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Copyright © 1999-2013,
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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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Book II



There are three kinds of land in Tazewell, which will be noticed in order.  It is generally known that it is the celebrated blue-grass soil, strongly impregnated with lime, and very productive.  It is a clay loam, very tenacious in its nature, and easily resuscitated.  But to the description of the different kinds.

1st.  The bottom lands, generally limestone, soil stiff, and very productive.  The soil of the bottom lands may be regarded as slightly alluvial, for it is generally deposited from the hill-sides and water during the wet seasons of winter and spring.

Few rocks appearing above the surface renders it easy to cultivate, and enables the farmer to do so with most advantage.

Corn is mostly grown on the bottom lands, because it is easier to plow.  It makes fine meadows.

2d.  The hill, or upland.  This is to be found on the base of mountains, and over small hills.  This class of land is quite as valuable as the bottom lands; it is generally laid down in meadow grasses.  It is somewhat disfigured by rocks, occasionally near the surface, or jutting through the soil.  They really injure the land less than one used to rockless lands would suppose.  The soil near them is richer than it is a few yards from them; hence, the grass is ranker, and produces as much to a given area as  if no rocks appeared.  Experiment has tested this.

Very many acres of this upland is destitute of rocks, and then nothing can exceed, in agricultural beauty, the soft, luxuriant blue-grass with which it is covered.

The 3d class, or mountain land, is generally used for pasturage.  It is found on the mountains, above an elevation of 600 feet.  It is equally as rich as either the first or second classes, but is too cold to mature grains, unless it be rye.  It is also too steep for cultivation, or even for growing grass had it to be mowed.  The stock, however, succeed in climbing the mountain-sides for it, and during the summer keep fat.  It was formerly but little valued; it now bears a good price.

There is a strange phenomenon here (as in other mountain countries), affecting the difference of lands found on north and south hill-sides.  The cause, or explanation, has been given under the head of Meteorology.  The soil on the north sides of the mountains and hills is a dark, loose loam, and extremely rich; the rocks (though few) are the finest quality of limestone.  On the south, they are essentially different in kind and quality, being flint and clay slate, often pulverized so as not much to impede the plow.  It will require some geological speculations to account for this difference in rock, and to such works I refer the reader.  The growth on the south sides, above 600 feet, is shrubby, and generally oak or chestnut; and the land does not produce, by any means as well as the valley or north side lands.  The south side land, below 600 feet, was formerly but little valued, being gritty, but it is now looked on as the finest wheat land.

I remarked that the soil of the land in Tazewell was "tenacious;"  I mean by this that it wears well.  A field on the Crab-orchard farm, cleared in 1775, upward of seventy-five years ago, has not had a year's rest, and now produces equally as well as any land in the county.  With anything like care, the farmer here can never impoverish his lands.

I have never known a judge of land to examine those of Tazewell, without passing the highest encomiums upon them, and I hope I shall not be accused of partiality when I say--- I have seen lands in most of the states and territories, and have found none, anywhere, more deserving encomiums than those of Tazewell county, Virginia.  To the farmer it will be gratifying to know, that our lands, though broken, do not wash.

The following list of plants and forest trees, was furnished me by my excellent friend, H. F. Peery, M. D., a gentleman who has, perhaps, paid more attention to botany, than any one else in south-western Virginia.  He informs me, that a few unimportant shrubs have been omitted, but that the list embraces nearly all plants known to botanists, growing in the county.  A few exotics, which, however, flourish well, have also been included.  The genera and species are given.

