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A History of The Middle
New River Settlements
and Contiguous Territory.

By David E. Johnston (1906).


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Appendix C.   Biographical.
Shannon - Witten.

The Shannons of New River Valley.

The Shannons came from Ireland at a period anterior to the beginning of our War for Independence, and located in what is now the County of Amherst, in Virginia, then probably Albemarle County.  Samuel, the New River Valley settler, came with his family over the Alleghanies in 1744, and located at the place now called Poplar Hill, in the then County of Fincastle, now Giles County.  After a residence of ten years, and after the marriage of his oldest son, whose name was Thomas, he, in the spring of 1784 (Shannon MSS.), with his family, except Thomas and his wife, who remained, removed to a point near whereon now stands the city of Nashville, Tennessee.

Thomas married Miss Agnes Crowe, and continued in possession of the Poplar Hill property, which is still in the hands of his descendants.  He became a man of prominence in civil and military affairs;  was long a Magistrate of Giles County, Sheriff thereof, and a Representative in the Legislature.  In the month of February, 1781, the British Army advanced northward through the Carolinas toward Virginia, and Colonel William Preston, the military commandant of the Montgomery troops, and of which Joseph Cloyd was Major, called out the forces to go to the help of the American Army commanded by General Greene.  Thomas Shannon was the Captain of the Middle New River Company, in which one Alexander Marrs was a Lieutenant, and among the members thereof were Thomas Farley, Isaac Cole, Matthew French, John French, Joseph Hare, Edward Hale, the Clays, and others. Captain Shannon and his company joined the battalion at the New River Lead Mines about the middle of February, 1781, and on the 18th day of that month the command under Colonel Preston and Major Cloyd, 350 strong, marched to the Haw River section of North Carolina, in the vicinity of which was the Army of General Greene, as was that of Lord Cornwallis.  Being in a strange country, and not being advised of the positions of the respective armies, Preston's men went into camp, finding themselves the next morning between the combatants, and close by the British pickets.  Colonel Preston had been ordered to report to General Pickens, and was on his way thither when he halted and camped between the armies.  On the 2nd day of March Lee's Legion and Preston's Battalion had a spirited encounter with Tarleton's Cavalry, inflicting upon it considerable loss.  Again on the 6th of March, at Wetzel's Mills, Pickens' command, including Preston's and Cloyd's men, had quite a battle with the British advance.    General Pickens retreated to Guilford Court House, where the troops of Preston and Campbell, under Colonel William Campbell, were posted on the American left, and put up a good fight.  They were attacked by Colonel Tarleton, who led the British right wing, and he says in his "His. of His Southern Campaign,"  that his troops were badly hurt by the Backwoodsmen from Virginia;  that "they were behind a fence, and stood until the British Infantry, with their bayonets, climbed the fence."   Captain Shannon lived to the age of ninety years, leaving a son, Thomas, who married Julia Allen, and their children are:  Thomas, Joseph, James R., all three of whom are dead;  William R., who married a Miss Bush;  Nancy, now dead, who married John Henderson Bane;  Eliza, who married James B. Miller;  and Samuel B., who resides on the old homestead.  The second Thomas Shannon served as a Magistrate in his county, and sat as a member of the County Court for long years, and was more than once a member of the Virginia Legislature.  At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 he was reckoned the wealthiest man in Giles County.  His sons were all gallant Confederate soldiers.

Opposite this page is seen the photograph of Mr. William R. Shannon, the great-grandson of the settler.

The Smiths of New River.

This family is here designated as of "New River," otherwise it might not be known to what family of Smiths reference is made, and hence, they are styled "The Smiths of New River."  Isaac Smith was a soldier of the American Revolution, and served with the Corps of LaFayette at Yorktown.  He lived in that part of Rockingham County now embraced in Madison.  The territory in which it is supposed and believed that he was born, was then Augusta County, and was still Augusta when, in about 1770, he married Miss Simms.  After the Battle of Yorktown and the return of the Virginia Militia to their homes Mr. Smith, together with several of his neighbors and relations, in the year of 1782, passed over the Alleghanies into the New River Valley.  Mr. Smith was brother-in-law to John Peters and Larkin Stowers, and they, together with Christian Peters, Charles Walker and others, came to New River.    Smith settled on the Long Bottom on New river, nearly opposite the place of settlement of John Peters.  Among the sons of Isaac Smith were:  Ezekiel, Benjamine, and William, the latter born in 1774.  Ezekiel went to Texas before the war for its independence, was captured by the Mexicans and kept a prisoner for five years.    His son, French C. Smith, a man of talent and brilliancy, followed his father to Texas, and became a prominent figure in that state, having been the Whig candidate for Governor, but was defeated by General Sam Houston, the Democratic candidate, by a large majority.  Benjamine Smith lived in the County of Mercer and had several sons-- among them Theodore, who went West--Thomas, and Allen.  Dr. French W. Smith, of Bluefield, and Judge Charles W. Smith, of Princeton, West Virginia, are the grandsons of Benjamine Smith.

