The Van Hoose Account
From the Connelley Reprint

by Russell L. Whitlock


At the annual meeting in October [1999], we asked for additional accounts of the Jenny Wiley story as it has been handed down through the years.  William Elsey Connelley, in his book THE FOUNDING OF HARMANS STATION AND THE WILEY CAPTIVITY, provides, in addition to the account given him by Adam Brevard Wiley, a traditional account which was furnished to him by Mr. James Hayden Van Hoose in 1898.  Since the JENNY WILEY ASSOCIATION has publishing rights to Mr. Connelleys book, we will also include this account in an issue of our newsletter.

(I have included notes which expand upon some of the statements in this account, in hope that we may be able to better understand the time frame and other fine points of this occurrence.  My notes will be clearly marked as such.


I have heard my grandmother tell the story as she received it from old Jennie Wiley nearly ninety  years ago.  Jennie Wiley was one of the early settlers in Western Virginia, and one day in the fall of the year while all the men folks of the settlement were off on a scout, a band of Indians came in and murdered and plundered the people left at home.  All her children were killed except her youngest, then about 15 months old, which they allowed her to carry with her into captivity.  They took her down into Kentucky and kept her with them until in the early part of the next spring.

(NOTE:  This account agrees exactly with the time frame as laid out in the CALENDAR OF VIRGINIA STATE PAPERS, VOL. 5, PAGE 181, which states, "I doubt not but that your Excellency has been informed of Mrs. Wyle's oath, who was taken prisoner last fall and runaway from the Indians late in the winter."  The phrases, "--early part of the next spring" and "--late in the winter", surely could be used interchangeably.  At least one account indicates that Jenny was held captive for a period of some eleven months, but the time period between "last fall" and "early part of the next spring" or "late in the winter" certainly does not equal eleven months!  The account indicating an eleven month captivity was supplied to William Elsey Connelley by Jenny's son Adam Brevard and this makes it difficult to gain say.  However, the Van Hoose account is furnished to us by a party whose grandmother knew Jenny personally and heard the story from her own lips.  Another point to consider is that when Jenny gave the account of or ordeal she was placed under oath to give the deposition and I have no doubt but that she would have been scrupulously accurate in her statements.)

Another babe was born which they allowed her to nurse for a few weeks, but becoming uneasy about some news brought in by their scouts, they killed both of her babes one night and dried their little scalps by the fire before her eyes.

(NOTE:  In most accounts the eldest child was killed only a short time following Jenny's capture.)

She saw that trouble was brewing and resolved to make an effort to escape.  After they were asleep, she quietly stole away from the camp, traveling in the direction she thought would lead to the white settlements.

(NOTE:  In most accounts, it is said the Indians were away from the camp on a hunting trip and they had left Jenny bound with rawhide straps, which she soaked in the falling rain and managed to work free.)

All night she traveled, accompanied by her faithful little dog who had followed her from her home, and stayed by her all the time in captivity.

(NOTE:  Some other accounts state she chased the dog back to the Indian camp and he is said to have been with the Indians when they followed Jenny to the banks of the Levisa Fork river.)

She reached the mouth of this little creek which empties into Paint Creek, and she followed it to its head.  During the day a little snow fell, and for fear they would track her in the snow she waded in the water, but her little dog would run along the bank.  To keep them from finding his tracks in the snow, she called him to her in the water, and held him under until he was drowned.  She said she could not keep back the tears while drowning him as she thought of how faithful he had been to her.

(NOTE:  I would be inclined to accept the statements of Jenny her self over those of others!)

She said she passed through the low gap now known as "Hager Gap," where my father afterwards built his house, in which I was born 66 years ago and a portion of which still stands.  Traveling up a little branch, once known as the Stillhouse Branch," to its head, she reached the "Limestone Cliff" at the mouth of the "Limestone Branch," late at night.  She rested under the cliff of rocks and slept a few hours until daylight, when she renewed her tramp along the river bank, until she reached a point directly opposite the blockhouse or rude fort.

(NOTE:  This was the fort known as Harmans Station and was located in present day Blockhouse Bottom, near the present community of Auxier in Floyd County.  Blockhouse Bottom is just across the county line and is now located in Johnson County.  Unfortunately, a small airport now occupies the exact spot where  the Harmon fort once stood.)

She called as loudly as she could for someone to come over after her;  but they answered her by saying there was no canoe about the fort, and that the men were all gone after Indians on a scout, and only one old man left with the women and little children, and he was 80 years old and feeble.

(NOTE:  The old man was Mr. Henry Scaggs, one of the earliest settlers in this region.)

She told them to get some dry logs and pin them together and make a raft, but they told her there was not any auger (a crude drill) about the place.  Then she said "Tie the logs together with ropes."  But there was no rope.  Then she said, "Get a grapevine and tie the logs together with that."  The old man and women got three dry poplar logs and fastened them together with grape vines, and got a board for a paddle.

(NOTE:  Some other accounts indicate Mulberry logs or Oak logs were used.)

The old man got on the raft and shoved it from the shore.  He finally reached the side where she was so anxiously waiting, and she got on the other end of the raft and shoved it from the shore.  The old man began paddling for the shore from whence he had come.  The strong current carried them down river some distance, and finally the vines began to come loose.

(NOTE:  Other accounts indicate the Levisa Fork was in flood state, as it so often is in the spring of the year, and those of us who have been reared along its banks know very well how wild the Levisa Fork can be at such times.  This fact adds weight to the argument that Jenny escaped the Indians in the early spring of the year.  Although floods can occur at any time on the Levisa Fork, they most often are brought by the early spring rains.)

The raft began to spread apart.  The old man ceased paddling and fell upon his knees and began to pray, but Mrs. Wiley had more faith in "works" than in prayer.

(NOTE:  I totally and completely disagree with the author's last statement.  Jenny was a devout Christian of the Presbyterian faith whose father had been a lay minister in that church.  I have no doubt but that Jenny was praying as she paddled the raft toward the opposite shore.  Jenny, beyond a doubt, realized that her Christian faith had sustained her through her entire ordeal and she would not have forsaken it at this point.  I cannot imagine anyone surviving the trials and tribulation which Jenny did without having an abundance of faith, and without depending on prayer for support.)

She seized the paddle out of his hands, and while he prayed she paddled, and succeeded in propelling the raft in under some swinging maple limbs that overhung the water.  The old man grabbed hold of the limbs and pulled the raft ashore;  they both reached dry land in safety.  And none too soon, either;  for just as they reached the top of the bank, three Indians came to the opposite shore, on her trail, and called out in a loud voice, "Woopee, my pretty Jinnie!"  But "Jinnie" was all right, for she had reached the fort, and the Indians not knowing that the men were all gone, were afraid to venture over.

(NOTE:  Other accounts indicate Henry Scaggs grabbed his long rifle and fired at one of the Chiefs on the opposite shore.  It is said that the distance across the swollen river was too great and that the ball fell harmlessly into the muddy water.  The sound of the shot was heard by other men from the fort and they returned immediately to find, much to their surprise, Jenny Wiley who they had long assumed dead!)

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