By Allen Hamrick
Not all great people in the early history of the coming of West Virginia were men. In previous weeks, I have hopefully engaged your interest with the stories of Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton, both great pioneers who led the charge for wilderness freedom and the expansion west. Behind all those great men were women who either supported them or joined them in their quests to liberate the mountains for future homesteads. Women didn’t have it easy in those days when men were considered to be the trailblazers. They usually kept the home and raised the children, often times without the help of anyone other than other women that may have lived nearby. A woman could be stunning at the age of 19, but by the time she was 30, she often looked as if she had aged considerably beyond her years. Life was hard for everyone, but even harder for the women as they worked diligently to keep the family going.
In this article, I will share the story of Mad Anne Bailey, a lady in her own right. Some say she was as much of a pioneer and frontiersmen as either Boone or Kenton. Bailey was born in England and came to the states in 1790 at just 23 years old. Her husband, Richard Trotter, was killed in action in Dunmore’s war in 1774 by the Shawnee led by Chief Cornstalk. This completely changed life for Anne; she left her young son to another family and set out and joined the militia. She acted as a scout and courier during the Revolutionary War. She fought the Indians as well as any man and was given the names “Mad Anne” and the “White Squaw of the Kanawha” by the Shawnee. She was tough as nails as she rode her horse, clothed in buckskin and packing a long rifle, hatchet and knife. She once hid from the Shawnee in the hollow of a log as they sat on it to rest. They took her horse and all that she had, leaving her alone with nothing other than the clothes upon her back. Once the Shawnee were gone, she tracked them through the woods throughout the night to where they camped and took back her horse and belongings. When she was out of gunshot distance, she reared her horse and yelled back to the Shawnee that they would never take Mad Anne.
One of her great achievements was when Fort Lee, located in present day Charleston, came under attack. The fort was critically low on black powder, often called black gold in those days. The nearest powder was in Fort Savannah in present day Lewisburg, over one hundred miles away. Anne mounted her horse and rode through the wilderness soon returning with the powder the fort needed. If you get the chance, look up the poem that was written of her account by Charles Robb in 1861. She stayed with the army as a scout and Indian fighter until the signing of the Greenville Peace Treaty that ended all the Indian Wars. Afterwards, she became a well known storyteller and trader, well loved by all that came in contact with her. She was definitely different, and as the history books observe, “She was outlandish and odd but well respected.” Anne continued her adventures long after youth passed her by. She became an express rider in her 70’s and died at the age of 83. Her remains are at rest laid to rest in Tu-endie-wei State Park in Point Pleasant.
To say that Mad Anne Bailey didn’t make an impact on the building of our state would be a disservice to her memory. She was a pioneer, a mover and a shaker that shook up the idea of a woman’s place in history. In the greater Kanawha Valley, she was considered a heroine who paved the way, just as Boone or Kenton did, so that people could live in peace and grow as a community. She hunted and rode her horse through the wilderness fighting for the future of the country as she knew it. In her late years, she refused to live with her son and built a cabin from fence rails where she lived the rest or her life remembering her past and in peace. We only have a certain time given to us, and she made the best of hers. Bailey will forever be remembered as a woman who proved the power and intestinal fortitude of women who put their life on the line on the frontier.