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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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In September, 1784, a party of Indians had entered the present limits of Tazewell, and dividing themselves into small parties to steal horses and to annoy the settlers, three had entered the Abb's valley settlement, in which resided Capt. James Moore and a brother-in-law named John Pogue--- (this name is spelled Podge by the writer of the Moore narrative in Howe's History of Virginia).  The Indians had been for a day or two lurking round, waiting, and looking for an opportunity to seize horses or murder the settlers.  While they are thus waiting, we will turn to a scene in Captain Moore's cabin, and take a look at western life and become somewhat acquainted with the hero of this narrative.

The cabin stood in Abb's valley, near the present residence of William Moore, Esq., son of our hero.  It was built of heavy logs, and for the age in which it was built and existed, exhibited some show of comfort.  A ladder leading "up stairs" (or as the common name for that apartment of a building still prevalent in the country "loft"), or in other words where a second story would have been sought for, was placed behind the door, on the rounds of which, were hung various articles of clothing, the manufacture of the amiable lady of the house, who, though situated in the wild backwoods, showed that the lessons given by an Augusta mother to her daughter, had not been in vain.  At the head of a bed occupying one corner of the room, stood several guns, which showed plainly that war was expected.  On a shelf between two beds, were, among other things, a few scattered volumes, of English print, and among them the well-thumbed leaves of a family Bible.  The old gentleman was conversing with his wife upon the condition of the meal, and was told by her that he would have to send to mill, which was about twelve miles distant from Capt. Moore's residence.

James, Jr., our hero, a lad of fourteen summers, was busily engaged in reading the tale of Valentine and Orson, the vivid characters of which, had taken complete possession of his young and active imagination.  So engrossed was he with the history of these brothers, that he continued up, long after the remainder of the family had retired to rest.  He had got to the most thrilling part of the narrative, where Orson is depicted in his most hideous aspect, when the screaming of the geese reminded him it was bed-time.

He lay down, but his imagination had been carried to that degree of excitement which prevents sound slumber, and he frequently awoke, from imperfect naps, to be continually harassed by the imaginary form of Orson by his side, until sleep forsook his eyes and he suffered his imagination to take its own sway, and work up such demons, in the shape of hairy men, as it might see fit.

The breaking day called up the father, who was an early riser, to prepare for the labors of the season, and to get a bag of corn ready for the mill.  As soon as breakfast was had, James, whose mind was still confused with the dread of imaginary hairy men, was sent by his father to get a horse on which to ride to mill.  He started to a waste plantation about two and a half miles distant.  We will let Mr. Moore tell a portion himself, which I quote from the Rev. Mr. Brown's narrative inserted in Howe's History of Virginia.

"Notwithstanding this, I had not proceeded more than half the distance to the field, before a sudden dread, or panic, came to me.  The appearance of the Indian who took me, was presented to my mind, although at the time I did not think of an Indian, but rather that some wild animal in human shape would devour me.  Such was my alarm, that I went on trembling, frequently looking back, expecting to see it.  Indeed I would have returned home, but for the fear that with such an excuse, my father would be displeased, and perhaps send me back.  I therefore proceeded on till I came near the field, when suddenly three Indians sprung from behind a log, one of whom laid hold of me.  Being much alarmed at the time with the apprehension of being devoured, and believing this to be the animal I had dreaded, I screamed with all my might.  The Indian who had hold of me, laid his hand on my head, and, in the Indian language, told me to hush.  Looking him in the face, and perceiving that it was an Indian, I felt greatly relieved, and spoke out aloud, 'it is an Indian, why need I fear,' and thought to myself, 'all that is in it, is, I will have to go to the Shawnee towns.'

"In this company, there were only three Indians, a father and son and one other; the former bearing the name of 'Black Wolf," a middle aged man, of the sternest countenance I ever beheld, about six feet high, having a black beard.  The others, I supposed, were about eighteen years of age, and all of the Shawnee tribe.  I belonged to the Black Wolf who had captured me: we immediately proceeded to an old cabin, near which were horses.  Here we made a halt, and the old Wolf told me to catch the horses, and gave me some salt for that purpose.  My object was to catch one and mount, and make my escape; but suspecting my intention, as often as I would get hold of a horse they would come running up, and thus scare him away.  Finding that I could not get a horse for myself, I had no wish, and did not try to catch one for them, and so, after a few efforts, abandoned the attempt.  This, I suppose, was about one o'clock in the afternoon. (NOTE: They must have occupied much time in trying to catch the horses, or I am wrongly informed as the time that James left home.---Bickley.)  The Indians then went into a thicket, where were concealed their kettle and blankets, after which we immediately proceeded on our journey.

