Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moccasins and Shoe packs

"Their Shoes,when they wear any are made of an entire piece of Buck-Skin;except when they sow a piece to the bottom, to thicken the Soal. They are fasten'd on with running Strings ,the Skin being drawn together like a Purse on top of the Foot,and tyed round the Ankle. The Indian name of this kind of Shoe is Moccasin"

"The History and Present State of Virginia,in Four Parts:
By Robert Beverly, 1705, Pages 163-164

Two views from here and here of the Ligonier moccasin with a reproduction 

Beverly's description includes the use of an applied sole, something many descriptions and extant 18th century moccasins lack. The dug moccasin from Fort Ligonier (illustrated in Sketchbook '76 and shown above) has that feature, although many argue this is a working life repair. Evidence exists that such repairs were being done in the period.  Intrepid researcher Steve Rayner recently uncovered and shared the following:

17th [February 1766] I got a pair of Mogoseens that David Moor mended for me he soled and heel tapd them and I found the thread he charged 11s/Bay old Tenr. 

p 165 (Diary of Matthew Patten of Bedford, NH from 1754-1788, Rumford Printing company, Concord, NH 1903).

In addition, a March 19th, 1776 dated account (courtesy Nathan Barlow) lists the following line item among other footwear repairs.

To Soleing one pair of Mongesons & mending Shoes -/2/6

Although the expenses are listed for "Captain Jonathan Clark", the inclusion of the name John Hoy points this towards being Clark's company of the 8th Virginia Regiment as both men's names are mentioned in this 8th Virginia pension application and this muster roll.

 "Shoe packs" or "shoepacks" seem to have been an Anglo adaptation of Native Moccasins.

19th century writer Rev. James B. Finley defined them as "shoe-packs, or a kind of half shoe and half moccasin.",%20or%20a%20kind%20of%20half%20shoe%20and%20half%20moccasin.%E2%80%9D&f=false

Joseph Doddridge on shoe packs:

"Almost every family contained its own tailors and shoemakers. Those who could not make shoes, could make shoepacks. Those, like mocassons, were made of a single piece of leather with the exception of a tongue piece on the top of the foot. This was about two inches broad and circular at the lower end. To this the main piece of leather was sewed, with a gathering stitch. The seam behind was like that of a moccason . To the shoepack a sole was sometimes added."

June 23, 1768
The Pennsylvania Gazette Augusta County, in Virginia, June 6, 1768.
RUN away from the Subscriber, living near Stanton, the first Day of May last, a Convict Servant Man, named Michael Ferral, about 28 Years of Age, of a fair Complexion, has pale curled Hair, is about 5 Feet 9 or 10 Inches high, thick lipped, round shouldered, and small legged; He had on, and took with him when he went away, a brown Coat, and Jacket, bound round with Worsted Ferriting, Buckskin Breeches, and a Fur Hat, all about half worn, two Pair of Worsted Stockings, one Pair black, the other blue, and a Pair of Shoe packs on his Feet. Said Servant pretends to be a Doctor, and a Weaver; he has with him a Bank Note, upon the Bank in London…

October 22, 1778 The Pennsylvania Packet

RAN AWAY from Mossy Creek Iron Works, Augusta county, Virginia, on the 30th of September last, an English convict servant man named THOMAS ORTON, about thirty years of age, near six feet high, slender made, marked with the smallpox, speaks thick and a little through the nose, has a down look, and in common very dirty; had on when he went away, a tow shirt and trowsers, a short jacket made without skirts, of light colour, lined with linen, a straw hat looped with blue wool, a
pair of shoe packs, and is supposed to have a pass of good hand writing. Whoever taken up the said servant, and either brings him home or secures him in any gaol so that his master may get him again, shall have the above Reward and reasonable charges, paid by HENRY MILLER.

Although not a great choice in wet weather (save those pennies for an additional pair of handmade 18thc European style shoes!), Moccasins or shoe packs were at times worn on the frontier out of necessity for lack of European style shoes:

Doctor Thomas Walker's Journal
(6 Mar 1749/50 - 13 Jul 1750)

April 16th. Rai(n). I made a pair of Indian Shoes, those I brought out being bad.

May 10th. We staid on the River and dressed an Elk skin to make Indian Shoes--ours being quite worn out.

11th. We left the River, found the Mountains very bad, and got to a Rock by the side of a Creek Sufficient to shelter 200 men from Rain. Finding it so convenient, we concluded to stay and put our Elk skin in order for shoes and make them.

14th. When our Elk's skin was prepared we had lost every awl that we brought out, and I made one with the shank of an old Fishing hook, the other People made two of Horse Shoe Nails, and with these we made our Shoes or Moccosons.

July 7. We kept up the Creek, and about Noon 5 men overtook us and inform'd that we were only 8 miles from the inhabitants on a Branch of James River called Jackson's River. We exchanged some Tallow for Metal and Parted. We camped on a Creek nigh the Top of the Alleghaney Ridge, which we named Ragged Creek.

