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

By David E. Johnston (1906).


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Chapter IV.  1775 - 1794  (Part 1)


Mitchell Clay and family settled on Clover Bottom--Mathew French and family settle on Wolf Creek--Declaration of the Fincastle men--Fincastle County abolished and Montgomery, Washington and Kentucky Counties created--Captain James Moore visits Abb's Valley--Peter Wright, the hunter, in the northern valleys of Peter's and East River Mountains--Greenbrier County created and its boundaries--Rev. John Alderson in the Greenbrier Valley--Joseph Cloyd settles on Back Creek--The family of Colonel James Graham attacked by Indians--Donnally's Fort attacked--Moredock O. McKensey and family attacked by Indians--Captain Thomas Burke, Michael Woods, John Floyd, and John Lucas in command of the Forts 1777-78--Lybrooks, Chapmans, Snidows and others on the frontier--Edward Hale and Joseph Hare in New River Valley 1779--Tory uprising on upper New River suppressed by Cloyd, Campbell, Crockett and Cleveland--David Johnson and family, from Culpeper County, settles in the New River Valley--Illinois County created--Thomas Ingles locates in Wright's Valley and removes to Burke's Garden--In September 1779 John Pauley and wife and others attacked by Indians on East River--1780, John Toney and family, from lower Virginia, settle at the mouth of East River--Family by name of Christian settle on East River--John G. Davidson and Richard Bailey with their families settle at Beaver Pond--William Wilburn and David Hughes, from North Carolina, and John and Benjamin White, from Amherst County, Virginia, settle on Sugar Run--Major Joseph Cloyd in October 1780 leads troops to North Carolina and fights battles at Shallow Ford of Yadkin, Captain Geo. Pearis wounded--Battle of King's Mountain, part of Montgomery county men killed in this battle under Lieutenants Reece Bowen and James Moore, Bowen killed in action--Battles of Wetzel's Mill and Guilford court house--Captain Thomas Shannon leads a company of New River Valley men in these battles--Captain Geo. Pearis settles on New River in the spring of 1782--Adam Caperton killed at Estill's defeat--The country alarmed by the attack on Thomas Ingles, military called out--Swarms of emigrants cross the Alleghanies in 1782-3-4 and settle in part in New River Valley, and others go to Kentucky--Peters, Walker, Smith, Stowers and others come in 1782--Indian raiding party penetrate the Bluestone and upper Wolf Creek section, steal horses and escape--Mitchell Clay's family attacked by Indians at Clover Bottom in 1783--Captain Geo. Pearis kills an Indian on New River--James Moore, Jr., captured by Indians in Abb's Valley--New State of Franklin, effort to enlarge its boundaries by Campbell and others--"Russell county created in 1785--Captain James Moore and his family attacked by forty Shawnee Indians in 1786 and killed, captured and destroyed--1787, Federal Convention assembles in Philadelphia, frames a Constitution and submits it to the States--1788, November 12th, Captain Henry Harman and his sons fight a battle with the Indians on the banks of the Tug--Harman's battle song--1789, William Wheatley killed by Indians--Family of James Roark destroyed--1789, October, Mrs. Virginia Wiley captured--Indian marauding band on head of Clinch and Bluestone in 1790--Birth of Jonathan Bailey--Wythe County created--Family of Andrew Davidson captured by the Indians in 1791, Davidson's long search for his wife and her rescue--Upper Clinch and Bluestone raided by Indians in July, 1792 pursued by Major Robert Crockett, Gilbert killed and Lusk captured--Lusk and Mrs. Wiley escape in the fall of 1792--John G. Davidson murdered by Indians and a white man, one Rice, on the 8th day of March, 1793--Indians pursued, overtaken at Island of Guyandotte, skirmish follows--Petition of Robert Crockett, Joseph Davidson and fifty others to the Governor of Virginia--Alarm in the New River section and Governor calls out a military company under Captain Hugh Caperton which is stationed on the Kanawha, Daniel Boone the commissariat--Marauding party of Indians in 1793, the last on the waters of the upper Clinch and Bluestone--Wayne's great victory over the United Indian Tribes in Ohio on August the twentieth, 1794, brings peace to the Virginia Border--Swarms of land speculators and surveyors on the Ohio Waters, north and west of the settlements--Numerous and large grants of land to Robert Morris, the patriot and financier--Grants to Pollard, Hopkins, Young, McLaughlin, Moore and Beckley, Bliss, Dwight and Granger, Rutter and Etting, Dr. John Dillion, Dewitt Clinton, Robert McCullock, Wilson Cary Nicholas, Wilson, Pickett, Smith and others--Manners and customs of the border people, their religious life--Early Ministers.