Captain William Smith married a Mrs. Neal, whose maiden name was Dingess, a daughter of Peter Dingess, a Revolutionary soldier, who served in Trigg's Battalion of Montgomery County Artillery in LaFayette's Corps at the Battle of Yorktown.

Opposite page 454 will be seen the photograph of Captain William Smith, taken when he was a very old man.  He lived to about the age of eighty-four.    Mr. John B. Smith, of Willowton, in Mercer County, is a son of Mr. Benjamine Smith, and was a heroic and devoted Confederate soldier.

The Snidows of New River Valley.

This family is of German origin and the first of the family to come to America was Christian Snyder, who landed at Philadelphia in 1727.  The record kept at the Port of Philadelphia of the arrival of emigrants does not disclose that Christian brought a family with him;  if he had done so the same would have been recorded.    He no doubt was a young man at the time, and had crossed the ocean to seek his fortune in the New World.  The spelling of this name is no index as to who he was, as the original German spelling, is Schneider.  It is spelled as originally also Snyder, Snider, Snido, and Snidow.  There is, however, something in the use among these German people of the given name;  as the same given names in families are handed down from one generation to another.  In this family the name Christian seems to have been handed down for more than a hundred years.  When, or who Christian Snidow married is not now known, but there came in 1765 to New River, from Pennsylvania, John Snidow, who had married Elizabeth Helm;  he came to see the country, and visited Philip Lybrook at the mouth of Sinking Creek.  It is likely, in fact more than probable, that Lybrook had been his neighbor in Pennsylvania.  The circumstances show that he had made up his mind to settle in the New River Valley, as he went back to Pennsylvania and the next year, 1766, started for the New River with his family, and on the way was taken suddenly and violently ill and died.  His widow, Mrs. Elizabeth, with her children, some of them very small, made her way to Philip Lybrook's, or to his neighborhood.   The exact place of her settlement is difficult to locate, but from circumstances it is believed that she made her home near the mouth of Sinking Creek, in what is now Giles County.  Mrs. Snidow's family consisted of five sons and three daughters;  the sons, Philip, Christian, John, Theophilus, and Jacob;   daughters, Barbara, and two small girls, killed by the Indians in 1774.

Philip married Barbara Prillman, Christian married Mary Burke, Jacob married, first, Clara Burke, second, Miss Pickelsimon, and third, Mary Hankey;  John was killed, being thrown from a horse;  Theophilus, when quite a lad, was captured by the Indians in 1774, and after being detained in captivity a number of years returned in bad health, and soon died;  Barbara, the daughter, married Jacob Prillman, of Franklin County.  Among the children of Barbara Prillman Snidow, was Christian, called the Blacksmith, to distinguish him from his uncle, Colonel Christian.

The children of Colonel Christian Snidow and his wife, Mary Burke Snidow, were:  Sons, John, Lewis, and William H.;  the daughters were, Elizabeth, Mary, Rebecca, Clara, Nancy and Sallie.  John married Rachael Chapman, daughter of Isaac and Elian Johnston Chapman;  their children were, Christian, James H., David J. L., Elizabeth, Mary, Elian C., and Ellen J.

Lewis Snidow married Barbara, the daughter of the blacksmith, Christian, and his wife, Sarah Turner Snidow;  their children are, William Henry Harrison and George Lewis;  the latter married Josephine Snidow;  the former unmarried.    After the death of Lewis Snidow his widow, Barbara, married Jacob Douthat, by whom she had several children.

William H. Snidow married Adeline  Chapman, daughter of John Chapman;    the names of their children are:  John Chapman Snidow, now dead;   James Piper Snidow and Annie, the latter now dead, and who married Dr. Harvey G. Johnston.