"In consequence of the high weeds, green briers, logs, and steep mountainous character of the country, the walking was very laborious, and we traveled that evening only about eight miles.  The two younger Indians went before, myself next, and the old Wolf in the rear.  If marks were made, he would carefully remove them with his tomahawk.  I frequently broke bushes, which he discovered, and shook his tomahawk over my head to let me know the consequence if I did not desist.  I would then scratch the ground with my feet.  This he also discovered, and made me desist, showing me how to set my feet flat, so as not to leave any marks.  It then became necessary to cease my efforts to make a trail for others, as they were all immediately detected.  In the evening, about sun-down, the old Wolf gave a tremendous war-whoop, and another next morning at sun-rise.  These were repeated evening and morning during our whole journey.  It was long, loud, and shrill, and intended to signify that they had one prisoner.  Their custom is to repeat it as frequent as the number of prisoners.  It is different from their war-whoop when they have scalps, and in this way it can be known, as far as the whoop is heard, whether they have prisoners or scalps, and also the number.

"But to return; the night was rainy; we lay down in a laurel thicket, without food or fire.  Previous to this, the old Wolf had searched me carefully, to see whether I had a knife.  After this he tied one end of a leading halter very tightly around my neck, and wrapped the other end around his hand, so as to make it secure, as well as very difficult to get away without awakening him.  Notwithstanding my situation was thus dreary, gloomy and distressing, I was not altogether prevented from sleep.  Indeed, I suppose few persons were ever more resigned to their fate.

"The next morning we resumed our journey about day-break, and continued down Tug creek about two miles, until we reached the main ridge of Tug mountain, along which we descended until we came to Maxwell's gap.  At this place, the old Wolf went off and brought in a middle-sized Dutch oven, which had been secreted on their former expedition.  The carriage of this was assigned to me.  At first it was fastened to my back, but after suffering much, I threw it down, saying I would carry it no more.  Upon this, the old Wolf placed down his bundle, and told me to carry it, but on finding that I could not lift it, I became more reconciled, took up the oven again, (NOTE: There is some ambiguity in this part of the narrative.---Bickley.) and after some days filled it with leaves, and carried it with more ease.  We continued on the same ridge the whole of that day, and encamped on it at night.  In the evening there came on a rain, and the son of Black Wolf pulled off my hat.  This I resented, struck him, and took it from him.  He then showed me by signs with it that he wished to protect his gun-lock from the rain.  I then permitted him to have it, and after the rain he returned it.

"For three days we traveled without sustenance of any kind, save some water in which poplar bark had been steeped.  On the fourth day we killed a buffalo, took out the paunch, cut it open, rinsed it a little in the water, cut it up, and put it into the kettle, with some pieces of the flesh, and made broth.  Of this we drank heartily, without eating any of the meat.  After night we made another kettle of broth, yet eat no meat.  This is Indian policy after fasting.

"I traveled the whole route barefooted; the consequence of which was, that I had three stone bruises on each foot, and at this time my sufferings were very great.  Frequently I would walk over rattlesnakes, but was not permitted to kill any, the Indians considering them their friends.

"Some few days after this, we killed a buffalo that was very fat, and dried as much of the meat as lasted for several days.  After this, we killed deer and buffalo as our wants required, until we reached their towns, near what is now called Chillicothe, in Ohio, just twenty days from the time we set out.  We crossed the Ohio between the mouths of Guyandotte and Big Sandy, on a raft made of dry logs, and tied together with grapevines.  On the banks of the Sciota we remained one day.  Here they made pictures to represent three Indians, and me, their prisoner.  Near this place, the old Wolf went off and procured some bullets which he had secreted.

