11 March 2018

Exploits of a Tiger Mom in Captivity


Week 10: Strong Woman

Exploits of a Tiger Mom in Captivity

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018

Catherine Sea (See/Zeh) appears in various publications pertaining to the history of Augusta County, Virginia, Bouquet’s Expedition, and the Muddy Creek Massacre. The Shawnee called her “Fighting Squaw” for her defiance of a warrior and for successfully running the gauntlet. I think of her more as a Tiger Mom, fighting to save her children and herself.

Catherine Sea was one of the approximately 200 captives whose release was obtained by Col. Henry Bouquet. Her name appears among those released at Fort Pitt in December 1764. She had been a captive of the Shawnee since July 15, 1763. On that day, a party of 80 or 90 Shawnees arrived at Muddy Creek (Augusta County, Virginia) where several scattered families, including the Seas, were living. The Indians killed and scalped Catherine’s husband, Fredrick Sea, and the other men, then took the women and children prisoners and forced them to go to Ohio.

Family stories claim that the Sea children held up [on the long trek to Ohio] for two to three days. But, the smallest, John, was quite weak and Catherine, his mother, feared for his life. Seeing a warrior riding their stolen horse, Catherine indicated to him that she wanted it. When he refused, she picked up a club and attempted to knock him off the horse. About to kill her, the amused Indians prevented the warrior from doing so, calling her a “fighting squaw."

Once they reached the Indian campgrounds in what is now Ross County, Ohio, the Shawnee had a celebration. The women were forced to sing for them, and Catherine was called upon to run the gauntlet. Grabbing a stick she began making whirling moves and swinging the stick, which pleased the Indians. Another family legend claims that Catherine was able to iniquitously secure places for her children so they could sleep inside when the weather became cold. However, through the years, the history, the legends, and the genealogical data about her have become increasingly intermingled and distorted. Historically, she lives on in such publications as “Indian Captives Released by Colonel Bouquet.”[i]

She also is found in many family trees — in print and online. The latter require careful examination as few of them are sourced and almost all of them have the “wrong” Catherine. See an earlier blog of mine about this:  “Fighting Squaw.”

So who was this Catherine Sea? It has long been claim that her maiden name was Vanderpool, but nothing in primary sources has been found to substantiate this — such as a marriage record, or a mention in deeds, or in a will of her purported father. However, proximity places a Vanderpool family in Augusta County, Virginia and “on the Greenbrier (river)” in the right time period. That family was Abraham Vanderpool’s and he was the only one of that name who settled there. He had a daughter named Catherine. This Abraham Vanderpool was from the Newark, New Jersey area, but he had been baptized 9 February 1709 in the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany, New York.[ii] His parents and the family removed to New Jersey ca 1725-30.

Abraham married first Jannetje Weibling about 1733, probably in New Jersey and by her had six children, among whom was Catherine “Kitty” Vanderpool who was baptized 14 May 1738 in the Second River Dutch Reformed Church (Second River) in Belleville, Essex County, New Jersey.[iii] In the early 1740s, Abraham and Jannetje removed to the frontier of Virginia, living on the South Branch and the Greenbrier. Three sons — Wynant (named for Abraham’s father), William and John — are believed to have been born to them in the 1740s in what was then Augusta County, but no birth records have been located and probably do not exist. Settlers on the American frontier in the mid-18th century had more pressing needs than the recording of vital records.

Jannetje died about 1747 as Abraham married secondly to a Rebecca [—?—] whose surname is unknown. They were married about 1748 and in 1751 they sold 430 acres in Augusta County[iv] and in 1753 are listed as living on the Greenbrier (River)[v]. The last known record of Abraham Vanderpool in Virginia is when he is in Winchester in May 1757. By August of that year he appears in land records in Orange County, North Carolina.[vi] He remained in North Carolina until about 1778 when he and Rebecca removed to what’s now Tennessee, where they both died.

His daughter, Catharine “Kitty,” grew up on the frontier of Virginia and it is much more likely that she was the “Fighting Squaw” — a 25-year-old rather than the older Catherine Vanderpool many family trees have claimed. The Catherine Vanderpool who was bp. 1725 in New York City was a younger sister of Abraham Vanderpool and the paternal aunt of the younger Catherine. The older Catherine grew up in the Newark, New Jersey area and evidence points to her having married William Sandfort, as his second wife, in 1741 in Bergen County, New Jersey. That locality is near where her parents and most of her siblings lived. Her brother, Abraham, was the only one out on the Virginia frontier.

