Whitewoman Street is named after a woman named Mary Harris. Mary Harris was the first identifiable person of European descent to live in the Coshocton County area, arriving there about 1745. They were Mohawks from Kahnawake, near Montreal, the so-called “praying Mohawks” due to their being Catholics in that Jesuit-led community. She had been taken captive by the Mohawks at age ten in 1704 in the famous Deerfield, Massachusetts Raid, along with over 100 other people. She became a Mohawk, marrying into that nation, with which she stayed her entire remaining life.
In Ohio living as a Mohawk she was so exceptional that she was known on the frontier as “The White Woman”. Around 1750 her town and the river on which it sat in the Coshocton area were named White Woman’s Town and White Woman’s River on French and English maps of North America. In that sense she was world famous. The French names were Ville des Femmes Blanches and Rivière des Femmes Blanches, respectively.
She lived in Kahnawake as a Mohawk from 1704 until about 1745, marrying and having at least two sons. In 1744 she came to the carrying place (later Fort Edward) on the Hudson River to pass messages from Kahnawake chiefs to the Massachusetts government and arrange a visit to her mother, then living in western Massachusetts. A month later two sons came to Massachusetts, bringing messages of peace from the Kahnawake chiefs, who hoped to stay out of the war between the French and colonial Massachusetts. Her family moved to the Coshocton area about 1745. There they were visited by Christopher Gist in January, 1751. Gist spoke to her and made notes in his diary about her, which was eventually published in London and much later in the United States.
About 1753 her son, Joseph, was involved in the fur trade between Kahnawake and New York. In 1756 Mary was back in Kahnawake. A colonial soldier taken prisoner by her son, Peter, a war chief, stayed in her house. He wrote that she was very kind to him, treating him as her grandson. In 1764 her son, Peter, a war chief, came to the Coshocton area with a war band of Kahnawake Mohawks in support of Col. Bouquet. Peter encouraged the Shawnee to make peace. That is all that is known directly about Mary Harris and her family. She was a good, kind person who coped with much adversity in her life. All this information is supported by contemporary evidence in documents and first-hand accounts. See the recent book, the third edition of Mary Harris, “The White Woman” of the Ohio Frontier in 1750, the True Story, the False Legends and More, available in our gift shop. In the late 19th century during that period of widespread anti-Native American bigotry, she was unfortunately slandered by vicious lies in the so-called “Legend of the White Woman”, published circa 1876. Despite its exposure as lies in 1924 in Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Quarterly, those “legends” are today still being passed around in social media. The aforementioned book describes her life in much more detail and exposes the “legends” as the bigoted lies they are.