the forest than in a fort. Consequently we declined the offers of the French, and accompanied our Indian master to Sackum, 8 where we spent the winter, keeping house for the savages, who were continually on the hunt. In the spring we were taken to Kaschkaschkung, an Indian town on the Beaver Creek. There we again had to clear the plantations of the Indian nobles, after the German fashion, to plant corn, and to do other hard work of every kind. We remained at this place for about one year and a half.

After having, in the past three years, seen no one of our own flesh and blood, except those unhappy beings, who, like ourselves, were bearing the yoke of the heaviest slavery, we had the unexpected pleasure of meeting with a German, who was not a captive, but free, and who, as we heard, had been sent into this neighbourhood to negotiate a peace between the English and the natives. His name was Frederick Post. 9 We and all the other prisoners heartily wished him success and God’s blessing upon his undertaking. We were, however, not allowed to speak with him. The Indians gave us plainly to understand that any attempt to do this would be taken amiss. He himself, by the reserve with which he treated us, let us see that this was not the time to talk over our afflictions. But we were greatly alarmed on his account. For the French told us that, if they caught him, they would roast him alive for five days, and many Indians declared that it was impossible for him to get safely through, that he was destined for death.

Last summer the French and Indians were defeated by the English in a battle fought at Loyal-Hannon, 10 or Fort Ligonier. This caused the utmost consternation among the natives. They brought their wives and children from Lockstown, 11 Sackum, Schomingo, Mamalty, Kaschkaschkung, and other places in that neighbourhood, to Moschkingo, 12 about one hundred and fifty miles farther west. Before leaving, however, they destroyed their crops, and burned everything which they could not carry with them. We had to go along, and staid at Moschkingo the whole winter.

In February, Barbara Leininger agreed with an Englishman, named David Breckenreach [Breckenridge], to escape, and gave her comrade, Marie le Roy, notice of their intentions. On account of the severe season of the year, and the long journey which lay before them, Marie strongly advised her to relinquish the project, suggesting that it should be postponed until spring, when the weather would be milder, and promising to accompany her at that time.

On the last day of February nearly all the Indians left Moschkingo, and proceeded to Pittsburg to sell pelts. Meanwhile, their women traveled ten miles up the country to gather roots, and we accompanied them. Two men went along as a guard. It was our earnest hope that the opportunity for flight, so long desired, had now come. Accordingly, Barbara Leininger pretended to be sick, so that she might be allowed to put up a hut for herself alone. On the fourteenth of March, Marie le Roy was sent back to the town, in order to fetch two young dogs which had been left there; and, on the same day, Barbara Leininger came out of her hut and visited a German woman, ten miles from Moschkingo. This woman’s name is Mary and she is the wife of a miller from the South Branch. 13 She had made every preparation to accompany us on our flight; but Barbara found that she had meanwhile become lame, and could not think of going along. She, however, gave Barbara the provisions which she had stored, namely, two pounds of dried meat, a quart of corn, and four pounds of sugar. Besides, she presented her with pelts for mocasins. Moreover, she advised a young Englishman, Owen Gibson, to flee with us two girls.

On the sixteenth of March, in the evening, Gibson reached Barbara Leininger‘s hut, and, at ten o’clock, our whole party, consisting of us two girls, Gibson, and David Breckenreach, left Moschkingo country of the Dellamottinoes. “We had to pass many huts inhabited by the savages, and knew that there were at least sixteen dogs with them. In the merciful providence ot God not a single one of these dogs barked. Their barking would at once have betrayed us, and frustrated our design.

It is hard to describe the anxious fears of a poor woman under such circumstances. The extreme probability that the Indians would pursue, and recapture us, was as two to one compared with the dim hope that, perhaps, we would get through in safety. But, even if we escaped the Indians, how would we ever succeed in passing through the wilderness, unacquainted with a single path or trail, without a guide, and helpless, half naked, broken down by more than three years of hard slavery, hungry and scarcely any food, the season wet and cold, and many rivers and streams to cross? Under such circumstances, to depend upon one’s own sagacity would be the worst of follies. If one could not believe that there is a God, who helps and saves from death, one had better let running away alone.

“We safely reached the river [Muskingum] . Here the first thought in all our minds was: ! that we were safely across ! And Barbara Leininger, in particular, recalling ejaculatory prayers from an old hymn, which she had learned in her youth, put them together, to suit our present circumstances, something in the following style:

O bring us safely across this river!
In fear I cry, yea my soul doth quiver.
The worst afflictions are now before me,
Where’er I turn nought but death do I see.

Alas, what great hardships are yet in store
In the wilderness wide, beyond that shore !
It has neither water, nor meat, nor bread,
But each new morning something new to dread.

Yet little sorrow would hunger me cost
If but I could flee from the savage host,
Which murders and fights and burns far and wide,
While Satan himself is array’d on its side.

Should on us fall one of its cruel bands,
Then help us, Great God, and stretch out Thy hands!
In Thee will we trust, be Thou ever near,
Art Thou our Joshua, we need not fear.