Mitchell Clay (Note: Richard Bailey, son of the elder Richard, the Settler, made about 1790 the first settlement at the mouth of Widemouth Creek on Bluestone, a few miles above where Clay settled in 1775.) settled on the Clover Bottom tract of land hereinbefore referred to in the year of 1775.  Save one, this was the first white settlement made within what is now the present territorial limits of Mercer County.  Andrew Culbertson's settlement on Culbertson's Bottom, which was once a part of the territory of Mercer County, was made twenty years prior to that of Clay on the Clover Bottom.  Clay and his family remained on this land undisturbed for a period of about eight years, but were finally attacked by the Indians, part of the family killed, and one captured, a full account of which will be given herein later on.

In the year 1775 Mathew French and his family, from the county of Culpeper, Virginia, settled on Wolf Creek, about six miles from its mouth, now in Giles County, on what is known as the Boyd farm.

Settlements were made by the Bromfields on New River about the mouth of Big Stony Creek, in 1776, and the same year by the Hatfields on said Creek, on what is now known as the David J. L. Snidow place, where the Hatfields erected a fort.  On Lick Branch, flowing into Big Stony Creek from the north.  In the early days, there was a deer lick, and on an occasion it happened that a Bromfield and Hatfield went the same night to watch this lick, neither knowing that the other was there, or to be there.    One took the other for a bear moving around in the brush and shot and killed him.

On the 20th day of January, 1775, the Freemen of Fincastle County assembled at Lead Mines, and made a declaration which was the precursor of that of July 4th, 1776, made by the congress at Philadelphia.  This declaration of the Fincastle men foreshadowing American independence was the first one made in America, and it so fully breathes the spirit of independence and freedom that it is here inserted in full:

"In obedience to the resolves of the Continental Congress a meeting of the freeholders of Fincastle County, in Virginia, was held on the 20th day of January, 1775, and who, after approving of the association formed by that august body in behalf of all the colonies, and subscribing thereto, proceeded to the election of a committee, to see the same carried punctually into execution, when the following gentlemen were nominated:

The Reverend Charles Cummings, Colonel William Preston, Colonel William Christian, Captain Stephen Trigg, Major Arthur Campbell, Major William Ingles, Captain Walter Crockett, Captain John Montgomery, Captain James McGavock, Captain William Campbell, Captain Thomas Madison, Captain Evan Shelby and Lieutenant William Edmondson.    After the election, the committee made choice of Colonel William Christian for their chairman, and appointed Mr. David Campbell to be clerk.

The following address was then unanimously agreed to by the people of the County and is as follows:

To the Honourable Peyton Randolph, Esquire, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Junior, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison and Edmund Pendleton, Esquires, the delegates from this colony who attended the Continental Congress held at Philadelphia:  Gentlemen:  Had it not been for our remote situation, and Indian war which we were lately engaged in, to chastise these cruel and savage people for the many murders and depredations they have committed amongst us, now happily terminated under the auspices of our present worthy Governor, his Excellency, the Right Honourable Earl of Dunmore, we should have before this time made known to you our thankfulness for the very important services you have rendered to your country, in conjunction with the worthy delegates from the other provinces.  Your noble efforts for reconciling the mother country and the colonies, on rational and constitutional principles, and your pasifick, steady and uniform conduct in that arduous work, immortalize you in the annals of your country.  We heartily concur in your resolutions and shall, in every instance, strictly and invariably adhere thereto.

