Mary Jemison: Native American Captive (Based on a True Story Series)

Mary Jemison: Native American Captive (Based on a True Story Series)

by E. F. Abbott


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Mary Jemison: Native American Captive (Based on a True Story Series) by E. F. Abbott

Meet the colonial girl who was adopted into the Seneca nation in this middle grade historical fiction novel, part of the Based on a True Story series.

What happens when everything you know is suddenly ripped away? This is the fate of Mary Jemison, a fifteen-year-old frontier girl living in Pennsylvania in 1758. How does Mary find the will to carry on?

During the French and Indian War, Mary is captured by a band of French and Shawnee warriors and led deep into the woods. After her family is killed, Mary is traded to the Seneca and taken in by two sisters. Renamed Dehgewanus, she finds her place among the Seneca and embarks on a new way of life. But when given the choice, will Mary return to the world she once knew or remain with her adopted family?

Mary Jemison: Native American Captive by Jane Kelley writing as E. F. Abbott, with illustrations by Clint Hansen is a fascinating novel for young readers, featuring black-and-white illustrations and photographs throughout. This title has Common Core connections.

The Based on a True Story books by E. F. Abbott are exciting historical fiction stories about real children who lived through extraordinary times in American History. Other books in the Based on a True Story series include Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider, John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy, and Nettie and Nellie Crook: Orphan Train Sisters.

Praise for Mary Jemison: Native American Captive:

"This fascinating account of a real person weaves many factual details from an interview with Mary Jemison in 1823 and Abbott’s own imaginings of the characters’ feelings and thoughts, all based on her research about Mary Jemison’s life and the Seneca tribe. . . . With clear and simple writing, the story is easy to comprehend, but fast-paced and engaging. . . . Readers will be riveted by the life story of Mary Jemison while captivated by the history of Colonial America and the relationships between the colonists and the Native American tribes." —Children's Literature

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250104342
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 02/14/2017
Series: Based on a True Story Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 635,016
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

E. F. Abbott is a pseudonym for Jane Kelley, author of The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, The Book of Dares for Lost Friends, and other middle-grade novels. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Mary Jemison

Native American Captive

By E. F. Abbott, Clint Hansen

Feiwel and Friends

Copyright © 2016 Macmillan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08032-5


JULY 1743

A storm was coming. Black mountains of clouds blocked the setting sun. The ship sailed toward them. What else could it do? There was no shelter in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sailors ran around the deck, tying down whatever could be washed overboard. Waves crashed against the side of the ship. The sails flapped as the wind shifted course. Sailors chased the passengers below.

Inside the ship, the quarters were dark. There were no lights, not even a candle. Any flame could start a fire that would destroy the wooden ship. The people were crammed together on rows of cots. Many were sick. There were fights over the sea biscuits, or if someone stumbled against another man's cot. Or about what they believed.

Many had left Ireland for America because people wouldn't be punished for their religion in William Penn's colony. But they weren't there yet.

The sea churned. The wind blew. The ship leaned to the left. Some passengers groaned. Others whispered in the dark.

"Thirty days. And still no land in sight."

"Why did we want to go to America?"

"What will we find there?"

"Land to call our own."

"Wild savages."


A woman screamed.

Everyone was silent. Then there was another sound.

A tiny baby took her first breath and cried out. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between the Old World and the New, Mary Jemison was born.


APRIL 1758

A beech tree stood at the edge of the farm. Mary Jemison traced the scars on its smooth gray bark with her finger.

Fifteen years ago, her father had carved his name on several trees to claim this land in central Pennsylvania. The family had worked hard to make their farm. They cut down trees and pulled stumps. They built a house and a barn. They had fields for crops, meadows where lambs and calves could wander, and an orchard dotted with pink apple blossoms.

But beyond the beech tree was a dark tangle of wilderness.

Mary patted the tree. Then she entered the shadows of the woods.

It's only a mile, Mary reminded herself. She had to go to the neighbors' farm to borrow a horse. No one else could go. Her older brothers, Tom and John, were busy plowing the field with the team of oxen. Her older sister, Betsey, was planting potatoes in the vegetable garden. Little brothers Matthew and Robert were too young. But Mary was fifteen. She could walk a mile, spend the night at the Greens', and ride back the next morning.