Presently we found a raft, left by the Indians. Thanking God that He had himself prepared a way for us across these first waters, we got on board and pushed off. But we were carried almost a mile down the river before we could reach the other side. There our journey began in good earnest. Full of anxiety and fear, we fairly ran that whole night and all the next day, when we lay down to rest without venturing to kindle a fire. Early the next morning, Owen Gibson fired at a bear. The animal fell, but, when he ran with his tomahawk to kill it, it jumped up and bit him in the feet, leaving three wounds. “We all hastened to his assistance. The bear escaped into narrow holes among the rocks, where we could not follow. On the third day, however, Owen Gibson shot a deer. We cut off the hind-quarters, and roasted them at night. The next morning he again shot a deer, which furnished us with food for that day. In the evening we got to the Ohio at last, having made a circuit of over one hundred miles in order to reach it.

About midnight the two Englishmen rose and began to work at a raft, which was finished by morning. We got on board and safely crossed the river. From the signs which the Indians had there put up we saw that we were about one hundred and fifty miles from Fort Duquesne. After a brief consultation we resolved, heedless of path or trail, to travel straight toward the rising of the sun. This we did for seven days. On the seventh we found that we had reached the Little Beaver Creek, and were about fifty miles from Pittsburgh.

And now, that we imagined ourselves so near the end of all our troubles and misery, a whole host of mishaps came upon us. Our provisions were at an end; Barbara Leininger fell into the water and was nearly drowned; and, worst misfortune of all ! Owen Gibson lost his flint and steel. Hence we had to spend four nights without fire, amidst rain and snow.

On the last day of March we came to a river, Alloquepy, 14 about three miles below Pittsburg. Here we made a raft, which, however, proved to be too light to carry us across. It threatened to sink, and Marie le Roy fell off, and narrowly escaped drowning. “We had to put back, and let one of our men convey one of us across at a time. In this way we reached the Monongahella River, on the other side of Pittsburg, the same evening.

Upon our calling for help, Col. [Hugh] Mercer immediately sent out a boat to bring us to the Fort. At first, however, the crew created many difficulties about taking us on board. They thought we were Indians, and wanted us to spend the night where we were, saying they would fetch us in the morning. “When we had succeeded in convincing them that we were English prisoners, who had escaped from the Indians, and that we were wet and cold and hungry, they brought us over. There was an Indian with the soldiers in the boat. He asked us whether we could speak good Indian ? Marie le Roy said she could speak it. Thereupon he inquired, why she had run away ? She replied, that her Indian mother had been so cross and had scolded her so constantly, that she could not stay with her any longer.

This answer did not please him; nevertheless, doing as courtiers do, he said: He was very glad we had safely reached the Fort.

It was in the night from the last of March to the first of April that we came to Pittsburg. Most heartily did we thank God in heaven for all the mercy which he showed us, for His gracious support in our weary captivity, for the courage which he gave us to undertake our flight, and to surmount all the many hardships it brought us, for letting us find the road which we did not know, and of which He alone could know that on it we would meet neither danger nor enemy, and for finally bringing us to Pittsburgh to our countrymen in safety.

Colonel Mercer helped and aided us in every way which lay in his power. Whatever was on hand and calculated to refresh us was offered in the most friendly manner. The Colonel ordered for each of us a new chemise, a petticoat, a pair of stockings, garters, and a knife. After having spent a day at Pittsburg, we went, with a detachment under command of Lieutenant Mile, 15 to Fort Ligonier. There the Lieutenant presented each of us with a blanket. On the fifteenth we left Fort Ligonier, under protection of Captain [Philip] Weiser and Lieutenant Atly, 16 for Fort Bedford, where we arrived in the evening of the sixteenth, and remained a week. Thence, provided with passports by Lieutenant [Henry] Geiger, we traveled in wagons to Harris’ Ferry, and from there, afoot, by way of Lancaster, to Philadelphia.

Owen Gibson remained at Fort Bedford, and David Breckenreach at Lancaster. “We two girls arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday, the sixth of May.

And now we come to the chief reason why we have given the foregoing narrative to the public. It is not done in order to render our own sufferings and humble history famous, but rather in order to serve the inhabitants of this country, by making them acquainted with the names and circumstances of those prisoners whom we met, at the various places where we were, in the course of our captivity. Their parents, brothers, sisters, and other relations will, no doubt, be glad to hear that their nearest kith and kin are still in the land of the living, and that they may, hence, entertain some hope of seeing them again in their own homes, if God permit.

