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Family Stories, Lore, and Legends: Trying to Sort Out the Facts

A Case Study

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Terry Prall
Word Count: 1034 (approx.)
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An ancestor is taken captive by Indians on the Virginia frontier during the French and Indian War. His family is killed and he is raised by the Indians, returning to civilization in time to serve his country in the Revolutionary War. Wow! What a scenario for a book or movie. This is the stuff that a genealogist's dreams are made of!

If we are lucky during the course of our genealogical research, someone will pass on stories about our ancestors. These may be in the form of oral or written accounts. The trick, of course, is to verify the stories.

Your great-aunt tells you about her parents coming to America at the turn of the century; you start searching ships' passenger lists, naturalization records, census enumerations, and other documents to verify her story. With luck, you are able to do so.

Grandpa tells you his great-grandfather served in the Civil War and fought in ten different battles, including Gettysburg. A check of Civil War service and pension files turns up his record. He was actually wounded during the First Battle of Bull Run and discharged from service.

I have been able to back up a couple of stories with a little digging. I have shortened an ancestor's lifespan by four years and placed the arrival of a family or two a generation later than believed. And then there are three or four stories that await resolution.

There are numerous primary and derivative sources available to help prove or disprove a family tale passed on to you. Several I have already mentioned. Court records, local histories, family bibles and journals, all can help get to the truth of the tale.

What happens if you have more than one version of the story and cannot locate sources to verify either version? The court records or archives went up in flames during the Revolutionary or Civil War, the early records were tossed out to make more room in the tiny storage room, or nobody kept a written record of the event?

I have come across two written accounts of my fourth great-grandfather, John Faucett, which detail his capture by Indians and life beyond the War for Independence. Interestingly enough both versions came from the same generation–two of his grandchildren.

The first from Portrait and Biographical Record of Leavenworth, Douglas and Franklin Counties, Kansas, was a biographical sketch of John Fry Faucett, son of Joseph Faucett, and a Douglas Co. Civil War veteran. The following information was provided in the sketch.

[1] At the age of nine, John Faucett, a native of Virginia, along with a brother, sister, and his mother, was taken captive by Indians. His mother was promised her freedom, but was never heard from again.

[2] John was held captive for three years and then taken in by a chief as his son. He remained with the chief for several years and was well treated at all times.

[3] A white man traded a horse for John. John lived with the man on his farm for several years.

[4] John served in the American Revolution.

[5] He married Eve Fry and they moved to Ohio and later Indiana.

[6] John died at age 86. Eve was born in Virginia and died at age 86. They were Democrats and members of the Methodist Church.

The second account was from Indianapolis and Vicinity and was part of a sketch on John W. Gladden, husband of Mary McCalmont, a daughter of Lydia Faucett McCalmont, John's daughter. The Gladden version was as follows:

[1] The Faucetts moved to Ohio about the time of the Indian Wars. Mrs. Faucett and an infant child were killed. John was taken captive.

[2] He remained with the Indians for several years and became attached to the wild life.

[3] Friends had difficulty persuading John to return to his people. They gave him a white colt to own if he went back among the whites.

[4] He had no education, but was an intelligent and shrewd person.

[5] John and Eve Fry were married in Ohio and settled there. They went to Indiana in 1823.

[6] John became a prominent farmer and died at 86. Eve died at 91. They were Methodists.

Combining the two stories with facts previously documented about John Faucett, what might the sketch look like?

John Faucett was born in Virginia in 1751 and died in Indiana in 1838 at age 86 [Bible, cemetery, probate records]. He served in the Revolutionary War with the Virginia Line and as a volunteer or substitute as a resident of Redstone Fort [near present-day Uniontown], Pennsylvania [pension file]. He married Eve Fry, who was born in Virginia in 1763 and died in Indiana in 1851 at age 88 [Bible, cemetery records]. The Faucetts settled in Ohio between 1797 [Joseph's birth] and 1801 [Hamilton/Warren Co., OH Deeds]. John purchased land in Hendricks and Marion Co., Indiana in 1822, and the family began settling the new land in 1823 [Federal and county land records]. The Faucetts attended the Shiloh Methodist Church near Avon, Indian and were buried in the cemetery there [Cemetery records, tombstone inscriptions].

As for the period of Indian captivity? John and part of his family were taken captive by Indians during the French and Indian War, possibly about 1760 [age 9]. John was the only survivor and spent several years with his captors. He was well-treated and may have been adopted into the tribe. He eventually returned to "civilization" and either was traded for, or received a horse or colt.

Some problems also arise with the stories. Ohio had no permanent settlements in the 1760s. Perhaps they settled along the Ohio River or on the frontier near the Ohio territory. It seems odd that John's friends would have been aware of the incident and had contact with him while he was with the Indians. It is doubtful, but possible, that John and Eve were married in Ohio.

Essentially, both versions of the story were fairly accurate. The "Faucett version" gave a more detailed time frame for the capture. The "Gladden version" gives a bit more detailed picture of John himself.

In all it is a fascinating story of the Virginia – Western Pennsylvania frontier. Then again, who is to say a crusty old grandfather didn't make up the whole story to entertain the grandkids [or fourth great-grandkids]!!

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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