Colonel Bouquet negotiating the release
of the Indian captives 1764-1765.
The problem with so many family trees is that they have assumed that the Catherine Vanderpool, bp. 1725, was the wife of Fredrick Sea, and since most of Fredrick’s known children were born in the 1740s and 1750s, her name and age to be the wife and mother “fits,” BUT (always the big problem in genealogy), what’s been overlooked is that Fredrick Sea married first Maria Ottilia Stemple 22 May 1744 in Pennsylvania,[vii] and while no marriage record has yet been found for Fredrick Sea and Catherine Vanderpool (bp. 1738), she probably was his second wife, the mother of his younger children and stepmother to his older ones. This makes sense when you compare the ages of the SEA children that are given on the “Indian Captives Released by Colonel Bouquet” in 1764-1765. They were: Peggy, 19; Sally, 10 and Mary 7 (all listed as taken from the Greenbrier, which helps distinguish them). There’s also a John Sea is listed as age 7. These 4 SEAs are on the G list of the captives. The other SEAs listed are: Catherine, George, Michael and Mary. The children born between 1745 and about 1754 most likely are children of Maria Ottillia Stemple, the first wife of Frederick Sea. But, the children — John, George, Mary, and Sally, who were born ca 1755 to 1761, would be Catherine Vanderpool’s children.

Historians and genealogists have assumed that all of the SEA children on the captive lists were the children of Catherine, the wife of Fredrick in 1763. However, it is my conclusion that some of them are her children, but others are her stepchildren — and they all deserve to be recognized properly, even though Catherine apparently was a Tiger Mom to all of them. 

[i] The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Volume 39, Number 3, Fall 1956. Available in PDF. https://journals.psu.edu/sph/article/view/2529/2362

[ii] Dutch Settlers Society of Albany, Yearbook, Volume 41 (Albany, New York  1966-1968), p. 13

[iii] Genealogy Magazine of New Jersey, Vols. 3 and 4: Catharine bp. 14 May 1738; d/o Abraham Vander Poel and Jannetje Wibling, Second River (Belleville) Reform Church, 1727-1794, Belleville, Essex County, New Jersey.

[iv] Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 3 volumes, 1912-1913, reprint, 1965), Virginia Land, Marriage, and Probate Records, 1639-1850 extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, Virginia, Vol. 1, p. 423.
“25th May, 1751. Abraham Vanderpool  and Rebecca to George Yoccum (Yoccomb), No. 10 held by patent of Lord Fairfax, 19th October, 1748, on ye south fork of ye Wappaconee (or) Great South Branch of Potomac, 430 acres. Endorsed and delivered to James Machir for George Harnost, Sr., one of the heirs of the grantee, 16th July, 1806. Teste: Wm. White, Thomas Moore.”

[v] Chalkley, p.  307. “MAY, 1753. Rogers and Sutton vs. Vanderpool.--Not executed by reason Abraham Vanderpool lives on Greenbryer.”

[vi] Orange County [N.C.] Records, Vol. V, Granville Proprietary Land Office, Deeds & Surveys, 1752-1760, edited by William D. Bennett, CG (privately published, NC: Raleigh, 1989). Abraham Vanderpool (1709-1778) removed to Orange County, NC area by 20 August 1757 where he is found as a Sworn Chain Carrier on that date. (353. 25 July 1760. Harmon Husband, planter, 10 schillings, on waters of Sandy Cr. and Rocky R. called Level's Addition Tract . . . surveyed 20 August 1757, Abraham Vanderpool and Joseph York, SCC.) [p. 120.] referencing also N. C. Patent Book 14:409

[vii] Pennsylvania, Lutheran Baptisms and Marriages, 1730-1799 [database online], Provo, UT, USA. Ancestry.com Operations Inc. 2000. Original data: Early Lutheran Baptisms and Marriages in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, PA, USA: n.p., 1896. John Friederich Zeh, marriage date: 22 May 1744; marriage place: Swatara, Pennsylvania; spouse: Maria Ottilia Stempel.


  1. My apoloties for the irregular fonts/sizes and the footnoting -- NOT as given. blogspot has some html problems, it seems.

  2. I am sure we connect at Abraham Vanderpool. I love the detail you have and your extraordinary sources. I thought I had been careful in my research, now I know how much I need to learn. Is it acceptable to copy and/or print part of your blog?

    1. You are welcome to copy or to link to my article. Just give credit and that you have my permission to do so. I hope you will let me know how you connect to this Abraham Vanderpool. I'm most interested.