Lydia Russell Bean and Nancy Ward

 

Lydia Russell Bean

Nancy Ward

One of the events that is being recreated this coming weekend by at the Seige is the capture of Lydia Bean and subsequent release at the urging of Nancy Ward, the Beloved Woman of the Cherokee.  I was doing a bit of research on these ladies to get a flavor for who they were. For those who want to brush up, the information below is good. From all kinds of sources, I read the facts  of their lives, where they came from, the circumstances surrounding Bean’s capture and intervention by Ward. I also studied the bond that they later forged and the merger of two disparate cultures in the persons of these two women. Somehow or another, the women themselves were buried under facts and histories UNTIL I studied portraiture of these two women and their descendents.

It’s amazing what you can see in a face . The strength, courage and untutored wisdom of these two seem to match. While there is something of the hardness of diamonds in both these women, they both had the wisdom and internal sureness to see the qualities of the other and what each could bring to the table to create a peace of sorts, a symbiotic relationship  ensuring survival of both cultures.  It seemed like the same kind of friendship, each a mirror of the other, that William Bradford and Squanto forged a century and a half earlier in Plimouth. There’s a determination in the jawlines, a firmness in the mouths which means they must have been formidable and powerful women in their own ways. Think of the guts it took for Lydia Beam to follow her husband into the wilderness. What fueled it? Was it shrewd business acumen, a sense of adventure, devotion or desperation because their options were exhausted where they were? This was no walk in the park; something like taking a midnight stroll  in the gang-infested bowels of Los Angeles comes to mind. There were no comforts, nothing familiar, yet she was mother of  TEN children, no midwives, no nannies, no reality show :o). Kate Goslin is having a hard time raising eight- think of raising  ten in the 18th century wilderness. I don’t think there is a woman alive today in this country of relative predictability that has the grit and fearlessness that this woman had to have to survive, much less thrive. What would make a woman leave everything she knew and walk over the edge into a world of danger and uncertainty, where one false move, one lapse of judgement could mean the difference between life and death? How did she cope with the grief when she held the body of her daughter, killed by the people who she developed a connection to? I looked at photo  of Sarah  Bean, the great-great granddaughter of Lydia and one can see the steel in the eye, grit and almost surreal firmness that must have existed in her ancestor. She had the strength of Gibraltar written in every line and feature.

Sarah Bean

Nancy Ward's great-great granddaughter

It was a strange friendship created between these two women; Nancy Ward probably being the first to recognize Bean as her doppelganger. Lydia, wounded and probably petrified, one wiff of smoke, a flick of consuming flame  away from a certain agonizing death, was probably focused on how to save her own life, fighting the despair of  knowing she would never see her family again, facing the prospects of looking into the depths of a Hell like she has never known, nor would ever want to know. With the screams of Samuel Moore still ringing in her ears, did she pray like she never had before? Most likely. Did she taste the bile of pure panic as she was led to the stake; most definitely.  Did she cry? Maybe not. Nancy Ward saw something in this woman to know she somehow found an equal, a kindred soul. Surely she had the softness to be able to calm the woman she saved and the awe inspiring insight and intelligence to know that there were things this woman knew that would make the lot of every native woman much easier and ensure the survival of their children in times of sparse  hunts. When one sees  the portraiture of Nancy Ward and look  in the face of her descendent, Nancy Grace Ward, there is a certain dignity born of living in a native culture that was in existence in one place for thousands of years.  There is also a softness not seen in the face of Lydia Bean’s descendent. You see this in the faces of women in  Rome , Vienna and Paris. There’s something in the genes that says “we’ve been here forever, we know who we are”. There is a dignity in the face of Nancy Ward sr. and I imagine when she walked into a space, she  strode with grace ,commanding  the whole room without even opening her mouth.  She proved herself by going into battle as a 17 year old girl, chewing her husband’s bullets so as to make them more deadly. When he was shot, she took up his arms and fought in his place. How did she cope with the private heartbreak of being a  second wife to a white man? How did she deal with the subsequent changes to her people which she recognized were not good?  Bloodletting created a reputation; seeking peace and crafting a bridge to another culture created a legend.

Lydia (Russell) Bean (1726-1788), William’s wife, was captured along with 13 year old Samuel Moore in July 1776 by hostile Cherokee Indians prior to an attack on the Wataugu settlement. She was intercepted as she made her way from her home on Boone’s Creek to Sycamore Shoals. She was sent to the Overhill Towns and was lead to the stake. But she was saved, it is said, by Nancy Ward, “Beloved Woman” of the Cherokees, who told the Indians that they could use Mrs. Bean’s instruction in the making of butter and cheese. So her life was spared and later she returned to her home. 