At least, that was what her father had said.

Only a mile, Mary thought. She stumbled over a tree root.

There were no roads between the farms, but the path was well traveled. When Mary was a little girl, she had spent a lot of time playing in the woods. She'd picked flowers and hunted for fairies like the ones in her mother's stories about Ireland.

But that changed as Mary grew older. Travelers from western Pennsylvania told frightening stories. More and more colonists were attacked by savages. Some were kidnapped or killed. Houses and barns were burned. Mary's father had said, "They want to scare us off our land. But we won't let them."

Mary's father wasn't frightened. He said the troops would protect them. Mary wasn't so sure.

France's war with the British was also being fought in America. The savages were mostly helping the French. Four years ago, Mary's uncle John had joined the colonist soldiers. Colonel George Washington led them into battle in western Pennsylvania. But they had been defeated at Fort Necessity. Mary's uncle John was killed.

Now their neighbor Sergeant Wheelock was off with the colonist soldiers. His brother, John Wheelock, had seen the smoke from barns burning in the west. He thought the family would be safer if they stayed at Mary's house. That was why Mary had to borrow the Greens' horse — to help them move. The little Wheelock children couldn't walk very far.

Mary tightened her shawl around her shoulders. It's only a mile, she thought. Actually, it was less. She had been walking very fast for what seemed like forever.

Something squawked. Mary froze like a rabbit. Her heart fluttered in her chest like a bird with a broken wing. Only her eyes moved as she tried to see what or who had made the sound.

A savage would be silent. A savage would creep quietly through the woods — until, at the very last moment, he would whoop the death yell.

Another burst of chatter came from on top of a log. Mary laughed and held out her hand to the small, striped chipmunk. "Don't be afraid."

She wished she had a bit of food to give it. She had been trying for months to tame a chipmunk as a pet. Her brothers Tom and John teased her. But Mary knew she would feel braver with a little furry friend in her apron pocket.

The chipmunk darted under the log and disappeared.

The sun was sinking behind the trees. It would be twilight soon. Maybe she better turn back. She could get the horse tomorrow. The Wheelocks could stay in their own house for a few more days, couldn't they?

The wind moaned and rattled the branches of the old oak.

Mary gathered up her skirt around her knees and ran along the path.

She must have passed the halfway point. Yes, there was the large boulder. She jumped from stone to stone to cross the creek. And there was the cave where Tom and John had found the arrowheads.

Indians had lived there before the Jemisons. Mary's father said that the Indians didn't care about the land. They didn't work hard to farm like he did. But Mary wondered, if they didn't, then why were they doing such awful things to try to get it back?

She was almost there. She could smell the smoke from the Greens' fireplace.

At least, she thought she did. What if it was another fire? What if the Greens' house was burning? What if she wasn't running to safety, but straight into danger?

Mary stopped. Her bonnet slipped down over her right eye. She couldn't see where to go or what to do. She pushed back the cloth. But something else came toward her. Something as large and white as a sheet surrounded her. Her blood turned cold. She sank down so fast, she felt as if she had dropped out of her body — and out of her world.


Mary opened her eyes. The sun was shining. She was lying on a bed in the Greens' house. Mrs. Green helped her sit up. "We thought we lost you, Mary."

Mary shivered. She felt like she had been lost. But somehow she had found her way back. "What happened?"

"Samuel heard someone cry out in the woods. He got his gun and went to check. Scared him out of his boots to see you lying on the path, as if you were dead. But you had fainted."

Mary nodded. That happened sometimes, when everything was too much.

"Were you frightened? Did you see savages?" Mrs. Green said.

Mary shook her head. Sometimes it was more frightening not to see anything.

"Can you eat something? Maybe drink a little clabber?" Mrs. Green said.

"No, thank you." Thick, sour milk didn't appeal to Mary. She wished she could have strawberries. But the little plants didn't even have their white flowers yet.

