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This Day in History: Anne “Mad Anne” Trotter Bailey passes away

On this day in 1825, Anne “Mad Anne” Trotter Bailey passes away in Ohio. She has been called the Heroine of the Kanawha Valley.

Not a lot is known about Anne’s early years. She was born in Liverpool, England, in 1742. She lived there until her parents passed away, then she came to Virginia when she was about 19 years old. Some sources say that she came as an indentured servant; others say that she came to America to live with relatives. Either way, she married Richard Trotter in 1765. He was unfortunately killed at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.

Trotter’s death in a battle between Virginia militia and local Indian tribes forever changed Anne. She vowed to help keep the frontier safe, serving as a scout and a courier throughout the American Revolution and the Northwest Indian Wars. She also recruited men to join George Washington’s army.

She left behind her 7-year-old son to do it.

Anne began dressing in male buckskin clothing. Well, sort of. “Bailey did not don men’s clothing to pass herself off as a man,” one historian notes, “but instead wore a combination of male and female clothing that served to mark her as a woman doing a man’s job. She regularly dressed in a skirt and petticoat with a man’s jacket.”

Sketch is from “Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes: An Encyclopedia of the State,” by Henry Howe (1907)

Anne learned to fire a gun and to wield a tomahawk. For years, she rode from settlement to settlement, warning the settlers of impending attacks, acting as a scout, or carrying messages among forts. Anne often told a story about the time that she was chased by some Shawnee Indians. Anne abandoned her horse and hid inside a hollow log. Apparently, the Shawnees sat on the log while she was hiding inside. They never found her, but they kept her horse—or, at least, they kept her horse until she stole it back from them later that night.

After the Revolution, Anne married John Bailey, who was also a frontier scout. The two were at Fort Clendenin in 1791 when it was discovered that a large force of Indian warriors was on its way. The fort was too low on ammunition to properly defend itself.

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that the nearly 50-year-old Anne wasn’t going to let that fort down. She hopped on a horse and rode to Fort Savannah. It was the nearest place to get supplies, but it was still 100 miles away. She returned with gunpowder and an extra horse to carry it. She made the trip in time to save the fort.

A poem, “Anne Bailey’s Ride,” was later written to commemorate the event.

Anne and John Bailey lived a frontier life until his death in 1802. Then Anne apparently continued on alone, still carrying messages and supplies until she was at least 75 years old. She also spent more time with her son and was living with him when she passed away in 1825.

A reporter once talked to Anne and asked her if she was afraid during some of these adventures. The reporter summarizes her answer: “No, she was not; she trusted in the Almighty—she knew she could only be killed, and she had to die some time.”

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