Nancy Ward’s act may have had far reaching effects. When militant Cherokees prepared to attack illegal white communities on the Watauga River, Ward disapproved of intentionally taking civilian lives. She was able to warn several of the Watauga settlements in time for them to defend themselves or flee. Lydia was sentenced to execution and was actually being tied to a stake when Ward exercised her right to spare condemned captives. She took the injured Mrs. Bean into her own home to nurse her back to health. Mrs. Bean, like most “settler women,” wove her own cloth. At this time, the Cherokee were wearing a combination of traditional hide (animal skin) clothing and loomed cloth purchased from traders. Cherokee people had rough-woven hemp clothing, but it was not as comfortable as clothing made from linen, cotton, or wool. Mrs. Bean taught Ward how to set up a loom, spin thread or yarn, and weave cloth. This skill would make the Cherokee people less dependent on traders, but it also Europeanized the Cherokee in terms of gender roles. Women came to be expected to do the weaving and house chores; as men became farmers in the changing society, women became “housewives.” Another aspect of Cherokee life that changed when Ward saved the life of Mrs. Bean was that of raising animals. Lydia owned dairy cattle, which she took to Ward’s house. Ward learned to prepare and use dairy foods, which provided some nourishment even when hunting was bad. However, because of Ward’s introduction of dairy farming to the Cherokee, they would begin to amass large herds and farms, which required even more manual labor. This would soon lead the Cherokee into using slave labor. In fact, Ward herself had been “awarded” the black slave of a felled Creek warrior after her victory at the Battle of Taliwa and thus became the first Cherokee slave owner. 

Lydia’s brother George Russell, husband of Elizabeth Bean, was killed by Indians while on a hunting trip in Grainger County, Tennessee, in 1796. Her daughter, Jane Bean, was killed in 1798 by Indians while working her loom outside the walls of Bean’s Station.

Bean Geneology  http://www.larkcom.us/ancestry/Bean/notables.cfm

FASCINATING article about the Melungeons  and Lydia Bean http://www.melungeons.com/articles/march2003a.htm

 Nancy Ward’s honorable life is documented in several sources but this is very interesting  http://nancyward.org/bio.htm

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52 Comments

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52 responses to “Lydia Russell Bean and Nancy Ward

  1. Winola Bean

    It is slightly disconcerting to read about your family history. I am one of the few direct descendants living that I know of. There is a Curtis Bean and one son, Christopher Bean in IL. My father was Willie Bean. His father was Robert Bean.

    Like

    • Anonymous

      I am the 5th great granddughter of Nancy Ward and I have a friend that lives in my same town and she is the 5th great granddaughter of Lydia Bean. Small world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ramona

        Thank you for writing in. That is the coolest thing ever. I wish I had your pictures to post here.
        Ramona

        Like

      • Renee

        Anonymous, me too a direct descendant of Nancy Ward…please do feel free to get in touch with me! Would love to meet more kin. 🙂

        Like

  2. Loretta

    I am the GGGGGranddaughter of Lydia’s brother George Russell. I knew nothing about my family history other than a few generations back until six or seven years ago. I loved reading this and the comparisons between the two women. It is amazing the strength and determination it took to weave together the fabric that makes America the greatest Country on Earth. Rush hour traffic or forgetting to pick up milk at the grocery store doesn’t seem so aggravating when you think of how things used to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ramona

      Thank you so much for your observation and comment.

      Like

      • Maiden Name Russell from Texas

        I am the GGGGGGranddaughter of Lydia’s brother, George Russell (I think the Loretta who commented above is my beloved aunt). After all these years of doing the Russell/Bean Genealogy Line, off and on, I’ve never come across a photo of Lydia Russell or Nancy Ward until now. It’s an amazing experience to actually see their faces. It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing them and reading your words about their strength. What a gift you have given me today. Thank you so much for this site and your hard work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ramona

        Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad the article gave you pleasure. One of the things I really enjoy is to look into the faces of those whose relatives go way back and it’s like looking into the historical past.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Virginia Lea Russell Peterson

      Loretta, I have been researching our family tree to make a connection between our ggggggrandfather George Russell brother of Lydia and John Rusell to their parents William Russell b: 1679 and Mary Martha Henley b: 1702. The only children I can find under these parents are William Russell, Henry Russell and Katherine Russell. Do you have a geneology of Lydia Russell’s parents. It would seem we are cousins.

