Leonard Kratz, wife and baby

Subject: Ruddles Station
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998 20:14:13 -0400
From: Edith Woodbridge <edith.woodbridge@sympatico.ca>
To: darby@visi.net

At Harrow, Ontario, Canada, a number of the captives from Ruddles Station finally settled, and raised large families which have been documented. The names of the captives include Katherine Honn who married Joseph Thomas Ferriss, Leonard Kratz and wife Mary Munger, William Henry Munger, her father, and Martin Tofflemire.

These people came to Grosse Ile, Detroit River for some 10 years before moving into Upper Canada.

Our history society, Harrow Early Immigrant Research Society (HEIRS) has much documentation of the descendants of these families.

Our new website is under construction, but would welcome a link to your site, if possible.

The site is: http://www.rootsweb.com/~onheirs/index.htm

We welcome your inquiries and interest in our Ruddles Station descendants.

edith woodbridge


From: John Helmut Mertz. John sends us a chapter from his book "He was a Hessian" published, 1993 (out of print)

Dear Ruddlesfort historians and subscribers!

With my last posting to your list I promised to give you the story of one of the captives of the Ruddle's Fort in 1780, the Hessian soldier Leonhard Kratz (in Ruddle's Roll called Leonard Croft). I wrote it back in 1989 when I followed the trail of this particular favourite of mine, who originated in a village not far from my own hometown Hanau in Hessen, Germany.

He came with the Hesse-Hanau Regiment Erbprinz to Quebec in 1776, took part in General Burgoyne's ill-fated expedition to Saratoga, N.Y. in Oct.1777, and was captured with all of them, and taken to Boston as prisoner and a year later was marched to Virginia, where he ended up in the Charlottesville, Albemarle County prison camp.

I wrote his story and it was first published in the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association Journal of 1991, and later was part of my own little book "He was a Hessian", publ. 1992, and since out of print. What I am bringing you now is the chapter V titled "Pioneering in Kentucky." On the 31 of May 1779 Leonhard Kratz for whatever reason decided, that he had enough of this prisoner life and escaped from the Albemarle barracks. On his own and alone, he made it over the Blue Mountain ridge to the Shenandoah valley. From now on Kratz had to depend on his own survival instinct in a wild, rough, and tough pioneer environment.

After Leonhard's escape from the barracks and his arrival in the Shenandoah valley, he met the Munger family, who were planning to pack up and seek new settlement in Kentucky.

The Munger's were an old German settler family, who had lived in the valley since long before the revolution, and with the family growing, needed more land.

Old William Munger had bought a 250 acres farm in 1771 on the Naked Creek, north of Staunton near the Page/Rockingham County line. He left this farm in trust to his sons David and John, and prepared to hitch up his wagons and move with the rest of the family to the new territory of Kentucky. He needed all the manpower he could get, and in Leonhard Kratz, the escaped soldier, he found a strong and capable man.

This is how Mary Burch's Family Record of 1880 described the situation: "The years 1779 and 1780 were distinguished by the vast number of emigrants who crowded to Kentucky for the purpose of settling and availing themselves of the benefits of the land law by locating land warrants. Among the numerous bands which left Virginia for the Lone Land, was one in which there was a family named Munger, another Toofelmeyer, and the "paroled" soldier Leonhard Kratz, he by his acquaintance with the country acting as a guide to the party. Indian hostility was proportionately active, and both movers and settlers were in great danger. In the Munger family was a daughter named Mary. It is not known whether any acquaintance existed between the two previous to leaving Virginia or not, be that as it may, somewhere on the journey young Leonhard proposed to Mary, and she accepted happily his proposal.

The next step was to obtain parental sanction. This consent, upon application, was most posetively refused, their chief objection, was his being a soldier from a far off land, a stranger. This, of course, was quite a serious state of affairs to the lovers, and something desperate had to be done.

He waited till the company were pretty well advanced into the wilderness, and under his guidance, when he suddenly brought them to a halt by declaring he would go no further with them as a guide, unless they consented to his marriage with their daughter. So, after due deliberation, the came to the conclusion that "discretion was the better part", and consented. The marriage ceremony, according to the requirements of the times, was performed in the open air by the side of the wagons that contained their all, as soon as a properly authorized person was found."

