An eighteenth century incident

On the recommendation of Lois McMaster Bujold, I got hold of the autobiography of Davy Crockett, and was stunned by this account of one of his uncles:

By the Creeks, my grandfather and grandmother Crockett were both murdered, in their own house, and on the very spot of ground where Rogersville, in Hawkins county, now stands. At the same time, the Indians wounded Joseph Crockett, a brother to my father, by a ball, which broke his arm; and took James a prisoner, who was still a younger brother than Joseph, and who, from natural defects, was less able to make his escape, as he was both deaf and dumb. He remained with them for seventeen years and nine months, when he was discovered and recollected by my father and his eldest brother, William Crockett; and was purchased by them from an Indian trader, at a price which I do not now remember; but so it was, that he was delivered up to them, and they returned him to his relatives. He now lives in Cumberland county, in the state of Kentucky, though I have not seen him for many years.

Presumably James Crockett was not actually deaf, but had a severe learning disability. In any case, it is extraordinary that the Cherokees decided to spare his life after killing his parents, and the mind boggles at the circumstances of his seventeen years as a prisoner/slave. I imagine that long-term captivity of whites by Native Americans wasn’t that uncommon, but surely the captors would have generally preferred to take those they could communicate with more easily.

Note also that this account was written in the 1830s; James Crockett was still living then, almost sixty years after his parents were killed in 1777. He may have been very young at the time, of course, which makes it even more extraordinary that his brothers recognised him in 1795 (when his nephew David would have been nine, old enough to remember the discovery of a long-lost uncle); though I find one source suggesting that he was born in 1758 and died in 1830 (so David, writing in 1834, was not up to date with family news; or the source is wrong).

Anyway, it makes me realise how little I know about care for those with learning disabilities in the past. (See here for a much earlier period.)

One thought on “An eighteenth century incident

  1. I’ve pointed out to people a lot that a bunch of the paleo ‘we’re not adapted to eat X or Y’ stuff is utter balls. 4 or 500 generations, which conservatively, is what we’ve had since we started agriculture, is more than enough for evolution to handle some very specific adaptations for things. Sure, they might not cover everybody, but claiming they don’t exist is nonsense.

    They’re also bleedingly obvious to spot. The most obvious two being alcohol adaption and lactose which are both pretty recent and widespread. Grain is pretty widespread and your ability to tolerate it depends on your ancestry.

    The reason paleo diets work is that if people stick to them they’re actually ingesting far fewer calories than they were before. I’ve tried them, and lost weight, but mostly because I stopped drinking.

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