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History of the
Settlement and Indian Wars
of Tazewell County, Virginia.

By Geo. W. L. Bickley, M. D. (1852)


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The Settlement at Jamestown may be regarded as the starting point for all histories of Virginal.  But in order to convey to the reader's mind a clear view of the difficulties attending the early settlement and occupation of Virginia, and the peculiarities of the the times, it is necessary to introduce to him incidents of a prior date;  this necessity occasioned the remarks of the previous chapter.  And though an outline of Virginia history would seem superfluous to a history of a section of the state, I have availed myself of the historian's license to introduce it, in this manner, upon the same principle that the biographer would, in writing the life of an individual---first tell the reader all about the parentage of the person whose life he intended to write.  Virginia may be said to be the mother of Tazewell, and England the grandmother; and, as this work will fall into the hands of many who are not perhaps well versed in Virginia history, this condensed account, may not be altogether uninteresting to the general reader.

1606.]  After the failures of Raleigh, it would not be supposed that the English would be very active in colonizing; but, to stir up the energies of an Englishman, he needs reverses and opposition.  So, fifteen years after the return of Governor White, Bartholomew Gosnold prevailed upon Captain John Smith, Edward M. Wingfield, a wealthy merchant, and Robert Hunt, a clergyman, to join him in founding a colony in Virginia.  Sir Ferdinand Gorges, Sir John Popham, and Richard Hacklyt became their patrons, and a charter (NOTE: This charter will be found in Stith---Henning's Statutes, at large, page 60.  It is the most important of the early charters, because, under it the first permanent settlement in Virginia was established.) was procured from King James to make a settlement in Virginia.  To insure the settlement of Virginia, then embracing all that immense country between the 34 and 45 N. L., and all islands within one hundred miles of the coast, it was divided, by charter, between two companies, known respectively as London and Plymouth companies.  The London Company sent out as expedition under command of Captain Newport, which, however, did not arrive upon the coast until the following year.

1607.]  Arriving at the mouth of a beautiful river, the English ascended it and gave it the name of their sovereign, James, but which at that time, bore the name of Powhatan, a prince equally notorious.  Ascending this river about fifty miles, they selected a spot and commenced building a town; which also, in honor of their king, they called Jamestown.  Newport and several others, among whom was Smith, were sent to discover the head of the river.  In six days they arrived at a village called Powhatan and belonging to King Powhatan, the Indian monarch.  This village was situated at the falls of the river, near the present site of the city of Richmond.  During the absence of Newport and his company, Jamestown was attacked by the natives, and, in its defenseless state, would have been destroyed but for the timely aid of the vessels in the river.  In this skirmish seventeen men were wounded and a boy killed.  When Newport and his companions returned and reported the character of the river and the power of the Indian king, at whose towns they had been hospitably entertained, the governor consented to have Jamestown fortified.  Though Smith had been named by the king as one of the council, jealousy on the part of his comrades had deprived him of his seat; and when Newport sailed for England, he was sent home charged with a design to usurp royal authority.  His accusers employed false witnesses to establish his guilt; but when they arrived in England they chose rather to speak the truth, which served not only to expose the meanness of the Jamestown council, but to elevate Smith in the estimation of the company.

Smith soon returned, and by his bold management and sound judgment became, in reality, governor of the colony, for disease had swept off the council, so that there now remained only Ratcliff, Smith, and Martin.  Ratcliff had been made president, in place of the former governor, who had been deposed; but so unpopular were both himself and his friend Martin, that the business of the colony fell mostly into the hands of Smith.

He now set himself to work to procure provisions for the colony and build comfortable dwellings.  He caused the pinnace to be fitted up for a cruise, in order to obtain corn for the extravagant colonists.  While this was in progress of completion, he visited the country lying on the Chickahominy.  When he returned he found that Wingfield, the deposed president, and his accomplice Kendall, had laid a plot to carry off the pinnace to England.  So far had they perfected this plot, that Smith was compelled to open a fire on the pinnace (by which Kendall was killed), in order to get possession of her.  Having succeeded in retaking the pinnace, he ascended to Chickahominy and procured an abundance of corn.  Plenty being again restored, it was no longer thought necessary to abandon the colony and go to England.

Notwithstanding all this, the little-minded souls of the Jamestown colonists were dissatisfied with the acts of Smith; and murmured at him for not having discovered the head of the Chickahominy.  He immediately started again: sailing up the river as far as possible he took a canoe and continued his voyage till the river became too much obstructed to admit the passage of a canoe.  Landing, he left two men with the canoe, and took an Indian guide, with whom he set off for the head of the river.  The natives captured a man who had gone ashore from the pinnace and compelled him to tell where Smith had gone: they followed on, and coming upon the men left at the canoe, killed them and went in search of Smith.

