This paper was recently published in the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) Quarterly, Vol 47. No.3, September 2007. The story is about my personal research to verify family oral history and once verified, how that documentation proved the direct lineage from Grandma Reno's Great-grandmother Betsy, to me, Athur Lee Thomas, 11 generations, For acceptance into the OGS First Families of Ohio requirements are OGS membership, documented presence in Ohio prior to 1 Jan 1820 and proof of lineage.
I wanted to share this success with my AfriGeneas Family and this is the chosen method. AfriGeneas, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share.
Grandma Reno’s Story: From Oral History to OGS First Families
by Arthur Lee Thomas
The Story: Rachel Reno “My mother, Candis, was captured by an Indian raid in Kentucky along with the daughters of her slave master and taken to Canada”.
Background: Candis was the granddaughter of Betsy, a slave owned by the family of Rene LaForce, French Huguenot immigrants who came to the Colonies ca 1700. The LaForce family, somewhat prominent in the social circles of Henrico and Goochland counties became loyal to the British crown in the period leading up to the Revolutionary War. This loyalty forced them to leave Virginia and migrate westward to an unsettled area of western Virginia, later to become the area of Harrison/Bourboun county, Ky. They settled near Martin’s Station in the year of 1779.
GRANDMA RENO’S STORY
by Arthur L. Thomas
Grandma Rachel Reno’s (pronounced Reyno) mother, a slave girl named Candis, was captured in an Indian raid in Kentucky along with two daughters of the slavemaster and taken to Canada.
Since the mid 1800’s this piece of oral family legend had been passed through generations of Grandma Reno’s descendants who lived throughout the central mid-western counties of Champaign, Logan, Miami and Clark in Ohio.
The descendant surnames are many, as Grandma Reno had 16 children, 14 of whom made adulthood. One of the 16, a daughter named Susannah, born in Canada between 1795-1800, married Lewis Adams, a Free Person of Color on 1 Jan 1816 in Urbana, Champaign County, Ohio. Lewis and Susannah became my great-great-great grandparents and their son William F. Adams born 7 Jan 1818, in Urbana, Ohio and his wife Lydia Ann Edwards born 19 Sep 1817 in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PA, became my great-great grandparents.
When I became interested, or should I say addicted to genealogy research, I started with my maternal line, the Adams’. Lewis, Susannah and their 12 children and related families left a wealth of documented family history from their religious, occupational, community and educational activities: Co-founders of St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Urbana, Ohio (1824) and a select school for colored children (1842), also in Urbana, Ohio. They were also property owners in Champaign County (1829) and Ohio Underground Railroad operators in Champaign, Logan, Hardin and Hancock Counties as reported by Wilber H. Siebert in Mysteries of the Ohio Underground Railroad.
Now armed with a full, burgeoning and ever expanding history, I struck out to search the Grandma Reno story.
A first major find was the Anniversary Booklet* for St. Paul A.M.E. Church, This booklet was produced by then Pastor Benjamin Arnett, later to become an A.M.E. Bishop and Ohio legislator. Arnett’s Centennial Sermon and Statistics of Urbana dated 3 Dec. 1876.
Included in the booklet is an account of Grandma Reno’s (Rachel) death and that of her husband Francis Frank Reno. It states Rachel Reno died at the residence of her son Joseph Reno, in Medina, Ohio, 22 May 1864. She was born in Ohio and her mother had been captured in Kentucky by Indians and sold to a family named Magee (McKee). Rachel Reno was the mother of 16 children. Only three sons survive, two of whom live in Saginaw, MI. Francis (Frank) Reno the husband of Rachel and one of the founders of St. Paul died 30 July 1833. He was traveling back from Springfield, Ohio. He became ill an died before reaching home in Urbana. Because they thought he died of Cholera, Frank Reno was not brought into Urbana for burial.
Instead they buried him on a small hill (Donovan’s Hill ) on the Urbana-Springfield road. This lonely grave could be seen for may years, but now cannot be located. Frank Reno was a local Preacher and the father of Roseanna Reno Boyd.
*The AfriGeneas mail list for 18 Sep 1997 has an account of Rachel’s obituary taken from the church booklet.
