John D. Shane's Interview, In 1841, With Mrs. Wilson Of Woodford County

Also A List Of Shane Interviews Published In The Filson Club History Quarterly


By Otto A. Rothert

Louisville, Kentucky

Source:The Filson Club historical Journal, Vol. 16, 1941-42, pp. 227-235

During the past fourteen years The Filson Club History Quarterly has published, in full, the notes of one of the many interviews Rev. John D. Shane had with some of the Kentucky pioneers and their sons and daughters. Most of his interviews took place in central Kentucky from about 1838 to shortly before his death in 1864.

Shane's original notes of his interview with Mrs. Wilson are in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison. In the Calendar of The Kentucky Papers of the Draper Collection of Manuscripts (1925) it is calendared, on page 259, as an Interview with Mrs. Wilson, of Woodford County, February 26, 1841. Shane does not give her Christian name, nor does Mrs. Wilson, for she simply states she was a daughter of pioneer Patrick Mahon.

This interview was selected somewhat at random for publication. No changes have been made other than by spelling out abbreviated words and by adding, in brackets, a few attempted elucidations. Like most of Shane's other interviews it bears on subjects on which he has also made notes elsewhere. These various interview notes when combined offer much new material for detailed pioneer history sketches on their respective topics. Among other notes bearing on the subjects brought out in the following transcription is Shane's interview with Mr. and Mrs. James [Jane B. Mahon] Brackenridge, of Bourbon County, the brother-in-law and sister of Mrs. Wilson. The interview here transcribed, like the original in the Draper Collection of Manuscripts, is numbered 11 CC 276-279:

Mrs. Wilson: In her 87th year, 26th February 1841. (1754 born.) Mrs. Wilson came in, in the year 1780.

We came from within about 18 miles of Bottetourt Court House. In Bourbon County, went first to Riddle's [or Ruddle's] Station, afterwards to Martin's Station, where we [at Ruddle's and Martin's stations] were taken [June 22, 1870] by Captain Bird [Colonel Henry Byrd]. The Indians took Riddle's Station [June 22, 1780]. Had the fever just before we were taken, and were just getting out of it.

Patrick Mahon, her father, started in October 1779, and did not get out till after New Year. Bad weather. Had 20 packed creatures, besides what he rode. Were very much afraid we would be attacked, but were not. It was very scary times.

Riddle's Station [Ruddle's, afterwards called Hinkston's]: Next spring we were taken. Were in Riddle's Station when it was attacked in March [June] 1780. 1 was lying very sick with the fever at the time, and had a sister so deaf she could not hear a gun. Our family were all very low. The men went out to see what Indian sign they could see. There was one end that was open. The men that were left went to fixing up the breach. Mrs. Riddle joined them with her gun. They didn't happen to come to that open end, or they might have made bad work of it.

Patrick Mahon: Mrs. Wilson's father's name was Patrick Mahon. He had lived a good while in Bottetourt. He came out of Pennsylvania into Virginia, Lancaster County. Don't know the preacher Mahon [William Mahan] to be a kin. Of my connection lived about Lexington, some preachers that I know of. My father was taken at the same time we were-and carried to Detroit. (Taken prisoner.) He died there, 2 weeks after he got there. All had sickness-the fever. He travelled 2 days, with his 2 sons holding him under the arms, & helping him along. He begged us to leave him at several of the Indian towns, but we feared if we left him there the Indians would kill him. We were satisfied when we got him there.

Three brothers, John, Thomas, and William [Mahon] taken at the same time, and a brother-in-law, James Morrow, and his wife my sister, and 3 single sisters, Isabella, Margaret, and Jane [Mahon, later Mrs. Jane B. Brackenridge]. I was then single, afterwards married Mr. Wilson. We were very lucky, all to be kept together.

Byrd's Treatment: As we were traveling in, Captain Byrd [Henry Bird] was very ungenerous to us. He measured out to the men only a cup of flour, and the women and children only a half cup. Nor would they allow back rations. They travelled by water, or when by land, had to walk. They were longer on the road, and missed a day's rations. Mahon, the brother, said "Captain Byrd, I suppose we may expect back rations today." Byrd replied-no such indulgence would be given prisoners.

