Walk To Freedom


The cast of the play.

Sam Cerva and David Guard

On November 9, 2018, Radford University came to EMHS to perform “Walk To Freedom,” a non-fiction play taking place back in the mid 1700s, over 10 years before the revolution. The main focus is a young woman named Mary Draper Ingles, who struggled with the Native Americans and was captured then made the journey back home to Western Virginia.

Writer’s perspective: I really enjoyed watching the play. This was one of the greatest things I have seen in my life. I think the actors felt professional because I really felt the emotions, especially during the attack. I think the most inspirational part of the play was when Mary always stayed positive and saw good in the Shawnee despite their actions, she believes everyone deserves a chance. I also really like that it was a non-fiction play because I like learning about history. Acting is also one of my favorite things and it is part of my dream career.

Here are the students that shared their reactions toward the play:

  1. Angelina Smith said that the play made her feel inspired on how the actors were telling our local history. She also stated “I felt the most emotion during the attack; I felt really scared. I also believe that was the most inspirational part because I think the actors did not only show those emotions, they really felt it, and that feeling reached out to the audience. My favorite part of the play was when Mary made her way back home, and she used the rivers as a guide to lead her back home, and she always told others how she felt deep down.
  2. Kiersten Atkinson said she felt the most emotion when the Shawnee attacked and Mary’s ambitions to keep going no matter what. She also stated “The play makes me feel like I’m not the only one who struggles in life. Back in those days, it was a lot harder and they had to go through a lot more than we do now. In America, we have others who fight for us, but they also have to fend for themselves.” She is also in Advanced Theatre II and she has been performing for two years. She also added “My favorite part was when Mary was on her way home and made these plans, including her hopes to get home. She also persuaded many others into doing anything that is possible, and even when they didn’t listen, she still kept going. She didn’t think it was crazy, she just wanted to get home to her family. I think the most inspirational part was that Mary stayed strong no matter what the Shawnee did. She just had to make sure everyone was okay.”

Background: The setting of the play takes place in the Ohio Valley during the first year of the French-Indian War. Mary Draper Ingles was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of 18, she moved to Draper’s Meadow and married William Ingles and had two small sons.

Bettie Draper with her baby.
Mary’s mother.

The Attack: Life was difficult and dangerous on the frontier, but the farming pioneers worked to improve their lives and social class. One day, Mary’s home was attacked by the Shawnee, who were involved in shifting alliances with the French, English and other tribes during the French-Indian war. Four settlers were killed, while the young men were working farther away in the fields. Mary lost her mother, and her sister-in-law Bettie Draper lost her infant child and sustained a serious arm injury.

William discovers Mary and Bettie are missing, and discovers the victims of the attack.

Capture: The Shawnee spared and captured Mary and Bettie along with Mary’s two sons and two older men. After days of walking, the older men are killed in a ritual called “running the gauntlet.” Later, they reach a Shawnee camp, Mary’s sons are adopted by other Shawnee families, and Bettie is given to a different tribe.

Mary narrates the time her children were adopted.
The Shawnee’s leader, Chief Cornstalk, gives his speech about all the other settlers throughout the known land.
A Shawnee chief tells his underlings that Mary is strong and could be the one that changes things for the whole tribe, such as working together with all the other settlers.

Life with the Shawnee: Throughout her time in the camp, Mary makes herself useful by sewing shirts that the Shawnee could sell and/or trade with the french. She meets a french man named Pierre Lavalle, and then she meets an older Dutch woman slave named Mrs. Bingamin with whom she discusses escape from the Shawnee. She also listens to an announcement made by the Shawnee’s leader, Chief Cornstalk. After hearing the announcement, Mary packs up for her escape back to her home.

Pierre Lavalle says his goodbye to Mary and wishes her luck as she journeys back home.
The incredible journey begins.
Mary escapes from Mrs. Bingamin.

The Long Road Home: Mary packs up for her escape and Mrs. Bingamin accompanies her. They follow the rivers (Ohio and New) which led back to Mary’s home and run into food along the way. They also discover a horse and a carriage, but they quickly lose the horse in a river, forcing them to travel on foot again. Along the way, however, hunger soon drives the Dutch woman mad, and she attempts to kill Mary. Fortunately, Mary crosses a river, separating her from Mrs. Bingamin.

After months of capture, Mary is finally back home and with her husband.

Home Sweet Home: Alone, hungry, tired and cold, Mary continues her journey. The closer Mary gets, the more desperate she is to make it back home. However, the cold air renders her weaker every minute, until she collapses next to a house near Pembroke and calls for help. The one to answer her call is her friend Adam Harmon. Shortly, Mary is reunited with her family after her 500-600 mile journey.

Aftermath: Shortly after Mary made it back home, she sent a search party to look for Mrs. Bingamin. Mary’s older son Thomas was reunited with his mom a decade later, but his younger brother George died. Eventually, Thomas joined the military to fight against the Native Americans. His own wife and children were also captured by the Shawnee. His oldest sons were killed and his wife was severely injured. He was able to rescue his wife and youngest daughter. Mary lived up to 83 and ran the family’s ferry on the New River in Radford.