"When we came near the towns, the Indians painted themselves black, but did not paint me.  This was an omen of my safety.  I was not taken directly to the town, but to the residence of Wolf's half sister, to whom I was sold for an old horse.  The reason why I was not taken directly to the town, was, I suppose, first, because it was a time of peace; secondly, that I might be saved from running the gauntlet, which was the case with prisoners taken in war.  Shortly after I was sold, my mistress left me entirely alone, for several days, in her wigwam, leaving a kettle of hominy for me to eat.  In this solitary situation I first began to pray, and call upon God for mercy and deliverance, and found great relief.  Having cast my burden on the Lord, I would rise from my knees, and go off cheerfully.  I had been taught to pray.  My father prayed in his family; and I now found the benefit of the religious instructions I had received.

"On one occasion, while on our journey, I was sent some distance for water.  Supposing that I was entirely out of view, I gave vent to my feelings, and wept abundantly.  The old Indian, however, had watched me, and noticing the marks of tears on my cheeks, he shook his tomahawk over my head, to let me know I must not do so again.  Their object in sending me off was, as I suppose, to see whether I would attempt to escape, as the situation appeared favorable for that purpose.  After this, I was no longer fastened with a halter.  In about two weeks after I was sold.  My mistress sent me, with others, on a hunting excursion.  In this we were very unsuccessful.  The snow being knee deep, my blanket too short to cover me, and having very little other clothing, my sufferings from hunger and cold were intense.  Often, after having laid down, and drawn up my feet to get them under the blanket, I became so benumbed that it was with difficulty that I could straighten myself again.  Early in the morning, the old Indian would build up a large fire, and make me and the young Indians plunge all over in cold water.  This, I think, was a great benefit, as it prevented us from taking cold.

"When we returned from hunting, in the spring, the old man gave me up to Captain Elliot, a trader, from Detroit.  But my mistress, on hearing this, became very angry, threatened Elliot, and got me back.  Some time in April there was a dance at a town about two miles from where I resided.  This I attended, in company with the Indian to whom I belonged.  Meeting with a French trader from Detroit, by the name of Batest Ariome, who took a fancy to me on account of my resemblance to one of his sons, he bought me for fifty dollars in Indian money, (NOTE: This consisted of silver brooches, crosses, etc.)  Before leaving the dance, I met with a Mr. Sherlock, a trader from Kentucky, who had rescued a lad by the name of Moffit, who had been captured at the head of Clinch, and whose father was an intimate and particular friend of my father's. (NOTE: Mr. Moffit had then removed to Kentucky, and was still living there.)  I requested Mr. Sherlock to write to my father, through Mr. Moffit, informing him of my captivity, and that I had been purchased by a French trader, and was gone to Detroit.  This letter, I have reason to believe, father received, and that it gave him the first information of what had become of me.

"Mr. and Mrs. Ariome were to me parents indeed.  They treated me like one of their own sons.  I ate at their table, slept with their sons, in a good feather bed.  They always gave me good counsel, and advised me (particularly Mrs. Ariome) not to abandon the idea of returning to my friends.  I worked on the farm with his sons, and occasionally assisted him in his trading expeditions.  We traded at different places, and sometime went a considerable distance in the country.

"On one of these occasions, four young Indians began to boast of their bravery; and among other things, said that one Indian could whip four white men.  This provoked me, and I told them that I could whip all four of them.  They immediately attacked me, but Mr. Ariome, hearing the noise, came and took me away.  This I considered a kind of providence; for the Indians are very unskillful in boxing, and in this manner of fighting, I could easily have whipped all of them; but when they began to find themselves worsted, I expected them to attack me with clubs, or some other weapon, and if so, had laid my plans to kill them all with a knife, which I had concealed in my belt, mount a fleet horse, which was close at hand, and escape to Detroit.

"It was on one of these trading expeditions, that I first heard of the destruction of father's family.  This I learned through a Shawnee Indian, with whom I had been acquainted when I lived with them, and who was one of the party on that occasion.  I received this information some time in the same summer after it occurred.  In the following winter, I learned that my sister Polly had been purchased by Mr. Stogwell, an American by birth, but unfriendly to the American cause.  He was a man of bad character --- an unfeeling wretch --- and treated my sister with great unkindness.  At that time he resided a considerable distance from me.  When I heard of my sister, I immediately prepared to go and see her; but as it was then in dead of winter, and the journey would have been attended with great difficulties, as being told, by Mr. S., that he intended to remove to the neighborhood where I resided in the following spring, I declined it.  When I heard that Mr. Stogwell had removed as was contemplated, I immediately went to see her.  I found her in the most abject condition, almost naked, being clothed with only a few dirty and tattered rags, exhibiting to my mind, an object of pity indeed.  It is impossible to describe my feelings on that occasion; sorrow and joy were both combined; and I have no doubt the feelings of my sister were similar to my own.  On being advised, I applied to the commanding officer at Detroit, informing him of her treatment, with the hope of effecting her release.  I went to Mr. Simon Girty, and to Col. McKee, the superintendent of the Indians, who had Mr. Stogwell brought to trial to answer to the complaint brought against him.  But I failed to procure her release.  It was decided, however, when an opportunity should occur for our returning to our friends, she should be released without remuneration.  This was punctually performed, on application of Mr. Thomas Ivins, (NOTE: This name is spelled wrong, the orthography being Evans) who had come in search of his sister Martha, already alluded to, who had been purchased from the Indians by some family in the neighborhood, and was, at that time, with a Mr. Donaldson, a worthy and wealthy English farmer, and working for herself.

"All being now at liberty, we made preparations for our journey to our distant friends, and set out, I think, some time in the month of October, 1789; it being a little more than five years from the time of my captivity, and a little more than three years from the time of the captivity of my sister and Martha Ivins.  A trading boat coming down the lakes, we obtained a passage, for myself and sister, to the Moravian towns, a distance of about two hundred miles, and on the route to Pittsburgh.  There, according to appointment, we met with Mr. Ivins and his sister, the day after our arrival.  He had, in the meantime, procured three horses, and we immediately set out for Pittsburgh.  Fortunately for us, a party of friendly Indians, from these towns, were about starting on a hunting excursion, and accompanied us for a considerable distance on our route, which was through a wilderness, and the hunting-ground of an unfriendly tribe.  On one of our nights, during our journey, we encamped near a large party of these hostile Indians.  The next morning four or five or their warriors, painted red, came into our camp.  This much alarmed us.  They made many inquiries, but did not molest us, which might not have been the case, if we had not been in company with other Indians.  After this, nothing occurred, worthy of notice, until we reached Pittsburgh.  Probably we would have reached Rockbridge that fall, if Mr. Ivins had not, unfortunately, got his shoulder dislocated.  In consequence of this, we remained until spring with an uncle of his, in the vicinity of Pittsburgh.  Having expended nearly all his money in traveling, and with the physician, he left his sister and proceeded on with sister Polly and myself, to the house of our uncle, William McPhætus, about ten miles south-west of Staunton, near the Middle river.  He received, from uncle Joseph Moore, the administrator of father's estate, compensation for his services, and afterward returned and brought in his sister."

Mr. Moore finally returned to Tazewell county, and settled on the lands formerly occupied by his father.  He raised a numerous and respectable family, one of whom still resides upon the place.  Mr. Moore, the subject of this narrative, lived to be an advanced age.  He died in September, 1851, in the eighty-first year of his age.


In July, 1786, a party of forty-seven Indians, of the Shawanoes tribe, again entered Abb's valley.  Capt. James Moore usually kept five or six loaded guns in his house, which was a strong log building, and hoped, by the assistance of his wife, who was very active in loading a gun, together with Simpson, a man who lived with him, to be able to repel the attack of any small party of Indians.  Relying on his prowess, he had not sought refuge in a fort, as many of the settlers had; a fact of which the Indians seem to have been aware, from their cutting out the tongues his horses and cattle, and partially skinning them.  It seems they were afraid to attack him openly, and sought rather to drive him to the fort, that they might sack his house.

On the morning of the attack, Capt. Moore, who had previously distinguished himself at Alamance, was at a lick bog, a short distance from his house, salting his horses, of which he had many.  William Clark and an Irishman were reaping wheat in front of the house.  Mrs. Moore and the family were engaged in ordinary business of housework.  A man, named Simpson, was sick up-stairs.

The two men, who were in the field, at work, saw the Indians coming in full speed, down the hill, toward Captain Moore's, who had ere this discovered them, and started in a run for the house.  He was, however, shot through the body, and died immediately.  Two of his children, William and Rebecca, who were returning from the spring, were killed about the same time.  The Indians had now approached near the house, and were met by two fierce dogs, which fought manfully to protect the family of their master.  After a severe contest, the fiercest one was killed, and the others subdued.  I shall again use Mr. Brown's narrative, it being quite authentic.

