INSP’s Into the Wild Frontier Season 3 premiered last weekend with an episode focusing on Mad Anne Bailey: Horseback Heroine.
After Anne Bailey’s husband is killed by Native Americans, she defies the social norms of the frontier and volunteers as a mounted messenger, risking her life to deliver vital messages and intelligence to isolated forts and settlements. After riding hundreds of miles through hostile territory, she is quickly celebrated for her incredible endurance and quick thinking. On one harrowing ride, Anne abandons her horse to evade a Shawnee war party that is chasing her. Later, under the cover of darkness, she follows the Shawnee to their camp and steals back her horse, an act so audacious the Shawnee give her the moniker “Mad Anne.” In her most legendary adventure, Anne makes an historic 240-mile ride to retrieve enough gunpowder to save Fort Lee, and her own family, from a massive Indian uprising.
It’s good to see this little-known figure from western Virginia history and folklore get her due. It is, as is so often the case with the Frontier Partisans, hard to separate the historically verifiable from apocrypha and folklore. For example, the tale of Bailey making a powder run that saved Fort Lee. There are many “powder run” stories featuring women of the Ohio Valley frontier — most prominently Betty Zane. It’s sort of like the “gobbler Indian” tales that are told variously of Lewis Wetzel, Jesse Hughes, and Kasper Mansker. They’re a kind of archetypal “myth.” Fact or folklore? Almost certainly a bit of both.
That said, there is no question that Anne Bailey played a legit and valuable role as a scout and courier in the Kanawha Valley.
From the West Virginia Encyclopedia:
Bailey was born Anne Hennis in Liverpool, England, in 1742. How she came to Virginia is a subject of some debate; however, it is certain she lived in Staunton by 1761 and married Richard Trotter in 1765. After Richard was killed at the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant, Anne swore to avenge her husband’s death. Some say this is when she earned the nickname “mad.” She taught herself how to shoot a gun and became a scout. She spent 11 years roaming the Western Virginia wilderness, relaying messages between frontier forts. About 1785, she married John Bailey, a Greenbrier County soldier, but she did not give up scouting.
A couple of readers inquired as to the identity of the actress that played Anne. She is Jillian Tremaine. Per the Internet Movie Database:
Jillian spent her youth and early adult years as a theater actress while studying classical piano, singing and dance. She went on to build a successful career as a commercial print model, but deeply missed her passion for the arts, eventually relocating to California to focus solely on her commercial and theatrical film acting career.
That was a great tale. I’m sure many frontier women did lot’s of things that are little known. Like the men of old, they were tough as nails and not easily intimidated. Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you Jean.
lane batot says
Great post–I don’t think I’ve ever heard of “Mad Anne” before, although I had read about Betty Zane. I can always admire a tricky and audacious horse thief! As to the Indians in the East using a turkey gobble to lure hunters–I’ve read this before, and don’t doubt it–the Indians were superb at luring game or enemies! Another similar, common tactic was of the Comanche and Kiowa in Texas, that took the bells off of settlers’ open range cows or horses, and use them to lure the settlers into ambushes(or more often their children) sent out to locate the livestock. Quite a few settler children got taken captive this way…….