Mary Draper Ingles
In the 1750's, southwestern Virginia was still a sparsely settled frontier, but this land drew a young woman who continues to have untold influence - even in the 21st Century.
Born in Philadelphia in 1732 to Irish immigrants, Mary Draper, along with her family, became part of the western migration as settlers moved down The Great Wagon Road into Virginia. Eventually she married William Ingles and settled in Drapers Meadows in what is present-day Blacksburg.
While many parts of the frontier were in the grips of the French and Indian War, the New River Valley residents didn't have reason to fear the parties of American Native Indians, who passed by periodically from the Ohio Valley on their way to fight the Catawbas farther south. At least, not until a day in July 1755 when members of the settlement were killed, and Mary and other family members were captured by the Shawnees and taken hundreds of miles into the frontier wilderness.
However, this remarkable woman summoned tremendous physical and mental strength as she escaped from her captors and walked through Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, navigating only through memory and by following significant waterways (the Ohio, Kanawha, and New Rivers), back to her home valley. Later she and her husband moved to the Radford area where they established a homestead and ferry operation. Mary lived here until her death in 1815.
What transpired between these life episodes is a story that has been told and retold through books and articles, an outdoor drama, and at festivals and living history reenactments throughout a four-state region. Her story will inspire you.
Mary Draper Ingles escaped from captivity and followed the river home to Virginia, traveling hundreds of miles by foot in worsening late-fall weather.
Watch Mary's story and journey come to life in the outdoor drama, "Walk to Freedom: The Mary Draper Ingles Story." Learn more and purchase tickets online >
Visit local New River Valley area sites that honor Mary Draper Ingles and her story. The Mary Draper Ingles Trail is a great place to start!
The Long Way Home, Inc
The Long Way Home, Inc. is the nonprofit organization that was established in 1971 when the play was first performed in the original amphitheatre at Ingles Farm in the West End of Radford, VA. In 2016, the organization re-structured with a new Board of Directors consisting of representatives from Radford City, Radford University, descendants of Mary Draper Ingles, community members, and local business owners. The drama was re-written and premiered summer of 2017.
The Long Way Home, Inc. manages production of the outdoor drama and promotes education about Mary Draper Ingles and her story in the Southwest Virginia area.
Tickets may be purchased online for the current season of the outdoor drama.
Donations to The Long Way Home, Inc are tax-deductible as allowed by law.
Keeping Mary's Message Alive
The New River Valley is privileged to be home to one of the most compelling and authentic stories in our nation’s history. The Mary Draper Ingles story began in 1755 and to this day continues to capture the imagination of individuals from generation to generation. In recent years, three Radford organizations have joined efforts to coordinate projects that support the story and enhance our community’s cultural, historic and economic vitality:
- The Long Way Home, Inc. produces the outdoor drama, “Walk to Freedom: The Mary Draper Ingles Story” each summer at the Nesselrod historic amphitheatre. This non-profit organization founded the original play that ran for almost 30 years at Mary’s homestead.
- The Radford Tourism Advisory Commission and the Radford Visitor's Center lead the city’s efforts in identifying tourism assets and promoting them. In addition, these two groups work in tandem with the Radford Heritage Foundation to oversee the Mary Draper Ingles Cultural Heritage Park.
- The Radford Heritage Foundation oversees Glencoe Mansion, Museum & Gallery, which promotes the story of Mary and early Indian and settler history.
Also joining us in making this possible are the following organizations that we want to thank.
Books About Mary
Interested in learning more about this fascinating woman from history? Check out the books that have been written about Mary or inspired by her story.
Artwork Inspired by Mary
Mary in the News
Explore news articles and videos, stories, and even a song about Mary on our Media page