Acer rubrum Soft or red maple
Acer saccharinum Sugar maple
Acer striatum Striped maple
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Acones calamus --
Actęa Americana Bane-berry
Adiantum pedatum Maiden-hair
Ęsculus glabra Buckeye
Ęthusa cynapuim Fools' parsley
Agaricus campestris Common eatable mushroom
Agave Virginica False aloe
Agrimonia eupatoria Agrimony
Agrostemma githago Cockle
Agrostis vulgaris Red top
Agrostis alba White top or bonnet grass
Aletris farinosa Star-grass---colic root
Alisma plantago Water plantain
Allium cepa Garden onion
Allium Schosnoprasum Cives
Alnus serrulata Alder
Althęa rosea Hollyhock
Amaranthus albus White coxcomb
Amaranthus melancholicus Love lies bleeding
Amaranthus tricolor --
Amaranthus lividus --
Amaryllis undulata Waved lily
Ambrosia elatior Hog-weed
Amyris gileadensis Balm of Gilead
Andromeda calyculata Leather leaf
Andromeda arborea Sorrel tree, or sour wood
Anemone Virginiana Wind flower.
Anethum fœniculum Fennel
Angelica atropurpurea Angelica
Anthemis cotula May-weed, or dog-fennel
Anthemis nobilis Chamomile
Anthoxanthum altissimum O Sweet vernal grass
Apium petrolelinum Parsley
Apocynum androsemifolium Dog bane
Apocynum cannabinum --
Aquilegia canadensis Wild columbine
Aquilegia vulgaris Garden columbine
Aralia racemosa Spikenard
Aralia nudicaulis Wild sarsaparilla
Arbutus uva-urai Bear berry---kinni-kinnick
Arctium lappa Burdock
Aristolochia serpentaria Virginia snakeroot
Artemisia absinthium Wormwood
Artemisia abrotanum Southern wood
Arum tryphyllum Indian turnip
Arum dracontium Green dragon
Asarum canadense Wild ginger, or white snake root
Asclepias syriaca Com. milkweed
Asclepias incarnata --
Asclepias obtusifolia --
Asclepias quadrifolia --
Asclepias verticillata Dwarf milkweed
Asclepias tuberosa Pleurisy root
Asimina triloba Amer. papaw tree
Asparagus officinalis Asparagus
Aster rigidus --
Aster cornifolius --
Aster multiflorus --
Aster flexuosus --
Aster diversifolius --
Aster amygdalinus --
Aster cornifolius --
Aster corymbosus --
Aster amplexicaulis --
Aster versicolor --
Aster conysoides --
Aster carolinianus --
Aster tardiflorus --
Astragalus canadensis --
Atropa physaloides --
Avena pręcox Dwarf oats
Avena sativa Common oats
Azalea nudiflora (many species) Honeysuckle
Ballota nigra Black horehound
Baptisia tinctoria Wild indigo
Berberis vulgaris Barberry
Beta vulgaris Com. garden beet
Betula populifolia White birch
Bignonia radicans Trumpet flower
Brassica rapa Turnip
Brassica oleracea (many species) Cabbage
Calamintha grandiflora Mountain calamint
Caltha palustris American cowslip
Carex sterilis Barren sedge
Carpinus americana Moonbeam
Carya alba Shellbark hickory
Cassia marilandica Wild senna
Castanea vesca Chestnut
Catalpa cordifolia --
Celastrus scandens False bitter-sweet
Centannea Americana --
Cercis canadensis Red bud, or Judas tree
Chenopodium album Green pigweed
Chenopodium botrys Jerusalem oak
Cicuta virosa Water hemlock
Clematis Virginica Virgin's bower
Clinipodium vulg. Field thyme
Cnicus lanceolatus Common thistle
Comptonia asplenifolia Sweet fennel
Convallaria bifolia Dwarf solomon seal
Convallaria stellata --
Convallaria trifolia --
Convallaria racemosa --
Convallaria majalis Lily of the valley
Convolvulus panduratus Wild potato
Convolvulus purpureus Morning glory
Cornus florida Dogwood
Corydulis cucullar Colic weed
Cratęgus coccinea Thorn bush
Cratęgus purctata Common thorn bush
Cucubalus behen Campion
Cucumis anguria Prickly cucumber
Cucumis melo Muskmelon
Cucurbita ovifera Egg squash
Cucurbita pepo Pumpkin
Cucurbita cetrulus Watermelon
Cucurbita citrulus Ground calabash
Cynoglossum officinale Hound tongue
Cyripedium pubescens Yellow lady's slipper
Cyripedium spectabile Gay lady's slipper
Cyripedium acaule Low lady's slipper
Datura stramonium Thorn apple
Delphin consolid. Larkspur
Dianthus armeria Pink
Dianthus barbatus Sweet William
Dianthus caryophyll Carnation Pink
Dianthus chinensis China Pink
Dianthus plumarius Pheasant ey'd pink
Dianthus deltoides London pride
Dirca paulustris Leather wood
Dracocephalum canariense Balm Gilead
Echium vulgare Blue thistle
Epiphegus virginianus Beech drop
Erigeron bellififolium --
Erodium ciconium Stork bill gera'm
Erodium cicutarium Hemlock gera'm
Eupatorium purpureum Purple thoroughwort
Eupatorium perfolliatum Boneset th'wort
Euphorbia corollat Saucy Jack
Euphorbia lathyrus Caper tree
Fagus ferruginea Red beech
Fagus sylvatica White beech
Fragaria virginiana Wild strawberry
Fraxinum acuminata White ash
Gaultherea procumbens Wintergreen
Gentiana quinqueflora --
Gentiana crinita --
Gentiana saponaria Soap gentian
Geraneum maculatum Crowfoot gerane'm
Geraneum robertianum --
Gillenia trifoliata Indian physic
Glechoma hederacea Ground ivy
Gnaphalium margaritaceum Life everlasting
Gratiola virginica Hyssop, or isop
Hamamelis virginica Witch hazle
Hedeoma pulegioides Pennyroyal
Helianthus annuus (several kinds) Sunflower
