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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 2)

 

Donnally's Fort was situated about ten miles west of the present town of Lewisburg, on Rader's Run.  As soon as the intelligence of the approach of the Indians was given to Donnally by the two scouts he had all the neighbors advised of it, and in the course of the night they gathered into the Fort about twenty one men.  He also dispatched a messenger to Captain John Stuart at the fort at Lewisburg advising him of the advance of the Indians.  Full preparation was made to resist the attack, which was begun the next morning at an early hour.  Captain Stuart with Colonel Samuel Lewis went with sixty men to the relief of Donnally and succeeded in entering the fort without loss.  During the attack four of the whites were killed, viz: Pritcher before the attack commenced, James Burns and Alexander Ochiltree as they were  coming to the house early in the morning and James Graham while in the fort.  Seventeen of the Indians lay dead in the yard, and others of their slain were carried off by them.    Until the arrival of Stuart and Lewis, there were twenty one men in the fort which was augmented by their force to eighty seven, while the Indian army exceeded two hundred.   The Indians failing in the attack withdrew and retreated.  While this attack upon Donnally's Fort was being threatened and made, a number of men gathered at Jarrett's and Keeney's Fort, made up in part of men from Captain Joseph Renfroe's company from Bedford County, among them Josiah Meadows who makes a full statement in regard thereto in his declaration for a pension before the County court of Giles County in the year of 1832.

From the Chapman Ms. in possession of the author it appears that Moredock O. McKensey, who came from Culpeper County with John and Richard Chapman and settled at the mouth of Walker's Creek in 1771, had removed in the spring of 1778 to the mouth of Wolf Creek, on New River, and built his cabin below and near the spring on the bottom, a few yards south of the house in which the late Joseph Hare recently resided.    McKensey's family consisted of himself, his wife, his sons Isaac and Henley, and his daughters Sallie, Elizabeth, Margaret, Mary Ann, a nursing child and a hired girl--a Miss Estridge a daughter of Richard Estridge.  The people who were beginning settlements had no enclosed boundaries in which to place their stock, and they belled their horses and turned them out into the woods.  Mr. McKensey had done so with his horses, and on the morning of the day on which the attack was made upon his family by the Indians, which was in the month of May of 1778, they could not hear the bells, and supposing that the horses had attempted to go back to Walker's Creek, the place from which he had recently removed, he took with him his eldest son, Isaac, then about twenty years of age, and started to look for the horses.  Henley, the next son, was close by the house, engaged in making hills in which to plant sweet potatoes.  Mr. McKensey and his son went up New River and when they had reached the top of what is known as Big Hill, near where Pearisburg station on the line of the Norfolk & Western Railway Company is now situated, they heard the report of the discharge of a gun in the direction of their home, and they immediately turned and ran rapidly back, meeting at Wolf Creek the Estridge girl, who gave them information as to what had occurred at the house.  The Indians lying in wait and watching, had seen McKensey and his son go away from the house, and waiting long enough for them to get a sufficient distance not to interfere with their outrages, began their work by shooting young Henley dead on the spot.  They then rushed to the house, but Mrs. McKensey and her oldest daughter, Sallie, closed and barred the door.  They had no weapons inside save an axe.  One of the Indians pressed against the door until he got his head and shoulders inside the same, when the daughter, Sallie, with an axe struck him a blow on the shoulder giving to him a very dangerous wound.   In the meantime another one of the Indians was also pressing against the door, and it yielded and flew open, and then began a scuffle between the Indian and Sallie, he attempting to take her as his prisoner.  She is said to have been a most beautiful woman, with long flowing black hair, and it is supposed that the Indian did not desire to kill her, but to capture her.  She was strong and athletic and succeeded in repeatedly throwing the Indian to the floor, but he being in nearly a nude condition, she could not hold him down.  In the last struggle she discovered his butcher knife in the sheathe in his belt and made an attempt to get it, but failing and the Indian discovering this, he drew the knife and stabbed her through the heart, and then killed the mother.  The small child, Mary Anne, had been gathered up by the hired girl, Estridge, who had slipped into the shed of the house, and concealed herself in a large trough made for holding soap.The child began to fret and cry and the young woman fearing that this would disclose to the Indians her hiding place,  let go the child, and it ran out into the room, and an Indian caught it by its ankles and feet, and dashed out its brains against the door facing.  The babe though scalped, was found by the father when he reached the house still alive, and trying to nurse the breast of its dead mother.    The Indians took the two small girls, Elizabeth and Margaret, aged respectively eight and ten years, prisoners, and then ransacked the house, taking a gourd filled with sugar and a large loaf of bread, which had just been baked by the mother, and departed.   As soon as the Indians left Miss Estridge came out from her hiding place, and ran up the river to Wolf Creek, where she met Mr. McKensey and his son as hereinbefore related.  On this same morning these Indians had killed Philip Kavanah, and captured Francis Denny, a lad of about fifteen or sixteen years.  The Indians did not fire McKensey's house for the reason no doubt, that the smoke would attract his attention or that of some of the settlers in the neighborhood, and cause rapid pursuit before they had time to get away with their prisoners and booty.  Leaving McKensey's house they dropped down the river a few hundred yards to Perdue's Mill branch, up which they traveled to its source, crossing over the divide to the house of Mathew French at the Boyd place on Wolf Creek.  In passing up Perdue's Mill branch the Indians took out their bloody knives and cut the loaf of bread offering a portion thereof to the little girls, who refused to take or eat it, until finally an Indian went to the branch and washed the knife.  When they reached the house of French they found it and the premises deserted, he, having learned that the Indians were in the neighborhood, had taken    his family and fled to the McComas-Napier-Hall Fort, since known as Fort Branch, situated as hereinbefore described.  Mr. French had left home so hastily as to be unable to take but little with him, leaving behind all of his house hold furniture, his horses cattle and other stock.  The Indians ripped up his feather beds, and scattered the feathers, threw down his corn cribs, and turned the stock on his corn, killed a horse and took off his hide, in which they carried away his table ware, which consisted of a few pewter plates and cups, and probably some knives and forks which becoming burdensome to carry, they buried beside a log on East River Mountain.  They did not set fire to French's house for the same reason that influenced them not to fire McKensey's house.   On leaving French's house they went directly over East River Mountain, into what is now Mercer County and dropped in at the mouth of East River, and thence down New River by way of the Bluestone and to Paint Creek, Kanawha, the Ohio, and on to their towns in the neighborhood of Detroit and the Lakes.  The two McKensey girls remained in captivity for a period of eighteen years, and were not ransomed, and did not return until after Wayne's victory in 1794.  Their father made two journeys for them, on the first, he succeeded in getting one of them, but had to make the second journey before he succeeded in getting the other.  Margaret was transferred by the Shawnees to the Delaware tribe.  She was adopted by the Indian Chief Koothumpum, and her sister Elizabeth in the family of Petasue, commonly called "Snake."