They soon found him, but so valiantly did he fight, that they most likely would not have captured him had he been on solid ground.  But he was not, and falling into a bog was made captive and conducted to their chief, Opechankanough, king of Pamunkee.  Smith had in his pocket a small ivory compass, with which he so diverted the natives that his life was spared; though he was several times tied up to a tree to be killed.  For six or seven weeks he was led about to be shown to the native princes, and though he fared as well as could have been expected, he must have looked upon the morrow as full of uncertainty.  At length he was brought before their emperor, Powhatan, who received him with all the pomp and state known at his rude court.  A long council was held, and it was finally determined that Smith must die.  "He was seized by a number of savages and his head laid upon two great stones, placed there for the purpose.  His executioners had already raised their clubs to dash out his brains, and thus at once end his toil and difficulties, and cut off the only hope of the colony, when an advocate appeared, as unexpected as would have been the appearance of an angel sent immediately from heaven to ask his release.  This was Pocahontas, the emperor's favorite daughter, who generously stepped forth and entreated, with tears, that Smith might be spared.  And when she found this unavailing with the inexorable judges, she seized his head and placed it under her own, to protect it from the blows.

"This sight so moved Powhatan that he permitted Smith to live, intending to retain him to make trinkets for himself and family."  He was, however, released a few days after and arrived at Jamestown just in time to prevent a party from running off with the pinnace.  The colony was now in a desperate condition, and was saved from destruction only by the kindness of the Indian queen, Pocahontas.

Newport returned to the colony with provisions, but which, unfortunately, were partly consumed by fire.  Instead of hurrying back for supplies, he remained more than three months in the colony, helping to consume the very provisions on which depended the existence of the colony.  He had also brought over some gold refiners, who discovered a bank of shining sand near Jamestown, which they declared to be fine gold.  Everything was now hubbub and confusion; Smith says "there was no talk, no hope, no work, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold."

Newport loaded his vessel with the supposed precious metal and returned to England.  But his cargo proved to be as valueless as other sand.  The Phoenix, commanded by Nelson, had been driven off from the coast, loaded with provisions for the colony and had but now arrived.  Most of the colonists were anxious to load her with a cargo of the shining sands but Smith, more prudent, caused her to be loaded with cedar---the first valuable cargo sent from Virginia to the mother country.

1608.]  Smith accompanied the Phoenix as far as Cape Henry, in a small open barge, designing to explore the Chesapeake and its tributaries.  (See Bancroft's Hist. U. S., Vol. I, p. 149.)  When he returned to Jamestown, in September, he found the governor deposed and a horrible state of affairs existing.  Smith was soon elected governor or president, and in a short time reduced matters to order.  Newport returned again, and ascended the James river, thinking to find a passage to the Indies, though Powhatan had assured him that no sea would be found in that direction.

1609.]  The affairs of the colony now wore a gloomy aspect, and Smith entreated the London Company to send out mechanics and husbandmen to feed and house the colonists.  Previous to this time the company, ignorant of the true wants of the colony, had expended much money to no purpose.  In May, of this year, a new charter was granted, which greatly amended the miserable government which had been previously imposed upon the colony.  The powers of the King were given to the company and those of the governor greatly increased.  So that with Smith's energy, the colony began immediately to wear a more promising appearance.

Lord Delaware had been appointed governor for life under the new charter, but before he could enter upon the discharge of his duties some time would necessarily elapse; in consequence of which several persons were sent out as commissioners to superintend the affairs of the colony.  The vessel in which they came over, was stranded on the Bermuda isles, and did not, for some time, reach Jamestown.

Smith, in the meantime, was working with his accustomed zeal for the promotion and prosperity of the colony, of which he may be justly called the father.  He divided the colony, dispatching one party to form a settlement at the falls and another party to settle at Nansmond.  This latter division failed to make a permanent settlement.  West, who had been ordered to form a settlement at the falls, refused to occupy the town Powhatan, which had been purchased from the Indian emperor of that name, and settled himself on a marshy plain a little lower down the river.  His disorderly conduct soon drew upon him the ferocity of the savages.  Smith vainly remonstrated against such a course, till, finally he was compelled to return to Jamestown in consequence of a dreadful laceration of his flesh by the accidental explosion of his powder-flask.  Seeing no hope of recovery in the colony, Smith proposed to start to England.  Those who have made themselves acquainted with the character of this truly great man, find in it much to admire.