"I better get home. Mama will be worrying. And the Wheelocks need your horse."

"They'll feel safer in your house, with your father and Tom and John there, too. Do you want to rest here a little longer?" Mrs. Green said.

"I'll be all right. It's only a mile." Mary stood up. She straightened her apron and tucked her blond curls back up under her bonnet. Mrs. Green wrapped Mary's shawl around her shoulders. Mary slowly walked outside.

Mr. Green helped Mary up onto the horse. She twisted her fingers in its mane and held on tightly. The horse left the barnyard and trotted along the dirt path. Mary kept her head low to the horse's neck so she wouldn't be hit by tree branches. As she passed the place where she had collapsed, the birds chirped and chattered. They had plenty to say. Were they talking about what had happened to Mary? She whistled to them, even though she knew birds couldn't explain anything. That was just a foolish notion.

She kicked her heels to urge the horse to go faster. She could see where the path opened up into her father's fields. She passed the beech tree.

Tom and John were carrying buckets of water toward the barn. They put them down and came to greet her. "Mary Contrary has come back!" Tom shouted.

Mary tried to scowl at him — but she couldn't hide her smile. She was very glad to see her older brothers.

John grabbed the bridle. "Mama is cooking breakfast."

"She needs your help. Even a little boy like Davy Wheelock can eat a lot." Tom helped Mary slide down from the horse's back.

"The Wheelocks are here already?"

"Mrs. Wheelock didn't want to wait for the horse," Tom said.

The news unsettled Mary. She wished they would all move east to Philadelphia. Let the wild animals and wild people have these woods.

Mr. Wheelock came out of the house. He took the horse's bridle from John. "I'll ride back to our place to get that sack of grain."

Father handed him a rifle. "Better take this gun."

"Why?" Mary said.

"Might see some wild animals I need to shoot." Mr. Wheelock got on the horse and cantered across the field toward the west. Mary watched the little clouds of dust fall back to the ground after the horse had gone.

"Help your mother, Mary. Tom and John, the animals need their breakfast, too. I've got to finish this ax handle." Father picked up a piece of wood. He swung it through the air as if he was attacking something.

"Father, we should be marching with Colonel Washington," Tom declared.

"We want revenge for Uncle John's death," said John.

"We can fight best by staying on our farm," Father replied firmly.

Mary went inside the house. She heard rhythmic pounding as her father's hammer struck the chisel to carve the wood.

The children were playing on the floor. Mrs. Wheelock was putting wood on the fire. Mrs. Jemison was standing by the hearth, stirring a large black kettle that hung over the fire. "Here you are, Mary. My goodness, you're pale. Are you all right?"

"When I was in the woods, a sheet flew toward me and wrapped me up," Mary whispered to her mother, but Betsey heard.

"You are a silly goose. What will you dream up next?" Betsey laughed.

"Does the sheet mean something, Mama?" Mary asked.

"It means you shouldn't have left me to bring in all the laundry," Betsey said.

"Do you think it was a banshee?" Mary said.

"A what?" Mrs. Wheelock said.

"An old woman in a folk story," Mama said. "We should have left those tales in Ireland. Help set the table." Mama gently moved Mary out of the way of the cooking.

As Mary put the plates and mugs on the table, she glanced out the window. She knew a banshee came to warn someone that something awful was going to happen.

On the floor next to the wood box, Robert was lining up rows of little sticks. "These are Colonel Washington's soldiers."

"These are the British troops that are here to help Colonel Washington." Matthew made another line of sticks.

"I won't play if I have to be the savages," Davy Wheelock whined.

"Then you can be the French," Robert said.

In the far corner, away from the door, Davy's little sisters were playing with Mary's old corn-husk doll, Priscilla. Betsey must have given Priscilla to them. Mary knew she should have found a better hiding place than under their bed. Mary took Priscilla away from the little girls and fussed with the lace apron. That scrap was all that was left of the shawl her mother had brought from Ireland.

The older Wheelock girl pointed to where Mary had attached the lace to the ribbon. "Those stitches aren't very straight. Mother makes us practice our stitches on a sampler."