Booty Takin: Saw an Indian riding a saddle I had, and one of my father's horses. Said "good Kentuck for me." There were 3 Indians on the horse. Another fine mare my father had, they had to crist-shoot here, before they could catch her. The Indians asked my brother whose horse that was. My brother replied it was his. The Indian said it was a lie, for it was his.

900 Indians around them [at Ruddle's Station]. Riddle thought they could have defended the place by force of arms, but they couldn't.

Agreement: Byrd and John Mahon had an agreement how much land they should have, and how they should live when they went in. But he let it be carelessly seen that he put it into his coat-pocket, and they stole it out-so that it was never of any more use to him.

Ruddle: Riddle got an island, and 16 milk cows. He made a great deal of money there.

Prisoners: We were taken into an island, and the men were either to go to prison or to work. Captain Grant was building a mill. They got a York shilling a day. Made them haul rock themselves, just as horses did. All but my oldest brother. They finally broke off, and thought they would rather be in jail than to do such work. One Mr. Jones, a very favorable commissary, a mighty good man, persuaded them to send a petition to Major Halderman [Haldimand]. John Mahon, Captain Jones wouldn't have (left?) kept in provost, wouldn't let go to jail­was weak and sickly. Captain Jones took his provisions to him every day himself. The prisoners never had had a house hired for them before. They rented a very good house for us. Gave a half a Joe a month for it. Captain Law furnished the prisoners with clothing. An officer by, offering him an old coat, he refused. Said it wasn't the right color. Here, Daniel, said he, take Mahon to jail. He called Daniel-several times-but never intended to send him. Pinched an old man's ears.

At Montreal: Always, after we went to Montreal, we had a very good house to stay in. After we were taken first, they wanted us first, the single ladies, to go into the gentlemen's kitchen and cook for them. We single ladies and Captain Duncan's lady, and Mrs. Lapost, and Mrs. Mahon, my mother, and Mrs. Agness Mahon, my brother's wife, sent a petition to Major Halderman [Haldimand], telling him we had never been accustomed to work in the kitchen, and we wanted houses to live in. We considered it was too low, we never had been used to such business. General Haldimand granted the petition. The second petition also, to let our men be out with us, and if that couldn't be, to let us have someone to wait upon us. They made them give oath that they wouldn't leave, and set them on patrol.

John Duncan: After John Duncan and other prisoners escaped, all who were left, except my oldest brother, were put into prison.

The Women: The women of us were generally pretty good at our needles, and we had generally pretty good employment at that. Got $1.50 for every fine ruffle shirt we made. They were in the habit of putting lace edging on their ruffles. She worked an open edge on them, and they took a great fancy to that, and we charged them another $1.50 for that-making $3. Our needles were very well capable of supporting us decently. When we came to leave, we had 7 pieces of irish linen in the house, that we had to return. The people that we sewed for, were mighty sorry. They always advanced the money, or were ready to pay when we brought the work.

A loyalist lady came to the prisoner's house to get washing. Miss Judy Lapost and her brother were just going to town. They said they were just going to town to get a washerwoman. One day their mother was in a store in town and a town lady came and wanted to know if she wasn't one of the Virginia prisoners. Said the report was through the town that the Virginia prisoners were the proudest people in town. She said­why shouldn't we be? We had all good homes, and always had plenty, &c. Mother told some of the Britishers-Yes! they had to wash, and their husbands to enlist. Mahon used to go by their doors, just to make them mad.

Williams Journal: William [Mahon] kept the Journal. Used to have a great deal of amusement every night. Wherever we would stop, he would read it to them. They would hardly let him go, they were so taken with him. He had but one brother, Thomas, that it was convenient to be left with when he died. And I don't know whether he left it with any of them, or not. His widow and family are now in Missouri, or perhaps they could tell something about or of it. I don't doubt but his brother took care of the Journal, and it may be now that some of the family has it, but then they are away in another country from us now.