This is a very romantic story indeed, and has been told time and again to Leonhard and Mary's grand- and great grand children, I am sure, but a few questions did come up, which needed to be investigated and clarified. With the help of some other sources of information I have reconstructed as it really must have happened.

Leonhard Kratz was a stranger in this country, he did not know it at all. Therefore, he had neither the experience nor the knowledge to serve as a guide to lead new settlers from the Shenandoah valley to Kentucky. He also had very little experience as an Indian fighter, except that he knew how to handle a rifle and how to shoot. The other more important fact was, that old German settler families like the Munger's would not have trusted their lives and all their worldly possessions to a "soldier from a far off land", which was their feelings toward LeonhaLd. But the Munger's needed him for one good reason alone, he was a strong man and had a strong back, and that was his most appreciated asset.

Let me at this point introduce Captain Isaac Ruddle of the Virginia Militia from the Shenandoah valley. Already back in 1777 he and his brother George had gone to Kentucky to check out the land and to stake his land claim. Each of them staked out 1400 acres of virgin land in the area which was later known as Bourbon County.

Captain Ruddle went back to Virginia and received a commission to raise a company of volunteers, and in 1779 began to assemble a wagon train for the move to Kentucky. The Munger's, their son-in-law Martin Toffelmeyer with his wife and family, and Leonhard Kratz joined up with the wagon train, and Captain Ruddle led them to Kentucky. With the love affair developing between Mary and Leonhard, the Captain most likely was the man with authority to perform the wedding ceremony at the side of the wagons in the open air. An actual wedding certificate was in all probability never made out, and if, it was never found.

Captain Ruddle's wagon train reached the Licking river in Kentucky, and the whole group settled in or near a fort which had been abandoned three years earlier by the pioneer Hinkson because of Indian trouble. Here in this fort Ruddle established what is known in later history as the Ruddle's Fort.

He enlarged and fortified it, making it one of the strongest forts in the Kentucky wilderness, capable of accomodating from two to three hundred people. His garrison was composed of forty-nine men, and on his list were Charles Munger Sr., William Munger Jr., Martin Tuffleman (Toffelmeyer), and Leonard Croft (Kratz).

It is not quite clear whether this list contained just the names of settlers at the fort, or whether it was a list of men of Ruddle's Virginia militia company, in which case they would have had to take an oath of allegiance and to swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. If this was indeed the case, it would explain the rather harsh treatment these men received later at the hands of the British and the Indians. It would also mean that the Hessian soldier Leonhard Kratz broke his oath to his Prince and to King George III.

The spring following the hard winter of 1779 was unusually fine, and the inhabitants of Ruddle's Fort saw their cattle grow fat on the luscious bluegrass, and the rich soil gave promise of bounteous crops. Everywhere there was an atmosphere of peace and prosperity and general well-being. There was no premonition of the tragedy that awaited them. That's how later a Kentucky historian had described the scene.

(The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol.54, No.189, October 1956 - "Destruction of Ruddle's and Martin's forts in the Revolutionary War. Pages 302-304, by Maude Ward Lafferty.)

Chapter VI

Captured by Indians The war with Great Britain was still going on. From the British strong point of Detroit at the far west end of Lake Erie, a force of 200 English soldiers and Canadian volunteers under the command of Captain Henry Bird of His Majesty's 8th Regiment of Foot, plus some 600 Indians led by Simon Girty, swooped down upon the unsuspecting new settlements of Kentucky. The intent of the mission was to destroy the settlements, to discourage the flow of settlers coming west, and to prevent the area from becoming an agricultural supply base for the Colonial army.

The invading force, equipped with some six pound cannons, on the 22. June 1780 attacked Ruddle's Fort and forced Captain Ruddle to surrender, after Captain Bird promised that no harm would come to them. The same fate awaited the Martin's Fort nearby. Despite Bird's promises, the Indians were hard to control, they killed and scalped some of the inhabitants, and destroyed all the livestock and food supplies. Most of the settlers were taken prisoner. In all this confusion and tragedy Mary Kratz gave birth to her first child. It was not a good time for such an event.

