Rebecca Persinger: Abducted

Rebecca Persinger

I came across the story of Rebecca Persinger while digging into the family line of Rebecca Bennett Shuck. Grandma Becky’s father, Sampson Bennett, was the child of John Bennett and Nancy Persinger. John Bennett and Nancy Persinger were first cousins. John’s mother, Mary Persinger, was the sister of Sampson Persinger, Nancy’s father. Sampson and Mary’s father was John Henry Persinger, son of Rebecca Persinger and Jacob Persinger.

As far as I can tell little to nothing is known about most of Rebecca’s life. Her exact date of birth, maiden name, and parents are all mysteries. Researchers put her date of birth around 1716 but it seems to be more of an educated guess at her age than anything backed up with sources. We do know that Rebecca married a Swiss immigrant, Jacob Persinger, in 1743 and the couple braved the region that would later become West Virginia when it was still a hostile wilderness full of Natives.

Rebecca gave birth to at least 5 children. During 1756-1757, Jacob was serving with the militia fighting the hostile Natives as a member of the Dickinson Rangers. Rebecca and several of her children were left alone to tend the family’s homestead. Tragedy struck when a Native war party swept through the region killing many and taking hostages of women and children. Rebecca and two of her sons were taken prisoner by the war party.

A rescue party was formed and they were able to successfully follow the Natives by following scraps of Rebecca’s dress that she had ripped off and left as clues along the trail. Eventually the trail was lost and Rebecca was never heard from again. She was soon declared dead along with both of her sons and no bodies were ever recovered.

20yrs war persinger

Although Rebecca’s tale is finished there the tale did take an interesting turn several years later when the treaty was formed to end Pontiac’s war in 1763. As part of the treaty, the Natives agreed to return all white hostages they had taken over the years of conflict. One of the hostages returned was a young boy who nobody showed up to claim when they were returned to the white civilization. With no one to claim him the boy returned to the Native woman who had been acting as his foster Mother. The tribe feared that his presence among them would be considered breaking the treaty so once again the boy was shipped back to the white community.

The boy was adopted into the Persinger family and given the name Jacob Persinger Jr although everyone including the boy himself was never convinced he was a member of the family. Jacob by this time had remarried and it’s said that his new wife treated their adopted son differently than she did her own children and Jacob Jr had a hard time adjusting. He once again ran away to live with his Native foster Mother, who hid him from the rest of the tribe to keep him from being sent away again. Eventually he was again discovered and sent back to the white community never to return to the life he had spent so much time in. During his life Jacob Jr. managed to assimilate back to the culture of his birth. He married a white woman and they had a large family raised in the large house he built for his wife. The house he built is still standing and is on the National Register of Historic Places. I included a photo of Jacob Jr’s house and a page out of a book that mentions the Native attack that killed Rebecca.


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