After several posts to the AfriGeneas site about Rachel, The Reno’s and the Indian raid, I was directed by Mr. Pen Bogert of the Filson Club located in Louisville, KY to an interview of Rachel Reno conducted by Lyman C. Draper of The Draper Manuscripts. This interview reccorded in August of 1863 is found in MSS S, Volume 17, pp 281-282.
INTERVIEW OF RACHEL RENO by LYMAN C. DRAPER
"And now RACHEL RENO-now over 80 years old - an African woman, born in BLUE JACKET'S TOWN near Bellefontaine, her mother having been captured in Kentucky by the Shawanoes, - having early went to live with the Col. Alex McKEE family a little below Sandwich, Canada : Col. McKEE often spent some of his winters on the river Thames, he had many pet animals including deer; a pet deer hooked and gored him in the leg and he died of Lockjaw. He left one or two sons and Mrs. McKEE, part Indian, Col. McKEE having a Shawanoe wife. SIMON GIRTY was good to prisoners - often saved them - having got cut and hacked over the head in forcibly rescuing them. BLUE JACKET lived and died near Brownstown - was a good Indian, had a son named GEORGE BLUE JACKET. RACHEL RENO said of her own accord that SIMON KENTON'S Indian name was Cut-Ta-Ho-Tha which meant to be "blackened" or "condemned man" prepared for burning at the stake."
The Church Anniversary booklet and the Draper Interview helped me begin to start to connect the dots: The Indian raid and Candis’ capture in Kentucky, Rachel’s time Canada and the Magee’s (McKee’s), Rachel age and possible birth location and her daughter Susannah’s birth in Canada.
The next MAJOR break came again from responses to AfriGeneas postings. I was directed to information on the raids of Ruddle’s Fort and Martin’s Station in KY during the summer of 1780. These were important battles on the western frontier of America during the Revolutionary War. The raids were directed by, among others, British Loyalist and Indian Agents (McKee & Girty) and the Shawnee Indians (Blue Jacket).
A listing of captives from the Martin’s Station. KY raid which took place on 24 June 1780 reflected The LaForce family.Mrs. Agnes Moseby LaForce, her children, including her daughters, Judith and Anna, along with their thirteen (13) slaves. The slaves names and their relationships and disposition following the raid taken from Milo Quaiffe’s The Day Detroit Invaded Kentucky follow:
SELAH Slave of James Trabue who accompanied him to Ruddell's Station the day before it was captured. Selah was recovered during Wayne's Treaty in 1795.
DINAH Slave of Captain John Dunkin. She was returned from captivity during Wayne's Treaty of 1795.
BETTY (BESS) Slave of Agnes Laforce. After capture she was taken into possession of the Indians.
SCIPIO (SIPPIO) Slave of Agnes Laforce and son of Betty. After capture he was taken into possession of Simon Girty an Indian interpreter.
JAMES (TIM) Slave of Agnes Laforce and son of Betty. After capture he was taken into possession of Philip Le Duc an Indian interpreter.
ISHMAEL (ISHNER) Slave of Agnes Laforce and son of Betty. After capture he was taken into possession of Philip Le Duc.
STEPHEN Slave of Agnes Laforce and son of Betty. After capture he was taken into possession of Captain Duncan Graham.
JOSEPH (JOE) Slave of Agnes Laforce and son of Betty. After capture he was taken into possession of Captain Matthew Elliott.
KIJAH (KEGGY) Slave of Agnes Laforce and daughter of Betty. After capture she was taken into possession of Captain Matthew Elliott.
HANNAH Slave of Agnes Laforce and daughter of Betty. After capture she was taken into possession of Mr. Fisher.
KANDIS (CANDIS) Slave of Agnes Laforce and daughter of Hannah. After capture she was taken into possession of Captain Alexander McKee.
JOB Slave of Agnes Laforce and son of Hannah. After capture he was taken into possession of Jacques Duperon Baby an Indian interpreter.
GRACE Slave of Agnes Laforce and daughter of Hannah. After capture she was taken into possession of the Indians.
RACHEL Slave of Agnes Laforce and daughter of Hannah. After capture she was taken into possession of the Indians.
PATRICK Slave of Agnes Laforce and son of Hannah. After capture he was taken into possession of the Indians.
