Friday, January 16, 2015

The Perils of Polly (or Margaret)

Long ago, when I started trying to trace my roots back beyond the familiar realm of my grandparents, my grandfather gave me a copy of a Callin Family History that was compiled by George W. Callin in 1911. Since then, I have put a lot of effort into finding sources that could confirm or correct great-uncle George's version of events - but despite his lack of source citations or other evidence in his genealogy, much of his work has been substantiated by census records, local historical books, and other records I've been able to track down.

That said, I've only been able to verify his version of events back to the brothers, James and John, who settled in Richland county, Ohio, around the early- to mid-1810s. I have not been able to find anything to verify the origin or location of the man that George names as their father, "James 1st". It doesn't help that in George's version of the history, James 1st immigrated with his brother, John, and allegedly served under General Lafayette at the Battle of Brandywine. The common names, and the lack of evidence to support that claim have made it hard to connect the James and John that I do have documents for with a likely family in western Pennsylvania.

But there is a story that George relates in his history that has a tantalizing similarity to another family history.  Here's George's version:

Record of Polly, Daughter of James 1st.
Born about 1782. Grew to womanhood in her Pennsylvania home. Was
captured by the Indians, and started for the Indian country. Her father James 1st
gathered some neighbors and militia and followed the trail, they were guided by
bits of clothing Polly had from time to time stuck on bushes. After several days
pursuit, the Indians with their captive were overtaken. In the skirmish that
followed Polly attempted to escape by running. An Indian fired at her just as she
fell over a log and he supposing her killed did not further molest her, there her
father found her after the fight, and the men made a litter and carried her home.
She was shot through the knee, and for the want of proper surgical attendance,
became a cripple for life. She never married, lived to be middleaged, and noted
for the exemplary life she lived. The date of her death is unknown but
somewhere about 1825.
- from page 2 of The Callin Family History, compiled by George W. Callin, c.1911

Somewhere along the line, I was contacted by someone who shared a copy of The Callen Chronicles, hoping to help me connect the dots. That book contains what might be another version of the same story. My theory, initially, was that the Patrick Callen mentioned here might be related to George's "James 1st":

It may be about this same time [the spring and summer of 1778, when Patrick Callen was enlisted with Capt. John McCleland's company escorting provisions to Fort Hand in Westmoreland county] that the story has been told about Patrick's and Sarah's identical twin daughters, their names uncertain. (35D) "During the Revolutionary War when there was much Indian activity in Westmoreland Co., the two little girls were kidnapped in an Indian raid when Patrick was away from home. The little girls were about five or six at the time, and both were taken. About 10 or 12 years later (after the Revolutionary War was over) a fur trader went into a remote Indian village, in far western Pennsylvania or Ohio, to trade with the Indians. While he was in the village he saw two young white women, about 18 years old, living with the tribe. One was the wife of a young indian brave and had a tiny baby; the other was unattached, but under the "protection" of a family in the tribe. During his visit he had no opportunity to talk with either of the women; however, after he had traded with the indians and left the village, he found one of the young women under the supplies in his canoe. She told him that she wanted to return to her white family; she said that she had talked with her sister before leaving and that her sister had wanted to remain behind with her indian family."  She was returned to Patrick and Sarah Callen - apparently just a short time before they moved to Armstrong Co. The story continued, "the returned daughter had not been injured or mistreated, the family that had taken her in in the tribe had treated her as a daughter. Though she never regretted returning to her natural family, she was often restless.  She was a private person, enjoying her time alone and in the woods, and she was described by her nephew, Watson, as 'special and different'.  She had a way with wild animals that no one, not even her family understood.  She was slender, tall, and very blonde but she spent every day in the sun and the wind and she was as brown as an indian.  Watson said that his grandparents just let her be herself, and did not attempt to change her, but cherished her for who she was."
- pages 17 & 19 of The Callen Chronicles, coordinated and typed by Edna M Callen McNellis, 1990.

There is a lot more that is known about Patrick Callen and his family than is known about "James 1st", but still nothing that conclusively ties them together - not even this story!

The nephew, Watson, mentioned at the end was the son of Hugh Callen, who founded Callensburg, PA, in 1825. It's hard to know which of the known sisters of Hugh might have been carried off, but he did have a sister named Mary who was known as "Polly" (a common nickname for Mary). This Polly married a James Galbraith in 1815 and died in Kentucky in 1839, though, so she is not a serious contender for lead in this story.

But despite the glaring differences between the two versions, I can't help thinking that this story should be included in the short list of clues to where James and John came from before they showed up in Ohio. George W.'s history pins their origins in Westmoreland county, which is a couple of counties south from Armstrong and Clarion counties - and once in Ohio, Callin families seemed to favor the name "Hugh" (though not as much as they liked "James," "John," and "George").

Whatever the truth might be - and whether it will ever be provable - it's definitely worth continuing the hunt. If you've got any clues, or would like to join the posse on the trail of these ancestors, there is plenty of work to be done!

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