Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lydia Russell Bean (1726-1788)
In tracing the history of our Russell family I’ve realized that the Russell men were most often military men having served our country in the American Revolutionary War and just about every conflict and war since then, but that story will be told another time. This is about one of the Russell women, Lydia, daughter of William Russell, sister of George Russell, my husband’s gr-gr-gr-gr-great grandfather (that is nine generations of Russells between Robert Doyle Russell and William Russell).

Lydia was born in Virginia September 29, 1726, the daughter of William Russell of Virginia whose wife was probably Martha Henley although this has not been proven. In 1741 Lydia married Capt. William “Billy” Bean, his second wife. Bean was an associate of Daniel Boone and considered by many to be the first white settler west of the Alleghenies, building a cabin in 1768 on Boone's creek, a small tributary of the Watauga River in the northeast corner of Tennessee. Russell Bean (1769-1826), the first child of Lydia and William Bean, was the first recorded birth of a white child in Tennessee.

The incident that changed Lydia’s life forever and insured her place in American history is well documented and can be found by googling her name but I will tell it here with the caveat that this is not original research on my part – I too googled her name.

Lydia was tending to her cows near her cabin when…..let me quote John P. Brown’s “Old Frontiers”

"She was captured by the Indians as she rode horseback toward Fort Lee at Watauga and was taken to the Cherokee Camp on Nolichucky River.

She was told that she would be killed. She was questioned . . . [and] taken to a little town along the Little Tennessee River. Mrs. Bean was taken to Toquo and tied to a stake at the top of a large mound. The fire had been lighted around her when the Beloved woman, Nancy Ward, arrived on the scene.

Revolted at the thought that a Cherokee should torture a squaw she hastened to the rescue, scattered the burning brands and cut the bonds which fastened the prisoner.

She took Mrs. Bean to her own house where she was treated kindly.

Lydia Bean in her gratitude instructed Nancy Ward and the other Cherokee women in the art of making butter and cheese.

Due to Mrs. Bean's training Nancy Ward became the first owner of a herd of cattle."

Further reading taught me much about Nancy Ward, a Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, to whom Lydia Russell Bean owed her life when she was saved from being burned at the stake. I believe
Nancy was an intelligent, thoughtful woman who brought wisdom to her people and who tried to bridge the two cultures. It seems these two women struck up a friendship or at least a pact for Lydia returned to her home and subsequently took two of her milk cows back to Nancy Ward and taught her how to milk and make use of the dairy products like cream and butter. Lydia is also credited with instructing Nancy Ward in weaving cloth from spun wool fibers.

is credited with bravery at the time of her capture by the Indians, for she led her captors to believe the garrison at the Watauga settlement was well defended, thus preventing an attack. Although she was saved from certain death in July of 1776, her brother George, our ancestor, was killed by Indians in May of 1797, and Lydia’s daughter Jane was killed by Indians in 1798.

I know very little about
Lydia's life after her return to Watauga and her family. I'd like to think it was "normal" but she was already fifty years old when she was captured and probably did not spring back to good health and vitality as she might have if she'd been a younger woman.

William Bean died in May 1782 at German Creek, NC which is now Grainger County, Tennessee, on property awarded him by North Carolina for his participation in the Revolutionary War. Lydia died in 1788 in Northumberland, Virginia, the circumstances of her death unknown.