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Follow the River (1995)

TV Movie  -   -  Adventure | Drama  -  22 April 1995 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 310 users  
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An "inspirational" saga of a pioneer woman who is abducted by Shawnee indians.



(novel), (teleplay)
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Title: Follow the River (TV Movie 1995)

Follow the River (TV Movie 1995) on IMDb 6.6/10

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Complete credited cast:
Bettie Draper
Tyler Noyes ...
Tommy Ingles
Henry Lenard (as Andrew Stahl)
Johnny Draper
Sammy D. Miller ...
Graeme Malcolm ...
Juddson Keith Linn ...
Deer Following
Jimmie F. Skaggs ...
Snake Stick


Mary Ingles is pregnant when she and her two sons are captured from their homestead in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains by Shawnee Indians. Her husband, Will, narrowly escapes death during the attack. Impressed by her grace under the pressure of captivity, Wildcat, the Shawnee chief, confers special privileges on Mary and her children, eventually proposing that Mary become his mate. Surprised by her attraction to the handsome brave, Mary nonetheless opts to remain faithful to Will and engineers a plan for her escape. Separated from her children, Mary joins another female settler, and together they embark on a harrowing homeward trek. Her odyssey comes full circle more than a decade later when she is finally reunited with her long-lost children. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

escape | indian | settler | son | pioneer | See more »


Adventure | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some frontier violence and mild thematic material | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 April 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Follow the River  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the scene in which Mary, Tommy and Betty are welcomed into the lodge with the Shawnee woman, Mary confides that she has little breastmilk for her newborn baby (likely due to malnutrition while in captivity). The woman gives her fennel seeds, which Mary then appears to feed directly to the baby. Seeds of any sort are never safe to feed to an infant. While fennel promotes lactation and eases colic, the best utilization is either the mother eating them or making a tea to give to the baby in very small doses. See more »

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User Reviews

Not a bit like the book...or the real story...
10 September 2003 | by (Morro Bay, Hammett Valley, Twin Rocks) – See all my reviews

I submitted a review not long ago, but I don't think it was accepted because I had a lot of political commentary about not so politically correct stuff.

In 1985, when I was 14 years old, my mother came into my room and handed me a paperback book called FOLLOW THE RIVER. "This is the most INSPIRING story I've read in a long long time." I, not being much of a reader at that age, took this book, and COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!!!

It is, to this day, my all time favorite novel. That they made a little TV movie based on this wonderful work was bad enough. They should have made an epic feature film about the unforgettable protag and her true story. But to make a TV movie that squishes 5 months in a woman's life into 2 commercial ridden hours, and sanitizes the facts too??? Foul!!!

Mary Draper Ingles was a young mother of three. Her third baby was actually due to be born any day. On July 8, 1755, Shawnee Native Americans raided her settlement in Virginia, killed many of her neighbors, and even killed her mother. Then they abducted her, her two little boys, her sister in law Bettie, and a neighbor named Lenard, and took them from Virginia, up into W. Virginia thru the New River Gorge, on to the mighty Ohio River, and into Southern Ohio (present site of Portsmouth). Mrs. Ingles' life is scattered, devastated and all but destroyed. Eventually, in a few weeks as a captive, she loses her family. Her sons are adopted and taken to still another faraway Shawnee settlement. Bettie is given as a wife to a Shawnee man, and Mary herself is sold to French traders, along with a new friend, Ghetel, an elderly Dutch widow. Her life further ruined and disrupted, she makes a fateful decision: either return home to Virginia and to her husband William, or life is not worth living. Will is all she has left to remind her of who she truly is. She must return to him.

The movie devotes a mere 20 mins. to Mary's 1000 mile walk home. The book is so much more fun to experience, so rich in detail, and author James A. Thom constantly lets you inside Mary's head to know her thoughts, fears, regrets. She decides she must abandon the baby girl she had en route to her slavery. A Shawnee woman has pretty much taken over the baby anyway.

In September 1755, Mary and the elderly Dutch woman Ghetel escape while on a salt making assignment at the Big Bone Lick in western Kentucky, even father from home than the town in Southern Ohio, and from western Kentucky, through Southern Ohio, through W. Va and the formidable New River Gorge, formed through the centuries into tall, dark, rocky palisades that Mary, who has been weakened, starved and fatigued by her travels already, is forced to CLIMB in order to reach her husband. On top of this, it is already wintertime.

None of these wonderous facts are in the movie. Instead, we are given a completely fictitious segment at the end. It just seems all watered-down, sanitized, politically correct. The ending of the movie is NOTHING AT ALL like the one in the book. Mary's two sons were taken from her. Her younger boy died right after he was taken from his mother. Thirteen years passed before Mary laid eyes on the older son again. The baby daughter was NOT BROUGHT BACK TO MARY BY CAPT. WILDCAT. The baby daughter was adopted by a Shawnee woman and never seen by her natural mother again. The ending of the TV movie was like a politically correct fairy tale.

Because of the depression, the emotional toll the events took on Mary Ingles' life, her hair turned prematurely white at the age of 23. But thankfully, she did return to her husband William, she did recover from her malnutrition, and she had four more children. In 1768, she and her oldest son, Thomas, who was 5 when she saw him last, were reunited after he was ransomed. Bettie Draper, who was given to be the wife/concubine of a Shawnee man, was also ransomed, but died at the young age of 42, doubtlessly having never fully recovered from her ordeal.

Fact: Life isn't fair. Bad things happen to good people. Things don't always end up well and fine. The history of this country is not a fairy tale.

In my opinion, if you're afraid of not being politically correct in telling the facts, don't make the movie.

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