Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Portrayal of Ann Calhoun Matthews

The Long Cane Indian Massacre - February 1, 1760

This is a post I've been considering for a long time, as my Baskin ancestors were involved. Though not present at this massacre, they were a part of this community and recovering those lost.  I decided to finally write this because I was recruited to act out a skit as part of the ghost tour at The Living History Park which my husband is involved in in North Augusta, South Carolina at their recent "Spirits of Hallowed Eve" event.  It was to be set in the 18th century, 3 to 4 minutes long and repeated as many times as there were groups to come through.

I wanted to portray someone relevant to the area of North Augusta.  Also knowing that I had ancestors from the area, I thought I could tie the two together and make it personally of interest and challenging.  See, the Baskin’s, Calhoun's, Picken’s and other families of Scots-Irish descent immigrated together and migrated throughout the colonies together until finally settling in the Long Canes Settlement.  Almost a year ago I researched the massacre by traveling to different sites relevant to its history (I'll add those in a separate post or this will be waaaay too long!).

With but two days left to prepare, (yes, I procrastinated) and through my study of the massacre, I honed in on Ann Calhoun Matthews because her story would be intriguing portrayed in first person - and she actually lived to tell it.  About three weeks prior I had gotten poison ivy, oak, or sumac on my forearm.  The blisters were gone but what remained looked like a burn scar which would fit perfectly into my act. (I tried to take a picture of it myself in the mirror once we returned -for this post).

2010 Oct 25_0766_edited-1

Everything you're about to read is true - except for the part about her shoes.  Ann was known to have "worn shoes made from the bark of the special tree" which I assume to be birch bark?  I didn't have any so I borrowed some 18th-century moccasins made from deerskin and changed the wording a bit.

As the group approaches led by lantern light, they hear the sound of a woman singing a Native American song just inside the tree line behind a fire.  She stops when she sees the group and addresses them…

What are you doing here?  You shouldn't be in these woods in the middle of the night?  Oh... I suppose you're wondering the same thing about me, a woman all alone in these woods and where is my party?  Perhaps I can explain myself by making my introduction.  (she curtsies) I am Ann Matthews.  (still curtsying - eyes glancing upwards to read their faces) Ann CALHOUN Matthews?...  I can see from the expression on your faces that you are not aware of my story.  I shall tell it, lest it be forgotten.

Photo by Larry Gleason

This land we are now standing upon once belonged to the Cherokee Indians. When the white settlers came in they tried to claim it as their own. The years between 1759 and 1761 were known as the years of The Cherokee Wars. Not far from here lived the Scots-Irish in a place known as the Long Canes Settlement. 

On February 1st, 1760, under the leadership of my uncle, Patrick Calhoun, many families joined together to seek refuge across the river in Augusta, Georgia where there was a larger white settlement and more provisions. We had 13 wagons and carts, 150 or so of us, mostly women and children were making our way when we got stuck in a boggy place. The 40 to 50 men left their wagons to free us from this place when all of a sudden 100 Cherokee Indians on horseback attacked. Panic ensued and women and children could be heard screaming and seen fleeing in all directions into the woods.The men where not at the ready, for their rifles where in the wagons. My older sister, Catherine, who was nine, was tomahawked in the back of the head almost immediately. Others were taken by the Indians, including my sister Mary and me. I was only five years old at the time.

web2954 Photo by Larry Gleason

Two days later Patrick Calhoun returned with some Rangers to seek those who had run off when he came upon a bloody field. Twenty-three women and children had been brutally murdered including his mother, my grandmother, and the matriarch of the Calhoun clan, Catherine Calhoun, who tried to flee for her life at age 76. He buried them all in a mass grave.

Twelve years later, Andrew Pickens negotiated the release of the captives from the Cherokee Indians. A group such as this (pointing to the group) was there to see the spectacle and retrieve loved ones they believed have been taken. Among them was my father, William Calhoun. I stood before him at age 17. But he did not recognize me, for I was an Indian maiden and could not speak English. Were it not for the burn scar (shows them the “scar”) he would not have known that I was his Ann. 

It was on the same day, however, that he learned the fate of my little sister Mary.  For she was but two when we were taken into captivity and could not walk fast enough to keep up with her captors, so they scalped her and threw her little body into the Long Cane Creek.

I was not so accepted upon my return to the Calhoun family, for I had cultivated the ways of the Natives, and they found me strange. I was taught to never show excitement or emotions… among other things, under threat of punishment.  I was often seen before the sunrise fleeing into the woods and there spending the whole day into the night talking to the spirits of those we cannot see and hearing them glide from tree to tree.  I was once observed eating lizards and frogs uncooked.  I still cannot wear the shoes of the white men (she lifts her skirt to show her shoes) for I am most comfortable wearing the hides of the four-leggeds upon my feet.

