Boonesborough Girls Kidnapped

Dublin Core


Boonesborough Girls Kidnapped


Everyone knows the story of the kidnapping of the Boone and Callaway girls by the Indians near Boonesborough, but it is interesting to retell the story as it appeared in the Richmond Climax in 1900 and re-run in the Daily Register: a number of years ago.

“A first-hand account by that famous early Kentucky pioneer, Capt. John Floyd, of the capture of the two Callaway girls and a daughter of Daniel Boone by Indians on the Kentucky river at Boonesborough in 1776, is contained in a copy of the old weekly Richmond Climax which we have just received through the kindness of Mrs. Nannie (Davis) Johnson, of 402 N. Mulberry Street, Clinton Ill. Kentucky histories all tell of this foray by the Indians, which, luckily did not result disastrously for the fair young Kentuckians. But this is the first time we have seen Capt. Floyd’s letter to Col. Preston narrating stories of the affair.

“The old May 23, 1900, Richmond Climax was made available to the December 11, 1937 Daily Register by Mrs. Johnson. As will be recalled, the Climax was one of the three weeklies—others being the Madisonian and the Kentucky Register. We hope to reproduce some items from this old copy shortly, as they are often of interest, especially to the present generation who are not always familiar with events of life in their home community in bygone days.

“This old Climax reproduced an article from the Elizabethtown News which says a resident of the capital of Hardin county had in his possession this old letter from Capt. Floyd. We wonder if this letter is still owned by someone in E’Town now, years after it was published in Col. Sonners’ splendid newspaper? ‘Twould be a most important acquisition for any museum or historical society. The story as carried by the Climax sent us, is headed; “BOONESBORO LONG AGO.” “An Account of Indian Times in Kentucky—Description of a fight near Boonesboro-Rescuing Stolen Girls.” The Climax story and letter from Capt. Floyd are reproduced in full as follows:”

Story In Climax

The Elizabethtown News says among the old papers held by Mr. A.M. Brown of that city, is the following interesting letter written by John Floyd to Col. Preston from Boonesboro in 1776. John Floyd was an uncle of J. W. Bowling of that city and there are a number of relatives of his in this part of the state.

Boonesboro, July 21, 1776

My Dear Sir—The situation of our country is much altered since I wrote you last. The Indians seem determined to break up our settlement and I don’t doubt that, unless it is possible to give us some assistance, the greater part of the people will fall prey to them.

They have, I am satisfied, killed several, whom at this time I know not how to mention. Many are missing who some time ago went about their business, of whom we will hear nothing.

Fresh signs of Indians are seen almost every day. I think I mentioned to you before some damage they had done to Leestown on the 7th of this month. They killed on Cooper on Licking on the 14th, a man, whose name I know not, at Salt Spring on the same creek. On the same day they took out a canoe within sight of this place. Miss Betsy Callaway and her sister Frances, and a daughter of Daniel Boone, the two last about 13 and 14 and the other grown. The affair happened late in the afternoon. They left the canoe on the opposite side from us, which prevented our getting over for some time to pursue them. We could not that night follow them more than five miles. Next morning by daylight we were on their track, but they had entirely prevented our following by walking some distance apart in the thickest cane they could find. We observed their course, and on one side they had left their signs, and traveled upward of 30 miles. We then supposed they would be less cautious in traveling, and making a turn in order to cross their trace, we had gone but a few miles when we saw their tracks in a buffalo path, pursued and overtook them in going about 10 miles just as they were kindling a fire to cook.

Our study had been how to get the prisoners without giving the Indians time to murder them after they discovered us. We saw each other nearly at the same time; four of us fired and all of us rushed on them, by which they were prevented from carrying away anything except one shot gun without any ammunition. Mr. Boone and myself each had a pretty fair shot as they moved off. I am well convinced that I shot one through the body. The one he shot dropped his gun—mine had none. The place was covered with thick cane and being so much elated at recovering the broken hearted little girls, we were prevented from making further search. We sent the Indians off almost naked—some without their moccasins and some of them without so much as knife and tomahawk. After the girls came to themselves sufficiently to speak, they told us there were only five Indians—four Shawnees and one Cherokee. They could speak good English and said they should then go to the Shawnee towns. The war club we caught is like these I have seen of that nation. Several words of their language which the girls retained were known to be Shawnee. They also told them that the Cherokees had killed or driven all the people from Watauga or thereabouts and that 14 Cherokees were then in Kentucky waiting to do mischief.

If the war becomes general, which there is the greatest appearance, our situation is truly alarming. We are about finishing a large fort, and intend to keep possession of this place as long as possible. They are, I understand, doing the same thing in Harrodsburg and also on Elkhorn at the Royal Springs.

The settlement on Licking Creek, known as Hinkstones, has been broken up. 19 of the settlers, including Hinkstone himself, are now here on their way in. They all seem deaf to anything we can do to dissuade them. 10 at least of our own people are going to join them, which will leave us with less than 30 at this fort. I think more than 300 men have left the country since I came out and not one of them has arrived except a few cabiners down the Ohio.

I want to return as much as any person can too but if I leave the country now there is scarcely a man who will not follow my example. When I think of the deplorable conditions a few helpless families are likely to be in, I conclude to sell my life as dearly as possible in their defense, rather than making an ignominious escape. I am afraid it is in vain to sue for any relief from Virginia, yet the convention encouraged the settlement of this country, and, should not the extreme part of Fincastle be as justly entitled to protection as any other part of the country? If an expedition were carried out against those nations which are at open war with the people in general we might in a measure be relieved by drawing them off to defend their towns. If anything under heaven can be done for us I know of no person who would more likely engage in forwarding us assistance than yourself. I do, at the request and on behalf of all the distressed women and children and other inhabitants implore any who may have it in his power to give us relief. I cannot write. You can better guess at my idea from what I have said than I can express them.

I am, dear sir, yours most affectionately to my last moments.



Dr. Fred Engle




Content may be freely copied for personal and educational purposes with appropriate citation. Permission is required to reprint.




Dr. Fred Engle, “Boonesborough Girls Kidnapped,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 19, 2024,