Saturday, March 16, 2013

Timothy Roark's Escape from the Shawnee - Sanford Line

James Roark, who lost most of his family to an Indian massacre on March 18, 1780, suffered twice at the hands of the Shawnee.  When his family was attacked that day, 11-year-old Timothy Roark, it is said, had fought back with a toy hatchet and, for his bravery, was spared.  Whether that is the reason or not, young Timothy was kidnapped at age 11 and remained with the Indians until he finally contrived a means of escape some years later. 

Though some have speculated that Timothy was taken at a later date, it is just as easy to reckon that he was captured on March 18, and living to tell the tale, was probably the person who later reported the story of the boy and his toy hatchet; otherwise, how would it have become known?

Over the time he was among the Shawnee, he must have conceived countless plans as to how he could escape.  Transport out of the area would have been key to a successful escape, and the plan Timothy eventually used involved a horse and a canoe.  Having earned the trust of the Indians, he was sometimes left unescorted, and one day he managed to slip away from them. 

Not willing to leave behind two girls who had been in captivity with him, he managed to take them as well.  One account of their story states, “They rode horseback to the river where Timothy had hidden a canoe, and by paddling furiously, they made their escape.”  By then, he must have known the area like the back of his hand, and he managed to make it back to the white settlements in the region, reuniting Sarah Bolen and her younger sister Lucy with their families.

But that is not the end of the story.  By 1798, Timothy had married Sarah Bolen, and their first son was born that year in October.  They settled in at Cave Spring in Claiborne County, Tennessee, where they raised their thirteen children and lived, it is hoped, as happily ever after as everyone in a Currier and Ives painting. 


Currier and Ives.  A Home in the Wilderness.
“Michael K. Hendrix Family.” 27 Mar. 2005.  Web. 16 Mar 2013.  < >
Pendleton, William Cecil.  History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia:1748-1920.  Web.
16 Mar. 2013.  http:// >
Yates Publishing.  U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [database online].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2004.

© Eileen Cunningham, 2013


  1. I just stumbled upon your blog by searching for my 4th great-grandparents Timothy Roark and Sarah Bolen. Wonderful article!

    Are we possible cousins?

    1. Is there any further information as to the children of Timothy and Sarah?


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