ESTHER Slave taken at Martin's Station and taken into possession of Captain Henry Bird. In 1791 she and her son were later given to William Lee for his services in clearing 16 acres of land for Captain Bird.
Ruddles Fort & Martin’s Station researchers Jim Sellars and Lois Sutherland Wark directed me to additional information regarding Grandma Reno’s story.
From Jim Sellars came the interview of Rev. John D. Shane by George Bryan found in the Draper Manuscripts ….MSS 22 C 16 …which states
“ A Mrs. LaForce came out in 1779. An Indian had a wife of the mulatto woman belonging to Mrs. LaForce. She came to Ruddle’s just before it was taken. On their way out her husband died at the Big – or Flat Lick (known by either name) 7 miles this side of Cumberland’s Ford. The Indians children had pretty blue eyes, skin neither black, red nor white, kinked hair &c. They were taken prisoner, one of the children now living in Mo.”
Ms. Lois Sutherland Wark’s contribution came in the form of this document filed in 1814 by the LaForce family in an attempt to recover the slaves they had lost in the 1780 raid on Martin’s Station, Ky.
Woodford County, Ky.
22 Jun 1814
Power of Attorney
William B. La Force to William Stevenson,
John Stevenson & Alexander Loughery
Source: Woodford County Court
Book F, p.311
La Force to Stevenson et al
Known all men by these presents that I, William B. La force of the county of Woodford, have this day nominated constituted and appointed William Stevenson, John Stevenson & Alexander Loughery of the county and state aforesaid my true and lawful attornies for me and on my name to demand and take into possession(if applicable) or make arrangements for the recovery of all or part of the negroes that myself & heirs & representatives of Randolph La Force senr., decd., are entitled to in Upper Canada or elsewhere in the British territory, those negroes being the same (with their increase) taken by Capt. Bird from Martin’s Station in Kentucky in the year of 1780. Their names are as follows; and old woman named BETTY and her seven children, to wit, Scippio, HANNAH, Jane, Ishmael, Stephen, Joe and Kijah, also the above named HANNAH has five yellow children, to wit, KANDIS, Job, Grace, Rachel & Patrick. Now be it known therefore that by these presents I do hereby ratify and confirm all such lawful acts and things they, my said attornies, may do for the benefit of the aforesaid heirs in as full a manner as if I were personally present. In testimony whereof I have unto set my hand and seal this 22nd June 1814.
/s/W.B. Laforce /seal/
State of Kentucky, Woodford County
I, John McKinney Jr., clerk of the county court for the county aforesaid, do hereby certify this power of attorney from William B. La force to William Stevenson, John Stevenson & Alexander Loughery was produced before and acknowledged by said William B. La force to be his act and deed and the same is duly entered & recorded in my saif office. In testimony whereof I have hereto set my hand and caused the seal of my office to be affixed hereto this 22nd day of June 1814 and in the 23rd year of the commonwealth.
Jon McKinney Jr., clerk
Note: capitalized names in this document done by author of this article.
Betty (Bess), Betty’s daughter Hannah and Hannah’s daughter Kandis (Candis) now bring me full circle with all of the dots connected: GRANDMA RENO’S MOTHER, A SLAVE GIRL NAMED CANDIS, WAS CAPTURED IN AN INDIAN RAID IN KENTUCKY ALONG WITH TWO DAUGHTERS OF THE SLAVEMASTER AND TAKEN TO CANADA?
Many new questions have been brought to the surface as a result of these discoveries.
Where did Betty come from? How did the LaForce family acquire their slaves? Who could be the father of Hannah and Hannah’s children? What happened to the members of Betty’s family that I haven’t been able to account for? Why did Rachel migrate back into Ohio from Canada?
My quest continues as I delve into the Laforce family, slavery in Virginia and Kentucky from the early 1700’s, Free Persons of Color in Ohio beginning with Statehood (1803), in addition to my regular genealogy. This is not a complete and total success story, but rather an example of patience and perserverance. The documentation I have gathered has enabled my family to qualify for the OGS First Families. I submitted the paperwork and was accepted in April 2005. So follow up your oral traditions with research and documentation. No telling where it might lead.
Thank You……….Art Thomas