Elizabeth, the daughter of Colonel Christian Snidow, married John Peck, of Giles County;  Mary married Major Henry Walker, of Botetourt, later of Mercer County;    Rebecca married Benjamine Peck, of Monroe County;  Clara married Conrad Peters, of Monroe County;  Nancy married James Harvey, of Monroe County;  Sallie married Haven Bane, of Giles County.  Among the descendants of John Peck and his wife, Elizabeth, are, in part the Pecks of Giles, the Vawters of Monroe, the Kelleys of Smyth, the McNutts of Mercer, and the Pecks of Logan County, West Virginia.

Some of the descendants of Major Henry Walker and wife reside in Mercer County;  the descendants of Benjamine Peck reside in Monroe, Mercer, Giles, and in the State of Kansas.  The descendants of James Harvey and wife reside in Monroe County, among them, the Adairs of Red Sulphur, and the family of the late Allen Harvey.

Colonel Christian Snidow, when quite a young man, was a lieutenant in Captain John Floyd's Company, and did service in Barger's, Snidow's and Hatfield's Forts, and in scouts and skirmishes with the Indians.  His father-in-law, Captain Thomas Burke, born 1741 and died 1808, and whose wife's given name was Clara, was also a Captain in the Indian wars, and at one time in command at Hatfield's Fort.  Colonel Christian Snidow was for long years a Justice of the Peace, in both Montgomery and Giles Counties;    was Sheriff of Giles County, and frequently represented the same in the House of Delegates of Virginia.  Among his descendants were some of the best and bravest soldiers in the Confederate Army.

The New River Straleys

    Jacob Straley  (German, Strahle)    was a German, born at Frankfort-on-the-Main, in Germany;  his wife was Susan Barbor, whom he married in Germany, and came directly after his marriage to America, in 1758, and found his way to James River, where the city of Lynchburg now stands.    Jacob Straley had a brother John, who came over to America with him, and they are supposed to have landed in New York;  John had a wife and several children.

Jacob came South with other emigrants to Virginia, and John went into Pennsylvania;  separating, they lost sight of each other and seem never to have heard of each other after their separation.  Jacob, as before stated, found his way to where Lynchburg now stands;  there he bought land of his brother-in-law, Jacob Lynch, and here the children of Jacob Straley and his wife, Susan, were born, to-wit:    Andrew, Elizabeth, Catherine and Jacob.  Jacob Straley and his wife Susan both died and were buried at Lynchburg.  Andrew was twice married, but had no family;   he was a soldier of the American Revolution, and Jacob, his brother, a youth of about sixteen at the close of the Revolution, served in what was called the Reserves, or Home Guards.  Elizabeth married a man by the name of Caldwell, by whom she had two   or three children;  her husband died, she then married a man by the name of Marshall Burton, by whom she had a son called Isaac, who married a Snodgrass, and who left a son, Green, living now in Giles County, and three daughters, Lucretia, who married McCauley;  Sallie, who married Albert, and the name of the husband of Jane is not known.  Catherine Straley, daughter of the elder Straley, went to Kentucky.

Jacob Straley, son of the elder Jacob, was a brick mason by trade, and about the year of 1782 came to New River, in what is now Giles County, and in June, 1785, married Martha French, daughter of Matthew and Sallie Payne French, by whom he had nine sons and two daughters.  His sons were:  James, Daniel, John, David, Charles, Jacob, French, Joseph and Leland;  the daughters were Sallie and Nancy.  James married Betsey Vaught, Daniel married Mary French, John married Betsey Wilson, Charles married Betsey McComas, Jacob L. married Eliza Bergen, French died unmarried;  Joseph married Jane Brown, David married Elizabeth Perkins, Leland died young and unmarried, Sallie married Isaac French, and Nancy married Edward Morgan.

James Straley and his wife had one son, Madison, and six daughters:    Martha, who married Joseph Summers;  Talitha, who married Hampton Brown;    Almira, who married George C. Stafford;  Rebecca, who married James H. Wilburne;  Serilda, who married John Stafford, and Maharald, who married James P. Thorn.

Daniel Straley  and his wife, Mary, had two sons and two daughters;    the sons were James F. and Jacob C., both of whom died childless;  Julia T. married Colonel James M. Bailey, of Mercer County, and by him had five children, two sons and three daughters.  The sons, Gaston C. and Daniel M., and daughters, Lizzie, died unmarried;  Belle, married James D. Honaker, and Alice married a Mr. Lee.

