Friday, June 17, 2011

How a little girl became a local hero - or - "Katie git yer Gun"

John and Nellie Cooke became the first settlers in what is now Wyoming County, West Virginia. The second family that moved into the area was Captain Ralph Stewart’s. This line goes back to King James I of Scotland (Ireland and England). Yes, the bible translator, that King James.
So, Captain Stewart moved his family into the area and they build a log cabin a few miles away from the Cooke family. Their families interbred for so many years that it is said to be virtually impossible to be related to one family without being related to the other.  From one of these unions came a great granddaughter who would become a local hero and a bit of a legend in her own time.
Catherine Stewart was born about 1789 in Giles County, Va. which is now part of Kentucky. She was the grand-daughter of William Cooke and Catherine Stewart.
Her father, Thomas Munsey Cooke married Rebecca Jane Sizemore who is our connection to the Sizemore‘s and the Cherokee blood line in our family. But that’s story for another day.
It seems that one day Katie, as she was called then, was in the field cutting flax with her two older half-brothers. As was their custom, they had with them a loaded rifle which was always kept close at hand.
It is said that even though she was very young, she could shoot a gun as good, or better, than her siblings which turned out to be a very good thing. Because, as the children worked, two Indians had crept up on them.
One Indian fired a shot which hit the older boy in the hip knocking him to the ground. The Indian rushed the boy to finish him with his knife. The second Indian rushed in to aid his companion. Katie grabbed the gun and shot him dead.
As the boy fought off his attacker, Katie grabbed the rifle by the barrel and clubbed the Indian over the head and killed him. Thus she saved her brother’s life and herself from a terrible fate and became a local hero.
The Southern part of West Virginia was a much contested bit of land during the Civil War years and it is not uncommon to read of families in this area being torn apart and brothers fighting against brothers. During that time, Andy Gunnoe’s raiders and others were active in the area.
These raiders would go through the houses and farms and take whatever supplies they could find. When they came to the house where Catherine was staying they would find her sitting on her rocking chair on the front porch. They never found the family’s supply of coffee, though, because it was safely hidden beneath the long skirts of our local hero. Ya gotta love this woman.
You can read more about this story as well as the story of the kidnapped couple in the previous posting at this website.

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