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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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It was originally my intention to have traced the personal history of most of the early settlers of this county; but I found that to do the subject anything like justice, it would swell the volume beyond what had been contemplated.  Few of the early settlers, it is true, attained anything like political eminence; yet, taking into consideration the surrounding circumstances, we find much to admire in the characters of many of these men.  Their devotion to the country, their heroic deeds during the frontier wars, their isolated condition, and manliness of character exhibited by them, deeply impress us with the most profound respect for men, who gave up all the ease and safety of more cultivated sections, and braved the terrors of the forest and its inmates, to procure for their sons and daughters, homes in the virgin lands of ancient Xuala.

From a few of the early settlers have sprung most of the citizens of the county.  The Harmans, Peerys, Gillespies, and Wittens, are most numerous.  I am of the opinion, that it would be better if the line of relationship was less distinctly drawn than it is for it sometimes occurs, that political excitement is carried too far, in consequence of different views taken by these large connections.  Even among themselves, it is sometimes a serious evil.  If, for instance, a large connection wish to elect one of their number to an office, and a few members of that extended family secede from the common interest, to join another party, they are cast off, and feelings of bitterness are ever after cherished.  Now this would not be the case if this family feeling did not exist.

The many thousand anecdotes told of the early settlers, are worthy of insertion here, but as personal history, of which they are a part, my work would be swelled beyond its limits, and without them, the work will not fill quite as much space as I at first contemplated.  Yet I imagine that when it is known that the incidents and facts herein contained are those of a single county, the work will be looked on as complete.

Many general facts, which would be suitable to the history of a state, are not suitable to this work --- especially when this is regarded as a part of a great work which will be the complete history of south-western Virginia.  I do not mean to say that I shall write a history of each county in south-western Virginia in a separate volume, for there are eighteen of these counties, and the work would be much too large.  But I shall get the work up in about five volumes, each a complete history of a particular section. --- From these five, a condensed work of two volumes will be written for general circulation.  The next book in the series will embrace the Clinch valley, or the counties of Russell, Scott, and Lee.  The third, will embrace the history of Washington, Smythe, Carroll, and Grayson; the fourth will embrace Wythe, Montgomery, Floyd, Giles, and Monroe.  The fifth, will embrace the counties of Mercer, Wyoming, Fayette, Logan, Raleigh, Boone, Kanawha, and Cabell.

That this region is unknown, will be shown when the contemplated work is completed.  As stated elsewhere in this book, many traditions of the early settlement of the south-west may now be gathered and placed upon record, but which in a few years will be irretrievably lost.  That the work may not be delayed, I respectfully ask the friends of the enterprise, to commence now and gather such traditions and facts as may be known to exist, and forward them to my address (Jeffersonville, Tazewell county, Virginia).  It is almost impossible for one person to collect all the existing facts of such an extended district, in anything like a reasonable time, therefore, it is desirable to get as much assistance as possible.  If the notes are taken and forwarded to the Jeffersonville Historical Society, they will be preserved, even though this extended history is not carried out by me.  The day is fast approaching, when the people of south-western Virginia, will take a prominent stand as patrons of literature; and such a labor will be appreciated.  The car of progression is now moving on rapid wheels in south-western Virginia, and a few revolving years will present quite a different scene from the one of indifference now observable in this section.  The introduction of steam as a motive power, and especially when applied to the rail-car, will introduce also a change in our manners and customs; our commercial operations will take on a different cast, and surely if any country needs the fostering hand of commerce and the arts, to reclaim it, ancient Xuala is the one.

When we shall have good agricultural schools established, and a spirit of inquiry shall have been awakened among us, the citizens of the surrounding states, and the eastern part of our own, will begin to look upon our land as something else than a bed of rugged mountains.

If nature may be said to have been partial to any county, it was to this.  Here is one of the most salubrious climates in the world --- water of the purest quality, and a soil naturally productive, and capable of being swelled, in its productive agency, to almost any extent.  I say that the car of progression is in motion; this is plainly perceivable by any one who will examine the statistics of 1840, and of 1850.  The increase of population for the last ten years, has been nearly seventy per centum; while the increase in wealth has been more than 130 per centum.  If this is not a sign of prosperity, what is?

When geological surveys shall have been made by the state government, and the mineral wealth of this region be made known, the rush by our eastern brethren will not be for the western states, but the western part of their own.  For the eastern Virginian, in leaving his plains for a new home in the mountains of Virginia, will not regard his steps as so many taken toward his grave, for he will know that here, care insures health.

When our coal, gypsum, salt, lead, sulphur, iron, etc., shall be brought into market by numerous diverging railroads, and our lands are stocked with improved cattle, and horses, and tilled according to the laws of science, we may expect to see Virginia once more taking the stand she so long occupied --- the first of states.

It has been the citizens of Virginia, who have built up so many of the western states.  The tide of emigration is now checked, by the influence of a more liberal constitution; and it is to be hoped, as is really the case, that her sons, as wayward children, will soon be seen returning to their homes, to cultivate and make bloom the land of their nativity.


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