We assure you, gentlemen, and all our countrymen, that we are a people whose hearts overflow with love and duty to our lawful Sovereign, George the Third, whose illustrious House for several successive reigns have been the guardians of the Civil and religious rights and liberties of British subjects, as settled at the glorious revolution; that we are willing to risk our lives in the service of his Majesty for the support of the Protestant Religion, and the rights and liberties of his subjects, as they have been established by compact, Law and Ancient Charters.  We are heartily grieved at the differences which now subsist between the parent state and the colonies, and most urgently wish to see harmony restored on an equitable basis, and by the most lenient measures that can be devised by the heart of man.  Many of us and our forefathers left our native land, considering it as a Kingdom subjected to inordinate power; we crossed the Atlantic and explored this then wilderness, bordering on many Natives or Savages and surrounded by mountains almost inaccessible to any but those various Savages, who have insistantly been committing depredations on us since our first settling the Country.  These fatigues and dangers were patiently encountered, supported by the pleasing hope of enjoying these rights and liberties which had been granted to Virginians, and denied us in our native country, and of transmitting them inviolate to our posterity; but even to this remote region the hand of enmity and unconstitutional power hath proceeded us to strip of that liberty and property with which God, Nature, and the Rights of Humanity have visited us.    We are ready and willing to contribute all in our power for the support of his Majesty's Government if applied to considerately, and when grants are made by our own Representatives, but cannot think of submitting our liberty or property to the power of a venal British Parliament, or the will of a greedy ministry.

We by no means desire to shake off our duty or allegiance to our lawful Sovereign, but on the contrary shall ever glory in being the royal subjects of the Protestant Prince, descended from such illustrious progenitors, so long as we can enjoy the free exercise of our religion as Protestants, and of our liberties and properties as British subjects.  But if no pacific measures shall be proposed or adopted by Great Britain, and our enemies will attempt to dragoon us out of these inestimable privileges which we are entitled to as subjects, and to reduce us to a state of slavery, we declare that we are deliberately determined never to surrender them to any power upon earth but at the expense of our lives.

These are real though unpolished sentiments of liberty, and in them we are resolved to live or die."

We are, gentlemen, with the most perfect esteem and regard,

                                                          Your most obedient servants,"'

From the American Archives, 4th Series, 1st Volume, page 1166.

The men who made and promulgated this declaration were then, and afterwards became among the most distinguished citizens who crossed the Alleghanies, and were first and foremost in fomenting and sustaining our glorious revolution.    Evidence is not wanting that between 1755 and 1758 some of these men, viz., the Crocketts, McGavocks and others, among them the Grahams, Tates and Sawyers had located in the section of country now in Pulaski and Wythe counties, but on account of Indian incursions were driven back into the Rockbridge country from whence they came, and that later they came again and remained permanently.  It is generally understood that the Crocketts, McGavocks, Grahams and Sawyers were all of Scotch-Irish extraction.  Among these people were found the bravest and most valiant soldiers in all our wars.

In October, 1776, the general assembly of Virginia by an act abolished the county of Fincastle, and out of its territory created the counties of Kentucky, Washington and Montgomery.  The following is the boundary lines of said counties as given in said act, viz:

"That from and after the last day of December next ensuing, the said county of Fincastle shall be divided into three counties: that is to say, all that part thereof which lies to the south and westward of a line beginning on the Ohio at the mouth of the Great Sandy Creek and running up said creek and the main line beginning at the Cumberland Mountain where the line of north or northeasternly branch thereof to the Great Laurel Ridge or Cumberland Mountain thence, south-westardly along the said mountains to the line of North Carolina, shall be one district County called and known by the name of Kentucky: And all of that part of the County of  Fincastle included in the line beginning at the Cumberland Mountain where the line of Kentucky County intersects the North Carolina line to the top of Iron Mountain, thence along the same eastwardly to the source of the South Fork of the Holstein River: thence, westwardly along the highest part of the highlands, ridges and mountains that divide the waters of the Tennessee from those of the Great Kanawha to the most easterly source of the Clinch River: thence westwardly along the top of the mountains that divide the waters of the Clinch from those of the Great Kanawha and Sandy Creek to the line of Kentucky County, thence along the same to the beginning, shall be one other district County and called and known by the name of Washington, and all the residue of the County of Fincastle, shall be one other distinct County and shall be called and known by the name of Montgomery.