      Like

    • Audrea

      Lydia is my 5th great grand mother. Thanks for posting the picture and the story. Would love to jnow more

      It u have other info.. please email me at itsaudrea@gmail.com

      Like

  3. Gerald Jack

    Nancy Ward saved the lives of my great great great grandfather Jeremiah Jack Sr. and Wiiliam Rankin in 1786. They had a problem with the Indians when trading clothes for corn at Coiatee. The white settlements on Nolichucky ran low on their corn suppllies. Nancy Ward intervened in the dispute between the Indians and Jeremiah Jack Sr. and William Rankin. See Page 273, the Annals of Tennessee by J.G.M. Ramsey

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Xondria Gaitan-Burkett

    Ramona-

    I am an 8GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER of Tsistuna-Gis-Ke, Nanye’hi, “Nancy Ward”.

    Thank you for your article 🙂

    -Xondria

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ramona

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. Anything you have to add about your ancestors from your own family stories would be really appreciated. It’s a rare opportunity to hear from people who are so directly descended from people who are so pivotal to the history of a place.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gerald Jack

      Xondria, Your 8 GREAT GRANDMOTHER “Nancy Ward” saved the life of my 3 GREAT GRANDFATHER Jeremiah Jack Sr. on his canoe trip down the river from the Watauga settlement to Chota to exchange clothing for corn as the Watauga settlement was out of food. If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t have celebrated my 80th birthday here in San Gabriel, CA on Feb. 7th. She was indeed the “Beloved Woman” Thank you. Gerald “Jerry” Jack

      Like

      • Renee

        I am one of her direct line descendants too, and am learning more about her and her life now since I was adopted at birth and just now finding all of who I came from…thanks for sharing that, Jerry…brought tears to my eyes…my lines of her also ended up in CA eventually…blessings to you and yours.

        Like

    • Renee

      I am one of her direct descendants too…please feel free to get in touch…would be really cool to get to meet other descendants of hers. 🙂 ~ Renee

      Like

  5. Kimberly Babb Brock

    I am the 9th great granddaughter of Nancy Ward. What a pleasure to hear these stories! Thank you.
    Alpharetta, Ga.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ramona

      Thank you , Kim, for your comment. Nancy Ward was a revered figure not only of her own nation but by those early settlers of the Watauga Settlement as well. Are you in contact with Xondria Gaitan-Burkett who commented as well, saying she is a direct descendant of Nancy Ward too? That would be so cool!!!

      Like

    • Renee

      Kimberly, me too, she was my direct line ggggg-grandmother (I am her 6th great-grandaughter…I am only 41 but that line of hers all waited until they were older to have kids, so longer gaps than normal between kids on that line)…feel free to get in touch with me! Wouldn’t it be neat to get together some sort of get-together/reunion for descendants of hers? 🙂

      Like

  6. Tom

    would like to contact “loretta” who commented. am in that russell line

    Like

  7. Xondria

    Hi! This is Xondria, again 🙂
    Anyone can message and request me on Facebook, or email me at: xondria.gaitanburkett@giant.cos.edu.

    Like

  8. alex

    my great great grandma was her best friend

    Like

  9. Paul

    I am the 10th great grandson of Nancy Ward, via her first husband named Uka Kingfisher. Her second husband was Brian Ward.

    Like

  10. sharlene mcclure moore

    My 6th great grandmother was Lydia Russell Bean. What an amazing woman. I am so proud to be descended from her.

    Like

  11. Karen

    I am the 8 great grandaughter of Nan-ye-hi , and knew little about Lydia Bean, only that her life had been saved by my 8th great grandmother, and that Lydia had taught her many skills. This has brought some life into the the story, and tears to my eyes. What two strong soul sisters can do to change a nation, and history is a lesson that both their posteritys should learn, and keep that nation safe, and presserve the things that both women stood for.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sharlene Moore

    Lydia Bean was my 6th great grandmother. You might already know about the following book…….Beloved Mother – The Story of Nancy Ward by Charlotte Jane Ellington.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gerald Jack

