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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.
Christian - Emmons.

The Christian Family.

This family came from the Isle of Man, and as early as 1732 Gilbert Christian, with his family, removed from Pennsylvania, where they lived in 1726, to a point near where Staunton, Virginia, now stands, and on a creek to which they gave their name.  The family of Gilbert Christian, which consisted of himself, wife, three sons, John, Robert, William, and a daughter, Mary, became near neighbors of the celebrated Lewis family.

Captain Israel Christian settled in the Valley in 1740, where he married Miss Elizabeth Starke;  removing later to what is now Botetourt County, he gave the land for the town of Fincastle, and still later he came across the Alleghanies, and settled on the New River, near Ingles' Ferry.  The town of Christainsburg was named from him.  His son, Colonel William, was born near Staunton, in 1743;  he married Anne, a sister of Patrick Henry.  He was long a prominent figure of the border;  representing the New River Valley district in the State Senate in 1781;    was the Colonel and Commandant of the Fincastle troops, and led a regiment from that county to the battle of Point Pleasant, in October, 1774.  Only two companies of his regiment participated in the battle;  the remainder, with Colonel Christian were in charge of the supplies for the army of General Lewis.  Colonel Christian, with a few men, in pursuing a marauding band of Indians across the Ohio, was on the 9th day of April, 1786, killed on the spot whereon how stands Jeffersonville, Indiana.

A part of the same Christian family from near Staunton, in the Valley, settled on East River, in what is now Mercer County, in 1780.  Some of these people served with great distinction on the Confederate side in our Civil War.

The Cecil Family.

The Cecils crossed over to England with William the Norman;  and the family in the United States is said to be of the Lord Baltimore stock (Calverts), descendants of Sir William Cecil of England (Lord Burleigh).  Samuel W. Cecil and his two brothers came in 1700, and settled in Maryland.

Samuel W. married Rebecca White in Maryland, about 1750, and removed to the New River Valley in what is now Pulaski County in about 1760.  He died in 1785 and his wife in 1815.  They left a family of seven sons and three daughters.    The sons, William, born in 1752, married Nancy Witten, and settled in Tazewell;   Thomas, born in 1755, married Nancy Grayson, and went to Ohio;   James married Miss Wysor;  Benjamin married Priscilla Baylor and went to Kentucky;  Zechariah married Miss Mitchell, and went to Kentucky;  Samuel married Mary Ingram, and went to Missouri;  Rebecca married James Witten, of Tazewell;'  Malinda married Samuel Mitchell;  Eleanor married Thomas Witten, of Tazewell.

Zechariah Cecil, son of Samuel W., married Julia Howe, daughter of Major Daniel Howe, from whom Daniel R. Cecil, of Giles County, Virginia, descends, and who married Ardelia Pearis, granddaughter of Colonel George Pearis, a soldier of the American Revolution, and first settler where Pearisburg station, N &. W. Ry. Co., is now situated.

The Clay Family.

The Clays of Virginia and Kentucky, the descendants of their English ancestry by that name, emigrated to America and settled in Virginia prior to the American Revolution.  One brother, the father of Henry Clay, of Kentucky, a Baptist minister, settled in the Slashes of Hanover;  one, the ancestor of  General Greene Clay, settled in Powhatan, and was the ancestor of General Oden G. Clay of Campbell County, Virginia.  The one who settled in Franklin County was the ancestor of the elder Mitchell Clay, who came from Franklin to the Clover Bottom on the Bluestone, in 1775.

Mitchell  Clay married in Franklin County, Virginia, in the year of 1760, Phoebe Belcher.  In April, 1774, there was granted by Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, to Mitchell Clay, assignee of Lieutenant John Draper, 800 acres of land on Bluestone Creek, Clover Bottoms, then Fincastle County, Virginia, and Mercer County.  By the terms of this grant Clay was required to take possession of this land within three years, clear so much per year, and render so much ground rent to the King of Great Britain.  A copy of this grant is on file in the Clerk's office of Mercer County Court.  In payment for this tract of land, Clay gave Draper a Negro woman and her children, executing to him therefor  a bill of sale.  Many years afterward, and after  the death of Mitchell Clay, which occurred in 1812, this trade gave rise    to two interesting law suits;  one, by the Negro for their freedom, which they succeeded in establishing ; and thereupon the representatives of Draper sued the executors of Clay and their sureties, recovering a large decree against them, resulting in the bankrupting of Captain William Smith and the estate of Colonel George N. Pearis, sureties of the executors of Clay.