  • Maria Basket is at Kaschkaschkung. She was taken prisoner on the Susquehanna, where her husband was killed. She has two sons. The younger is with his mother; the elder is in a distant Indian town.
  • Mary Basket‘s sister, — her name is Nancy Basket, — is at Sackum.
  • Mary, Caroline, and Catharine Haeth, 17 three sisters, from the Blue Mountains.
  • Anne Gray, who was captured at Fort Gransville, 18 is at Kaschkaschkung. We saw her daughter, but she has been taken farther west by the Indians.
  • John Weissman, a young unmarried Englishman, about eighteen years of age, is now at Moschkingo. He is said to have been captured on the South Branch.
  • Sarah Boy, David Boy, Rhode Boy, Thomas Boy, and James Boy, five children. The youngest is about five or six years old; Sarah, the oldest, is about fifteen or sixteen years of age. Three years ago they were captured in Virginia.
  • Nancy and Johanna Dacherty, two sisters, aged about ten and six years, captured at Conecocheague 19, and now in Kaschkaschkung.
  • Eve Isaacs, William Isaacs, and Catharine Isaacs. Eve is a widow, and has a child of about four years with her. Her husband was killed by the Indians. William is about fourteen or fifteen years of age, and Catharine about twelve. They are Germans. Eve and her child, together with Catharine, are in Kaschkaschkung; William in Moschkingo. They were captured on the South Branch.
  • Henry Seiffart, Elizabeth Seiffart, George Seiffart, Catharine Seiffart, and Maria Seiffart, brothers and sisters, Germans, captured about thirteen months ago, at Southport, in Virginia, are now at Kaschkaschkung and Moschkingo.
  • Betty Rogers, an unmarried woman, with five or six brothers and sisters, of whom the youngest is about four years old, captured three and a half years ago, on the South Branch.
  • Betty Frick, a girl about twenty-two years old, captured, three years ago, in Virginia, now in Kaschkaschkung.
  • Fanny Flardy, from Virginia, married to a Frenchman. Her daughter, seven or eight years old, is at Kaschkaschkung.
  • Anna Brielinger, 20 wife of a German smith from Schomoko, now at Kaschkaschkung.
  • Peter Lixe‘s 21 two sons, John and William, German children from Schomoko, now in Kitahohing.
  • An old Englishman, or Irishman, whose surname we do not know, but whose Christian name is Dan, a cooper, captured on the Susquehanna, now in Kaschkaschkung. His wife and children are said to be in this country.
  • Elizabeth, a young English woman, captured about a mile and a half from Justice Gulebret‘s [Galbraith] place, on the Swatara. Her child, which she took along, is dead. Her husband and other children are said to be living somewhere in this country. She is at Kaschkaschkung.
  • Marie Peck, a German woman, captured, two and a half years ago, in Maryland. Her husband and children are said to be living somewhere in this country.
  • Margaret Brown, a German single woman, captured on the South Branch, in Virginia, now in the country of the Oschaschi (Osage), a powerful nation, living, it is said, in a land where there is no timber.
  • Mary Ann Villars, from French Switzerland, a girl of fifteen years, was captured with Marie le Roy, has a brother and sister living near Lancaster.
  • Sally Wood, a single woman, aged eighteen or nineteen years, captured in Virginia, three and a half years ago, now in Sackum.
  • Two young men, brothers, named Ixon, the one about twenty, the other about fifteen years old, at Kaschkaschkung. Their mother was sold to the French.
  • Mary Lory and James Lory, brother and sister, the first about fourteen, the second about twelve or thirteen years old, captured three years ago, at Fort Granville.
  • Mary Taylor, an English woman, captured at Fort Granville, together with a girl named Margaret.
  • Margaret, the girl captured with the foregoing.

“We became acquainted with many other captives, men, women, and children, in various Indian towns, but do not know, or cannot remember their names. We are, however, heartily willing to give to all such as have, or believe to have, connections among the Indians, any further information which may lie within our power. “We intend to go from here to Lancaster, where we may be easily found.

Collection: Indian Captivity Narratives. A collection of first hand Indian captivity narratives from a variety of sources. For a list of sources, please see title page.

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  1. Jean Jaques Le Roy came to Pennsylvania on the ship Phœnix, Capt. E. Horner, from Rotterdam via Cowes, Nov. 22, 1752. []
  2. Sebastian Leininger, aged 50, with his family, arrived Sept. 16, 1748, on the ship Patience, Capt. John Brown.[]
  3. John Conrad Leininger[]
  4. Chinklacamoose, the central point of the great ” Chinklacamoose Path,” on the present site of Clearfield.[]
  5. Punxsutawny, in Jefferson County.[]
  6. Kittanning, in Armstrong County, through which passed the great trail, by which the Indians of the West communicated with those of the Susquehanna country.[]
  7. In August of 1756, Col. John Armstrong fitted out his expedition at Fort Shirley. The Delaware war-chief, Capt. Jacobs, lived in the town.[]
  8. Saukunkt, 8 miles below Logstown.[]
  9. Christian Frederick Post, the Moravian missionary.[]
  10. Loyalhanna[]
  11. Logstown[]
  12. Muskingum[]
  13. This town lies on a river, in the South Branch of the Potomac.[]
  14. Alleghany[]
  15. Lieut. Samuel Miles, of the “Augusta Regiment,” Col. William Chapman.[]
  16. Lieut. Samuel J. Atlee.[]
  17. Hoeth, of Northampton County.[]
  18. Fort Granville, one mile west of Lewistown, on the Juniata.[]
  19. Franklin County[]
  20. Wife of Jacob Brielinger who lived on Penn’s Creek, below New Berlin, in Union County[]
  21. Peter Lick, of Penn’s Creek.[]

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