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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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I have not space to treat this subject at that length, which its importance demands, nor is it necessary to go into details, as the people of Tazewell seem awake to their interest, which is closely connected with this subject.  When the stock markets of the east are dull, business is seriously affected in this county; the export of stock, constituting a principal source of wealth (see commerce).  The live stock of the county, is valued at 517,330 dollars, and it probably greatly exceeds that sum.  My calculations are based upon the census returns from June 1850, since which time, a year and a half has passed, and, of course, has proportionally increased, so that if their valuation was now stated to be 600,000, dollars I should perhaps be within the bounds of truth.  There is no subject more interesting to a majority of farmers, but want of space compels me to leave its perfect elucidation to others better qualified for the task.


Tazewell has long been celebrated for its fine horses.  The principal breeds in the county, are the Tamoleon, Yorick, Packalet, Cooper, and Trueblue.

The Tamoleons are celebrated for their riding qualities, and when crossed with the cultivator, are, perhaps, equal to any in the United States.  They are very docile, easily kept in good order.  They are sorrel, with flax mane and tail, and with the exception of a few small defects about the head, are fine specimens of the species.

The Yorick breed, are generally black, rather small, well muscled, fiery, and make excellent saddle-horses.  They are remarkable for having sprung from Yorick, the bitter foe of the Indians (see History of Moore Family-Book, III).

The Packalet was introduced into Tazewell from Botetourt county, Va.  Most of the fine grays, seen in our county, are of this stock.  They are fine harness horses, and are not much inferior to others, if used under the saddle.

The Coopers and Trueblues are, also, quite numerous, and with many, are favorite breeds.

If we except the Arabians, no people are fonder of fine horses, than those of Tazewell.  Boys, from an early age, manifest great partiality for them.  They are generally good judges of a horse, and have them well used.  From the character of the country, the labors of a horse are slavish.  They bear a good price, first class horses selling from one hundred and fifty, to one hundred and sixty dollars, and second class selling from one hundred, to one hundred and twenty-five dollars.  There are upward of 5,000 in the county: about 200 are annually driven south and east.  Much money is made by buying and selling in the county; but those who drive them off, generally lose, prices being too high, at home, to admit of speculation, when driven to a distance.


There are but few in the county, though their culture is beginning to engage public attention.  Our climate and pastures seem every way calculated to produce as fine mules, as any part of Kentucky.  They require little or no feeding, and will, therefore, yield greater profits than horses, which require more or less grain, during the entire winter.  It seems difficult to convince the older farmers, that they are as able to perform the labors of the farm as the horse.  Time will, however, convince them that this objection is futile.  They should be raised for exportation, as they require as little care as cattle, and yield much greater profits.


There is nowhere to be found, a country better adapted to grazing cattle than this county.  The grass is said to be superior, both in abundance and quality, by all stock dealers.  About 7,000 head are annually driven to market; but on which, like all other live stock, great losses are sometimes sustained.  This could not be otherwise, while markets are at such a distance.

The improved, are the long and short horned Durham and Devon.  A majority of the cattle in the county are, however, of the unimproved, or native stock, which are less, and do not bear so good a price as the improved.

Three year old steers, are worth from twelve to sixteen dollars, according to the scarcity, and the reported demand in market.  There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000 in the county.  A part of those driven from the county, are bought up in Kentucky and Tennessee during the fall, wintered and kept till September, when they are taken to market.


There are only about 20,000 head of sheep in the county, and these suffered to run at large on the mountains, without shepherds, subject to the mercy of the wolves and dogs.  It is no unusual thing for great numbers to be killed in the spring.  The owners pay but little attention to them, and do not even make them as profitable as they might be made.

There are few improved flocks: but the small, unimproved, are here a superior sheep.  About 25,000 pounds of wool are annually taken, and a major part exported.  It is to be regretted, that our farmers have paid so little attention to wool growing.  I am well convinced, that the same amount of capital invested in sheep, that is invested in cattle, would pay a much better profit.  No county in the state is better adapted to the rearing of sheep, than this---a poor sheep being seldom seen.


There are 21,000 in the county, though not over 500 are annually driven to market.  10,000 pounds are baconed, a portion of which is sold to the adjoining counties or Washington and Smyth.  Hogs do not seem to thrive so well here as formerly, owing, no doubt to the uncertainty, and sometimes scarcity of the chestnut and acorn crops.  The markets are in Eastern Virginia.  There are not goats sufficient to require notice.



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