Helleborus fœtidus Hellebore
Helonias diœcia Unicorn plant
Hepatica tricolor Liverwort
Heuchera Americana Alum root
Humulus lupulus Hop
Hypericum perforatum (many species) St. John's wort
Ictodes fœtida Skunk cabbage
Ilex opaca Holly
Impatiens pallida Touch-me-not
Inula helenium Elocampane
Iris versicolor (several species) Blue flag
Juglans cinerea Butternut
Juniperus sabina Savin
Kalmia latifolia Broad leaf laurel
Kalmia angustifolia Narrow l'fed laurel
Laurus benzoin Spice bush
Laurus sassafras Sassafras tree
Leontodon taraxacum Dandelion
Lepidum virginic Wild peppergrass
Lilium (several species) Lily
Linum usitatissim Flax
Liriodendron tulipifera White poplar tree
Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal flower
Lobelia inflata Indian Tobacco
Lobilia syphilitica --
Lonicera caprifolium Honeysuckle
Lonicera flava Yel'w honeysuckle
Macrotrysracemoss Cohash---rattlew'd
Magnolia glauca Swamp laurel
Magnolia acuminata Cucumber tree
Magnolia tripetala Umbrella tree
Malva rotundifolia Low mallows
Malva crispa --
Marubium vulgare Hoarhound
Melissa officinalis Balm
Mentha borealis Horsemint
Mentha piperita Peppermint
Mentha viridis Spearmint
Mimulus ringens Monkey flower
Mimulus alatus Sq. stemmed do.
Morus nigra Black mulberry
Nepeta cataris Catmint
Nicotiana rustica Common tobacco
Nyssa multiflora Black lynn
Œnothera biennis Primrose
Origanum vulgare Wild marjoram
Orobanche uniflora Cancer root
Ostrya virginica Hornbeam
Panax quinquefolia Ginseng
Pelargonium triste Mourning gera'm
Phytolacca decantria Poke-weed
Pinus canadensis Hemlock tree
Pinus balsamea American silver fir
Plantago major Plantain
Podophyllum peltatum May apple
Polygala senega Seneca snake root
Polygonum aviculare Knot-grass
Portulacca oleracea --
Primula farinosa Primrose
Prunella vulgaris Fine weed
Prunus virginiana Wild cherry tree
Prunus domestica (3 varieties) Plum tree
Pycanthemum incanum Mountain mint
Pycanthemum linifolium Virginia thyme
Pyrola umbellata Wintergreen, or pipsissiwa
Pyrus coronaria Crab apple
Pyrus communis (many kinds) Pear
Pyrus mallus (many kinds) Apple
Quercus alba White oak
Quercus tinctoria Black oak
Quercus bannisteri Scrub oak
Quercus rubra Red oak
Quercus coccinea Scarlet oak
Quercus castanea Chestnut oak
Ranunculis acris Crowfoot
Rhododendron maximum Wild rosebay
Rhus glabrum Sleek sumach
Rhus vernix Poison sumach
Rhus toxicodenfron Poison ivy
Ribes triflorum Wild gooseberry
Robinia pseudoac Locust tree
Rosa parviflora Wild rose
Rosa damascena Damask rose
Rosa canina Dog rose
Rosa centifolia Hundred leaf'd r'se
Rubus occidentalis Black raspberry
Rubus trivialis Dewberry
Rubus strigosus Red Raspberry
Rumex ascetosellus Field sorrel
Rumex crispus Dock
Salix viminalis Osier---bask't wi'w
Salix babylonica Weeping willow
Salix flova Yellow weeping willow
Sambucus canadensis Black berried alder
Sambucus pubeacens Red berried alder
Scabiosa stellata Star scabious
Scabiosa atropurpurea Sweet scabious
Scheuchzeria palustris Flowering rush
Scutellaria galericulata Common scull cap
Silene virginica Pink catchfly
Solidago bicolor White golden-rod
Sirea apulifolia Nine bark, or snowball
Tanacetum vulgare Tanay
Trifolium repens White clover
Trifolium pratense Red clover
Trillium pendulum Nodding wakerobin
Trillium erectum (several species) False wakerobin
Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot
Ulmus americana White elm
Ulmus fulva Slippery elm
Uraspermum vlaytoni Sweet cicely
Veratrum viride White hellebore
Verbascum thapsus Mullein
Verbena hastata Vervain
Veronica officinalis Speedwell
Viola (nine species) --
Vitis vulpina Winter grape
Vitis ęstivalis Summer grape
Vitis labruscoides Fox grape
Zanthoxsylum fraxineum Prickly ash

In this list the botanist will find many plants not generally supposed to grow in mountainous districts;  while the medical gentlemen will agree with me, that nature seems to have made this county the home of the most important medicinal plants in her materia medica.  The following remarks, I quote from an address to the public, by the author, prefacing the constitution and by-laws of the Jeffersonville Historical Society, and published in 1851.

"The Botany of western Virginia is not surpassed by that of any other section in the temperate zones.  'This region,' as Torrey says, 'may be called a garden of medicinal plants.'"

Ornamental, as well as medicinal plants, are here scattered with a profuse hand.  To every disease of this region, nature seems to have furnished a remedy.  If in any country botany can be studied with advantage, it is here; for flowers of the same class, genera, and species, are blooming for several months.  Those in the valleys first, and those found upon the ascent of the mountains, later.  Many have been the pleasant days which I have spent in botanical rambles on these mountains, where from frost till frost flowers are ever found.



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