The Justices to meet and hold Court for Kentucky County at Harrodsburg: Washington at Black's fort: for Montgomery at Fort Chiswell."

The Representatives of Fincastle County in the Convention which assembled at Williamsburg, and which adopted the first republican constitution ever adopted in America, were Arthur Campbell and William Russel.  Arthur Campbell was born in the valley of Virginia and William Russell in Culpeper County, Virginia, the latter in 1748 and died in Fayette County, Kentucky, July 23, 1825.  He was a captain at the battle of Point Pleasant, member of the Virginia legislature of 1789, member of the Kentucky legislature from the foundation of the State to  1808, again in 1823, colonel of the Seventh United States Infantry in1811, and commanded on the frontiers of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

Colonel William Christian was the Representative of Fincastle County in the year of 1776, in the House of Delegates.

In the year of 1776 John McComas and Thomas H. Napier with their families came from western Maryland and settled on the New River below the mouth of Walker's Creek, but subsequently removed to the neighborhood of where Pearisburg, Virginia, is now situated, and they, together with the Hall's, built Fort Branch on the land lately owned by Charles D. French, Esq.

Peter's Mountain was named for Peter Wright, an old backwoodsman who about 1776 explored and hunted along the valleys at its northern base, as well as along the valley at the base of East River Mountain, in which latter valley the present city of Bluefield, West Virginia, is located and this valley is still called Wright's valley, for the same Peter Wright.

John Alderson, senior, born in England, came to New Jersey about 1737 and married Miss Curtis.  Mr. Alderson became a Baptist minister, and finally removed to Rockingham County, Virginia.  He had a son John, who also became a Baptist minister, and who married Miss Carroll of Rockingham County.  John Alderson, Junior, visited the Greenbrier section of country in 1775, and selected a body of land on the Greenbrier river, which he had surveyed, covering the site of the present town of Alderson in Monroe County.  He returned to Rockingham, and in 1777 removed to his land on the Greenbrier and built his cabin where the Alderson Hotel now stands.  He was a man of great intelligence and indomitable will and energy, and was the first Baptist preacher who carried the Gospel into that region; he organized the Greenbrier Baptist Church in 1781    and through his instrumentality a number of other churches and the Greenbrier Association were organized.  His life was a long and useful one, and made an impression on the people in the section in which he lived that will be felt by generations yet unborn.

On the west bank of the Greenbrier River in the now county of Summers, in the year of 1777 lived Colonel James Graham with his family.  One night in the early autumn of that year after the family had retired, a knock was heard at the door, and a voice called in broken English "open door" saying at the same time by way of assurance, "Me no Injun."  At the time there was in the house only Colonel Graham and his wife, their children, Elizabeth and a young brother occupied an attached cabin off from the main building.  Being refused admittance,the Indians withdrew a short distance and began firing through the door with their rifles, and finally discovered in the detached cabin the presence of the two children, they fired through the clapboards and shattered the little boy's leg with a rifle ball, and proceeding into the house, they took both children, and started off seemingly well satisfied with their success, and went into camp a short distance away.  The next morning the little boy being unable to travel they dashed his brains out against a tree.  The little girl, Elizabeth, only about eight years old was carried by them into captivity, where she remained about eight years, and was finally ransomed by her father in 1785.  She came home and married a man by the name of Stodghill, and lived to a ripe old age.  The name Stodghill is called by the people of Monroe and Greenbrier Valley, "Sturgeon."