A few years before Margaret McKensey returned home, a young Indian chief made love to her and vehemently urged her to consent to marry him, which she peremptorily refused.  The young squaws frequently congratulated her on her fine offer.  She at last became so annoyed by the solicitation of the young chief that she determined to escape to another village some seventy miles away, to which her foster sister and brother had removed.  Early one morning she secured a very fine horse and mounted him and pushed off, making the distance that day.  She complained to her foster sister of the treatment she had received, who replied, "I will defend you with my life."    The young chief, determined not to be defeated in this way, immediately pursued her and reached the village to which she had fled, the next day in the afternoon.   He soon found her and told her if she did not immediately consent to become his wife, he would kill her, she refusing, he made a lunge at her with a long knife, but her sister threw herself between them and received a slight wound.  The girl instantly seized the knife and wrenching it from his hand, broke the blade and threw it away.   A furious fight ensued between the foster sister and the Indian, the former telling Margaret to hide herself which she did.  The young woman proved too much for the Indian and gave him a sound whipping, thereupon he departed and was soon afterwards killed in Wayne's battle with the Indians.

Shortly after the return of Margaret and Elizabeth, the former married a Mr. Benjamine Hall, and the latter Mr. Jonas Clyburn.  Mr. Clyburn with his family removed to Chicago about the time that that city was being first laid out.  Mr. Hall and his wife lived to old age, dying in Mercer County and are buried near Princeton.    They left numerous and highly respected descendants among them Mr. David Hall, a lawyer who long practiced his profession in Mercer and adjoining counties, Mr. Luther Lybrook Chambers, the present judge of the circuit court of Mercer, McDowell and Monroe counties and who is the great grandson of the Margaret McKensey captured by the Indians in 1778. Mr. L. A. Dunn an influential business man of Bluefield is also a great grandson of Margaret McKensey.

In 1778 Josiah Meadows, herein before referred to, who was the great great grandfather of Hon. R. G. Meadows of Mercer County, marched with the expedition of George Rogers Clark to the Illinois country, and then marched by way of the Falls of the Ohio to his home in Bedford County, Virginia.

In October of the year of 1778 the Legislature of Virginia created and erected into the county of Illinois all the northwest territory, being all the territory north of the Ohio, south of the Great Lakes, and east of the Mississippi.  The county of Illinois continued as a Virginia County until the Deed of Cession of March, 1784.

Joseph Hare, of North Carolina, and Edward Hale, of Franklin  County, Virginia, came into the New River settlements in 1779, and located about the mouth of Wolf Creek.  Both Hare and Hale had been soldiers in the American army.  Hare was with the patriot army at the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, now near Fayetteville, North Carolina, fought on the 27th day of February, 1776.  These two men performed important services in the years immediately following their settlement, not only in the battles with the Indians, but also in the battle of Whitsell's Mill and Guilford Court House, North Carolina, about which services more will be said hereafter.