Sallie F. married Elijah Bailey and had two children, Robert H. and Mary J.

John Straley and Elizabeth, his wife, had two sons and six daughters;    the sons, Charles D. and Harrison W.; the daughters, Louisa, married Claudius Burdett;  Araminta,  married Elijah Bailey;  Dorcas, married Benjamine Tinsley;  Martha, married Andrew J. Davis;  Harriet, married J. McThompson;    Valeria, married John Q. Spangler.  Charles D. Straley died in 1890, unmarried;  Louisa has a large family;  Dorcas, Araminta and Martha have no children;  Harriet has two children;  Valeria has three living children.    Harrison W. Straley, now dead, married Delia A. Byrnside, who died in May, 1888, and by her he had four children who reached their majority.

Charles Straley, by his wife Betsey, had nine children, and by his second marriage with Miss Warneck, whom he married in the state of Illinois,  had one son, Hugh.  Charles Straley removed to Texas, where he died.

Jacob Lynch Straley and his wife, Eliza, had three children, all daughters.  Margaret married a Mr. Eldridge, of Tennessee;  Caladonia married Joseph Taylor, and Sallie married David C. Straley, son of Joseph.  Jacob L. Straley was a minister of the Methodist Church.  Joseph Straley and his wife Jane had but two children, William D. and David C.

David Straley and Elizabeth, his wife, had two sons and three daughters.    The sons were:  Granville P. and David B., the latter dying young;   the former is a lawyer by profession, and lives in Maury County, Tennessee.   The daughters, Martha T., married Dr. George A. Long, now dead;  Mary, married Girard Willis, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, both being now dead.  Sallie married Mr. Anderson, and they live in South Carolina.

Sallie Straley married Isaac French, and had two children:  Harvey and Elizabeth, both dead.  Harvey never married;  Elizabeth married Oscar F. Johnston.

Nancy Straley, who married Edward Morgan, had four sons and three daughters;  the sons are, Rufus, John, Newton, and Joseph;  and the daughters, Martha, who married Mr. Noffsinger;  Virginia, who married Richard Gilliam, and Sallie, who died young and unmarried.  This Straley people have been quiet, law-abiding and unpretentious, never seeking public position, always ready and serving their friends, especially their relations.  Three of the sons of Jacob Straley and his wife, Martha French Straley, served in the war of 1812;  they were James, Daniel and John.  Our Civil War, 1861-5, produced from their ranks some magnificent soldiers, among them Captain Jacob C., son of Daniel, who led, as Captain, a company in the 17th Virginia Regiment of Cavalry;  he was bold and fierce on the field of battle, and rode boldly in to the thickest of the conflict and abreast the storm as if on parade.  His courage was not exceeded by that of any man who ever drew sabre.    There is presented opposite this page the photograph of Harrison W. Straley, the great-grandson of the emigrant.

The Wittens of Tazewell.

This was a Saxon family from Wittensburg, in Prussia, and a part of the family emigrated to America at a very early day and located in Maryland, about the time of    the first white settlements therein.  They were neighbors to the Cecils, with whom they married and intermarried for long years.  A few years prior to 1771 Thomas Witten, whose wife was a Cecil, and who, with his family, had removed to the neighborhood of Fredericktown, Maryland, came along the Valley of Virginia and over the Alleghanies, living for a year or two at the large spring on Walker's Creek near what is now known as the William Allen farm, and becoming close neighbors of Samuel W. Cecil, who had come from Maryland.  The Wittens decided to move to the Clinch, and on the 16th day of March, 1771, they located on that stream;  Thomas settled at the Crab Orchard, west of the present Court House of Tazewell;  James near what is now Pisgah Church, and Jerry at a point west of the Court House.  James Witten, born near Fredericktown, in 1759, married Rebecca Cecil, and William Cecil married Nancy Witten.  The Wittens are among the most prominent citizens of Tazewell County;  several of them having been honored with important civil positions.  Mr. J. W. M. Witten was a Senator in the Virginia Legislature, and also represented Tazewell in the House of Delegates.   Upon information derived from Mr. James R. Witten, Governor Greenup, of Kentucky, son of John, of the Clinch Valley, was born near what is now known as Pisgah Church, in Tazewell County.  It is said that James Witten carried the first Negro slaves into what is now Tazewell County.



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