Born in Liverpool, England in 1742, Ann Hennis was the daughter of a British soldier who fought for Queen Anne in the War of the Spanish Succession. Very little else is known about her early history, or even her arrival in America, but it is thought that she sought out family friends in America after the death of her parents. At any rate, she was living with the Bell family of Staunton, Virginia in 1761.
While living with the Bells, she met Richard Trotter, a frontier soldier. Trotter had served in the French and Indian War under General Edward Braddock and George Washington, and later worked to defend the frontier from Native American raids. He eventually won the heart of Ann Hennis, and they were married in 1765. Two years later, their son William was born, and all was relatively peaceful until 1774. Well, as peaceful as life on the frontier can be.
In September of 1774, Richard Trotter joined Lord Dunmore in his war against the Shawnee, dying in the fierce battle at the mouth of the Kanawha River. At the age of 32, Ann Trotter was now a widow and single mother, and she vowed to avenge her husband. With the help of a friend, who took in her son, she did just that.
For the next 11 years, she rode the frontier from the Potomac River to Roanoke, urging men to enlist and defend the frontier from both the British and Native Americans. She was soon a welcome face at various forts throughout the valley, among them Fort Loudon at Winchester, Fort Edwards at Warm Spring Mountain, and Fort Savannah at Lewisburg. Fort Savannah soon became her favorite objective, and she came to know the region like the back of her hand. During one particular visit, she met a ranger named John Bailey, and it wasn’t long before the two were married. On Nov. 23rd, 1785, they were married at Lewisburg by Rev. John McCue, and Ann Trotter became Ann Bailey, a name still well-known throughout West Virginia.
Over the next few years, Ann rode the 60 miles between Fort Lee at Charleston and Fort Randolph at Pt. Pleasant, delivering important military communications. This continued until 1791. That year, Fort Lee found itself under siege by a Native American army with next to no black powder. Alarmed at having to face the siege without weapons, Col. George Clendenin called for volunteers to ride 100 miles to Lewisburg for black powder. Not a single man answered the call, rather, it was Ann Bailey who stood and said, “I will go.” Col. Clendenin helped her onto a horse, and she set off into the night.
Dashing out the fort, she rushed through the Native army, passing the Gauley River, Hawk’s Nest, and Greenbrier Mountains. At Lewisburg, there were no words of greeting. She quickly explained the situation to the colonel, and he saw to it that her horse and another were loaded down with powder. With that, she set off on the 100-mile ride back to Fort Lee. Much to the relief of the settlers, she made it, and the siege was broken.
For her efforts, she was gifted her horse, which she named Liverpool after her birth place. After the death of her husband, she continued riding between Staunton, Lewisburg, Charleston, Pt. Pleasant, and Gallipolis, delivering mail and necessities to the frontier. She also became a welcome guest in many settlers’ homes, having never settled down herself. Among them were those of Andrew Donally, Joseph Ruffner, Thomas Hannan, William
Arbuckle, Leonard Cooper, Luman Gibbs, Daniel Boone, and the French 500, all important figures in our region’s early history.
In 1818, she finally relented to her son’s request that she move closer to him. She lived near him in Gallia County until her death in 1825, continuing to visit nearby friends until the very day of her death. She was initially buried in the Trotter Cemetery near her home, but in 1901, was reburied at Tu-Endie-Wei by the D.A.R, where she now rests near her first husband.
Information from Virgil Lewis’ “Life and Times of Ann Bailey”
The next meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society will be Tuesday, Dec.19th at 6:30 at the County Library.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.