      Maybe in the future The Washington Militia might consider doing a re-enactment of my 3 great grandfather Jeremiah Jack Sr. and William Rankin taken from “The Annals of Tennessee” by J. G. M. Ramsey, Page 273, JACK AND RANKIN GO TO COIATEE. – Jeremiah Jack and William Rankin of Greene county, descended the (Nollichucky) river in a canoe, for the purpose of bartering with the Indians for corn. They reached Coiatee without interruption. The warriors of that place refused to exchange or sell the corn, and manifested other signs of suspicion, if not open enmity. They entered the canoe and lifted up some wearing apparel lying in it, and which cvered their rifles. This discovery increased the unwillingness of the Indians to trade, and they began to show a disposition to offer violence to their white visitants. The beloved woman, Nancy Ward, was happily present, and was able by her commanding influence to apease their wrath, and to bring about friendly feelings between the parties, The little indians were soon clad in the home made vestments brought by the traders-the canoe was filled with corn, and the white men started on their return voyage well pleased with the exchange they had made, and especially with the kind offices of the beloved woman,
      On their return, the white men landed and camped one night, a mile above the mouth of French Broad, on the north bank of the little sluice of that river. Mr. Jack was so pleased with the place, that he afterwards selected it as his future residence, and actually settled and improved it on his emigrtion to the present Knox county, in 1787.”

      Like

  13. Phybee

    My Grandfather is Otis Earl McClanahan, his mother was Lela Muad Russell she was Lydia’s Granddaughter. Thank you for writting this I know nothing of this side of my family Grandpa was 1 of 12 children most of whom passed away before I was born.

    Like

  14. Christy

    Nicely written. My sister has been doing alot of research on our ancestors & just learned that Nancy Ward is our 9x Great Grandmother on our Mom’s side of the family. So now I’m doing my own research on her. Just from what I have found so far Nancy was an amazing woman. I hope to learn more about her.

    Like

  15. kurt

    Nancy Ward was my 5th great grandmother and I descend from her grand daughter, Sara Harlan. I am highly interested in the connection that was made to Nancy Gracey Ward, as a great great grand daughter, as she does not appear anywhere I can find to Nancy. Also if there are people who have proof they descend from Nancy Ward there is a page on Facebook of her descendants. https://www.facebook.com/groups/401682733212474/

    Like

    • Renee

      Kurt, 6th g-grandaughter of hers here…thanks so much for that link, and please feel free to get in touch with me. Am thinking it would be neat to try to get together a get-together of her descendants somehow. 🙂

      Like

  16. Rebekah Rankin Cleckler

    Very nice to see this. My gggggrandmother was William Rankin’s sister. Some time after this, William Rankin purchased the home of Sam Houston’s mother which he sold when he went (came) to Texas.

    Like

    • Gerald Jack

      Rebekah Rankin Cleckler, your gggggrandmother’s brother William Rankin travelled by canoe with my ggggrandfather Jeremiah Jack Sr. to get corn for the Watauga settlement from the Cherokee’s at Coiatee. See my posts above, which you probably have read. It is interesting to find out that William Rankin moved to Texas. Jeremiah Jack Sr. stayed in Knox County, TN. His descendants moved mainly to Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Hawaii and elsewhere. Jeremiah Jack Sr, is a first cousin once removed to Captain James Jack, bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, May 20, 1775 (this date is on the state flag of North Carolina) by 1,000 mile horseback ride from Charlotte, N.C. to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. It is the first Declaration of independence in the 13 Colonies. This was 14 months before Thomas Jefferson’s July 4th Declaration of Independence. Jefferson didn’t believe there was a Mecklenburg document but John Adams did. We attended the dedication of a $500,000. bronze statue of Captain James Jack, sponsored by the May 20th Society, in Charlotte near the entrance to the Piedmont College on May 20th, 2010. The sculptor, Chas Fagan, also did the statue of President Ronald Reagan that is in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Cokie Roberts, author, historian and newscaster gave a talk on May 19th, 2010 at the college to students and an evening cocktail reception for guests and the Jack Family. We got to meet her. The next day she gave a dedication speech on a stage at the outdoor ceremony for the unveiling of the statue. In her speech she told about the participation of women in the Revolutionary War. She said that in a London newspaper article, at that time, the English Military were not afraid of our men in the Military, it was the American women that supported and assisted their men in the War. At this years Presidential Inauguration, Cokie Roberts was a commentator on ABC TV. In some of her comments she gave some history of past inaugurations. She is from Louisiana and has written books about women.

      Like

  17. Sally

    It was very interesting to read your post and to and to see the pictures of all four women, but especially for me to see the Bean women as Sarah Bean Brewster Renick was my Grandfather’s Grandmother.