Leonard and Mary were separated from each other. Mary was taken Leonhard and Mary were separated from each other. Mary was taken with the other women. They travelled by water in canoes, going north by day, and resting on the river's shore by night. Several nights later, while preparing to camp, Mary accidently fell and struck her baby's head against a tree, it died instantly. Mary hollowed out a grave with her bare hands and buried her first born child.

The captive men were herded north to Detroit on a strenuous overland march, burdened with whatever possessions the Indians saw fit to appropriate as spoils of war. Leonhard told the story himself many times in later life, that he was loaded down with a huge copper kettle, extending over his head and secured to his back. The weight of the kettle scraped into his flesh, causing infected wounds, which left him with scars for the remainder of his life. Starvation almost ended his sufferings. An Indian squaw named Mona du Quatte is said to have secretly provided him with food. Years afterwards he was able to repay her kindness by providing care in her old age, whenever she visited his homestead on Lake Erie.

On 4.August 1780, Major Arent S. DePeyster, British commander at Detroit, wrote to Lt.Col. Mason Bolton:

"Captain Bird arrived here this morning with about one hundred and fifty prisoners, mostly Germans who speak English. The remainder coming -- for in spite of all his endeavors to prevent it, the Indians broke into their forts and seized many -- the whole will amount to about three hundred and fifty. Their chief desire is to remain and settle at this place as you will see by the enclosed letter ...."

The enclosure, written by Captain Henry Bird on 24.July 1780, says in part:

". . . many of the prisoners would not take the oath to the (American) Congress. I do not believe we have more than two families who are really rebels. The rest are desirous of being settled in Detroit with some land. They fled, they say, from persecution and declare if the Government will assist them to get them on foot as farmers, they will, as Militia, faithfully defend the country that affords them protection . . ."

After arrival of the male prisoners, the Indians turned them over to the Detroit landowners Alexander and William Macomb, sons of John Macomb from Albany, N.Y. John Macomb had purchased land from the Potawatomi Indians on 6.July 1776, which included several islands in the Detroit river, among which were Hog Island, later renamed Belle Island, and Grosse Ile. The same year Lt.Governor Henry Hamilton granted William Macomb permission to occupy Grosse Ile. In 1780 the original deed was acknowledged as a "volunteer act of the chiefs of the Potawatomi Nation" before Arent.S. DePeyster, the newly appointed commander at Detroit.

The Macombs, who maintained friendly relations with the Indians by trading with them, are claimed to have "bought" the prisoners. There is no evidence at all that such a deal has taken place. The Indians may have received some presents in appreciation of bringing the prisoners safely to Detroit.

Once released at Detroit, Leonhard Kratz kept watching for the arrival of the women down at the boat docks along the river. Finally, Mary arrived. He did not recognize her until she called out his name. He took her into his arms and carried her to camp quarters, where she could be cared for. The joy of their reunion was saddened by the story of the loss of the baby.

With no earthly possessions but their mutual love and devotion, Leonhard and Mary accepted the Macomb's offer to farm for them on Hog Island. In 1781 a son Peter was born, named in honour of Leonhard's father. The Munger and Tofflemeyer families settled nearby.

Captain Isaac Ruddell and his wife remained prisoners of the British until after the war. They returned to Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1784. In 1788 Ruddell built a gristmill near his new home on a branch of the Licking river. He died about 1808 and is buried in the old Presbyterian graveyard, located outside Ruddell's Mills.

There is a plaque standing just at the crossroads a little north of the cemetery, erected by the Commonwealth of Kentucky:


Near his home Isaac Ruddell built a gristmill in 1788 on the north side of Hinkson bridge, and a sawmill in 1795 to be operated by his son Abram. A 720 spindle cotton mill erected 500 feet west by Thomas and Hugh Brent in 1828, burned 1836. Soon rebuilt by Abram Spears, it also spun wool until about 1855. Ruddell gave land for Stoner Mouth Church and cemetery.


