Thomas Wiley -
Possible Second Marriage

by Russell L. Whitlock
Excerpt from the Jenny Wiley Association Newsletter

    While going through some old correspondence, I found an interesting letter from member Olive Stone.  Mrs. Stone is a Poet, Historian, and Genealogist, and always has some interesting things to discuss.

    Someone, don't recall who, asked me if I had any information that Thomas Wiley, husband of Jenny, had been married more than one time.  I passed that question on to Olive, and she furnished me with the following:

        "In marriages of Virginia I found this:  Thomas Wiley to Rebecca Harding, 28 July 1790---."  Was this Thomas the husband of Jenny and did he remarry while she was in captivity?  Was this another Thomas Wiley?  I certainly don't know, but since others are asking the question it would seem that someone has considered the possibility.  This marriage occurred in Augusta County Virginia and is now a part of West Virginia.  Olive says she also found a William Wiley who married Ann Harding on 9 September 1790 in Augusta County, and an Ann Wiley who married John McGloughlin.  Ann Wiley was the daughter of Robert Wiley.  This marriage also occurred in Augusta County.

    These questions open up a host of possibilities, and I want to emphasize that the following is nothing but simple speculation.

    If Jenny was captured in late fall of 1789 and escaped some time in the spring or early summer of 1790, it would seem possible that Thomas might have married prior to her return from Harmons Station to Walkers Creek, considering the difficulty of communication and the distances involved.  We don't know exactly how long it was from Jennys escape until Mathias Harmon and his band returned her to her home.  If Jenny was captured in 1797 as Adam Brevard indicated, the above scenario would be less likely unless, as some have maintained, Thomas was reluctant to accept Jenny back as white after she had lived with her Indian captors.  Is it possible they lived apart for an extended time and were reconciled at a later date?

    The legend persists that Jenny gave birth to a daughter following her escape from captivity, and I understand from speaking with Jim Daniels [Association president] that there is a lady in Virginia who claims to be descended from that child!  It has been rumored that Jenny gave up the child to another family and of course we have no record of this daughter coming to Kentucky with Jenny and Thomas.  Did Jenny give up her daughter as a condition of reconciliation with Thomas?   Why did Jenny and Thomas choose to leave their established home in Virginia to move to the untamed wilderness of the Big Sandy Valley?  Was it to escape the gossip and ill will that such a situation might have caused?

    One must evaluate such things in light of the morals and customs of that time period.  In that time a white woman who had lived with Indians was forever marked and shown little respect by her own people.  Most people in the community would probably have supported Thomas in separating from Jenny under those circumstances, and marrying again, but what would the feeling have been if he left his second wife to return to Jenny at a later date?

    Let me say again, all of the above is intended simply to provoke thought, and if information to support any of it exists, we hope it will be brought forth.  If you have information or thoughts on this subject, please let us hear from you.

    In addition to the marriage records given above, Mrs. Stone furnishes the following information which I believe comes from Dark Hills to Westward by Harry Caudill, (a book on Jenny Wiley.)  It is indicated that Jennys younger brother who was killed in the Walkers Creek raid was in fact named Andrew.  All records I have seen refer to him as Batt Sellards, supposedly a nickname.  It is also indicated that one of Jennys sons who was killed at Walkers Creek was named Adam.  Olive comments that it was common to name a later child after one who had died.  That being the case, Adam Brevard might have been named for another brother.  According to Mr. Caudill, Jenny gave birth to six children after her return from captivity.  We know the names of five:  Jane, William, Sally (Sarah), Hezekiah, and Adam Brevard, and again we run into the mention of that elusive other child!

    According to Mrs. Stone, Harry Caudill also comments on two of the Indians who held Jenny captive.  He indicates that Chief Benge was a member of the party, but only for a short period of time.  I understand that David Webb, a local historian, was of the opinion that Chief Benge was the father of Jennys daughter (assuming that such a child did exist.)  As I understand Mrs. Stones letter, Caudill also indicates that Captain John was the chief who actually owned Jenny during her captivity.  She goes on to say that this information agrees with the Jenny Wiley story as related by her family.

    National Geographic indicates that Chief Benge lead a band of his people to Oklahoma in the "trail of tears," but Mr. Webb indicates that the time and place of the death of Chief Benge is known.  (I assume that means he was killed in this area.)  I read some time ago that Captain John was killed several years after Jennys captivity in the Red Bush area of Kentucky, but I do not recall by whom or the exact date, and I don't have the material handy at this time.  I'll try to furnish that information at a later date.

    I am indebted to Mrs. Stone for taking the time to write and furnish us with all the information included herein.  Thanks for your help, Olive.

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