8th. Having Shaved, Shifted and made New shoes we left our useless raggs at ye camp and got to Walker Johnston's about Noon. We moved over to Robert Armstrong's and staid there all night. The People here are very Hospitable and would be better able to support Travellers was it not for the great number of Indian Warriers that frequently take what they want from them, much to their prejudice.

Pension Application of Philip Harless: R4613

Boutetourt, VA
That in the spring of 1779 he volunteered under the command of Captain John Lucas
[pension application W5468] and served from the 1st of April untill the first of October That he took the Oath of fidelity as an Indian Spy to be engaged against the Indians and was stationed in a garrison situated on Sinking Creek a tributary stream of New river in that part of Bottetourt County that is now Giles…….. That he recollects of a party of Indians commiting murder on some of the Inhabitants and that a part of the men from the garrison where he was stationed persued after the Indians to rescue a prisoner and persued on untill some of them become bear footed and was compelled to make Mocquinsans out of raw Deerskins
Sometimes moccasins may have been used for concealment of the wearer's identity:

Adam Stephen to George Washington, September 27, 1755, Report on Fort Cumberland, Maryland

FT CUMBERLAND Sept 27th. 1755

A party of Volunteers were ordered out, under command of Capt. Savage to reconnoitre the Bottom of Will's Creek. They Rous'd three Indians and fired at them but Soon lost Sight of them. We Continue Alert, and want men much. The Indians discover our Parties by the Track of their Shoes. It would be a good thing to have Shoe-packs or Moccosons for the Scouts. --

Cresswell had them made for him:

The journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774--1777

Saturday, August 19th, 1775. Waiting for Mr. Anderson. Employed an Indian Woman to make me a pair of Mockeysons and Leggings.

Tuesday, September 5th, 1775. At Kanaughtonhead.
Went to the meeting where Divine service was performed in Dutch and English with great solemnity. This Chapel is much neater than that at Wale-hack-tap-poke. Adorned with basket work in various colours all round, with a spinet made by Mr. Smith the parson, and played by an Indian. Drank Tea with Captn. White-Eyes and Captn. Wingenund at an Indian house in Town. This Tea is made of the tops of Ginsing, and I think it very much like Bohea Tea. The leaves are put into a tin canister made water tight and boiled till it is dry, by this means the juices do not evaporate. N. did not choose to go into the town, but employed herself in making me a pair of Mockesons.

Fort Pitt--Thursday, September 14th, 1775. Got to Fort Pitt about noon. Left our Girls amongst the Indians that are coming to the Treaty. Great numbers of people in Town come to the Treaty. Terrible news from the Northward, but so confused I hoped there is little truth in it. Friday, September 15th, 1775. Very few of the Indians come in yet, the commissioners have been waiting for them a week. Shall be obliged to stay here some time to see the Treaty. Saturday, September 36th, 1775. Got acquainted with Mr. Ephraim Douglas, an Indian trader. Found him sensible and an agreeable companion. N. finished my Leggings and Mockeysons, very neat ones.

Virginia Gazette(Purdie), Williamsburg ,September 20, 1776.

RUN away from the subscriber in Alexandria, the 12th of August last, ANDREW KELLY, an Irish servant man about 5 feet 8 inches high, by trade a brick-maker, of a fair complexion, has short brown hair, very talkative when in liquor, which he is fond of, and is inclined to be fat; had on, when he went away, short brown cloth coat and waistcoat, old brown linen shirt and trousers, and buckskin mockasons. Possibly he may offer to enlist in the land or sea service, or attempt again to go to the British troops. Whoever secures him in any jail, so as I get him again, shall have SIX DOLLARS reward.JAMES PARSONS.


DESERTED from my company of continental regulars raised in Washington county, Virginia , the following soldiers, viz. Thomas Price , of a fair complexion, about 5 feet 10 inches high, had on when he went away a striped cotton fly coat and waistcoat, linen drawers and leggings; he was born in South Carolina , on the waters of Broad river. John Chambers , born in England , has lost one of his great toes, and has a large scar on the back of his neck, occasioned by the wound of a ball; he is about 5 feet 9 inches high, and had on when he went away a white hunting shirt and leather leggings and mockasons. ... Whoever secures the above deserters, so as I may have them again, or delivers them to any of the officers of col. Charles Lewis 's battalion, shall have the above reward, or five pounds for each.

Another possibility is “The Virginia moccasin is made of one piece of skin gathered by means of a seam along the upper side of the foot and another along the heel. A part of the skin formed a loose flap on each side, reaching a few inches up on the leg and fastened around the ankle by means of strings, or the moccasin was drawn together like a purse around the ankle. [1] ...”

[1] “W. R. Gerard, ‘Virginia Indian Contributions to English.’ /American Anthropologist/ (N. S.) vol. 9, p. 97.” p. 153.

My first attempt at Moccasin making (based on the Sketchbook '76 drawing) went very poorly. I hope to give it a whirl again later and will post the results if I have a better time of it than my first trial. Further discussion from more successful folks on making moccasins can be found here:

A really good online tutorial can be found here:

A pattern here:

And an instructional DVD: