Southern Illinois History Page

The frontier romance of Mrs. Kinkead

By Edmund L. Starling
From the (1887) History of Henderson Co., Kentucky

    JOHN ENEAS McCALLISTER was born in Henderson County October 14th, 1805. His ancestors were of Scottish origin, and remarkable for their personal courage. His father, Eneas McCallister, was a native of Pennsylvania; his mother, whose maiden name was Kinkead, was also from the same State. His great-grandfather, Samuel Kinkead, prior to Braddock’s defeat, was tomahawked [sic] by the Indians on the Potomac River, in Virginia, and his wife, two sons and a daughter, captured and carried away to the territory of Ohio. Samuel Kinkead, the oldest son, then about fourteen years of age, effected his escape and afterwards joined Washington’s army. Mrs. Kinkead was separated from her children, some time after their capture, and taken by the Indians to the territory of Illinois, near the Mississippi River. During this time a treaty had been effected between the government and the Indians, and a large number of them came into Pittsburg [sic]. With the Indians were the two Kinkead boys and their sister, who had, during her captivity, become the wife of one of the chiefs. A short time after their arrival, the three were discovered by their brother Sam, who was then a Captain in the American army. He persuaded the two boys to desert the Indians, but failed in all his efforts to reclaim his sister, she refusing to give up her wild Indian life and return among the whites. The mother, who was a captive, as before stated, in the Illinois territory, had often been importuned to marry one of the chiefs, and had as often positively declined. She offended one of the chiefs in some way not known, and, for this reason, was ordered to be burned at the stake. The French, who then occupied the Missouri territory, and had built the town of Kaskaskia on the opposite side of the Mississippi, were on friendly terms and carried on a large trade with the Indians. A French merchant of Kaskaskia, named Larsh, was over among the Indians, and, discovering a white woman packing fagots and sticks, involuntarily made inquiries concerning her. He soon learned her history, and also that she was packing wood, whose leaping flames were that very night to burn her mortal frame and waft her spirit into eternity. Horrified beyond measure, this Frenchman determined to thwart the decree of the heartles [sic] monster and at the risk of his own life effect her escape. He met Mrs. Kinkead, and by signs and secret whispers, warned her of her approaching fate, and begged that she fly with him. This she consented readily to do, and as good fortune would have it, the two succeeded in reaching Kaskaskia. Larsch [sic] was a man of considerable means and unmarried. Owing, perhaps, to the exciting and dangerous incidents through which the two had passed, a mutual attachment sprung up between them which ultimately resulted in their marriage according to the rites and forms of the Catholic church. Mrs. Kinkead had been raised a Protestant, and, even after her marriage to Larsh, held to that faith. By some means, she managed throughout her entire captivity to save to herself a Protestant Bible, which she read day by day.
    Kaskaskia was a Catholic settlement, and Larsh, her husband, was a devoted member of the church; yet she held firm to her Bible and would read it whenever an opportunity offered. One day, while she was thus engaged, a priest happened in, and, discovering her with the book, seized hold of it, and, wrenching it from her hands, turned and threw it in the fire. Her husband was absent at the time, but upon his return, she told him what had happened. The story so enraged him that upon the return of the priest, he rushed upon him and, denouncing him, said: "I do you as you do my wife’s book;" with this he seized the priest and threw him in the fire. Larsh, knowing the penalty that would be visited upon him and his wife when this fact became known, seized a mattress from off of one of the beds and with her retreated hurriedly to the river, where he improvised a raft, upon which he placed the mattress, and the two made the perilous journey across the Mississippi River, where they claimed the protection of General Clarke’s army of Kentuckians, which had arrived in pursuit of the Indians. Larsh, as before stated, was a man of considerable means, but, after his flight, and discovery of what he had done, became known, every vestige of property to which he set claim was confiscated by the French. Captain Samuel Kinkead, of the American army, then stationed at Pittsburgh, hearing of his sister’s escape from the Indians and subsequent escape from Kaskaskia, to General Clarke’s army, obtained a leave of absence and, in a canoe, paddled down the Ohio to Cairo and thence up the Mississippi to Clarke’s army, where he found his sister. After relieving his fatigued limbs, he, with his sister and Larsh, her husband, took passage in the canoe and paddled down the Mississippi and up the Ohio to Pittsburgh, and, although both banks of the Ohio at frequent places were occupied by Indians, they made the journey successfully without encountering a single Indian or meeting with any serious obstacle. Larsh and his wife afterwards removed to Ohio, where they raised a family of children who proved worthy of their brave and noble parentage. The Larsh boys became, in after years, immensely wealthy, and one grandson died a leading man of Cincinnati commercial and local circles.     Captain Samuel Kinkead, who had braved all dangers for the relief of his sister, whom he loved better than his own life, remained in the American army until its disbandment, when he returned to Virginia and married. In the year 1794 or ’95, he immigrated with his family to Lexington, Kentucky, where he remained about five years, then removing to Livingston County, settling in that part of it which fell to Caldwell in the formation of that county. In the year 1804, Miss Jane, daughter of Captain Samuel Kinkead, and Eneas McCallister, Jr., the father of the subject of this sketch, met at one of those great religious camp meetings, so frequently held in early times, and, at first sight, became victims to that incomprehensible of all incomprehensibilities [sic], "love." Shortly thereafter they were married and settled for life in Henderson County.

This story of Mrs. Kinkaid is part of a biography of John Eneas McCallister, her great-grandson, printed as part of Edmund L. Starling's 1887 History of Henderson County, reprinted this century by Unigraphic, Inc., of Evansville, Ind., in 1965. The original biography can be found on pages 617 through 623.
Created July 9, 1999 by Jon Musgrave