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Born in Pennsylvania, around the year 1760, Jenny Sellards was nothing out of the ordinary. Her father, Hezekiah Sellards, was without wealth and the family’s early years were filled with struggles.
Sellards eventually moved his family to Walker’s Creek in what is now Bland County, Virginia. It was there in 1778 that Jenny met and married Thomas Wiley, a young Irish immigrant.
Soon afterward, the couple built a log cabin and had their first four children.
Alone on the frontier, young Jenny could never have imagined the events that awaited her in the days to come.
On October 1, 1789, Thomas set out for a trading post with a horse heavy laden with ginseng — an early form of currency for mountain settlers in the Appalachia. He hoped to use the ginseng to barter for his family’s domestic necessities prior to the onset of winter.
That same afternoon, Jenny’s brother-in-law, John Borders, heard owl-call signals in the woods which made him suspect Native Americans were in the area and planning an attack. He warned his sister-in-law to pack up her children and leave the cabin, but Jenny wanted to finish some household chores before leaving and made the life altering decisions to remain behind.
Not long after Borders had departed, a group of eleven Native Americans, comprised of two Cherokees, three Shawnees, three Wyandots, and three Delawares attempted to storm the cabin. Jenny and her younger brother heard the Native Americans coming and tried to barricade the door, fighting for their lives.
Sadly, their defenses was futile, as the attackers killed Jenny’s younger brother, who was only fifteen-years-old.
In addition to killing her brother, the Native Americans also killed all of her children except her youngest, a two-year-old.
Expecting her fifth child, Jenny and her two-year-old were taken captive and driven westward toward Kentucky.
As the entourage moved westward, there was some dispute among her captives regarding what to do with Jenny and her young baby — as the two were slowing the party down as they made their retreat deeper into the young nation’s wilderness.
Eventually deciding to spare their lives, the band of murderers continued through the Appalachian Mountains until the young child became desperately ill — it was at this point that the captors killed the baby while Jenny slept.
Sometime later, Jenny gave birth to the child she had been carrying, however, her hellish kidnappers immediately seized the child and began to play a gruesome and murderous game.
Placing the newborn onto a piece of wood, the demonically charged warriors decreed that if the child would cry they would scalp it alive, but if the newborn infant remained silent, they would permit it to live.
Sadly, the child cried almost instantly and — true to their word — the wicked alliance immediately began scalping the young baby.
Jenny was held captive by Native Americans for several additional months in what is presently Little Mud Lick Creek, Johnson County, Kentucky.
In the midst of a terrible rain storm, Jenny managed to successfully flee from the Indian camp, escaping to a nearby trading post.
Local settlers at the trading post assisted her in making her way back to Walker’s Creek and her husband, who had remained faithfully remained hopeful of her return.
Once home, Jenny and her husband renewed their love and began a new family.
Somewhere around the year 1800, the Wiley family crossed the Big Sandy River, and settled in what is currently Johnson County, Kentucky. Jenny and her husband, Thomas, had five additional children.
Jenny Wiley lived in Johnson County, Kentucky, with her family until her death in 1831. She was buried near the farm in River, where she spent her final years.
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