Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Betty Zane

This is the iconic drawing showing Elizabeth Zane performing her great deed of fetching the powder for the besieged men Fort Henry in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1782. The fort was under attack by Indians friendly to the British.
Born as Elizabeth "Betty" Zane McLaughlin Clark, on July 19, 1759 , she was part of a large family, originally established on what was then the frontier, by three brothers; Ebenezer, Silas and Jonathan, who came from Hardy County, in what was then just Virginia, in 1769. In addition to her parents she had a sister and 4 brothers.

The story goes that when the men in the fort were low on powder, they sent Betty to get some which they had buried nearby. She was allowed to pass solely because she was a woman. Due to this bravery on September 11, 1782 she is considered a hero of the American Revolution, but I have to wonder why?

Now don’t get mad; just listen to me for a second. This woman supposedly is a hero of a war which ended in October of 1781 at Yorktown, almost a full year prior to this incident. And although the Indians had been allies of the British during the war, this battle was clearly just between the settlers and the Indians, who were no doubt angry about their new neighbors arriving uninvited, as well as bringing a Revolution with them.

Then there is the whole part about the battle ceasing while a woman passed. If that was the case, then she did nothing more than run for powder, a task she was allowed to perform simply because she was of no value to either side, so if the Indians did break their word, there would still be men left in the fort to make a last effort to save themselves.

Ms. Zane is a precedent of the famed author Zane Grey, and lived until 1823 when she passed away at the age of 64. In addition to the scores of Westerns Mr. Grey is famous for, he also wrote an historical biography based on the life of his great grandparents and Betty’s heroic deed in the story.

She has become the stuff of legends, and like all legends, some salt is undoubtedly coating this shaft.  Still, it’s an inspiring story of courage in the days of the old frontier, when Virginia was considered to be the west.

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