This land, the earth-people taught me, cannot be claimed by any man. We are here to keep and protect our Earth Mother. For we are merely borrowing her from our grandchildren.

Did you hear that? I do not think you should tarry long in these woods!  Go now and be gone, for there are spirits who lurk about in the shadows! (She returns into the tree line and begins singing again).

The end!
Copyright © 2010 Joanne Schleier


  1. @Carol
    Thanks Carol! Even knowing that one person read it and liked it makes it worthwhile to me. Appreciate the comment!

  2. Fascinating. What a thrill to be able to give voice to your Ann.

  3. Glad to see Ms. Anne's legacy is still alive and personified by you on Halloween. Anne is in my direct line and I have researched her over many years. Thanks again for your retelling of her story.

  4. Joanne, enjoyed reading your Blog about Anne Calhoun Matthews. I am a descendant of Joseph Pickens and Eleanor Baskin Pickens (Joseph and Eleanor were married 1st cousins and Joseph was a brother of Andrew Pickens). i have been doing genealogical research for 30 years (yeah, I'm old -- 20 grandchildren with two on the way and 3 great grandchildren with two on the way).

    Anyway, I am an author. A publisher in NC is within 2-3 months of publishing my new book about Andrew Pickens. It is called Andrew Pickens: South carolina Patriot in the Revolutionary War. I do cover the Long Canes massacre in my book but later in the chapter when Andrew Pickens and Rebecca Calhoun are married I casually refer to William Calhoun's daughters as having been carried away during the massacre. William Calhoun performed the wedding of Andrew and Rebecca.

    You did a great job representing the story of Anne and Mary. I am covering them in a little more detail in my new book I am working on for the same publisher about my Cherokee ancestors in the same period of time. (Rev War era from the Cherokee point of view). Chief Doublehead is my ancestor the same number of generations back as Joseph Pickens. I needed to write the new book for balance after writing from the Patriot viewpoint.

    If you get a chance check my new web site at www.therevolutionarywarauthor.com. I have a contact link there if you'd like to email a comment.

    Sincerely, Bill Reynolds

  5. Hi Joanne,

    I came across your most excellent blog while researching into the Long Canes Massacre, and I see you have done some great research. I am currently researching this event and the ones leading up to it, and the effects it had, and would very much like to speak with you about it, or at least know what documentation you used for your research. If you are interested I would very much like to hear what you have to say and you may contact me at your earliest convenience :)

  6. Hi Joanne,

    I have been collecting data on the Baskin's for my wife just before the internet rage kicked in. We are planning to go to Virginia for the next few weeks and decided to do some last minute updates which have taken in a few days. I dug deeper into the data I had collected and have been checking sources for the Long Cane Settlement and when Hugh Baskin came into the area. He and his parents left Augusta Co., Va. in 1765, which corresponds to the treaty settlement of 1763 where the new 96 Boundary was established which is the border of Abbeville and Anderson County. 1,000 new families settled there in the subsequent years and a source specifically says "four hundred more" from Virginia. As you know Hugh Baskin married Sarah McKinley Calhoun 1779 and my wife is descended from their last child Robert McKinley Baskin. Robert had a son Zachary Taylor Baskin who settled land in Saline, Co., Illinois which was payment for one of the Baskin's who served in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson. The farm is presently located in the town of Thompsonville, Illinois. My wife's family still lives in Murphysboro, Illinois and we in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.

    Excellent presentation! Just been reading about this event and the family history around it. There are a few recorded interviews with Ann which sounds like you are acquainted. We will be visiting the land first acquired in August Co., Virginia by John Pickens and sold to William Baskin in 1740, just outside Staunton, Va. Also the Old Stone Presbyterian Church which was built in the mid 1740's and the Baskin's worshipped and Charles Baskin was baptized and married.

    Ron Bangert
    Marylyn Bangert (nee Baskin)

  7. Well, hello cousin! I, too am descended from Robert McKinley Baskin through his son, Andrew Jackson Baskin. I have Zachary Taylor Baskin as Robert's grandson though, not his son. One of the perks of writing this blog is that it's cousin bait!

    I'm not aware of the recorded interviews with Ann. But, I would love to listen to them if you could send me a link! So envious of you getting to see the sights in Virginia. I have a ton of VA research to do on many surnames. Thanks so much for your comment and telling me of your research and relationship. You can find my email address within my profile on this blog to continue our correspondence. Would love to compare research notes.