    Like

  18. AJEWELl

    Funny how the same history can change over time. As a child a 4th G-grandson was told of this but, the reason Nancy bought the woman from those bad boys was to find out why she was captured trying to get those animals to safety. Lydia told her why,so Nancy went back and bought the cattle from them and had Lydia stay and show her.

    Like

  19. Renee

    Ramona, thanks so much for writing this…It must be neat for you to see some of the descendants of both of these great women reading your thoughts on them. (I am a direct descendant of who I call Granma Nan-ye-hi, Nancy Ward, who I have seen and spoke with in my dreams my whole life, even before I found out that I am descended from her on multiple lines in both my paternal and maternal trees…I was adopted at birth, and it was actually her who came to me to help me find my birthparents and ancestors after I had prayed for help. Crazy sounding maybe, but true. And I thank Creator/God every day for letting her come to me to give me her good counsel, and it awes and humbles me that our ancestors actually do watch over us.)

    Like

    • Renee you have a wonderful heritage. I haven’t found any American Indian ancestors yet but my 2 granddaughters have some Apache blood. Where i live in San Gabriel, CA we have the Gabrielino Indians. They built the San Gabriel Mission. We have the Mission Play and it is about Ramona who is half Indian half Scottish and marries Allesandro an Indian sheep herder. In Ramona, CA is the Ramona Pageant and is also the story of Ramona. I belong to the native Sons of the Golden West in San Gabriel and it is the Ramona Parlor 109. We have a museum with many Western and Native American artifacts including General Fremont’s horse carriage. The silent movie “Ramona” based on the book by Helen Hunt Jackson was recently shown at the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium with a Wurlizer Organ, music provided by a famous.L.A. organist. The original film was lost but a copy was found in Yugoslavia.

      Thanks again to Nancy Ward for saving the lives of my ancestor Jeremiah Jack Sr. 1750-1833 Knoxville, TN and William Rankin.

      Like

  20. Renee

    Sorry for leaving so many comments, got a bit excited there, lol! Ramona, please feel free to get in touch with me as well; most of my tree on both sides goes back to the Carolinas and surrounding area…

    Like

  21. Leslie Hudson

    Hi Everyone,
    8th g-grandaughter here. Just found this out after doing research on my Cherokee roots. My dad lived in Oklahoma all his life and was never able to tell any stories, but has an awesome arrowhead collection that I have been allowed to play with all my life. With much respect, I must add. To touch and feel and read about your ancestry is amazing and I am thrilled to be here and reach out to you all. Do we ever have a reunion, man what stories would abound…

    Like

  22. Gene Miller

    Lydia Bean was my 8th great grandmother. This is a recent discovery I had made in doing my family history. So little was passed down through the years of my family history. I will pass my knowledge to my children and hope they will now continue pass this information on to their children and so forth. I will also forever be grateful to Nancy Ward now knowing what I do that I owe my life as well. Thank you Nancy for sparing my grandmother’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Loris Sue Engle Drake

    Thanks for the history; I am desc. on my mother`s Bell/Love family from Lydia Russell Bean . She was my5th grt grandmother through her dau, Jane who md. Robert Bell. Also I am desc. from Nancy Ward`s grandmother who married John Beamer the “Trader” on my father`s side. I am inclined to believe Lydia had native American ancestry from her Russell family.

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    • Gerald Jack

      Nancy Ward saved my ancestor Jeremiah Jack Sr.’s (1750-1833) life and also William Rankin’s life. I did my DNA and it shows that I have American Indian ancestry but I don’t know who it comes from on my father’s side of the family. Jeremiah Jack’s grandfather, also a Jeremiah Jack 1700 – 1785, was taken prisoner for 9 years in 1757, near Williamsport, Maryland, on the Potomac River, during the French and Indian War. His son John Jack, also my ancestor, was killed at the same time by the Indians. Jeremiah Jack was finally released or escaped and returned to his wife and farm in Williamsport, Maryland in about 1766. Jeremiah Jack Sr. son of John Jack came to the Watauga Area in 1778 from Williamsport, Maryland. His son Jeremiah Jack Jr. 1787-1862 came to Oregon in 1847 from Sedalia, Pettis County, Missouri and before that from Monroe County, TN in 1835. He was born in 1787 on the Jack Plantation on the French Broad River above Knoxville, TN.

      Like

  24. Thank you, some years on, for such an informative article. Like others above, Lydia was my 8xGrandmother – so fascinating to read her story and that of the woman that saved her… if anyone wants to make contact my email is sachabrakenbury@hotmail.co.uk (we live in England). x

    Like

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