Friday, August 1, 2014

Custer family - kidnapped!


Trying to track down the lineage of a particular Custer can be daunting – if not impossible. For instance, my great great grandfather, John William "Billy" Custer, was heard to claim the (in)famous General George Armstrong Custer as a cousin.  It is documented that Billy and George shared at least two common ancestors: Arnold Kuster, who lived and died in Germany, and his son, Paulus, who migrated to America in the late 1600s.  After that, however, it becomes more difficult to connect the General's line to ours but I'm always hopeful. Following the Revolution, a number of Custer families, including ours, left Pennsylvania, lived for awhile in Virginia, and eventually settled in Southern Indiana.

This particular legend was sent to me by a Custer second cousin who recently traveled to Indiana with genealogy on her mind and a camera handy. While there, she visited cemeteries and the local historical society where – among other interesting stories which will likely be featured in future posts - she found a couple of paragraphs describing a kidnapping by marauding Indians back in the 1700s. 

Unfortunately the bones of that story were too bare to allow me to build a story that would hold together with the telling. That is until I ran across a wonderful website ( packed with Custer lore, which gave more details of the kidnapping that had intrigued me so.  I have to admit to some minor editing on the story in the hope it will make it easier to read.  Any extraneous comments which weren't in the original story are italicized.
Reuel Custer, the story teller
Transcription of Article written by Reuel Custer, 
Madison (IN) Courier, April 15, 1913: 
 "I was born on the old Reuel Custer farm, eight miles north of Madison Indiana, on March 7, 1835.  My great grandfather, William Custer, was born and lived in the Shenandoah Valley, Va.  His family consisted of six children: three sons and three daughters. His father had 24 sons (YIKES!), and it is thought that General Custer was descended from one of them.
It was during one of these periods of time that my great grandmother (name unknown), returning home from a neighbor's, was captured by a band of roving Indians from the North.  She was carried by her savage captors into the wilds of Canada. They were so near her cabin as they carried her away that she could hear her baby crying in his cradle.  She was held captive for a long time by the Indians (one account said that she had 3 sons and 3 daughters while in captivity), and was finally sold to a French doctor, who gave her her freedom after twenty years in captivity. Soon after gaining her freedom, she, with others, began their journey back to their homes in the colonies.

My great grandfather, on his return home from the wars nearly a year after she had been captured by the Indians, made every effort to find his missing wife without success for twenty long years.  Finally, after learning from some fur traders of a number of English prisoners, men and women, who had been bought and released by the French, he was determined to visit Canada in search of her, hoping to at least find some clue as to her whereabouts.

He had been gone but a few days when his wife returned home. She found the baby boy she had last seen sleeping peacefully in his cradle as she ran to her neighbors on a hasty errand, and whose cries she had heard as she was being carried away by the Indians.  He was now a man twenty years old.

The day after she returned home, my great grandmother again started for the Northern wilds in search of her husband, taking up the trail and following it through forests and across unbridged streams. On the fourth day of her quest, while passing through a settlement, she happened to notice a funeral on a knoll, some distance from the roadside. She went over to make inquiry about her husband. To her question, 'Who are you burying?' the answer was, 'a stranger, a William Custer from Va.'

It was thus that her search ended after twenty years of anxious waiting.  Heartsick and well nigh hopeless, she was at last alone in a strange land, permitted to look for a moment upon the face of her dead husband before they buried him out of her sight.  In a nameless grave in that north land still rests the remains of my great grandfather, William Custer, a soldier of Va.
My great grandmother returned to her home in the Shenandoah Valley, Va. where she lived for awhile, later removing to Kentucky to the home of her eldest son, my grandfather, Arnold Custer, who had left Va. in the company of Daniel Boone, to explore that 'dark and bloody ground', as it afterward came to be known. Daniel Boone’s wife and my grandmother were cousins. They were Schulls.”

Again, my thanks to Ryan Wadleigh who has composed a wonderful blog about his (and some of my) families.  You might want to check it out.