"I'm all the way through the alphabet," the younger girl said.

"Mary's too cross for cross-stitching," Betsey said.

Betsey had two samplers hanging on the wall. In one, she had stitched a picture of their house. In another, she had made the Bible verse "Suffer the Little Children." Betsey always did everything perfectly. Mary shoved the little lace apron in the pocket of her skirt.

"Can I have the doll? She needs clothes. She isn't a savage," the older girl said.

"Betsey had no right to give you Priscilla," Mary said.

"Aren't you too old to play with dolls?" Mrs. Wheelock asked.

"I don't play with her. I just like to have her." Mary smoothed the corn-silk hair.

"Now, Mary, why can't the little ones play with your doll?" Mama asked.

There was no reason — except for Mary's hurt feelings. "Take it, then." Mary dropped the doll and walked toward the door. She would go to the barn and help Tom and John with the little lambs. The lambs were so adorable and fuzzy; they would make Mary feel better.

Suddenly, bang! A loud gunshot exploded close to the house. The little ones ran to their mothers. Then more shots — Bang! Bang! Bang!

Something thudded against the ground right outside the door.

Then there was silence.


The wind whined like a beast trapped in the chimney.

The little ones hid in their mothers' skirts. Mary looked at her mother's face. Her usual smile of reassurance didn't come. Instead, Mama clutched her apron and whispered, "Thomas must have shot a fox that was trying to get the lambs."

But Mary knew the lambs were in the barn. The bangs had been right outside the door.

"Should we look?" Mrs. Wheelock whispered.

No, Mary thought. Don't open the door. What was inside was known. The cheerful plates, the kettle on the hearth, the spoons on the wooden table. These things were the same as always. But what was outside?

Mama detached Matthew and Robert from her skirt. They stood where she left them. She walked slowly toward the door. Her hand trembled as it reached for the latch. She pulled the heavy wood. The hinges creaked. She looked outside.

Through the gap, Mary could just barely see a man lying on the ground.

Mama slammed the door shut.

"What is it, Jane?" Mrs. Wheelock hissed.

"Mr. Wheelock has been shot," whispered Mama.

"Oh no!" Mrs. Wheelock gasped. The children started to cry.

"Hush, children. Quick. We must ..." Mama didn't finish her sentence. She didn't know what to tell them to do.

Outside, men shouted. But it didn't sound like words. Then came the thud of blows. Someone moaned. Footsteps ran toward the house. The door was flung open. Mama fell back against the table.

Father stumbled into the room. His hands were tied behind his back. He wasn't wearing his hat. His reddish hair had come loose from his ponytail. His blue eyes darted back and forth around the room. But he never looked at the faces of his frightened family huddled together in the corner.

A man strode into the house. He wore a deerskin jacket and breeches. His chest was bare. Most of his hair had been shaved off. Two eagle feathers stuck straight up from a stripe of hair along the top of his head. The right half of his face was painted red; the rest was blue. He brandished the ax handle that Father had been making.

Five more men shouted as they came in. One had a spiderweb painted on his face. He kicked over the table. The dishes clattered to the floor.

Then four white men came in. They wore fringed jackets and fur hats. Two had guns.

Mary was so relieved. The white men would capture the savages. Everything would be all right.

But the white man with a brown beard pointed his rifle at Father. "Bouffe. Bouffe," the bearded man said.

Mary shrank back against the wall. These men were French. They wouldn't help the families. The French were fighting the British and the colonists.

They opened the cupboards and knocked over the barrels. Potatoes rolled across the floor. Grain scattered.

"Bouffe. Bouffe," the bearded man said again, and grabbed Father by the shirt and shook him.

The wild search continued. What were they looking for? What could savages want? Betsey squeezed Mary's hand so hard that Mary lost feeling in her fingers. Whatever it was, Mary hoped they would find it and leave.

Red Blue opened a barrel and found a hunk of dried meat. He shouted and held it above his head. Two savages rushed over. They filled their deerskin pouches with more meat and bread.


Excerpted from Mary Jemison by E. F. Abbott, Clint Hansen. Copyright © 2016 Macmillan. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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