Mitchell clay and his wife had fourteen children, seven sons  and seven daughters.  The sons were Mitchell, Henry, Charles, William, David, Bartley, Ezekiel, the latter captured and Bartley killed by the Indians on Bluestone, in 1783.    The daughters were Rebecca, who married Colonel George Pearis;   Patience, who married George Chapman;  Sallie, who married Captain John Peters, a soldier of the War of 1812;  Obedience who married John French, a soldier of the American Revolution;  Nannie, who married Joseph Hare, also a soldier of the American Revolution;  Mary who married William Stewart, and Tabitha, who was killed by the Indians on Bluestone, in 1783.

From Rebecca, who married Colonel George Pearis, descended a family of Pearis of the New River Valley.  From George Chapman and wife descended a numerous progeny, of whom Sallie married Hugh Jordan, of Giles County.  From Mrs. Peters descended a large part of the family of that name now living in the New River Valley.    From  Mrs. French descended a numerous posterity, and among her descendants is Colonel James M. French, a distinguished lawyer and one of the bravest soldiers that drew his sword for Virginia in our Civil War.  Mrs. Hare left no living descendants.   Mrs. Stewart left a large number of descendants, many of whom are among the most respectable and prominent citizens of the County of Wyoming and adjacent territory.

After the destruction, in part, of the family of Mitchell Clay, on Bluestone, he removed to New River, purchased a farm which is now owned in part by Mr. J. Raleigh Johnston, opposite Pearisburg Station on N. & W. Ry. Co.'s railway line, and upon which he erected a dwelling house in 1783, which is still standing, a photograph of which will be seen opposite this page.

The Cloyd Family.

This family were Protestant Irish people, and some of that name were in the siege of Londondary in 1689.  Some portion of the family emigrated to America, long prior to the Revolution, and settled in Pennsylvania, where David Cloyd married Margaret Campbell, and from thence removed to James River, in the now County of    Botetourt, where, in  March, 1764, Mrs. Cloyd and her son John were killed by the Indians;  Joseph, another son, on the day of the killing of his mother and brother, was working in the field, and the Indians, by a ruse, succeeded in getting between him and the house.  Perceiving that they were Indians that had attacked the house, he ran to the neighbor for aid, hastening  back only to find that his mother had been tomahawked and his brother killed.

Joseph Cloyd in about 1774 or 1775, when quite a young man, came with Colonel William Preston to the Draper's Meadows settlement.  He subsequently married Miss Mary Gordon, and it is said, at her request, built a brick church near where Dublin, Virginia, is now situated, being the first church building erected west of the Alleghany Mountains.  Mary, a sister of Joseph Cloyd, married James McGavock.  The children of Joseph Cloyd were David, Gordon and Thomas.  David married Sarah McGavock, Gordon married Betsie McGavock, and Thomas married Mary McGavock.  Joseph Cloyd, the elder, became possessed of a very large and valuable estate on Back Creek, now in Pulaski County, a portion of which is now owned and possessed by his great-grandson, David Cloyd.  Joseph Cloyd was a soldier in the American Army during the Revolution, and Major of the Montgomery County Militia.  In the year of 1780 there was a great Tory uprising in the northern counties of North Carolina, consequent upon the advance of the British Army into that state in October of that year.  Major Cloyd raised three companies of horsemen, among them one commanded by Captain George Pearis, and marched to the Shallow Ford of the Yadkin, being joined on his way by some North Carolina companies, raising his force to 160 men.  On the 14th day of October he fought a severe battle with the Tories at the Shallow Ford, in which he defeated them with a loss on their part of 15 killed, and four found wounded and left on the field;  on the American side Captain Pearis and four privates were wounded.

