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.
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