William died at Wilson's Station [Mercer County] about a year after we came back from Montreal. Was but a youth, about 18 years old, when he died. Thomas was living at the same place where William died.

Mahon and Byrd: Mahon then abused him. Byrd said he would pierce him through, and drew his sword. He abused him very much.

Bobee: Mr. Bobee (Banbee) [Duperon Baby], a frenchman.

Major Dupaster: [Arnet S. Deyster?] (was a great friend to prisoners. Perished in the ship that went back after carrying us to Quebec.) Had no want of food after we got to Montreal.

Capt. Hare was very kind. Would stay behind out of Byrd's sight, to give Mahon, the old man, an opportunity of riding-to ride-his horse.

Byrd and the hornet's nest.

Captain Riddle used to get the prisoners.

The Indians burned his youngest child-little child. Whose?

James Morrow. Brother-in-law, James Morrow, was taken the next day after we were, by the Indians. (We by the whites.) They met a white woman who asked Morrow some questions about when he was taken, and he provoked her by rough

answers, and she said he must be burned. [Alexander] McKee sent a belt of wampum, which alone saved his life that he must be set free. They had sticks sharpened, ready to stick into him, and a fire kindled.

Ravenscraft: Indians caught Lieutenant Ravenscraft. They made him run the gauntlet, and nearly killed him. Mr. Kinney said-if this is a man, a man's a strange looking thing. He gave Ravenscraft, however, a coat and pantaloons. Brightened their guns.

Riddle Betrayed Ravenscraft: Had 900 guineas gotten from the Indians, in that way, when he left Montreal.

Washington: Visited Washington and got money of him. Had gotten a wagon, and gone on. Washington gave brother and Ravenscraft one-half joe a piece; was very sorry about Riddle.

John Duncan: The first person we saw when we got back to Philadelphia, was John Duncan-driving a wagon-or we might have hunted the city over for him and not found him.


John D. Shane (born 1812, died 1864), as already stated, interviewed many pioneers and sons and daughters of pioneers. He kept detailed notes on each interview. His original notes, as has been frequently mentioned by us, are in the archives of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. A calendar entry of each is given in the Calendar of The Kentucky Papers in the Draper Collection of Manuscripts-, prepared by Miss Mabel C. Weaks, and published in 1925, a volume already referred to. The Filson Club, so far, has published in full twelve of these interviews, of which there are several hundred. Many have been quoted from, but as far as we are aware no one else has ever published any of them in full. Any and all are worth publishing. Those presented by us were therefore selected more or less at random. These twelve, like all of Shane's many other notes on interviews, throw interesting sidelights on early Kentucky and Kentuckians and give much local color not preserved elsewhere. Shane will not be fully appreciated until more Kentucky historians dig into his notes and there find what he has recorded, directly or indirectly, on the many subjects bearing on pioneer times.

The Kentucky Papers, so-called, in the Draper Collection of Manuscripts fill thirty-four volumes, but they form a comparatively small part of the Draper manuscripts that bear on Kentucky and Kentuckians. Each volume of The Kentucky Papers is designated CC. The number of the volume precedes the letters CC, the figures that follow indicate the pages. Practically all of Shane's interviews are in volumes 11 to 17, that is 11CC to 17CC. Photostat copies of these seven volumes are in the archives of The Filson Club.

We here list the Shane interviews that have been published in full in The Filson Club History Quarterly. The time of publication is shown, also an indication is given of the number of pages required for each. In this list are included a biography of Shane by Ye Secretary and a poem by Lucien V. Rule:

11 CC 54-66: Reverend John D. Shane's Interview with Pioneer William Clinkenbeard. By Lucien Beckner. April, 1928, pages 95-128.

Shane, the Western Collector-a Biographical Sketch. By Otto A. Rothert. (Includes a brief list of Shane material in Draper Collection, Madison, Wisconsin, and in Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.) January, 1930, pages 1-16.

11 CC 253-57: Big Crossing Station Built by Robert Johnson, Recorded in John D. Shane's Interview with Pioneer Ben. Guthrie. By Mrs. William H. Coffman. January, 1931, pages 1-15.