With this I'll close this particular chapter of the story of a Hessian soldier, who has endured hardships beyond imagination. I have followed his trail from his place of birth to his final resting place on the shores of Lake Erie, but I did it by modern means on modern roads, while he walked every step of the way with heavy loads. Having been an infantry man myself during WWII, I do have a bit of experience to know what a man like him went through. Absolutely incredible.

I thank you for reading this story, and I do hope you enjoyed reading it, yours truly.

Johannes (John) Helmut Merz.

Sources consulted at the writing of the Kratz story:

For the military service in Hessian troops:

American/Canadian sources:

And last not least:

This is it, I herewith declare that I cannot do lookups in any of the sources mentioned, because I researched those items at various locations, one in particular, the Library at Paris, Kentucky, and I have to say the staff on duty at the time did an excellent job in giving assistance in my research.

Regards, John Helmut Merz.

From When Detroit invaded Kentucky, by Milo. M. Quaife, The History Quarterly, Vol.1 No.2, January 1927, pp. 59-60

"More moving even than the story of Mrs. La Force's misfortunes is that of Leonard Kratz. He was a native of Teutonhofer near Frankfort-on-the-Main, who, in 1776 at the age of twenty years, came to America as a member of one of the Hessian regiments hired by King George to subdue his rebellious subjects. He served in the Burgoyne campaign and was taken captive, along with the rest of the army, by the Americans at Saratoga. After a long period of imprisonment in Virginia he was released and, like many of his fellows, concluded to remain in America. At this time emigrants from Virginia and Pennsylvania were pouring across the mountains to Kentucky. Kratz joined one such group, and undertook to pilot it to the promised land. In the party was a young woman, Mary Munger, with whom the ex-soldier fell in love. Mary consented to marry him, but her parents, on being consulted, raised strenuous objections, whereupon Kratz, after due consideration, issued an ultimatum to the effect that, unless they accepted him as a son-in-law, he would serve them no longer as a guide. This placed the matter in a new light, for in the midst of the wilderness a guide was essential, even though a son-in-law might not be. Accordingly the parents yielded, the marriage was performed, and the journey was resumed until it ended at Ruddle's Station.

"If Leonard Kratz and Mary, his bride, had lived happily ever afterwards, their story would not be written here. A season passed, their union was in due time sealed by the arrival of a baby, and the husband, no doubt, was industriously preparing a farm for their future support when Bird's army appeared on the scene. Kratz and his young wife-the latter with her babe in arms-fell into the hands of different Indian masters and were separated from each other. Kratz' master compelled him to carry to Detroit a huge copper kettle strapped on his back, the marks of which he carried to his grave. He was unable to lie down, and was saved from starvation through the compassion of a squaw who pitied and befriended him. On reaching Detroit Kratz, along with other prisoners, was purchased by the British authorities, who cared for them until they recovered from the sufferings they had endured on the march sufficiently to enable them to go to work.

"Tormented by the thought of what might be the fate of his wife and child, Kratz repaired daily to the wharf to meet the canoes which came in, hoping that sooner or later he would learn something of them. Although prisoners were being brought in from time to time, he could learn nothing of the missing ones. One day he gazed upon a woman and was turning sadly away when she cried out, "Leonard! Don't you know me?" It was his wife, so altered in appearance by the terrible hardships she had undergone that he had failed to recognize her. The fate of her babe was soon related. While struggling up a bank with it in her arms she had stumbled and fallen forward, striking its head on the root of a tree and killing it instantly. Probably this was well, for its end might easily have been a far more terrible one. The mother hastily buried her child, after which she was compelled to resume the weary march, which was to end at Detroit in the manner we have noted.

"The later career of Leonard and Mary Kratz is interesting, but it does not properly belong to our present narrative. After various vicissitudes they settled on a grant of land near Amherstburg, where Kratz died in 1829, leaving many descendants." (1)

(1) For the story of Leonard Kratz I am indebted to George F. McDonald's "The New Settlement on Lake Erie," printed in Essex Historical Society, Papers and Addresses, Vol. III.