"The two men who were reaping, hearing the alarm, (NOTE: They saw the Indians before a gun was fired, and squatted in the grain till the Indians surrounded the house, and then started; Clark ran directly to Davidson's fort; the Irishman to the settlement creek, on Bluestone, about six miles distant.  The Irishman got lost and coming upon a drove of horses, frightened them.  The horses, of course, ran home. and he followed.) and seeing the house surrounded, fled, and alarmed the settlement.  At that time, the nearest family was distant six miles.  As soon as the alarm was given, Mrs. Moore and Martha Ivins (who was living in the family) barred the door, but this was of no avail.  There was no man in the house, at this time, except John Simpson, the old Englishman, already alluded to, and he was in the loft, sick and in bed.  There were five or six guns in the house, but having been shot off the evening before, they were then empty.  It was intended to have loaded them after breakfast.  Martha Ivins took two of them and went up stairs where Simpson was, and handing them to him, told him to shoot.  He looked up, but had been shot in the head through a crack, and was then near his end.  The Indians then proceeded to cut down the door, which they soon effected.  During this time, Martha Ivins went to the far end of the house, lifted up a loose plank, and went under the floor, and requested Polly Moore (then eight years of age) who had the youngest child, called Margaret, in her arms (which was crying), to set the child down, and come under.  Polly looked at the child, clasped it to her breast, and determined to share its fate.  The Indians, having broken into the house, took Mrs. Moore and her children, viz: John, Jane, Polly, and Peggy prisoners, and having taken everything that suited them, they set it and the other buildings on fire, and went away.  Martha Ivins remained under the floor a short time, and then came out and hid herself under a log that lay across a branch, not far from the house.  The Indians, having tarried a short time, with a view of catching horses, one of them walked across this log, sat down on the end of it, and began to fix his gunlock.  Miss Ivins, supposing that she was discovered, and that he was preparing to shoot her, came out and gave herself up.  At this he seemed much pleased.  They then set out for their towns.  Perceiving that John Moore was a boy, weak in body and mind, and unable to travel, they killed him the first day.  The babe they took two or three days, but it being fretful, on account of a wound it had received, they dashed its brains out against a tree.  They then moved on with haste to their towns.  For some time, it was usual to tie, very securely, each of the prisoners at night, and for a warrior to lie beside each of them, with a tomahawk in hand, so that in case of pursuit, the prisoners might be speedily dispatched.   *   *   *   *    *

"Shortly after they reached the towns, Mrs. Moore and her daughter Jane were put to death, being burned and tortured at the stake.  This lasted some time, during which she manifested the utmost Christian fortitude, and bore it without a murmur, at intervals conversing with her daughter, Polly, and Martha Ivins, and expressing great anxiety for the moment to arrive, when her soul should wing its way to the bosom of its Savior.  At length an old squaw, more humane than the rest, dispatched her with a tomahawk."

Polly Moore and Martha Evans eventually reached home, as described in the narrative of James Moore.

Several incidents, in this narrative, have been left out.  When the Indians set fire to the house and started, they took from the stable the fine black horse Yorick.  He was a horse of such a vicious nature, that no one could manage him but Simpson.  The Indians had not proceeded far when one mounted him, but soon the horse had him on the ground, and was pawing him to death with his feet; for this purpose a few strokes were sufficient.  Another mounted him and was served in like manner.  Perfectly wild with rage, a very large Indian mounted him, swearing to ride him or kill him; a few plunges and the Indian was under the feet of the desperate horse, his teeth buried in his flesh, and uttering a scream as if he intended to avenge the death of his master; he had just dispatched the Indian, when another running up, stabbed him, and thus put an end to the conflict.  "Alas! poor Yorick."

It is said that Mrs. Moore had her body stuck full of lightwood splinters which were fired, and she was thus tortured three days, before she died.

When Martha Evans and Polly Moore were among the French, they fared much worse than when among the Indians.  The French had plenty, but were miserly, and seemed to care little for their wants.  The Indians had little, but would divide that little to the last particle.

A song, in commemoration of the Moore captivity, is sung by some of the mountaineers to this day, but as it is devoid of poetical merit I omit its insertion.  It may be seen in Howe's History of Virginia.


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