When Smith left the colony there were in it upward of four hundred and fifty persons, and abundant provisions.  Yet in six months from the time of his departure, only sixty persons remained alive.  Gates and Summers, who had been upon the isles of Bermuda for nearly ten months, constructed two small barques from the wrecks of their old vessels and sailed for Virginia.  When they arrived, in place of finding the prosperous colony which Smith had left, they found only a few miserable beings praying for present support.  Under these circumstances all hands were embarked and the two vessels set sail for England.

1610.]  Before they reached the  mouth of James river, however, they met Lord Delaware with three ships, having on board a number of new settlers and an ample stock of provisions---in fact, everything requisite either for defense or cultivation.  Delaware finally prevailed on Gates and Summers, as well as the old colonists; to return to Jamestown.

1611.]  Under the superior management of Delaware the colony began to look up again.  In a short time Lord Delaware was compelled to go to England to recover from a complicated disease brought on by the climate.

The government was given to Mr. Percy: but wanting the necessary tact the colony was again reduced to famine.  Sir Thomas Dale succeeded Percy, and though the colony had become rather uninteresting, he succeeded in arousing the company to a sense of the importance of planting and fostering a colony in Virginia.  In August, Gates was sent out with six ships and three hundred emigrants.  Upon his arrival Dale surrendered to him the command of the colony, and with three hundred and fifty chosen men made a settlement on a neck of land nearly surrounded by the river, which he called Henrico.

1614.]  Captain Aargall, sailing in the Potomac on a trading expedition, fell in with an old Indian chief to whom Powhatan had intrusted the guardianship of his favorite daughter Pocahontas.  She was decoyed on board Aargall's vessel by the cunning of her guardian, who, for his infernal treachery, received a copper kettle.  She was shortly after married to Mr. Rolfe, a highly respectable young gentleman of Jamestown.  This marriage secured the friendship of Powhatan.

1616.]  Gov. Dale, Gates, Mr. Rolfe and his bride sailed for England, leaving the colony in charge of Sir Thomas Yeardley. 

1617.]  Yeardley was succeeded by captain Aargall, whose conduct was so tyrannical that he was deposed, and Sir George Yeardley sent over in his place.

1619.]  One of the first acts of Yeardley was to emancipate all the servants.

1620.]  A new kind of slavery supplanted that which had been suppressed by Yeardley.  A Dutch ship landed and sold to the planters about twenty Africans, to be held in perpetual bondage.  This is by far the most eventual epoch in Virginian, or even in American history.

1622.]  Sir Francis Wyatt was now constituted governor of Virginia under a new charter.  The English planters had extended themselves about one hundred and forty miles up and down the river, and were in consequence, much exposed to the fury of the wily savages.  Opechankanough, who had first captured Smith, designed a plot for the total extermination of the English, at a given day and hour.  The plot was made known to a Mr. Pace, by a young Indian, whom he had educated.  Mr. Pace started forthwith to Jamestown, to inform the governor what he had heard:  Jamestown was immediately fortified, and thus saved from destruction; for on the following day (March 22d) the Indians fell on the planters, and killed three hundred and forty-seven men, women, and children.  This was a bold and successful stroke, and greatly impeded the growth of the colony.  A war was opened on the Pamunkees, which, however, did them but little injury.

1624.]  The King of England had by this time become jealous of his colony, and was busily engaged in stirring up dissensions between the members of the company, wishing it to be dissolved and fall into his own hands.  In less than a year his object was achieved.

1625.]  The London Company having dissolved, and King James dying, Charles I ascended the throne.  His neglect of the colony gave it a chance to grow to some importance.  Its rapid growth may be attributed to the tobacco trade, which had now greatly increased.

1626.]  Sir Francis Wyatt, the governor, in consequence of the death of his father, went to England, and Sir George Yeardley was appointed in his place.  In consequence of his death, the following year, Francis West was appointed governor; which office he vacated, in 1628, for John Pott, who was superseded by John Harvey, a governor commissioned by the king.  A few years after he was deposed by the colony and sent home to answer charges of improper conduct.

1630-32.]  Charles I offended the Virginians by granting to Sir Robert Heath a large portion of the lands of the colony, and afterward to Lord Baltimore.

1642.]  Sir Francis Wyatt, who had governed the colony from the time Harvey was deposed, now yielded his place to Sir William Berkeley.  Indian hostilities had raged from the time of the great massacre, and so continued till 1644.

