Elizabeth Zane Chapter - West Virginia State Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Elizabeth Zane, Biography

      The high degree of resolution and courage among frontier womanhood was exemplified by Betty Zane, a dark-haired and dark-eyed beauty who single-handedly saved Fort Henry in the upper Ohio River Valley from annihilation in a brave dash through hostile Indians to bring gunpowder from her brother's cabin.  Fort Henry was a parallelogram, 356 feet long and 150 feet wide, on a hillside overlooking the Ohio River, standing at what is now Tenth and Main streets in Wheeling, surrounded by a stockade fence twelve feet high, and having a three-foot walkway running around the inside. It was practically impregnable so long as supplies lasted.

      During the second siege, called the last battle of the Revolution, the commander, Col. David Shepherd, found his powder supply exhausted. The nearest source was more than a hundred yards away in the cabin of Ebenezer Zane, Betty's brother.  Indians and British spies were on the alert on all sides of the fort with arrows and rifles.  Three men volunteered and an argument ensued among them as each claimed to be more expendable than the others. Then Betty stepped forward with the simple assertion "I will go," and convinced the men that she was the logical volunteer. Young and fleet of foot, she was strong enough to carry an ample supply of powder.

      Her feat is more impressive when we consider that she had gone without sleep for 40 hours pouring lead into bullet molds and dipping the molds into water.  She made the trip to her brother's cabin successfully, poured as much powder as she could carry into a tablecloth , and sped back to the fort.

      To say who this young heroine was, one must tell of her whole family, for most of its members have a place in American history.  Her father, a Dane, came to America with William Penn.  Zane Street in Philadelphia was named for him.  Later he moved to Berkeley County on the Potomac where five sons and Betty were born.  On the death of their father, the children moved to the Ohio Valley where the brothers became famous as Indian fighters and settlers. They are memorialized by Zane Highway which runs through Eastern Ohio, becoming Zane Street in Wheeling.  The Betty Zane room in Wilson Lodge of Oglebay Park is named in her honor. Her kinsman, Zane Grey, has immortalized her in his famous novel, Betty Zane. 

      What happened to Betty after her heroic achievement? She married Alfred Clarke, bore him several children and lived the rest of her life in the neighborhood of the fort.  A great many descendants of the Zanes live not far from where the fort stood.


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Elizabeth Zane images are provided courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives: http://www.wvculture.org/history