Mary Smith lived on the family farm in La Salle County, Illinois. During the Black Hawk War, settlers in the area suffered attacks from Sauk and Fox war parties. On 20th May, 1832, a war party raided the farm and after killing the rest of the family, captured Mary Smith.
Smith and two other women were eventually released after negotiations carried out by leaders of the Winnebago tribe. An account of her captivity was eventually published in Elmer Baldwin's History of La Salle County.
In the month of May last, a considerable body of Indians (principally of the tribes of the Sacs and Foxes) having, as they professed, become dissatisfied with the encroachments of the whites, invaded and made a furious and unexpected attack upon the defenceless inhabitants of the frontier towns of Illinois. The first and most fatal was upon a small settlement on Indian Creek, running into Fox river, where were settled about twenty families, who, not being apprised of their approach, became an easy prey to their savage enemies - indeed so sudden and unexpected was the attack, that they were unalarmed until the savages with their tomahawks in hand, had entered their houses, and began the perpetration of the most inhuman barbarities! No language can express the cruelties that were committed; in less than half an hour more than one half of the inhabitants were inhumanly butchered - they horribly mutilated both young and old, male and female, without distinction of age or sex among the few whose lives were spared, and of whom they made prisoners, were two highly respectable young women (sisters Frances and Almira Hall) of the ages of 16 and 18.
The report of the unfortunate young women (Frances and Almira Hall) communicated to their friends and relatives, on their return from captivity, although treated with less severity, cannot fail to be read with much interest - they state, that after being compelled to witness not only the savage butchery of their beloved parents, but to hear the heart-piercing screeches and dying groans of their expiring friends and neighbors, and the hideous yells of the furious assaulting savages, they were seized and mounted upon horses, to which they were secured by ropes, when the savages with an exulting shout, took up their line of march in Indian file, bending their course west; the horses on which the females were mounted, being each led by one of their number, while two more walked on each side with their bloodstained scalping knives and tomahawks, to support and to guard them - they thus travelled for many hours, with as much speed as possible through a dark and almost impenetrable wood; when reaching a still more dark and gloomy swamp, they came to a halt. A division of the plunder which they had brought from the ill-fated settlement, and with which their stolen horses (nine in number) were loaded, here took place, each savage stowing away in his pack his proportional share as he received it; but on nothing did they seem to set so great a value, or view with so much satisfaction, as the bleeding scalps which they had, ere life had become extinct torn from the mangled heads of the expiring victims! the feelings of the unhappy prisoners at this moment, can be better judged than described when they could not be insensible that among these scalps, these shocking proofs of savage Cannibalism, were those of their beloved parents! but their moans and bitter lamentations had no effect in moving or diverting for a moment the savages from the business in which they had engaged, until it was competed; when, with as little delay as possible, and without giving themselves time to partake of any refreshment, (as the prisoners could perceive) they again set forward, and travelled with precipitancy until sunset when they again halted, and prepared a temporary lodging for the night-the poor unfortunate females, whose feelings as may be supposed, could be no other than such as bordered on distraction, and who had not ceased for a moment to weep most bitterly during the whole day, could not but believe that they were here destined to become the victims of savage outrage and abuse; and that their sufferings would soon terminate, as they would not (as they imagined) be permitted to live to see the light of another day! such were their impressions, and such their dreadful forebodings - human imagination can hardly picture to itself a more deplorable situation; but, in their conjectures they happily found themselves mistaken, as on the approach of night instead of being made the subjects of brutal outrage, as they had fearfully apprehended a place separate from that occupied by the main body of the savages was allotted them; where blankets were spread for them to lodge upon, guarded only by two aged squaws, who slept on each side of them. With minds agitated with the most fearful apprehensions, as regarded their personal safety and as solemnly impressed with the recollection of the awful scene which they had witnessed the morning previous, in the tragical death of their parents, they spent, as might be expected, a sleepless night; although the savages exhibited no disposition to harm or disturb them - early the morning ensuing, food was offered them, but in consequence of the disturbed state of their minds and almost constant weeping, they had become too weak and indisposed to partake of it, although nearly twenty hours had passed without their having received any sustenance.