A Defender of Fort Henry

By Linda Cunningham Fluharty.

     On September 20, 2003, the Ebenezer Zane Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution placed a new marker on the grave of Molly Scott at the Lansing "Scott" Cemetery in Lansing, Belmont County, Ohio.

     Jean Craig, a participant, described the event: "The S.A.R. had already recognized Molly Scott’s service during the Revolutionary War years. However, the Ohio Society of the S.A.R. wanted to recognize a woman during Ohio’s bicentennial year, so members of the Ebenezer Zane Chapter of the S.A.R., headquartered in St. Clairsville, Ohio, were delighted to bestow this honor upon Molly Scott, one of the brave women who helped to defend Wheeling’s Fort Henry. This commemoration ceremony coincided with the Pease Township Trustees’ cemetery restoration project and the dedication of a cemetery sign."

     Molly (real name, Mary?; maiden name unknown), was born in 1759 and died March 3, 1839, at the age of 80 years.

     According to Phyllis Dye Slater, "It was a great program with honor guard dressed in Revolutionary costumes and S. A. R. members... A choir from the nearby Methodist church sang patriotic songs... Jean Craig of St. Clairsville portrayed Molly... All dressed in the old costumes.... The nearby Methodist church sold food... bean soup and corn bread and hot dogs... About 100 people were there..."

(Photo by Treni Vucelich)

Lansing "Scott" Cemetery

     This event precipitated a reflection about Molly Scott, who was among those present at the so-called "Second Siege" of Fort Henry in September 1882. Her name was placed more prominently in history nearly seven decades later, when it was mentioned in association with the famous gunpowder-carrying incident at Fort Henry that occurred during this second siege.

     Historical facts and legends are blended beyond separation regarding the story of the young woman who carried the gunpowder in her apron, past the Indians, to the defenders of Wheeling's Fort Henry during the Revolutionary War. - Or was the powder carried from the fort to the Ebenezer Zane cabin because the defenders at the cabin were out of gunpowder? In either case, the carrier actually had to make two trips past the Indians -- fort-cabin-fort OR cabin-fort-cabin.

     Betty Zane (real name Elizabeth and really known as "Betsy") has long been recognized as the heroine of the gunpowder run, but in 1849, Lydia (Boggs) Shepherd Cruger, who was on the scene at the time it all happened, proclaimed that Molly Scott, wife of Fort Henry defender, Andrew Scott, had carried the gunpowder. Lydia also discounted the long-held notion that the fort had been out of powder and the run was made from the fort to the Zane house - and back again.

     Molly Scott's own family has stated that the traditional stories of Betty Zane's daring feat as the carrier of the powder are true, and it remains a mystery as to why Lydia Cruger so belatedly introduced a new version of history.

     Lydia had made her statements to Wills DeHass, who included her affidavit in his book, History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia, published in 1851.

     "The undersigned, having been applied to for a statement of facts respecting the memorable achievement at the attack of Fort Henry (Wheeling) in September, 1782, known as the "Gunpowder Exploit," would state as follows, viz:
     On Monday afternoon, September 11, 1782, a body of about 300 Indians and 50 British soldiers, composing part of a company known as the "Queen's Rangers," appeared in front of the fort, and demanded a surrender. These forces were commanded respectively by the white renegade Girty and a Captain Pratt.
     The demand of a surrender was of course uncomplied with and the attack then commenced.
     During the forenoon of Tuesday, September 12th, the enemy having temporarily withdrawn from the attack but occupying a position within gunshot of the fort, those within the stockade observed a female leave the residence of Colonel Zane and advance with rapid movement toward the fort. She made for the southern gate, as it was less exposed to the fire of the enemy. The gate was opened immediately, and she entered in safety. That person was none other than Molly Scott, and the object of her mission was to procure powder for those who defended the dwelling of Colonel Zane! The undersigned was at that time in her 17th year and remembers with perfect distinctness every circumstance connected with the incident. She saw Molly Scott enter the fort, assisted her in getting the powder, and saw her leave, and avers most positively that she, and she alone, accomplished the feat referred to, and deserves all the credit there may be attached to it.
     The ammunition at that time was kept in the "storehouse" adjoining the residence of my father, known as the "Captain's house." My father having left for help on the commencement of the attack, and I being the oldest child under the paternal roof, was directed by my mother to go with the messenger (Molly Scott) to the store-house and give her whatever ammunition she needed. This the undersigned did and will now state without fear of contradiction that the powder was given to Molly Scott and not to Elizabeth Zane.
     The undersigned assisted said Molly Scott in placing the powder in her apron, and to this she is willing to be qualified at any time.
     Elizabeth Zane, for whom has long been claimed the credit of this heroic feat, was at that time at the residence of her father, near the present town of Washington, Pa. At the time of its occurrence, the achievement was not considered very extraordinary. Those were emphatically times when woman's heart was nerved to deeds of no ordinary kind; we all felt it was then "to do or die"; and the undersigned does not hesitate to say, that more than one within the little stockade at Wheeling would have accomplished the feat with as much credit as the one whose name seems destined to an immortality in border warfare.
     But the undersigned does not wish to detract from the heroism of that feat, she only desires to correct a gross error - to give honor to whom honor is due. This she deems imperative, that the truth and justice of history may be maintained.
     The undersigned disclaims all unkind feelings towards anyone, in relation to this statement. Elizabeth Zane was one of her earliest acquaintances, whom she knew to be a woman brave, generous and single-hearted.
     Given under my hand and seal, this 28th day of November, 1849."


     In his footnote, DeHass added, "Her statement has been sustained by other contemporary witnesses... as to who performed the exploit is still in mystery and doubt."

     The "Gunpowder Exploit" is also presented in History of the Pan-Handle, West Virginia.

     There seemed to be nothing new to write on the subject of the gunpowder-carrier controversy, until the discovery of articles that were written by Norris F. Schneider, educator and author. He had evidently pondered the history, tales and legends of the incident and wrote some very interesting articles in the 1960s in The Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio.

March 15, 1964
March 6, 1966
August 10, 1969
August 17, 1969

     An article by the Historical Research Bureau appeared in the Zanesville Signal, December 4, 1924

     Finally, an article by George W. Summers was published in The Charleston Daily Mail December 11, 1938

     While Betty Zane's patriotic service has been accepted by the Daughters of the American Revolution, it does not appear that the service of Molly or Andrew Scott has been established with that organization.

ELIZABETH ZANE, b. 1759-63, Westmoreland County, VA, d. 1826-8, Martin's Ferry, OH, married (1) 1786, Ephraim McLaughlin, (2) Jacob Clark. Rendered service 9/12/1782 in the capacity of ammunition bearer at the "second siege" of Fort Henry. Elizabeth secreted gunpowder in her apron and ran past the unsuspecting enemies to the defenders of the fort, who were out of ammunition. Listed in D.A.R. Patriot Index, Patriotic Service, VA. (Source: D.A.R. Lineage Book, Vol. 121, page 232.)

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