Recollection of Tamar, My Sister

By Rachel Kirk Price

This is an excerpt from Rachel Kirk Price’s chapter in a larger work. Rachel’s chapter is titled “A History of the Early Settlers by the Name of Kirk.” It begins on page 116 of the 1872 book Historic-Genealogy of the Kirk Family by Charles H. Stubbs. This text is now in the public domain. We have lightly edited, modernized, and added links and footnotes.

Please note that “natives” and “Indians” are terms used in this piece for indigenous and First Nations peoples. These were terms of the time and, well, the editorial staff here isn’t nuts about them. But the piece was written when it was written, in the language of the century. We apologize if any offense is taken.

Tamar [1]…manifested a desire when young to live in some newly-settled country or wilderness. [2] When she arrived at an age that it might be thought proper to marry, she was addressed by a young man by name of Phineas Mendenhall, who had a prospect of going to North Carolina to settle. Her friends thought it had an influence on her mind to induce her to accept him. [3] They married and, very soon after, they set off to go to North Carolina; settled in Guilford County [4], pretty much in the woods, where, no doubt, they had many difficulties to encounter. Her youngest sister, Mary, one of [a set of] twins [5], also was desirous from a child to live in a newly-settled part of the country. When grown up, she [Mary] wrote to her sister, who had been absent about seven years, that if she would come and make a visit to her relations and friends she would accompany her home and stay and live with them.

Accordingly, Tamar came [home] with that expectation. Our parents were very much tried in giving her up, but at length submitted. After spending a few weeks with us, they set off, after taking an affectionate and affecting leave of all of us.

I well recollect it, being the first scene of the kind that I had then ever witnessed. Impressions on the mind of children, even when young, of a striking nature, are often lasting, although but trifling incidents.

I have no recollection of my sister Tamar before she went away, I being an infant [6]; but now remember her well. She was a good-looking, portly person. [7] She pulled my first teeth when I shed them. This circumstance, though small, impressed her more fully on my mind.

I have retained the recollections of a young man of the name of Jehu Wickersham, who was acquainted with my sister Mary. He went to Carolina, sometime after her, where they renewed their attachment and were married, and settled there for a time but the State of Georgia opened for settlement, inducing many to move there.

There they lived in peaceable possession of their homes, undisturbed by the natives for a considerable time, until there was a new purchase made by [the government], with which the Indians seemed satisfied.

My brothers-in-law, with others, bought land in it, as it was considered very good. Many were induced to make settlements on it, to clear and sow it with grain; but the frequent incursions of the Indians was cause of great discouragement to them, so that it was deemed best by many not to reside on it.

They, therefore, left, but when the grain that they had sown was ripe they thought they would go there and gather it, the distance not being far from the first settlement where they resided. Sister Tamar, her husband, and three sons [Abijah, Caleb, and Joseph] went for that purpose, leaving their two daughters [Mary and Grace] behind at home. Early one morning, Sister went to milk a cow they had with them. While her hands were thus engaged, a party of Indians lying in wait [8] fired on them, and put an end to her useful life; they also killed her eldest son. The youngest they took in charge and kept in captivity about two years. They adopted him and were kind to him, and when redemption was offered him, he had become so attached to them and their manner of life that it required some persuading to get him from them. [9]

  1. Tamar Kirk Mendenhall (1738-1779). The link leads to FamilySearch, which is not Mendenhall’s, like, best, family tree. But it will serve as an introduction. Please note that in some sources, including this one, Tamar is spelled “Tamer.” The majority of sources [we’ve checked] indicate Tamar as the preferred spelling.

2. ”Wilderness.” Tamar was born in Nantmeal, Chester, Pennsylvania Colony. Wilderness to Tamar could have meant anything past the rough streets in her area to ideations of a “New Eden” or “Peaceable Kingdom” outside Pennsylvania Colony. Or she simply could have wondered “what’s out there?”

3. “It” being, we think, a desire to settle in the outer “wilderness.”

4. Guilford County was not named and defined as such until 1771. The area of Guilford County was settled by many Quakers, especially near Greensboro. For example, the New Garden Friends Meeting (House) was established in 1754, before the county was officially named and measured.

5. Mary (1751-1837) and Sarah (1751-1778).

6. Rachel and Tamar had an approximately 25 year age difference.

7. In this usage, most likely meaning stately or dignified.

8. Possibly a Creek (Muskogee/Muskogee) Tribe. There are numerous versions of the story online. Most, if not all, of them agree that Tamar Mendenhall was milking a cow as part of a harvest when she was attacked. Some, but not all, versions say she was also scalped.

9. There is an extant source that lists the goods which were given to the Tribes for the return of Joseph to his family. And as soon as we find the source we can see in our head but can’t seem to locate online, we will update this damn note. *It exists, we swear.*

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