Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Relatively Speaking - Wild Indians in the Family?

Due to a death in her family, I've switched turns with cousin Carol . It's what we Wild Ones do anyway, help each other out.

In transcribing the wills, inventories, sales & distributions of my Bowman ancestors (Carol has Bowman connections too), from time to time I've come across some Riddle/Ruddell/Ruddle information. Since this is one of the lines Carol also researches I have been loading up her email box with tidbits I've found recently.

Abraham Ruddell's Account
First, let me explain that my g-g-g-g-g grandfather was Hans Georg "George" Bowman. He married Mary Hite and they had quite a few children. One of the daughters, Elizabeth, married Isaac Ruddell/Ruddle. Even in the same record you will see the name spelled differently. Isaac and Elizabeth established Ruddle's Mills and Ruddell's/Ruddle's Fort in Bourbon County, Kentucky. It was at said fort in 1780, that the fort was attacked by the British and Shawnee Indians. Many of the people sheltering in the fort were killed or captured. The prisoners, although assured by the British that they would remain captives, for the most part they were sold to the Shawnee to do with them as they pleased. Two of the Ruddell's children, 6 year-old Abraham and 12 year-old Stephen were among those sold to the Indians. Stephen became Big Fish and was raised as a warrior, becoming close friends with Panther-in-the-Sky, or as we know him Tecumseh. Poor little Abraham, was not so lucky, but was sold to a woman who enslaved him, and between the ages of 6 and 9, Abraham endured many privations. He was not taught how to hunt and was sorely beaten by his owner, until his brother Stephen threatened to kill the woman if she beat Abraham again.

The years passed and Tecumseh with his brother - The Prophet - tried to unite all the native American tribes to force the whites out of the country. In 1795, at the battle of Fallen Timbers, the Prophet was defeated by General Mad Anthony Wayne.

Afterward, Big Fish (Stephen) was approached by an aide of Wayne's because he was told that Stephen spoke English and was used as an interpreter. He asked Stephen if he knew what had happened to Abraham and Stephen Ruddell. He pointed to himself and said, "Stephen, me Stephen Ruddell." It was at this time, fifteen years after the boys had been captured that they found out that their parents still lived. Old Isaac Ruddell (now 65) went to meet his sons and bring them home. Abraham age 6 at the time of capture was a man of 21 and Stephen was 27.

I find it rather amazing to find out that the Ruddell brothers eventually did leave what we consider a normal life. Stephen's native wife returned to her people after a time, not caring to live in the white man's fashion. Abraham moved to Independence county, Arkansas and Stephen became a Baptist minister and eventually moved to Ursa in Adams county, Illinois.

Stephen Ruddell's account
During the time of the war of 1812, Abraham and Stephen, both living in Bourbon county, Kentucky were accused of aiding and abetting Indians. Both men took the trouble at that time to publish their experiences with their captors in the newspapers of the day. Certainly, Abraham was far less likely to want to aid the Indians, his treatment being not so happy.

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Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. What an incredible story! It's even more incredible that it was published in a newspaper that survived almost 200 years and you were able to find it.

  2. The wonders of Microfilm. These actually came via Genealogy Bank.

  3. I have become a recent fan of Genealogy Bank. I'm finding much more in their collection related to my interests than I've found in other newspaper sites.

  4. Hello,
    I would like to exchange family notes with you.
    I am Shawnee. I do not know if we have blood relatives or not. I have been aware of the Ruddel's for many years. It is interesting to have a first hand account from so many years ago.

  5. Linda: I've been using GB for years now. I love it.

    Anonymous: Hi. I'm not descended from this line. Elizabeth Bowman Ruddell was my great-great-great-great grandfather's sister. This was just one of the interesting tidbits I found when I searched for Abraham & Stephen.