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Mary Ingles’ historic escape from Shawnees to be celebrated Saturday at Big Bone Lick

By Jacob Lange
NKyTribune Intern

Big Bone Lick will host an event Saturday celebrating the rich history of the site and the incredible journey of Mary Draper Ingles.

The event recognizes the 260th anniversary of Ingles’ ‘hopeless’ journey home in her escape from the Shawnee Indians at Big Bone Lick.

“It’s a way of celebrating Mary’s escape,” Pat Fox, president of Friends of Big Bone, said. “Come celebrate with us. It’s just plain fun.”

Friends of Big Bone is a non-profit organization committed to conducting research and providing education related to the Big Bone Lick Valley.

Statue of Mary  Draper Ingles, located at the Boone County Public Library Branch in Burlington. Photo courtesy of Boone County Public Library

Statue of Mary Draper Ingles, located at the entrance to the Boone County Public Library Branch in Burlington. Photo courtesy of Boone County Public Library

According to a Boone County Public Library biographical account, Shawnee Indians captured Mary Ingles, her two children, and others on July 30, 1755 from their settlement in Augusta County, Virginia.

Ingles was separated from her children and taken more than 100 miles west to Big Bone Lick, where she was forced to help make salt. Due to the vast wilderness surrounding Big Bone Lick at that time, Ingles was allowed to wander around unattended and eventually escaped sometime around October 19, 1755.

A tomahawk, blanket, and perhaps a knife, were the only items Ingles had with her on the long and seemingly hopeless journey. Before leaving, she persuaded another Dutch prisoner, an elderly woman, to embark on the journey with her.

Traveling more than 300 miles and crossing over hundreds of creeks and rivers, the duo reached Augusta County around the first of December. Their journey took more than 42 days.

The Mary Ingles Celebration Saturday begins at the Big Bone Lick State Historic Site Visitors Center at 10 a.m., with a short hike and talk about the “Salt of Life.”

The presentation by Park Interpreter Ossana Wolf, highlights the importance of salt as a nutrient for both humans and animals. The program will highlight how salt springs are formed and the history of salt at Big Bone in the last 300 years. The program includes a short half-mile hike to see an active salt spring.

A meet-and-greet picnic lunch will take place at the Small Shelter in the park between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Visitors must bring their own lunch and will be given the opportunity to talk with Ingles’ descendants.

Starting at 1 p.m., there will be two programs discussing Mary Ingles’ journey from authors who have written about her incredible story. Eleanor Lohr, author of “Angles Along the River: Retracing the Route of Mary Draper Ingles,” will discuss how the physical journey became a transformative personal trek.

Patty Horns, a direct descendent of Mary Ingles and author of “Mary Draper Ingles: A True Story of Courage and Family,” will discuss her book written for children. A photo recount of how the Mary Ingles’ sculpture was created by Matt Langford follows that presentation.

At 2:30 p.m., James Alexander Thom will discuss his perspective on the journey of Ingles, recounted in his works, including the novel, “Follow the River,” which was made into a movie.

All of the books discussed will be available for purchase at the Visitors Center gift shop.

Thematic case located inside the Big Bone Lick Visitors Center. The cases help tell the story of the historic site.

Thematic case located inside the Big Bone Lick Visitors Center. The cases help tell the story of the historic site.

Visitors will be free to roam the park for the remainder of the day and are encouraged to check out the new display cases inside the Visitors Center that tell the history of Big Bone Lick State Historic Site.

The park is also home to a small herd of bison and visitors will have an opportunity to see a calf which was born earlier this year.

The Big Bone Lick Valley is the home of Pleistocene vertebrate paleontology. Significant events in its history include the first organized paleontology expedition in the United States, led by William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame.

The Friends of Big Bone Mary Ingles Celebration ends with a picnic home concert at a nearby private farm with music from “Salt of the Earth.” The St. Louis-based band is a folk rock string quartet whose song “Mary’s Hope” recounts the historic story of Mary Ingles and her 800-mile journey.

Tickets to the concert are $20 and all proceeds will be donated to the “Be a Part of Something Mammoth” fundraising campaign.

Donations go toward renovations to the park, including upgrades to a mural.

“We want to make it look 3-Dimensional,” Fox said. “We would like to make it look like the animals we are adding are walking towards the salt lick.”

The three-part renovation project was the brainchild of the Friends of Big Bone and the recently completed first phase was made possible by a $70,000 grant from the R.C. Durr Foundation.

The Foundation has agreed to contribute an additional $70,000 to the project, provided the Friends of Big Bone can raise a matching amount by December 2015.

If you go:

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site is located at 3380 Beaver Rd, Union, KY 41091. For more information, or to purchase concert tickets, go to  http://www.friendsofbigbone.org/ and click on the “Events and Meetings” link.

Jacob Lange is a journalism senior at the University of Kentucky. He lives in Northern Kentucky.

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