11 CC 67-79: John A Shane's Interview with Benjamin Allen, Clark County. By Lucien Beckner. April, 1931, pages 63-98.

At The Grave of Reverend John D. Shane-Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, July 29, 1931. (A poem, seventy lines.) By Lucien V. Rule. October, 1933, pages 220-222.

11 CC 141-45: John D. Shane's Interview with Ephraim Sandusky. By Lucien V. Rule. October, 1934, pages 217-228.

12 CC 45-53: Reverend John Dabney Shane's Interview with Mrs. Sarah Graham of Bath County. By Lucien Beckner. October, 1935, pages 222-241.

11 CC 5-9, 17-18: Reverend John D. Shane's Notes on Interview, in 1844, with Mrs. Hinds and Patrick Scott of Bourbon County. (A copy of a recently found photograph of Shane is inserted in this transcription.) By Lucien Beckner. July, 1936, pages 166-177.

11 CC 133-35: Reverend John D. Shane's Notes on an Interview with Elijah Foley of Fayette County. By Lucien Beckner. October, 1937, pages 252-259.

12 CC 127-33: John D. Shane's Notes on an Interview with Jeptha Kemper of Montgomery County. By Lucien Beckner. July, 1938. Pages 151-161.

11 CC 25-27 (also extracts from 11 CC 41, 11 CC 128-132, 12 CC 42-44): John A Shane's Interview with Mrs. John McKinney and Her Son Harvey-Including Data on John McKinney's Fight with a Wildcat. By Otto A. Rothert. July, 1939, pages 157-166.

11 CC 19-23: John D. Shane Is Interview with Pioneer John Hedge, Bourbon County. By Otto A. Rothert. July, 1940, pages 176-181.

11 CC 121-125: John D. Shane's Interview with Colonel John Graves of Fayette County. By Otto A. Rothert. October, 1941, pages 238-247.

11 CC 276-279: John D. Shane's Interview, in 1841, with Mrs. Wilson of Woodford County. Also a List of Shane Interviews Published in The Filson Club History Quarterly. By Otto A. Rothert. October, 1942, pages 227-235.

John D. Shane died February 7, 1864, in Cincinnati, where he was living at the time and where he kept his collection of books and other materials bearing on history and literature. In September, 1864, this collection was sold by the administrator of his estate, A. W. Williamson. For that purpose a fifty-page pamphlet of lists of items was printed. Catalogue of an Extensive Collection of Books in Various Departments of Literature and Science, being the Library of the Late Rev. John A Shane-which will be sold at auction by S. G. Hubbard, Cincinnati. What became of the bulk of his library, that is his hundreds of standard books bearing on history, literature and science, has not yet been ascertained by us. It is known, however, that his books containing his manuscript notes on interviews and a few other items were purchased by Lyman C. Draper who shortly thereafter gave them to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. It is also known that the manuscripts, pamphlets and other documents bearing on church and allied subjects were then purchased by the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.

Beginning December, 1930, The Journal of the Department of History of the Presbyterian Society, Philadelphia, began publishing at irregular intervals documents from their Shane Collection, that is manuscripts and pamphlets that had been prepared by others and had been collected by Shane.

In the October, 1935, issue of The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Charles R. Staples, of Lexington, published a nineteen-page article entitled "New Discoveries Amongst Old Records." He points out many of the important early Kentucky court records that are being neglected by local, regional and State historians. He calls attention to the Shane Collection in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and gives a two-page summary of the Shane Collection housed in the archives of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia. Mr. Staples' summary of the Philadelphia collection in The Register and our brief list of the two collections in Wisconsin and Philadelphia published in the History Quarterly in October, 1929, present a general outline of the Shane material in those two libraries,

The Filson Club contemplates publishing, in full, each year, one of the Shane interviews and will be pleased to have suggestions as to which to select. Furthermore, Ye Editor is gathering material for an extensive biography of John D. Shane and therefore will be glad to receive or have his attention called to any published or unpublished data on the life and works of this neglected collector of material bearing on the early history of Kentucky.