General Greene was retreating before the British Army and was hard pressed, and not only called on the Governor of Virginia for aid, but wrote letters to Colonels William Preston, William Campbell, Evan Shelby, and John Sevier for help.    On the 10th day of February, 1781, Colonel William Preston ordered the assembling of the Militia of Montgomery County at the Lead Mines, and on the 18th day of February he marched with Major Joseph Cloyd, at the head of 350 horsemen, and joined General Greene near Hillsboro, North Carolina, and was ordered to report to General Pickens, then in command of General Greene's left wing, operating on the Haw and Deep Rivers.  Preston marched to join General Pickens, but lost his way and camped the night preceding his joining Pickens between the outposts of the two armies, almost within musket range of the British pickets.On the 2nd day of March a part of Preston's men were engaged with Lee's Cavalry in a brisk skirmish with the British outposts, in which the British came off second best, losing about thirty killed and wounded, the Americans losing but few men.   On the 5th of March Preston proceeded across the country to Wetzell's  (Whitsell's)   Mills, where on the 6th a severe battle was fought with a portion of the British Army commanded by Lord Cornwallis, the Americans being commanded by Generals Pickens and Williams.  In this battle Preston's men took a prominent part and fought bravely and gallantly, but were finally forced to yield the field to the British.   Near the close of  the engagement Colonel Preston's horse took fright and ran with him into and across a mill pond in the very face of the British.  He finally threw Colonel Preston, who made his escape into the American lines just as the retreat began, and being a very heavy, fleshy man, was unable to keep up with the retreating army, whereupon Major Joseph Cloyd dismounted and gave him his horse.   Colonel Preston being injured by the fall from his horse, his troops were placed under the command of Colonel William Campbell.  The retreat continued until  the forces engaged at Wetzell's Mills had reached Guilford Court House, where on the 15th of March the battle between General Greene's army and that of Lord Cornwallis was fought, resulting in the defeat of the Americans.  In the battle of Guilford Court House Preston's men, under Colonel William Campbell, occupied the extreme left, which was assailed by the British Infantry and Cavalry under Colonel Tarleton, who in his book entitled "Southern Campaigns, 1780-81," says:  "That the backwoodsmen stood their ground until the British Infantry pushed them off the field, and that the greatest injury done to the British in the battle was by the Virginia Backwoodsmen."

On receiving information at the Davidson-Bailey Fort of the massacre of Captain James Moore and his family, in Abb's Valley, by the Indians, on July 14th, 1786, a messenger was at once dispatched to Major Cloyd, who immediately gathered a body of men and marched to the Valley, reaching there, however, two days after the Indians had departed with their booty and prisoners, and too late to overtake them.

Major Joseph Cloyd was a representative from Montgomery County in the Legislature of Virginia in the year of 1788, and his son, General Gordon Cloyd, was a member of the Constitutional Convention of Virginia, 1829-30;  and his grandsons, Major Joseph Cloyd and Mr. James M. Cloyd, were prominent citizens of Pulaski County.

The Davidson Family.

John Goolman Davidson, born in Dublin, Ireland, a cooper by trade, came to America about 1755, and settled in Beverly Manor, in what was then Augusta County.    Subsequently he removed with his family to the Draper-Meadow's Settlement, and from thence in the year of 1780, he removed and located at the head of Beaver Pond Creek, in what was then Montgomery County, Virginia, now Mercer County, West Virginia.   During the same year he was joined by Richard Bailey and family, and they erected a block house, or fort, a short distance below the head of Beaver Pond Springs.  From John Goolman Davidson has descended all of the people of that name now in this and the adjoining counties.  A portion of the city of Bluefield is  built on lands formerly the property of Mr. Davidson.  His descendants, or quite a number of them, have been prominent in civil affairs in the Counties of Mercer and  Tazewell.   Honorable A. C. Davidson (Note: Died December 19,1905.) , of Mercer County, is a great great grandson of John Goolman Davidson.

The Emmons Family.

James Emmons (Note:  This family is reputed to be of Swedish origin.) , the ancestor of the New River and Giles County family of that name, was an American soldier, as shown by his declaration for a pension made in 1832.  He enlisted in the County of Fauquier, and served under General Daniel Morgan in his Southern campaign;  was in the battle of the Cowpens, and in many skirmishes in the Carolinas.    In 1781 he substituted for his brother William and went in his place to Yorktown, was in that battle and after its close guarded the British prisoners who were there taken, to Winchester, Virginia.  At the close of the war he removed with his family, and with Charles Duncan and others, to Stokes County, North Carolina, and from thence to the New River Valley abut 1795, where his son, Morton P. Emmons, intermarried with Barbara Miller, the daughter of Jacob and his wife, Sallie Chapman Miller. All of the people of the New River Valley of the name of Emmons descended from James Emmons.   Morton R., who resides in Bluefield, West Virginia, is a great-grandson of the said James, as well also as Morton Emmons, of Atlanta, Georgia.



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