The Legislature of Virginia in October, 1777, created the County of Greenbrier, the act to take effect March first, 1778, which act reads as follows;    "That from and after the first day of March next ensuing, the said county and parish of Botetourt, shall be divided by a line beginning on the top of the ridge which divides the eastern from the western waters, where the line between Augusta and Botetourt crosses the same, and running, thence the same course continued N. 55 W. to the Ohio, thence beginning at the said ridge at the said line of Botetourt and Augusta, running along the top of said ridge, passing the Sweet Springs to the top of Peter's Mountain, thence along the said mountain to the line of Montgomery County, thence along the same mountain to the Kanawha or New River, thence down the said river to the Ohio,."

Colonel William Preston some time previous to the month of August, 1774, removed from his estate at Greenfield, near Amsterdam on the James, to Draper's Meadow, the name of which as before stated, he changed to Smithfield.  There came with him or shortly thereafter, a young man by the name of Joseph Cloyd, the son of David Cloyd, whose wife and son John were murdered by the Indians in March 1764, about five miles west of the present town of Fincastle, Virginia.  As stated in a letter from Mrs. Elizabeth Campbell Adams, of Radford, Virginia, to the author, the maiden name of the wife of David Cloyd, was Miss Margaret Campbell.  It had been stated by writers, and perhaps believed by his family that Joseph Cloyd settled on Back Creek in what is now the County of Pulaski, Virginia, about the year of 1775.  This is believed to be a mistake as to the year, as the declaration of the Fincastle men was made on the 20th day of January, 1775, and Mr. Cloyd would certainly have been at that meeting unless sick or absent from the country, and it is most likely therefore that had Mr. Cloyd been at home or at the residence of Colonel William Preston he would have been among the men who signed that declaration.  The absence of his name indicates in the absence of explanation that he did not settle so early as 1775 on Back Creek, as has been stated.

Mr. Cloyd became one of the most highly honored citizens of the county, both in civic and military affairs.  He left behind him wealthy, highly honored, and respected descendants.  A full sketch of Joseph Cloyd and his civil and military record will be given in the appendix to be added to this work.

From the date of the building of Fort Chiswell by Colonel William Byrd in 1758 and from 1759 and after, on and along the upper waters of the New River and on the Holstein, settlements were made by the McGavocks, Campbells, McFarlands, Howes, Hoges, and others, but of which little has been or will be said in this work, as being beyond its scope, and beside this, the history of this people has been so fully, clearly and interestingly presented by Mr. Summers in his "His. of South western Virginia and of Washington County," that he has left little, if anything, additional to be related.    The chief reason for mentioning Mr. Joseph Cloyd is, their history would not be complete without that of Mr. Cloyd.

After the battle of Point Pleasant the Virginia government built Fort Randolph at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, and there established a military post, in command of which was Captain McKee.  In the month of May, 1778, a force of some two hundred Indians attacked this fort, but were finally beaten off by the garrison and compelled to withdraw.  The Indians proceeded up the Kanawha and Captain McKee being satisfied from the direction taken by them, that their objective point was the Greenbrier settlements, called for volunteers to go immediately to the settlements and warn the settlers of the approach of the Indians.  Phillip Hammond and John Pryor at once volunteered, and being rigged out as Indian Scouts, they reached the settlement safely, and their timely notice, no doubt, saved a terrible massacre.

Before passing to the attack on Donnally's Fort attention will be called to the dangerous situation along the borer in the year of 1777.  Outrages and murders were committed by the Indians upon the white settlers in many places, and the people found it necessary to flee to the forts for safety.  Along the middle settlements on New River from Barger's Fort on Tom's Creek to Donnally's Fort on Rader's Run, and Cook's Fort on Indian Creek the settlers were kept huddled in the forts during almost the whole summer.  At Barger's Fort Captain John Floyd was in command of the military,    Christian Snidow at the Snidow and Lybrook Fort at the mouth of Sinking Creek, Captain Thomas Burke at Hatfield's Fort on Big Stony Creek, Captain Michael Woods at Woods' Fort, Captain John Lucas at Fort Field on Culbertson's Bottom.  In these Forts or some of them were John Lybrook, John Chapman, Isaac Chapman and others and some of these people were with Captain John Lucas scouting along the New River about Culbertson's Bottom, and stationed at Farley's Fort and Fort Field.



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