1646-49.]  A peace was concluded with the Indians; the affairs of the colony were prosperous, and the Virginians strongly attached to Charles.  So that when he was executed, the Virginians did not hesitate to acknowledge his son as his proper successor.  Charles II transmitted to the governor a new constitution, in token of his respect to them, though he was, at the time (1650), in exile.

1650-55.]  The British Parliament sent out an armed force to compel the Virginians to renounce Charles II; but the attempt was futile.  Berkeley had retired from office, and Richard Bennett made governor.  Having held it for a short time he retired, and the Assembly elected Edward Diggs governor.  The next elected governor was Samuel Mathews, who died in 1660.  Sir William Berkeley was again chosen.  The Assembly of Virginia had now extended the  principle of popular elections to the people.  This was the first government in the world where universal suffrage was allowed.

1666.]  The acts of the British Parliament were far from being satisfactory to the Virginians.  The Governor had raised and disbanded an army; against which act the Virginians remonstrated, and petitioned the king for the raising of a new army.  But, before this was ordered, Nathaniel Bacon was elected commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces.  He immediately marched upon the Indians, though contrary to the orders of the governor.  The governor, regarding Bacon as a rebel, marched after him: a rising at Jamestown, however, caused him to return, and bend his powers to the care of his capital and government.  At the instance of the populace all the forts were leveled and dismantled, and the Assembly dissolved.  Bacon, in the meantime, pushed his movements with such rapidity and success, against the Indians, that a stop was put to their depredations.  Hearing of the revolt at Jamestown, Bacon left his little army and proceeded thither; a spy, who had been set for him by the governor, however, arrested him on his way.  In consequence of his election to the Assembly from Henrico, during his absence, he was pardoned.  Finding it impossible to gain redress for the wrongs perpetrated on the people of Henrico, he raised a company in the county, and surrounded the Statehouse; his soldiers demanded a commission for him, which was eventually granted.  Bacon could now act with safety.  He had not left Jamestown a great while before the governor dissolved the assembly, repaired to Gloucester, and declared Bacon a rebel, and his army traitors; and raising the standard of opposition, prepared to oppose him.  Bacon, in turn, declared that Berkeley had abdicated the government, and called a convention which met at Middle Plantation in 1676.

1676.]  By the members of this convention, Bacon was made commander-in-chief of the colony.  He was not, however, allowed to enjoy this office a great while; for the governor soon returned to Jamestown, and prepared to defend it.  Bacon, ever active, soon besieged it, and compelled the governor to fly on board a vessel during the night.  The town was burnt the following day; the governor went to Accomac, and Bacon disbanded his army.  The death of Bacon brought about a reconciliation, and Berkeley again came into power.  He now commenced a system of high-handed outrage, disgraceful to the glory of his former years.  The king sent over Sir Herbert Jeffries to supersede him.

1678.]  Jeffries died, and the affairs of government were placed in the hands of Lieutenant-governor Sir Henry Chickerley, who yielded the same up to Lord Culpepper the following spring.

1685-89.]  The accession of James II was a cause of joy to the colonists.  But before the benignity of his influence could be felt, Lord Howard (then governor), had wrought the feelings of the Virginians up to the highest pitch of excitement.  The consequence was a wrangle between the people and the governor.  While this was progressing, James II was dethroned, and William and Mary ascended in his stead.  A war soon broke out that involved the colonies, and did not cease to affect them till 1705.  There were various persons in power during this time, but as nothing of importance took place, I pass to the period when Governor Spottswood assumed the reigns of government.

1710.]  The administration of Spottswood was of a character to gain for him the greatest popularity among the Virginians.  At the head of a body of horse he crossed the Blue-Ridge mountains, hitherto thought impracticable.  For this feat he was created knight, by the king, who also presented him with a miniature golden horse-shoe, on which was inscribed, Sic jurat transcendens montes.  Spottswood was succeeded by Drysdale in 1723, but was again chosen in 1729.  In 1734, Drysdale was again elected, but was succeeded by Gooch in 1737.

1752.]  Governor Dinwiddie was sent over in place of Gooch, who had gone to England.  Gooch's reign (if such I may term it), was a long and prosperous one.  Since 1710, when Spottswood crossed the mountains, the colony had greatly extended itself.  Augusta county was already conspicuous.  Many settlers were to be seen wending their way westward; and, as it is my place to follow them, I here take leave of the general history of Virginia, referring the reader to Bancroft's history of the United States for particulars.



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