The upper New River Valley, in what is now in part Bland, Wythe, Grayson and Carroll Counties in Virginia as well as some of the counties on the North Carolina side, were among the hiding places of the Tories, and they made frequent uprisings and had to be repressed.  Some of these uprisings took place in the years of 1779-80 and were suppressed by bodies of militia led by Colonel William Campbell, Major Walter Crockett, Major Joseph Cloyd and Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, the latter of North Carolina.  The old court records now in the office of the Clerk of the County Court of Montgomery County, Virginia, abound with instances where numerous parties were summoned before the court on charges of being engaged in these uprisings, and were required to give bond and good security to keep the peace and be of good behavior.  Should anyone be curious enough to want the names of these people they can find the same by reference to records referred to.

David Johnston with his family came from the county of Culpeper, Virginia, in 1778, and settled in the New River valley on the plateau between Big Stony Creek and Little Stony Creek, about one mile from the river, at the place now known as the John Phlegar farm in the county of Giles.  Johnston's family consisted of himself and wife, two sons, the third son being then absent in the American army, and five daughters, the eldest of the daughters, whose name was Sallie, and who had intermarried with Thomas Marshall, together with her husband, came with the family.  David Johnston was the brother-in-law of John and Richard Chapman who then lived at the mouth of Walker's Creek, about two miles from where Johnston settled.  The first house built by David Johnston as his new dwelling place, was erected by him in 1778 and is at this writing, 1905, still standing, forming a part of the Phlegar mansion house.  A few years after the coming of David Johnston his brother-in-law, Elder James Abbott, a missionary Baptist minister, came.  Johnston was, soon after making of his settlement, appointed a constable for Montgomery county.  He died in 1786, his wife in 1813, and they were both buried on the Phlegar farm.

Thomas Ingles, a son of the Captain William Ingles, one of the Drapers Meadows settlers, and who was captured and carried away with his mother, by the Indians in 1755, having returned after thirteen years, and been sent to school at Doctor Thomas Walker's in Albemarle County, Virginia, from which place he went with the army of General Lewis to the battle of Point Pleasant, in which he fought as a Lieutenant in a company belonging to Colonel William Christian's regiment of Fincastle men.  After the battle young Ingles was in one of the companies left to garrison the fort at Point Pleasant during the winter following the battle. After receiving his discharge from the army in 1775 he returned to Albemarle, and married a Miss Grills.  He came back to the New River valley and in 1778 he located and settled in Wright's Valley, in which the city of Bluefield, West Virginia is now situated, and about two miles west of said city, at a spring near the mansion house of the late Captain Rufus A. Hale.  Here Mr. Ingles remained some two years, but finding himself dangerously near the Indian trail leading from the head of Tug of Sandy southward across East River Mountain, to the Wolf Creek and Walker's Creek settlements, he determined to seek a place more remote from Indian lines of travel, and thence removed to Burke's Garden to a tract of land owned by his father.    He however remained long enough in Wright's Valley to effect in a measure a change of name to :English's", as appears from the early land surveys and grants.   His stay in his new home was not long a peaceful one, for in April, 1782, while he and a negro man were engaged at farm work some distance from the house, a large party of Indians captured his wife and children and two negro slaves, and after plundering and firing the house, they left the premises.  Mr. Ingles, discovering the smoke from his burning house, approached near enough to see that the trouble was caused by Indians, and that he alone could do nothing, set off in quest of help, crossing the mountains southward, he fortunately met up with a goodly number of men assembled for muster and drill at a settlement in Rich Valley on the north fork of Holstein.  A posse of fifteen or twenty men under the leadership of Captain Maxwell, to whose command was added an additional force of five or six men, whom John Hix, a neighbor of Mr. Ingles, had gotten together.  This party pursued the Indians and on the fifth day they were discovered in camp in a gap of the Sandy Ridge which divides the waters of the Sandy from the Clinch.   This gap since that time, known as Maxwell's Gap, is a short distance west of the west end of Abb's Valley, and two or three miles north-northwest of the residences of the late William G. Mustard on the north fork of Clinch River in the county of Tazewell.   Captain Maxwell divided his company, he taking a part, and moving around their flank so as to get in their front, while Mr. Ingles remained with the other portion of the company in the rear, and the attack to be made at daylight the next morning.   Unfortunately Maxwell, in order to escape detection, bore too far away and was not in position to make the attack at the appointed time.  Mr. Ingles after waiting beyond the agreed hour, and seeing the Indians beginning to stir, began the attack.   As soon as the first shot was fired, some of the Indians began to tomahawk the prisoners, while others fought and retreated.  Mr. Ingles reached his wife just as she had received a terrible blow on the head.  They had already tomahawked his little daughter Mary, five years old, and his son William, three years old.   The small infant in the arms of the mother was unhurt.  In their retreat, the Indians passed close to Captain Maxwell and his party, and firing on them killed Captain Maxwell, who was the only one of the pursuers killed.  No dead Indians were found.   The little wounded girl died, but the mother recovered.  The above statements are taken from the Harman MS., which states that Captain Henry Harman was with this Pursuing party.

 

 

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